A knockout punch is one of the most exciting plays in professional sports, along with buzzer beaters, Hail Mary passes and walk-off homers. A single punch can turn the tide of any boxing bout instantly, regardless of the situation. Heavyweight pugilists tend to receive most reverence as knockout kings in boxing, obscuring the brilliant knockout artists over the history of the middleweight class.
As GGG-Canelo II nears, Gennady Golovkin (-165) is a strong favorite over Saul Alvarez (+138) for the WBA (Super), WBC and IBO middleweight championship bout. Golovkin’s expected to rise in this rematch because he’s established himself as one of the best pound for pound power punchers in the world. Among middleweights, he ranks alongside legends as one of the finest knockout artists in boxing.
Gennady Golovkin 34 KOs – 89.5% KO/win ratio
There’s a chance that a lack of competition will always dog opinions of Gennady Golovkin, which lends increased significance to the upcoming September 15 th rematch between GGG and Canelo Alvarez. Their first clash was an instant classic, marred only by questionable judging which resulted in a controversial draw. Adalaide Byrd scored the bout a nonsensical 118-100 on behalf of Alvarez, a widely panned card.
Golovkin wants to end any doubt about his reign over the modern middleweight division with a sound knock out victory against Alvarez, which would elevate his status as one of the most powerful KO artists in the class. The Kazakh pugilist has decimated nearly everyone else, remaining undefeated throughout his pro career while vaporizing most of his opponents, resulting in an 89.5% KO/W rate.
Most opponents duck GGG as if he’s the fifth horseman of the apocalypse, which makes Canelo’s decision to step back into the ring admirable. Gennady seems to draw power from another plane of existence, knocking out fighters with strikes that typically don’t cause catastrophe. Perhaps more frightening would be his iron chin, which allows him to deliver curtain call punches even when opponents land a haymaker.
Thomas Hearns 48 KOs – 78.7% KO/win ratio
Hearns doesn’t have the same brute strength as other middleweight champs, which is partially responsible for a KO/win ratio under 80%. The other reason he hasn’t knocked out a higher percentage of fighters would be the quality of opponents that “The Hit Man” squared up against during his illustrious career. His first career loss was against Sugar Ray Leonard, but Hearns detached Leonard’s retina in the process, forcing the champ to retire. Thomas featured the type of lankly build that allowed him to move seamlessly between weight classes, ranging from welterweight to cruiserweight. He still knocked out most rivals 50 pounds above his “natural” fighting weight.
Hearns might've been able to defeat prime Hagler, but a broken right prevented one of the best bouts in history from extending beyond the third round. Tommy's left hand was one of the best in the business, especially his Cobra-like jab that must've felt like a straight. Just ask Duran, who seemed ready to be knocked out instead of dealing with another damn jab.
Gerald McClellan 29 KOs – 93.5% KO/win ratio
A career cut short due to tragic circumstances, Gerald McClellan's brief stint as a top middleweight included some of be the most preposterous KO shots over the past few decades.
Most fighters headhunt to secure a knockout, but the "G-Man" developed one of the most lethal arrays of body blows to grace the sport. When his opponents chose to defend against headshots, McClellan took what he was given, obliterating livers, spleens and stomachs with precision.
A 93.5% KO/win ratio proves his elite status as a KO artist, including a pair of impressive beatdowns against Julian Jackson. McClellan’s final fight against Nigel Benn was one of the most brutal bouts in the history of the sport. The ref showed poor judgment, allowing a headbutt against Gerald and protecting Benn when Gerald had him on the ropes, both of which likely contributed to McClellan’s terrible brain injury.
Sugar Ray Robinson 108 KOs – 62.4% KO/win ratio
When they call you Sugar, there’s a good chance that you’re a master of the sweet science. Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest of all time for some. As a middleweight who dominated lightweight up to light heavyweight classes, the term “pound-for-pound” was created to help compare Robinson with heavyweights
His long, illustrious career included victories against all the top challengers of his era, including Jake LaMotta, Roberto Duran, Gene Fullmer and Rocky Graziano. This would be impossible in a modern era where ducking is the norm. Sugar Ray had all the tools and techniques required to best anyone, as evidenced by his 108 KOs and healthy KO/win ratio. He obviously threw every type of punch well, but his left hook might've been the best in history, combining incredible power and speed with an artful, efficient delivery.
Julian Jackson 49 KOs – 89.1% KO/win ratio
There was little compromise during Julian Jackson’s boxing career. Only two of his first 45 fights ended with both fighters standing up, including 39 consecutive bouts which ended in a knockout. He lost only once during this span, against Mike McCallum, during a title fight for the WBA light middleweight crown.
Pound for pound, Jackson’s considered one of the hardest punchers ever – period. The swift violence with which he dispatched some competitors made him one of the scariest boxers in the world. “The Hawk” lived up to his name, swooping around the ring to punish brief openings with maximum prejudice.
Sometimes, his power would knock out opponents through their guard. On other occasions the other boxer almost looked like he got suckered, slowly descending to the canvas as Julian pointed his glove to the ground, confident his opponent wouldn’t rise.