The 10 Hardest Punchers in Boxing History | SHAVERS, FOREMAN, TYSON AND MORE
Hardest punchers in boxing history what does that mean? Well, it is quite simply, these are the guys you don’t want to stand in front of and punch with, guys who have god-gifted power that is not teachable in the gym and could right technical wrongs with their fists, or possibly overachieve based on their power being world-level.
For those who like listening to podcasts I brought on a young man starting in the boxing business Jack Alter, to share his thoughts on the list and more, you can listen to that below on our YouTubes.
01. Earnie Shavers
Shavers is wildly regarded as the hardest puncher in the history of the sport and for good reason, despite lack of high-definition video or film in his day, Shavers is directly responsibly for the early retirements of Ron Asher, Frank Smith, Bunky Akins, Bill McMurray, Harold Carter, Eddie Parotte and Larry Sims, all of whom he knocked out and never fought again.
Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, and Ron Lyle all stated that Shavers was the hardest puncher to hit them and placed his power over the likes of Tyson and Foreman.
Shavers allegedly auditioned for Rocky III for the role of Clubber Lang, which played by Mr. T in the final verision of the film. Shavers sparred with Sly Stallone, and despite pulling his punches, the movie star Stallone told him to open up. Shavers obliged him and dropped him with a body shot. Shavers didn’t get the part of Clubber Lang.
Shavers biggest wins are a knockout of Ken Norton in a single-round in 1979 and former WBA heavyweight world champion Jimmy Ellis in the first round in 1973.
That being said, Shavers failed to win a world title as “The Black Destroyer” faced two of the best world champions ever in his bids for the world title, as he fought Muhammad Ali in 1977 for the WBC and WBA heavyweight title and despite nearly stopping Ali in the second round lost a 15-round decision, and Shavers also lost to Larry Holmes for the WBC heavyweight world title in 1979 by way of decision.
Shavers is a lesson to all fighters that power alone can not get you to a world title.
Earnie Shavers finished his career with a record of 74-14-1 with 68 knockouts and a knockout ratio of 76.4%.
02. George Foreman
Foreman, the 1968 U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist, is one of the best heavyweights to date, but in large part to his abnormal strength that made most unable to continue against him along with one of the best jab-cross combinations in the history of boxing. Foreman’s jab was essentially a power punch, and his cross was probably based compared to being kicked by a maul.
Foreman stopped Joe Frazier in two rounds to win the WBC & WBA heavyweight world title in 1973, and would knock out Michael Moore in the ten-round for the IBF heavyweight world title in 1996 becoming the oldest heavyweight champion ever at age 45. Foreman also notably stopped Gerry Cooney in two rounds in 1990, Dwight Qawi in seven-rounds in 1988, Joe Frazier for a second time in 1976 in the fifth-round, Ron Lyle in the fifth-round and Ken Norton in the second round.
Foreman’s notable losses are to Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, Tommy Morrison, and Shannon Briggs.
Foreman finished his career with a record of 78-5 with 68 by way of knockout and an 83.95% knockout ratio.
03.Prince Naseem Hamed
Prince Naseem Hamed was the ultimate showman, and quite possibly the hardest hitting fighter the lower weight classes had ever seen. The 126 lbs, featherweight world champion, would consistently be behind on the scorecards only to land a devastating one-punch knockout, that would send the crowd into his hysteria as well as memorable and cocky outbursts afterward.
Prince Naseem would also do over the top intros to his bouts that would cause some to love him, and some to hate him. His ring walks would often take ten-to-fifteen minutes, with the most notable one being a remake of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
In world title fights, Hamed had a record of 16-0 with 14 KOs and against former world champions, he was 10-1 with 8 KOs meaning his power ascended to the highest levels of the sport.
Hamed won the WBO featherweight world title stopping Steve Robinson in eight rounds in 1996. Hamed would make 15 defenses of his world title before vacating the title in 2001. During the last year of his title run, Hamed conveniently never fought his mandatory contender who was Juan Manuel Marquez.
Hamed’s lone loss was to Marco Antonio Barrera via a twelve-round decision.
Brandan Ingle was Hamed’s trainer during a good portion of his run, making for his lineage in the sport. Hamed was also trained by Emmanuel Stewart in 1999.
Hamed finished his career 36-1 with an 83.78% knockout ratio.
One of the greatest fighters to ever live, seemingly built to box, and thankfully he found what he was meant to do as “Iron” Mike Tyson will forever be known as one of the hardest-hitting boxers the sport has ever seen.
Tyson was the rare mix of ring intelligence, speed, power, and timing. Tyson’s best weapon his defense was met by his ability to land devastating power punches.
Mike Tyson had an amateur boxing career of 48-6 with 38 KOs, and Mike Tyson holds professional knockout wins over Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Frank Bruno, Trevor Berbick, Tony Tubbs, Pinklon Thomas, amongst many others.
Tyson most notably lost to Evander Hollyfield once by technical stoppage in the eleventh round and by disqualification in the second fight after biting Holyfield in the ear twice. Tyson would also lose later in his career to Lennox Lewis, Danny Williams, and Kevin McBride.
Mike Tyson was a two-time WBC heavyweight champion defeating Trevor Berbick by second-round technical knockout for the belt in 1986 and Frank Bruno by way of a third knockout in 1996 as well as a two-time WBA heavyweight champion defeating James “Bonecrusher” Smith in 1987 and Bruce Seldon in 1996 by stopping Seldon in one round, and lastly an IBF heavyweight champion in 1987 defeating Tony Tucker.
Tyson ended his career with a record of 50-6 with 44 KOs with a 75.86% knockout ratio.
The only fighter on this list to retire undefeated and win every single one of his bout via knockout would be Venezuela’s Edwin Valero. The lightweight southpaw was feared, ferocious and flat-out scary in and out of the ring.
Valero punched with intentions that seemed he want his opponent to understand his life was hard, and took pleasure in the discomfort of his foe, in realizing this fact via Valero’s violence.
Valero spent most of his career on the road, accumulating knockout wins over world champion Antonio DeMarco in 2010, as well as titleholder Vicente Mosquera.
Valero was in a motorcycle accident that had caused abnormalities in pre-fight exams, for this reason, he only fought in the United States three times, but most notable in 2009 in Texas on a major telecast.
Prior to his death, an awful mess in which his wife was found dead and Valero is highly likely to have killed her, saw the troubled fighter commit suicide a day later in his prison cell. Valero was 28-years-old at the time of his death.
Valero held the WBA super featherweight title which he earned via a tenth-round stoppage of Vincente Mosquera as well as the WBC lightweight title he obtained by stopping Antonio Pitalua in two rounds.
Valerio finished his career 27-0 with 27 knockouts and a 100% knockout ratio.
Before Valero’s death, Valero was being viewed as the next opponent for boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.
06. Tommy Hearns
Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns or as somewhat know him as “The Motor City Cobra” is the forgotten legend amongst, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, and Marvin Hagler. Hearns had a stick of dynamite in his right hand and despite a frail-looking physique of 6’1” making the weights of 147, 154, 160, 168 and 175 lbs, Hearns never was at a loss for power even when he went all the way up to cruiserweight at the twilight of his career.
Hearns who knocked out Roberto Duran, Juan Domingo Roldan and Pipino Cuevas amongst his 48 career knockout wins. In fact, Hearns was such a puncher, one could even argue if Hearns wasn’t such a puncher, he might have used his physical gifts of height and length more, as often he would give up his height and stand in front of opponents for the opportunity to punch with them believing in his power.
Hearns trained by Emmanuel Stewart of the legendary Kronk Gym was not known as a puncher in the amateurs, but having to compete in the same division as “Sugar” Ray Leonard, a fighter who turned professional to a lofty sum of $50,000 for his debut, even a big sum now for a pro debuter, Hearns and Stewart worked on training for the knockout to make Hearns standout and get into marquee fights. This, in fact, worked, as Hearns is now a legend of the sport, and one of the most revered power punchers in the history of boxing.
Hearns defeated Pipino Cuevas by second-round knockout for WBA welterweight title in 1980, defeated Wilfred Benitez by majority decision for the WBC super-middleweight world title on 1982, defeated Dennis Andries in 1987 for the WBC light heavyweight title, stopped Juan Domingo Roldan for the vacant WBC middleweight world title and was the first-ever WBO super middleweight world champion defeating James Kinchen. Hearns would also defeat Virgill Hill in 1991 for the WBA light heavyweight title.
Hearns finished his pro career at 61-5-1 with 48 knockouts, and a career knockout ratio of 71.64%.
“The G-Man” Gerald McClellan was one of the best punchers ever and came out of a puncher’s gym, Kronk Boxing Gym in Detriot, Michigan, with Emmanuel Stewart.
Jackson was a skilled fighter, but his downfall was his temperament and power. Against both Denis Milton and Ralph Ward, McClellan was outpointed as he gave away rounds being flat-footed and seemingly looking to continues his knockout streak, as he started his career with ten wins all by knockout.
McClellan held the WBO middleweight weight title in 1991 stopping John Mugabi in one round and the WBC middleweight title in 1993 by stopping Julian Jackson in five rounds.
A year prior to his life-changing bout with Nigel Benn, McClellan fired longtime trainer Emmanuel Stewart on the grounds of spending time with too many other fighters.
His bout against Nigel Benn will sadly define McClellan’s career as despite being one of the best bouts you can ever watch in boxing history, the utter impact of the result makes it almost masochist to watch in hindsight and with a healthy heart that has empathy, one most will avoid. McClellan dropped Benn in the first round in which Benn went out of the ring, and nearly stopped Benn in the eighth. Benn would rally back and stop McClellen who would suffer from a blood clot in the brain after the bout that caused him to need a life-long caretaker.
McClellen finished his career 31-3 with 29 knockouts and an 85.9% knockout ratio. As previously mentioned his last bout with Nigel Benn saw him take life-altering damages that he was never able to return to competition.
Deontay Wilder is the exception to nearly every rule as the 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist has Thor’s hammer for a right hand, and despite, a limited skill set (and underrated foot speed) Wilder has stopped all, but two of his opponents over the course of his career.
Wilder, a solid amateur who qualified for the Olympic team had a slow build to his 2015 WBC heavyweight world title shot against Bermane Stiverne, in which Wilder went the distance with Stiverne one of only two times in his career he made it to the final bell, both bouts being 12-round affairs, the other being a draw with Tyson Fury.
Wilder would make ten world title defenses defeating Luis Ortiz two times, Gerald Washington, 2012 Olympian Dominic Breazeale, stopping Bermane Stiverne in a rematch as well, when Stiverne noticeably overweight took the bout on late notice. In the midst of this was a highly disputed draw against Tyson Fury in a classic of a bout that saw Fury outbox Wilder only for Wilder to drop Fury twice to even up the cards.
In 2020 of this year, Tyson Fury stopped Deontay Wilder in the seventh round, taking his WBC heavyweight title.
Wilder is currently 42-1-1 with 41 knockouts at the time of this writing with a 93.18% knockout ratio, although he still has much more of a career left.
09. Julian Jackson
Jackson has some of the most iconic knockouts in boxing, and some of them even in world title fights. “The Hawk” was known for his game-changing one-punch power, and will most wildly be remembered for his brutal knockout of boxing legend, Terry Norris.
Jackson, who had only 17 amateur fights, only losing two of them saw himself holding the world title three times in two different weight classes.
Jackson held the WBA junior middleweight title in 1987 defeating In-Chul Bak for the vacant title, as well as knocked out Herol Graham in 1990 for the vacant WBC middleweight title and in 1994 he’d become a two-time WBC middleweight campion stopping Agostino Cardamone for the vacant title. Jackson won all of his world title fights in bouts in which the previous champion had vacated or relinquished the world title.
The notable losses of Jackson’s career are to Mike McCallum, Kronk Boxing Gym’s Gerald McLellan twice, and Quincy Taylor. In all six of Jackson’s losses, he lost by way of knockout. Jackson had the mindset of kill or be killed.
He finished his career 55-6 with 49 KOs and an 80% knockout ratio.
1992 Olympic Bronze Medalist David Tua became a beloved Samoan-born New Zealand boxer after knocking out John Ruiz in the first round. Ruiz, a notorious jab-and-grab guy, who was best known for holding his opponents and scoring single blows to uneventful decisions, had not endeared himself to the fans, and Tua stopping in less than a minute put the world on notice.
Tua had a thunderous left hook that when it landed changed the course of fights as opponents struggle to right the wrongs of past mistakes.
Tua held wins over Hasim Rahman, Fres Oquendo, Michael Moorer, and John Ruiz, but lost his career marquee bouts to Ike Ibeabuchi, Lennox Lewis and Chris Byrd.
Tua never held a world title, but held smaller titles by the sanctioning bodies such as the WBC International heavyweight title (1996), IBF Inter-Continential heavyweight title (1998), IBF – USBA heavyweight title (1998), WBC – NABF heavyweight title (2002), WBO Asia Pacific heavyweight title (2009) and WBO Oriental heavyweight title (2009).
It is easy to look at Tua as just a puncher, but Tua had a solid amateur pedigree, but fell in love with his power in some of the wrong moments of his career.
Tua finished his career 52-5-2 with 43 knockouts and a 72.88% knockout ratio.
Those Who I Forgot Who Deserve Mention –
Roy Jones – The most entertaining boxer of the modern era, who has some of the best knockouts in boxing history
Ron Lyle – A tremendous puncher who stopped Earnie Shavers, and was a great 70’s heavyweight.
Wladimir Klitschko – One of the best distance fighters ever had a cold right hand would follow one of the best jabs in boxing history.
Sonny Liston – Feared, and powerful, Liston was a puncher and intimidator. Ali beating Liston helped make Ali, who he is today, so think about how great Liston was, for that to happen, and that was mostly based on Liston’s power.
Joe Louis – The great Joe Louis had the best footwork of any fighter as his feet moved in unison, and his nice tight short punches would floor people as Louis is one of the true masters of the sport.