The hardest punching boxer of all time? We get it, it’s a minefield, how on earth can you possibly aggregate such a query? Hot off the heels of Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue’s sublime performance in Glasgow, where he illustrated once again his incredible punching power, the question that arose was, just how far could this guy carry his punching power? Of course, stepping up in weight, has an inevitable cut off point, but that man’s power is something else?
In pound for pound terms, he must surely be one of the hardest punching boxers out there. Of course, over in the States, Deontay Wilder threw what was, without doubt, one of the biggest knockout shots you’ll see in any era. Breazeale might be a punchbag as our very own boxing correspondent Dave Jarvis correctly predicted, but still, that was a shot that even Tyson ‘The Undertaker’ Fury would have struggled to shake off.
With such devastating power on display, we got to thinking who is the hardest punching boxer of all time? Apart from Wilder and Inoue, we also have GGG and Manny Pacquiao still currently doing the rounds, all are blessed with incredible force. Absolutely not definitive, just opinion, research and testimony from some of the greats, here’s our own list to try and determine who is the hardest punching boxer of all time.
Not only did Louis have dynamite in his gloves he also was incredibly quick and accurate. 12 years as the Heavyweight Champion of the World are a testimony to his incredible ability, and the longest reign of any heavyweight, during which he made 25 title defences. He hunted his opponents and once he had them hurt, he went for the kill in devastating fashion. 52 knockouts in 69 fights tell its own story.
The man who coined the phrase,
“Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.”
A man who used that Joe Louis quote to scare the bejesus out of opponents was ‘Iron’ Mike. There’s little to say that hasn’t been said a million times before, but Tyson in his youthful prime was one of the most devastating fighters boxing has seen. Delivering stunning combinations with concussive power from his legendary ‘peekaboo’ style, Tyson threw punches from all angles, and added to his relentless pace, he was also incredibly strong.
He might not have made it to World Champion status, but boy oh boy could Earnie Shavers bang. In his prime from 1969 until 1983, the lack of title is likely down to boxing in the golden era of heavyweights. Fights against another heavy hitter Ron Lyle, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton and an epic battle with Muhammad Ali, which saw the champ on wobbly legs, show how competitive a time he fought in. With over 80 fights to his name and 68 knockouts, 23 of which were in the first round, Shavers could certainly lay claim to being the hardest punching boxer of all time.
“He’s stronger than Joe Frazier and George Foreman, he hit hard… he took all I had and he hit real hard.” – Muhammad Ali
Multiweight world champion Julian Jackson can certainly lay claim to being the pound for pound hardest punching boxer. Having held the WBA Super Welterweight title between 1987 and 1990, Jackson twice won the WBC Middleweight title in the early nineties. He carried that power up in weight and seemed to use it so naturally. He eventually ran into another powerhouse puncher in Gerald McClellan, but as his record of 80% knockout wins in 61 fights will tell you, Jackson was the real deal.
“I always seemed to have that power punch in the bag. I felt the power and my coach said I don’t have to try to hit hard all I need to do is throw the punch because my natural ability would click in.” – Julian Jackson
The history books will tell you that Cornish boxer Bob Fitzsimmons was a devastating puncher aside from being the first three weight world champion and the lightest heavyweight champion of all time. Weighing around the 75 – 80 kg mark or around 12 stone in English money, Fitzsimmons stepped up to take on all comers from middleweight to heavyweight. He beat ‘Gentleman’ Jim Corbett after hitting the canvas himself, before stopping Corbett with his trademark solar plexus body shot. Credited with popularising the phrase,
“The bigger they come, the ‘arder they fall.”
Like any pound for pound discussion, debating the most powerful concussive punchers the fight game has ever seen, it’s subject to opinion and you could create another equally compelling list, with completely different names to this one. In our humble opinion, Prince Naseem Hamed was one of the most powerful punchers of all time. A career that simply faded away far too early, was epitomised by his unorthodox approach, throwing shots from all angles, leading with the uppercut, ducking and diving, but somehow always possessing dynamite in both fists.
“Power is more than the punch. I get so much power and belief in myself from God, and from God the power passes through my legs, through my hips, up to my shoulders, through my arms, and into my fists…I’m written to be a legend. You can never underestimate the prince, I’m always there.” – Naseem Hamed
Thomas Hearns is another man with some seriously heavy hands, managing to carry his power through the divisions from welterweight through to super middle becoming a five-weight world champion. During his career, he stepped in the ring with some greats of the game, but the fight that probably displayed his innate punching power was his shocking destruction of Roberto Duran in 1984. Duran had never been stopped previously and had ‘hands of stone’ himself, but was floored three times in the opening two rounds, the third a devastating right hook
In his 250 plus fight career, Sam Langford boxed all the way from lightweight up to heavyweight which with a modest 5’7 inch frame was an incredible achievement, making him one of the first genuine pound-for-pounders. Like Fitzsimmons it was his natural power that carried him through the divisions.
He was ducked by all the major title holders including Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey, Johnson describing him as “the toughest little son of a bitch that ever lived”. He knocked out more fighters than George Foreman and Mike Tyson combined and was the first non-world title holder inducted into Boxings Hall of Fame.
“The Hell I feared no man. There was one man, he was even smaller than I, and I wouldn’t fight because I knew he would flatten me. I was afraid of Sam Langford.” – Jack Dempsey
All of the following were initially in the mix but didn’t make the cut, however, they still deserve a mention. Kostya Tszyu, Nigel Benn, Jimmy Wilde, Gerald McClellan, Michael Spinks, David Tua and George Foreman, were one and all blessed with knockout power.
Let us know your thoughts on who you think is the hardest punching boxer of all time in the comments.
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