Who Are The 5 Hardest Hitters In Boxing History?

While many heavyweight fights have been boring, ponderous affairs, the big men have also given some of boxing’s most surprising moments. Here are five heavyweights who have produced some of those memorable moments. A list of the hardest hitters in boxing history, like a pound-for-pound ranking, has the potential to be divisive. Utilizing KO percentages, confessions from previous opponents, and highlight clips can all help narrow down the field to finalists.

However, in the end, subjective opinion still reigns supreme. This isn’t a pound-for-pound list, by the way. Tommy Hearns and Naseem Hamed, two major lower-weight punchers, will not compete.

Archie Moore and Bob Foster, two light heavyweight champions who also campaigned among the big guys with reasonable success, were the only two non-heavyweights on my shortlist. I’ve also lost against the majority of heavyweights from earlier times. Rocky Marciano was unquestionably a force to be reckoned with, delivering some of the most dramatic stoppages. Only ten of his 49 opponents weighed more than 200 pounds.

Jack Dempsey was also a close finalist for my top five. James Jeffries, Sam McVea, and Max Baer were among the early boxers I considered, based primarily on historical renown.

5 Hardest Hitters in Boxing History: List

Sonny Liston

Sonny Liston is widely regarded as having been undervalued. People remember Liston for his poor performances against Muhammad Ali, but he may have been at his best long before he was allowed to fight for the title. His two early knockout victories against Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams and a third-round stoppage of the classic stylist Zora Folley were considered magnificent heavyweight strength displays. Before the first of two one-round victories over Floyd Patterson, Liston’s uncompromising stance was summed up in a laconic remark to the press: “I aim to go out as soon as the bell rings and grab what’s coming to me — and give Patterson what he’s due.”

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson, at his peak, was arguably the most deadly boxer ever seen for six rounds, but as trainer Don Turner once said, “After six rounds, he isn’t the same.” Tyson was a master of speed and power when he peaked. He was often immediately on top of the other guy before he realized what was going on, as when he demolished Marvis Frazier in 30 seconds. Many of Tyson’s opponents were terrified to the point where they were ready to be put out before a punch was fired, which helped (Alex Stewart, Michael Spinks, and Bruce Seldon in particular).

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Tyson appeared untouchable when he knocked out Spinks in 91 seconds in 1988, prompting Sugar Ray Leonard (a closed-circuit TV analyst for the bout) to say, “He was so destructive he should be locked up.” Tyson “came to the ground with all the drive and pent-up energy that has helped establish him as possibly the most fearsome force ever had in boxing,” veteran reporter Ken Jones wrote in the British daily The Independent.

Joe Louis

Louis was not a terrific one-punch banger — his famous 13th-round knockout win against Billy Conn, for example, resulted from a series of hits — but he was a devastation machine in his peak. When Louis had a guy injured, he did not let him flee. He was a fantastic finisher, as the old-timers would say. Like that of Tyson and Liston, his aura could make an opponent so nervous before a fight that the scared victim was looking for the floor even before a punch had been landed.

Onlookers were both shocked and admiring of Louis’ knockout victories. A wire service reporter called Jack Cuddy hailed Louis as “the most formidable fighting machine the human race ever produced” after the Brown Bomber’s one-round thrashing of Buddy Baer, who weighed 45 pounds more.

George Foreman

Massive George didn’t have the perfect form of a Tyson, Liston, or Louis, but there was a time when he looked unbeatable, smashing his opponents with big, circling, bludgeoning shots. It was like a cannon burst as Foreman hit the big bag. Only one British writer, Walter Bartleman of the Evening Standard in London, picked Foreman to beat Joe Frazier in the huge upset in Kingston, Jamaica. He later told me that he reasoned that Frazier’s straight-ahead strategy would surely lead to a tremendous punch from which he would be unable to recover; he was correct.

Earnie Shavers

Perhaps Shaver’s should be higher because he was a true one-hit wonder, but in his biggest battles against Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes, he lacked the combinations and couldn’t land the knockout blow. He did, however, knock Holmes out with a right shot that would have ended most heavyweights. Shaver’s was very dangerous early in about, as evidenced by his two-minute knockout of Ken Norton. Before the bout, Norton was dismissive of Shaver, saying: “He’s a machine, and he’s always the same. Shaver realizes that the only way to get rid of me is to come out and try to bomb me.” Regrettably, for Norton, this is exactly what occurred.

Some Other hardest hitters in boxing history

Rocky Marciano

Marciano has to be at the top of any heavyweight hitter’s list, with 43 KOs in 49 wins. His one-punch KO victory over Jersey Joe Walcott was one of the most dramatic one-punch endings of all time, but he was also known for pounding the other man down as though softening him up with a punishing barrage. On the other hand, Walcott’s knockout was a classic demonstration of late-round punching power: the massive, blockbuster right hand was the fight-ending strike, with a follow-up left hook merely window-dressing. Marciano had been losing the fight until Rocky’s right hand “turned night into day,” according to the Associated Press’ Jack Hand.

Jack Dempsey

The elderly Manassa Mauler demonstrated his punching strength in a nasty seven-knockdown victory against Jess Willard and a crazy two-rounder against Luis Angel Firpo, both much bigger guys. Dempsey was similar to Tyson in that he was speedier than the heavyweights of the time and could do damage quickly, as he demonstrated when he knocked down 6-foot-6 Fred Fulton in 18 seconds. “He was the man-killer,” The New York Times wrote of Dempsey’s fight-ending attack after he was magnificently knocked through the ropes: “He was, in a word, Dempsey the man-killer, and he killed with the catastrophic fury that only those who have taken the sting force of his blows can tell.”

Lennox Lewis

Lennox Lewis, a two-time heavyweight champion, was a devastating right-handed hitter. He’ll be remembered for his two 12-round battles with the invincible Evander Holyfield and his startling upset failures to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman. In rematches, Lewis did KO Razor Ruddock, Francois Botha, Andrew Golota,  and Rahman. Lewis was timid in some battles, but when he came in and unleashed his right hand, he was one of heavyweight boxing’s most lethal practitioners.

Lewis’ second-round knockout of Ruddock (after a first-round knockdown practically terminated the bout) was praised by veteran British boxing journalist Colin Hart. “The strike that knocked Ruddock in the first round was, without hesitation, the best single shot I have seen from a British heavyweight since ‘Enery’s ‘Ammer placed Cassius Clay on his bottom at Wembley Stadium almost 30 years ago,” Hart said in the tabloid Sun.

Joe Frazier

Smokin’ Joe was without a doubt the best heavyweight left-hooker of all time. He sometimes needed a barrage of punches to finish, but his left hook knocked out light-heavyweight king Bob Foster and knocked Jimmy Ellis out. Frazier would grind down a fighter if he couldn’t get him out of the fight with one shot (or a series of them). Before Frazier’s victory versus Muhammad Ali, novelist Robert Lipsyte wrote: “Frazier constantly does the same thing, entertaining to watch and always works. Frazier takes his opponent’s punches, laughing and chuckling at the ones that truly hurt him, and when his opponent’s competitive spirit runs out, he gets in close and chops him down.”


Skill and athleticism aren’t the only considerations in boxing. One of the most important factors of the sport is power. This has been shown time and time again in the sport of boxing. Several boxers have achieved significant success merely because they were the most powerful punchers in the sport. So these are the hardest hitters in boxing history.

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