10. DEREK JEFFERSON KO 6 MAURICE HARRIS, CONVENTION HALL, ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY, NOVEMBER 6, 1999
Harris was floored heavily twice in round 2 by a pair of left hooks that might plausibly have curtailed a wild heavyweight slugfest there and then.
Clearly made of sterner stuff, Maurice rallied to put Jefferson down with a short right hand as the latter was a tad over zealous in his quest for an early shower.
A highly underrated ‘club fight classic’ swung this way and that until another big left hook sent Harris to the mat for a third time in Round 6. Against the run of play, he tagged Jefferson once again with a brace of bludgeoning right hands and appeared to be on the brink of a sensational victory when suddenly poleaxed by yet another left hook that put its predecessors firmly in the shade.
Not to mention poor Maurice.
9. KENNY VICE KO 4 JIM McDONNELL, ROYAL ALBERT HALL, KENSINGTON, LONDON, SEPTEMBER 22, 1990
A sickening knockout that I thought twice about including here, such is my robust affection for ‘Jimmy Mac.’Personal friendships not withstanding, this brutal truncation of McDonnell’s ring aspirations in his first outing since a gallant stand against the great Azumah Nelson was as conclusive as any one punch denouement.
A somewhat rusty McDonnell appeared to be warming to his task when the visibly largerLouisianan missed with a chopping right hand before finding the target with a savage left hook that left the likeable North Londoner face down and motionless beneath the bottom rope, his head resting on the ring apron.
Jimmy would have one last hurrah, 8 years down the line in the unlikely setting of Slovakia, but his distinguished career effectively ended on this autumnal night at the Royal Albert Hall.
8. WAYNE ALEXANDER KO 2 TAKALOO, YORK HALL, BETHNAL GREEN, LONDON, SEPTEMBER 10, 2004
The Croydon light middleweight will never be remembered as one of Britain’s greatest fighters but his name is very seldom omitted when the conversation turns to premier punchers from ‘this green and pleasant land’.
Takaloo might have done well to heed the old ring maxim that you don’t hook with a hooker but hindsight is redundant in the squared circle.
A left hook to the body visibly hurt Alexander early in round 2 and convinced the transplanted Iranian to unload with either hand.
Wayne hovered low, gloves cupped underneath his chin before rolling in a clockwise direction and uncorking a wrecking ball left hook just as his freshly prostrate opponent had been looking to land his own version.
In this era of footage at the touch of a button, it‘s a highlight reel KO that remains synonymous with either fighter’s legacy, whether the loser likes it or not.
7. DONALD CURRY KO 2 MILTON McCRORY, LAS VEGAS HILTON, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, DECEMBER 6, 1985
The blueprint for a left hook counter and a perfect retort to the textbook advocates who preach about the perils of slipping inside the jab. Having asserted his authority in the first round, Curry momentarily stumbled after missing Milton with a lunging left before slipping inside the Kronk fighter’s long lead and nailing his man with a sweetly timed hook that separated the ‘Iceman’ from his senses.
Technically speaking it wasn’t the fight ending shot as McCrory gamely struggled to his feet before Mills Lane allowed Curry to land one more pulverising right hand that immediately levelled his stricken foe for keeps.
With all due respect to a legendary third man of the ring, it seemed highly unnecessary.
6. JOE FRAZIER W15 MUHAMMAD ALI, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK, NEW YORK, MARCH 8, 1971
The only example in this ensemble of a left hook for the ages delivered in a fight that went the distance.Smokin’ Joe may not have kept ‘The Greatest’ prone and horizontal for more than 3-4 seconds but the shot that connected in the 15th round of what was conceivably the biggest fight in history will be replayed until doomsday and beyond.
A leaping punch that landed palm facing and would likely have kept Lazarus down, its impact resembled a man swinging a baseball bat at a pumpkin on a podium. Ali was back on his feet as swiftly as seemed humanly possible to ringsiders but there were no longer any doubts about the result.
It was, unquestionably, the high point of Frazier’s fine career.
5. MIKE McCALLUM KO 5 DONALD CURRY, CAESAR’S PALACE, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, JULY 18, 1987
The ‘Body Snatcher’ set the ‘Lone Star Cobra’ up beautifully for an iconic finish that epitomised the subtle art of feinting. Curry was ahead on each of 3 cards and had won all 4 completed rounds in the eyes of judge Jerry Roth before a right uppercut to the body and a left hook to the jaw left Donald spread eagled on the deck, rendering all maths academic.
Years later, McCallum explained how he had established the pattern of throwing a right uppercut to the midsection followed by a left hook downstairs throughout the opening 4 stanzas. When the fateful moment arrived in the 5th, Mike threw the uppercut once more, then stayed low with his eye-line focused on Curry’s torso before switching upstairs with a devastating left hook that deposited the would be Texan superstar flat on his back.
Don was never in danger of beating Richard Steele’s count and, if the loss to Lloyd Honeyghan was mitigated by a prolonged battle with the scales, then there were no excuses on this occasion.
4. BOB FOSTER KO 2 DICK TIGER, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK, NEW YORK, MAY 24, 1968
A prime example of the old adage ‘if you miss with the right hand, come back with a left hook’. Having missed with an ominously slashing left hook, Foster threw a jab and a chopping right hand that the demonstrably shorter champion also evaded before another huge left hook connected on the sweet spot of Tiger’s lower mandible.
The African all great duly imploded as the back of his head bounced heavily off the canvas upon impact. It was the start of a record breaking reign for the lanky Albuquerque lawman and the only knockout ever suffered by Tiger.
3. JOE FRAZIER KO 2 BOB FOSTER, COBO ARENA, DETROIT, MICHIGAN, NOVEMBER 18, 1970
Without the benefit of the enlightened science that played a crucial role in Michael Spinks’ successful migration to the heavyweight division, Foster evidently believed that coming in at 188 pounds would maximise his perceived advantages of speed and mobility.
The trouble was that ‘stick and move’ was never really Bob’s forte and the murderous power that had iced so many 175 pounders proved woefully insufficient in keeping the world heavyweight champion from engulfing him like a cheap suit.
A cheerfully marauding Frazier decked Sheriff Bob with a left hook early in the 2nd before administering the conclusive coup de grace.
As Foster flailed with his back to ropes on auto pilot, a perfectly placed left hook to the floating rib preceded a left hook upstairs that damn near decapitated the light heavyweight king.
That Bob later advised Spinks to ‘leave those heavyweights alone’ is perhaps not entirely surprising.
2. JERSEY JOE WALCOTT KO 7 EZZARD CHARLES, FORBES FIELD, PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, JULY 18, 1951
Arguably more of a left uppercut but there are various ways of delivering the lead hook when all said and done. Charles, the defending world heavyweight champion had already bested Walcott on two previous occasions when the latter carved his particular niche in pugilistic posterity at around 55 seconds of round 7.
Advancing with that trademark swagger and nonchalant rhythm, Jersey Joe nailed the ‘Cincinnati Cobra’ with a perfect short left hand that sent him crashing face first to the canvas.
Ezzard gamely attempted to rise before collapsing on his back as referee, Buck McTiernan, declared Walcott the oldest heavyweight champ in history.
1. SUGAR RAY ROBINSON KO 5 GENE FULMER, CHICAGO STADIUM, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, MAY 5, 1957
Aside from this sublime configuration of timing, physics and malevolence, Fulmer was generally something of a nemesis for the original Sugarman. Having shorn Robison of the world middleweight crown via unanimous 15 round decision 5 months earlier, the rugged Mormon brawler was a 3 and a half to 1 favourite to do the double vs a 36 year old Sugar Ray who had seen better days.
The old axiom that form is temporary while class is permanent never seemed so resonant as when Robison, after scoring with a pair of long right hooks to the body on the retreat, suddenly stopped and nailed Fulmer with a shot that has set the archetypal bar for Boxing’s most iconic punch, midway through the 5th round.
Fulmer had precious little recollection of what happened immediately thereafter but deserves the last word:
“It was supposedly the greatest left hook he ever threw and it happened to hit me on the chin!
I didn’t know anything about being hit. I didn’t know anything about being down. The first thing I knew, I was standing up. Robinson was in the other corner. I thought he was in great condition, doing exercises between rounds. My manager crawled into the ring. I said, ‘What happened?’ He said, ‘They counted to ten.’ Up to then, I didn’t know.”