The one-punch knockout is something we rarely see, but it can happen at any moment, in any round, and its mere prospect plays a pivotal role in what makes boxing so exciting. The briefest of lapses in focus combined with a perfectly timed punch can yield devasting results, and when it happens, the boxing world erupts.
Devasting knockouts are considered a hallmark of the larger weight classes and, in particular, of the men's game, but as this list will show, a brutal one-punch ko can be dealt by either gender in any division. So without further ado, here's our top 12 single-punch KO's.
12. Canelo Alvarez (ko 6) vs Amir Khan
In his day, Amir Kahn had some of the fastest hands in the business - an attribute that he believed would see him emerge victorious when he took on one of the pound for pound best in the sport, Canelo Álvarez. Kahn started well, but Canelo - clearly the stronger man - began to take control as the rounds ticked by, and when he landed cleanly in the 6th it was lights out for Khan.
11. Arturo Gatti (ko 6) vs Wilson Rodriguez
Though not technically brilliant, Arturo Gatti remains one of the most exciting fighters ever to step into the ring. In 1996, a young Gatti put his IBF Junior welterweight title on the line in an all-out war against Wilson Rodriguez. Gatti took some severe punishment and by the sixth round had a badly swollen eye. In danger of being stopped, he would have to find a show-stopping punch to retain his title.
10. Dillian Whyte (ko 11) vs Derek Chisora
The rematch between heavyweight rivals Dilian Whyte and Derek Chisora started where the first fight ended. Chisora entered the ring in good form on the back of an emphatic knockout win against Carlos Takam, while Whyte had improved considerably since the first encounter. After a bruising eleven rounds, it looked as though Whyte was heading for another decision win when he landed a huge left hand that would leave no question marks.
9. Jelena Mrdjenovich (ko 9) vs Olivia Gerula
In 2011, Canada's multiple-time world champion, Jelena Mrdjenovich, knocked out fellow Canadian, Olivia Gerula in the 9th round of their Women's International Boxing Association World featherweight title fight. The pair had fought twice before - once ending in a KO win for Mrdjenovich and once with a decision win for Gerula. Coincidentally, both knockouts came from a single left hook and both left Gerula laying face first and out for the count.
8. Mike Tyson (ko 1) vs Henry Tillman
We couldn't produce a 'top knockouts' list without including Tyson at least once. In his first fight after losing the WBA, WBC, and IBF belts to Buster Douglas, Mike Tyson took on former Olympic gold medalist, Henry Tillman. On paper, it was an intriguing match-up - the two having fought twice as amateurs and Tillman winning on both occasions - but as pros, Tyson made quick work of his old rival. With just 13 seconds left in the first round, mike dipped down low and landed a powerful overhand right that left Tilman flat on the canvas.
7. Dave Allen (ko 4) vs Nick Webb
Dave Allen has had a patchy career so far - in part due to what he openly admits has been a lack of focus, and in part due to match-making that hasn't been in his best interest. In 2018, however, he set up an impressive streak of wins with a devastating one-punch ko win over Nick Webb. After a decent start from Webb, Allen landed a monster right hand in the fourth round that had Webb collapsed through the ropes. Watch for the dip of the right shoulder from Allen, disguising the overhand right as a body shot before bringing it over the top - masterfully set up by the lefts thrown to the body just seconds before - an excellent bit of misdirection resulting in a highly understated knockout.
6. Manny Pacquiao (ko 2) vs Ricky Hatton
In his 47th professional fight, having lost just once to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Ricky Hatton took on a prime Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao was coming in off the back of an impressive winning streak that included victories over the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Márquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Érik Morales. Hatton came out fast from the opening bell which played right into Pacquiao's hands - he found his counters with ease, dropping Hatton twice in the first round. Hatton had some success of his own in a ferociously paced second round, but with just seconds to go, walked onto a thundering left hand that there was no getting up from.
5. Sergio Martínez (ko 2) vs Paul Williams
After losing a mixed decision to Paul Williams in 2009, Sergio Martínez went on to defeat Kelly Pavlik to become WBO, WBC, and The Ring middleweight champion. Almost a year on from their first encounter, Williams would challenge Martínez for those titles in a rematch. With just a minute gone in the second round, Martínez turned the lights out on Williams with a short left hand right on the button.
4. Ann Wolfe (ko 1) vs Vonda Ward
Ann Wolfe became the first female boxer to hold titles in three weight classes at one time when she knocked out the undefeated Vonda Ward in the first round of their 2004 light-heavyweight showdown. The much taller Vonda Ward fought stiff and upright, quickly walking chin-first into a massive overhand right that left her unconscious and concussed. A commentator at the time hailed it "the best single-punch knockout I have seen in women's boxing".
3. George Foreman (ko 2) vs Gerry Cooney
In 1987, after ten years away from professional boxing, Foreman made an unexpected comeback, amassing an impressive streak of wins, albeit against less than exceptional opposition. By the time he got to Cooney, Foreman had won his last 19 fights - he was 41 years old. While far removed from the fighter he was in the 70s, George was able to stop Cooney in the second round, strolling across the ring after Cooney had arisen from the first knockdown, and casually delivering one of the most brazen uppercuts ever landed. While technically not a 'one-punch' ko due to the cuffing right that Foreman throws after the uppercut, Cooney was already out on his feet, so we're going t allow it.
2. Alexander Povetkin (ko 5) vs Dillian Whyte
Russian veteran Alexander Povetkin took the boxing world by storm recently when he landed a technically brilliant and thundering left uppercut to scupper Dillian Whytes world title hopes. The devastating blow came in the fifth round of the final fight in Eddie Hearns Fight Camp series, a fight which up until the deciding punch landed, Whyte had been winning. Povetkin, whose only losses have come to Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua, may not be the fighter he once was, but he certainly proved that his time in the sport isn't quite up.
1. Deontay Wilder (ko 1) vs Dominic Breazeale
When it comes to former WBC heavyweight champ, Deontay Wilder, the boxing world stands divided. Some think that a record of 41 KO's in 44 fights says it all, but others aren't convinced, often citing a lack of quality opposition. Wherever you stand, one thing we can be sure of is that the man has dynamite in his fists and has produced one of the most impressive highlight reels in the sport. Wilder has numerous one-punch knockouts to his name, but the one that tops this list came against Dominic Breazeale in their 2019 world title fight. After a scrappy exchange that saw both men wobbled, Wilder composed himself and threw one of the most destructive right hands we've ever seen - completely wiping out a man who had previously shown a solid chin.