An oft-posed question that is nigh-on impossible to answer is who was the hardest hitting fighter in the history of the sport?
With that being said, we’ve taken on the challenge and decided to take a look back at some of boxing’s biggest punchers and narrowed our selections down to a top five.
George Foreman: KO rate – 84%
Boasting 68 KOs from 76 wins, there can be little argument that “Big” George Foreman is one of, if not the hardest hitting heavyweight of all time.
40-0 with 37 knockout victories prior to his legendary bout with Muhammad Ali in 1974, Foreman had dominated the division in his younger days, winning his first world title at the age of 24 with a stunning second-round demolition of Smokin Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica.
Cold, ruthless and utterly destructive, Foreman was a feared force until his upset defeat against Muhammad Ali in Zaire and, having retired from the sport at the age of 27, returned some ten years later before finally reclaiming a portion of the heavyweight title with a remarkable upset of Michael Moorer in 1994.
Even at 45, Foreman remained one of the sport’s great punchers, as demonstrated in his stunning tenth round anesthetisation of the previously unbeaten Moorer.
Twenty-five years on from a third-round KO of Don Waldhelm in his first-ever paid bout, Foreman proved that the old adage of power being the last thing to leave a fighter was entirely justified in its repeated utterance.
Foreman had landed one of the best punches in boxing’s long, storied chronicles, solidifying his claims for the title of boxing’s hardest-hitting punchers of all time.
Mike Tyson: KO rate – 76%
Standing just 5’9″ tall, Mike Tyson might not have been the biggest of heavyweights, but he was undoubtedly one of the hardest punchers to leave their mark on the sport.
Terrorising the heavyweight division at just 18 years old, the phenomenon of Mike Tyson was built on speed, ferocity and power. A truly devastating trifecta.
The young Tyson swept through the heavyweight division in the mid to late ’80s, scoring an impressive fifteen first-round knockouts from his first twenty-five bouts, and while he might not have maintained that level of destruction and dominance at the elite level, Iron Mike would retire with an outstanding 44 knockouts from 56 fights.
Scoring 36 stoppages inside three rounds or less, Tyson was a feared and revered heavyweight who could end any fight at any given moment. While a brilliant combination puncher, Tyson had more than enough firepower to close the show with just one blow.
While a physically impressive specimen, so many of Tyson’s knockout victories appeared to occur before his opponent had even stepped a foot inside the ring. A psychologically imposing figure, it was fear, as much as power, that made the young Iron Mike such an impregnable force before his incarceration in 1991.
Deontay Wilder: KO rate – 91%
Our only active fighter with a staggering 91% KO ratio, Deontay Wilder, will surely go down as one of the heaviest hitters to ever grace the sport.
Of course, grace is perhaps the least fitting description for the Bronze Bomber’s rather unorthodox (putting it politely) fighting style.
The original windmiller, Wilder was anything but graceful during his early ascent in the sport.
Yet a run of thirty-two successful knockout victories caught plenty of attention, and while that remarkable run of stoppage victories would come to an end in his next bout, a unanimous decision victory against Bermane Stiverne gave the Alabama slugger his first and as of today , only world title.
Still, no matter who they stood in front of Wilder, they all fell. Five further stoppage victories, including against an embarrassingly poor Stiverne, who would be blown away inside a round, followed before the now legendary trilogy series with his one and only kryptonite, Tyson Fury.
A brutal one-punch knockout artist, Wilder might not be the prettiest of boxers, but any lack of grace is more than made up for with lead-infused fists that have left all but one of his previous opponents prone on the canvas.
While Wilder was unable to stop the Gypsy King, there can be little doubt that despite any perceived deficiencies in technique, the Bronze Bomber will be remembered as one of the most concussive, one punch destroyers in the history of the sport.
Earnie Shavers: KO rate – 76%
Despite failing to win a world title, there can be little doubt that Earnie Shavers will long be remembered as one of the most ferocious punchers in the sport’s history.
Our only inclusion never to collect world honours, shavers, just 6ft tall, relatively small for a heavyweight, was a revered power puncher during a truly elite period for boxing.
With an exceptional 68 KO’s from 89 bouts, 24 of those stoppages coming in the first round alone, Shavers’ power was the stuff of legend, with The Greatest of them all said to remark, “Earnie hit me so hard, it shook my kinfolk back in Africa”.
Ali would later claim Shavers to hit harder than anyone else, including the greats of George Foreman and Joe Frazier.
Indeed, BOTH Foreman and Frazier would avoid bouts with the Alabama native, such was the level of approbation surrounding Shavers perceived PUNCHING power.
Despite his failure to claim a world title, Shavers left an indelible impression on the heavyweight scene with his ability to render opponents unresponsive, virtually unmatched.
Wladimir Klitschko: KO rate – 77%
Perhaps under-rated during his long reign as divisional ruler between 2006 and 2015, few would now debate the presence of Dr Steelhammer in this list of boxing’s greatest punchers.
While undoubtedly fighting during a particularly poor era in heavyweight history, Klitschko would wrack up 53 wins by way of knockout, and with a KO ratio of 77%, the Ukrainian deserves his recognition as one of the hardest hitters to ever lace ’em up.
A brilliant athlete, three stoppage defeats in his early career left plenty of doubters, but having teamed up with the great Manny Steward, Klitschko would go on to dominate the division with fourteen stoppage victories during his long-reign as heavyweight ruler in the early part of the 21st Century.
Often criticized (particularly in the US) for what was perceived as a boring style, Klitschko would break his opponents down with stiff jabs, left hooks and devastating straight right hands.
Dominant doesn’t do justice to the level of ease with which Dr Steelhammer administered his beatdowns.
Of course, there is a certain validity to claims that Klitschko doesn’t have a name opponent in his resume, but the Ukrainian never ducked a challenge and, with his knockout power, would have likely proved a handful for most, if not all heavyweights in the sports long history.