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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Top 10: Boxing Knockouts

Number 10
Antonio Tarver vs. Roy Jones Jr. II
Date: May 15, 2004
Location: Mandalay Bay - Las Vegas, NV
Outcome: Tarver wins with a second-round knockout

After a questionable decision in favor of Jones Jr. in the first fight six months earlier, the second bout between the two light heavyweights was billed “No Excuses.” Tarver -- considered by many pundits to be a write-off against what was deemed to be one of the top pound-for-pound fighters -- ran with the theme, and when referee Jay Nady queried if either boxer had any questions, interposed: “Do you got any excuses tonight, Roy?” The Magic Man then stunned the world in the second round, connecting with a fierce left that dropped Jones Jr. for the count.

Epilogue: Tarver instantly became a celebrity, making the rounds on talk shows and magazine covers and would later easily dispose of Jones Jr. in the conclusion of their trilogy. As for the 1990s fighter of the decade, Jones Jr. moved to the production booth as a boxing color commentator for HBO before being fired because of a lack of commitment.

Number 9
Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott I

Date: September 23, 1952
Location: Municipal Stadium - Philadelphia, PA
Outcome: Marciano wins with a 13th-round knockout

"Close but no cigar" describes Jersey Joe Walcott’s effort against the younger up-and-comer Rocky Marciano. Walcott established himself early in the fight and dropped Marciano with a powerful left hook in the first round. But The Brockton Blockbuster was known for his durable chin and recovered after a brief respite. Walcott maintained control on the scorecards into the 13th round, but foolishly strived for a knockout instead of playing it safe. Marciano thumped Walcott’s jaw with one of the hardest punches ever, contorting his face forever.

Epilogue: The two heavyweights had a rematch a year later with the same result produced in the first round. Marciano went on to become the only Champion of any weight class to retire without draw or defeat, while Walcott’s career as a boxer was short-lived afterward.

Number 8
Mike Tyson vs. Trevor Berbick
Date: November 22, 1986
Location: Las Vegas Hilton - Las Vegas, NV
Outcome: Tyson wins with a second-round knockout

If there was ever an image of “not knowing what hit you,” Trevor Berbick would be the poster boy. In the second round of his first WBC Heavyweight title, he stopped an Iron Mike left hook with his face, and then collapsed to the ground like a Jenga tower. But it was his ambitious effort to get back to his feet that was worth the price of admission -- he tried to stand up twice, stumbling around like the village drunkard.

Epilogue: Tyson became the youngest Heavyweight Champion of the world, as well as the subject of success, rape, scandal, failure, and bankruptcy over the next two decades. Berbick faded into oblivion.

Number 7
Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson
Date: June 8, 2002
Location: The Pyramid Arena - Memphis, TN
Outcome: Lewis wins with an eighth-round knockout

Father Time is an ever-present factor in boxing, which typically means that what goes around comes around. After Tyson served prison time from 1992 to 1995, his skills had clearly diminished, which led to speculation that the end was near. By the time he squared off with Lewis, Tyson was merely a shadow of his former self. Lewis tested Tyson’s patience and endurance, toying with him into the eighth round before Tyson hit empty. Lewis delivered the coup de grace and effectively ended the Mike Tyson era.

Epilogue: The (one-time) Baddest Man on the Planet would suffer a few more knockouts and then file for bankruptcy. Lewis boxed for two more years, but decided to retire in 2004 rather than toil in a feeble Heavyweight division.

Number 6
Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman
Date: October 30, 1974
Location: Stade du 20 Mai - Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Outcome: Ali wins with an eighth-round knockout

The Rumble in the Jungle was a historic heavyweight tilt that entailed many firsts. It was Don King’s first attempt as a boxing promoter, it was the first Heavyweight title bout in Africa, and it would be the first time George Foreman would fall to defeat. Ali was still finding his feet after a three-and-a-half year suspension and was a heavy underdog to the seemingly untouchable Foreman. But Ali was prepared and took every packed punch Foreman sent his way. By the eighth round, Foreman was spent. He could not withstand Ali’s combinations any longer and fell to the mat.

Epilogue: Ali went to have prolonged success and was named the fighter of the decade for the ‘70s. Foreman declined thereafter, but made a surprising comeback in 1987. He peaked seven years later when he became the oldest fighter ever to hold the Heavyweight title at the age 45.

Number 5
Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns
Date: April 15, 1985
Location: Caesars Palace - Las Vegas, NV
Outcome: Hagler wins with a third-round knockout

Why bother with flirting when you can get right to making out? That’s how Hagler and Hearns felt as the two started trading bombs in the first round of a fight fittingly titled The War. The exchanges were ferocious blows, but neither fighter would relent. Despite a bleeding cut on his forehead, Hagler persisted and closed out what Ring Magazine would call the Greatest Round in Boxing History with a stunning right hand. Thomas ”Hit Man” Hearns was clearly hurt and couldn’t continue the unprecedented pace. In the third round, the reigning champ Marvelous Marvin took advantage and knocked out Hearns.

Epilogue: Hagler quit boxing two years later and moved to Italy after a speculative decision against Sugar Ray Leonard did not fall in his favor. The War was seemingly the climax for Hearns, but he is still a well-known celebrity in the Michigan area.

Number 4
Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston
Date: May 25, 1965
Location: St. Dominic's Hall - Lewiston, ME
Outcome: Ali wins with a first-round knockout

The art of diving has always been a staple of professional soccer, but it seeped into boxing during Ali’s first title fight. Midway through the first round, Liston dropped to the canvas seemingly untouched. Referee and former Heavyweight boxer Jersey Joe Walcott, as well as the 2,434 fans in the auditorium, were puzzled. Walcott tried to make sense of the situation and awarded Ali with a first-round knockout after realizing that Liston had been flat for about 20 seconds. Replays showed that there was a mild connection between Ali’s fist and Liston’s head on the “phantom punch,” but few believe this type of grazing would knock out a former champ.

Epilogue: Speculations of a fix were rampant due to Liston’s ties to the mob, but no paper trail was uncovered. This proved to be the start of one of the greatest boxing careers ever for Ali. Liston, on the other hand, would prevail in a few more bouts before suddenly passing, allegedly due to a drug overdose.

Number 3 Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo Date: September 14, 1923 Location: Polo Grounds - New York, NY Outcome: Dempsey wins by a second-round knockout

A Japanese proverb states: "Fall seven times, stand up eight." That is what the first Latin-American Heavyweight Challenger did after champion Jack Dempsey dropped him seven times in the first round. Firpo did more than just stand up; he confronted Dempsey against the ropes and clocked him so hard that the Manassa Mauler went flying over. Dempsey fell head first and cut his head on a writing machine, but with the help of the front-row press, he managed to get back into the ring before the cusp of the 10-count (although the ref’s count was more like that of the WWE). Dempsey regained his composure and finished Firpo in the second round.

Epilogue: Firpo immediately became a Latin icon, being the only Argentine to ever challenge for the Heavyweight title. He died in 1960 and rests in La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, among other influential Argentineans. Dempsey was Champion from 1919 to 1926 and joined the U.S. Army before the Second World War.

Number 2 Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling II Date: June 22, 1938 Location: Yankee Stadium - New York, NY Outcome: Louis wins with a first-round knockout

The rematch between American Joe Louis and German Max Schmeling was replete with political undertones given its timing at the onset of World War II. Louis was the American hero and inspiration, particularly in a time of need during the Great Depression, while Schmeling represented evil. The German took the first bout, but by the second contest, Louis had clearly become more skilled. He jumped on Schmeling early in the first round and knocked him down twice. Schmeling rose quickly both times, but he could not withstand The Brown Bomber’s aggressive onslaught and was KO’d in the center of the ring before the bell rang to end the first round.

Epilogue: Louis was considered a hero and split his time during the Second World War between boxing and the U.S. Army. In his twilight, Louis was mired by financial problems and drug addictions, but his close friend Schmeling paid for his medical bills and eventually his funeral. Both are members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Number 1 George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier I Date: January 22, 1973 Location: National Stadium - Kingston, Jamaica Outcome: Foreman wins with a second-round knockout

On the day former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson passed away, George Foreman and “Smokin’” Joe Frazier were matched on the debut of HBO Boxing. Frazier was 29-0 and on top of the world with a 15-round win over Ali. He was supposed to make quick work of Foreman, but Big George had other plans. Frazier’s patented left hooks were ineffective and Foreman’s rebuttals were far more piercing. To everyone’s amazement, Frazier was on the mat three times in the first round. After three more drops in the second, Frazier was finished, paving the way for Howard Cosell’s memorable “Down goes Frazier!” call, which has left an indelible memory in sports history.

Epilogue: This fight proved to be the launching pad for Foreman’s illustrious career, and although Frazier would never be the Champ again, he sustained his contender status and provided a few more thrilling encounters with Ali. Thanks to AskMen.com


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10:51 AM  

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