Mike Tyson, Tommy Hearns, George Foreman and Felix Trinidad have all worn this mythical crown in the past: the title of the hardest pound-for-pound puncher in all of boxing.
But – fortunately for the chins of modern fighters – those human wrecking machines have all retired. So who’s causing carnage in the boxing ring in 2021? From a Mexican idol to a fully loaded ‘Tank’, let’s count down the top 10 most feared bangers currently active in the sport.
10. Anthony Joshua
W: 24 (22 KOs), L: 2
Slipping down the list because, well, what use is devastating power if you don’t use it? Joshua can hurt any heavyweight on the planet as he showed in eye-catching KOs of Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin. However, against Oleksandr Usyk, AJ bafflingly tried to box with a boxer rather than unleashing his thumping right hand or brutal left hook. Still an undoubtedly heavy hitter, but needs to show it.
9. Terence Crawford
W: 37 (28 KOs), L: 0
Just because Crawford is a slick southpaw best known for his all-round skills, don’t sleep on his sharp, spiteful punching. Currently on an eight-bout KO streak in world title fights, no opponent has gone the distance with ‘Bud’ since 2016. Tends to start fights slowly but – unlike other master boxers of the past (cough, Floyd Mayweather) – Crawford is a ruthless finisher who’ll look to take out a hurt opponent with pinpoint accuracy.
8. Yuniel Dorticos
W: 26 (24 KOs), L: 2
The ‘KO Doctor’ hasn’t quite lived up to his nickname when facing the very best of his division – e.g. his two defeats to Murat Gassiev and Mairis Briedis – but anyone outside the elite is in real trouble. Boasts an 86 per cent knockout ratio, keeps marauding forward and the right-hand bomb he used to render previously unbeaten Andrew Tabiti unconscious in their 2019 Super Six semi-final was one of the KOs of that year.
7. Gennady Golovkin
W: 41 (36 KOs), L: 1, D: 1
Golovkin might have been no.1 on this list five years ago, but at age 39 the 160lb great can’t quite pull the trigger as fast as he once did. Still, even now ‘Triple G’ can steamroller the Steve Rolls of this world and – in his prime – went on a 23-fight, nine-year KO streak. Has every punch in his arsenal and the fact that Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez survived 24 rounds against one another says more about their iron jaws than either man’s lack of pop.
6. Teofimo Lopez
W: 16 (12 KOs), L: 0
Chose to box rather than brawl when he upset Vasyl Lomachenko last year but make no mistake: the 24-year-old Brooklynite can bang. Tough world champion Richard Commey had never been stopped in 32 fights before he took on Teo in December 2019. He was taken out in just over four minutes after Lopez’s relentless, compact, two-handed assault. Huge at 135lb, so it will be interesting to see if he carries his power up.
5. Canelo Alvarez
W: 56 (38 KOs), L: 1, D: 2
Don’t let the relatively low KO ratio fool you: Alvarez has gradually improved on his finishing, along with every other part of his game. A patient, calculated destroyer who creates openings then exploits them expertly. Witness Canelo’s late stoppage of Sergey Kovalev or the uppercut that fractured Billy Joe Saunders’ orbital bone. Clobbering KOs of Amir Khan and James Kirkland are absolute highlight reel must-watches.
4. Artur Beterbiev
W: 16 (16 KOs), L: 0
Hard to argue with a 100 per cent KO ratio. Fearsome, black-bearded, Zangief-resembling Beterbiev doesn’t have rapid-fire fists. It’s more a thudding, relentless power that has seen off every single pro fighter he’s faced. Injury and inactivity have been the 36-year-old’s toughest foes and he didn’t look at his best against Adam Deines last time out. But battering Oleksandr Gvozdyk into submission was some feat and a battle with this list’s no.5 is mouthwatering.
3. Gervonta Davis
W: 25 (24 KOs), L: 0
‘Tank’ Davis always brings the explosive artillery despite standing only 5ft 5in and often fighting above what would seem to be his natural weight class. No fighter has gone the distance with the aggressive, sawn-off Davis since 2014 and the uppercut that stopped Leo Santa Cruz last year was a thing of absolute beauty (unless you were in Santa Cruz’s boots). Needs to fight the best at 135lb but has the tools to top this list.
2. Deontay Wilder
W: 42 (41 KOs), L: 2, D: 1
Has any heavyweight better lived up to their surname? Can look raw and clumsy but ‘The Bronze Bomber’s dynamite right hand is the ultimate equaliser. Has more highlight KOs than some world champions have had fights and, in his wild 2021 shootout with Tyson Fury, showed he’s still dangerous even when hurt and exhausted. Has knocked out every opponent he’s ever faced apart from Fury, and has dropped him four times. Freakish power.
1. Naoya Inoue
W: 21 (18 KOs), L: 0
The smallest man on the countdown is the pound-for-pound best. Sneaks ahead of Wilder because ‘The ‘Monster’ doesn’t only possess fight-ending power, he also has the skills to utilise it. Inoue has blazed his way through three weight divisions and in his last 12 fights, only Nonito Donaire has gone the distance (and that was partly because the referee oddly blocked off Inoue when he had Donaire badly hurt). A menace to body and head; bantamweights simply aren’t supposed to hit this hard.