Boxing

Ranking the 10 Best Knockout Artists of the Past Decade

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2014

Ranking the 10 Best Knockout Artists of the Past Decade

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    Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

    Vitali Klitschko and Roman Gonzalez are among the biggest and smallest boxing champions of the past decade, respectively. But they have both been among the top knockout artists in the sport.

    Compiling this list ended up being a little tougher than I anticipated. I set 70 percent as the minimum knockout rate for inclusion.

    But quality of opposition matters, too. The top names on this list also dominated weight classes and/or unified belts.

10. Edwin Valero

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    Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

    Only a few years ago, Edwin Valero seemed destined to top a list like this one. He's the only name on this list with a perfect KO percentage. He fought 27 times in his professional career and knocked out every opponent he faced.

    Of those 27 KOs, 19 came in Round 1.

    But Valero's turbulent life came apart in 2010. He was arrested for the murder of his wife, then committed suicide while in custody.

    Valero was a reigning world champion at the time of his death but had only recently moved up to the world-class level. Like heavyweight Ike Ibeabuchi, Valero will go down in boxing lore as a potential superstar undermined by his own criminal character.

9. James Kirkland

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    If you were a director looking to cast an especially tough and scary-looking boxer for a film, James Kirkland might be the guy you'd want to call. And the "Mandingo Warrior" has the record to go with his formidable appearance: 32-1 with 28 KOs.

    Kirkland's career has been hamstrung by legal problems, injuries and a 2011 upset loss via Round 1 TKO to Japanese journeyman Nobuhiro Ishida, at a time when he was temporarily separated by his longtime trainer, Ann Wolfe.

    However, Kirkland looked to be back on track last December when he returned to the ring after a 21-month break and delivered a punishing Round 6 TKO of highly regarded, undefeated prospect Glen Tapia.

8. Gennady Golovkin

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    Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

    WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin enters this weekend's title defense against Osumanu Adama in Monte Carlo riding a 15-fight knockout streak. Since turning professional in 2006, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist from Kazakhstan has gone 28-0 with 25 KOs.

    I am already anticipating some objections to the quality of Golovkin's list of victims. It's not as good as the fighters ranked above him, but it's not as bad as some naysayers want to pretend, either.

    Golovkin has battered numerous fighters who had waged competitive, and in some cases, victorious, efforts against other world champions or top-rated fighters.

    It's appropriate that Golovkin and James Kirkland appear right next to each other on this list, because GGG and the Mandingo Warrior is a fight that really should happen in 2014.  

7. Jhonny Gonzalez

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    ISAAC BREKKEN/Associated Press

    Jhonny Gonzalez's stunning Round 1 KO of Abner Mares to capture the WBC featherweight title last August was a leading candidate for 2013's Upset of the Year. Mares came into the fight a three-division world champion who was rated in most pound-for-pound top-10 lists.

    But in retrospect, maybe it shouldn't have come as such a surprise. Over the past decade, Gonzalez has been among the most dangerous punchers in the sport below lightweight.

    For his career, Gonzalez is 55-8 with 47 KOs.

6. Lucas Matthysse

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Lucas Matthysse's red-hot career took a minor cooling down last September when he lost by unanimous decision to junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia. But his status as a knockout artist still demands respect.

    For his career, the Argentinian masher is 34-3 with 32 KOs. In two of his losses, he scored knockdowns. The list of professional opponents who have climbed into the ring with Matthysse and avoided tasting the canvas would fit on a few fingers.

    Matthysse's brutal Round 3 TKO of IBF junior welterweight champion Lamont Peterson last May in a non-title fight was among the year's most impressive performances.

5. Marcos Maidana

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Marcos Maidana gave boxing fans an early Christmas present last December when he knocked down Adrien Broner twice and handed boxing's current lead villain the first loss of his professional career. Whether from legitimate head trauma, bruised ego or a combination of the two, Maidana left Broner in such bad shape that the brash young star couldn't even stick around for a post-fight interview.

    It was the perfect signature win for a heavy-hitting, action fighter like Maidana, who improved his career record to 35-3 with 31 KOs.

    Maidana has always been a slugger, but what should concern his fellow welterweights is the improvement that has occurred in his boxing skills in the past year or so, since he started training with Robert Garcia. A Maidana with improved footwork and jab is not going to be an easy fight for many people at 147.

    And just as Kirkland and Golovkin would make a terrific matchup, I know I'm not the only fan who would love to see Maidana paired with his countryman, Matthysse.  

4. Wladimir Klitschko

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    Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

    The younger Klitschko brother, Wladimir, has thudding, punishing power in both fists. His jab is among the best in the history of the division, more battering ram than range finder. He has a neat trick of turning it into a jolting lead hook at nearly the last second. 

    But it's Wladi's overhand right that earned him the nickname "Dr. Steelhammer." It is an extremely dangerous punch, and he excels at setting it up. 

    Wladimir's career KO percentage is just under 80 percent, but it would no doubt be higher if not for his notoriously suspect chin. Fighting in the heavyweight division, where almost every contender can bang, has forced the younger Klitschko to fight with a safety-first style. 

    But in the past 10 years, there have been few bigger knockout artists than the current heavyweight champion. 

3. David Haye

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    Tom Hevezi/Associated Press

    David Haye has remained a dangerous puncher at heavyweight, but it's his record at cruiser that earns him a spot here. Fighting at the 200-pound limit, Haye lost just once and knocked out everybody he beat except for one man. Before moving up to heavyweight, he unified three belts. 

    He's knocked out everybody he has fought at heavyweight aside from Wladimir Klitschko and the seven-foot giant Nikolai Valuev. Haye's mouth can be off-putting, but there is no denying that he is an explosive athlete with dangerous punching power. 

    For his career, the Brit is 26-2 with 24 KOs. 

2. Roman Gonzalez

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    In a just world, Roman Gonzalez would be a superstar already, despite his tiny stature. Few fighters of any size combine more skill and excitement than the Nicaraguan. 

    Since 2005, Gonzalez has terrorized the straw and light flyweight divisions, compiling a perfect 37-0 record with 31 KOs. His lead hook to the body/lead uppercut to the head is a lethal combination, and he looks almost like a miniature Mike Tyson when he throws it. 

    Gonzalez is scheduled to move up to full flyweight this year. Hopefully, he will continue to gain attention. A fight between him and fellow knockout artist Giovani Segura could have Fight of the Year potential. 

1. Vitali Klitschko

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    Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

    At the end of last year, Vitali Klitschko walked away from boxing to focus on the political crisis gripping his native Ukraine. He's been a familiar figure trying to restore peace and order during the protests against the government, and it has been widely speculated that he will run for president. 

    The older Klitschko brother has the ideal psychological makeup for an opposition leader. He's a natural-born fighter who never takes a step back. 

    In the ring, this led him to compile one of the most exceptional knockout percentages in the history of the heavyweight division. For his career, Vitali lost just twice, once due to shoulder injury and once due to cuts. 

    Of his 45 wins, 41 came by way of stoppage, giving him a career KO percentage of just over 87 percent. 

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