This is the continuation of Robert Silva’s countdown of the greatest knockouts in boxing history. You can read his first three columns below.
35. Mike McCallum Vs Donald Curry
July 18, 1997
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Caesar’s Palace
Throughout the 1980s, WBA Jr. Middleweight Champion Mike McCallum was frustrated in his inability to secure a fight with the legendary Fabulous Four of Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. He was considered too high a risk for too low a reward. Duran made much more money in both his destruction at the hands of Hearns and his loss to Marvin Hagler. Hearns made much more money in his knockout of Duran and historic loss to Hagler. The same with Hagler, who made huge money in his defeats of both Hearns and Duran and his decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard. Instead, McCallum’s biggest payday and fight would take place against former Undisputed Welterweight Champion Donald Curry.
Curry had lost his 147-pound title in a shocking upset to British fighter Lloyd Honeyghan. Curry suffered a one-sided beating before retiring on his stool at the end of the sixth round. At the time of the loss, Curry was considered the best boxer in the world by many experts, including my father and me. The shot at the vaunted “Body Snatcher’s” crown was a chance at redemption. The first four rounds went exactly as Curry planned.
My father saw this fight going one of two ways: either Curry stays outside and outboxes the slower and older McCallum, or McCallum breaks down Curry with his patented hooks to the body before knocking him out late. For the first four rounds, the 25-year-old Curry did the former as he landed several swift combinations behind his jab while avoiding the 30-year-old champ’s punches. It was a master display of boxing by Curry that made it seem that it would be a long night for McCallum. Then came the fifth round.
Curry continued his ring generalship for the first minute of round five. A minute into the round, he landed a crisp left hook and then made the mistake of backing straight out with hands down. McCallum quickly took advantage by landing a picture perfect left hook that dropped Curry like a ton of bricks. Curry was unconscious until the count of eight and was unable to get up before referee Richard Steele counted him out. It would be the signature win of McCallum’s career; a career which included both his iconic run at 154 that I wrote about in an earlier article and winning world titles at 160 and 175 pounds. For Curry, it was the beginning of the end of a career that would see the future Hall of Famer washed up by the age of 30.
34. Michael Nunn Vs Sumbu Kalambay
March 25, 1989
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Hilton Hotel
After Marvin Hagler lost to Sugar Ray Leonard in April of 1987, the IBF, WBC and WBA all held individual title fights to crown their own versions of the title. The two best fighters to emerge from the rubble of Hagler-Leonard were the IBF Champion Michael Nunn and the WBA Champion Sumbu Kalambay. Both men signed to fight each for both a title unification and Middleweight supremacy. Unfortunately, the WBA refused to sanction the fight and stripped Kalambay of his title. Another in a long history of an alphabet group getting in the way of boxing history. Some things never change.
Although both Nunn and Kalambay were head and shoulders, the two best 160-pound fighters in the world at the time, there was a fear that their styles would clash and they would engage in a stinker of a fight. Both men were boxers that moved a lot. I, on the other hand, while respecting Kalambay’s boxing acumen, knew that his style was completely wrong against Nunn because of the height difference. Kalambay, at 5’9, was four inches shorter than the 6’1 inch southpaw Nunn. In order to have any kind of success, he’d have to get inside and outwork the much taller Nunn.
Kalambay did not adhere to this fight plan. Instead, Kalambay moved while Nunn walked him down behind his right jab. Halfway through round one, Nunn blinded a moving Kalambay with a right jab and immediately followed with a scorching left cross that immediately paralyzed Kalambay’s legs when he collapsed to the canvas. Kalambay knew where he was, but his legs wouldn’t cooperate as referee Richard Steele counted him out. It was a stunning first round knockout for Nunn who was immediately considered the second best fighter in the world at the time after Mike Tyson.
Kalambay would continue to have a solid career after his knockout loss without ever winning another world title. Nunn, unable to garner major fights with Sugar Ray Leonard or Thomas Hearns, defended his title against smaller men like Marlon Starling and Donald Curry before shockingly losing his title to a then unknown James Toney. More on that fight and the aftermath in a later article.
33. Nonito Donaire Vs Vic Darchinyan
July 7, 2007
Venue: Harbor Yard Arena
Going into his fight against Nonito Donaire, Armenian born Vic Darchinyan was considered to be one of the most destructive punchers in boxing. Since his stoppage of Irene Pacheco to win the IBF Flyweight title on December 16, 2004, Darchinyan had battered six straight challengers to his crown, including Glenn Donaire, a fighter who’s jaw he broke under questionable circumstances. Nonito was the younger brother seeking revenge. So called boxing experts felt Nonito was the lesser talented of the Donaire brothers. On this night, Nonito sought to prove them wrong.
Throughout his career, Darchinyan employed a herky jerky, unorthodox style reminiscent of former great Naseem Hamed. Like Hamed, Darchinyan was a southpaw with incredible reflexes and power in both hands. Donaire was a swift-footed boxer who wasn’t considered a threat because the belief at the time was that he lacked the type of punching power that would make Darchinyan think twice about rushing in on him. Donaire negated that theory as while boxing from the outside beautifully, dominated the first four rounds and staggered Darchinyan in the third round with a blistering check left hook. The best was yet to come from the Filipino native.
Round five was more of the same as Donaire controlled the distance with his lethal left jab and footwork. Then midway through the round, Darchinyan walked into a booming check left hook that dropped him for the first time in his career. The Armenian slugger was able to get up at the count of seven but immediately stumbled face first into the ropes, causing referee Eddie Claudio to immediately stop the fight.
At the time of their first fight, Darchinyan had been unbeaten in 28 fights. He would only win 15 of his last 25 fights including another knockout loss to Donaire in 2013. Suffice to say, Darchinyan was never the same after this night. Donaire, on the other hand, began an incredible run that saw him win several more world titles at 115, 118, 122 and 126 pounds. No matter what happens from here, Donaire has already established a legacy as one of the greatest little men that ever put on a pair of boxing gloves.
32. Bob Foster Vs Mike Quarry
June 27, 1972
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Convention Center
In the fabled history of the Light Heavyweight division, there has never been a more feared or explosive puncher than Bob Foster. The 6’3 Air Force veteran from Albuquerque, New Mexico is without a doubt, one of the 10 greatest punchers in boxing history. On the night of June 27, 1972, that destructive power was on display for the entire world to see.
Foster’s World Light Heavyweight Title was on the line for the 10th time that night against the undefeated slick boxer Mike Quarry, younger brother of Jerry who would face Muhammad Ali in the main event that night in Vegas. Many felt that Quarry’s movement would give the New Mexico Thin Man problems. Since winning the title in 1968, no one had given Foster any resistance when attempting to defeat him for the title. The 30-year-old Foster would make sure his fight with Quarry would continue in that same vain.
The first four rounds were evenly fought as Quarry’s constant movement gave him opportunities to hit and not get hit. Despite Quarry’s continual backward motion, Foster kept walking him down with his left jab and applied so much intense pressure that by the onset of the fifth round, Quarry was not moving as much. Quarry began trading with Foster and right before the bell sounded to end round five, Foster landed a monumental left hook that sent Quarry crashing to the canvas practically comatose. It was one of the great knockouts in the history of the Light Heavyweight division.
Foster successfully defended his 175 pound title four more times before retiring at the age of 32 in 1974 without losing the title in the ring. He would make a comeback the following year before finally retiring for good at the age of 35 in 1978. Quarry, on the other hand, was never the same after this devastating loss. He would fought 41 more times over the next 10 years before retiring, losing 16 times during that time span. Both he and his brother Jerry would die of causes due to pugilistic dementia.
31. Donald Curry Vs Milt McCrory
December 6, 1985
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Hilton Hotel
Many fight fans today consider Terence Crawford the best fighter in the world. 35 years ago, a fighter from Fort Worth, Texas employed the same smooth, laid back boxing style as Crawford. His name was Donald Curry, who I wrote about earlier in this article, and his WBC/WBA/IBF 147-pound unification title fight on December 6, 1985 against Milt McCrory was supposed be the beginning of an era dominated by Curry.
Milt McCrory was a protege of both Thomas Hearns and legendary Kronk trainer Emanuel Steward. The Detroit native was 6’0 tall and was the type of fighter Steward excelled training; tall with a stiff jab and powerful right cross. Both Curry and McCrory captured the Welterweight titles Sugar Ray Leonard vacated when he retired due to a detached retina in November of 1982. The Curry-McCrory fight was the biggest fight at 147 since Leonard-Hearns in September, 1981. This fight was neither as dramatic or competitive.
Round one saw McCrory box from the outside while Curry, who at 5’10 was two inches shorter, stalk McCrory and successfully target his midsection. Round two saw much of the same until midway through the round when Curry blasted a left hook off McCrory’s jaw that dropped him. McCrory was somehow able to get up at the count of seven and was very glassy eyed on unsteady legs. Legendary referee Mills Lane erroneously allowed the fight to continue. As soon as the fight resumed, Curry landed a pulsating right cross that nearly decapitated McCrory. Lane’s 10 count was a foregone conclusion. Curry was now the Undisputed Welterweight Champion of the World.
Less than 11 months later, Curry would suffer a beating at the hands of Lloyd Honeyghan and was never the same. McCrory was never the same after his devastating knockout loss to Curry. McCrory and Curry were 23 and 24 years old respectively going into their fight. Both were washed up before the age of 30.