This is the continuation of Robert Silva’s countdown of the greatest knockouts in boxing history. You can read his previous pieces below.
30: Wilfred Benitez Vs Maurice Hope
May 23, 1981
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Caesar’s Palace
In my soon to be 44 years of watching and following the sport of boxing, Wilfred Benitez was one of the five most naturally gifted boxers I ever saw. He was so great that he still holds the record for winning a world title at the tender age of 17. My father absolutely loved Benitez. He always told anyone who would listen that when Benitez was 100-percent focused, he was damn near unbeatable inside the ring. The day he climbed into the ring and battled WBC super welterweight champion Maurice Hope was a prime example of a 100-percent-focused Benitez.
The Antiguan born and British citizen Hope was an excellent southpaw boxer-puncher who was making his fourth and highest profile defense of his 154-pound crown. It would be his first venture into the United States and he unwisely scheduled his wedding to place the same day as his big fight with Benitez. It’s safe to assume that Hope felt he was too strong for Benitez as Hope was a natural 154-pound fighter. This was Benitez’s attempt to win a third world title by the age of 22.
Hope, who made a career high $400,000 in his defense against Benitez, was unable to penetrate Benitez’s superior defense. Benitez was Houdini-like in defending his opponents punches. He stood right in front of Hope and made him miss all night long and constantly made him pay with stinging left jabs and right cross counters. In the 11th round, Benitez began attacking Hope and was hurting him badly with one right hand after another. Finally, in the 12th, Benitez landed a picturesque right cross that sent Hope crashing to the canvas almost lifeless and was counted out by referee Richard Green. Hope laid motionless for two minutes before he was revived and sent to the hospital. He was released a few days later and was able to have his Las Vegas wedding.
Benitez would thoroughly outclass Roberto Duran the following January before losing his title in December of 1982 to Thomas Hearns. Hearns gave Benitez the same type of boxing lesson that Benitez had given Duran. Then the following year he looked listless in a 12-round beating at the hands of Mustafa Hamsho. Benitez, at the age of 25, was washed up. He fought for seven more years and took way too many punches. Benitez has been suffering from an incurable brain condition since 1990 and has little-to-no memory of his glory days in the ring. Hope on the other hand, only fought one more time and retired at the age of 30. He has lived a very serene life and has visited Benitez several times in the Puerto Rican nursing home Benitez resides in. Life can be so unpredictable. A man gets hospitalized after suffering a beating yet several years later, has all his faculties while the man who beat him has little-to-no-function of his faculties.
29. Julian Jackson Vs Terry Norris
July 30, 1989
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Venue: Convention Hall
When it comes to powerful right crosses in boxing history, Julian Jackson’s is on the short list of most potent. The man they called the “Hawk” put the fear of God into his opponents just by the thought that they must come up with a game plan to avoid Jackson’s howitzer of a right hand. In his first 41 fights, Jackson knocked out 38 of his foes and his only loss was on August 23, 1986 to Jamaican legend Mike McCallum, whose vastly superior skills resulted in a second round stoppage of the power puncher from the Virgin Islands.
After McCallum relinquished his WBA jr. middleweight world title, Jackson claimed the vacant belt by destroying In-Chul Baek in three rounds on November 21, 1987. Jackson’s toughest title defense looked to be his third defense against slick young boxer Terry Norris. At 22-years-old, Norris was seven years younger and much quicker than Jackson. My father expressed concern for Jackson before we sat down and watched the fight live on ABC. He felt Norris’s hand and foot speed would offset Jackson’s power. My father had a valid point. Jackson at times would fight like a statute, looking to land that big right hand.
Round one was exactly how my father figured the fight would go. Norris moved and landed combination after combination on a plodding Jackson. The same continued 90 seconds into round two when all of a sudden, Jackson’s right hand caught Norris twice up against ropes and Norris collapsed face first onto the canvas. Norris got up at the count of nine on very visibly wobbly legs. Referee Joe Cortez wisely stopped the fight. The single biggest knockout of Jackson’s career.
This wouldn’t be the last time Jackson scored a scintillating knockout or that Norris would be the victim of one as well. More on both later in the series.
28. Joe Frazier Vs Bob Foster
November 18, 1970
Venue: Cobo Arena
Bob Foster spent his entire boxing career chasing success at heavyweight even though he was nearly unbeatable at light heavyweight. Foster was 6’3 with incredulous power at light heavyweight. Unfortunately, while his height was impressive, his power didn’t hold the same weight against the big boys at heavyweight. Two years after winning the world light heavyweight championship, Foster would finally get a chance to fulfill his ultimate goal at winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World. He’d have had a better shot at successfully performing open heart surgery.
Although he was recognized by every sanctioning body on the planet, Joe Frazier still was fighting in the shadow of Muhammad Ali. Ali had been unjustly stripped of his heavyweight championship and had just won his initial fight since being exiled from boxing three and a half years prior by bludgeoning Jerry Quarry. Frazier knew he had to beat Ali in order to lay total claim to the biggest prize in professional sports at the time. No way in the world was he going to allow an undersized Foster to get in his way of that claim.
Although Foster possessed an excellent left jab, he did not possess the lateral movement necessary to keep the aggressive, 5’11 juggernaut that was Frazier off of him, as evidenced in the first round. Foster was able to land his jab more times than not in the opening stanza but unable to keep Frazier from bobbing and weaving his way inside to punish Foster’s body. Then before you knew it, it was over.
Less than 10 seconds into round two, Frazier landed his patented shotgun of a left hook to Foster’s jaw and Foster crumpled like an old piano. He barely got up and he looked like a piano trying to stay afloat on cracked legs. Seconds later, Frazier unleashed and landed another crushing left hook to the jaw that resulted in Foster crashing to the canvas and doing an impression of a man drowning at sea. Referee Tom Briscoe could’ve counted to 50. Foster wasn’t going to beat the count. It was one of the most spectacular knockouts in a World Heavyweight Title fight.
Frazier would get his wish and beat Ali in the most decorated fight in boxing history four months later, the first in the iconic trilogy. Foster would reign for four more years at 175 pounds before retiring without losing the title, although he made another ill advised attempt at heavyweight. He would get knocked down eight times and suffer a brutal beating at the hands of Ali, further proof that Foster and heavyweight supremacy was never to be.
27. Vincent Pettway Vs Simon Brown
April 29, 1995
Venue: US Air Arena
Going into his fight with IBF jr. middleweight champion Vincent Pettway, Simon Brown was in the midst of what seemed to be a possible Hall of Fame berth with an outstanding record of 43-3 with 31 knockouts. His only three losses were to Marlon Starling, Buddy McGirt and Terry Norris. Brown was the lineal champion at 147 pounds and won the WBC 154-pound title with a knockout of Norris before losing the title back to Norris less than five months later. A win over the 29-year-old Pettway would help solidify Brown being a lock to be voted into the International Hall of Fame after his career had ended.
Pettway was an excellent boxer and dangerous counter puncher while Brown had been one of the best boxer-punchers his entire career. Seeing that Pettway moved a lot, Brown’s game plan was to attack Pettway from the opening bell which paid dividends immediately as he dropped the defending champion late in round one. From this point on, the fight became a war as Pettway in turn dropped Brown in round three and Brown again knocked Pettway down in round five. After five rounds, all the momentum was on Brown’s side.
Despite being knocked down twice, Pettway never lost his composure as he was landing often and cleanly on Brown. Up until this fight, Brown had never been knocked out and had a reputation as one of the great chins in the sport. That all ended in round six. Brown’s aggression cost him dearly as he got caught with a picture perfect counter left hook by Pettway while Pettway was up against the ropes. Brown went down like a thud and although immediately unconscious, started throwing left hooks while in a dream state as referee Ray Klingmayer counted him out. It was one of the most insane actions of a knockout victim I’ve ever seen. My father busted out in laughter as he had never seen someone react like that while being knocked unconscious.
Three months later, Pettway would lose his title to Paul Vaden in dramatic fashion when he was stopped with less than 30 seconds left in the 12th and final round. It was a fight that he was leading by a point on all three scorecards. He would lose his next fight against Norris before retiring five years later at the age of 36.
Brown was never the same after getting knocked out by Pettway. He would lose nine of his next thirteen fights before he too would retire at 36. All the mileage he had built in his first 46 fights that seemingly had him on his way to a Hall of Fame induction were completely eviscerated by the way his career ended.
26. Bernard Hopkins vs Oscar de la Hoya
September 18, 2004
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: MGM Grand
Like other great middleweight champions Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler, Bernard Hopkin’s biggest wins have been against legendary welterweight champions who moved up in weight. As described in a previous article I wrote on B-Hop, Hopkins put on an absolute clinic in demolishing 147-pound great Felix Trinidad in a fight I attended. Three years later, he would step in the ring against another 147-pound great and the biggest box office star in the sport, Oscar de la Hoya.
De la Hoya is one of the shrewdest prizefighters who has ever donned a pair of gloves. De la Hoya set the blueprint for how a superstar fighter can be a free agent with no promotional ties to anyone when he successfully got out of his contract with Bob Arum and Top Rank in 2001. As a result, de la Hoya was able to maximum his earnings on a fight-by-fight basis with Top Rank. By the time de la Hoya stepped in the ring to face Hopkins for B-Hop’s undisputed middleweight title (de la Hoya was the WBO 160-pound champion at a time when I considered it a joke), de la Hoya was already worth an estimated $150 million. On top of his net worth, de la Hoya would make in the ballpark north of $30 million for this fight. Hopkins would make between $10-15 million, easily the biggest payday of his career.
I didn’t believe de la Hoya had a shot in hell to defeat Hopkins. Although at 39 years of age, Hopkins was eight years older than de la Hoya, he was naturally the bigger man and in my opinion, the superior boxer. Despite the two inch height disadvantage, de la Hoya was able to use his jab very effectively over the first eight rounds. Bernard was uncharacteristically very methodical in his approach and gave away a few rounds by not doing anything at all. After eight rounds, the fight seemed to be dead even. Then came the ending out of nowhere.
Midway through the eighth round, as de la Hoya was moving towards the ropes, Hopkins blasted a left hook to Oscar’s rib cage that, after about a two second delay, had him writhing in pain as he went down. Referee Kenny Bayless counted de la Hoya out as he was both screaming in pain and banging the canvas in frustration that he had for the first and only time been knocked out.
De la Hoya completely cut ties with Arum after his sudden one-punch knockout loss to Hopkins and launched Golden Boy Promotions, a company that has excelled until this day beyond everyone’s expectations. Hopkins would become the first star that Oscar hired as he made Bernard a president of Golden Boy. It was a well deserved position for Hopkins after years of being ripped off by promoters such as Arum and Don King. Less than a year after the de la Hoya fight, Hopkins would lose his 160-pound title to Jermain Taylor and the subsequent rematch. He then moved up to 175-pounds and throughout his 40s had an incredible decade run.
De la Hoya fought only four more times after this night, losing to both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Both Floyd and Manny became international superstars thanks to these victories. De la Hoya, like Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali before him, transcended the sport of boxing, and in return, because of their wins over Oscar, so did Floyd and Manny.