If you've watched boxing for any length of time, you've seen it. Sometimes you sense it coming by the tempo and flow of the fight. And other times it strikes suddenly and explosively and without warning, the fight's over. I'm talking about the one-punch knockout that erases everything that had transpired in the fight before it landed, thus making one fighter look so superior over the other that the thought of the two of them fighting and sharing the same ring seems almost preposterous afterward.
Some of boxing’s most memorable and best one-punch knockouts start with Sugar Ray Robinson knocking out Gene Fullmer with one of the most beautiful and perfectly executed left-hooks in fistic history. Then there's Rocky Marciano's right hand in the thirteenth round of his first fight with Jersey Joe Walcott to capture the undisputed heavyweight title. How about Bob Foster's decapitating left-hook that knocked out light heavyweight champ Dick Tiger in the fourth round, or Thomas Hearns' right hand missile that knocked out the invincible Roberto Duran in the second round to retain the WBC junior middleweight title, just to name a few?
The list of history's most spectacular one-punch knockouts is way too long to include in this space. Of course Manny Pacquiao's annihilation of Ricky Hatton in the second round six months ago must be included on that list. However, Pacquiao's single punch knockout of Hatton makes another list, and it's a rather short one at that.
For starters Pacquiao's knockout punch was a hybrid overhand/left cross, which makes it rare. Only Antonio Tarver's demolition of Roy Jones in their rematch is probably a more famous left than Pacquiao's. Ironically both Pacquiao and Tarver delivered their fight ending blow in the second round.
The thing that makes Pacquiao's one punch knockout of Hatton really unique is the speed with which it shot him to rock star status. It's hard to recall many other fighters who, after landing one punch, literally transformed their careers and launched themselves to money and fame overnight.
There was David Reid, who'd lost the first two rounds to his Cuban opponent Alfredo Duvergel at the 1996 Olympics. Thirty-six seconds into the third round, Reid suddenly landed a right hand that knocked Duvergel out and earned him a gold medal. This punch can't be included, though, because it was an amateur bout. And it's not like Reid became a household name as a result of it, even though that one punch did earn him a multi-million dollar signing bonus to launch his pro career.
The closest any fighter ever came to becoming an overnight sensation based on one fight is Buster Douglas after he knocked out the then-undefeated Mike Tyson to win the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. However, Douglas' stoppage of Tyson came late in the fight after he worked Tyson over for nine rounds and, even at that, it was the result of a multiple punch combination concluding with a right uppercut that made Mike's head look as if it were on a swivel.
The reality is Pacquiao's obliteration of Hatton is perhaps the--or at least one of the--most career transcending one-punch knockouts in history. Granted, Pacquiao and Buster Douglas can't be mentioned in the same breath as fighters, but it's not like Pacquiao was Oscar De La Hoya at the box office even after beating Oscar.
Pacquiao was no doubt among the more high profile fighters in the world after beating Juan Manuel Marquez in their rematch a little over a year and a half ago. But he still wasn’t a crossover phenomenon. And was anybody talking about and comparing him to some of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in history after beating David Diaz and Oscar De La Hoya? No, they weren't.
The truth is Manny Pacquiao wasn't thought of as being the super-fighter he's perceived to be by some today until after he took out Ricky Hatton with "The Punch." Even after becoming only the second fighter to stop Oscar De La Hoya, there were respected fight observers who thought Pacquiao-Hatton would be competitive based on Pacquiao's previous two fights. But that all changed after scoring the most memorable knockout this decade in a big fight.
If time had frozen ten seconds before Manny knocked Hatton out, nobody would be comparing him to Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. However, time didn't stop. Pacquiao took out Hatton with one punch, so now, on the eve before he fights Miguel Cotto, he's viewed in some factions as the equal to the above-mentioned fighters.
What if Pacquiao doesn't land "The Punch" on Floyd Mayweather and loses to him if they fight? Does that mean Floyd is really greater than Robinson, Leonard and Duran? Not a chance.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com