The body shot. It's rare when one ends a fight all by itself. Usually, it's the cumulative effect of a fight's worth of body work that wears a fighter down and sets him up for the head punches that more often produce the knockout.
But, every once in a while, a perfect laser to the midsection will suddenly, and dramatically, end the evening for some unfortunate soul.
Oscar De La Hoya was that unfortunate soul Saturday, as he fielded a perfect left hook to the liver from middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins. The punch sent De La Hoya to the mat on his back, his face contorted in pain.
It was obvious the “Golden Boy's” night was over the second he dropped.
It brought to mind classic one-body punch knockouts of the past. Here are the top five of the past quarter century.
5. Gerry Cooney KO 1 Ron Lyle (1980): By this point, Lyle was a shell of the fighter who nearly knocked out George Foreman and who challenged Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title. He was brought in strictly as a name opponent for up-and-coming Cooney, who was undefeated, fast-rising and bursting with punching power. But, as much of a mismatch as this was coming in, it was still mesmerizing to watch the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Cooney bury his fists into Lyle's sides. Many thought Lyle would at least offer his toughness, but after Cooney's overwhelming body attack, the aged contender couldn't even remain in the ring. Cooney's punches knocked Lyle to the ropes, and finally onto press row. You want to know how Cooney scored an undeserved crack at the heavyweight title two years later? The Lyle fight is Exhibit A.
4. Micky Ward W 10 Arturo Gatti (2002): Okay, so this wasn't a knockout. But, if not for Gatti's uncommon courage, he would have surely been retired in the 9th round after absorbing one hellacious left to the liver. It was the home stretch of a fight that had already been a classic, and Ward was making his move. He threw a light left hook over the top, then dug a left underneath and into Gatti's right side with gusto. It landed perfectly, and Gatti froze for an instant before turning away and falling to his knees – the look on his face much like that of De La Hoya Saturday. It appeared as if Gatti was done, but he rose – and even managed to stagger Ward in perhaps the greatest round in boxing history. The frenzied pace continued through the 10th, and Ward got the nod. The two would, of course, fight twice more – producing two more classics.
3. Micky Ward KO 7 Alfonso Sanchez (1997): “Irish Micky” strikes again. Back then, however, Ward was considered a crude slugger and was brought in to more or less pad the record of the undefeated Sanchez. For six-and-a-half rounds, the fight pretty much went as expected. Sanchez dominated Ward with boxing ability, never allowing the tough brawler to get inside and do damage. It was such a pedestrian outing for Ward that a decision victory for Sanchez seemed almost assured. Then, boom! Ward finally hit the jackpot with a perfectly executed left to the liver, and Sanchez went from north to south like he'd been shot. Sanchez didn't even attempt to beat the count, and never regained his pre-Ward form. Ward went on to become one of HBO's more unlikely stars.
2. Arturo Gatti KO 2 Leonard Dorin (2004): After fighters engage in the kind of brawls that made Gatti and Ward boxing icons, their skills often begin to deteriorate. But Gatti somehow managed to get better after the three Ward slugfests. And one of the reasons, apparently, is because he adopted Ward's left to the liver – adding it to his own arsenal. It certainly worked this July 24, when Gatti ended his showdown with the once-beaten Dorin with one mammoth left to the side. Gatti set it up by throwing flurries to Dorin's head, preoccupying the Romanian with quick head punches. But, after one particular flurry, Gatti suddenly went underneath with a hook. He dipped, pivoted, and crashed his glove into Dorin's right side. Like Gatti against Ward, Dorin froze for a moment before falling. The ref could've counted to 1,000.
1. Roy Jones Jr. KO 1 Virgil Hill (1998): The body shot to end all body shots. Fittingly, the unorthodox Jones didn't deliver the punch in orthodox fashion. Most body punches are delivered underneath – thrown in an upward motion with proper leverage and timing. But Jones rarely does anything by the book, and he unleashed this monster punch in a straight, downward fashion – not surprising considering his speed and disdain for fighting inside. The shot was delivered with unreal strength and power, and it connected on a vulnerable patch of Hill's left side as Hill was uncoiling from his own delivered punch. Instant replays showed it landed on a rib, and not shockingly, there was significant rib damage discovered afterward. After absorbing the punch, Hill grimaced, then fell to the canvas. The ref, seeing the pain in Hill's face, stopped the fight without completing the count. And Jones was called the winner via one of the greatest body punches ever thrown.