Boxing is full of cold knockouts (since, you know, that’s how someone wins) but few can compare to these seven examples.
Mike Tyson vs. Marvis Frazier (1986)
By the time the two met in 1986, both Tyson and Frazier were rising stars. Tyson had yet to lose and Frazier had only lost once. While Tyson was building his legacy Frazier had a great deal of recognition from his legendary father “Smokin’” Joe.
Unfortunately, the name wasn’t enough to stop Tyson’s conquest. Despite having nearly every physical advantage over his opponent, there was one key difference between the fighters: Marvis Frazier was an aspiring professional boxer and Mike Tyson was trying to murder people with his fists.
Seconds into the first round Tyson caught his opponent on a solid uppercut which probably would have finished the job on its own, but just in case he clubbed Frazier like a seal on his way down. The match was over in twenty brief seconds. Frazier never fought for a title again and retired two years later.
Felix Trinidad vs. Fernando Vargas (2000)
Fernando Vargas’s early career is almost legendary, suffering no losses when he won his first title in 1998 and knocking out many of his opponents in the first round. What makes his KO at the hands of Felix Trinidad staggering isn’t that he lost – even the best fighters will lose a bout – but that he lost in such a dragged out way.
The fight went the full twelve rounds, but there were a few tell-tale signs that Vargas wasn’t going home the winner early on. First, he spent a good amount of time literally dragging his ass across the ring, which most champions tend to frown on. Second, whenever Vargas so much as tripped, Trinidad would spring onto a turnbuckle as though he were Spider-Man. We can’t really hold that against Vargas since he had no control over Trinidad’s radioactive spider blood, but still, not a great sign.
The end finally comes when Vargas is knocked down three times in round twelve. Trinidad maintains enough energy to dance circles around his clearly dazed opponent. The final blow was an anti-climactic right, but it was enough for the ref to call the match.
Benny “the Kid” Paret vs. Emile Griffith (1962)
Marvis Frazier suffered only one other loss in his career outside of Tyson. When he fought Larry Holmes, he mocked him in ring and learned a very valuable lesson in the process: don’t make fun of the guy who is already getting paid to punch you in the skull because it will only make him want to punch you in the skull even more.
There’s a great deal of mystery surrounding Paret and Griffith’s third and final bout, but general consensus is that Paret taunted Griffith by calling him a homosexual, which is the exact thing you would say to a man if you wanted to end his career in the Sixties. If Paret really did insult Griffith in such a way then it would explain the brutal finish in the twelfth round of their fight. After the television announcer declared what an incredibly dull round it was, Griffith unloaded with twenty-nine straight punches, eighteen of which were over the span of six seconds. The ref called the fight afterwards and Griffith was declared the winner. Meanwhile, Paret had slipped into a coma.
The announcer claims Paret fell due to exhaustion, but the man died ten days later, so take that with a grain of salt.
Kostya Tszyu vs. Zab Judah (2001)
Strange things happen when someone punches you hard enough to physically shuffle the contents of your brain. Zab Judah’s first career loss was against Kostya Tszyu in a title unification bout. It would also be his most embarrassing.
From the get go Judah utilized his superior reflexes to dodge and land shots against Tszyu. With ten seconds left in the second round Tszyu landed the final blow, a right to the chin that sent Judah down. It wasn’t readily apparent that the fight was over, however, and Judah leapt back to his feet immediately afterward. However, remembering what he learned from his comedy pratfall class, he managed to shrug an “I’m cool” before falling right on his face again.
Judah was able to retain enough of his senses to completely flip out when they announced Tszyu as the winner.
Vincent Pettway vs. Simon Brown (1995)
Below is a highlight reel from Pettway vs. Brown, and on its own it does a great job of illustrating why it seemed like Brown was going to come out of this one on top. Outside of dominating the third round and scoring a knockdown, Pettway spent much of the match on the receiving end of some pretty mean punches. In round five Brown landed a low blow and managed to knock Pettway out of the ring by following it with a quick one-two punch. Brown even seemed to have round six under control, but then came Pettway’s left hook that ended the whole thing:
Here’s how you can tell a fight is over: when one of the combatants is on his back and still throwing punches.
Roy Jones Jr. vs. Montell Griffin (1997)
Jones’ second bout with Griffin is the instruction manual for revenge. In their first fight Jones was disqualified for striking Griffin while he was on his knees. He demanded an immediate rematch and changed up his plan significantly. Rather than create openings with jabs (as most fighters do) he went all in with bombastic punches. He scored a ridiculous knockdown on Griffin just twenty seconds into the fight. While Griffin didn’t actually fall down the ropes were quite obviously the only reason he was still able to find the ground beneath his feet.
He didn’t fare so well the second time, however, actually hitting the mat. Griffin was able to get up but only stumbled again. Jones won in a single round with only two knockdowns.
Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano (1951)
The last fight in professional career of Joe Louis can only be described as tragic. Having already retired some two years prior, the former heavyweight champion took up boxing again after the IRS casually reminded him that he owed the government five-hundred thousand dollars. He was believed by most to be well past his prime (even he seemed to agree), but at the time there didn’t seem to be much else to do.
His last opponent was none other than Rocky Marciano. Much younger than Louis and undefeated at the time, Marciano was the obvious crowd favorite for the fight. Those close to Louis feared that he was going to get seriously injured (Marciano was known for his punching power) in the process. Marciano himself didn’t want to participate out of respect for his hero but chose to, understanding his difficult financial situation.
The knockout came in round six when Marciano delivered a left hook that sent Louis through the ropes. Louis would dabble in the exhibition circuit for some time before joining the PGA.