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Top 10 First Round Knockouts in Boxing History

Publish Date: 07/02/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

First-round knockouts can lead to disappointment for a boxing fan, especially if you paid for the fight on PPV and the undercard was weak also. Today, we will look at spectacular first-round knockouts. Check out our list of the greatest knockouts in Boxing history.


Many things are taken into account when compiling this list. Historical significance: how spectacular the knockout was. was it a first-round knockout with ebbs and flows, or was it just a destructive one-punch knockout?

10. Azumah Nelson KO 1 Pat Cowdell

Before this battle, Cowdell had taken the legendary Salvador Sanchez to a split decision over 15 rounds at Houston Astrodome in December 1981. Apart from an early-career cuts loss, this experienced fighter was untouchable and poised to extend the Ghanaian champion.

Cowdell had tried his hardest but failed to land any effective left hook leads, leading him into the corner and opening himself up to be hit with an uppercut counter, which immediately led Octavio Meyran to count him out at 2.24.

Video: Azumah Nelson V Pat Cowdell

Azumah Nelson V Pat Cowdell

9) Rocky Lockridge KO 1 Roger Mayweather

Roger was known as the Black Mamba, a self-described nickname and his ring walk in black shades was pure ego and arrogance, sound familiar?

Will this Mayweather got shut up violently by Rocky Lockridge, a man who should be in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, as Lockridge violently folded up the so-called Black mamba with a devastating shot in the first round?

Video: Roger Mayweather vs Rocky Lockridge (NBC Broadcast)

Roger Mayweather vs Rocky Lockridge (NBC Broadcast)

8. Sonny Liston vs Floyd Patterson 1

Cus D’Amato had taken extraordinary efforts to protect Floyd from Liston, who had run out of heavyweight contenders to vanquish. Resolving to fulfil his obligation by engaging in Hara-Kiri tactics, Floyd fulfilled this looming obligation and eventually went on to become an ex-champ.

Patterson’s plan involved staying low and crowding Sonny; as an offensive strategy, it proved highly unsuccessful..

After an otherwise quiet start, two clubbing left hooks sent the champion flying into the ropes before a left hook/right uppercut/left hook combination put him down for good with 54 seconds remaining in round 1.

Floyd fared no better in their rematch in Las Vegas the following summer.

Video: Floyd Patterson vs Sonny Liston, I (long)

Floyd Patterson vs Sonny Liston, I (long)

7. Thomas Hearns KO 1 James Shuler

The Hitman’s breathtaking knockout of Black Gold doesn’t hold as much historical relevance as some other fights listed, yet remains as breathtaking and devastating a spectacle as any.

Hearns was out to find redemption after suffering his crushing knockout loss against ‘Marvelous’ Marvin the previous year and began by landing hard left hooks to Shuler’s body with knifing left hooks that lowered Shuler’s guard; Tommy then measured his foe with long left lead punches before unleashing an Exocet missile of right hands that could fit through any needle eye!

Richard Steele’s formal count seemed unwarranted as James lay motionless on the canvas. Official time: 1.13. It may have seemed portentous at the time, yet no one could have foreseen Schuler being killed in a motorcycle accident just seven days later in Philadelphia.

Hearns was at his scariest on this night in Vegas.

Video: Thomas Hearns (USA) vs James Schuler (USA) | KNOCKOUT Fight | 4K Ultra HD

Thomas Hearns (USA) vs James Schuler (USA) | KNOCKOUT Fight | 4K Ultra HD

6. Jerry Quarry KO 1 Earnie Shavers

Shavers may be known for his one-punch power, but Quarry’s fluid and relentless combination punching caused Shavers’s knockout streak to end on this night at Madison Garden.

Shavers opened aggressively, and it appeared as though Jerry might get stopped quickly, but Quarry quickly switched tactics, throwing an uppercut/ left hook combo that brought an immediate response and crushing him with power right uppercut/ left hook combinations after that.

On the plus side, Shaver’s’ punch resistance was evident as he took an array of hard shots before hitting the canvas and rising gamely for more action – only for esteemed Arthur Mercante to have had enough.

Video: Jerry Quarry vs. Earnie Shavers

Jerry Quarry vs. Earnie Shavers

5. Roy Jones KO 1 Montell Griffin 2

Montell had caused Jones great consternation five months earlier. Ultimately, Jones was disqualified for striking Montell while taking a knee during round nine of their fight.

The necessary encore couldn’t have been any more different; with a strong sense of purpose and an arsenal of lead left hooks thrown with precision and speed, Griffin was recumbent within 30 seconds the clock!

His struggles to rise were uncannily similar to Trevor Berbick’s drunken stupor when knocked out by young Mike Tyson.

A pissed-off Roy Jones is a dangerous man!

Video: Roy Jones Jr vs Montell Griffin II [Full Fight]

Roy Jones Jr vs Montell Griffin II [Full Fight]

4. Juan β€˜Kid’ Meza KO 1 Jaime Garza

Garza started his career undefeated, 40-0, with 38 KOs, and was widely considered the hardest puncher pound-for-pound in boxing at that time.

Meza was quickly put down within 30 seconds, and it appeared that his form book would be vindicated, but the old saying of not counting chickens early is never more applicable in boxing than here.

Sugar Ray Leonard observed as ringside commentary that Garza may have been falling with both hands down into battle, leading him into danger.

And that was precisely what he did, throwing an unorthodox left hook with 10 seconds remaining in the first frame to pull off the upset.

Garza attempted to stand back up but was on queer street, prompting referee Johnny Lo Bianco to call off proceedings at 2.54 pm.

Video: Juan Meza v. Jaime Garza Full Fight Highlights 1080p

Juan Meza v. Jaime Garza Full Fight Highlights 1080p

3. Mike Tyson KO 1 Michael Spinks

Many credible people(including myself) believed Michael Spinks possessed the tools necessary for winning, yet Michael himself seemed overcome with anxiety upon walking towards the ring.

After cautiously maneuvering around the ring for 60 seconds, “The Jinx” was forced back against the ropes and given an indelible left hook/right uppercut combination that sent him plunging onto his knees and the mat.

He could have easily chosen to sit there but instead rose to attempt what ITV’s Jim Watt derided as an unnecessary right-hand strike before Tyson advanced and administered a left hook/right hook combination that left him flattened beneath the bottom rope.

As a sporting spectacle, this was not exactly a fight. Still, in terms of historical importance and an indelible reminder of Iron Mike’s “unconquerable” prime years, this epic encounter will go down in history books forever.

Unfortunately, it left a stain on Spinks’s career that remains, and it shouldn’t, as Spinks had a better career and resume than Tyson. It was Spinks’s last fight, and he was thirty pounds above his best weight.

Video: Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks June 27, 1988 1080p 60FPS HD HBO Broadcast

Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks June 27, 1988 1080p 60FPS HD HBO Broadcast

2. Ray Mancini KO 1 Arturo Frias

Although it might seem counter-intuitive on this list of greatest one-round finishes, Ray Mancini’s victory in his attempt to seize WBA lightweight supremacy was an epic three-minute war of attrition that included no knockdowns and was full of adrenaline-pumping action.

Many first-round knockouts tend to be one-sided affairs, yet Mancini and Frias traded powerful shots from the outset of this exciting bout, creating a crowd-pleasing spectacle that featured more action and highlights in its brief span than could be found on any Floyd Mayweather career box set. This fight is ranked this high because it was one of the greatest first rounds in boxing history.

Video: Ray Mancini vs Arturo Frias - Highlights (1st Round Fight & KNOCKOUT)

Ray Mancini vs Arturo Frias – Highlights (1st Round Fight & KNOCKOUT)

1. Joe Louis KO 1 Max Schmeling 2

Sociopolitically speaking, Joe Louis‘ rematch against former conqueror Max Schmeling remains one of the three biggest fights ever held; alongside Johnson-Jeffries and Ali-Frazier 1.

Two years earlier, Schmeling had caused a huge upset against Joe after noting his habit of dropping his left hand after jabbing, famously saying: “I zee zumthing…” in preparation. Max took full advantage on fight night with relentless right-hand counters en route to a 12th-round KO victory.

Louis represented the free world democracy against Hitler’s Aryan supremacist ideal in 1938’s Heavyweight Championship of the World battle. But, Louis’ fourth defense before an audience of 70 000 showcased how much more proficient Louis had become since being dethroned and humbled in 1936.

After 2 minutes and 4 seconds of the opening round, all was over; Joe’s breathtakingly effective ferocity represented an exemplary example of poetic savagery within a roped square.

Video: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling 2 | Full HD

Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling 2 | Full HD

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