25) Denis Lebedev 29-2 (22 KOs)
Lebedev has been a mainstay in the cruiserweight division for 7 years and sports wins over well-known pugilists in Roy Jones Jr., James Toney, and Enzo Maccarinelli—two of those he stopped. But his best work might have come this year. In a unification of trinkets, Lebedev’s technical ability, southpaw stance, and punching power proved overwhelming for the Argentine, Victor Emilio Ramirez, in only two rounds.
Although inactive, the lefty from General Santos City, Philippines is a bona fide sharpshooter with a wicked uppercut. In fact, it may be the best uppercut in boxing. It had a frightening effect on Akifumi Shimoda and Wandee Singwancha. Hopefully the so-called “Marvelous” one can get back to work and live up to his nickname.
Hailing from a country that has produced few quality pro fighters, Latvia’s Mairis Briedis breaks the mold and breaks necks. He’s riding a 6-fight knockout streak and continues to display heavy hands time and time again. Many adversaries drop from the sheer weight of his strikes, but more unfortunate ends have been met. The most glaring example was a spine-chilling knockout over Manuel Charr, who happened to be over 30 pounds heavier. Charr ran into a sharp uppercut-left hook combination that instantly put his lights out and had him face down through the ropes. Doing that to a 245-pound man shows that a future jump to heavyweight is possible.
Aside from halting Vic Darchinyan in vicious fashion and becoming the first to stop Nonito Donaire, he’s had noteworthy terminations against men like Alberto Garza, too. The Jamaican came from virtually nowhere to damn-near placing himself atop the 126-pound division, and he can thank not only his strong punch, but his size, which certainly adds to the effect. Whether he can maintain it through the division jumps is yet to be seen, but until then, he looks like a sizable hitter.
Maybe some of the Brits are thinking, “But he’s stopped everyone, how can he rate so low?” Answer: As strong as he has looked, his opposition and the way he has beaten men hasn’t convinced me he’s among the best kayo artists in the business. Besides not starching a single top-10 guy, very few of his victories have been devastating. No matter, he still places because he’s huge and guys undoubtedly feel the blows. He also finishes when he has a man hurt, a quality you look for in a burgeoning young heavyweight.
The Japanese, like the Eastern European nations, seem to be churning out high-quality punchers and Yamanaka is no exception. A heavy left hand is what typically does the trick and it has helped him accumulate a record of 11-0 (7 KO’s) in title fights, and it has assisted his ascension to 9th on The Ring’s pound-for-pound list.
I had reservations about adding him because there is a hint of suspicion about his usage of PEDs, however he passed all of his VADA tests except one. The one failure was for meldonium, which increases stamina. Given that, and given the likelihood that many heavyweights use, “Sasha” has conjured up some nice knockout wins of late. Bowling over the sturdy Mike Perez in two was stunning to most and the sizzling left hook that put Takam away was a nice surprise. Add in the highlight-reel kayo over Manuel Charr and a late cessation against iron-chinned Mariusz Wach, and you can see what I am getting at.
A two-weight titlist in only 10 fights and you would think that there has to be something special about him. It looks to be a number of things, but the might of his wallop is a heavy factor. This Japanese “Monster” is crisp and clean with his shots, and has little issue letting loose combinations if that’s what it takes to down a combatant. His quick triumph over veteran Omar Narvaez was stunning and it highlighted that he is already one of the more potent body punchers in the game. Keep an eye on this kid.
Showcased recently in 2015’s “Fight of the Year” with Mexican, Francisco Vargas, Miura was oh-so-close to retaining his strap and had Vargas in deep trouble a number of times, but was usurped by a gritty, inspiring effort. On top of Vargas, his southpaw delivered straight left hand has caused commotion for Takashi Uchiyama, Bill Dib, and just about everyone else.
Short-armed but full of life, the Montenegro-native carves fighters up with his two-fisted attack to the head and body. His modi operandi is to bull forward and swing away, and damned be the man who is foolish enough to trade with him. This approach has seen him emerge as a serious threat to any lightweight out there. It’s worth checking out his knockout victories against Ivan Redkach and Franklin Mamani.
Uchiyama may come from the “Land of the Rising Sun”, but he is better known for closing the blinds of guys’ eyes than anything else. He is a slugging southpaw who can make you look like a newborn giraffe trying to catch his footing if he catches you right. His 12-1-1 (10 KO’s) as a former titlist conveys this message properly, and so does his blitzing of Mukhlis, Chuwatana, Solis, Parra, Baek, and Granados.
The middleweight division may not be particularly deep, but it’s full of guys who can take your head off with a single swipe: Danny Jacobs, Andy Lee, Peter Quillin, IevgenKhytrov, Gennady Golovkin, etc.The Canadian is one of the best at it. He is equipped with raw power, quick hands, and has a knack for letting loose in bunches. He starches them with the right, as a viewing of his devastating win over Hector Camacho Jr. will show; and he get them out with the left, as the Alvaro Gaona bout indicates. A move up the ranks hasn’t blunted his pop either.
As if a whopping 51 kayos and over 10 years of being a contender isn’t good enough, one look at his one-round stoppage over the tough Abner Mares should tell you just what this guy is packing. The deadly left hook that finished the job against Mares has also made its presence known against Mark Johnson, Israel Vazquez, Irene Pacheco, Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, and many others. So has his right hand, which put Hozumi Hasegawaaway.
Only lower because father time has taken a slight toll on what he used to have, Bailey may have been the biggest bomb thrower in 140-pound history. His right hand was feared by all and anyone touched cleanly by it was liable to go down. In true puncher’s fashion, it’s also saved him from defeat, most notably in his bout with Mike Jones. Losing handily, the aptly nicknamed “Knock-Out King” landed a sizzling uppercut that put Jones down and out. Even today his vaunted power plays a role, as Australian welterweight prospect Jeff Horn found out.
His 97% knockout rate is an astonishing figure and nothing to be scoffed at, regardless of his overall competition level. He’s had a few tough men biting the dust and looks to continue that tradition in his upcoming bout versus Chris Arreola. Wins over Artur Szpilka and Siarhei Liakhovich are worth checking out if a proper examination of his pop is what you are after.
10 kayos in 10 fights isn’t always a proper indicator of power. Plenty of men have worked up a similar or better mark, yet when tested, it turns out to be a false flag. Not for this Russian light-heavyweight. He didn’t have the training wheels slapped on early, yet he has taken leaps through the ratings and is now considered a title contender. Beterbiev is a cold wind swirling around the doors of the class’ elite, so don’t be surprised if anyone but Kovalev is eager to engage him.
Tall and well-muscled, “The Eagle” is a dominating figure, ready to get his claws in the best the 140-pound division has to offer. He has made steady progress, too, racking up a 14-straight knockout streak and amassing a kayo percentage of 88. The numbers, however, just don’t do justice. Look at his incredible terminations of Jose Alfaro, Jose Agustin Feria, and Michael Odhiambo. Personally, I would go as far as saying he is the hardest puncher in the class since Bailey and Tszyu left.
With a career in limbo, it is easy to forget what a massive puncher the Argentinian is. From 2009 to 2014, every win was a stoppage and his only two losses were controversial decisions in which his opponents still hit the deck. Blasting out the tough Lamont Peterson in three rounds and Humberto Soto in five, icing Mike Dallas Jr., and dishing out ass-whippings to John Molina Jr. and Ajose Olusegun were recent highlights. I would say knocking down DeMarcus Corley nine times wasn’t too shabby either.
The luck of the Irish. It’s little more than a saying, but you would almost believe it to be true in the case of Andy Lee. After a series of misfortunes that culminated in a stinging loss to Chavez Jr., he has bounced back into contention with come from behind victories against John Jackson and Matt Korobov, a draw with Peter Quillin, and a close loss to fellow countryman, Billy Joe Saunders. It’s been his sledgehammer-like power that has paved the way. Jackson was stopped cold after running into a crunching right hook and Korobov wasn’t let off the hook after eating a similar punch. Quillin, a top-rated middleweight at the time, grew timid after tasting clean shots and even hit the deck in round seven. Saunders also knew better than to rush into the lion’s den after flooring the Irishman and proceeded to play it safe the rest of the way. When you account for clear respect given and his prior history of work, notably the chilling knockout over Carl Daniels, there is little doubt the Irishman deserves a place here. The late Emmanuel Steward would be proud.
The abrupt halting of Chad Dawson, then the lineal champion at 175, saw the boxing world turn to him with a watchful eye. The hope was that, like any real champion, he would do the lineage proud and fight the best available. He hasn’t. We are still waiting for the Kovalev fight, but Stevenson continues to drop or hurt most of the ones he does face. He’s a true puncher, you have to give him that.
It’s a true testament to a man’s punch whenhe can move seamlessly through divisions whilst maintaining one-shot power. Donaire has managed to do so, from 112 to 122 pounds. Even at 126 he was a viable threat, hurting the bigger Nicholas Walters before being downed himself. Nonito has managed some crushing knockouts that dropped fans’ jaws to the floor. Remember the first Vic Darchinyan fight, or the Fernando Montiel bout? Sadly, the light is fading and age is starting to catch up, but they say the last thing to go is power, so we will see how long it carries him.
Not many have seen the 6’2” cruiserweight fight, but I can assure you that his power is authentic. The way men react to his punches is similar to the way men react when shot, the reaction is near instantaneous. Left, right, it doesn’t matter which connects. And he goes downstairs, too. The only issue is, he’s fallen in love with it and it has cost him, albeit once. Kudryashov looks like he has improved since then and that is a frightful proposition for the top guys, because no matter how good your chin is, there is a hefty chance he can dent it—the cruiserweight’s Sergey Kovalev, in that regard.
While he has seen better days, the younger Klitschko brother is still a mammoth of a man and the most refined canvass painter above 200 pounds. He has spent years at, or near the top of his class, yet his power has rarely faltered. His recent bout with Kubrat Pulev showed that he is still deadly, flashing a left hook that was, dare I say, Frazier-esque in its delivery.
The stories surrounding the Kazakh’s sparring sessions will eventually become book material and has a ring of legend to it. From guys wearing body protectors so as not to have their bodies broken, to the time he gave the head-strong Alfredo Angulo a whooping, to the testimony of his power from sparring partners. Couple that with his absurdly high KO percentage for an elite fighter (91%), his 22-straight knockouts, and the fear he instills in so many of his division’s best.
With all of the ring legend surrounding Golovkin already, how does one place above him? Kovalev doesn’t have hype, the knockout streak, nor the gym stories backing him, but he does have the better resume and can lay claim to things Golovkin cannot. Unlike “Triple-G”, the “Krusher” has broken a foes’ rib with a jab (Agnew), put a man to sleep with a jab(Sillah), and as unfortunate as it is, even snatched the life away from an in-ring adversary (Simakov). He also has multiple knockdowns with his jab (Agnew, White, Sillah, Mohammedi) and makes the hardest fighters hesitant to engage (see the Bernard Hopkins fight). If Kovalev can somehow manage a stoppage victory over one of the pound-for-pound best in Andre Ward, his position as the biggest, baddest flamethrower in the sport is solidified.