Boxing's Most Memorable Rounds: Round 2

August 2, 2011

Continuing the DSH series on the greatest rounds in boxing history, this article debates the most memorable 2nd rounds ever. A hint: one thing all of our greatest 2nd Round nominees have in common? Brutal knockouts.

Most Memorable 2nd Round in Boxing History

(A) George Foreman v. Joe Frazier (January 22, 1973) – Heavyweight Title Bout – Foreman 2nd Round KO of Frazier. Frazier’s shocking first career loss. Howard Cossell screams, "Down goes Frazier!....Down goes Frazier!"

(B) Thomas Hearns v. Roberto Duran (June 25, 1984) – Junior Middleweight Title Bout – Hearns 2nd Round KO of the legendary Duran might be the most perfect punch ever thrown. Duran lost consciousness the second it landed and fell flat on his face in the center of the ring. It was the only true KO loss of Duran’s entire career.

(C) Donald Curry v. Milton McCrory (December 6, 1985) – Welterweight Title Bout – A brutal left hook from Curry levels McCrory for a knockout. It was the first Welterweight unification bout since Leonard-Hearns four years earlier. Once again trainer Emanuel Steward is on the losing side.

(D) Mike Tyson v. Trevor Berbick (November 22, 1986) – Heavyweight Title Bout – Tyson follows up a dominant first round by landing a big left hook in the 2nd round. Berbick freezes momentarily before collapsing on his back. Still groggy, Berbick tries to rise and stumbles down again....and then again, this time through the ropes. Iron Mike becomes the youngest heavyweight champion ever at age 20.

(E) Manny Pacquiao v. Ricky Hatton (May 2, 2009) – Junior Welterwight Title Bout – Pacman annihilates Hatton, who was previously undefeated at 140 pounds. The left hand to Hatton's face knocks the so-called "Hitman" out cold and eventually into retirement. Easily the greatest one-punch knockout of Pacquiao's career.

Winner? Tie – George Foreman v. Joe Frazier and Tommy Hearns v. Roberto Duran.

How to choose from all of these brutal knockouts? It's not easy, but the primary distinction here is the quality of fighters involved. As great as Curry's knockout was, neither he nor McCrory as are good as the other nominees. Pacquiao's perfect left hand against Hatton was beautiful, but he has had other great knockouts and Hatton was overrated as a fighter. Similary Tyson's knockout rates high due to its historical significance, but Tyson had more spectacular knockouts and Berbick was a paper champion.

No, the only serious contenders were the two eventual winners. All of the boxers involved were Hall of Fame fighters. Furthermore, both of the knockouts were historically significant and aesthetically pleasing. Probably Foreman's knockout of Frazier had a greater historical significance and Hearn's knockout was the flashier one, but both merit top status.

Foreman v. Frazier

The destruction of Joe Frazier by George Foreman was a mind-blowing event in 1973. Foreman was undefeated and, like Frazier and Ali before him, was an Olympic gold medalist – he certainly had the credentials of a top opponent.

But Frazier had never lost either, and had fought a much higher level of opposition. After defeating Muhammad Ali in 1971, Frazier seemed unbeatable to many people. True, Foreman was known for his imposing size and incredible power, but Frazier had a sturdy chin and Smokin' Joe always found a way to land his lethal left hook.

However, from the opening bell Foreman's reach and strength were a problem for Frazier. After catching a number of huge shots Frazier went down no less than three times in the 1st round. Yet everyone knew that Frazier was a very slow starter. It was typical for him to lose the first round, and even suffer a knockdown or two, before slowly taking control of the fight. Maybe Frazier could actually come back?

Not this time. Foreman's lethal power and strength were simply too much to overcome. He battered Frazier around the ring in the 2nd Round, knocking him down three more times. The final knockdown was the result of a clubbing right hand that seemed to hit Frazier in the back of the head. Frazier's entire body bent over from the force of the blow . . . and then involuntarily bounced back up like a pogo stick before falling again to the canvas. Smokin' Joe displayed tremendous will by getting up yet again, but the referee wisely called the bout before anymore damage could be done.

Hearns v. Duran

The 1980's were dominated by four fighters who primarily fought as welterweights or middleweights (Duran had been a lightweight champion in the 70's): Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler, and Roberto Duran.

All told, there were nine bouts between these greats, with all but two of them being highly competitive. One was the final battle between Leonard and Duran in 1989 – a sad battle between an aging warrior (Leonard) and a washed-up one (Duran) that resulted in an easy decision for Leonard. The other was the utter destruction of Roberto Duran by Tommy Hears in 1984.

To be fair by 1984 Duran was already aging at the time, but "Hands of Stone" had beaten Leonard just a few years earlier and had recently fought 15 tough rounds against Marvin Hagler. Nonetheless facing Tommy Hearns in his prime was far too much for Duran on this night. While Duran could use a roughhouse style to combat Leonard, and his boxing skills to deal with Hagler, Hearns' abnormal reach and devastating power were a terrible match up problem for him.

Hearns dropped Duran twice in the 1st round, and continued to attack Duran in Round 2. With Duran desperately flailing away in an effort to fight back he found himself against the ropes once again. What followed was perhaps the greatest right hand in boxing history (the only other consideration could be Rocky Marciano's knockout punch against Joe Walcott) and the only knockout loss of Duran's legendary career.

Hearns' precipitated the knockout blow with a jab to Duran's mid-section. As Duran slightly dropped his guard, the motor-city cobra uncoiled a fully-extended right cross to Duran's chin. Duran lost consciousness immediately, and fell face forward on to the canvas. The referee did not bother to count.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for


  1. Great article, with an excellent, common sense approach to rating the knockouts!

  2. hardcoal,

    Thank you for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed the article.


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