Sometimes, a boxer’s best chance at winning a fight isn’t by boxing. When faced with an opponent who is clearly superior in the martial art itself, who will effortlessly slip every jab, every hook, every uppercut and then return the same shots with stinging accuracy; when an opponent is younger, quicker, fresher, sharper, better than you… well… sometimes the best chance you have is swinging for the fences and hoping for a home run.
Most of the time, the home run never comes. But when it does, there is a fiendish delight in the standing ovation that follows, as fans rejoice in the proof that not everything about this sport revolves around jab-and-move tactics and tip-tapping padwork. Below are just a few examples of those precious moments when fighters, limited in their technique and behind on the cards, suddenly hit the ball out of the park.
1. Andy Lee vs Matt Korobov, 2014 (W KO 6)
An article like this was tailor-made for a fighter like Andy Lee – an awkward, prowling southpaw who would freely admit that he was never the most naturally gifted middleweight of his era. What he did have, however, was an ace in the hole; his right hook was a shot that could turn a fighter’s legs into jelly, and that is exactly what it did to the legs of then-undefeated Matt Korobov in their 2014 bout for the WBO title. Korobov was beating Lee to the punch, and had started to exploit gaps in the Irishman’s defence as he came forward to rack up a noticeable lead by the half way point. Undeterred, Lee stayed with him, and uncorked an absolute howitzer of a punch as Korobov advanced. The Russian staggered back, and the following barrage ended matters soon after.
2. Andy Lee vs John Jackson, 2014 (W KO 5)
Another Andy Lee peach. Jackson, 5 years younger and on a good run of form, quickly established a wide points lead over the Irishman, who suffered a knockdown in the first round after he was caught napping. Jackson piled the pressure on as the fight became gradually more one sided, and he caught Lee heavily at the start of the fifth with a counter-right hand as he moved to the ropes. One started to sense the fight might not go the distance, although no one could have predicted the manner in which it would end. Jackson stalked his opponent to a corner, where he was suddenly struck down by a thunderbolt from Lee’s right hand. Jackson was asleep, and Lee’s arms were raised in victory, before the American had hit the canvas.
3. Marcos Maidana vs Adrien Broner, 2013 (W UD 12)
Broner, the perennial pantomime villain, went into this contest as an in-form and highly favoured world welterweight champion. Many believed the snap of his punches and the shrewdness of his defence would prove too much for the rugged Argentinian, who was deemed too crude to be a match for the American’s egotistical swagger. Maidana, however, hadn’t read the script, and he stunned Broner and boxing fans alike by flattening the American in the second round for the first time in his career. To his credit, Broner rose to his feet, but his moments of success were too few and far between to deter the marauding Maidana, who dropped him again in the eighth round. Broner suffered the first defeat of his career, and some would argue hasn’t been the same fighter since.
4. Carl Froch vs Jermain Taylor, 2009 ( W KO 12)
You rarely see styles of such polar opposites in the ring together. Froch, a bulldozer from Nottingham, made up for his lack of technical application with a granite chin, a tireless engine and heavy hands, while Taylor possessed incisive punching and intelligent footwork that had seen him defeat the likes of Jeff Lacy, Cory Spinks, and Bernard Hopkins twice. Froch, out-boxed in the early stages and dropped in the third round, was behind on the scorecards as they went out for the final 3 minutes. Taylor was looking to see the round out but was exhausted by his efforts, and a big shot wobbled the him halfway through. Retreating on shaky legs and shipping unrelenting punishment, Taylor went down in a neutral corner with 40 seconds remaining. He rose, but was hit by another shot as he covered up on the ropes. Froch poured it on, and stopped him with 15 seconds remaining in front of an unbelieving crowd.
5. George Foreman vs Michael Moorer, 1994 (W KO 10)
One of the greatest comebacks in boxing history. Having lost two world title fights since his 1987 return, Foreman was pitted against the undefeated Moorer in a title fight that literally no one gave him a chance of winning. As predicted, the younger, sharper Moorer picked Foreman off from the start, and by the 8th people were getting concerned. “He’s starting to give George a beating” observed Larry Merchant. The concern intensified in the 9th, and by the 10th, some were already shrugging their shoulders in acknowledgement of the inevitable. “He’s a 45 year old man in a young man’s game”, said Gil Clancy. Then Foreman turned everyone’s world upside down. A one-two momentarily stunned Moorer, and another one-two flattened him for the full count, sending the crowd into raptures. As a result, Foreman regained the title he lost to Muhammad Ali at the Rumble In The Jungle, a full 20 years later, and became the oldest man to ever win the heavyweight title, the odds of which, according to Merchant, were “a gazillion to one.”
6. Breidis Prescott vs Amir Khan, 2008 (W KO 1)
Perhaps an unfair inclusion; both were unbeaten at the time, and Prescott’s well-documented power had brought him 17 knockouts in 19 straight wins – this result, therefore, was always an outside possibility. Khan, however, was a clear favourite, possessing boxing intelligence and a fearsome hand speed that saw him defeat good domestic competition in Willie Limond, Ryan Barrett, Graham Earl, Stefy Bull and Michael Gomez. No matter; within 30 seconds a left hook had stunned him, a right hand shook him, and another hook folded him to the canvas. He rose, but Prescott, sensing blood, steamed forward and stopped Khan for good, when a cannon of a left hook – right on the button – threw him backwards into his own corner post.