Artur Beterbiev is boxing’s only champion with a 100 percent knockout ratio, a distinction he’ll look to maintain Saturday when he defends his three light heavyweight titles against Callum Smith (10 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+).
Russia’s Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) is again fighting in his adopted hometown of Quebec City, Canada. And once more, he’ll do so against a formidable title challenger in England’s Smith.
The 33-year-old owns 21 KOs in 29 light heavyweight fights, and he appears to be a more formidable puncher at his new weight. But his power figures to be no match for Beterbiev, perhaps boxing’s most imposing puncher.
Beterbiev, ESPN’s No. 7 pound-for-pound boxer, has scored an array of dazzling KOs during his lengthy reign at 175 pounds. Most recently, he showed off his power against another Englishman, Anthony Yarde, whom he stopped in Round 7 one year ago.
With a victory over Smith, Beterbiev will finally be on a collision course with WBA titleholder Dmitry Bivol for the undisputed light heavyweight championship. Bivol told reporters last month he already agreed to terms for a fight in Saudi Arabia against the winner.
And if Beterbiev wants to reach his long-held goal of all four major light heavyweight titles, he must first push past another tough challenger.
Beterbiev is a dangerous puncher, but he’s far from the sport’s only fighter who strikes fear into opponents’ hearts. The heavyweight division, of course, features plenty of boxers who can end a fight with one punch.
There are plenty of boxers who pack impressive power in the lower weight classes, too. And there are different kinds of punchers. Some break opponents down with heavy shots throughout the duration of the bout.
Others finish fights with a single blow. And there’s plenty that goes into packing punching power. The way a fighter sets up his shots; punch placement; and the leverage it generates.
Who are the sport’s most dangerous punchers in men’s boxing? Considering recent activity, overall resume and history of devastating knockouts, here’s a look at those whose punches can alter any fight in an instant.
1: Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) – WBC/IBF/WBO light heavyweight champion
Beterbiev has shown some vulnerability with his own punch resistance, but his greater power has always won the fight. That was the case in his most-recent performance, an eighth-round TKO of Yarde last January in London.
Yarde stunned Beterbiev, but the Russian rallied, using his blunt-force shots to break down the Londoner. Beterbiev’s best punch — a looping right hand — sent Yarde to the canvas before the referee halted the bout.
The 38-year-old also possesses a power jab and a stiff straight right hand that he uses to break his foe’s guards with his smart, swarming pressure. Once Beterbiev is rolling downhill and in a rhythm, it’s over for those standing in front of him.
2: Naoya Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) – undisputed junior featherweight champion
“The Monster” is a punishing body puncher with an array of shots in his arsenal to end fights swiftly. Only one of his last 16 opponents — Nonito Donaire — heard the final bell, but Inoue left no doubt in the rematch with Donaire when he finished him out in two rounds.
Inoue’s remarkable stretch of knockouts includes a string in 2018-19 when he stopped Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano in the opening round, followed by a second-round KO of Emmanuel Rodriguez.
The Japanese star has carried his power to each new weight class from 108 to 122 pounds. In two fights at junior featherweight last year, he scored an eighth-round TKO of Stephen Fulton followed by a 10th-round KO of Marlon Tapales to capture the undisputed championship.
The foundation of Inoue’s punching power is his impeccable balance. The way he set-up the finish of Fulton was eye-opening in its creativity and execution: Inoue landed a jab to the body followed by a right cross to the head. Fulton was on his way to the canvas when an Inoue left hook crashed into his face.
Fulton beat the count, but Inoue’s killer instinct didn’t let him off the hook as a flurry of punches folded the American in the corner as the referee stopped the bout.
3: Deontay Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) – former WBC heavyweight champion
Wilder’s vaunted right hand — one that helped him KO 42 opponents — lost much of its magic aura when Joseph Parker neutralized him in December.
Perhaps it was Wilder’s inactivity. Or maybe his age (he turned 38 in October.) Whatever it was, Parker never seemed to respect Wilder’s power. The former champion wisely backed up Wilder and kept him on the back foot all night, where he couldn’t find leverage for that right hand.
Still, Wilder is among the biggest punchers in heavyweight championship history. And power is usually the last aspect of a fighter’s game to decline. Dr. Sleep, as Wilder referred to himself in the lead-up to the Parker fight, scored a bevy of spectacular one-punch KOs against solid opposition, but also proved his power on the elite level.
While he’s 0-2-1 against Tyson Fury in their heavyweight championship trilogy — and was stopped twice — he also floored the Englishman twice in the first fight and twice in the third bout.
4: Terence “Bud” Crawford – WBC/WBA/WBO welterweight champion
“Bud” proved to be a solid puncher during title reigns at 135 and 140 pounds, but at 147, he reached another power level altogether. All eight of Crawford’s welterweight fights have ended inside the distance.
Crawford’s instinct to finish opponents is perhaps the best in the sport. He’s mean and truly wants to punish foes. Shawn Porter had never been stopped, but Crawford TKOed him in Round 10 and sent him into retirement.
Errol Spence Jr., had never been knocked down before, but Crawford dropped him three times and finished him in Round 9 to capture the undisputed welterweight championship.
A switch-hitter with power in both hands, Crawford throws compact, precise shots that meet their mark. His most spectacular KO came in December 2022, when he demolished David Avanesyan with a one-two combination that left him in a heap.
5: Gervonta Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) – WBA lightweight champion
“Tank” Davis’ shot placement is among the best in the sport, a trait that’s carried the Baltimore native to the pound-for-pound list. The southpaw counter-puncher is patient while he waits for openings. Look no further than his seventh-round KO of Ryan Garcia in April’s superfight.
Davis used a crisp counter left hand to change the trajectory of the bout in Round 2 when he dropped Garcia. Then, Davis used a stabbing left hook to the body to end the fight, another counter shot.
His ring IQ is among the best in the sport; look no further than his crushing KO of Leo Santa Cruz in 2020. The Mexican unloaded three consecutive right hands, only to be timed by Davis, who used a crushing left uppercut to separate Santa Cruz from his senses.
6: Subriel Matias (20-1, 20 KOs) – IBF junior welterweight champion
The volume-punching machine from Puerto Rico overwhelms opponents with his activity, but there’s serious power behind those shots.
All 20 of his victories have come inside the distance, including a win over Petros Ananyan to avenge his lone defeat.
He became a champion last year when he flattened Jeremias Ponce in five rounds, and in his first defense in November, forced Shohjahon Ergashev to retire on his stool following a brutal beatdown.
7: Jai Opetaia (24-0, 19 KOs) – lineal cruiserweight champion
The Australian possesses a lanky puncher’s body frame and his shots have serious snap on them.
Opetaia is one of the sport’s quickest-ascending fighters with finishes in five of his last six bouts. The only foe to last the distance during that stretch: Mairis Briedis, who gave Oleksandr Usyk all he could handle when they met.
Opetaia fought through a broken jaw to defeat Briedis for the IBF cruiserweight title in July 2022 and hurt the Latvian in Round 4 with a right uppercut. His most-impressive KO came last month, when he scored a spectacular one-punch, first-round KO of Ellis Zorro in Saudi Arabia.
The 28-year-old owns quick hands, and his power figures to carry to heavyweight when he eventually makes the jump to the glamor division.
8: Zhilei Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) – WBO interim heavyweight champion
He’s called “Big Bang” Zhang for good reason. At 6-foot-6, 287 pounds, there’s tremendous power behind those southpaw punches.
And that power was never more evident than in his pair of fights last year with Joe Joyce. Joyce has long been regarded for his granite chin, but China’s Zhang cracked it twice in 2023.
First, Zhang completely closed Joyce’s right eye with his thudding shots in a major upset in April. In the rematch five months later, Zhang scored a highlight-reel KO with a monster right hook that sent Joyce face-first onto the canvas for the 10-count in Round 3.
In his lone defeat, Zhang floored Filip Hrgovic in the opening round with a right hand and dropped a controversial decision. The 40-year-old is now in line for a heavyweight title shot.
9: Kenshiro Teraji (22-1, 14 KOs) – WBC/WBA junior flyweight champion
Teraji may be diminutive, but the punch he carries is far from it. The 32-year-old from Japan has stopped his last four opponents.
His most-recent KO victim was former champion Hekkie Budler, whom “The Amazing Boy” stopped in Round 9 to retain his titles.
With blinding hand speed and solid punching technique, Teraji is a force at 108 pounds. None of his last four foes have reached Round 10 as he continues his dominance over the junior flyweight division.
10: Jaron “Boots” Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) – IBF welterweight champion
“Boots”‘ Ennis generates serious leverage on his punches, between his balance, footwork and punch placement. The 26-year-old from Philadelphia hasn’t proven his power on the elite level, but that’s only because he’s been avoided to this point.
Now that he owns a welterweight title, that should change. Ennis is coming off an impressive 10th-round TKO victory over Roman Villa.
His crushing power was on full display in a trio of fights against solid opposition in 2021-’22, when he finished Sergey Lipinets in Round 6 followed by a first-round KO of Thomas Dulorme and a second-round KO of Custio Clayton.
Just missed: David Morrell, Mauricio Lara, Junto Nakatani, Vergil Ortiz Jr., Tim Tszyu, Tyson Fury.