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The five most iconic heavyweight knockouts of all time: George Foreman's right hand devastated opponents… but can anyone outdo Muhammed Ali? JEFF POWELL gives his verdict

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Anthony Joshua delivered a devastating blow to end the hopes of heavyweight newbie Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on Friday night. 

The win confirmed the British boxer’s readiness to become a three-time world champion after stunning the former UFC champion by putting him on the canvas three times. 

Ngannou – who has emerged as a new emerging threat in boxing after he himself had put Tyson Fury on the deck during their showdown in December – was no match for the Brit, who has recaptured some of his old fear factor with a statement win. 

The manner of the fight’s conclusion brought to mind some of the sport’s most brutal finishes. 

Here are are my picks of the five most sensational heavyweight knockouts in history in descending order. 

Joshua (right) knocked his opponent down three times in the opening two rounds, landing a brutal right-handed hook on Ngannou (left), knocking his opponent out

Joshua (right) knocked his opponent down three times in the opening two rounds, landing a brutal right-handed hook on Ngannou (left), knocking his opponent out 

It was a big win for Joshua (left), who has been working hard to reinvent himself following his two defeats by Oleksandr Usyk

It was a big win for Joshua (left), who has been working hard to reinvent himself following his two defeats by Oleksandr Usyk 

5. George Foreman – Michael Moorer 

November 5 1994 Las Vegas

Moorer had turned down the chance of fighting Lennox Lewis for the unified world heavyweight championship. He said the titles didn’t much interest him but more likely he was not at all interested in fighting our Lennox in his prime. 

That decision did not save Moorer. Big George was coming back from a near ten-year retirement, declaring such intense determination to redeem himself from his Rumble In The Jungle humiliation by Ali two decades earlier that he donned a replica of the shorts won by The Greatest that night. 

Moorer, 19 years the younger, stormed ahead through all the early rounds. Come the tenth Moorer, wearying of his efforts to finish off Foreman, went out looking for the KO. Whoops. Rope-a-dope revisited. 

He walked onto Big George’s big right. His discombobulated efforts to beat the count ended in a crumpled heap. At 45 years and 360 days Foreman became the oldest heavyweight ever to win a world title.

George Foreman (left) became the oldest heavyweight champion to win a world title after the brutal knockdown over Michael Moorer

George Foreman (left) became the oldest heavyweight champion to win a world title after the brutal knockdown over Michael Moorer

4. George Foreman – Joe Frazier

Kingston, Jamaica January 22 1973 

Frazier, the ultimate warrior, had picked up the WBA and WBC world heavyweight tiles stripped from Muhammad Ali for refusing conscription to fight in the Vietnam War by knocking out the highly respected Jimmy Ellis. 

Typically, Frazier agreed without hesitation to meet the formidable challenge from the also undefeated Foreman. His courage was beyond question. His judgement not so much. He would be battered to the canvas six times in the first two rounds by fusillades of Foreman’s hefty punches. 

Renowned US television commentator Gil Glancy resorted to repeating: ‘Down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier…..’ There was not much time to say anything else. After the fourth flattening at the start of the second round Foreman called out to Frazier’s corner: ‘If you don’t stop this fight I’m going to kill your guy.’ Referee Arthur Mercante performed that humane service when a huge right sent Smokin’ Joe down for the sixth and last time.

Muhammed Ali - then named Cassius Clay - delivered a short right hand to jaw to drop Sonny Liston

Muhammed Ali – then named Cassius Clay – delivered a short right hand to jaw to drop Sonny Liston

3. Cassius Clay (as he was then) – Sonny Liston

February 25 1964 Miami Beach

One of the most important stoppages in ring history did not even require a definitive final punch from the precocious young man known also as the Louisville Lip. 

Ali, as he would become before their rematch, was an 8-1 underdog against the most terrifying figure in boxing at the time, who had just KO’d Floyd Patterson in the first round to become world heavyweight champion. 

Henry Cooper as British champion was offered a fight with Liston but his manager Jim Wicks said: ‘We don’t even want to meet Liston walking down the street.’ Clay, at 3 am on the day of contract signing drove to Liston’s home street in Denver and woke him by shouting ‘come out of there you big ugly bear.’ 

The spooking of Liston continued when Clay said he would donate the bear to the zoo after he beat him. Liston was an immense physical specimen but lacked the intelligence to deal with ‘this crazy kid.’ 

Clay would admit that he was scared just before the fight but overcame it when he survived the first big punch. By contrast, the longer it went Liston was increasingly incapable of mentally processing Clay’s antics, let alone his lightning speed of hand and foot for a heavyweight. 

Clay had made the first of his famous predictions: ‘The Bear goes in eight.’ He was proved slightly wrong when, after a flurry of his punches at the end of the sixth round, Liston quit on his stool.

2. Mike Tyson – Michael Spinks

Atlantic City June 27 1988

Tyson’s ferocious punching, arguably the most powerful of all time, had supercharged the youngest ever world heavyweight champion. 

Spinks was also undefeated and held a couple of the titles and was regarded as the Peoples Champion in preference to the young Iron Mike who petrified not only most of his opponents but what America liked to regard as civilised society. 

Donald Trump settled arguments about the purse split – which ended up at $22 million for Tyson and $13.5 million for Spinks – to promote at his Atlantic City casino what would become the $70 million grossing richest fight yet. 

Some closest to the Spinks corner insisted they could smell the fear on him as he entered the ring. Not that Tyson needed any further encouragement. A delayed start for a spurious mind-games check on his gloves had angered him. 

He pounced out of his corner at the first bell and felled his man with a left uppercut followed by a crunching right to the body. Spinks rose at the count of four. 

His one meaningful punch was dodged by Tyson who promptly dropped him again with a left-hand right combination to the head. To stay. It was all over in 91 seconds. Spinks later admitted he had been fearful of Tyson. He was not alone in his apprehension.

Mike Tyson ended his heavyweight clash against Michael Spinks within 91 seconds in Atlantic City in 1988

Mike Tyson ended his heavyweight clash against Michael Spinks within 91 seconds in Atlantic City in 1988

The Rumble In The Jungle  is one of the most iconic fights in boxing history and it delivered an explosive finish when Ali dropped the favoured Foreman

The Rumble In The Jungle  is one of the most iconic fights in boxing history and it delivered an explosive finish when Ali dropped the favoured Foreman

1. Muhammad Ali- George Foreman

Kinshasa, Zaire October 30 1974

Extravagant promoter Don King’s fabled Rumble In The Jungle. The great men had to stay in Africa an extra five weeks after Foreman sustained a cut eye in sparring. 

The local population kept up their drumming and chanting throughout. The fanatical support for Ali reached a crescendo in the heaving, sweating stadium on a wild fight night. He had kept them entertained with his poetic goading of Foreman but The aging Greatest was a 4-1 underdog against the all-powerful, all conquering Big George. 

Ali confided to trainer Angelo Dundee shortly before the first bell that he had a secret but seemingly suicidal plan to halt this hitherto unstoppable force. Hello Rope-A-Dope. Ali laid back on the ropes for most of the first seven rounds, inviting Foreman to punch himself out while occasionally clipping his face with snap jabs. Big George became bewildered as well as fatigued. 

As he lumbered into another assault at the start of the eighth Ali whispered in the ear of one of the hardest punchers of all time: ‘Is that all you got George.’ Then he landed the right hand blow which sent Foreman crashing to the canvas. Where he stayed. 

The Greatest was also the world heavyweight champion once again. The most watched television broadcast of the time with harvested an estimated one billion viewers around the world. A documentary film of the event – When We Were Kings – won an Oscar.