7. Sugar Ray Robinson – 1940-1965, 173-19-6 (108)
From head to toe, the original “Sugar Ray” was the perfect fighting machine. Snake-like jabs, powerful right crosses, balletic footwork, off-the-charts intellect, a cast-iron jaw, a well-honed killer instinct and beautifully delivered combinations were the hallmarks of his reputation. But of all the weapons at his disposal, his true kill shot was the left hook.
Most of the time Robinson used the hook to cap off combinations. One oft-used tactic was to fire a shoeshine flurry to the midsection, then suddenly blast his opponent’s chin with a final hook that put him to sleep. One of the main reasons he’s in this top 10 is a one-hook knockout so gorgeous in its execution that it came to be known as “The Perfect Punch.”
At age 36 and in his 147th fight, Robinson was in the rare position of underdog entering his second fight against Gene Fullmer, who four months earlier had lifted the middleweight title via unanimous decision. Many believed Robinson was irretrievably over the hill and that Fullmer’s cyclone-like swarming would again prevail over Robinson’s fading but still above-average skills.
For the first four rounds, the wise guys were proven correct as Fullmer built a slight but workable lead on the scorecards. All the while, however, Robinson was timing Fullmer’s movements, especially when he noticed that Fullmer held his right hand approximately six inches lower than customary when barreling inside.
A little more than a minute into round five, Robinson cashed in his chips in most memorable fashion. As Fullmer stepped inside to deliver yet another hammer, Robinson nailed him with a hook that kissed the point of the chin, collapsed his legs and snapped off his brain’s synapses. Ten seconds later, the world had a new middleweight champion, and for the fourth time his name was Sugar Ray Robinson.
Robinson’s wondrous hook remains a touchstone when it comes to discussions regarding history’s greatest one-punch knockouts and it only burnished an already well-established resume in terms of Robinson’s prowess. That power, if not his skills, would remain with him until his retirement at age 44, long recognized by many as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter who has yet lived but also one of its best practitioners of boxing’s deadliest punch.