Top 5 welterweight punchers of all-time

Sugar Ray Robinson - Public Domain Photo

Hardest Punching Welterweight Boxers in History:

Some point to the middleweight division as the best balance between size and speed, between grace and power, but in my mind that balance has always been best represented by the welterweights. That balance is best displayed by the five fighters who follow, my Top 5 for the greatest 147-pound punchers in boxing history. These aren’t just the guys who could clobber world class opponents with a single blow; these were the guys who looked good clobbering world class opponents with single blow.

1. Sugar Ray Robinson (108 KOs, Kayo Percentage: 62%)

Sugar Ray Robinson - Public Domain Photo

Sugar Ray Robinson – Public Domain Photo

Arguably the greatest fighter of all-time, Robinson was the picture-definition of technique applying power. I think it would be impossible to find a better example of how to use space, timing, balance, and leverage in a boxing match. At 147 lbs, Robinson was absolutely lethal, and frankly the only reason his Kayo Percentage isn’t well above 80% is because he spent most of his career at middleweight. At welterweight, so few fighters could challenge him that he was often found duking it out with bigger guys while still chasing the Welterweight Title, giving away as much as 15 lbs.

2. Felix Trinidad (35 KOs, Kayo Percentage: 82%)

In the minds of some, the end of Tito’s career colors his legacy, but it’s important to remember that he ran into serious trouble only after moving up in weight. Right up until his last 147-pound fight with Oscar de la Hoya, Felix Trinidad was the knockout artist who had smashed his way through a host of welterweight contenders. Consider this: during Trinidad’s welterweight reign, he stopped or knocked out every opponent but two, both of whom were skilled defensive technicians who retreated into their shells and rode the storm out to survival: Hector Camacho and Pernell Whittaker. Every other guy in Tito’s title reign, and almost all opponents before that, fell before his fists.

[Also See: Top 10 Welterweights in Boxing History & Top 10 Hardest Punchers in Boxing Today]

3. Jose Napoles (54 KOs, Kayo Percentage: 66%)

The legendary Cuban banger had two distinguished title reigns in the 1960s, with a pile of kayos to go with it. He stopped Curtis Cokes twice; got revenge on Billy Backus by TKO, and as a rule at least knocked down the guys he didn’t knock out. The sole blemishes during his second and lengthy title reign were going up to middleweight and losing to Carlos Monzon, and the last bout where he was stopped on cuts. Napoles retired thereafter, but even that opponent got dropped. This was a guy who hung onto the World Welterweight Title against all comers and for years, and largely on the basis of his power.

4. Tommy Hearns (48 KOs, Kayo Percentage: 78%)

The case for Tommy Hearns is so well-established that the main question for most will be “why is he only at #4?” The answer is that he didn’t actually do much at welterweight. He crushed Pipino Cuevas, Randy Shields, and a couple of other guys as WBA welterweight champion. Then Hearns lost his classic encounter with Sugar Ray Leonard by the narrowest of margins, a fight that he competed in by turning boxer. After that, Hearns never fought at welterweight again. Hearns was an undoubted wrecking machine, and would no doubt have torn the welterweights who emerged in the wake of the “Three Kings” (Hearns, Leonard, and Duran) to pieces had he stuck around, but he didn’t. And that’s why he is only #4.

5. Barbados Joe Walcott (104 KOs, Kayo Percentage: 62%)

Despite being a member of that often-overlooked class of Turn of the 20th Century Boxers, with a foot in the 19th and a foot in the 20th, Walcott’s prowess and power remain legendary. Nat Fleischer called him the greatest welterweight of all-time, and he repeatedly appears highly ranked not just on lists of welterweights and welterweight punchers, but of the greatest punchers ever.

* I’m sure many fight fans will question the absence of Manny Pacquiao from this list. If I were composing a greatest puncher’s list for featherweight, Pacquiao would be on it. At 147 lbs, however, Pacquiao has only one big knockout, and that his TKO12 of Miguel Cotto.

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  1. Where is Mosley, Margarito, and Cotto? Pure negligence. You wrote Hearns isn’t listed higher because of fewer fights? Then what of Robinson’s above? Bias. Tends to favor consensus to claim believability and subconscious approval. And don’t use Pacquiao’s name on this unrelated article to gain page hits. Have a shame.

    • Your counters show you don’t know jack except what you’ve seen in your own lifetime. And Margacheato? ROTFLMAO! Cotto and Mosley as welterweight punchers? Whatta moron! Sugar Shane has only ONE impressive knockout at 147, that being Wilfredo Rivera. Cotto’s early endings were late round stoppages.

      So not only are you so f’ing stupid that you don’t know anything about the guys in the past, you don’t even know that much about today’s guys. And just to drive one more nail into your skull, trollboy, it’s spelled “Dumbass” or (correctly) “Dumb ass,” not “Dumbmas.” And no, you can’t claim to be pulling some half-assed dig in Spanish. You aren’t that smart.

      Congratulations: you’ve been dissected and trashed on a medical waste heap.

      JESUS CHRIST, I hate this kind of crap.

      • Pactards are Racists

        The reason this clown can’t spell basic English and wants Mosley, Margacheato, and Cotto on the list is Pacquiao. If #3 to #5 on the list are all guys Pacquiao beat, then Pac must be #1 right?

        Nevermind that Mayweather beat Mosley and Cotto too…. does that make HIM one of the all-time great welterweight punchers too? Answer me that Pactards!

  2. I think the hardest welterweight punchers in history should be judged based on these three criteria: the quality of opponents fought, the knockout percentage against quality opponents fought, and the quality of knockouts against quality of opponents fought. Notice the word “quality”.

  3. PACMAN is one of a kind boxer!..and his’ POWER and SPEED is truely made him a ‘FIHGTER OF THE DECADE’

  4. Pacman should be included in this category because you cannot be in eight division fighter and fighter of a decade for nothing and not a harder puncher. Imagine a flyweight punch a middle weight like margarito and Cotto, you can see their face, if indid Pacman is not a harder Puncher.

  5. @bongzkybernardo

    YES!.. PACMAN is the ONE and ONLY asian boxer to conquer the world of boxing!..

  6. For me the author is right, its a good observation, we are talking about a welterweights….

    Pacquiao is a hardest puncher but only i featherweights he has 80% knockout percentage. but in welterweight he only has 45% knockouts, 2 knockouts out of 5 opponent in welterweight division…Hatton and cotto.

  7. For me the author is right, its a good observation, we are talking about a welterweights….

    Pacquiao is a hardest puncher but only in featherweights he has 80% knockout percentage. but in welterweight he only has 45% knockouts, 2 knockouts out of 5 opponent in welterweight division…Hatton and cotto.

  8. Pacquioa is the best fighter of all time no other than that man…Mayweather-weather is just a mideocre a crying baby….whose mouth was spoor-feeding wahahahhaha! You are just scared of PACMAN the best fighter of the world. Mayweather, better hang your gloves if you won’t fight Manny Pacquioa your a coward.

  9. Good list. I won’t quibble with the criteria that landed Hearns at 4, but very credible. Suffice to say Tommy was the hardest hitter, but failed to deploy it against the same grade of opponent as those above him. Always felt that among all the welterweights, Hearns may have been the worst matchup for SRR.

    A few guys who are maybe outside the top 5 are Leonard (a really good hitter at 147)and even Curry. Cuevas coulda been on here. Maybe when compiling all-time lists, quality of opposition should be more important when grading the overall quality of a career and not so much individual traits, which might call for a more naked-eye, informal evaluation.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Except for Cuevas, Hearns didn’t KO too many big welterweights… but his power was so awesome that if you didn’t include him on a list like this, 9/10s of all boxing fans would complain! I’m surprised some aren’t griping that he should be #2.

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