When we think of great one-punch knockouts, what invariably comes to mind are blows delivered to the chin. There was Rocky Marciano's big right hand crumpling Jersey Joe Walcott; Sugar Ray Robinson's left hook blowing away the supposedly blast-proof Gene Fullmer; Bob Foster's left hook laying out Dick Tiger.
A one-punch finish with a body punch is much more unusual, but every so often it happens, and it's happened three times this year.
Jose Luis Castillo's collapse against Ricky Hatton was followed by Jhonny Gonzalez and Tomas Rojas dropping dramatically against Gerry Penalosa and Jorge Arce respectively.
These endings were startling in their suddenness, surprising because as a rule body punches are seen as a means of one fighter wearing down the other, slowly eroding his resistance.
When a fighter loses as a result of one punch to the body there can be a suspicion of surrender. After Hatton's win over Castillo there were those who thought that the veteran Mexican boxer took an opportunity to bail out.
At the postfight news conference, Castillo's longtime promoter, Bob Arum, wearily explained to the uninitiated: "Once you get hit that way, and it's a perfect shot like the one Ricky hit him with tonight, the guy can't breathe for 30 seconds. There's nothing he can do, no matter how he wants to get up -- he cannot breathe."
The one-punch finish resulting from a body punch is a rarity. To get three in one year is highly unusual.
Here is a personal top 10 of such finishes -- endings that were literally breathtaking.
1. Oscar De La Hoya vs. Bernard Hopkins -- The highest-profile fight to end with one punch to the body came in September 2004, when De La Hoya dropped like a stone in the ninth round of his middleweight title challenge against Hopkins at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
De La Hoya had boxed well and one judge had him in front after eight rounds.
Hopkins was coming on strongly, though. He had swept the seventh and eighth rounds in the scoring and seemed to be quickening his pace, forcing De La Hoya to retreat. Hopkins had the look of a man certain he was going to win. At ringside that night, I noticed that his step was jaunty as he went back to his corner at the end of the eighth round.
Everything was flowing Hopkins' way. De La Hoya landed a crisp left hook in the ninth but Hopkins came back with a better right hand. Oscar hooked to the body but Hopkins walked through it.
Then Hopkins stepped in with a left hook around the side of De La Hoya's right elbow, and in the next instant the Golden Boy was on all fours. TV replays on the big screens at the MGM seemed to indicate a cuffing type of hook rather than a full-impact shot, but its effect was immediate. De La Hoya rolled over with an agonized expression as referee Kenny Bayless counted him out. De La Hoya pounded the canvas in frustration, bringing unsympathetic comments from future big-fight rival Floyd Mayweather Jr., the gist of which were: "If he had the energy to punch the floor he had the energy to get up."
After the fight De La Hoya told the media: "It's hard for someone to knock me out -- never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd get stopped by a body shot."
2. Mickey Ward vs. Alfonso Sanchez -- Ward has always been an exponent of the left hook to the liver. The Lowell, Mass., junior welterweight was artful in his method of delivery, throwing a quick hook upstairs to get an opponent's right arm to lift up, then sinking in a hook to the body. He did this to perfection when knocking out Mexico's Sanchez in the seventh round at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas in April 1997.
Sanchez at the time was a red-hot prospect. He was dominating Ward, who was cut over the eye and had been dropped in the fifth and battered in the sixth. At ringside that night, I was thinking it was just a matter of time before Ward got stopped. But in the seventh he came out and started to throw the left hook in a last-stand type of way, and a perfectly placed drive downstairs had Sanchez down on his hands and knees gasping for air as referee Mitch Halpern counted him out.
3. Jorge Arce vs. Tomas Rojas -- If Ward pulled off an against-the-tide win against Sanchez, the sixth-round win scored by Arce in his bantamweight fight against Rojas in September at the Hard Rock casino hotel in Las Vegas was not far behind.
The tall, rangy southpaw Rojas was outfighting and outpunching Arce in every round. It was as if the two-weight world champion from Los Mochis couldn't figure out his fellow Mexican's style. Things almost seemed to be too easy for Rojas as he unloaded his rapid-fire bursts. Then Arce started to target Rojas's lanky body. I thought a left hook that landed in the kidney area affected Rojas a little in the fifth -- a similar shot in the next round closed the show in a startling manner. Rojas turned away and dropped to one knee. Although he got up just in time to beat the count, he was done. He collapsed into the ropes without really being hit, to bring referee Joe Cortez's intervention.
4. Gerry Penalosa vs. Jhonny Gonzalez -- Penalosa's seventh-round knockout win over defending bantamweight champ Gonzalez in Sacramento in April was another case of a losing fight being salvaged by one crunching blow underneath.
Gonzalez was under pressure in every round but he seemed to be cruising along nicely enough against the shorter, stronger Filipino southpaw.
The tough and very seasoned Penalosa is not easy to discourage, though. He kept coming forward, always looking to land a big punch. His opening, in the seventh round, was to Gonzalez's long and lanky body. He took Gonzalez -- and everyone else -- totally by surprise as he slid forward and slammed a left hand from his southpaw stance into the Mexican's willowy frame. Gonzalez dropped to one knee, in which position he was counted out.
5. Arturo Gatti vs. Leo Dorin -- In a blood-and-guts career, Gatti had one of his easiest wins when he went to the body against chunky Romanian Dorin in their 140-pound title bout in Atlantic City in July 2004.
A bruising, drawn-out battle had seemed likely. Dorin was unbeaten and had always shown an excellent chin. A few months earlier he had fought a bloody 12-round draw with Paul Spadafora.
Gatti moved and boxed while Dorin bored in, but in the second round the fight was over in an instant as Gatti shifted his weight to the left and ripped a tremendous left hook to the Romanian's ribs under his right elbow. The effect was like the proverbial air going out of a balloon. Dorin took the count on his knees.
6. Ricky Hatton vs. Jose Luis Castillo -- Another long fight was generally anticipated when Hatton defended his junior welterweight title against Castillo at the Thomas & Mack Center in June. Although somewhat faded, Castillo was known for being able to absorb punishment.
It seemed that Castillo might be starting to get into the fight in the third round, but Hatton, who had been trying to get home his noted left hook to the body through the first two rounds, finally found just the right opening, touching Castillo on top with the left glove in the Ward manner and then banging in the finisher around the Mexican veteran's right elbow. Castillo turned away -- the familiar reaction from a boxer who has been hurt to the body -- and, mouthpiece protruding, took the count on one knee.
7. Roy Jones Jr. vs. Virgill Hill -- A body-blow finish coming from a right hand is extremely unusual, but that's exactly how Jones took Virgil Hill out of their fight in the fourth round in Biloxi, Miss., in April 1998.
Hill had never been stopped, and he was quick enough to get away from Jones's big shots. Then Jones looped a right hand to the body in the fourth and Hill was instantly undone. He folded to the floor, instinctively reaching around to the kidney region where the blow had landed, almost as if to reassure himself that Jones hadn't punched a hole in him. Somehow Hill dragged himself off the canvas but he was still bent over as referee Fred Steinwinder III counted him out.
8. Diobelys Hurtado vs. Randall Bailey -- The surprise effect of a body blast was again in evidence when Cuban Hurtado knocked out heavy-handed Bailey in Puerto Rico in February 2002.
The two had traded knockdowns resulting from right hands upstairs, with Bailey down in the second, Hurtado in the sixth. Coming out for the seventh round Bailey was in front on two of the judges' cards and coming on strongly when Hurtado surprised him with a right to the body. Before Bailey could gather himself the Miami-based Cuban fired in several more quick body blows, and then a particularly debilitating left hook to the liver ended the fight. Bailey went down as if all the air had been sucked out of him.
Because there had been preceding body punches this was strictly speaking not a one-punch finish, but the final left hook from Hurtado was such a spectacular shot it is the one that people remember. Bailey will never forget it.
9. Glenn McCrory vs. Jeff Lampkin -- Just five months after becoming cruiserweight champion, Britain's McCrory was defending the title against seasoned and dangerous Lampkin, of Youngstown, Ohio, on McCrory's home ground at Gateshead in northeast England in March 1990.
Although somewhat erratic, Lampkin was known to be a good puncher. McCrory was watching out for his opponent's big right hand when he got caught by a left hook to the body. He sank to one knee to be counted out by New Jersey referee Randy Neumann at 2:27 of the third round.
McCrory said afterwards: "It was a fabulous punch -- it took everything I had. I was watching for the big right hand all the time -- maybe I became transfixed watching for it."
10. Jorge Barrios vs. Janos Nagy -- A one-punch ending from a body blow in the first round is almost unheard of -- but it happened at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in May 2006, when junior lightweight champion Barrios crunched previously unbeaten Hungarian Nagy in just 49 seconds.
The aggressive Argentinean was on top of his man before the Hungarian knew what was happening. Barrios' left hook sank home, just under Nagy's right elbow, and the challenger went down in delayed reaction. The crowd wasn't happy but Barrios' cuts man Miguel Diaz told me afterwards: "I went over to the guy's corner and you could see the mark where the punch hit him. It caught him right in the false ribs (the lower five ribs), and when you get caught there, it's very painful."
Every other luckless body-blow recipient mentioned in this article would know the feeling.
Graham Houston is the American Editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for FightWriter.com.