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Boxing’s Specialist Punchers - by Terry Pettifer

There are certain fighters who establish a reputation by means of their ‘pet’ punch or as some analysts may put it, their ‘signature’ weapon. Cuba’s famed world welterweight champion of the 1950’s Kid Gavilan glamourized the ‘Bolo’, a sweeping uppercut that got its name from the bolo knife used to cut sugar cane in the Philippines. Actually the founder of the punch was Ceferino Garcia, a spirited Filipino fighter who had over 100 professional bouts and in 1939 held claim to the world middleweight title. In South Africa there was some confusion amongst fight fans when the bolo punch was first mentioned as many observers thought it refereed to the over-arm motion that a bowler employs in cricket.

Local heavyweight contender of the Seventies, Kallie Knoetze had both a fearsome bolo and shattering overhand right and when one writer pointed out that the ex-cop favoured the ‘bolo’ as a means of ending a fight early, everyone naturally assumed that he was alluding to Knoetze’s overhand punch. In fact, Knoetze’s famous bolo was seldom used to more devastating effect than on the night he knocked out Mike Schutte at the Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg. Speaking of uppercuts, Dingaan Thobela was arguably South Africa’s finest exponent of the blow, and the “Rose of Soweto” could fire the punch equally effective with either hand. Yet in Thobela’s case, the uppercut was thrown according to text-book principles, and not as a blow that came whistling upwards in a deadly arc.

Former world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston laid a great degree of emphasis
on his shotgun left jab and once it landed with full force, the opponent facing him was usually a sitting duck for the Bear’s crushing left hook.

Jack Dempsey was possibly the greatest of all left hookers, and during his reign as the planet’s world heavyweight champion (1919-1926) the “Manassa Mauler” epitomized the chilling efficiency of boxing’s most talked about punch. Noted historian Nat Fleischer in fact rated Dempsey the #1 hitter in ring history, above the likes of Max Baer and Rocky Marciano.

Historians often reflect on the skill and craftiness of Kid McCoy, a former world
welterweight champion and one of the most illustrious international boxers of the1890’s. Born Norman Selby, in Rush County, Indiana, the good-looking McCoy was said to have invented the ‘corkscrew’ punch, so named because it added a sudden twist at the moment of impact. A savage fighter when the mood moved him, McCoy would often take delight in mauling an opponent to excess, and as such became as much hated as he was revered.

Few fighters in history could ever claim to have been the equal of Joe Louis in
terms of punch-for-punch proficiency. The “Brown Bomber,” as Louis was known, ruled the world heavyweight roost from 1937 until 1949, defending his title a record 25 times, and was undoubtedly the most versatile puncher in the annals of the sport. Louis could knock them out with the jab and his hooks, uppercuts were lethal missiles that demolished most of the contenders who challenged him. But it was Joe’s crippling right hand, which was generally his payoff punch and no heavyweight ever threw the blow with more punishing precision.

Former world welterweight and middleweight maestro Sugar Ray Robinson is the consensus choice as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all-time, and while experts agree that Robinson had comparatively few flaws as a boxer, they still find it difficult to peg down which was his deadliest punch. Some maintain that Ray’s left hook was his specialist blow, and usually point to his devastating knockout of Utah’s ultra-tough Gene Fullmer as the perfect example of speed, power and timing. Others, however, point to Robinson’s breathtaking combinations to body and head as the powerhouse factor in his lavishly gifted make-up.

Rocky Marciano (49-0, 43 knockouts) remains the only former world heavyweight
champion never to have tasted defeat, and the “Brockton Blockbuster” relied primarily on his looping right hand to the head to blast his way to victory. A superior body puncher, Marciano even nicknamed the punch “Suzie-Q”.