The Pugilist

Tommy Morrison’s passing evokes memories of legendary left hooks

The Pugilist

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Tommy Morrison, the late former WBO heavyweight champion who tragically died at 44 late Sunday, had one of the great left hooks in boxing history.

Morrison's hook was short, fast and powerful and accounted for a high percentage of his 42 knockouts.

But since his death, some obituaries have given him credit for having the greatest left hook ever.

That's a debate that never can be won, but I would vehemently disagree. In my own experience, Morrison would rank in the Top 25 of all-time, but he doesn't even come close to being No. 1.

In my opinion, the finest left hooker boxing ever said was another ex-former heavyweight champion, the late Hall of Famer Smokin' Joe Frazier.

Frazier put the legendary Muhammad Ali down with perhaps the best, and certainly most famous, left hook in the sport's history when he connected in the 15th round on March 8, 1971, at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Frazier got exceptional torque in his hook and followed through, so the punch didn't just drop opponents, it drove them to the canvas.

What follows are 12 other great left hookers, all of whom would rank behind Frazier.

13. Oscar De La Hoya, 39-6, 30 KOs -- For much of his career, De La Hoya was a one-handed fighter. He rarely landed a right hand of note. But his left hook was a weapon that blew out a series of good fighters, including Ike Quartey, Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga.

12. Felix "Tito" Trinidad, 42-3, 35 KOs -- In his prime, Trinidad's left hook was the most feared punch in boxing. He delivered it with frightening force and accuracy and was able to knock out men much bigger. He kept his power in that punch as he moved up in weight. He all but destroyed Vargas' career with it.

11. Evander Holyfield, 44-10-2, 29 KOs -- Holyfield isn't often thought of as a knockout puncher, but his left hook was unquestionably a knockout punch. Ray Mercer had one of the best chins in boxing, but even it couldn't withstand Holy's hammer.

10. Florentino Fernandez, 50-16-1, 43 KOs -- Fernandez was one of a number of tough middleweights who campaigned in the 1950s and 1960s, but Fernandez's calling card was a debilitating left hook. Fernandez, who was nicknamed 'The Ox," didn't throw the short, classic hook of boxing lore. His was longer, but it was no less powerful.

9. Roy Jones Jr., 56-8, 40 KOs -- Jones earned the nickname "Captain Hook," because of the quality of his left hand. It was lightning fast and extremely hard. He won his rematch against Montell Griffin with perhaps the best shot of his career, a hook that ended the fight in the first.

8. Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, 30-9-1, 28 KOs -- Hart could hit with either hand and was one of the fearsome punchers of his day. His left hook was a thing of beauty and brought an early end to the proceedings on many a night. He would be higher on the list, but he wasn't able to get the same results against the elite fighters he faced, such as Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Vito Antuofermo and Bennie Briscoe.

7. "Gentleman" Gerry Cooney, 28-3, 24 KOs -- Cooney was naturally left-handed and so fighting out of a conventional stance, his strong hand was close to his opponent. That allowed him to get great leverage on it and score some of the most spectacular knockouts of his era.

6. Jack "The Manassa Mauler" Dempsey, 59-6-9, 49 KOs -- Dempsey had a brilliant left hook. All one needs to know about Dempsey's left hook is that when he hit Jess Willard on the jaw with it in their 1919 title fight, he fractured it in seven places despite being outweighed by 58 pounds.

5. Bob Foster, 56-8-1, 46 KOs -- Foster is one of the great light heavyweight champions ever, but he's often overlooked because he was beaten by the likes of Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali the times he stepped up to fight at heavyweight. But his hook was one of the most feared punches in the 1960s and early 1970s. He nearly decapitated Mike Quarry in a 1972 title bout.

4. Sugar Ray Robinson, 173-19-6, 108 KOs -- Robinson is the greatest fighter of all-time, and he did everything well, but his left hook was a thing of beauty. It was typified by his dramatic KO of Gene Fullmer in their 1957 middleweight title bout.

3. Mike Tyson, 50-6, 44 KOs -- Getting hit by Tyson's left hook was like being hit by an anvil. He knocked Trevor Berbick out with a left hook to become the youngest heavyweight champion ever in 1986, a punch that knocked Berbick down three times. Berbick went down from the blow, then got up, only to fall twice more.

2. Joe Louis, 66-3, 52 KOs -- Louis' left hook was short, compact, fast and devastating. He was reputedly able to knock guys out with the hook that traveled just six inches. The left hook was one of the primary reasons for his long title reign.

1. Joe Frazier, 32-4-1, 27 KOs -- Frazier threw the left hook like it was drawn up, a thing of beauty that involved perfect timing and brought his entire force behind his punch. Frazier was a relatively small heavyweight, but he hit so hard with the hook he could deck men far bigger. His knockout of Jimmy Ellis with the left hook came at a greater distance than he usually threw it and ended the bout with one punch.

That's my list. There are many, many other great left hookers in boxing history, and Morrison is one of them. In my mind, though, these are the men who will always be remembered for the left hook.

Kevin Iole

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