Oscar De La Hoya
Career Wins: 38
Career Knockouts: 30
Kayo Percentage: 78%
This will raise some eyebrows, but hear us out: De La Hoya campaigned at 147 from April 1997, when he decisioned Pernell Whitaker to win the WBC title, to June 2001 when he won a junior middleweight belt against Francisco Castillejo.
During that period De La Hoya went 10-2 with seven knockouts, losing only to Felix Trindiad (in a terrible decision) and Shane Mosley. He stopped David Kamau, Wilfredo Rivera, Patrick Charpentier, and a faded and outsized Julio Cesar Chavez. Not overly impressive, right? He also stopped Oba Carr (who had only been stopped up to that point by Trinidad), Derrell Coley (Coley's only knockout loss in a 43-bout career) and Arturo Gatti (at that point the second stoppage loss of Gatti's career).
The guys who went the distance with the welterweight De La Hoya? Whitaker, a Hall of Famer, Hector Camacho, who also survived 12 with Trinidad, and Ike Quartey, who fought De La Hoya close but was floored twice and was fortunate to finish the fight on his feet. You can hate De La Hoya if you want, but he was one of the harder-hitting welterweights ever and his record proves it.
Career Wins: 61
Career Knockouts: 48
Kayo Percentage: 79%
You can throw out the spectacular, second-round blowout of Cuevas in Detroit in 1980, which ranks probably as the most memorable of Hearns' career. After all, Cuevas was stopped six times by the time he retired. Here's the thing: only one of those knockout losses occurred before the Hearns fight. The rest came after Hearns ruined him to win the WBA welterweight title.
That Hearns developed into one of his era's most feared punchers was a surprise to those who knew him as an amateur, where he'd been strictly a hit-and-run boxer. When he turned pro Emanuel Steward taught him to use his monstrous height and reach to get leverage and before long his right hands were turning good, hardened welterweights such as Angel Espada, Harold Weston and Bruce Curry into jelly. He stopped his first 17 opponents and 27 of his first 29.
Hearns ability to knock opponents cold suffered as he rose in weight, but he still managed terrifying knockouts of Roberto Duran (the only true knockout loss of Duran's career) and James Shuler. If Hearns could have landed one or two more good right hands, Marvelous Marvin Hagler might have made the list too.
Career Wins: 36
Career Knockouts: 25
Kayo Percentage: 69%
Like Sugar Ray Robinson, Leonard is recalled as more boxer than puncher, and clearly his kayo percentage is among the lowest of this group. But when Leonard wanted to punch, he could. Who can forget his frightening one-punch starching of Davey "Boy" Green in 1980? Or his first-round blitz of Andy Price in 1979 -- the same Andy Price who a few years earlier had beaten Pipino Cuevas? The welterweight Leonard was a knockout artist when he wanted to be and a safety-first boxer when he thought it wise.
Leonard has knockout wins over Hearns and Wilfred Benitez, two of the premier fighters of his generation (for the purposes of this discussion you really can't count the win over Duran in their rematch as a knockout). You could argue that both of those fights were stopped early but you'd be in the minority. He also stopped Pete Ranzany, Ayub Kalule and Tony Chiaverini, tough fighters each (not to mention Floyd Mayweather Sr., whom he stopped in nine rounds in 1978). Leonard wasn't the hardest-hitting welterweight ever. He's not close. But when he wanted to, he could crack.
Career Wins: 77
Career Knockouts: 54
Kayo Percentage: 71%
Napoles' nickname was "Mantequilla" (it was said that his style was as smooth as butter) and he was an exceptionally good boxer. He also could punch like all hell and those two qualities made him probably the best welterweight champion since Ray Robinson.
Napoles didn't look like much of a hitter early on: he scored just five knockouts in his first 15 pro fights. But by the time he had five full years under his belt, he'd developed into a legitimate knockout artist. He stopped 13 opponents in a row between 1963 and '65. When the excellent Eddie Perkins broke that streak by lasting 10 rounds, Napoles went on another tear, stopping 12 of his next 13, including champion Curtis Cokes. As the world welterweight champion, he made 15 defenses over a couple of reigns, winning seven by knockout.
It was Napoles' misfortune that the middleweight champion at the time was the great Carlos Monzon, who battered and stopped him in their meeting in 1974 in Paris. Napoles wasn't the puncher Hearns was or Robinson or maybe even Cuevas. But from head to toe he could have stayed with any welterweight in history.
Sugar Ray Robinson
Career Wins: 175
Career Knockouts: 109
Kayo Percentage: 62%
We've come to recall Robinson as rather a Fancy Dan, a quick-fisted mover who outboxed guys more than he flattened them. The nickname has something to do with it: "Sugar" doesn't evoke images of a puncher. Also, some of his better-remembered struggles came against Jake LaMotta, Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio, a trio of legendary tough guys who between them were stopped just eight times in 249 fights (Robinson scored two of those knockouts). The truth is Robinson was a debilitating puncher.
The list of the better guys Robinson stopped reads like a Hall of Fame roster: Fritzie Zivic, Bobo Olson, LaMotta, Rocky Graziano, Fullmer, Randy Turpin. That most of those knockouts came at 160 rather than 147 proves the appropriateness of his placement; he never had more than a welterweight's frame and frequently was out-sized by the middleweights he was stopping.
As a welterweight Robinson was no less impressive, winning 27 of his first 38 fights by knockout, at one point stopping nine in a row. Against the very best 147-pounders -- Kid Gavilan, Tommy Bell, Sammy Angott -- he settled for clear decision wins. Against everyone else he was a knockout threat to the final bell.