What Is The Difference Between A Knockout (KO) & A Technical Knockout (TKO) In Boxing?

knockout punch boxingBoxing is one of the purest physical combat sports in existence. Though some people might find it to be antiquated if not outright barbaric, the reality is that knowing how and when to punch someone is about as skilful a thing as you can learn to do. Boxing can be a thrilling sport to watch precisely because of how raw it is, with literal blood, sweat and tears hitting the canvas of the ring during a fight. Those that don’t know much about boxing as a sport will perhaps know that someone can be knocked out, but what is a TKO?

A knockout occurs when a fighter is knocked unconscious by the fists of their opponent. A TKO, meanwhile, is a technical knockout and this is when the referee rules that a fighter might be conscious, but they’re not able to defend themselves successfully were the fight to carry on. It is essentially a way of protecting a fighter from being put in more danger than simply being in the ring and punched in the head repeatedly would put someone in. If a fighter doesn’t seem capable of dodging or protecting themselves, a TKO will be declared.

What Is A Knockout?

boxer knocked out on floor

In order to understand what comprises a technical knockout, it is first worth considering what it is that you’d call a knockout in its purest form. A knockout, often referred to by the letters KO as a shorthand, is when a fighter gets knocked completely unconscious by the person that they’re fighting against. There are other ways that a knockout can be declared by the match referee, but a fighter being unconscious is the purest form of it. In the world of boxing, a referee will present the fighter with a ten-count if they get knocked down.

This means that the fighter has ten seconds in which to get back on their feet and show the referee that they are still in a physical condition good enough to keep fighting. If they either can’t get back up or else the referee sees them struggling to get back up, the referee can stop the fight and it will be declared as a victory for the other fighter by knockout. When Floyd Mayweather took on Victor Ortiz, for example, he knocked the other man down and Ortiz struggled to get back up, so it was a KO for Mayweather.

Another good example is the fight between Gervonta Davis and Hugo Ruiz. Ruiz was hit with a solid right hand from Davis, causing him to kneel down. Though he wasn’t unconscious and was able to stand back up, he failed to respond when the referee asked him if he wanted to continue. Even though he wasn’t unconscious, it was decided that it would be the wrong thing for the referee to allow the fight to continue in those circumstances, so he called the fight a knockout in favour of Davis.

Technical Knockouts Explained

illustration referee awarding win and belt in boxing matchNow that we know what would be considered a knockout in boxing, we can explore what a technical knockout would be and why it is different. In simple terms, a technical knockout can be called when a referee sees a fighter taking punches and not defending themselves, meaning that they fear for the boxer’s safety if the fight were to carry on as is. In essence, it is when a boxer is still conscious for can’t carry on fighting for some reason. The referee will feel as though they have no choice but to jump in and stop the fight for safety’s sake.

When Richard Commey took on Isa Chaniev, the IBF title was on the line. Commey knocked his opponent down in the first round, after which Chaniev was shaky on his legs. At this point, the referee decided that the fight could carry on, so it made it through to the second round. Chaniev still looked wobbly, however, and when Commey started landing punches without any sort of reply or defence, the referee decided that it was time to draw the bout to a close and declared Commey to be the winner via a technical knockout.

That example is a particularly good one because of the timeline of events. Had Chaniev failed to get up in the first round, it would have been declared a knockout by Commey. The fact that the referee felt that he was able to get back on his feet and show a level of understanding of what was going on meant that it ended up being a TKO, in spite of the fact that it was essentially the same punch that ended the fight. It went down in the record books as a technical knockout, even though it was essentially a knockout that the referee took too long to call.

It isn’t just that situation that can result in a TKO being called. Technical knockouts can also be the method of victory when a boxer suffers an injury. Should the referee or the doctor on the side of the ring declare a fighter unable to continue because of an injury that they’ve suffered, this would also count as a technical knockout. Regardless of whether it is a knockout or a technical knockout, once it has been declared the fight will be drawn to a close and a winner announced. There is no more boxing once a knockout of either form has been called.

Is There Much Difference Between Them?

red punches blue in a boxing matchThe most obvious question to ask is whether there is all that much of a difference between them in terms of how they are recorded. The short answer is ‘no’, insomuch as both methods hand the fighter that inflicted it a victory in the record books. When you see a fighter’s record, you might see it written as something like ’20 fights, 20 wins with 16 KOs’. The technical knockout is still thought of as being a win within the distance and no one in the world of boxing would attempt to claim that a knockout is in any way superior to a technical knockout.

As far as the fighter and their promotional teams are concerned, it is merely a semantic difference that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. As you might imagine, knockouts tend to happen more often the higher up the weights you go, given that the bigger and stronger a fighter is, the more damage they can do with just a single blow. Either way, it is generally considered to be a better way of winning than doing so via points, even if the verdict from the judges is unanimous, simply because there is less debate over it all. Here is a list of the boxers with the most knockouts:

  • Billy Bird – 138
  • Archie Moore – 132
  • Young Stribling – 129
  • Sam Langford – 128
  • Buck Smith – 120
  • Kid Azteca – 114
  • George Odwell – 111
  • Sugar Ray Robinson, Alabama Kid – 108
  • Peter Maher – 107
  • Sandy Saddler – 103