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What Is TKO in Boxing? β€” Definition & Examples

In the intense world of boxing, victories come in various forms, but none are as riveting as a KO or TKO inside the squared circle. While most sports fans probably already know what a KO is, not everyone knows exactly what is TKO in boxing. Luckily, that’s where we come in!

Understanding the difference between a KO and a TKO is essential, particularly if you’re considering betting on a specific boxing fighter. To ensure you’re equipped to do so, we’ve crafted this page containing various examples and the official definition of what is TKO in boxing.

πŸ₯Š Rules and Regulations of TKO in Boxing

There are a few different ways in which a boxer can finish a fight, with the most spectacular being either a KO or a TKO inside the squared circle. A KO is known as a Knockout, and a TKO is the abbreviation of Technical Knockout, and it is very important to know the difference between these two ways to cause a stoppage in a boxing match. If you place a boxing bet on a fighter to win by TKO, you are betting that the fighter will win the bout by causing their opponent to be unable to continue. If the fighter wins by any other method, such as a decision or a disqualification, your bet will be considered a loss.

In terms of the official rules and regulations, the Association of Boxing Commissions’ Unified Rules of Boxing lists a TKO under the following:

If a boxer sustains an injury from a fair blow and the injury is severe enough to terminate the bout, the injured boxer shall lose by TKO.”

For example, when a fighter is listed as winning via TKO, it means that they were able to cause enough injury to their opponent that the referee, their opponent’s corner or the opponent themselves deems them/themselves unable to continue the bout safely. The strike or events that lead to a win via TKO need to be one of the legal forms of winning, as an illegal move that causes a fighter to be unable to continue will be deemed a disqualification.

It doesn’t matter if a fighter retains consciousness when a referee opts to call for the TKO, as it is down to the referee and ringside physician to ensure that the competitors in the ring can continue to take punches and blows to the head and body that will not cause immediate or long-term damage. If a referee makes the decision to issue a TKO and declare the bout over, then that decision is final and will be upheld unless there are outside issues relating to the bout, such as the results of drug testing.

πŸ†š What Is The Difference Between KO & TKO in Boxing?

The main difference between a KO and a TKO in boxing is down to the decision made by the official inside the ring. If a fighter were to be KO’d, then they would, nine times out of ten, be knocked off of their feet and fall to the ground, meaning that the referee would clearly have no choice but to call the bout as being over and confirm the victor. If, however, a referee decides to check a fighter after a knockdown, which is imperative during a contest, and then decides that they are unable to continue in the round, they will call the bout after making an in-ring judgement based on the cognitive functions they can perceive from the fighter standing in front of them.

πŸ’­ Is TKO or KO Better?

In terms of spectacle, there is nothing like a huge KO inside the boxing ring, and there are a ton of knockout compilations from some of the best fighters on the planet. When looking at the actual record of a fighter, it makes absolutely zero difference whether or not they were able to take out their opponent with one punch or if the fight had to be stopped by the referee or the corner, it would still register on their record as part of the list of knockouts they had accrued during their career. When it comes to boxing in the digital realm of games and eSports, then being able to secure a massive Knockout is usually deemed the best way to win as it looks far more devastating!

πŸ”₯ How Is a TKO Decided?

A TKO victory is decided by the outcome of a fight, which could mean that the referee calls a stop to a contest during a round, or a doctor/physician, corner person/team or fighter could call a stoppage to the bout between rounds. The main reason that a TKO would be called is if it is believed that a participant is unable to continue, with the referee asking the boxer questions to see if they are cognizant of their surroundings and whether or not they are able to use their facilities to continue with the action in the ring.

As noted, teams, including potentially a manager or promoter in rare instances, may also decide to throw in the towel and force a TKO if they believe their fighter is likely to take significant enough damage to affect their livelihood. It is all about ensuring the safety of fighters when it comes to issuing a TKO during a bout, and the reason for doing so can vary from bout to bout.

πŸ’­ Are Three Knockdowns a TKO?

The three knockdowns equal a TKO rule is not one that is universally recognized in boxing in 2024. There are still territories that have the rule as standard, but it all depends on which athletic commission the contest will be taking place under.

πŸ’­ Does a TKO Count As a Win?

A TKO absolutely counts as a win, and as mentioned, the differences to a fighter’s record are nil when it comes to the number of fights they have listed as winning by KO, even if every one of their knockout wins came from TKO.

πŸ’­ Does a TKO Count As a Knockdown?

A TKO is very different from a Knockdown. As you probably tell by the name, a Knockdown is when a boxer gets taken down to the canvas but is then able to get back up to their feet before the ten-count. The referee will then check the boxer to see if they can compete further; if they are not, the official will give the victory to their opponent.

πŸ”” What Are Some of The Dangers of TKO in Boxing?

The most significant difficulty that fighters, referees and cornermen or women have when it comes to determining a TKO is the fact that it is all down to split-second decision-making. If a referee decides to state that a fighter is no longer fit to compete after getting up from the mat, that may not be the same conclusion that other people would come to when looking at the situation. Even if a boxer is in a lot of pain and the look on their face seems to indicate that they’re beyond the point of continuing, they might not be beaten to the point of submission. Boxing has always been a risky sport, and the danger of being judged unfit to continue is just one of the many things that fighters need to be wary of. Again, it’s all about decision-making, and we’ve seen many examples in the past of fighters being extremely unhappy with the official in the ring when a fight has been called ‘early’ in their mind.

πŸ† Which Boxers Have the Most TKO Wins?

As noted, when it comes to how boxing records look at TKO or KOs, you would rarely see these differentiated. What we can look at are the boxers who have the most KO wins overall, which as of writing, are as follows:

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

These are some pretty incredible numbers you aren’t likely to see in modern boxing, so how did these fighters rack up these huge numbers?

1️⃣ Billy Bird

Billy Bird is literally the definition of “they don’t make them like him anymore.” Bird was active in the ring from 1920 to 1948 and boxed in the Welterweight division. Just looking at the information available on the fighter, he was one of the most active competitors in the world during his heyday and ever since. With 356 recorded bouts in the sport of boxing and 138 knockouts, there is almost zero chance of another boxer even getting close to the same record in the modern world.

2️⃣ Archie Moore

Archie Moore is another iconic name in the sports world. Moore was active from 1935 to 1963, managing to secure 132 knockouts during his historic career. As well as his incredible record of KOs, Moore was also able to become the longest reigning World Light Heavyweight Champion of all time, holding the Light Heavyweight gold from December 1952 to May 1962, a record that other fighters could only dream of!

3️⃣ Young Stribling

Another old-time boxer with unbelievable power who left his opponents in the dusk before the fight could ever make it to the judges’ scorecards. The “King of the Canebrakes” managed to rack up his incredible haul of 129 knockouts in an extremely short time, with the fighter passing away at only the age of 28 in 1933. Overall, Stribling had 291 bouts in the boxing competition, and managing to get 129 KOs/TKOs during that time is just sensational.

4️⃣ Sam Langford

Langford was another revolutionary boxer, and ESPN named him the “Greatest Fighter Nobody Knows” for a good reason. The Canadian boxer was born in March 1886, and he had a variety of big bouts during his career against the likes of Jack Johnson for the African-American World Heavyweight Championship title belt. Still, casual boxing fans are unlikely to have ever heard the name. Langford was incredibly active during his boxing career; again, he has a record that is not at risk of being knocked off at any time in the near or even distant future.

5️⃣ Buck Smith

Buck Smith is the first fighter on the list to make a case for being one of the most prolific knockout artists wearing gloves in the modern era. Smith made his professional debut in 1987, and he would end up having 228 bouts across his career, with 182 wins, 20 losses and only two bouts ending via draw. The fighter would continue to fight until he retired in 2009. With injuries and his age catching up to each other, he was unable to remain at the top of his game in his later years.

βœ… Interesting Facts to Know About TKO

A TKO victory is not just prevalent in boxing, as it can also be seen in MMA, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and other types of combat sports. MMA fights are very different from boxing and require different techniques, but in most cases, the type of KO or TKO that you would see is quite similar to that of boxing, even though the equipment used in these sports by the competitors can vary greatly from the pugilistic endeavour.

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Expert's Summary on TKO in Boxing

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Jake Skudder - UFC/MMA & Boxing Expert Writer

Jake Skudder

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Today, our mission was to shed light on what is TKO in boxing, and I’m confident we’ve achieved just that. Simply put, a TKO or a “Technical Knockout” is determined by the referee, fighter’s corner, or physician to ensure participant safety. Now that you know what is TKO in boxing, you’re ready to appreciate its excitement and relevance in any competitive setting.

❓ FAQs About TKO in Boxing

A TKO in boxing is known as a Technical Knockout.

A Technical Knockout is determined by a decision made by the referee, ringside doctor/physician, fighter’s corner or fighter themselves. In contrast, a knockout means that a fighter has likely lost consciousness and is unable to stand back up.

Which fighter is most likely to be TKO’d all depends on their record and the weight class in which they tend to compete in. TKOs are pretty common in Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight bouts.

TKO wins are scored as a KO victory for the fighter who can hit a single blow or combination of strikes that means their opponent cannot continue.

If a boxer takes the win via TKO, it will add a win to their record and potentially positively affect their ranking. Still, if a fighter loses via TKO, they will get a loss added to their record, which could negatively affect their ranking. It all depends on the situation at the time of the fight, and there has never been anything that is 100% clear-cut in boxing history!

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MMA & Boxing Betting Writer with 11+ Years of Experience
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MMA & Boxing Expert Writer

Jake Skudder


12 Articles

Jake is an experienced editor-in-chief with over 10 years of expertise in covering Combat Sports, Gaming, and Pro Wrestling, specializing in MMA and Boxing. He has contributed to various publications and has extensive knowledge of mixed martial arts, pro wrestling, and gaming.

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Facts checked by Anthony Odiase