The myth of a lucky punch is often retold when a long-shot contender ends a fight with a big shot... against a bigshot. The punch seems to come out of nowhere like the contender himself. Or the fable gets trotted out when a night-ending shot comes at the very end of a night, when up until that point, the fight wasn't going the eventual winner's way. Or even if the punch comes from an awkward angle or with unsound technique, cries of luck ring out to diminish the outcome.
When Lennox Lewis got knocked out by Hasim Rockman, Lewis was brazen enough to call it a lucky punch. No mention of the right hand that grazed and glazed him only moments earlier. But on the last punch of the night, Lewis' back was too close to the ropes, and he was unable to move backwards enough to dodge the brunt of the force, as he did earlier. So instead of grazing him, Rockman engraved his name on Lewis' belt with better stamina and timely ring positioning.
But Lewis supporters and the man himself steadfastly chalked it up to a lucky shot. Even though Lewis was so far gone, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see a chalk outline from where he fell. Just cause he got rocked like a kick from a horse, doesn't mean a lucky horseshoe played any part.
The excuse got resurrected cause the wild underdog dogged a heavy favorite. Sometimes it makes no mention if the favorite showed up heavy, and the long-shot fought like a wild dog. But even years later when asked about the fight, Lewis still hung to the notion of a lucky punch when he said, if you play out in the rain long enough, you are going to get wet.
Not if you're expecting showers and brought your umbrella and coat. But if you were just expecting a day at the beach, then yeah, you're going to get wet. It wasn't bad luck, or no luck, Lewis just wasn't prepared.
Sometimes if a big dog gets put down by the big underdog, and they both come prepared, the public just got fooled. The name is big, but the game is small. Or the favorite is just plain small. Like Micheal Moore, who still holds bitterness towards George Foreman, claiming the old guy just got lucky.
Certainly beating Evander Holyfield (up until several years ago) is a great win for anyone. And Moore was more than a large betting favorite. And George was little more than a side-show after coming off a loss and an unimpressive win over a worn journeyman. Moore got lazy and overconfident and knocked out. His mental stamina ran out. He didn't run into a lucky punch.
Julio Cesar Chavez landed a legacy punch against Meldrick Taylor with 16 seconds left in the final round back in 1990. Was it lucky? No. More like Chavez was lucky Richard Steele stopped it when he did, or maybe Meldrick Taylor was lucky Richard Steele stopped it when he did. There were four seconds left, and one more punch, can be one too many. Regardless of where you come down on the stoppage, Taylor went down and Chavez's stature went way up.
Would that punch have been dismissed as lucky if it would have come one minute earlier? Or how about one round earlier? Probably not. It would have been credited to Chavez finally getting to Taylor. To discredit the blow as overblown luck is to discredit conditioning and stamina, both mental and physical. It is to discredit the final two championship rounds. Might as well just fight'em all to ten.
To be a fighter, is to be willing to fight like hell from bell to bell from 1 to 12 and .01 to 3:00.
Remember the two wild-punching aggressors who either open or close any show on sports-bloopers. You know the ones, they knock each other out with matching hooks only moments after the echo of the first bell. The defence for those two can't be calling it bad luck. The defense for those can just be called bad.
Even a boxer who awkwardly drops his head, and throws an looping overhead right (like Butterbean)to the exposed chin of an opponent and puts him out, is technically unsound, but not a lucky punch. Lucky or good matchmaking that he was in there with someone that crude is more accurate.
Practice allows instinct to take over. A great fighter (not Butterbean) can be at an awkward angle, or not even see the target, but know, if his chest is here, his chin must be there. If a left hook is coming, his chin or cage must be open. The phantom punch landed or it didn't, but it was short and from an odd angle. Nobody saw it. Not Ali and more importantly not Liston.
Fighters spend more hours punching large-heavy bags, small-quick bouncing bags, quick-bobbing bags, mitts, mugs and midsections, than most people spend talking with their spouses. At some point instinct takes over, to leave the room just before you know she is going to begin to discuss her feelings, or to throw a short, awkward, chopping right to a man leaning forward that you have never before practiced.
The difference between a punch not landing, grazing or dazing an opponent is so small, so often. If you watch Floyd and how little each punch misses his chin, in the heat of the beating it must make his opponent wonder how more don't land.
Of course the fighter knows better. They've all been taught to make the punch just barely miss. If an opponent throws a right, ideally you'd want it to nip the hair on the right top of your head. Therefore you are the best position to counter with a left to the body, a right over top of his right, or even an awkward Calzaghe-like left.
Think back to the punch that made Ali momentarily mortal and Frazier temporally immortal. Joe missed dozens of times with the monster left in that fight and the two after. But by millimeters. Ali lifted his chin just far back enough (a cardinal sin in boxing) to make the punch miss, but still be close enough to counter.
And so very many things can go into that millimeter cushion... Desperation from a fighter now willing to expose himself. Exhaustion, whether it be physical or mental begins to take a toll as rounds and exchanges accumulate. Overconfidence. Frustration... Any of the above can shrink that cushion from, in position to counter to in position to nap.
So add another one to the list of dispelled myths like, weight training making an athlete too bulky, drinking water while working out makes an athlete soft and there is such a thing as a lucky punch. Oh yeah, speaking of dispelled myths and getting lucky, sex before a fight does not really weaken a fighter's legs...