What is a TKO? The Technical Knockout Explained

What is a TKO? The Technical Knockout Explained
by Scotty L of Predictem.com

A TKO is short for a technical knockout. We all now what a knockout is: the referee counts to ten over a fallen fighter. But we are no longer barbarians. Fights often get stopped without coming to that conclusion, hence the TKO.

TKOs were rare in the early days of boxing, but are now much more commonplace than regular KOs. The general rule in boxing, to varying degrees, is that a fighter should not be allowed to continue if his condition is markedly compromised. When a fighter is no longer able to protect himself is a major consideration, as is the amount of punishment he is receiving. If a knockout defeat either becomes imminent or the only plausible outcome, then a TKO can be ruled. The referee can righteously justify a TKO if a fighter is taking too much punishment or is obviously outclassed.


Anytime a fight is stopped without the referee counting to ten due to events that occurred legally, it is a TKO. Note that a fighter being unable to continue due to fouls does not count as a TKO. It can happen in a variety of ways, but the rule of thumb is that the referee, corner, or fighter himself has deemed one of the participants unable to continue.

TKOs will unfold in one of the following ways:

A fighter is taking too much punishment: This can happen with or without actual knockdowns. Sometimes a fighter rises wobbly from a knockdown and the referee wisely stops the contest. Other times a referee simply deems that a fighter is too battered, defenseless, or hopelessly behind and outclassed-all without a knockdown having occurred. That’s how you have fighters who have suffered knockout losses without ever having been off their feet.

Cuts and Swelling: When a fighter has a cut or swelling that hinders his ability to see or his overall safety in general, the referee will rule him a TKO loser. But the cuts and swelling must have been incurred by legal means-punches. Head butts, and sometimes elbows, can cause cuts and swelling. Since those are both illegal in boxing, they do not result in TKOs. Sometimes in the midst of frenetic action, the referee will not see a foul that results in a fight-ending cut. Instant replay is moving into the game to correct this injustice.

Corner Retirement: If a fighter’s trainer stops the fight in the middle of the round or in the corner between rounds, it is ruled a TKO. In addition, if the fighter himself quits at any point, it is also a TKO. If there were fouls that led to a fighter quitting, that is a bit of a gray area. A fighter quitting due to injuries suffered due to a foul has resulted in fights being sent the fight to the scorecards in a number of fights before and were not ruled TKOs.

Doctor Stops the Fight: In most jurisdictions, a doctor has the discretion to stop a fight. If the doctor rules that a fighter’s cut or swelling is too severe, or is otherwise too battered to continue, that fighter loses on a TKO.

The Three Knockdown Rule: Invoking the rule that has thankfully lost foothold among most presiding jurisdictions, a referee can stop a fight if a fighter is knocked down thrice in one round. Sometimes, a fighter can get knocked down three times, but be otherwise fit to continue. Such a case unfolded when Manny Pacquiao dropped Juan Manuel Marquez three times in the opening round in their first match. Marquez fought back to earn a draw and give Pacquiao his only recent competitive matchup. With this rule in effect, we would have missed out on a great rivalry.

Injury: TKOs can also occur if a fighter injures himself and is unable to continue. If a boxer blows his knee out or throws out his shoulder and his opponent was in no way culpable, he loses on a TKO if he cannot continue.

Note: In the annals of boxing history, a disqualification is simply listed as a “DQ.” For betting purposes, however, a disqualification also counts as a TKO. So if you bet on Evander Holyfield by KO over Mike Tyson in their second “bite-fight,” you collected your winnings.

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