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TKO vs KO: Learn The Differences Between These Two Decisions


Last Updated on May 24, 2024

Knock Out! One of the thrilling words a fighter could hear from a referee during a round.

In sports like mixed martial arts and boxing, you can easily win or lose due to a simple technicality.

Of course, with the many terms and jargon they use, you may not always catch up with what's happening within the ring.


Not anymore! Because in this article, we'll discuss the two commonly interchanged terms in both MMA and boxing, which is the TKO vs KO. Let's get started.

Main Differences Between TKO vs KO

The main differences between TKO vs KO are:

  • KO stands for a knockout, whereas TKO is a type of KO that means a technical knockout
  • A KO is declared when a fighter is unable to get up after being knocked down, whereas a TKO may be declared even though the fighter is on their feet.
  • A KO requires a fighter to lose consciousness, whereas a TKO registers due to an injury, an intervention, or a submission from the fighter.
  • A KO declares a fighter to be unable to show defense and offense, whereas a TKO only requires a lack of defense.
  • A KO differs within MMA or boxing, whereas a TKO is the same for both.

By Definition

The word knockout is a widely used word that implies an opponent is no longer in condition to continue a fight. This word may be heard in combat sports and martial arts, video games, or even as a joke.

Once a knockout occurs, the fight automatically ends and the winner is announced right after. Knockouts are announced once the fighter either has difficulty getting back into position or is knocked unconscious.

There are several types of knockouts, such as a double knockout, a full knockout, a knockdown, a flash knockdown, and of course, a technical knockout. These differ within the situation and a couple more specifications, but they all fall into the knockout category and shall be registered the same.

Now, let's talk about technical knockouts.

This type of knockout is also called stoppage and is what a TKO stands for. Unlike common knockouts, these don't require you to be unconscious or unable to get back in position.

A referee may declare it when they determine that you are no longer in a safe condition to continue fighting. An attending ringside physician may also declare it in some cases.

Sometimes, TKOs are called when a fighter has been knocked down three times within a single round or when they can no longer defend themselves after being repeatedly struck.

In Boxing

Knockout (KO)

Boxing match ending in a KO

When a fighter falls to the ground after an opponent's strike, and they are still conscious, the referee will then begin to use a so-called 10-second countdown. 

Within these 10 seconds, the fighter must return to position and appear ready to continue. However, if not, the referee will declare a knockout.

Appearing "ready" does not only mean having your fists in position to strike but also being able to respond to the referee's questions. If the referee determines you are unable to respond, they will register a knockout, regardless of the fact that you are on your feet.

Classic Duran vs Hearns boxing match

On the other hand, when a fighter would lose consciousness, the referee would no longer count down but automatically declare a knockout instead.

Technical Knockout (TKO)

In a boxing match, a TKO or technical knockout is a direct declaration from the referee, physician, or trainer/coach that the boxer can no longer defend himself.

Even though they are responding, on their feet, ready to strike, or appearing in perfect condition, if one of the professionals determines that they are in danger, the match is immediately put to an end.

Technical knockouts make sense because if a boxer is unable to defend themselves, then it is no longer a fight but a beat-up session. Most likely, the opponent boxer wins due to the unfair circumstances.

Beat-up boxing match

One example of this situation is when a fighter keeps taking strikes from his opponents without showing any defense or offense. For the match to continue, both fighters must be able to fight normally without being physically, mentally, or emotionally impaired.

Technical knockouts are commonly declared after a match where the boxer was knocked out unconscious. It is a frequent consequence of a previous knockout; the fighter might not have had enough time to regain consciousness or has an injury from the match.

In Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Knockout (KO)

Now, when it comes to MMA, knockouts tend to be a little different because of the word "submission," which is commonly where boxing knockouts fall into.

In a boxing match, a KO is automatically registered when you lose consciousness. However, in an MMA fight, they take into consideration how and why you lost consciousness. Some knockouts are registered as submissions simply because of just a small detail.

An example of a boxing KO being registered as an MMA submission is when a fighter loses consciousness due to choking, which is not a legal act during an MMA match. Because your opponent did not play by the rules, you will be given a lesser kind of loss for the match.

For knockouts to be declared in MMA fights, one fighter must lose consciousness through strikes that are allowed in the field of MMA. For example, being punched or kicked.

MMA knock out

Unlike boxing, MMA matches do not have a countdown rule. They allow you to pound your opponent to the ground as long as they are conscious. 

So, if your opponent cannot get back to his feet but can defend themselves, the fight continues. The match will only end due to unconsciousness, an intervention, or a submission.

Technical Knockout (TKO)

In an MMA Technical Knockout (TKO), fights are usually ended when one fighter is cornered to the fence or when his opponent has the upper position on the ground. The catch here is that the fighter must be unable to defend themselves.

MMA technical knock-out

As discussed earlier, fights in MMA won't be put to a stop due to being knocked down, so for a TKO to be registered, you must show visible signs that you are unable to continue while on the ground.

A couple of MMA Technical knockout events fall into the same category as boxing, like if a fighter is injured or unresponsive. This is because there is more danger in fighting inside an octagon than in a boxing ring.

Knock-Out Point: Knowing to box is good but getting into the competition is better! Learn the basics of pro boxing here -- How To Become A Professional Boxer.

Watch This!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does TKO count as a KO?

Yes, it does. Although there are a few differences, let's not forget that a technical knockout is a type of knockout. Therefore they fall within the same field.

One way to differentiate them is through the reason why they were declared. A knockout is called when the fighter is visibly unable to continue, whereas a technical one is called when the fighter shows critical signs that only the referee or the ringside physician may notice.

How many KOs does Floyd Mayweather have?

As of 2022, Floyd Mayweather has 27 official knockout calls and 29 knockout victories within his professional boxing career.

The former world champion in the multiweight category's most recognizable knockout happened in May of 2007 during his fight against Dela Hoya, "The Golden Boy."

Who has the most Knocked Unconscious Wins in boxing history?

Throughout his 30-year career, Archie Moore earned the title for being the leading boxer between middleweight to heavyweight and the most knockouts. Archie Moore's 141 knockout record still stands as the most KOs in the boxing world.

Through these, he managed to win 183 professional bouts and 135 amateur fights which just proves that he is a skilled veteran of boxing.

Why do boxers throw in the towel?

"Throwing the towel" is a common phrase used to describe one's quitting in defeat.

However, in boxing, throwing the towel means that the fighter's trainer or cornerman literally threw a towel into the boxing ring.

This signifies that the referee should end the fight ASAP. Coaches do this for many reasons; they may think that the fighter is overwhelmed by the opponent, they may be trying to protect their reputation, or they simply notice that the fighter's life is in danger.

Whatever it may be, it is solely done with good intentions, even though it means that the opponent boxer wins the match.

Is tapping out a form of KO and TKO?

Well, it depends. When fighters tap out during a match to avoid the strikes, the match will immediately be put to a stop by the referee. In boxing, this is considered a Technical knockout. However, in MMA fights, this is called a submission.


Now that you have a full understanding of all the specifications between a knockout and a technical knockout within both MMA and boxing, you are ready to conquer the combat sports world.

Always remember that these terms may differ within the sport being played. A knockout in boxing may not be the same in Muay Thai, and the same goes for other sports.

We hope we've answered your questions and solved your confusion. May your favorite fighter has an outstanding knockout win record!

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