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I have always thought the phrase "knock someone out" means to strike someone so hard that he becomes unconscious. After watching a boxing match, I heard the commentator say one boxer was knocked out by his rival. However, that boxer was still able to move and talk and throw very soft punches except that he could not get up.

My confusion is :

When we say somebody is knocked out, do we mean to say that he/she is already unconscious?

My research:

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English


  • knock sb⇔out to make someone become unconscious or go to sleep

 

The champion knocked Biggs out in the seventh round.
  • knock sb/sth⇔out to defeat a person or team in a competition so that they can no longer take part

 

The German team were knocked out in the first round.

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English

  • knock sb out (a) (in boxing) strike (an opponent) so that he cannot rise or continue in a specified time and so loses the fight

It seems that OALD doesn't explicitly say whether the boxer who can't rise or continue is in a state of unconsciousness or not. But based on the two definitions from Longman, that boxer might be conscious or unconscious.

When people say a person, a boxer maybe, has been knocked out, how can we judge that person's state of consciousness??

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Sportsdefinitions.com gives the definition of a knockout in boxing as:

When a boxer is knocked down and cannot recover to carry on within a count of 10. The boxer does not have to be unconscious, or so dazed that he cannot get up, for it to be considered a knockout.

Websites such as Collins, Merriam Webster and others give similar definitions, some including the term technical knockout to distinguish being counted out while not being unconscious from being knocked out in the more general sense.

So the definition of a knockout in boxing is somewhat different from (although derived from) the more general one. If you look at the history of boxing on sites like this you will see that knockouts used to be less technical in nature and that fights did not have a limited number of timed rounds either. This made boxing even more dangerous than it is now.

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