Sometimes boxing fails to deliver enough Fight of the Year or Fighter of the Year candidates by the end of the year, but there is seldom a shortage of spectacular knockouts to choose from.
This was especially true for 2011. Fans were treated to a number of breathtaking KOs that were televised in various parts of the word, and the first strong candidate of 2011 – Nonito Donaire’s second-round TKO of Fernando Montiel – was the runaway favorite of RingTV.com readers, who voted the sensational stoppage the Knockout of the Year.
Donaire’s explosive bantamweight title-winning performance received 78.1 percent of the vote, leaving the other worthy candidates, which included Nobuhiro Ishida’s first-round stoppage of James Kirkland in April, in its dust.
Ishida-Kirkland, which received 9.2 percent of the vote, was a shocking, almost surreal outcome to a fight that was expected to be a blowout for Kirkland. The other candidates – Lucian Bute’s fourth-round KO of Jean Paul Mendy (4.6), Gary Russell Jr.’s opening-round blitz of Heriberto Ruiz (3.6), Ola Afolabi’s first-round annihilation of Terry Dunstan (3.1), and Henry Lundy’s sixth-round blasting of David Diaz (1.5) – were highlight-reel examples of one-punch knockouts.
However, no single knockout performance of 2011 carried the significance of Donaire’s victory over Montiel on Feb. 19.
The two bantamweights were at the highest level of the sport when they met at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Donaire (27-1, 18 knockouts), an ultra-talented former flyweight titleholder, was a top-rated junior bantamweight for an 18-month stretch before he stepped up to the 118-pound division, where he looked even more formidable.
The 29-year-old Filipino-American bludgeoned tough former beltholder Wladimir Sidorenko in his bantamweight debut last December. The brutal fourth-round TKO set up his showdown with Montiel (46-4-2, 36 KOs), one of Mexico’s few three-division titleholders.
The 32-year-old veteran was unbeaten in 12 bouts going into the Donaire fight, nine of those bouts were won by knockout, including a fourth-round stoppage Hozumi Hasegawa in the respected Japanese beltholder’s home country last April.
The Hasegawa victory, which unified the WBO and WBC 118-pound titles, elevated Montiel to No. 1 in THE RING’s bantamweight rankings. He also joined Donaire in THE RING’s pound-for-pound ratings.
But there was more to their fight than their accomplishments and world ranking. Donaire and Montiel, both experienced boxer-punchers with an intoxicating mix of speed and skill, possessed aggressive styles that promised a dramatic confrontation.
And the winner was sure to be recognized as a future star. That fighter was Donaire, who won in truly explosive fashion two minutes and 25 seconds into the second round. After taking a right cross from Montiel midway through the round, Donaire timed a monsterous counter-left hook that connected to the side of the defending beltholder’s head.
When watched in slow motion, the impact of Donaire’s punch seems to momentarily wrap Montiel’s head around his left glove as it instantly short circuited the Los Mochis native’s nervous system and arrested his motor functions. In real time, it all went down like Donaire’s nickname – in a flash.
Montiel, who had never been dropped or stopped in 48 pro bouts, collapsed onto his back right in front of referee Russell Mora, who had to jump over his quivering body. Montiel’s arms and legs spasmed as Mora started his count, but somehow the proud Mexican got to his feet.
That Montiel was able to stand and wanted to continue is a testament to the 15-year veteran’s heart and conditioning, as well as Mora’s poor judgement to allow the clearly finished fighter to absorb a couple more blows before halting the fight.
Montiel seemed to bounce back from the devastating loss by scoring stoppages of solid opponents – Nehomar Cermeno and Alvaro Perez – but he was out-pointed by Victor Terrazas in his last bout.
Donaire, who sat out most of the year as Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions battled for the right to promote him, did not immediately capitalize on the Montiel victory.
However, he got back in the ring in October once he settled his differences with Bob Arum and shutout unbeaten 115-pound beltholder Omar Narvaez in a boring 12-round defense of his bantamweight titles.
The uneventful bout has inspired Donaire to return to his explosive ways in his 122-pound debut against former titleholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. on Feb. 4.
Photos / Mary Ann Owen and Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages.com
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