8. Michael Carbajal – 1993: 3-0 (3)
When Carbajal turned pro in Feb. 1989 on the Roberto Duran-Iran Barkley undercard, promoter Bob Arum envisioned the 1988 U.S. Olympic silver medalist as an eventual million-dollar attraction. That dream came to fruition on March 13, 1993 when Carbajal, now the IBF junior flyweight titlist, met power-punching WBC belt-holder Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez in what was, by far, the biggest and most lucrative 108-pound showdown in history.
The fight was more than anyone could have hoped. A gorgeous series of moves culminated with a straight left that decked Carbajal in round two and a thunderous right hook scored a second knockdown in round five. But Carbajal hung in and worked for his own moment, which came in the seventh when he hurt “Chiquita” with a torrid right to the jaw. A concussive hook moments later put Gonzalez down for the count. The honors came in bunches; the bout was named THE RING Fight of the Year, Carbajal was deemed the magazine’s Fighter of the Year and “The Little Hands of Stone” vaulted into the pound-for-pound ratings.
Carbajal followed up his sensational win over Gonzalez with two more. On July 17 Carbajal met fellow 1988 Olympian Kwang Sun Kim, who won gold at 112 and who was considered one of the greatest amateurs South Korea had ever produced. Although he had only seven pro bouts, he was viewed as a genuine threat based on his spirited challenge against “Chiquita,” who he led on points before being stopped in the final round. Both men threw heavy shots throughout and by the fourth both men had swellings under one eye – Carbajal the left and Kim the right.
Moments after tasting a right-left combo, Carbajal seized on Kim’s lowered guard and fires a bodacious hook that floors the Korean. Instead of using the eight-count to collect himself Kim rose too quickly and stumbled forward into Steele’s arms, prompting the stoppage.
Carbajal wrapped up his power-packed year with yet another knockout against yet another qualified challenger – the 26-1 Dominican Domingo Sosa whose only loss, yes, was to “Chiquita.” Carbajal scored a flash knockdown in round one but an accidental butt produced a gory gash on the forehead. Desperate to produce a finish, the overzealous Sosa was twice penalized in round four for holding and punching low. Though hurt badly at the end of round four Sosa talked his corner into a final chance. Forty-eight seconds later the fight – and Carbajal’s signature year – was over.