Every sport has its act of ownage. The slam dunk, the home run, the ace serve, the bull goring the matador – all very satisfying.
For boxing, that act is of course the knockout, and no amount of scolding fans for their underappreciation of footwork and defense will change the fact that a fighter hitting the canvas equals fans jumping to their feet.
When it comes to naming the best, 2013 didn’t have anything quite as scary as recent years’ winners: Paul Williams’ face-plant courtesy of Sergio Martinez; Fernando Montiel on his back, climbing an invisible ladder after a left hook from Nonito Donaire; or Juan Manuel Marquez’s punch that left Manny Pacquiao unconscious for so long that trainer Freddie Roach later admitted he’d wondered, “Is he dead?” All were selected by an overwhelming percentage of readers.
This past year’s KOs, though, had both high drama and significance, and in the end it came down to two main choices.
Sergey Kovalev took Ismayl Sillakh out with a right hand that might as well have been a mule — not just a mule-kick but an entire mule. That second-round demolition was picked by 7 percent of readers. Gennady Golovkin’s third-round knockout of Nobuhiro Ishida, a man who had produced an award contender of his own in 2011 with his upset first-round annihilation of James Kirkland, was selected by 8.7 percent of those polled. Both Kovalev and Golovkin added extra spice by sending their victims through the ropes, but then again neither surprised anyone.
Lucas Matthysse also lived up to his brick-fisted reputation with a couple left hooks to Lamont Peterson’s skull for a third-round knockout, which 12.4 percent of readers picked as the best stoppage of the year. Like Golovkin and Kovalev, Matthysse is expected to deliver opponents to the canvas, but no one considered Peterson to be a pushover going into the fight. What also made the KO significant was the fight it preceded; the ringside shots of Danny Garcia led many to say he was “scared” by what he’d just witnessed. That set up the storyline that would lead to a contender for Upset of the Year, when Garcia busted up Matthysse after most predicted he wouldn’t last the distance against the Terminator-esque Argentine.
The no-hoper was Argenis Mendez’s fourth-round knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado. Great punch, and meaningful in that Mendez won the IBF junior lightweight title, but you can’t win the poll when no one’s seen the fight. It got just 15 of the 1,272 votes cast for 1.2 percent.
The second-place finisher was Jhonny Gonzalez’s first-round stoppage of Abner Mares for the WBC featherweight title, an enormous upset. It was also an incredible left hook that knocked Mares down and set up the KO. Watch the replay from the camera angle behind Gonzalez and you can see where the punch is headed; but watch the replay from the opposite angle – Mares’ perspective – and you can see the brilliant optical illusion that Gonzalez engineered. By where he’s looking and the initial dip of his shoulder, you’d swear Gonzalez was throwing a body shot, which is apparently what Mares thought as he lowered his elbow for protection. Turns out it was a laser-accurate hook upstairs (Watch it here starting at 7:04). Mares would get up but his brain was scrambled and the end was inevitable. Readers showed their appreciation for Gonzalez’s accomplishment with 31.4 percent of the vote, and it’s safe to say that 100 percent will be watching the rematch in February.
Which leaves this year’s winner: Adonis Stevenson KO 1 Chad Dawson, with 39.3 percent of the vote.
Like Gonzalez-Mares, this was not only a monster KO, but also an upset and the second of four big wins in 2013 for Stevenson, who as a result is a surefire contender for Fighter of the Year.
But it was a monster KO. Sort of like Babe Ruth’s “called shot” in the 1932 World Series, it was a case of “this is going to happen whether you like it or not.” Unlike Ruth’s celebrated moment, though, no one will have to argue about what Stevenson actually meant when he pointed his left fist at Dawson’s head. This is my fist. That is your head. The two shall now meet. Hard.
Remember, this was a fight between Adonis Stevenson, a relatively unknown Haitian-Canadian, and Chad Dawson, the RING and WBC light heavyweight champion. And before you go bringing up Dawson’s loss to super middleweight champ Andre Ward in his previous outing, please refer to the pre-fight photos in which the always-mellow “Sad Chad” looks like he had to shed the proverbial 21 grams of his soul to make weight. Whether or not his best days were behind him, a healthy Dawson was a known quantity. His mistake this time was underestimating his opponent.
With the win and the titles, Stevenson went on to his next challenge, though now with the stigma of being “just a puncher.” Accordingly he was matched with another puncher, Tavoris Cloud, whom he outboxed before forcing a stoppage in the seventh round. He would then defeat British contender Tony Bellew with a sixth-round knockout. Before facing Dawson, he got some get-back by knocking out Darnell Boone, the only man who has yet beaten him.
Good year for Adonis. Good choice for Knockout of the Year.
Next year-end award poll: Fight of the Year
Photos by Richard Wolowicz-Getty Images; Al Bello-Getty Images; Harry How-Getty Images