By Cliff Rold
It was over in a Filipino Flash.
Highly anticipated, within arguably the best weight class in the game in 2011, unified Bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel accepted the challenge of former Flyweight champ Nonito Donaire.
Fans had waited to see the talented Donaire matched with someone deemed up the challenge. In 2007, fans had seen what was possible. Given a crack at IBF 112 lb. champ Vic Darchinyan, Donaire rose to the occasion and blitzed his way to the title with a blistering fifth round knockout.
In 2011, he outdid himself.
Knockout of the Year: Nonito Donaire TKO2 Fernando Montiel
Montiel had competed in some twenty title bouts, across three divisions, and lost only by decision to 2011 Hall of Famer Mark Johnson and big punching Jhonny Gonzalez. A blistering left hook from Donaire changed his life.
Donaire was dominant in the early going, providing instant justification to the surprisingly high 2 ½-1 betting odds in his favor. Montiel tried to establish proper distance to land his right hand, but was instead rocked by a counter left hook over the top. Donaire’s precision punching also left the soon-to-be ex-champ with a nick over his eye.
Fortunately for Montiel, the cut would never become a factor.
Unfortunately for Montiel, Donaire’s punching power was a major factor.
The full effect of the Filipino’s punching power was felt late in the second. Montiel appeared to settle down and time Donaire, taking advantage of the rare moments when the Filipino would overcommit on a punch.
Yet it was a clean right hand by Montiel that would set up the fight altering blow. Donaire didn’t even seem to bother to get out of the way of the right hand, taking the shot and immediately firing back with a left hook that connected flush.
Montiel never saw the punch coming, and never regained his legs or senses. The shot caused him to pitch forward before pausing and crashing to the canvas, lying flat on his back as he twitched in pain.
To the surprise of nearly everyone, the Mexican veteran somehow managed to beat referee Russell Mora’s count and was afforded the opportunity to continue.
Donaire quickly took care of that, landing another left hook and a follow-up right hand on a defenseless Montiel. The third man recognized a finished fighter in front of him, jumping in to rescue Montiel from further punishment.
The official time was 2:25 of the second round – or exactly as long as Donaire believed the fight would last from the moment he was presented with the opportunity.
In a year when the Showtime Bantamweight tournament shined a bright light on the field, it was Donaire-Montiel that continued as the most memorable moment of the year at 118 lbs. As 2012 dawns, Donaire is headed up the scale and fans are left to wonder what highlight reel knockouts are yet to come at Jr. Featherweight and Featherweight.
Runner-Up: Anne Mathis KO7 Holly Holm
Women’s boxing, particularly in the U.S., rarely gets much attention but there are some bad ladies out there. Holm has built quite a following in Albuquerque. She entered the showdown with Mathis, each only a single loss on their ledger in close to sixty combined bouts. Fans pay for the knockout. They got one, and then a failure of officiating as brutal as any in recent memory.
A right hand against the ropes had Holm ready to go and a left hook had her all but out. A following left sent Holm careening across the ring and another right left her clearly out.
Holm’s left arm was caught on the top rope, the only thing keeping her up. The fight was over. Referee Rocky Burke unhooked it for her and inexplicably allowed the bout to go on. Holm bravely covered up, but had no defense for two more flush right hands to end the fight.
Burke was disgraceful. Mathis was devastating. The moment was some of the best and worst of the game in 2011.
Honorable Mention: Hernan Marquez and Luis Concepcion had one of the best fights of the year. This wasn’t that fight. Marquez walked through Concepcion the second time around, scoring three knockdowns in the first round in their October rematch. It was a shocking end to an anticipated return…A single thunderous left hook ended with a prone man laid out over the ropes in Eloy Perez KO2 Daniel Jimenez …Intentional headbutts don’t need hugs. No knockout received more press than Floyd Mayweather KO4 Victor Ortiz . Money heard Joe Cortez say fight and cashed Ortiz out…With speed, amateur credentials, and an exciting style, Gary Russell KO1 Heriberto Ruiz was a graphic illustration of why Russell is one of the game’s top prospects. A counter left hook sent the veteran face first to the floor as if shot…Call it oldies but goodies. Consecutive Lennox Lewis knockout victims in the year 2000, Michael Grant KO12 Frans Botha was better than it had any right being. The right hand that ended matters left Botha on the deck for minutes after the final bell had sounded… Ola Afolabi KO1 Terry Dunstan swiftly concluded with a mouthpiece dislodiging right. Dunstan collapsed into the floor and Cruiserweight contender Afolabi moved on with future title hopes intact.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]