By Cliff Rold
It’s the real reason we watch.
For all the stuff people spout about watching for skill, all the admiration of master boxers, there is still a single thing guaranteed to bring any fan, anywhere, out of their seats quicker than anything.
When a big shot lands, and a body touches the canvas, the viewing experience of boxing is fully realized.
Before every fight, announcers let the fans no how many wins, losses, and draws a fighter has. Then they let them know how many times they’ve knocked another man out. No one ever announces how many unanimous decisions a fighter has earned.
This year, there were a number of fine finishes but one, above all others, breathed needed life into one of boxing’s oldest weight divisions. When 2013 began, Chad Dawson was the reigning lineal Light Heavyweight king, coming off a knockout loss one division below. The man he’d won the title from, Bernard Hopkins, was nearing 50 and picked up another belt early in the year.
Damaged goods and old men aren’t adrenaline creators.
Enter one then-fringe contender from the Super Middleweight division.
2013 Knockout of the Year: Adonis Stevenson TKO1 Chad Dawson (Five 1st Place Votes, One 2nd Place Vote, One 3rd Place Vote)
Entering 2013, everyone knew Adonis “Superman” Stevenson could punch. He’d proven it with some highlight reel work at 168 lbs. None of those highlights had come against men seen as upper tier opponents. An early knockout loss to journeyman Darnell Boone had left question marks about his ceiling as well. He avenged the Boone loss to start his 2013 campaign and then got the call as Dawson’s first fight back at 175 lbs on June 8th.
The fight didn’t last long.
It began with both men working the jab. Dawson looked like his better self, snapping a fast jab and working from range. Stevenson started out jabbing to the body and then switching to the head. A fast right jab from the southpaw blinded the champion and then…
…a single left hand exploded to the head of Dawson and the champion was down and flat on his back. A dizzy Dawson lifted himself from the floor at six and watched the referee, swaying badly. The referee saw a man out on his feet and halted the bout as Stevenson went into a leaping celebration.
It was all over at 1:16 of the first round.
Just like that, Light Heavyweight had a new champion and new life. As noted here at BoxingScene :
Every once in a while, a puncher comes along who just has that extra level of nuclear. Ernie Shavers was like that. So was Julian Jackson. It appears Stevenson may be as well. Like both of those men, early evidence indicates he has vulnerabilities, but if he lands almost anyone can go to sleep.
One can’t be sure though until a fighter lands on someone who counts. Stevenson hadn’t faced a plethora of high quality foes. Dawson was a leap. Stevenson cleared it with a single bound.
Or, well, punch.
There may have been more final knockouts on the year but none were as important to the top of their class as this one. Adonis Stevenson arrived with a single left hand and, with two strong title defenses already under his belt, doesn’t look in a hurry to go anywhere. It was the Knockout of the Year.
Runner-Ups (In Order by Date)
Lucas Matthysse KO1 Mike Dallas (One 3rd Place Vote): Building on the buzz he generated in 2012, Matthysse walked through Dallas to begin his 2014 on January 26th. As reported by BoxingScene’s Rick Reeno:
Dallas came out a little wild and was throwing punches that were missing their mark. Matthysse was patient and caught Dallas with a perfect combination of punches to knock him out cold. A right hand caused most of the damage and a follow-up of shots put Dallas, who was already on his way down, fully out. The referee quickly waved off the contest and the ringside physicians rushed the ring.
Argenis Mendez KO4 Juan Carlos Salgado (Two 3rd Place Votes): Mendez suffered a loss to Salgado in 2011. He wasn’t going to let his second chance at the IBF 130 lb. title slip away on March 9th. Reynaldo Sanchez reported for BoxingScene :
Argenis Mendez…made good on the opportunity to get revenge with a thrilling…knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado…to capture the IBF super featherweight championship. Mendez dropped Salgado in the first with a hard right and then drilled him hard with a left in the fourth for a big knockout win.
Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr. KO3 Nimithra Sithsaithong (One 3rd Place Vote): The son and nephew of former world champions, Penalosa took another step forward in the Featherweight division in Macau on April 6th. As reported at BoxingScene:
An early night was suggested, but Penalosa Jr. was caught off guard when his leaky defense allowed two straight rights and a left hook to slip through and put him on the deck in the opening round. The sequence awoke the Filipino southpaw, who proceeded to light up Sithsaisong. Knockdowns followed in rounds two and three, including a savage right hook to the body to put Sithsaisong down and out at 2:54 of round three.
Lucas Matthysse TKO3 Lamont Peterson (One 3rd Place Vote): Fighting above the 140 lb. division and looking for an ultimately failed challenge of divisional kingpin Danny Garcia, Matthysse made easy work of a former titlist in the class on May 18th. David Greisman was ringside for BoxingScene:
Matthysse, emboldened, came out in the third with a wild punch that put himself down on what was correctly ruled a slip. He got up and sent out a left hook and a right hand. Peterson’s legs didn’t appear to be back yet, and he again complained to the referee, Steve Smoger, after being hit behind the head. This time, Smoger warned Matthysse.
Matthysse landed a left hook, and Peterson retaliated with a big right uppercut. Matthysse took the punch and continued to attack. The fight wouldn’t last much longer.
Both fighters soon sent left hooks out at the same time. Both punches landed, but Matthysse’s shot sent Peterson down hard. Peterson sat up but toppled back down. Matthysse lifted his arms in the air, sensing victory.
Peterson beat the count, but his time was running out.
Matthysse landed a right hand, and another left hook, and Peterson went down again. Smoger, who has a reputation for allowing hurt fighters to show whether they can recover, didn’t like what he saw from Peterson and waved the fight off.
Sergey Kovalev TKO3 Cornelius White (One 2nd Place Vote): Adonis Stevenson didn’t shake up Light Heavyweight alone. Russia’s Kovalev was the other half of a 1-2 punch that has boxing fans salivating about the division’s potential in 2014. His second start of 2014, on June 14th, followed a third-round statement knockout of former titlist Gabriel Campillo. Against White, Kovalev built a before heading for the showers early. As described by BoxingScene’s Jake Donovan :
After two rounds of landing a steady stream of power punches, Kovalev busted loose in the third. A heavy left jab produced the first of three knockdowns in the round, to White to his credit continued to climb off the deck. A flurry of punches both upstairs and to the body sent White to the canvas hard, to which he arose on wobbly legs.
The final sequence saw Kovalev score with a right hand upstairs to drive White to the ropes. A hailstorm of power punches resulted in the third knockdown, this time prompting referee Gary Rosato to intervene and wave off the contest.
This isn’t Kovalev’s last appearance on this list.
Gennady Golovkin KO3 Matthew Macklin (One 3rd Place Vote): The big knock on WBA Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin before 2013 has been his level of opposition since the 2004 Olympics. Macklin was a big time statement in that regard on June 29th. As reported at BoxingScene :
Macklin, always a warrior at heart, tried to find a miracle and landed a nice left hook as Golovkin came forward. Golovkin’s response to being tagged was to go right back to work. Backing Macklin into the ropes, an uppercut raised the guard of Macklin and a left to the body collapsed him to the floor. Macklin didn’t beat the ten count. He didn’t appear to beat the two-minute count, the devastation of the shot carrying well past the conclusion of referee Eddie Cotton’s count at 1:22 of round three.
Is anyone really surprised lineal Middleweight king Sergio Martinez is in no hurry to defend against Golovkin?
Curtis Stevens KO1 Saul Roman (Two 3rd Place Votes): Before he earned a crack at Golovkin later in the year, Stevens built momentum here on August 3rd. As reported by BoxingScene's Francisco Salazar :
The hard-hitting Roman was believed to be capable of giving Stevens some rounds. There were some who thought Roman would catch Stevens looking past him.
However, Stevens showed early in the opening round that he was better technician and the harder puncher of the two. That was evident about midway through the round as Stevens dropped Roman with a counter left hook to the head.
Roman got up and tried to fight back, trying to withstand the blitzkrieg that was Stevens’ offense. However, Roman dropped his right hand, allowing Stevens to throw and land another counter left hook to the head. Roman dropped flat onto his back, prompting referee Michael Ortega to immediately wave the fight over at 2:26.
Stephen Smith KO5 Gary Buckland (One 2nd Place Vote, One 3rd Place Vote): This 130 lb. clash on the August 17th undercard of Sergey Kovalev-Nathan Cleverly nearly stole the show. Alexey Sukachev provided coverage for BoxingScene :
Former British and Commonwealth featherweight titlist Smith, 28, was a considerable underdog to WBC/WBA/WBO #10 Welshman Buckland, one year his junior, who was on a nine-fight winning streak, which included wins over Gary Sykes (twice), Derry Matthews and Stephen Foster. Buckland started the fight coming forward - as a champion. Smith was moving backwards, but not without landing some blows of his own. Smith's left hooks to the body were quite effective in the first. Buckland did better in the next couple of rounds, showing activity and desire over skills of Smith. Smith did better with some hard punches in the fourth, but still the end came as a real surprise. Buckland leaned in and ate a head-wilting right uppercut and fell face-first on the canvas…reminiscent of the 2012 KOTY in Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao IV.
Jhonny Gonzalez KO1 Abner Mares (One 1st Place Vote, One 2nd Place Vote): If there was any result that could challenge Stevenson-Dawson as a knockout game-changer in its class, it might be this Featherweight upset. Mares had been on a roll from 118 to 126 lbs. with titles in all three classes. Gonazalez, a warrior known for dramatic wins and losses, was looking to regain the WBC belt he’d lost in 2012 to Daniel Ponce De Leon. He did just that on August 24th. Francisco Salazar provided the coverage for BoxingScene :
Gonzalez caught the fans, media, and even Mares by surprise when he landed a left hook to the head to send the defending champion to the canvas. Mares got up, but it looked as though his feet weren't underneath him.
Mares tried to fight back, dangerously exchanging with the hard-hitting Gonzalez while neglecting to hold on until his legs were stabilized. But that is not Mares, who has gained numerous fight fans with his boxer-puncher style.
Moments later, a combination by Gonzalez dropped Mares again to the canvas. Mares tried to get up, but referee Jack Reiss waved the fight over at 2:55.
While the debate is out whether Reiss should have allowed Mares to get up a second time, Mares didn't question the call.
Sergey Kovalev KO2 Ismayl Sillakh (One 1st Place Vote, One 2nd Place Vote, One 3rd Place Vote):
Kovalev finished a 4-0, 4 KO campaign in 2014 with a scorching performance. One fight after his win over White, he stopped undefeated Nathan Cleverly in four for the WBO belt at 175. Sillakh had been one of the top prospects in the class before a shocking loss to Denis Grachev. Kovalev made clear Sillakh wouldn’t be getting into the title picture at his expense on November 30th. As narrated at BoxingScene :
The opening stanza was measured, Sillakh boxing, moving, and looking to counter. Kovalev stalked, landing a good combination and beginning to vary his jab to the body as the round progressed. Thirty seconds into the second round, Kovalev found the opening he wanted, blistering Sillakh with a right hand and sending him to the deck.
Sillakh was up at three, his nose bloody, nodding to Wright that he could continue. Kovalev wasted no time ending matters, throttling Sillakh with another lethal right hand and putting his man to sleep under the ring ropes at :52 seconds of round number two .
Performances like this are why nothing is more hotly desired for 2014 than a Stevenson-Kovalev showdown.
BoxingScene Awards 2013
Robbery of the Year: Ricky Burns D12 Raymundo Beltran/Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD10 Brian Vera
Event of the Year: “The One”
Network of the Year: Showtime
Comeback of the Year: Giovani Segura
Prospect of the Year: Felix Verdejo
Round of the Year: Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 12
Fight of the Year: Tim Bradley UD12 Ruslan Provodnikov
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]