No one saw it coming.

No one, that is, other than Brian Mendoza.

The junior middleweight contender was well aware that Sebastian Fundora’s defensive deficiencies made the 6-foot-6 southpaw susceptible to left hooks. Though undoubtedly down on the scorecards entering the seventh round April 8 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, Mendoza realized that if he could connect cleanly with one of his left hooks that he could change the course of their 12-round fight for Fundora’s WBC interim super welterweight title.

Mendoza drilled Fundora with a left hook that wobbled him early in the seventh round. As soon as the Albuquerque native knew he hurt Fundora, Mendoza quickly followed up with a right-left combination that knocked Fundora flat on his back 27 seconds into the seventh round.

A disoriented Fundora couldn’t even attempt to beat referee Ray Corona’s count. Mendoza, who produced’s 2023 “Knockout of the Year,” was declared the winner of their “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event at 39 seconds of the seventh round.

Fundora (20-1-1, 13 KOs), of Coachella, California, led on the scorecards of judges Lou Moret (60-54), Nathan Palmer (59-55) and Zachary Young (60-54) when Mendoza knocked out the 9-1 favorite.

“It’s not that we went in there banking on just a knockout,” Mendoza told “You know, I was still expecting to win the second half very dominantly. That was more the goal because I don’t go in there looking for one shot. I don’t go in there thinking, ‘All right, I’m just gonna knock this guy out eventually.’ I do go in there trying to win. We have a game plan we follow and that was the thing.

“And, you know, thankfully, as soon as the second half started I caught him with that shot. And absolutely, I was saying that even in the buildup, you know, I felt like he had a lot of defensive flaws and I was just, you know, the guy to finally take advantage of it.”

His impressive victory moved Mendoza (22-3, 16 KOs) into position to challenge WBO junior middleweight champ Tim Tszyu (24-0, 17 KOs) in his following fight. Sydney’s Tszyu defeated Mendoza by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder October 15 at Gold Coast Convention Centre in Broadbeach, Australia.

RUNNERS-UP (listed chronologically)

David Morrell Jr. over Yamaguchi Falcao

Morrell’s picturesque right hook knocked Falcao face-first to the canvas April 22 on the Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia undercard at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Referee Celestino Ruiz immediately waved an end to their scheduled 12-round super middleweight match only 2:22 into the first round. Brazil’s Falcao (24-2-1, 10 KOs), a late replacement for Ghana’s Sena Agbeko, had not been knocked out in any of his first 26 professional fights. Morrell (10-0, 9 KOs), a southpaw from Cuba, has scored seven consecutive knockouts.  

Junto Nakatani over Andrew Moloney

Nakatani nailed Moloney with a devastating left hand that knocked the Australian contender down awkwardly, with his left leg bent beneath him, with 21 seconds to go in the 12th round May 20 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Referee Mark Nelson quickly called an end to a one-sided fight in which the battered, bloodied Moloney was dropped during the second and 11th rounds and had taken a beating from Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs). Moloney’s handlers considered stopping their fight for the then-vacant WBO junior bantamweight title before the 12th round began, but the Japanese southpaw was afforded the opportunity to finish Moloney (26-3, 16 KOs, 1 NC) in spectacular fashion on the Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko undercard.

Anthony Joshua over Robert Helenius

It took six rounds longer, but Joshua drilled Helenius with a right hand and viciously knocked him out in similar fashion to how Deontay Wilder demolished Helenius in the first round of their October 2022 bout at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Joshua-Helenius was swiftly stopped by referee Victor Loughlin as soon as Finland’s Helenius collapsed to the canvas at 1:27 of the seventh round August 12 at O2 Arena in London. Helenius (32-5, 21 KOs) replaced Joshua’s original opponent, British rival Dillian Whyte, on less than one week’s notice because one of Whyte’s pre-fight performance-enhancing drug tests detected “adverse analytical findings.” England’s Joshua (27-3, 24 KOs) went the 12-round distance in each of his three previous fights – a unanimous victory over Jermaine Franklin and back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk.

Yoenis Tellez over Livan Navarro

Cuba’s Tellez drilled Navarro with a perfectly executed left hook that knocked Navarro flat on his back, beneath a bottom rope, December 15 at Caribe Royale Orlando in Orlando, Florida. Referee Alica Collins waved an end to the action as soon as Navarro fell, 1:21 into the 10th and final round on the Jake Paul-Andre August undercard. The 23-year-old Tellez (7-0, 6 KOs), a promising prospect in the junior middleweight division, was way ahead on two scorecards and had hurt Cuba’s Navarro (15-2, 9 KOs) several times before that highlight-reel stoppage.

Jose Valenzuela over Chris Colbert

Valenzuela (13-2, 9 KOs) emphatically ended their rematch by clocking Colbert with a sweeping right hook that knocked Colbert cold in the sixth round December 16 at The Armory in Minneapolis. The force of the strong southpaw’s shot dropped Colbert onto the bottom rope and spun him around. Referee Joel Scobie stopped the action at 1:46 of the sixth round. Valenzuela avenged his close loss to Colbert (17-2, 6 KOs) on March 25 at MGM Grand Garden Arena and ensured that the judges didn’t factor into this outcome. The 24-year-old Mexican dropped Colbert less than 30 seconds into their first fight, but Brooklyn’s Colbert got up, recovered, landed a lot of jabs and won by the same score, 95-94, on the scorecards of judges Glenn Feldman, Lisa Giampa and Don Trella.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.