James Kirkland competed in what many felt was the Round of the Year. But have you seen all of the top contenders? (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Ryan Bivins joins the Bad Left Hook team today with a look at some of the best single rounds in boxing this year. This is video-heavy, so be ready for that, and also know this for sure: There's almost certainly something in here you haven't seen, and you need to see it.
What makes a great round? Is it sustained violence? Do both fighters need to be knocked down? Is it all of the above and maybe more?
We've had multiple examples of each this year, making choosing round of the year quite difficult. While James Kirkland vs Alfredo Angulo - Round 1 may be freshest in our minds, I'm not sure I'd call it the most violent affair, and it definitely didn't have the best knockdowns. Which fights did?
When it comes strictly to sustained violence, Pawel Wolak vs Delvin Rodriguez I - Round 9 and Akira Yaegashi vs Pornsawan Porpramook - Round 8 immediately come to mind. Knockdowns were never scored yet the audience was left on the edge of its seat wondering if someone would cave or be saved by his corner / the referee.
The action in general was so good in both of these fights that they're also serious Fight of the Year candidates. But while they may be the best overall fights in this category, I'm not sure either had the best round.
Despite being an obscure small town hall fight, Kreshnik Qato vs Steffan Hughes - Round 2 should not be ignored. It combined the devastating bombs generated in Yaegashi-Porpramook with the phone both fighting style of Wolak-Rodriguez. It was so brutal that one of the cornermen threw in the towel before the round ended. It was so thrilling that the referee was too intoxicated to even notice.
When the quality of the round is mostly based on the knockdowns that occurred in it, Andre Berto vs Victor Ortiz - Round 6 is the one most speak of. But lesser known examples of both fighters being dropped in the same round do exist, such as Hernan Marquez vs Luis Concepcion - Round 1, Ryol Li Lee vs Akifumi Shimoda - Round 3, and Callan Orchard vs Dinesh Kanth - Round 1. Save Lee-Shimoda, the others may still be worth mentioning if only one fighter was knocked down. Fights like that I made the next category for.
Often, there are rounds where one fighter establishes early dominance but later on gets dropped or stopped. A recent example is Samuel Vargas vs Ahmad Cheikho - Round 4, where Cheikho was dropped twice but saw out the round.
Just one week before that there was Antonio DeMarco vs Jorge Linares - Round 11, where DeMarco began to rally a minute into the round and bloodied Linares to a point where the referee felt compelled to stop the fight. It wasn't so amazing to see DeMarco comeback in that round specifically, as he was only out boxed and not beaten up, but to see him do it in a fight where he arguably lost every prior round is truly inspiring.
Finally, you have the rounds with sustained two way brutality and both fighters tasting the canvas, like Kirkland-Angulo, but also like Edgar Lopez vs Felix Rivera - Round 2. The latter most did not see. It aired late at night on Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate", an undercard bout to Jayson Velez vs Carlos Valcarcel (a fight you also probably didn't see). Simply put, it was glorious. The round begins with Rivera all over Lopez from the onslaught. Lopez was battered into a corner and dropped with a right hook only 20 seconds into the round. He looked finished. He had a glazed over look in his eyes and needed to clutch to the second rope to pull himself up. Rivera continued his mostly one sided attack in the middle of the ring for next minute before Lopez regrouped and began to put solid combinations together.
Halfway into the round Lopez landed a big straight right hand that Rivera responded to by sticking his tongue out. The two continued to stand and trade in the middle of the ring with Rivera trying to land another big hook and Lopez intelligently working the body and head with combinations. Then with 51 seconds to go in the round, Lopez landed an unusual combination for an orthodox fighter to throw. He led with the right hand and followed it up with a left hook. There was no jab to set it up, but the fatigued Rivera was caught by both punches flush and dropped face first like a sack of bricks. No count from the referee was required. Rivera was knocked out, and it was one of the best knockouts of the year.
2011 Heavyweight Round of the Year: Joey Wilson vs "King"Afa Tatupu - Round 3
Due to the casual reader's general wonderment when bombarded with "midget" fights, I go the extra mile to present to you the best that boxing's most prestigious division has to offer. It's not pretty. They're not skilled technicians. But it's actually quite good. No further description necessary, just watch and enjoy.
For more outstanding rounds from 2011 be sure to visit Sweet Boxing.