With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders are taking a look back at 2014. Here, they make their selections for the best round on the network this year:
Kieran Mulvaney: Tie: Cotto-Martinez, Round 1/Kovalev-Hopkins, Round 12
There were plenty of back-and-forth donnybrook rounds, including the ninth round of Terence Crawford-Yuriorkis Gamboa and the fourth frame of David Lemieux-Gabriel Rosado, but partly to be contrarian and partly because to me they were more memorable, I'm picking a pair of rounds that, far from being even, were hugely one-sided.
Even with a recent history of physical ailments, Martinez was favored heading into his middleweight title defense against Cotto, but the Puerto Rican soon blew away the betting lines, as neither the champion's chin nor his balky knees could stand up to Cotto's patented left hooks. The roars that greeted the sight of Martinez hitting the canvas three times in those first three minutes all but lifted the proverbial roof off the proverbial place.
And after eleven rounds of patient boxing, Kovalev erupted in the twelfth to batter Hopkins around the ring in a manner that was – excuse the pun – completely alien to the wily veteran. The shock at the prospect of seeing Hopkins stopped yielded to a desire to see him survive to the final bell and ultimately to a realization that, even if he fights one more time at age 50 just so he can say that he did, it was likely the final round of a lengthy and distinguished championship career.
Eric Raskin: Lemieux-Rosado, Round 4
When my podcast partner Kieran Mulvaney talks about humdingers and slobberknockers, it's rounds like this that he's talking about. Rosado's unreliable (or, more accurately, reliably disastrous) left eye had swollen nearly shut in the third round, and he came out for the next round desperate to swing the momentum. Back and forth they brawled, a couple of cavemen holding invisible clubs, each with the power to crumple the other at any moment. Neither landed that perfect shot, but it was edge-of-your-seat stuff because of the ever-present possibility.
Hamilton Nolan: Cotto-Martinez, Round 1
Many, many, many people doubted that Miguel Cotto could move up in weight and challenge the middleweight champ. Many people thought Cotto was too small to hurt Martinez. It only took the first good hook of the first round to destroy all of those assumptions.
Nat Gottlieb: Crawford-Gamboa, Round 5
After losing the first four rounds, mostly fighting in the orthodox stance, Crawford caught Gamboa with a crushing left hook to the head and followed with another left to knock Gamboa down. Those two knockdowns were a game-changer.
Oliver Goldstein: Cotto-Martinez, Round 1
No doubt there were better rounds in terms of action this year, but the berserk first three minutes between Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez are the ones I'll remember in future. Why? Well, there were the three knockdowns here, of course, all caused by some beautiful left-hooking. Is that enough to make it Round of the Year? No, probably not. But there is something else that has stuck with me from the first round between Martinez and Cotto, a brief moment after the second knockdown, when Martinez's knees — protected by heavy strapping, previously hidden under pointedly long shorts — quickly revealed themselves before he scrambled back to his feet. There, briefly, was the desperate futility of it all, unveiled in a flash, a strangely pithy image of age and decline and inevitable loss: the wound that wounds. And a reminder: boxing does tell its trauma quietly, from time to time.
Tim Smith: Algieri-Provodnikov, Round 1
It looked like Provodnikov was on his way to blitzing through Algieri with two powerful knockdowns. But Algieri got up from both of them and survived a badly swollen eye to pull off one of the most stunning upsets of 2014.
Diego Morilla: Marquez-Alvarado, Round 9
If there is something even stranger than seeing lighting striking twice, it's seeing the same lightning striking twice. Earlier in round 8, Marquez had landed a crushing right cross that sent Alvarado on his back and through the lower ropes of the ring while flapping his arms looking for balance. In the following round, Alvarado retaliated with the exact same punch, which landed in the exact same location (left cheekbone) and produced the exact same result. Marquez went down (although not as spectacularly as Alvarado) and what ensued was a classic mini-war of attrition, a two-minute slugfest between the wounded lion and the pissed-off hunter, between the rebellious student and the teacher bent on finishing his lesson, a bloody toe-to-toe stand-off between two proud warriors going for the kill. A terrific statement from both fighters and the peak of an emotional, intense fight.
Michael Gluckstadt: Lemieux-Rosado, Round 4
This round had its share of memorable images. A game Rosado, his eye swollen closed, urging his opponent forward. Lemieux happily obliging with a thunderous hook. But the picture that sticks out in my mind is the smiling face of referee Steve Willis, a decidedly neutral third party, who – like the thousands of screaming Brooklyn fight fans surrounding him – proved unable to contain his glee at the fracas breaking out in front of him.