As the end of the year approaches, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on the network and HBO PPV in 2015. Here, they make their selections for Round of the Year.
Kieran Mulvaney: Francisco Vargas vs. Takashi Miura, Round 9
Not because it was three minutes of nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth, see-saw action, but because of its sheer unpredictability, the suddenness with which it turned the fight's narrative on its head, and the willful refusal to lay down that enabled Vargas, battered at the end of the previous round and with one eye almost completely closed, to come out aggressively, unleash a right hand that flattened Miura, and secure the dramatic finish.
Eric Raskin: Francisco Vargas vs. Takashi Miura, Round 9
In a close call over assorted stirring rounds from the Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal and Lucas Matthysse-Ruslan Provodnikov scraps, the final round of Vargas-Miura gets the nod on the strength of its unpredictability and drama. At the end of the eighth round, there were calls to stop the fight on account of the beating Vargas had taken. But the Mexican came out the next round and dropped Miura hard with a combination of a straight right hand, a right uppercut, and a left hook. Vargas followed up furiously and Miura stood his ground until referee Tony Weeks had seen enough, calling for the stoppage at 1:31 of the round. Yes, it was only half as long as all the other Round of the Year contenders. But it packed doubly intense thrills into those 91 seconds.
Nat Gottlieb: Canelo Alvarez vs. Miguel Cotto, Round 8
In one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year it was round eight that lived up to the expectations. Both fighters came out hard in the early seconds and let it all hang out. Cotto was determined to land big shots, and he did, but every flurry was met with determined retaliation from Canelo. Cotto would not relent, though, and until the closing bell the two exchanged pure power to the delight of fans.
Oliver Goldstein: Francisco Vargas vs. Takashi Miura, Rounds 8/9
Not quite a round, but the end of the eighth and the start of the ninth in Miura-Vargas were extraordinary, self-sufficient in their own right but together something else. His legs spooling beneath him through the final ten seconds of the eighth, Francisco Vargas somehow had them steady again at the beginning of the next, when he caught Miura ten seconds in with a dead straight right and follow-up combination that had his opponent out on his feet. These, then, were my thirty seconds of the year: without a category of their own, moreover, good enough to scrape into another elsewhere.
Diego Morilla: Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 11
Lost in the brutal back-and-forth of one of the most brutal punch-outs of the year was this gem of a round. Perhaps it wasn't more violent or more technical or even more exciting than any of the others, but just watching Matthysse trying briefly to regain control of a fight he had dominated for six rounds and have a bloody and exhausted Provodnikov respond to every combination and surge to win the round was, in that particular moment of the bout, a testimony of the courage and the grit that these two fighters possess, in a round in which almost every other fighter in the world would have slowed down the pace and went through the motions just to stay alive.
Harold Lederman: Francisco Vargas vs. Takashi Miura, Round 9
Carlos Acevedo: Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 12
It was hard to believe that any man—even one trained to master pain—could endure the punishment that Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov meted out against one another in the fourth round of their savage war last April. After taking nothing but punishment for three rounds, Provodnikov ignored the pain, as well as the blood dripping in rivulets from his eye, and charged Matthysse at the start of the fourth. By refusing to yield after falling behind early, Provodnikov set the stage for the classic that unfolded over the last half of the fight. Never the most elegant fighter, Provodnikov began to slip and counter more effectively as he crowded Matthysse in close. A series of single left hooks and straight rights staggered Matthysse early in the round, but "The Machine" responded with a right uppercut to the jaw that landed like an RPG. Undaunted, Provodnikov pressed forward. A sweeping left shook Matthysse and an overhand right drove him into the ropes. Matthysse, unsteady, eyes slightly unfocused, reached out and forced a clinch, but when the action resumed, Provodnikov wobbled him again. They were still assaulting each other when the bell rang to end the fight.
Bob Canobbio, President and Founder of CompuBox: Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Round 3
They combined to land 57 of 173 total punches. Mattysse landed 33 of 96 overall and 24 of 41 power shots. Provodnikov went 24 of 77, including 20 of 62 power shots.
Frank Della Femina: Canelo Alvaraez vs. James Kirkland, Round 1
Round 1 of Canelo-Kirkland set the pace for what would be a fast and enthralling fight. Right out of the gate it was clear the fight wasn't going 12 rounds – it could've ended at any second. Sometimes fighters come out and feel the other guy out for the first round or two. But when you have a fight start like this, you know it's going to be fireworks. The only risk to the viewer is in blinking. You might miss the KO.
Frank Miller: Francisco Vargas vs. Takashi Miura, Round 9
I was well aware that I watching Fight of the Year and Round of the Year as soon as Tony Weeks waived the fight off. Francisco Vargas had given his all to win the fight by KO. The fans at Mandalay Bay voiced their appreciation for him after Miura went down and the excitement in Jim Lampley's voice was more than noticeable as he called the action for those watching. No boxing here. Just straight brawling.
Michael Gluckstadt: Sergey Kovalev vs. Jean Pascal, Round 5
This wasn't the most dramatic round of the year (that'd be Vargas-Miura 9), the most action-packed (Canelo-Kirkland 1), or even the most heart-stopping (Matthysse-Provodnikov, take your pick). But it was, to me, the most exciting. Over 20,000 screaming Canadians had just seen their hometown hero sink through the ropes less than two rounds earlier, and it seemed like Sergey Kovalev was cruising to another KO victory. But in the fifth, Pascal showcased his ample athleticism, countering Kovalev with a left, and following up with a big right hand that sent Kovalev reeling into the ropes for what felt like the first time ever. Even if Pascal hadn't entered the ring to music from Rocky IV, you could be forgiven for thinking, "the Russian is cut!" As it turned out, the Russian wasn't cut, and he went on to win the fight rather handily. But for a few short moments on a blizzarding Montreal night, it looked as though this year's Rocky sequel was coming out earlier than expected.