Photo: Will Hart
With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2016. Here, they make their selections for "Best Blow" -- not necessarily a knockout, but the single punch that stuck out to them the most.
Eric Raskin: Kell Brook’s uppercut versus Gennady Golovkin
Maybe it wasn’t the best punch of the year. In fact, I know for sure it wasn’t, given how many sensational knockouts we saw on HBO in 2016. But perhaps the most memorable punch, and the one I least saw coming, was unfurled by Brook in the second round of his challenge of Gennady Golovkin. There was a little less than a minute to go in the round, and Brook had been executing his game plan effectively—throwing a variety of shots from an assortment of angles, some piercing through or looping around GGG’s guard—when the Brit snuck in a sizzling left uppercut that popped Golovkin’s head straight up in the air. Golovkin walked through it, sure. But there was something shocking about seeing Brook’s speed and craft befuddle GGG, however briefly. Brook didn’t win the fight. He didn’t come close, really. But he’ll always have that uppercut that made Golovkin’s fans feel, for just a moment, the terror of a possible disaster.
Kieran Mulvaney: Golovkin breaks Brook’s face
I’m not sure exactly which punch it was, but at some point in the third round of his battle with a surprisingly spirited Brook, Golovkin landed one of his signature, thumping blows to Brook’s eye and broke his orbital socket, and from that moment on their fight was effectively over as a meaningful contest. Honorable mention also to Golovkin, for knocking out Dominic Wade with a punch to the shoulder.
Diego Morilla: Canelo Alvarez’s KO punch against Amir Khan
Alvarez’s progress has been clearly noticeable to every fight fan in the world, with the notable exception of a limited but vocal anti-Canelo crowd in Mexico that refuses to give him credit – even at the expense of having their patriotism questioned. Well, if his one-punch demolition of Khan didn’t do it for them, I don’t know what will. Alvarez served notice of his punch-placement improvement when he landed a long, looping hook on Khan in the fifth round, stating his intention to go way out of the striking zone to connect with power, and all while dodging punches from all angles. But the perfectly timed, demolishing right hand that sent Khan to the canvas for the full count not only produced one of the most spectacular stoppages of the entire year but also let the world -- including his still incredulous compadres -- know that Canelo’s place in the pound-for-pound lists is more than justified.
Nat Gottlieb: Joe Smith Jr. retires Hopkins with battering TKO
Smith denied the great Hopkins a graceful exit from boxing. He hammered him on the ropes in the eighth round until he punched Hopkins through the ropes and out of the ring. Hopkins was unable to get back in the ring for the mandatory 20 count and it was ruled a technical knockout. It was the first and only knockout loss in Hopkins’ 67-fight career. As retirements go, this was a rather rude and oddly symbolic way for Hopkins to say goodbye.
Hamilton Nolan: Sergey Kovalev drops Andre Ward
Kovalev knocked down Ward in the second round with a right hand. This was the punch that should have provided Kovalev’s margin of victory if the fight was scored fairly, in my opinion. Regardless, it proved both that Kovalev is dangerous no matter how skillful his opponent, and that Ward’s decision to go up in weight could prove damaging to his record of dominance.
Oliver Goldstein: Golovkin's left hook to Brook's body
It took Gennady Golovkin five rounds to finish Kell Brook when they met in September at the O2 Arena in London, so my favorite shot of the year — a Golovkin hook to the body — was largely irrelevant, coming as it did in the first and immediately before Brook’s two best rounds. Even so, it was quite a moment. This was my first time attending a Golovkin fight: I sat at the top of the O2 and, surrounded by fans convinced of a Brook victory, you couldn’t quite hear the thud of Golovkin’s first body shot from there but you could feel it, and in feeling it you could hear and hurt and taste it too. At least where I was sitting, everyone gasped as Brook wilted. GGG would find the winning shot soon enough.