HBO Boxing Insiders Year End Picks: Best Blow

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

More: Boxing's Best from 2015

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 the Best Blow landed this year.

Previously:

Fighter of the Year

Fight of the Year

Round of the Year

KO of the Year

Kieran Mulvaney: Francisco Vargas Lands a Right Hand on Takashi Miura, Round 9

In a fight that had already had two acts (Act One: Vargas Nearly Knocks Out Miura; Act Two: Miura Asserts Himself and Beats Vargas Up), the third and final act, so much shorter than the others, opened with a bolt from the blue in the form of a Vargas right hand. That punch short-circuited Miura and sent him down hard; and even though Miura stood up to beat the count, the repercussions of that blow were too great and a follow-up Vargas barrage prompted Tony Weeks to stop the fight.

Eric Raskin: Canelo's Uppercut vs. Kirkland

I was tempted to pick Jessie Vargas' final-round knee-buckler against Tim Bradley, but as we all know, that Best Blow contender was immediately followed by a Worst Blown Call contender. So I'll go obvious…with a twist. Rather than select the knockout blow from the Canelo-Kirkland fight, I'll take the sizzling shot that softened Kirkland up, the right uppercut that Kirkland leaned directly into that floored him for the first time in the round. A few seconds later, he would go down for good.

Nat Gottlieb: Ortiz's Round 7 Uppercut Against Jennings

The uppercut Luis Ortiz landed on Bryant Jennings in round 7 was the best blow of 2015 for more than one reason. On the surface it was a great shot because it was the beginning of the end for Jennings. More than that, it was a blow that marked a new era in the heavyweight division. With the loss by perennial champion Wladimir Klitschko to Tyson Fury, the door is wide open for a new star in the heavyweight division. With that punch Ortiz stepped into the picture.

Oliver Goldstein: Ortiz's Round 7 Uppercut Against Jennings

Jennings got up, only to be stopped later, but Luis Ortiz's left uppercut which sent Jennings face first into the canvas was my blow of the year. On a deeply significant night for Ortiz, which makes him one of Tyson Fury's likeliest contenders next year, this delivered severe notice of his power, smashing Jennings's head back in the clinch and crashing him to the canvas.

Diego Morilla: Canelo Knocks Out Kirkland

When you see a fighter rushing to celebrate a stoppage win without even looking back to see if his foe has managed to survive the count, you're not witnessing an act of arrogance. You're just watching a guy who is fully aware of his own punching power abandoning the scene of the crime after knowing for a fact that his bombs have already landed. A true marksman doesn't need to keep his eye on the scope to watch his prey fall to the ground. He knows the poor creature is done for as soon as the bullet leaves the gun. And that was young Saul Alvarez in Houston, after delivering his devastating right hand to James Kirkland's chin, one that spun the otherwise durable Kirkland in mid-air and sent him on a one-way, face-first trip to the canvas. One fraction of a second ahead of all of us, Canelo knew what he had done. And he was already standing on the second-rope turnbuckles of a neutral corner with his hands in the air in celebration while the referee was waving off the bout. That's how demolishing this knockout was.

Carlos Acevedo: Ortiz's Round 7 Uppercut Against Jennings

Saul Alvarez probably deserves this spot as well for his lights-out kayo of James Kirkland, but when a heavyweight lands a precise bomb, extraordinary things can happen. In this case, it was Luis Ortiz taking a step back and countering an onrushing Bryant Jennings with a perfectly timed uppercut that could be heard across the Eastern Seaboard. Jennings crashed, face-first, like a house hit by a wrecking ball. Incredibly, Jennings somehow beat the count but the fight was stopped moments later after a follow-up barrage from Ortiz. Heavyweights remain intriguing because of the implied relationship between size and power. Against Jennings, Ortiz proved that such a correlation, every once in a while, is true.

Bob Canobbio, President and Founder of CompuBox: Golovkin Body Blow that Dropped Lemieux in Round Five

Frank Della Femina: Cotto's Left Hook Knocks Out Daniel Geale

I'm tempted to go with Canelo-Kirkland again but I'll pull back the reins just a bit and go with Cotto-Geale instead. That signature left hook was in prime form against Geale, so much so that he nearly put the guy through the ropes when he landed it. Although Cotto would later go on to lose to Canelo on the cards in November, that signature punch really stands out as one of my favorites in 2015.

Frank Miller: Canelo Knocks Out Kirkland

Kirkland's body hits the canvas in a way that doesn't look, sound, or feel good by any measure. Alvarez had already knocked Kirkland down twice in three rounds and connected on 60% of his power punches. To make matters worse, Canelo isn't even touched on the final blow—in fact, he ducks under Kirkland's left hook rather gracefully. 

Michael Gluckstadt: Golovkin Lands an Uppercut on Lemieux's Chin

It's possible other punches looked more devastating in slow motion, but this was the only moment in 2015 when I actually thought I might see someone's head removed from the rest of their body. Lemieux's head snapped back violently – his flopping hair contributing somewhat to the effect – and for a split second I thought I'd seen a Pez dispenser in the ring. 

Boxing's Best of 2015: Full Fights

HBO presents “Boxing’s Best,” nine of the year’s standout fights. Featured in the nine-fight series are signature performances by Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Terence Crawford, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Timothy Bradley Jr.

The Latest From The Fight Game With Jim Lampley

HBO Boxing Podcast - Episode 76 - Crawford vs Jean Preview

HBO Boxing insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney break down the upcoming fight between Terence Crawford and Dierry Jean on HBO World Championship Boxing, Saturday night at 9:30 PM ET/PT.

HBO Boxing Podcast - Episode 75 - Golovkin vs Lemieux Live Postfight

Live from Madison Square Garden, HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney discuss Gennady Golovkin's 8th round TKO of David Lemieux and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez's sparkling performance against Brian Viloria.

WATCH: Golovkin-Lemieux and Gonzalez-Viloria Highlights

Watch highlights from the Oct. 17 bouts between Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Brian Viloria. 

Golovkin Seeks, Stalks, Stops Lemieux

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

In the end, it wasn’t quite the Hagler-Hearns redux that many had anticipated. Despite carrying a total of 61 career KOs from 67 wins as professionals, Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux did not engage in a brief but brutal slugfest; instead, the technical dominance of Golovkin, as much as his heavy hands, carried him to a one-sided win over a game Lemieux, who never stopped attempting to land the powerful punch that might have turned the contest in his favor, but was ultimately rescued from himself by referee Steve Willis in the eighth round.

For all the talk of both men’s power, it was clear from the opening seconds that the Golovkin jab would be the key to the fight, as he speared Lemieux with it from the very beginning of the bout, snapping back his opponent’s head and teeing up punishing overhand rights to the temple. Always efficient and effective with his jab, Golovkin tonight landed 170 of 359 thrown according to CompuBox, a connect percentage of 47 percent, and an average of 21 jabs landed per round – four times that of the typical middleweight.

Whereas Lemieux was a man in constant motion, a blur of upper-body activity culminating in right hands flung in his foe’s direction, Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs) was calmness personified, stalking his prey methodically and stepping subtly out of range of those increasingly desperate rights. The first sign of the trouble that lay ahead for Lemieux came in the second, when a Golovkin hook lifted the Canadian’s foot off the floor and a follow-up right hand knocked him into the ropes.

To his credit, Lemieux (34-3, 31 KOs) chose to fight fire with fire, but even as his aggression increased, the effectiveness of it did not. As if in the Matrix, Golovkin seemed largely able to slip and parry Lemieux’s punches, and even those that did land rarely did so flush. Forced to launch power punches from a distance, Lemieux seldom had his feet fully under him and accordingly failed to generate the power that had proven so effective his previous foes. Golovkin, in contrast, rarely seemed out of position, always appeared balanced and set, always staring at Lemieux and hunting and breaking him down.

It is one of Golovkin’s great qualities that he is able to switch up his punches without warning, and after thudding Lemieux’s face and head with jabs and overhand rights, he dug a left to the body in the fifth that froze his foe before the man from Montreal, on a delayed reaction, took a step back and dropped to his knee.

Golovkin, dialed in on his attack, landed a punch to Lemieux’s head before Willis could interfere and the horrified thought occurred that if Lemieux were to collapse to the canvas, the result could be a controversial disqualification. But Golovkin immediately apologized profusely and Lemieux, to his credit, chose continued combat over a Purple Heart and a ticket home; but it was a battle he looked decreasingly likely to win.

Lemieux nonetheless perhaps fought his hardest in the sixth and seventh, flinging right hands as best he could, but it was to no avail. Another body shot hurt Lemieux again in the eighth, another flurry of punches backed him to the ropes, yet one more body shot had him wincing and retreating and glancing at Willis, and then the referee stepped in to bring it all to an end at 1:32 of the round. Out of context, the stoppage may have seemed slightly strange, but Lemieux’s hopes of victory had all but been extinguished and there was no need for him to take further punishment.

Despite the one-sided nature of his loss, Lemieux remained defiant at the end.

“I'll meet him in the near future,” he said. “I'll keep my mouth shut tonight. But I'll see him in the future.”

Golovkin, however, having added Lemieux’s middleweight belt to his own, has his eyes focused elsewhere.

“My goal is all the belts in the middleweight division,” he said, and then turned his attention to the 20,548 fans who had packed Madison Square Garden. “I told you this was a very important fight. I give my fans and friends a big show. Thank you my fans. Thank you my people.”

With All Fighters Making Weight, the Garden Stage Is Set for Fireworks

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

There were times on Friday when it seemed one or more of the fighters on Saturday night’s HBO Boxing pay-per-view might throw a wrench in the works by failing to make weight. Certainly, two of those fighters – David Lemieux, who takes on Gennady Golovkin in the main event; and Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, who clashes with Brian Viloria for flyweight honors in the co-main – seemed concerned they might exceed the contracted limit.

As Gonzalez stepped on the scales, the Nicaraguan flag that his team held in front of him, while ostensibly a patriotic gesture, seemed positioned to protect his modesty in case he was obliged to completely disrobe to come in at 112 pounds or fewer; and although he did not have to take that step, and in fact tipped the scales at a mere 111.4, he did afterward refer to the fact that in making weight, he had won his first fight of the week.

Lemieux didn’t even hesitate to discard his underwear, stepping naked onto the scale behind an oversized towel – although he also registered a weight that was safely inside the limit.

Hopefully, neither man has drained himself unduly in making weight, because both figure to be in tough, almost certainly exciting contests against dangerous foes. Both bouts feature two undefeated champions considered the very best in the world (Golovkin and Gonzalez) taking on opponents who have been at, or en route to, the mountaintop before, until forced by defeat to begin their ascent anew. Lemieux was something of a golden child at middleweight until being derailed by back-to-back losses in 2011; since then, however, he has been on a winning and knockout streak. Viloria has been up and down the mountain so many times he likely has a timeshare at the summit: three times he has won and then lost titles at 108 and 112 pounds, but even as he closes in on 35 years old, the 2000 Olympian is arguably in the form of his life.

It is a sign of just how compelling this card is that even though Golovkin and Gonzalez are considered among the very best pound-for-pound (specifically, #2 and #1, according to ESPN), and Golovkin in particular is almost universally regarded as a superstar in the making, victories for either Viloria or Lemieux – or even both – are entirely improbable, given the skills and power that both possess. Don’t be surprised, either, if all four fights on the televised card wind up ending in knockouts; this is not one of those evenings to be making regular refrigerator runs. There have admittedly been plenty of occasions in boxing’s past when the reality has not met the hype; it is genuinely hard to see how Saturday night can fail to do so.

 

Weights from Madison Square Garden, New York:

Gennady Golovkin: 159.4 lbs.

David Lemieux: 159.8 lbs.

 

Roman Gonzalez: 111.4 lbs.

Brian Viloria: 111.4 lbs.

 

Luis Ortiz: 237.8 lbs.

Matias Vidondo: 261.0 lbs.

 

Tureano Johnson:159.4 lbs.

Eamonn O’Kane: 160.0 lbs.