Knockout of the Year Nominations:
Julius Indongo KO1 Eduard Troyanovsky
Thomas Williams Jr. KO2 Edwin Rodriguez
Jason Sosa TKO11 Javier Fortuna
Adonis Stevenson KO4 Thomas Williams Jr.
Joe Smith Jr. KO8 Bernard Hopkins
Joe Smith Jr. TKO1 Andrzej Fonfara
Vasyl Lomachenko KO5 Rocky Martinez
[Ed. Note: “And where,” you ask, “is Canelo vs Khan? Isn’t that one of the year’s most stupendous one-punch knockouts?” In a word, no. Conspicuous by its absence, the Canelo Alvarez vs Amir Khan knockout was disqualified from consideration here principally because Alvarez likely enjoyed a roughly 20 pound weight advantage, if not more, and we do not approve of such things. While we applaud Khan’s willingness to move up and face Alvarez, given the circumstances, Canelo’s knockout win hardly qualifies as an outstanding feat.]
It was finally time for Bernard Hopkins to say goodbye. Ever since he had dropped a one-sided decision to Sergey Kovalev in 2014, the man they had called “The Executioner” couldn’t bring himself to walk away and kept hinting at a return, though even he acknowledged time was running out.
When it was announced that his farewell fight would be against Joe Smith Jr., the unknown who had demolished Andrzej Fonfara in one round, the focus was all on Hopkins and not on the match at hand. The sole purpose of the event was for the man who had proven himself a latter-day great, one of the most cagey champions in the history of the sport, to finally ride off into the sunset with one last victory. Leading up to the match, almost no one was willing to pick Smith to win. This was Hopkins’ show and everyone assumed he knew what he was doing.
But then the bell rang and it didn’t take much in the way of penetrating boxing insight to see that everyone’s preconceptions of this match were off the mark, that “The Executioner” made a huge miscalculation. A right hand buckled Bernard’s legs in the first round and it was pretty much downhill from there as the bigger, younger man chased the former champion around the ring, repeatedly forcing him to the ropes and landing solid body punches. Still, the veteran was competing and there was no reason to think a stoppage was about to happen. After all, no one had ever scored a knockout over Hopkins, not even Sergey Kovalev.
And then it happened: in round eight Hopkins once again found himself cornered, but this time instead of clinching or maneuvering away he absorbed a flush right hand to the side of the head that clearly stunned him. Badly hurt, he sagged into the ropes before Smith’s follow-up flurry knocked him clean out of the ring. While conscious and able to get to his feet, Hopkins made little effort to get step back through the ropes, a telling fact in and of itself. Always a proud competitor, had Bernard been able to continue, one imagines he would have. Instead, in his final fight, he was counted out for the first time in his career.
No doubt 2016 saw knockouts more devastating and violent, but none more consequential or significant. This was the final fight in the career of a legit all-time great champion, a boxer who had never been knocked out. In fact, after dropping a decision to Roy Jones Jr. way back in 1993, one could argue that none of the losses on his record since (with the exception of the Kovalev defeat) represented comprehensive losses where the other man clearly got the better of him. Tenacity and longevity made Hopkins’ career extraordinary, that through his 40’s and into his 50’s, he could take on the very best competition and always hold his own.
But, ironically, not against Joe Smith Jr. All of boxing was set and ready to bid Hopkins a fond farewell as he claimed a final win. Instead, we could barely believe our eyes as he was punched through the ropes and into retirement in 2016’s KO of the Year.
Runner Up: Joe Smith Jr. TKO1 Andrzej Fonfara