2017 Knockout Of The Year

Nominations:
Zolani Tete KO1 Siboniso Gonya
Eleider Alvarez KO5 Lucian Bute
Terence Crawford KO3 Julius Indongo
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai KO4 Roman Gonzalez
David Benavidez TKO8 Rogelio Medina
David Lemieux KO3 Curtis Stevens
Mikey Garcia KO3 Dejan Zlaticanin
Yunier Dorticos KO2 Dmitry Kudryashov

Winner: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai KO4 Roman Gonzalez

The prevailing narrative heading into the rematch between former champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and his unlikely conqueror, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, was one that made the end result even more shocking than it otherwise was. Simply put, the little known Sor Rungvisai was erroneously regarded by most as an easy out for Gonzalez the first time around, and he certainly wasn’t expected to knock “Chocolatito” to the canvas and then take a close and controversial decision from the pound-for-pound king.

Thus the rematch, ordered by the WBC in response to widespread alarm over the decision, not to mention Sor Rungvisai’s rough-house tactics, was supposed to rectify things and put Gonzalez back where he belonged. Instead, four months later, the aftershocks are still being felt.

In the rematch, the notably bigger Srisaket showed Gonzalez even less respect.

Most thought Gonzalez had deserved a better fate in his first battle with Rungvisai last March. In that hard-fought and thrilling distance war, one of the year’s best fights, “Chocolatito” had absorbed dozens of flush blows from his naturally bigger and stronger opponent, only to battle back and seemingly outperform the Thai down the stretch. But the judges saw it differently.

No matter. Surely Gonzalez, one of the best pugilists of recent years and a lock for the Hall of Fame, had made that initial meeting tougher than it needed to be. While his performance in the first battle was nothing short of heroic, a more focused Gonzalez, determined to avenge his only loss, would now assert his superiority in a most clear-cut manner. Surely this time we would see Gonzalez at his peerless best. Surely this time Rungvisai would be lucky to get home one solid shot for every ten “Chocolatito” landed. Surely this time the Nicaraguan’s hand would be raised. Or so many thought.

But that’s not what happened, as our own Patrick Connor reported: “It appeared “Chocolatito” thought it would be easier this time, and the look on his face as Sor Rungvisai tagged him with heavy leather in round three confirmed that talk of the first fight being a fluke was nonsense. Gonzalez couldn’t get out of the way and was being overwhelmed. … Like any great warrior would have done, Gonzalez tried to fight his way out of danger. His bravery was rewarded with another southpaw right hand to the mush, this one ending the fight.”

Thus, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s brutal and emphatic fourth round knockout of Gonzalez simply cannot be matched by the other KO’s on the list above in terms of significance and consequence. The outcome, to the surprise of almost everyone in boxing, established beyond all questioning Rungvisai’s superiority and completely altered our view of the fighter we had finally started to pay proper regard to just a short while before. Sadly, we had waited too long to fully appreciate Gonzalez’s extraordinary gifts. Little more than two years previous he had been featured for the first time on HBO; now, all too soon, his time at the top was over.

2017’s Knockout Of The Year.

And the name Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a largely unknown commodity this time last year, is now on many pound-for-pound lists as fight fans eagerly await his upcoming bout with former champion Juan Francisco Estrada, scheduled for later this month. Thus, the Thai’s brutal blitzing of Gonzalez was not just an emphatic demolition of a great fighter, but also a changing-of-the-guard knockout, one with lasting implications, one for the history books. One that must be proclaimed 2017’s Knockout Of The Year.

— Robert Portis 

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