Round Of The Year Nominations:
Jose Zepeda vs Ivan Baranchyk, Round Two
Clay Collard vs Raymond Guajardo, Round One
Gervonta Davis vs Leo Santa Cruz, Round Six
Kazuto Ioka vs Kosei Tanaka, Round Four
Juan Francisco Estrada vs Carlos Cuadras II, Round Five
Jose Zepeda vs Ivan Baranchyk, Round Five
Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder II, Round Three
Winner: Juan Francisco Estrada vs Carlos Cuadras II, Round Five
Some years there exists an undeniable winner for this particular year-end category. For example, how could round one of Thomas Hearns vs Marvelous Marvin Hagler not be Round of the Year for 1985? But in other years, as in 2020, there exist a number of worthy candidates and it seems like you could put the stand-out rounds in a hat and randomly pick out any one of the short-listed three minute spans to top the others. It’s a good problem to have.
Some debate and discussion has ensued, but in the end we decided to go with the 120 seconds of fistic fireworks that is the fifth round of a truly great scrap, Carlos Cuadras vs Juan Francisco Estrada II. It wasn’t the only action-packed round of that terrific donnybrook, but it was the one that saw the fighters take turns landing big shots, both men rocked and both coming back for more, in a series of riveting exchanges.
The round began with Estrada on the offensive, landing heavy right hands, but Cuadras recovered and soon started to put his punches together, connecting with a beautiful combination punctuated by a hard right of his own. Seconds later it was Estrada’s turn to answer back aggressively, again with rights, but then Cuadras landed a beautiful left hook-right hand combo, and then it was Estrada getting home a vicious uppercut. And so it went, back and forth, combinations and counter-shots, the exchanges only becoming more intense as the seconds ticked away, the two proud Mexican gladiators fighting as if both had made pre-fight bets that the battle would end in round five.
With thirty seconds left it was Estrada who upped the intensity, catching his man with a hard left hook, another flush uppercut, and then a right hand that buckled the legs of “The Prince.” No one could have faulted Cuadras had he clinched and looked to slow the action, but instead, to his immense credit, he dug in and let his hands go, landing a booming left hook just before the bell.
Thanks to covid-19, there was no crowd on hand to witness live this ferocious three minute war, but at the bell those present in the TV Azteca studio in Mexico City applauded in unison, saluting a remarkable round of fervent action and remarkable skill. We’re guessing those clapping and cheering at that moment were thinking, “That was the Round of the Year!” So were we. And so we still are. — Robert Portis