Watch it and you can see: In the opening stanza of their junior welterweight brawl, there’s the moment where Victor Ortiz decided that his plan to skilfully box Marcos Maidana isn’t going to cut it. The youngster felt the pressure and power of his more experienced opponent, and he said to himself, “OK, this guy isn’t going to back off. I’m going to have to make him back off.” It was a fateful moment for the career of Ortiz, and a recipe for excitement for us.
It’s when the exchanges began. And Ortiz, the quicker and better-schooled fighter, got the better of them: blammo, Maidana goes down on a counter right. That, already, was saying something. Maidana had been down in the 1st round before — according to BoxRec, the only two times he’d been down in his life before Ortiz — but Maidana was usually the one doing the 1st round down-knocking, scoring 10 opening round knockouts in his career. Maidana was hurt, although didn’t look to be in too bad a shape. Ortiz came at him when the referee completed his eight count. Ortiz was a star in training, Oscar De La Hoya’s handpicked successor. His graduation exam, Maidana, probably looked like a test he was about to ace.
And six seconds after the ref finished his count, fourteen seconds after Maidana went down, Maidana dropped Ortiz with a straight right. Hard.
Swapped knockdowns is a great way to for a fight to begin. You do see rounds where both fighters go down in boxing, however infrequently. It usually happens toward the beginning of the round and then toward the end, when the fighter who went down initially collects himself. It was a little like that in another Round of the Year-worthy three minutes, when middleweight Paul Williams knocked down Sergio Martinez and then, a bit later, Martinez returned the favor. You very rarely see rounds where the boxers trade knockdowns within a handful of seconds.
We remember what the end of the fight said about Ortiz’ resilience in the negative, but early on, Ortiz showed plenty. He somehow rose from that hard knockdown, and for a good 20 seconds, took some more of Maidana’s South American dynamite (they make it real fizzly down there) and then started exchanging again. The remaining 35 seconds of the 1st belonged to Ortiz, and they would set the foundation for a 2nd would be all his too, a round where he knocked down Maidana twice. By the 6th, Maidana, hard as granite, scored another knockdown that, when Ortiz got up, left him waving that he didn’t want to continue. Maybe if Ortiz hadn’t decided to stand toe-to-toe in the 1st round, this story ends differently. Maybe Ortiz doesn’t have to answer questions about how he rebounds from this stunning loss. Maybe Maidana becomes just another scary, front-running South American puncher, instead of a legitimate threat in the division.
But in a year when there were so many excellent rounds but none that stood heads above the others — we had all kinds of favorites discussing this the last couple days, and I’d been leaning toward Carlos Abregu-Irving Garcia Round 4 until so many people went with Maidana-Ortiz’s 1st round — Ortiz’ decision to slug it out is the reason Maidana-Ortiz Round 1 is The Queensberry Rules Round of the Year.