Brutality. Finality. Significance.
Those are the three criteria on which we judge knockouts. The knockout of the year is seldom the most cartoonish because, well, anyone can poleaxe a 10-17 club fighter. In fact, if you’ve made it to the upper echelons of the sport, chances are extremely high that you’ve done that a few times. If you’re Deontay Wilder, you spent the bulk of your career doing that. It proves nothing.
The problem with that narrative is that somewhere along the way, the teetering, off-balance, windmilling, human stork of destruction started taking on legitimate opponents. And learned to snap a jab. And hook off it. And how to hide his right cross behind that jab. In fact, somewhere along the way, Wilder learned how to box.
The new skills were of little help for the first 6.95 rounds on Nov. 23 of this year when Wilder met Luis Ortiz for a rematch of their 2018 bout. Rematches often fall flat, but the first bout indicated that Wilder and Ortiz were a good pairing for action. Both men had tasted the canvas and been in mortal danger before Wilder surged for a 10th round stoppage, so conventional wisdom suggested we’d get the same. We didn’t.
Ortiz was putting on a clinic for 6.95 rounds. Pop the jab, drop the cross behind it when necessary, circle away from the right hand counter. Over and over and over. The fight was boring. This was cruise control without the laziness. Whatever newfound technical ability Wilder had acquired was wasted. It wasn’t enough to beat someone of Ortiz caliber.
For all the imbecilic shouting and preening Wilder does to sell fights, in the ring, he’s a shark. And he was again on that night. For 6.95 rounds he followed Ortiz around. He ate hard punches. He got outboxed. If he won a round, I didn’t see it.
Then, just as round 7 came to its close, Wilder flipped out a throwaway jab. He got countered hard. He appeared hurt. He fired a jab with purpose, and just behind it, he dropped a right cross as short and straight and sneaky as any he has ever thrown.
The punch didn’t land. It detonated. A spray of sweat and the 236 pound body of Ortiz folded like wet laundry were the result. Referee Kenny Bayless counted Ortiz, who was somehow rising, out at 2:51 of round 7.
As every year, there were many worthy contenders for Knockout of the Year in 2019. Nonito Donaire turning Stephon Young into room temperature jello to seal his spot in the bantamweight World Boxing Super Series Final, Vergil Ortiz sending stalwart technician Mauricio Herrera to the glue factory, Devin Haney making Antonio Moran’s central nervous system meltdown, and Canelo Alvarez’s deboning of Sergey Kovalev were all phenomenal and important in their own way, but they lacked the OH FUCK factor that Wilder’s knockout of Ortiz provided. And that is why it’s The Queensberry Rules’ Knockout of the Year for 2019.
Previously: Fight of the Year Nominees.
Next: Fight of the Year, Fighter of the Year Nominees, and Fighter of the Year.
(Photo by Sean Ham/Mayweather Promotions)