First off, before we even get started, shut up. I can already hear you going “B-b-but what about” and then rattling off some obscure, mid-card jobber’s stoppage win at 4am in Botswana or some shit and just shut up. You’re a nerd. A boxing nerd. And that is hands down the worst kind of nerd. Lay your retainer and your pocket protector on the table like a suspended cop turning in his badge and gun and just shut the hell up.
In the meantime, the rest of us are going to spend this time of year celebrating the fact that we live in a world where it’s not only acceptable for human beings to punch each other’s dicks off, but that emotionally unstable sociopaths like yours truly get to rank who made whose dick fly off the best. Nearly every weekend of the year we watch grown men cause each other lasting neurological damage and then we argue about the aesthetics like we’re handing out ribbons to hog farmers at the county fair. It almost makes the sadism feel quaint.
Boxing truly is a safe space for sickos, psychos and spazzes and we wouldn’t have it any other way. At least we’ll have shit to talk about when we all get to hell.
When picking a winner for Knockout of the Year, there are certain criteria that must be met. It’s not as easy as guy-fall-down-go-boom. One or all of the following must be considered:
- Competition level – You can’t just cold cock your mailman into a snowbank. I mean, you CAN if you want —I don’t know your mailman. Maybe he’s a piece of shit— but the level of competition must be taken into consideration when determining the Knockout of the Year.
- KO must come from the big punch – This may feel like picking nits but it’s important. The only punch that can be considered for Knockout of the Year is the one that caused the stoppage. Think back to Teo Lopez’s knockout of Richard Commey or Nonito Donaire’s stoppage of Fernando Montiel. What’s the thing you remember most from those fights? It’s the highlight reel — head-denting, in Donaire’s case — punches landed by the winners. But those punches weren’t the ones that caused the knockout. Both fighters were stopped on their feet moments after taking counts from the big punches. Aesthetics are key here and the entire sequence must be flawless.
- Gotta fall hilariously – This might be the most important of all. The losing fighter has to drop or crumple in a funny way. Wlad Klitschko was great at this. Amir Khan is maybe the best of all time. The key factor in determining the Knockout of the Year is rewatchability. Big punches will get you far here, but only big punches that result in your opponent plopping to the canvas like a shitty mashed-potato sculpture hitting cold pavement can truly be considered.
With all of these elements at play, there was really only one choice for the 2021 Knockout of the Year and that was Oscar Valdez’s backfoot torpedoing of Miguel Berchelt from February 20th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Heading into the fight, Berchelt (38-2, 34 KOs) was a heavy favorite over the durable, if unspectacular, Valdez. The fight felt like something of a showcase for Berchelt as bigger fish awaited in and around the 130 lb division. Fireworks were expected but with Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) taking most of the shrapnel. Oh how wrong we were.
From the outset, Valdez had Berchelt confused and outgunned. Knockdowns in rounds 4 and 9 had Berchelt chasing his man that eagerness would play right into Valdez’s hands.
With Berchelt looking for something big, Valdez was just waiting for the right moment. It came in the waning seconds of round 10. As Berchelt swung wildly, Valdez backed up and waited for a right and then left hook to go whizzing past his head until firing back with his own short left. Fucking bullseye. It landed with a disgusting thud and dropped Berchelt to the canvas like a naked corpse flopping out of a coffin.
As Berchelt lay motionless on the ring mat — and Joe Tessitore screamed like his hair plugs were on fire, utterly destroying the moment as per usual — fans online were already deeming it the Knockout of the Year with over 10 months to go. He would eventually make it to his feet with little more than a bruised ego which but the gifs were already flowing.
In a year with a surprising amount of hilarious brutality, Valdez’s homerun shot stands out. It’s the kind of punch you can watch on a loop and see something new each time. The way Valdez digs in with his heel for extra torque or the way Berchelt’s right arm swings lifelessly across his feet like he suddenly realized his shoes needed shining and then lost consciousness. It’s all so perfect to the point of feeling scripted.
Knockouts rarely come this neatly packaged for mass consumption. Everything great about the sport of boxing in a tight, three second clip. This is stylized violence. Beautiful brutality. Precision bordering on art. Every box checked, bloodlust quenched.
It was a once in a lifetime shot and an easy choice for our Knockout of the Year.
(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank)