The best round of the year candidates

21.11.03 – By Janne Romppainen: Sometimes it happens that even more memorable than the great fights are the great single rounds in those bouts. An action-packed three-minute stanza can portray the whole fight in miniature. After other details of the fights have already been forgotten, the best of rounds are still fresh on our minds, reminding us about everything that took place in the ring in that particular night. It has been said that nobody who watched the first round of Marvin Hagler – Tomas Hearns live breathed in three minutes. Even though the fight itself was a short one, it is remembered as one of the greatest wars ever, mostly because of that incredible three minutes of action. Or how about Larry Holmes and Ken Norton slugging it out in the 15th and final round? One of the best heavyweight bouts in history climaxed in a manner that left nobody cold. From the more recent examples, the fifth round of the amazing war between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera in 2000 told the whole story of the fight. Also the first fight between Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward was one of the most brutal bouts of our recent memories, but the ninth round of it was the one that made it a classic..

Great rounds are made almost every year. Even the more quiet boxing seasons usually produce some great stanzas. This year hasn’t been an exception. We have seen plenty of great fights during these eleven months, but even more rounds that all would be suitable choices to win the “Round of the year” recognition at the end of the year.

I have listed total of six rounds that in my opinion are the best nominees for the unofficial title. I have taken in the account the action and the drama that the round included, its significance for the game and for the outcome of the fight. Count them down and agree or disagree with me at the end or suggest your own choices if they are not included.

#6. Floyd Mayweather – Philippe N’dou Rd 5

What has happened before: The defending lightweight WBC lightweight champion Mayweather is facing a relatively unknown but dangerous South African challenger. Mayweather has been highly impressive throughout, but N’dou has demonstrated his skills too by winning the second round.

The round: N’dou opens the round bravely by taking the fight at the champion and throwing with both hands. Mayweather defends himself and looks for opportunities to counter. After about a minute the champion takes over and lands one right hand after another on his challenger, driving him to the ropes on rubbery legs. With his sheer heart, N’dou fights back, drives Mayweather in turn to ropes and lets loose with a half a minute-long flurry. Mayweather slipped most of the punches and at the end of the round hurt his foe badly again with big shots, but the braveness of the outgunned challenger made the round special.

#5. Lennox Lewis – Vitaly Klitschko Rd 2

What has happened before: Many expected the heavyweight champion of the world Lewis to have a fairly easy defence against his Ukrainan challenger. Many predicted a quick knockout win for the champ, pointing out that Klitschko had trouble with his defence and there was no certainty about his chin. Klitschko however started the fight well and won the first round on all cards.

The round: Lewis tries to take the fight under his control by landing a heavy jab early in the round. Klitschko responds with right hands and combinations that catch the champion repeatedly on his chin. The best heavyweight of the past ten years is on the verge of going down as Klitschko roughs him up with both hands. Lewis shows that his sometimes suspected chin is reliable as he stands up and tries to return the fire, but at the end of the round he is again staggering and the bell comes to his help at the right time. Lewis went on to win the fight via stoppage on cuts after six rounds, but during these three minutes the name of the Klitschko family had become respected again.

#4. Arturo Gatti – Mickey Ward Rd 7

What has happened before: The splendid light-welterweight warriors are solving their superiority between each other once and for all in their rubber match. Gatti had won the second fight by technical boxing and seemed to be on his way to repeat that in the early rounds. Gatti however had his hand broken during the fight and a knockdown in the sixth round brought Ward back to the fight.

The round: Ward comes out to continue his advantage from the previous round. He seems to be turning the bout around as he punishes Gatti with a big right hand early in the round and staggers him. Gatti fires back furiously, overusing his left and throwing his injured right when possible. The whole round is fought on a frantic pace at close quarters. Both fighters land brutal combinations by turns. Gatti is able to rock Ward badly in turn with his left hook and carries on to win the brutal round and the fight.

#3. Joel Casamayor – Diego Corrales Rd 4

What has happened before: A highly anticipated eliminator for the super featherweight IBF-title has started well for Casamayor. He has befuddled the power-punching Corrales with his speed and movement and scored a knockdown early in the third round. The night is still early, but the things are looking bad for Corrales.

The round: Casamayor continues with what he has been doing all night. He dances in front of Corrales, moving side to side. After merely twenty seconds, he shoots a perfect left hand from his southpaw stance right at Corrales’ chin and Corrales goes down again. He gets up quickly, but Casamayor is all over him, swarming with both hands. A war suits Corrales fine though. After one minute of action, he bangs Casamayor with a splendid left hook and Casamayor in turn hits the deck. After getting up, Casamayor gets on his bike and Corrales chases him, trying to draw him to exchanges. Casamaoyr fights back with fast combos and they both land well at the rest of the round. The round electrified the atmosphere around the bout again and it remained exciting to its end, which came via controversial stoppage two rounds later.

#2. Ricardo Mayorga – Vernon Forrest Rd 3

What has happened before: The welterweight champion Forrest, entering the bout fresh from his two victories over Shane Mosley, is supposed to give the first demonstration of his skills as a recognized pound-for-pounder. His challenger Mayorga is known to be a heavy-handed but crude slugger. After boxing beautifully for two minutes, Forrest goes down in a situation that is controversially ruled as a knockdown in the first round. After that, the tide changes. The second round is furious fighting (a good nominee on this list as well) and the crowd is excited before the bell.

The round: Forrest throws out his left jab and looks to land his noted right cross. Mayorga answers by rushing him to the ropes and landing good hooks on his own and the pace goes up. Forrest shoots his uppercut and Mayorga responds in kind in a wild action that at times gets unclean. They trade big shots throughout until with a minute left Mayorga lands three right hands that make Forrest totter to the ropes. Another big right puts the welterweight champion on the floor. Forrest gets up on wobbly legs, but the referee Marty Denkin stops the fight in front of the astounded crowd. In two minutes, the boxing world had gotten a new star on scene.

#1. James Toney – Vasily Jirov Rd 12

What has happened before: One of the most-awaited cruiserweight bouts ever between the IBF-champion Vasily Jirov and James Toney had lived up to all of its expectations and surpassed them. Both fighters had demonstrated great skills and courage in a very fast-paced fight. Jirov had been the aggressor and Toney had countered him masterfully. In the eyes of many, the last round would decide the winner and the status of the best cruiserweight in the world.

The round: After touching the gloves at the start of the round, there was no more quiet moments. Both fighters obviously felt they needed the round. Toney opened up with some solid shots before Jirov again forced him to the ropes. The Kazakhstan tiger ripped Toney with both hands. Toney waited for his chances and returned well-placed, fully delivered bombs. Exhausted Jirov still kept coming even though Toney, badly tired himself, caught him time and time again with flush shots. It was like scene from the Rocky-movies where two battered guys tried to outlast each other with their last energy reserves. Finally, twenty seconds before the finish, Toney managed to floor his foe with a combination. Jirov, showing mighty courage, rose from the canvas to finish the round. The best round of the year ended the arguably best fight of the year, you can’t ask for much more!

P.S: Despite these memorable moments during the eleven months, the year is still far from over. Fights such as Klitschko-Johnson, Mayorga-Spinks and Hopkins-Joppy are still coming up. Hopefully the order of the list changes after that, because if it does, we most certainly have seen again some great fighting action.


Article posted on 21.11.2003

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