We saw a number of big knockouts this year – be it the job Oscar Valdez did on the tough Miguel Berchelt in February, be it the upset job Kiko Martinez did on Kid Galahad in November, or be it the clobbering KO heavyweight king Tyson Fury administered to Deontay Wilder. But my pick for KO of the Year is a knockout that took place on the under-card of the Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua fight.
It was in Lonon on September 25th when Callum Smith, a former champ at 168 pounds now campaigning as a light-heavyweight, met the usually durable Lenin Castillo. What we witnessed in the second round of this fight was genuinely shocking, disturbing stuff.
Working with new trainer Buddy McGirt, Smith, 28-1(20) landed a crushing right hand to the head and down went 33 year old Castillo. Castillo’s legs were left twitching in violent and disturbing fashion (Sky commentator Matthew Macklin said on air how he had never seen anything quite like it before, apart from on old tapes – Matt perhaps reminded, as this writer was, of the way Ingemar Johansson’s leg twitched after he had been KO’d by Floyd Patterson in their epic fight from 1960). It was obvious the man from the Dominican Republic was very badly hurt.
Indeed, agonising minutes passed before Castillo, now 21-4-1(16) was finally stretchered from the ring. Watching the fight on TV, it was unclear if Castillo regained consciousness, or even moved a muscle. Thankfully, Castillo, who was immediately sent to the hospital, made a full recovery. Castillo, however, has not boxed since and he most likely never will. Castillo suffered a most traumatic knockout.
As for 31 year old Smith, he wants a light-heavyweight rematch with Canelo Alvarez and he did look truly powerful in taking out Castillo; a man who had never before been stopped and who had been the distance with noted punchers Dmitry Bivol and Marcus Browne. After a fairly quiet opening round, Smith suddenly lowered the boom on Castillo courtesy of a perfect right hand. Castillo fell instantly, his entire body frozen, save for that scary twitching.
Smith may not have knocked out a big-name fighter, yet for me he scored The KO of the Year contender on the evening of September 25th. With that shuddering KO, we all got a graphic example of just how dangerous the sport of professional boxing really, truly is.