As 2018 approaches its end, the boxing community has inevitably focused its attention upon the year that’s transpired, and many of its members have debated the most appropriate choices for awards such as Fighter and Fight of the Year. Meanwhile, those members who are inclined to view the glass as being half empty, rather than half-full, have taken it upon themselves to provide their picks for awards like Worst Decision and Worst Scorecard of 2018.
Yet, it seems as though very little discussion has centered upon the topic of the weirdest fights to have occurred during the year. That seems a shame to me. This sport without fail produces a number of unusual moments; and this year seemed to feature more than most.
With that in mind, here is a quick list of the strangest and wildest contests to have occurred in 2018.
***Most Unusual Knockout: Alvin Lagumbay vs Keita Obara 1, April 12.***
Former world title challenger Obara met unheralded Filipino Lagumbay on this date in his hometown of Tokyo; Obara was expected to win easily given his edge in size and experience and looked on his way to doing so after scoring a knockdown in the opening frame. But, in the round that followed, southpaw Lagumbay began to find the range with one looping left hand after another, shaking Obara repeatedly and forcing him to give ground. In desperation, Obara stepped forward to engage his rival, and launched a left hook just as his opponent was lining up a left of his own. Both lefts connected flush against the other man’s chin; Lagumbay staggered backward onto the seat of his trunks, but managed to rise off the mat without much difficulty. Obara, however, wasn’t so fortunate; after crashing onto his back he barely managed to scrape himself off the canvas, and groggily stumbled into the official’s embrace as the latter called an end to the match.
A few months later, Obara would rematch Lagumbay and score an emphatic third round KO. In doing so, he avenged his previous loss to the Filipino, but did absolutely nothing to erase the memory of that initial contest from the memory banks of those who witnessed what took place back in April.
***Most Knockdowns Scored With One Punch: Claudio Marrero vs Jorge Lara, April 28.***
In his previous 31 fights, Lara had earned a reputation as an ultra-aggressive slugger, so it wasn’t a surprise when he came out at the opening bell and immediately began to wing hooks at his Dominican rival. Marrero, however, remained unfazed and fired back with power punches of his own. With twenty seconds gone, both men fired right hands at the other’s head; the quicker Marrero got there first, sending the Mexican down to fetal position once it connected. After spending a few seconds on the mat in an unsuccessful attempt to collect himself, Lara tried to rise, but his legs betrayed him completely and he flopped onto the seat of his trunks. Undaunted he made another attempt to get up, only to stumble drunkenly halfway across the ring before collapsing face first to the mat for a third time.
By that time, the official had wisely called a halt to the fight; allowing Marrero the chance to join Mike Tyson as being the only fighters (at least to my memory) who have scored three knockdowns of an opponent with a single, well placed, punch.
***Wildest Fight: Henrri Polanco vs Hector Saldivia, March 31***
What do you get when you pit two hard punching journeyman with suspect punch resistance against one another…?
In this particular case, you get the most eventful fight of 2018.
Polanco, a Dominican fighting out of Buenos Aires, won an entertaining first round by shaking his Argentinian opponent with a hard right hand near the end of the frame, and then sent Saldivia to the seat of his trunks with another right hand in the second. However, when the Dominican attempted to press his advantage, he ran into a left hook to the temple that left him completely disoriented. A followup assault convinced the official to issue a standing eight count, and another volley of punches had Polanco reeling around the ring at the bell.
Saldivia continued to batter Polanco in the third, and forced him to touch down for another count with another hook; Hector carried the fourth, too, though Henrri started to have success at the end of the round. In the fifth, a now recovered Polanco wobbled Saldivia with another counter to win the frame. The aggressive Saldivia regained in the sixth, but was docked one point after a hook landed quite low and left Polanco writhing in pain on the mat. An enraged Polanco then dominated the seventh, but in the eighth round the momentum shifted yet AGAIN, as Saldivia sent his foe to his knees with another hook, and then forced Henrri to take another standing eight count with another series of punches. To make matters worse for Polanco, another point was deducted when he spat out his mouthpiece to buy himself some time to recover, leaving him far behind on the cards as the ninth round began.
Saldivia began the round by pressuring his foe once more, but his punches lacked any sort of sting by this point; sensing that his foe’s gas tank was on empty, Polanco cornered his foe and pelted him with combinations to the head until the official stopped the action and administered another count. With the round coming to a close, Polanco stepped forward and launched a long right hand at his exhausted opponent’s chin. The punch landed flush and sent him crashing hard onto his back with such force that the official immediately called a halt to the contest.
So, for those keeping score, there were a total of seven counts administered in this fight, along with two point deductions and a boatload of momentum shifts. As far as fights are concerned, it doesn’t get much crazier…
Yet, while this contest probably serves as my pick for Craziest Fight, my award for Boxing’s Craziest Moment in 2018 goes to a contest that really wasn’t much of a fight at all…
***Craziest Moment: Efe Ajagba vs Curtis Harper, August 24.***
Former Olympian Ajagba had rattled off five consecutive knockouts going into this fight, and had gained a bit of notoriety by scoring several of these wins on PBC undercards. In his sixth contest, he was pitted against Curtis Harper, a pretty solid journeyman who had given Chris Arreola all he could handle over eight rounds back in 2015. Harper had shown grit and guile against Arreola that night, and it seemed possible that these attributes would serve him well against Ajagba, and perhaps allow him to snap the Nigerian’s KO streak.
As it turned out, Harper did indeed end that streak…But not for the reason you might think.
For once the opening bell rang to begin their six round contest, Harper immediately ducked through the ropes, exited the ring, and strolled down the ramp of the Minneapolis Armory back to his dressing room as everyone else in the arena-and those watching on national TV- registered their shock and disbelief. Harper later revealed that he took this course of action to protest his purse for the fight, though when exactly he arrived at the decision to do so is really anybody’s guess.
After winning this particular “fight” via Disqualification, the Nigerian has resumed his old ways, and won his subsequent two contests with quick, conclusive knockouts. Curtis Harper, unsurprisingly, has yet to return to the ring following his…performance. That said, he remains the only boxer who has avoided being knocked out by Efe Ajagba; and, after what transpired last August. has ensured that he’ll be remembered by at least a few fans for quite some time to come.
With that, I’ll conclude this look at the weirdest and wackiest moments in boxing during 2018, and await the coming of the year that follows.
I’m absolutely certain that it will provide us with moments that will leave us shaking our head, and wondering what the hell we just witnessed…And I look forward to watching every single one.
Happy New Year to All.
All the best in 2019.