Ranking Boxing's Best Knockouts of 2015 so Far

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2015

Ranking Boxing's Best Knockouts of 2015 so Far

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Knockouts.

    For some of us, they're the only reason why we put the time into watching boxing.

    There's always the chance that somebody is going to land that one big bomb—that home run shot that makes us jump out of our seat or off our couch and cheer like mad men.

    So, let's cut right to the chase.

    The 2015 boxing calendar is more than half over, and we've already seen our share of memorable knockouts.

    Some have come from high-profile fighters on major shows, and others have come from people we've maybe never heard of before and might never hear from again.

    Here we'll rank the 10 best knockouts in boxing thus far this year, and we'll do it based on a simple criterion: how awesome it was.

    Disagree? Watch these and feel free to add your own in the comments.

    Spoiler alert: That last one? It's a doozy. 

10. Gary Russell Jr. TKO 4 Jhonny Gonzalez

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    Gary Russell Jr. looked so far out of his depth in his first challenge for a world title against Vasyl Lomachenko that it was easy to believe he was the product of hype and supremely soft matchmaking.

    People threw around the word "exposed" frequently, and not without a fair bit of merit. 

    When Russell secured a second bite at the championship apple—this time against veteran multi-time champion Jhonny Gonzalez—only a few analysts were willing to give him a legitimate chance at the upset.

    For the sake of full disclosure, yours truly was not one of them.

    Gonzalez was going through something of a late-career resurrection after his shocking one-round knockout of rising superstar Abner Mares in August 2013 that left the former champion a shell of his former self.

    And then something unexpected happened. 

    Russell walked into the ring, blitzed Gonzalez and thrashed him to the tune of three knockdowns, each successively more damaging, before stopping him with a flurry that qualifies for both knockout and possibly upset of the year.

9. Scott Quigg TKO 2 Kiko Martinez

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    Scott Quigg picked a great day for a statement knockout.

    On the same day that his compatriot, fellow titlist and (if all is right in the boxing world) future rival, Carl Frampton, had to weather an early storm to win against a relatively unknown Alejandro Gonzalez Jr., the 26-year-old from Lancashire blasted a former world champion out in two rounds. 

    Kiko Martinez isn't ever going to be confused for an elite fighter, but he's a tough former world champion who knows how to survive, hang around in fights and win more than his share.

    Martinez had only been stopped once before when he stepped in there with Quigg—Frampton knocked him out in Round 9 and beat him again by decision to win his world title last year—and that made it surprising to see Quigg handle him with such ease and blunt force.

    Quigg dropped him early in the second round and then just went to town.

    He unloaded with a slew of power punches, connecting on a frightening number to Martinez's dome before a crunching right hand along the ropes put his man down and out.  

8. Sergey Kovalev KO 3 Nadjib Mohammedi

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    The Sergey Kovalev/terminator comparisons are way off base.

    No, they just don't fit.

    Terminators are methodical, unfeeling killers who have a job to do and execute it with ruthless efficiency. They don't mess around, but they're not capable of putting any emotion into their kill.

    Kovalev is vicious, but he's anything if unfeeling.

    The Krusher, like a terminator, executes his job with a cool, frightening efficiency, but he takes pleasure in the hunt and the pain he can inflict before his foes finally say "no mas" and decides their lives ain't worth whatever hell they'll need to traverse to beat him. 

    Case in point: Nadjib Mohammedi this past Saturday night on HBO.

    Mohammedi had the particular misfortune of being trained by Kovalev's former trainer (and now rival) Abel Sanchez. 

    Kovalev and Sanchez don't particularly like each other these days, and that put Mohammedi firmly on the train tracks with a 175-pound monster who hits like a tank and was trying to (literally?) knock his head off.

    The Krusher floored Mohammedi in the second round, but it was the second knockdown of the round—caused by something of a judo move from the champion—that definitively showed us Kovalev is in touch with his inner sadist.

    With the challenger in obvious distress and still not recovered from the shot that felled him, Kovalev taunted him to get back to his feet. He didn't want the carnage to be over, and he didn't want to have to wait long before hurting his man again.

    Luckily for him, he didn't have to.

    Kovalev dropped Mohammedi again in the second round, so hard this time that it was the subject of legitimate debate whether he broke his challenger's nose or orbital bone.

    Yeah.

7. Nonito Donaire KO 2 Anthony Settoul

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    The jury is still out on whether Nonito Donaire will ever again be a serious factor in a featherweight division that is brimming with talent, but apparently, he still carries some game-changing power in his fists.

    Donaire has knocked out two straight opponents—not high-level foes, for sure—since being bludgeoned and losing his 126-pound title to Nicholas Walters last October in what seemed his last high-profile fight.

    He stopped William Prado in the second round in his homecoming to the Philippines in March, but his second-round pasting of Anthony Settoul in Macau on July 18 really sticks out for its brutality.

    Settoul is nothing special, really.

    The Filipino Flash never would have bothered with someone like Settoul during his time near the top of many pound-for-pound lists.

    Settoul had never fought outside of France before he elected to shuffle on over to the Asian gambling mecca for a crack at a former world champion who seemed to be on the down slope, but all he got for his troubles was a paycheck (hopefully decent) and a vicious right hand on the button that put out his lights.

    Thanks for coming, kid.

    Hopefully, he didn't blow all his purse money in the casino.

6. Andrew Tabiti TKO 2 Thomas Hanshaw

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    Andrew Tabiti has some serious zing on his punches.

    You can ask Thomas Hanshaw, if he's woken up yet.

    Hanshaw is a terrible opponent. Tabiti's team didn't bring a club fighter from Ashland, Kentucky, to Las Vegas because he had a chance of upsetting one of Mayweather Promotion's rising talents, that's for sure.

    But this?

    Wow.

    Tabiti left his man on La-La Street with one big right hand that he timed perfectly, waiting for his opponent to commit to his own punch before dropping the hammer. 

    That delayed reaction, the little stutter-step before going down, was classic.

    And give Hanshaw credit. He tried to get up, which is not to say that was the smartest decision.

5. Amir Imam KO 4 Fernando Angulo

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    Here's an interesting fact about rising contender Amir Imam: He's one of the very few fighters still in the stable of Don "Only in America" King.

    Yes, that Don King.

    Imam seems like something of a blue-chip prospect at 140 pounds. He's tall and rangy and has good ring generalship and power on his punches.

    The 24-year-old is also destined for a world championship opportunity, likely early next year, after he took a WBC eliminator over Fernando Angulo with a blistering fourth-round knockout earlier this month.

    Imam controlled the first two rounds with his height and range, picking off the hard-charging veteran—who has seen some better days—on his way inside. The third was Angulo's best round of the fight, as he was successfully able to bull the younger fighter to the ropes and land some solid shots.

    But the end came early in the fourth, and it came suddenly.

    It was so sudden that if you blinked, you probably had no idea why Angulo was face down on the floor and Imam's hands were raised in the air.

    Imam connected with a quick overhand right hand just above the ear, which left Angulo flat on his face and in no position to continue.

    In fact, it's probably best he didn't.

    It wasn't going to get any better at that point.

4. Francisco Santana KO 1 Kendal Mena

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    Friday Night Fights may be no more, as it was replaced by ESPN's agreement with Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions, but the final season of the iconic series produced some big-time bang and knockouts for its buck.

    Francisco Santana has had an interesting 2015, which he began with a decimating knockout followed by a close defeat.

    He dropped a spirited, and much closer than the official cards had it, decision to undefeated prospect Sadam Ali at Madison Square Garden on the Wladimir Klitschko vs. Bryant Jennings undercard in April, but he earned that spot with a blistering knockout of Kendal Mena in January.

    Mena came into the fight undefeated but untested (graphic understatement), and he left, well, let's just say he had one of those nights when you get home but you're not quite sure how.

    Santana laid the boom on him in the first round with a left hand that Mena probably never saw coming.

    The next thing he knew, he woke up on the mat with a bunch of bright lights in his face.

    That's the type of thing that happens when you fight a bunch of guys (his record is literally among the most padded undefeated streaks I've ever seen) with 2-30 and 0-19 records before stepping it up.

3. Claudio Marrero KO 3 Rico Ramos

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    Sometimes, you miss a fight that you wish you didn't.

    Or, sometimes, you miss a fight that you never expected to be good and are then forced to YouTube it so you can find out what the heck everyone on Twitter (who probably saw it on YouTube themselves) is talking about.

    Like, for example, this past weekend when everyone was watching Kovalev and missed a humongous knockout that flew well under the radar.

    While we're on the subject, say hello to Claudio Marrero and Rico Ramos.

    Marrero dropped an all-action fight to Jesus Cuellar on ESPN's Friday Night Fights with a vacant featherweight championship on the line in 2013, but he did well and was more than deserving of a chance to climb back up the ladder for another opportunity. 

    Ramos is a former junior featherweight titlist who has been in there with Cuellar and Cuban pugilistic standard bearer Guillermo Rigondeaux, losing both of those fights and fading a bit since.

    The first two rounds between Marrero and Ramos were something of a bore, and if you were watching in the first place, you might have changed the channel just in time to miss the bomb.

    Just about 20 seconds into the third round, Marrero connected on an absolutely massive overhand left that felled Ramos as if his face had made a sudden impact with a brick wall. And he might just as well have. He collapsed to the mat, bouncing his head off the canvas on the way down to make matters worse.

    Referee Jay Nady didn't even bother making a count and waved the fight off immediately.

    It wasn't a tough call to make.

2. Canelo Alvarez KO 3 James Kirkland

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    James Kirkland was just in the wrong place at the wrong time against the wrong guy.

    Canelo Alvarez beat on the puncher with a cult-like following like he stole something, or maybe it was because the cinnamon-haired former champion was suffering from a bout of angst after missing out on a huge pay-per-view showdown with Miguel Cotto.

    For the time being, at least.

    Coming into the fight, it was Kirkland who was advertised as the huge puncher. 

    Sure, he was without his trainer/guru Ann Wolfe (a curious tactical decision in the biggest fight of his life) and coming off an extended absence, but punching power is the last thing to go.

    So, you'd have figured that Canelo, with huge fights on the near horizon, would have been at least a bit cautious in engaging until he figured out what his man was bringing to the dance.

    You'd have figured wrong.

    Canelo showed no fear, which has become the hallmark of his rise through the professional ranks to stardom, attacking from the opening bell and walking right through Kirkland's big shots to land his own.

    He set the tone with a knockdown in the opening round and didn't take his foot off the gas.

    The end came on an absolutely picture-perfect right that landed clean on the button just as Kirkland dropped his hands along the ropes. 

    Kirkland spun around and landed flat on his back with his hands in the air. Out.

    You could have counted to a hundred.

1. Courtney Blocker KO 2 Dominic Goode

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    That sound!

    Yikes.

    Courtney Blocker may never make the big time in boxing, but the undefeated welterweight prospect from Pensecola, Florida, improved to 6-0 with all six victories coming inside the distance with this brutal, one-punch knockout of Dominic Goode this past January in New Jersey.

    "Brutal" might not even be a good enough word.

    Spectacular? Crunching?

    Devastating?

    All of the above?

    Goode knows a thing or two about being knocked out (it's the only way he's ended a professional fight), but this one is the sort that makes a man seriously reconsider his role in the sport and maybe take up a less dangerous profession to pay the bills.

    Blocker's straight right hand crumpled Goode to the canvas unconscious with his leg oddly bent underneath his body and his head supported by the ropes.

    The resulting scene was truly scary, with paramedics working on a motionless fighter for several minutes before he came to and was able to sit on his stool. He was later taken to the hospital for observation and to make sure nothing was loose inside his cranium after he suffered the knockout of the year.

    You can see a more thorough replay right here, but, we warn you, it's not a pretty sight.