On March 18, Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai won a controversial majority decision and took a junior bantamweight world title from Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez in a major upset in one of the year's best fights.
It was a grueling and bloody battle that ended the undefeated run of Nicaraguan hero Gonzalez at 46-0. He had won world titles in four divisions and become the pound-for-pound king, but lost the belt, unbeaten mark and P4P status all at once even though most thought he had done enough to win. An immediate rematch was ordered and they met again Sept. 9 before a sellout crowd at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, in a fight that ended explosively with the 2017 ESPN.com knockout of the year.
Gonzalez was the favorite. Most figured he'd handle his business like it appeared he had the first time. But southpaw Sor Rungvisai had other ideas and mowed him down impressively. He dominated the fight and knocked "Chocolatito" down with a powerful right hook in the fourth round. Gonzalez was unsteady when the fight continued and Sor Rungvisai continued to blast away. About 30 seconds later, he landed another heavy right hook on the chin that crumpled Gonzalez, who fell flat on his back in the center of the ring. Referee Tom Taylor didn't bother to count, waving it off at 1 minute, 18 seconds.
It was the kind of KO that not only was as violent and definitive as it gets but likely ended future Hall of Famer Gonzalez's career as a P4P candidate.
"I don't know if that's the end of his career but it certainly appears to mark the end of him as a super talent in the sport," HBO broadcaster Jim Lampley said, summing things up on the broadcast.
Gonzalez was down for a couple of minutes getting medical attention while his hysterical girlfriend ran from ringside.
Sor Rungvisai, a former garbage collector, was quite satisfied, saying through a translator, "For the first fight, I only trained for two months. For this fight, I trained for four months. I knew I was going to knock him out."
Did he ever.
Other sweet shots
2. Mikey Garcia KO3 Dejan Zlaticanin (Jan. 28 at Las Vegas): Garcia, who had already won world titles in two divisions, claimed one in a third when he put Zlaticanin to sleep in brutal fashion to claim a lightweight belt. After two rounds of domination, Garcia finished him with an absolutely sick knockout. He nailed Zlaticanin with a right uppercut and a cuffing left hand that had him in huge trouble. As Zlaticanin staggered toward the ropes, Garcia landed the finisher, obliterating him with a right hand that knocked him out cold. Zlaticanin slammed his head on the mat and came to rest under the bottom ring rope as referee Tony Weeks immediately stopped the fight at 2:21. "Zlaticanin goes down for the first time in his career and Mikey Garcia has become a three-division champion," Showtime's excitable broadcaster Mauro Ranallo roared.
3. David Lemieux KO3 Curtis Stevens (March 11 at Verona, New York): Ex-middleweight titlist Lemieux and former title challenger Stevens are both tremendous punchers but it was Lemieux who landed his best shot on this night as he pounded Stevens along the ropes with a left hook to the chin he never saw coming. Stevens collapsed in a heap, out cold with his body half inside the ring and half under the bottom ring rope with his arm dangling out of the ring as referee Charlie Fitch immediately stopped the fight at 1:59. Lemieux had delivered on his pre-fight promise to knock Stevens unconscious. "That was a bomb," Lampley said of the shot that forced Stevens to leave the ring on a stretcher.
4. Jermell Charlo KO1 Erickson Lubin (Oct. 14 at Brooklyn, New York): Charlo was defending his junior middleweight title against Lubin, the 2016 prospect of the year stepping way up in class of opponent. Many thought it was too much too soon and Charlo showed everyone it sure was. In a shocking result, Charlo wrecked Lubin when he landed a short right hand on Lubin's chin that he never saw coming. Lubin collapsed awkwardly, his left arm and leg eerily outstretched as referee Harvey Dock quickly waved off the count at 2:41 as Charlo celebrated wildly.
5. Deontay Wilder KO1 Bermane Stiverne II (Nov. 4 at Brooklyn, New York): Heavyweight titleholder Wilder won the belt from Stiverne in 2015, going the distance for the only time in his career. When they met in the unexpected rematch (after Stiverne replaced Luis Ortiz, who failed a drug test), Wilder was not about to let it go 12 again. Angry over Ortiz's situation and Stiverne's trash talk, Wilder pulverized his out-of-shape foe, who literally didn't land one punch. But Wilder scored three hard knockdowns in quick succession, including the final one on a brutal four-punch combination: right, left, right and another left as he was falling to the mat. Referee Arthur Mercante then waved it off at 2:59 and pulled Wilder away from Stiverne, whose head was resting on the bottom rope with his legs pinned underneath him like he was doing the limbo until he pitched forward face first.
6. Terence Crawford KO3 Julius Indongo (Aug. 19 at Lincoln, Nebraska): Crawford had already dropped Indongo with a left hand in the second round before putting him away with a shot in electrifying fashion much to the delight of his passionate hometown fans. Crawford connected with a powerful left hand to the body that put Indongo down and out. He was writhing in pain as referee Jack Reiss counted him out at 1:38 to give Crawford a historic victory as he unified his two junior welterweight belts with Indongo's two to become only the third undisputed champion of the four-belt era. ESPN's Joe Tessitore with the epic call: "Another knockdown scored with a vicious body shot! Oh my, what a body shot! 'Bud' Crawford is the undefeated, undisputed champion of the world!"
7. Sam Eggington KO10 Cerefino Rodriguez (May 13 at Birmingham, England): Eggington won the European welterweight title by finishing off Rodriguez in brutal fashion. Eggington forced him to the ropes and was laying leather on him before he landed a blistering four-punch combination -- a flush right uppercut, left hand, right and another left that sent him through the ropes, onto the ring apron and nearly out of the ring. Those at ringside kept the nearly unconscious Rodriguez from falling to the arena floor as referee Massimo Barrovecchio waved the fight off at 1:03. Garcia was down for several minutes in a scary scene.
8. Raymundo Beltran KO2 Jonathan Maicelo (May 20 at New York): Beltran had a knockdown ruled against him in a blown call in the first round of this lightweight title eliminator but rendered it irrelevant when he annihilated Maicelo with a left hook flush on the chin. Maicelo went down hard and smashed his head on the canvas and referee David Fields immediately waved off the fight at 1:25 and called for the doctor. Though his left arm was partially outstretched, Maicelo was out cold and removed from the ring on a stretcher.
9. Zolani Tete KO1 Siboniso Gonya (Nov. 18 at Belfast, Northern Ireland): Bantamweight world titleholder Tete made his first defense against South African countryman Gonya and needed literally only one punch to spectacularly end the fight. They met at the center of the ring and Tete unleashed a beautiful right hook around Gonya's low guard and crushed him on the chin. Gonya was out cold. The fight lasted all of 11 seconds, the quickest knockout in world title history. "Goodness me! First punch of the fight and it's all over. He's knocked him unconscious," BoxNation commentator John Rawling said calling the fight.
10. Joshua Greer KO6 James Gordon-Smith (March 10 at Detroit): Bantamweight Greer added a little flair after his sensational knockout on Showtime's "ShoBox" series. It was over in violent fashion when Greer knocked Gordon-Smith out cold with a huge right hand on the chin that sent him falling to the mat in cartoon-like fashion. Referee Harvey Dock immediately waved it off at 2:06, prompting Greer to grab the prop he brought with him: a pillow that said "Night, Night. Don't Blink" on it. He held it aloft to rub in what he had just done to poor Gordon-Smith.
11. Mike Alvarado KO4 Sidney Siqueira (Aug. 19 at Lincoln, Nebraska): Former junior welterweight titlist Alvarado won his fourth fight in a row of his comeback with this KO that was so spectacular that the highlight led that night's SportsCenter. Alvarado struggled with journeyman Siqueira but then turned out his lights with a colossal right hand that knocked him out cold as referee Tom Anderson waved off the fight without a count at 1:20.
12. Jon Fernandez KO2 Juan Reyes (June 9 at Verona, New York): Fernandez, an outstanding junior lightweight prospect from Spain, blew away Reyes. Fernandez landed his right hand nearly at will, including when a blistering shot smack on the chin. Reyes went down and out, slammed his head on the mat and was out as referee Charlie Fitch waved it off at 2:36. "And down he goes and that's it," Showtime's Barry Tompkins said matter of factly. "Over. Just like that. Huge right hand caught Reyes stepping in. And that is that."