Round of the Year: Coyle-Brizuela

There are certain qualities that go into making a memorable fight, including thrilling two-way action, dramatic swings of momentum, multiple knockdowns and, at times, even controversy.

Not often, however, do you get all of the above in one round.

But that's exactly what happened during Tommy Coyle's memorable lightweight duel in February against Argentina's Daniel Brizuela.

A fight of the year candidate in its own right, featuring eight total knockdowns and three point deductions, Coyle-Brizuela clearly wasn't a highly anticipated bout between big names. There wasn't even a title at stake.

The fight did, however, feature two determined combatants willing to put on a showcase of bravery inside the Ice Arena in Coyle's hometown of Hull, England, that few will forget. And the high point of the bout was a Round 11 worthy of recognition as ESPN.com's 2014 round of the year.

Coyle (20-2, 9 KOs), 25, had already been knocked down once in Round 2 and two more times in Round 6 when he was barely able to beat the count. The action only heated up from there, as Brizuela (27-4-2, 8 KOs) was dropped in Round 8, lost a point for a low blow in Round 9 and was cut due to an accidental head butt in Round 10.

That set the stage for a wild Round 11, which opened with Sky Sports' announcer Nick Halling asking, "Is there one more big twist to this one?"

Brizuela quickly answered Smith's question just 23 seconds into the round when he visibly hurt Coyle with a vicious left hook to the body. Brizuela followed up with a flurry of right hands upstairs before dropping Coyle for the fourth time on another left hook downstairs.

But what happened next was just ridiculous.

Exhausted and badly hurt, Coyle rose from the canvas at the count of eight and motioned Brizuela forward with his left glove. Coyle then uncorked a violent overhand right that caught Brizuela flush on the temple and floored him.

You could almost hear the late Emanuel Steward's epic call of "Ohhhh mmmyyy gawwddd" from Round 6 of Victor Ortiz's 2011 brawl with Andre Berto echoing in the air as the hometown crowd exploded for Coyle. The moments couldn't have been more similar, with Halling exclaiming, "What a right hand! Out of nowhere!"

Brizuela sat up on his knees and smiled as he nodded his head, almost as a tip of the cap to Coyle's dramatic shot. But Brizuela was clearly on unsteady legs as he reached his feet with Coyle switching gears and going on the attack.

Moments later, Coyle caught up with Brizuela and decked him again with a massive right hand at the midway point in the round.

Brizuela took his time in getting up and was in big trouble as Coyle stalked him and landed repeated heavy blows. But with less than a minute remaining, Coyle's aggressiveness got the best of him, and he was docked a point by referee Steve Gray after landing a clean right hook on the break.

The break in the action gave Brizuela an unexpected 20 seconds of valuable recovery time, and the two fighters traded hooks until the final bell, with Brizuela surviving another flush shot along the ropes in the closing seconds.

With the fight seemingly up for grabs on the scorecards entering Round 12, Coyle knocked Brizuela down for a fourth and final time and took home the TKO victory thanks to a questionable stoppage from Gray while Brizuela was alert and on his feet.

Other scorchers

David Lemieux-Gabriel Rosado (fourth) -- Dec. 6 at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York:

This exciting but mostly one-sided matchup between gutsy middleweights hit a crescendo during this memorable round. After Lemieux established control and swelled Rosado's left eye the previous round, he walked Rosado down again with clean power shots. But Rosado began to assert himself within the storm by backing Lemieux up with an overhand right. He continued to mix in hard counter shots before landing a flush uppercut that woke up the crowd. With Lemieux taking a breather behind his high guard, Rosado teed off and pinned him against the ropes. Lemieux answered by wobbling him with a left hook. With 20 seconds remaining and Rosado pinned in the corner, the Philadelphia native called Lemieux forward and landed his best offense of the fight until the final bell. Rosado, who went on to lose by 10th-round TKO, raised his gloves into the air and stared down Lemieux as the Brooklyn crowd erupted on its feet.

Francisco Rodriguez Jr.-Katsunari Takayama (12th) -- Aug. 9 at Arena Monterrey, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico:

In a rare strawweight unification bout, this round was the climax of an intense brawl that was red-hot from start to finish. Both men fought with such amazing passion and intensity, making it difficult to differentiate one round from another, as each one was fast-paced and competitive. Both fighters squared up, refused to clinch and uncorked untold clean punches at close range. Rodriguez, who went on to claim a unanimous decision, wobbled Takayama with one minute remaining, bringing an already elated crowd to its feet. With Hall of Famer Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. jumping up and down from ringside waving his hands in the air, both fighters exhaustedly emptied the tank until the final bell.

Francisco Vargas-Juan Manuel Lopez (third) -- July 12 at MGM Grand, Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas:

If 2014 marked the end of the road for the all-action yet vulnerable Lopez, he provided fans with plenty of highs and lows on his way out. This round was no exception, although it took a little more than a minute to heat up. After Vargas backed Lopez to the ropes with body shots, the two fighters traded savage hooks at close range, with neither willing to back down. As the crowd's intensity increased, so did the number of clean shots that were landing for both. But Vargas, who was throwing the straighter punches, was increasingly getting the better of the exchanges. After a full minute of sustained brutality, Lopez was wobbled by a fierce left uppercut. Determined to go out on his shield, Lopez kept firing until he was floored with 26 seconds remaining. Both fighters brawled until the bell, but with Lopez on shaky legs, his corner smartly stopped the fight between rounds.

Thomas Williams Jr.-Cornelius White (first) -- Jan. 24 at Little Creek Casino Resort, Shelton, Washington:

What a way to kick off the new year. In a January main event on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights," the southpaw Williams opened the light heavyweight bout by flooring White with the first significant left hand he threw. After patiently picking White apart with combinations, he looked on the verge of scoring a second knockdown with just over a minute remaining. But Williams walked into a clubbing left hook and went down hard. With his cobwebs still shaken and his unbeaten record on the line, Williams returned to his feet and wobbled White with an overhand left, causing ringside analyst Teddy Atlas to shout, "Rock 'em sock 'em robots!" Two punches later, White was down for the second time. Williams poured it on before referee Bobby Howard jumped in to rescue White at 2:49 of a wild opening stanza.

Jose Lopez-Roberto Castaneda (first) -- Aug. 16 at Coliseo Hector Sola Bezares, Caguas, Puerto Rico:

When was the last time you saw a fighter win an eight-round decision after suffering four knockdowns in the first round? Lopez, an unbeaten junior featherweight who was later docked a point in Round 3, may have completed a feat that won't be repeated any time soon. Things began promising for Lopez when he floored Castaneda at the midpoint of the round. But with Castaneda hurt along the ropes, the Mexican uncorked a stunning left hook that decked Lopez and drastically changed the momentum of the fight. Castaneda amped up the pressure and scored two more knockdowns over the next 25 seconds. Then, with Lopez in deep trouble, Castaneda forced him to one knee at the bell with a left hook. Lopez, nicknamed "Wonder Boy," staggered into his own corner and quickly sat on his stool while referee Robert Ramirez Sr. applied the count and made sure he was fit to continue. It's a wonder that Lopez, who rallied to score two more knockdowns of Castaneda, was able to right the ship and get the win.

Juan Manuel Lopez-Daniel Ponce De Leon II (second) -- March 15 at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez, Bayamon, Puerto Rico:

In a rematch of their 2008 bout, Lopez scored his second stoppage win in an action-packed second round. Ponce De Leon kicked things off by flooring Lopez midway through Round 2 with a looping left hook he never saw coming. But Lopez, true to his nature, refused to give in and kept throwing bombs. Moments later, they traded at close range before Lopez capped off a three-punch combination by decking Ponce De Leon with a monster right hook. Ponce De Leon was soon down again following an accumulation of punches before dramatically being stopped him against the ropes. Lopez may have been aided by referee Luis Pabon's quick hook, but the much-needed win kept his career alive to the delight of his native Puerto Rican crowd in Bayamon.

Adrien Broner-Emanuel Taylor (12th) -- Sept. 6 at U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati:

With the scorecards closer than expected entering the final round of a fight that exceeded expectations for competitiveness and action, Broner and Taylor saved their best for last. With Taylor going for broke in search of a knockout and Broner willing to stand in the pocket looking to counter, the two junior welterweights traded big punches from start to finish in Round 12. Both fighters appeared to hurt the other at separate times until Taylor emptied the tank for good in the final minute. But after Broner backed him up with a pair of hard left hooks downstairs, the Cincinnati native put the cherry on the sundae in front of his hometown fans by capping off a four-punch combination with a left uppercut that floored Taylor with just 20 seconds left.

Curtis Stevens-Tureano Johnson (fourth) -- April 4 at Liacouras Center, Philadelphia:

Stevens figured to be a heavy favorite against the unbeaten yet unheralded Johnson. But no one told that to the Bahamian middleweight, who simply smothered Stevens from the opening bell and fought at a frenetic pace until Stevens rallied to stop him -- somewhat controversially -- in the final round. In between were brutal pockets of two-way slugging inside a phone booth, with this round standing out as the best. Johnson continued his hot start early with clubbing right hands. But Stevens pushed back behind a series of uppercuts to gain some momentum for the first time in the fight. Suddenly Johnson was wobbly and looked ready to go with 45 seconds left before both fighters traded bombs until the bell.

Canelo Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo (eighth) -- March 8 at MGM Grand, Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas:

Alvarez dominated this March pay-per-view bout save for one exciting round where Angulo emptied the tank for one final stand. After Alvarez teed off early, the Mexican star took a moment to catch his breath along the ropes. But Angulo seized the opportunity and began to find a home for flush shots that quickly woke up the Las Vegas crowd. The more Canelo responded with big punches, the more Angulo raised his gloves and called him forward to fight. Alvarez answered Angulo's best rally with some trash talk and gesturing of his own before both fighters traded combinations in the center of the ring to close the round.

Monte Meza Clay-Alan Herrera (ninth) -- Aug. 8 at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh:

There was an old-school quality to the way these two lightweights relentlessly traded shots like two TV fighters from decades before. You could almost feel the impact of each punch landed. But before Meza Clay would go on to finish Herrera in the 10th and final round, the two combatants went to war in a memorable Round 9. Neither fighter took a step back, nor did they take their foot off the gas pedal. With promoter Mike Tyson screaming from ringside while sitting in on the broadcast, Herrera wobbled Meza Clay with 30 seconds to go and cornered him. Herrera swooped in and fired nearly every punch he had left in him but was unable to drop a determined Meza Clay before the bell.