Klitschko scores KO of the year

Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko sure has scored his share of big knockouts. In recent years, opponents such as Samuel Peter, Eddie Chambers, Tony Thompson, Jean-Marc Mormeck and Alex Leapai have all fallen from his fistic fury as Klitschko racked up championship defense after championship defense in a nearly nine-year title reign of pure dominance.

Klitschko's greatest knockout weapon has always been his thunderous right hand, which he usually sets up with a missile-like jab, the best in the business.

Often forgotten about in his diverse arsenal is a pulverizing left hook. When Klitschko decides to use it, that hook is as devastating as any punch in boxing. Just ask poor Kubrat Pulev, who was on the receiving end of several of them to the tune of four knockdowns. The final one separated him from his senses in the fifth round and resulted in Klitschko retaining the title and scoring the 2014 ESPN.com knockout of the year.

Klitschko (63-3, 54 KOs) was making his 17th title defense when he met Pulev (20-1, 11 KOs) on Nov. 15 at the sold-out O2 World arena in Hamburg, Germany, where Klitschko is an adored superstar. Many expected Pulev, a legitimate mandatory challenger, to at least give Klitschko a few problems. That did not happen.

Klitschko went early and often to the left hook, dropping Pulev with it twice in the first round. Then he landed another big one in the third round to send him to the deck yet again.

In the fifth round, Pulev had a brief moment when it looked like he might have broken though by getting Klitschko's attention with a hard right hand to the head and forcing him to hold on. But after referee Tony Weeks separated them, Klitschko ended the fight on the next punch, a crushing left hook that landed squarely on Pulev's jaw and sent him crashing to the mat, flat on his back but with his fists in the air.

HBO's Hall of Fame announcer Jim Lampley described the action perfectly.

"Hard right hand by Pulev and the Klitschko chin holds up for the moment to that punch," Lampley said, before immediately shifting gears. "Down goes Pulev on another left hook! And that may be the one from which he does not get up. He's done, and it's a fifth-round KO win for Wladimir Klitschko."

Klitschko, often accused of using a too-clinical approach in his fights, showed more emotion than usual in this booming knockout. Usually all too nice to his opponents, Klitschko didn't particularly like Pulev, so he punctuated the knockout by giving him a little forearm shove for good measure as he was falling to the mat. Then Klitschko pumped his fist.

Pulev, with a bloody, busted up face, raised his head off the canvas midcount but then his body went limp and his bead fell back to the mat as Weeks waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 11 seconds.

The final, destructive left hook was the end of a brilliant, nearly flawless performance from Klitschko, the baddest man on the planet.

Other sweet shots

Carl Froch KO8 George Groves II (May 31 at London):

Six months earlier, Froch scored a highly controversial ninth-round knockout of Groves to retain his unified super middleweight title in a fight in which Groves had decked Froch in the first round and was winning on all three scorecards before the poor stoppage. There was no controversy whatsoever in the rematch as Froch left no doubt, finishing Groves in grand style before a wild record-British boxing crowd of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium. In the eighth round of the close, exciting fight, they were locked in an exchange when Froch ended it just like that as he nailed Groves with a clean, full-leverage right hand on the chin, dropping him hard near the ropes. Groves' left leg was pinned underneath him and he was in a very awkward position as referee Charlie Fitch waved it off with 26 seconds left in the round. Groves was out of it. As he tried to get to his feet after the stoppage, he couldn't and fell into Fitch. "Right hand has destroyed Groves," bellowed Sky Sports' Nick Halling. "It's waved off already. Charlie Fitch saw enough! What a shot! You will not see a more explosive finish than that!"

Andy Lee KO5 John Jackson (June 7 at New York):

A few days before Lee's 30th birthday he gave himself quite a gift in the form of a giant come-from-behind knockout. Jackson, the son of former middleweight and junior middleweight titlist Julian Jackson, had dominated Lee throughout their junior middleweight bout. He knocked Lee down in the first round and had him in big trouble in the fifth round as he sent him staggering into the ropes and was looking to finish him. But he left himself open and Lee came off the ropes and crushed Jackson with a counter right hook. "Jackson's power is simply devastating Lee -- and there's a perfect right hand counter off the ropes and Benjy Esteves stops the fight! What an amazing comeback knockout for Andy Lee," Lampley roared. Jackson had gone down face first, his arm outstretched, as Lee raised his arms in victory. He knew the fight was over as did Esteves, the referee, who called it off at 1 minute, 7 seconds without bothering to count. Jackson was out cold as Lee rescued himself with his money punch.

Amir Mansour KO7 Frederic Kassi (Nov. 8 at Bethlehem, Pa.):

Mansour, the 42-year-old ex-convict, who lost a decade of his career while in prison, may never win the heavyweight world title but he sure makes for exciting fights and brings the heat. This knockout sure showed that as he absolutely erased Kassi in very violent fashion. After the fight, Mansour admitted that Kassi had stung him a few times with hard punches during, but nothing was as big as the shot Mansour ended the fight with. He maneuvered Kassi to the ropes and landed a left hand to the head before annihilating him with a huge right hook to the chin. Kassi was out cold before he hit the canvas face first. Referee Gary Rosato did not bother to count as he waved off the fight immediately at 2 minutes, 17 seconds. "Mansour has knocked him out! A thunderous right by Amir Mansour and Kassi is out cold," is how NBCSN's Kenny Rice called it. Kassi was motionless on the canvas for several minutes before regaining his senses. What a devastating knockout.

Marvin Sonsona KO3 Akifumi Shimoda (Feb. 22 at Macau, China):

Kaboooooom! Shimoda looked good in the early going of this featherweight bout against fellow southpaw Sonsona, a former junior bantamweight titlist. But Sonsona figured him out and then landed a wicked left uppercut that caught Shimoda flush. His head snapped back and he fell to his rear end with his left leg pinned underneath him and then he fell flat on his back, out cold as his head slammed the mat. Referee Danrex Tapdasan began to count but then quickly waved off the fight at 1 minute, 17 seconds as Sonsona and his team launched into a wild celebration while Shimoda was down for several minutes. "Big shot catches him. That might be it," exclaimed Top Rank broadcaster Col. Bob Sheridan, calling the action. "It's all over! It's all over! It's gonna be scored a knockout. He's not getting up at all!"

Felix Verdejo KO3 Sergio Villanueva (Oct. 4 at Orlando, Florida):

Puerto Rican lightweight sensation Verdejo, the 2014 ESPN.com prospect of the year, showed off his punching power with this highlight-reel knockout against Villanueva, who was selected as the opponent because he is typically durable and Top Rank's matchmakers felt he would give the 21-year-old the rounds he needs. Instead, Verdejo scored an early knockout, the kind of jaw-dropping destruction that makes it easy for people to view him as the heir apparent to Puerto Rican legends Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto. Verdejo was in control all the way and then, in the third round, momentarily turned southpaw and ruined Villanueva with a right hand that caught him flush on the side of the face. As Verdejo hopped out of the way to avoid Villanueva falling into him, he was motionless for a moment and then fell toward the canvas. But Villanueva did not hit the mat because he fell in between the first and second ring ropes, literally bouncing off of them. He actually got to his feet, but he was out of it. As referee Frank Santore was calling off the fight at 1 minute, 57 seconds, Villanueva staggered backward across the ring before falling to his back.

Viktor Postol KO11 Selcuk Aydin (May 17 at Inglewood, California):

In this junior welterweight world title elimination bout, Postol earned a mandatory shot with a sick knockout to end a surprisingly one-sided fight. Postol let his hands fly throughout the entire bout as he connected on 395 of 1,105 punches. But it was one huge shot that will be remembered. Moments after referee Raul Caiz Jr. docked a point from Aydin for hitting behind the head, Postol crushed him with a right uppercut. Aydin's head violently rocked back and he went down like a sack of rocks before his head bounced off the canvas, and Caiz immediately waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 52 seconds.

Gennady Golovkin TKO3 Daniel Geale (July 26 at New York):

GGG knows a thing or two about knockouts. The middleweight titleholder owns the highest knockout percentage of any active titleholder (90.3) and this beauty against Geale, a legitimate opponent and former titleholder, was his 17th in a row in a streak that now stands at 18 straight. Golovkin, who had knocked Geale down in the second round and cut him over his right eye, ended it in the third. Geale landed a really good right hand to Golovkin's forehead but Golovkin was simultaneously throwing his own right hand, which he basically threw as he was going backward but still managed to connect clean on Geale's chin to knock him down. Geale beat the count, but his legs were a total mess and he knew he was done, nodding as referee Michael Ortega waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 43 seconds.

Frank Galarza KO2 John Thompson (Jan. 17 at Memphis, Tennessee):

Undefeated junior middleweight prospect Galarza handed Thompson his first career defeat in frightening fashion. The spent the first round getting a look at each other before Galarza lowered the boom 16 seconds into the second round. He immediately staggered Thompson with a right hand and kept throwing until connecting with a savage left hook that dropped Thompson like a rag doll. He fell to the mat face first, going down very awkwardly as his head was twisted to the side with his weight on his neck. He tried to get to all fours but then fell over, forcing referee Keith Hughes called off the fight. This was quite nasty.

Joseph Parker KO4 Irineu Beato Costa Junior (Dec. 6 at Hamilton, New Zealand):

Parker, a powerful heavyweight and one of boxing's top prospects, was facing Junior, who had gone the 12-round distance in his only previous defeat. But Parker handed him his first knockout loss in emphatic fashion. Parker had worked the body during the fight and also landed some nice right hands to the head before ending the fight when he nailed him with a left jab that basically turned Costa's head into the follow-up right hand that caught him flush on the jaw and splattered him flat on his back. Costa's eyes were open but he was totally out of it. Referee Brad Vocale counted to four but properly elected to stop the fight at 31 seconds without finishing the count. He probably could have counted to 100. Broadcaster Col. Bob Sheridan was on the scene: "Ohhhhhh! Right hand! He's not gonna get up from that! Hit him right on the chin with a solid right hand! This fight's all over. He's not going to count him out because he saw the eyes roll back. Big, big, big shot with a right hand from Joseph Parker!"

Alexander Povetkin KO10 Carlos Takam (Oct. 24 at Moscow):

In a heavyweight matchup of 2004 Olympians, former world titleholder Povetkin (a gold medalist) and Takam fought mostly on even terms in a grueling fight before Povetkin began to take over in the ninth round and knocked him down with a right hand just before the end of the round. Then in the 10th round, Povetkin leveled the fading Takam, unleashing a huge left hook that cracked him on the chin and flattened him. Takam went down spread eagle in the middle of the ring and was out cold, causing referee Kenny Bayless to wave off the fight at 54 seconds without a count. What a tremendous punch. It's why folks love heavyweights.

Nicholas Walters KO5 Vic Darchinyan (May 31 at Macau, China):

Walters retained his featherweight belt as he notched his 10th knockout in previous 11 fights in a one-sided demolition of Darchinyan, the faded former flyweight and junior bantamweight titlist. Walters had dropped Darchinyan with a right uppercut in the second round and earlier in the fifth round with a right hand. Darchinyan continued to fight but looked finished. And then Walters -- "The Axe Man" -- caught him with a huge left hook that dropped him hard. He went down, his left leg pinned underneath him as he hit his head on the bottom ring rope, and referee Raul Caiz Jr. immediately waved it off without a count with 38 seconds left in the round. off the without a count at 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Darchinyan had no idea where he was.