Every year there are thousands of knockouts in boxing. They run the gamut from questionable to mundane (how is that possible?) to spectacular. To be knockout of the year, though, it has to be spectacular, and if it’s in a big fight, so much the better. Viewers feel that charge of anticipation on the biggest stage. The moments just seem larger on a cellular level.
That’s why we love punchers. Every fan, even the joyless “pure boxing” enthusiasts that refer to anyone who gets hit once a millenium as a club fighter, loves punchers. Knowing that a fight can end with any punch ratchets the suspense up to 11, and when that punch comes, it’s like a cattle prod to the taint of everyone involved. Your whole body spasms in shock and delight, and if you’ve got a deity of choice, their name gets blasphemously shouted.
Entering his Oct. 7 Bantamweight World Boxing Super Series quarterfinal against Dominican Juan Carlos Payano in Yokohama, Japan, the question wasn’t so much if Naoya “The Monster” Inoue could knock Payano out, it was when it would happen. The precocious Inoue has claimed alphabet straps and scalps in three divisions during his 17-fight (15 KO) career. If you’re looking for a true knockout “artist,” he qualifies.
The fight lasted 1:10. That’s impressive. More impressive still is that Inoue knocked Payano out with the first combination he threw. The first 55ish seconds of action are really just pawing/parrying and an occasional punch from Payano, who’s normally quite durable. At exactly one minute in, Inoue feints his left hand just slightly, then spears out a stiff jab. The right hand that follows detonates squarely on Payano’s jaw, and his body enters rigor mortis instantly. Payano moves around, slightly slithering toward the fetal position, but you cannot be more knocked the fuck out than he was at that moment.
There were several worthy candidates this year, including Teofimo Lopez poleaxing Mason Menard with a soul crushing overhand right, but none had the aesthetic or taint-wrenching appeal of Naoya Inoue’s destruction of Juan Carlos Payano, and that is why it is TQBR’s Knockout Of The Year.