HOUSTON, TX – MAY 09: James Kirkland gets attention from the referree after being knocked down in the third round by Canelo Alvarez of Mexico during their super welterweight bout at Minute Maid Park on May 9, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Choosing a “knockout of the year” is an odd business, when you think about it. As boxing fans we might be used to the cruelty of the exercise, but how exactly do you select the “best” example of a person being rendered senseless?

Some knockouts are spectacular: there’s virtually no sight in sport as breathtaking as a person being suddenly and violently removed from consciousness. Others are surprising: upsets and come-from-behind victories, walk off home runs in the bottom of the ninth. Others still are significant within the sport: a championship run ended, a prospect exposed, a stadium packed.

The Queensberry Rules‘ choice for 2015 Knockout of the Year meets at least two of those criteria: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s brutal KO of James Kirkland in Houston on May 9 was important. But more than anything, it was eye-catching.

The crushing right that floored Kirkland in the third round came as a surprise only to Kirkland, however. Everyone else was only shocked he’d survived so long. The Texan’s force of will was not enough to overcome his skills deficit, and the fight was largely target practice for Canelo. When he finally dropped the boom, the unflappable Mexican had already sent Kirkland to the canvas twice, with punches that would have been strong contenders for this award had “The Mandingo Warrior” stayed down.

The coup de grâce was even more dramatic. Wobbly, his back to the ropes, and not much of a stylist at the best of times, Kirkland was a sitting duck.

Canelo offered a driving jab to the body, which Kirkland obligingly attempted to parry, dropping his hands for the crunching right that followed. Perhaps he realised his terrible mistake in the split-second before the darkness.

In a final act of nonchalance, Canelo effortlessly slid beneath the left that was Kirkland’s last conscious act. He turned and ran to the corner post to celebrate without waiting for the referee to officially end the fight. Carried by the momentum, Kirkland fell, spinning like a spent shell casing, bouncing to the ground arms akimbo, his bicep smeared with his mouth’s bright blood.

It was a spectacular KO and a deserved winner of this award purely on its aesthetic merits, but it’s also worth noting that it came at the right time: exactly one week after Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao. Canelo’s destruction of Kirkland offered an alternative vision of boxing to the over-hyped and underwhelming superfight of the previous week.

It showed that boxing can still be a violent ritual and a true spectacle. And that even if obscene amounts of money are being made, there’s a little bit more to this sport of ours than making obscene amounts of money.

Image: Kirkland lies unconscious as Canelo celebrates. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images.