Jermell Charlo Forged the Knockout of the Year

One would be hard-pressed to name a year in which there were as many scintillating knockouts. The first arrived in January when Mikey Garcia captured his third title in as many weight classes and showed he was more than a solid technician with a brutal third round knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin. The first punch of a three-punch combination knocked Zlaticanin sideways and he was wide open when Garcia delivered the coup-de-gras. Zlaticanin lay motionless on the canvas for several minutes before he was revived.

This was the early frontrunner for Knockout of the Year, but it couldn’t hold the lead. Six weeks later an even stronger candidate emerged when David Lemieux starched Curtis Stevens with a vicious left hook in the third round of their match in Verona, New York. Stevens was out before he hit the canvas and lay prone for several minutes before he was removed from the ring on a stretcher. In May, a virtually identical scenario unfolded when veteran Ray Beltran took out Jonathan Maicelo with a thunderous left hook in the second round of their brief but zesty encounter at Madison Square Garden.

There were other notable knockouts including Deontay Wilder’s first round demolition of Bermane Stiverne. Agreed, it was a rather sloppy knockout, but it yielded the year’s most indelible boxing image. The photo of Stiverne in dreamland, his neck resting on the lower strand of ropes, his eyes closed and his legs pinned awkwardly beneath him, went viral.

And then, of course, there was the “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” knockout scored by defending WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete who needed only 11 seconds to lay South African countryman Sibiniso Gonya out cold. There have been quicker knockouts according to BoxRec, but they are of dubious authenticity. Not this one, which anyone can verify at home with access to YouTube and a good stopwatch. “You could watch boxing for the next 100 years and never see something like that again,” says veteran boxing scribe Frank Lotierzo.

Zolani Tete would have been a safe call, but the writers in our survey, in the main, leaned to Jermell Charlo whose once-punch KO of Erickson Lubin at Barclays Center on Oct. 14 left a deeper impression.

Charlo vs. Lubin was part of a PBC super welterweight tripleheader that saw Jarrett Hurd and Erislandy Lara successfully defend their versions of the 154-pound title. While it wasn’t technically the main event, Charlo-Lubin garnered most of the pre-event buzz and then stole the show.

This was a confrontation between two undefeated boxers who seemingly hadn’t yet hit their primes, the sort of match, noted Bernard Fernandez, that almost never happens any more. Jermell Charlo (29-0, 14 KOs) had the edge in pro experience. His twin brother, also undefeated, had preceded him as a 154-pound world titlist, so one could also say that he had the better pedigree. But Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs) was more highly touted coming out of the amateur ranks. Indeed, he would have been the most talked-about member of the U.S. Olympic team heading into the 2016 Rio games if he hadn’t spurned the opportunity, turning pro in late November of 2013 at age 18.

Despite his youth, Lubin didn’t lack for confidence. “Charlo is a paper champion,” he said, “He hasn’t faced anyone like me. Tune in to see how I make this fight look easy.” Jermell Charlo, needless to say, dissented, and the bookies were on the fence, making Charlo the slightest of favorites in a bout where seemingly every pre-fight story was ladled with the phrase “toss-up.”

Would this be the first installment of a memorable series? In hindsight, the question strikes one as facetious. Perhaps Lubin was betrayed by a soft beard. Regardless, when Charlo hit him with a twisting right uppercut inside the third minute of the opening round he fell like a rock. Referee Harvey Dock counted to six before waving it off.

The 2016 TSS Prospect of the Year, Erickson Lubin fell from grace with a thud. Can he recover and get his career back on track? Only time will tell.

Photo credit: Ed Diller / DiBella Entertainment

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