What makes a great round? Although by no means an exact science, a memorable three minutes of fighting usually contains either several knockdowns, a stunning KO, relentless back-and-forth action, or a dramatic shift in momentum between the two fighters in the ring. With that in mind, Knockoutpunch looks back over 2016 and picks out the three best rounds of the year.
1. Sam Eggington vs Frankie Gavin at Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham on 22 October 2016 (6th round)
The ‘Battle of Birmingham’ between welterweights Sam Eggington and Frankie Gavin on 22 October was one of the standout British fights of the year, with the 23-year-old Eggington securing the WBC international belt courtesy of a stunning eighth-round stoppage of former world amateur champion Gavin. After a cagey start, the action picked up in the third round, when Gavin was sent to the canvas by a short right hook. But things really heated up in the sixth stanza, when both men went hell for leather in search of a stoppage. Cheered on by an electric crowd at the Barclaycard Arena, Eggington started the round in complete control as he landed a series of hooks that sent Gavin in retreat to the ropes where he looked on the verge of being stopped. However, the 31-year-old refused to give in to Eggington’s relentless assault and started to land some eye-catching shots of his own which got the attention of his local rival. As the clock ticked down, Eggington got back on top and scored a knockdown when he sent ‘Funtime’ sprawling into the ropes with a flurry of punches. Both fighters then emptied the tank in the last 30 seconds as they refused to take a step backwards in a sensational conclusion to an action-packed round.
2. Dillian Whyte vs Dereck Chisora at Manchester Arena, Manchester, on 10 December 2016 (5th round)
There were two standout rounds in this the classic heavyweight slugfest: the fifth and the eighth. The former just shades it for us due to the dramatic shifts in momentum which saw both big men look on the verge of being knocked out in a matter of seconds. The brutal nature of this battle for London bragging rights came as no surprise after such a fractious buildup, during which Chisora infamously threw a table in Whyte’s direction at a wild press conference, earning himself a hefty fine and ensuring Whyte’s British title was not on the line on the night. And the antipathy between these two British bruisers was evident in Manchester as they battered each other senseless right up until the final bell. After four closely-contested rounds, the fight really took off in the fifth, when both men took turns to rip each other with power shots to the head and body. As Whyte got to work downstairs early in the round, Chisora suddenly unleashed a vicious left hook that wobbled him and caused the ‘Body Snatcher’ to hold in order to regather his senses. The pair then traded heavy blows on the inside before Chisora connected with a left hook that sent his bitter rival onto the ropes, where he appeared to be on the brink of being stopped. But Whyte gritted his teeth and came back with a combination of his own that seriously hurt Chisora, who now looked in deep trouble himself as he staggered into a corner. With 25 seconds in the round to go, they continued to swing for the fences as the sellout crowd went wild. It was one of the most memorable three minutes of heavyweight boxing we’ve seen in years.
3. Carl Frampton vs Leo Santa Cruz at Barclays Center, New York, on 30 July 2016 (11th round)
In truth, the 126-pound battle between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz in July was so good you could have picked out almost any round for this list. But the 11th just shaded it ahead of the classic 12th stanza for the way both men fought through their obvious exhaustion to deliver sustained action for the entire three-minute duration. Fighting at a pace more commonly seen in the opening round, Frampton and featherweight champion Santa Cruz traded stiff jabs, hooks to the body and overhand rights to the head as the crowd at the Barclays Center in New York roared their approval. With the fight hanging in the balance, these two warriors knew that every punch mattered as they entered the championship rounds. Although there were no knockdowns, the quality of the combinations and the ferocity of the exchanges made this three minutes of boxing that will live long in the memory. Crucially, two judges preferred the Northern Irishman’s work, while the third gave the round to Santa Cruz, as Frampton eked out a majority decision to claim the WBA featherweight title.
Honourable mentions: Frank Buglioni vs Hosea Burton (12th), Kell Brook vs Gennady Golovkin (4th), Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter (9th), Francisco Vargas vs Orlando Salido (6th), Deontay Wilder vs Eric Molina (3rd), Roman Gonzalez vs Carlos Cuadras (5th), Adonis Stevenson vs Thomas Williams Jr (4th), Danny Garcia vs Robert Guerrero (6th)