MANILA, Philippines – Calling the punch both "aesthetically pleasing" and "historically significant," Juan Manuel Marquez's short right-hand counter that floored Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao in their fourth bout was named the best knockout of 2012 by ESPN.
"If any 2012 knockout was better than Marquez’s finish of Pacquiao, none was bigger," wrote ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael.
|Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines (front) is knocked out by a punch from Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico during the sixth round of their welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada December 8, 2012. Photo by Steve Marcus, Reuters.
Pacquiao and Marquez had a long history dating back to 2004, when their first fight ended in a draw. Since then, Pacquiao won the 2008 and 2011 rematches via controversial decisions, although Marquez maintained that he was the rightful winner of all three fights.
"When Pacquiao agreed to fight Marquez for the fourth time on December 8 at the MGM Grand, he said the key reason was because so many people had doubts about the previous outcomes," Rafael said.
"Heading into the fourth fight... both men promised to be more aggressive and go for the knockout. They were desperate for a definitive result. Neither wanted to leave it in the hands of the judges again," he added.
"Pacquiao and Marquez lived up to their promise and put on the best fight of their epic series, which delivered as definitive an outcome as possible: Marquez landing a picture-perfect right hand that knocked Pacquiao out cold with one second left in the sixth round."
Marquez floored Pacquiao for the first time in their saga in the third round, although Pacquiao shook it off and even forced Marquez to take a knee in the fifth round. The Filipino was controlling the action in the sixth round when he walked right into Marquez's counter-right hand.
Pacquiao would crash face-first into the canvas, where he would stay motionless for around two minutes. When referee Kenny Bayless waved off the fight, Marquez climbed the ropes and celebrated as the mostly Mexican crowd inside the MGM Grand went wild.
"The knockout was as aesthetically pleasing as it was shocking and historically significant," Rafael wrote.
"Obviously, it's the 2012 ESPN.com knockout of the year."
Pacquiao would later admit that he never saw the punch coming. He would not attend the post-fight press conference and instead went to a hospital for a CT scan; results of his tests came back negative.
Marquez, meanwhile, finally got the vindication he desperately wanted. “I threw the perfect punch,” he said.
It was the first time that Marquez won Knockout of the Year honors. Pacquiao previously won the award in 2009, thanks to his knockout of Ricky Hatton. In 2011, Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire took the award for his knockout of Fernando Montiel.
Donaire's third-round stoppage of Jorce Arce in their December 15 clash was also a top contender for the award this year.
Also gaining recognition was Danny Garcia's fourth-round knockout of Erik Morales in their October 20 rematch.
"Garcia dominated the first three rounds before ending it in the fourth with a picture-perfect, ferocious left hook that landed so cleanly, Morales nearly spun all the way around before dropping like a rock," Rafael wrote.
"He came to rest with his body hanging over the bottom ring rope. Referee Benjy Esteves didn’t bother to count... Garcia may never throw a better punch for the rest of his career."