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2022 Knockout Of The Year: Leigh Wood

Posted on 12/30/2022

By: Sean Crose

There were some impressive knockouts in 2022 to be sure. Then again, one of the good things about professional boxing is that each year brings with it any number of highlight reel finishes. No matter how bad things get in boxing – and, let’s face it, things ain’t great right now – at least there are stunning knockouts to behold. And besides, this year’s candidates were tough to pick a winner out of. Caleb Plant’s decimation of Anthony Dirrell sticks in the collective memory, as does Deontay Wilder’s jackhammer finish of Robert Helenius, as does Tyson Fury’s abrupt polishing off of Dillian Whyte.

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Still, impressive though they were, none of those knockouts had the impact of Leigh Wood’s knockout of Michael Conlan last winter in Great Britain. Wood not only knocked Conlan out, he knocked the man through the ropes in frightening fashion. “If we find out he’s okay,” my brother in law texted me regarding Conlan immediately after the fight, “(then) that was a fantastic f—–g battle.”  Indeed it was. Conlan dropped Wood in the first, then went on to perform brilliantly. Wood, however, was not to be denied. After dropping Conlan in the eleventh, he finished his game opponent off in frightening fashion in the twelfth.

“In the end,” I wrote at the time, “Conlan ended up getting literally knocked out of the ring by Leigh before sprawling out unconscious on the floor of Nottingham’s eponymously named arena. Everyone, Leigh included, was deeply troubled by the fight’s brutal end. Conlan left the arena on a stretcher, and it would be some time before news arrived that the former Olympian was conscious and responsive.” Fortunately for all parties involved, most especially for Conlan and his family, the Irish fighter appears no worse for wear. He has, after all, gone on to win two in a row.

Still, there’s the duality of knockout punches that comes to mind. As I wrote at the time, they can be horrible things. Yet at the same time they are brilliantly impressive, showing the complete dominance of one athlete over another. And, ultimately, that’s what makes boxing – and every other sport – notable, the fact that it’s a quest for athletic dominance. If the sweet science were merely about sending someone crashing through a set of ropes onto a hard floor we’d rightly be horrified. It’s not the potentially serious harm that we admire in such moments, however, but the showcasing of athletic prowess.

And Leigh’s prowess was in high form when he stopped Conlan that night in England.

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