Andre Ward said that it “sounded like a gunshot” when Efe Ajagba blasted Brian Howard with a thudding right hand that knocked Howard cold April 10 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Are you kidding me?,” ESPN’s blow-by-blow announcer, Joe Tessitore, exclaimed after Ajagba annihilated Howard with the right hand that produced BoxingScene.com’s “Knockout of the Year” for 2021.
Howard had to wonder the same thing once he realized what had happened in the third round of an encounter ESPN aired from Osage Casino. Ajagba’s power was well documented, but the native Nigerian had gone the distance with Johnnie Rice in his previous appearance, a 10-rounder September 19 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The 6-feet-6, 239-pound Ajagba (15-1, 12 KOs) didn’t waste that type of time with Howard, who was 41, yet considered a dangerous puncher himself (15-5, 12 KOs). The 2016 Olympian got great extension on the right hand that landed on Howard’s jaw and rendered him an unconscious, twisted mess on the canvas.
Here’s a clip of Ajagba’s brutal knockout of Howard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p39g8-8fv2w&t=47s
RUNNERS-UP (in chronological order)
Oscar Valdez-Miguel Berchelt: Valdez had dropped Berchelt in the fourth and ninth rounds of a surprisingly one-sided beatdown before he stepped back and connected with a vicious counter left hook that left Berchelt flat on his face in the 10th round of their 130-pound championship match. Referee Russell Mora immediately waved an end to their fight for Berchelt’s WBC super featherweight title February 20 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) became the second opponent to knock out Berchelt (38-2, 34 KOs) in his countryman’s 10-year pro career.
Here’s a clip of this knockout, which ESPN televised: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkUCINYpVkM&t=65s
Brandun Lee-Samuel Teah: Lee wasn’t fazed by a left hand Teah landed as he was throwing a right that short-circuited his unsuspecting opponent. Teah was unconscious as he fell toward the canvas, on which he landed flat on his back. Referee Johnny Callas stopped their scheduled 10-round fight as soon as Teah hit the canvas, at 1:43 of the third round in a “ShoBox: The New Generation” main event March 10 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The hard-hitting Lee (24-0, 22 KOs), an emerging junior welterweight contender from La Quinta, California, is the only opponent who has knocked out Philadelphia’s Teah (18-4-1, 8 KOs) in Teah’s eight years as a pro.
Here’s a clip of this knockout, which Showtime televised: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqL3scua3g4
Gabe Rosado-Bektemir Melikuziev: “Bek The Bully” was heavily favored to defeat Rosado and appeared well on his way to doing that when he dropped Rosado during the first round June 19 at Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas. Philadelphia’s Rosado responded by blasting Melikuziev with a picture-perfect right hand that landed as Melikuziev threw a left hand in the third round of their super middleweight match. Uzbekistan’s Melikuziev (8-1, 6 KOs) fell to canvas face first in a corner. He got up, but referee Rocky Burke understandably stopped their scheduled 12-round bout. This highlight-reel knockout is the most memorable win Rosado (26-14-1, 15 KOs, 1 NC) has recorded during his 16-year pro career.
Here’s a clip of the knockout, which DAZN streamed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyNRBwFacyo
Mark Magsayo-Julio Ceja: The Philippines’ Magsayo, who suffered a fifth-round knockdown, was behind on all three scorecards when he cracked Ceja with a devastating right hand and added another right hand as Ceja fell to the canvas. Those two punishing punches knocked Mexico’s Ceja unconscious on the Manny Pacquiao-Yordenis Ugas undercard August 21 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and caused him to spend the night at a local hospital. This comeback victory earned Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) a shot at WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KOs) on January 22 at Borgata Resort Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Ceja (32-5-1, 28 KOs) lost by knockout or technical knockout for the fourth time in his past seven fights.
Here’s a clip of this knockout, which FOX televised via pay-per-view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcFMwT7nny0&t=39s
Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder: Fury fought his way back from two knockdowns during the fourth round to emphatically end their trilogy in the 11th round October 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) appeared exhausted for several rounds, yet he managed to remain dangerous until Fury finally put him away with a crushing right hand that sent the fatigued former WBC heavyweight champion crashing to the canvas. Referee Russell Mora halted their 12-round rubber match immediately and Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs) defeated Wilder inside the distance in a second straight fight.
Here’s a clip of this knockout, which ESPN and FOX Sports distributed on pay-per-view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrrnzzssDmw
Jake Paul-Tyron Woodley: Engaged in another competitive cruiserweight contest with the former UFC welterweight champion, Paul stunningly ended their rematch with an unforgettable right hand that knocked Woodley unconscious. Woodley fell to the canvas face-first from a devastating shot he never saw coming December 18 at Amale Arena in Tampa, Florida. The polarizing Paul’s picturesque knockout became one of boxing’s most viral moments of 2021 and encouraged the developing Paul to pursue a fight against former WBC middleweight champ Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Here’s a clip of this knockout, which was distributed by Showtime on pay-per-view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xzYLkxjdag&t=66s
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.