Much like the buzz that built about the fight as it circulated from boxing forum to boxing forum, from Twitter follower to Twitter follower, Akira Yaegashi-Pornsawan Porpramook was a slow burn at the beginning. I compared it originally to a motorcycle revving up -- loud and dangerous, but the brakes were still applied. By the middle rounds, it had taken off. By the 7th round, it was leaving trails of fire. Watching that round, you think, "No way this gets any better."
And then, in the 8th, somehow, it does. In that round, Yaegashi and Porpramook took turns dominating the action, or just took turns teeing off on each other, and at various moments it looked like one would drop or stop the other; I literally gasped when Porpramook, his back against the ropes and seemingly in a bad way, suddenly sent Yaegashi stumbling backward. Finally, in the 10th, the ride came to a halt.
Akira Yaegashi-Pornsawan Porpramook is a testament to the greatness of the Internet. If not for YouTube, this fight gets confined to classic status only for the fine people of Japan who hosted it, watched it and delivered the winner, Yaegashi. Instead, diehards in America were able to belatedly catch up to a fight between two tiny, frenzied men on the other side of the world, and spread the gospel. (It was also a good year for tiny Thai fighters named "Porpramook" to be in YouTube gems, too, with a nice little honorable mention Fight of the Year coming this weekend via Kompayak Porpramoook vs. Adrian Hernandez.)
Despite all the Internet love, there were more prominent Fight of the Year candidates in 2011, the kind that aired on Showtime or HBO or ESPN2. But boxers this small -- they were strawweights (105 lbs.), as small as professional fighters get -- had no business ending up having a fight this big, one that stood above them all for raw, unhinged action.
My top five fights of 2011:
1. Rodriguez-Wolak I. Incredible bravery, savagery and drama in a bout with no belt on the line. This fight gave me goose bumps the size of dimes both live and upon a second watch.
2. Concepcion-Marquez I. Fantastic action between two guys who hate each other.
3. Rios-Acosta. Rios was on his way out in this fight and then built an incredible rally that showed his heart and skill. A star was born this night.
4. Porpramook-Yaegashi. See Tim's fine description.
5. Khan-Peterson. This isn't getting enough credit as a fantastic bout. The outcome was in doubt until the final round. Peterson made a rousing comeback, and his body attack was relentless. There also was controversy with the points deducted from Khan. Plus the crowd was rocking in D.C. What else could you for in a fight?
Honorable mention: Pacquiao-Marquez III. A boxing clinic. Two masters at work, both of whom had an answer for every attack. A brilliant display of the Sweet Science.
I think it's a fair pick, but as I mentioned before, when I think back on "Fight of the Year" and what that means to me, personally, I have a tough time pulling the trigger on something I watched already knowing the outcome. I knew "ok, I'm about to watch a bloodbath with crazy back-and-forth action and in the 10th Akira will finally stop Porn"...that changed the viewing experience. I also, sure maybe because I already knew the outcome, saw the fight as a tad one-sided. Knowing Akira would win, the punishment he took didn't strike me the same way I guess. You're taking a different role that requires more objectivity and arguably shouldn't consider these kind of factors. But if I was voting for FOY, I'd have to ultimately give the nod to a fight I experienced not knowing what to expect, something that stirred emotions in me that I couldn't have if I had known what was coming, namely Maidana-Morales, Berto-Ortiz, or Salido-Lopez. I hope you take it as a minor nitpick, cuz I love the awards, thought you broke em down skillfully and made some valid as hell points. Maybe I'm trying to explain why I didn't feel that strongly towards Akira than actually trying to argue your logic in selecting it.
@JFoley I've heard this argument, but I think I'm tired of it. Just as a great book is still great the second time you read it, a great fight is a great fight no matter what knowledge you bring to it. And it's not like any of us get to watch fights from the Pacific live anyway. Just finished this one on YouTube right now, and in the words of Emanuel Stewart, "Mah God."
@HitDog@JFoley I don't take it the wrong way, JFoley. I disagree with you, and sometimes disagree with you in such a way I find myself scratching your head at what you say. But I welcome you saying it -- sometimes you say something so opposite what I think that you make me scrutinize my view and figure out how to defend it, mitigate it or change it, such that I appreciate how far different your view is.
On the larger question you raise and that HitDog responds to: I tend to lean his way. There's a big study that was done recently -- I don't have it handy -- about whether people enjoyed a thing more knowing the ending in advance or if they liked it better when it was unspoiled. Surprisingly large numbers of people liked the thing better knowing the ending. Me, I'd prefer not to have something spoiled. But I couldn't let knowing the ending of Akira-Porn affect my view of the fight negatively -- it was totally awesome, either way.
@tstarks@HitDog Valid points, fellas. I end up disowning half the shit I say anyway...and most of my favorite fights of all time are ones that happened before I was born. Let alone all the movies/tv shows I've watched multiple times and often gotten more enjoyment out of on the repeats. My favorite flicks of all time are "Nashville" and "Vertigo" and I was bored out of my mind the first time I saw those. Basically....I don't know what the fuck I was talking about. I rewatched this bloodbath and it was obviously a hell of a fight whether you caught it live or 100 years from now. MY BAAAAD.