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Sithchatchawal-Monshipour fight best of year

1/3/2007 - Boxing

No, the fight was not on American television.

No, you've probably never heard of either guy.

And, no, it ain't easy to pronounce their names.

However, it is easy to declare that on March 18 in the Levallois-Perret section of suburban Paris, Thailand's Somsak Sithchatchawal and Iranian-born, French citizen Mahyar Monshipour fought a sublime and exceptional fight, one of the greatest in recent boxing history.

Fortunately, we obtained a gorgeous DVD of the Canal+ telecast. But you too can watch this mesmerizing battle thanks to that anonymous and wonderful soul who uploaded it to www.youtube.com in four parts.

Do yourself a favor and watch it.

You won't ever forget it.

Besides, as a boxing fan, it's your duty. When you're done, you'll know exactly why it was the no-brainer choice as the 2006 ESPN.com Fight of the Year.

For nine-plus incredible rounds, Sithchatchawal, who won a junior featherweight world title, and Monshipour, making his fifth defense, relentlessly pounded each other like their lives depended on winning.

There was an inkling of what was to come in their prefight quotes to the media.

"For him to beat me he will have to come and get me," Monshipour had said. "If he manages to catch me he has a chance. We'll know within the first 30 or 40 seconds."

Said Sithchatchawal, "Monshipour is very strong, but I am here for his belt."

They each landed dozens of clean, searing shots. There were more head-snapping uppercuts landed than in all six "Rocky" movies put together.

Numerous times during the rocking, two-way action, the French announcers had trouble containing themselves. "Oooooooooooh la la la la la! Oooooooooooh la la la la la," they would cry on a regular basis.

This was raw, unvarnished, jaw-dropping brutality.

Perhaps this might sound blasphemous to some, but we'll take the heat: While the fight doesn't quite reach the threshold of greatness achieved by the 2005 first battle between lightweights Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, it's pretty close. And we rate it ahead of the first Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera war and the first Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti slugfest.

Sithchatchawal-Monshipour was that good, that exhilarating.

Every single round was action packed, from the opening frame in which Sithchatchawal scored a knockdown all the way to the 10th round, when British referee John Coyle stopped the violence with Monshipour out on his feet against the ropes.

Other than counting for the first-round knockdown, stopping the fight was about the only thing Coyle needed to do since there was almost no clinching.

How the fight lasted as long as it did is a testament to their warrior hearts because it wasn't like these guys were pit-a-pat punchers. In their 73 combined wins entering the fight, 55 had ended in a knockout. These guys had steam behind their shots.

Rounds 1, 3, 5, 9 and 10 were phenomenal with the ninth getting props as ESPN.com's Round of the Year. Rounds 2, 4, 6, 7 and 8 were merely outstanding.

Through the first four rounds, it was clear this was a doozy. The nonstop punchfest of the fifth round sent it up a notch. The sick ninth round put the fight into the "special" category. The dramatic 10th-round stoppage sealed the deal.

Monshipour was getting ravaged by southpaw Sithchatchawal's right hooks before he turned the tables and appeared close to a stoppage victory with 80 seconds to go in the 10th.

But Sithchatchawal staged his own rally and finally forced Monshipour to retreat when he landed four huge overhand lefts before momentarily slipping to the canvas.

He immediately bounced up. Coyle didn't dare interrupt the intense action, instead letting it go without wiping off the gloves. Sithchatchawal then landed five crunching uppercuts followed by a left and a right to drive a sagging Monshipour into the ropes before Coyle jumped in to stop the epic war with 20 seconds left in the round.

The postscript: Monshipour, having been in several brutal fights, announced his retirement at age 30. Sithchatchawal, 29, went home to Thailand and was knocked out by Celestino Caballero in the third round of his first defense on Oct. 4.

Monshipour and Sithchatchawal are both gone from the championship scene, but their awesome display will never be forgotten.

Other unforgettables:

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.