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BORGES: It's Time For Boxing To Create New Heroes

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alexander-vs-bradleyIn boxing, as in life, timing is everything. Timothy Bradley figured that out a long time ago.

After being stripped of the WBC light welterweight title for allegedly ducking Devon Alexander 18 months ago, Bradley was accused of refusing to risk his future. Alexander went on to lay claim to the belt Bradley once wore while Bradley cited business considerations and Alexander’s low profile as the reason he opted out to pursue what he hoped would be bigger paydays.

As Bradley went off to lay claim to the WBO title but far less money than he’d hoped, Alexander’s profile grew and now, come Jan. 29, they will square off in a unification fight in Detroit that is being talked about as one of the biggest fights between two American champions in years. If Bradley was ducking anyone it doesn’t look or sound like it any more.

“The zero on my record doesn’t matter to me,’’ Bradley (26-0, 11 KO) said. “My biggest goal in boxing is just to be remembered.  I don’t want to be forgotten about.  Whether I win seven or eight world championships, that will be in the history books and I just want to be remembered.  That is my biggest goal.  You do that by fighting the best.

“I will become the best by fighting the best and giving the boxing fans the best fights out there that can possible be made.  I am sick of fighting average guys.  The top 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – let’s go.  Win this fight, who’s next?  (Amir) Khan?  Let’s go.  After Khan, (Manuel) Maidana, let’s go.  After him…(Juan Manuel) Marquez.  There are so many fights out there to be made at 140.

“I think the fighters are willing to fight but their handlers or promoters are not willing to make the fight. It will be a task because if you are not a part of their team they do not want to fight you. I don’t know why that’s the way it is but that’s the way it is. They won’t give you a chance and that’s what’s killing boxing.’’

What will save boxing – if saving it truly needs – are fights like Bradley-Alexander. Along with Khan, Maidana and Marquez, they are the five best 140 pound boxers in the world and the world knows it. There is only one way to prove that however, and if they all agree to try, what will result is the same kind of buzz presently circulating around Alexander and Bradley.

Time will tell if any of them really gets this but Bradley certainly sounded this week like a fighter who finally does. So, too, did Alexander, who has always seemed willing to face anyone if his promoter, Don King, would let him off the leash.

For this fight he has and the winner will be sitting both at the top of the division and with obvious opponents in front of him with whom he can make serious money and a bigger reputation. Whether that happens only time will tell but you can’t take the next step until you take the first one and that comes when these two climb up the three steps leading into the ring at the Silverdome.

“Nobody knows who is number one (in the division) until we get in the ring,’’ Bradley refreshingly said during a conference call with the boxing media this week.

For once he was not a champion claiming to be the be all and end all of his weight class without having taken on the most obvious challengers to prove his point. To say it was refreshing was like saying Detroit is cold in January. Obvious but still important to understand.

“The winner of these two fights will definitely have to fight Amir Khan,’’ Bradley continued. “If they don’t do it, the media should put the pressure on them because I think that’s the way it should go.  I think we all should get a shot at each other.

“Styles make fights and on any given night, you know you might be in there with the wrong style and you might get beat. We should do a round robin.  I should get a shot at Amir; Devon should get a shot at Amir.  He should get a shot at Maidana and I should get a shot at Maidana.  Like back in the old days with Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler – they all went at it a couple of times.

“Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor – they went at it a couple of times.  Let’s do that – the best fighting the best. Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier three times.  That’s what boxing needs to bring it back.’’

Bradley is right. Those names he mentioned became NAMES only because they took great personal risks to make it so. They became NAMES because they fought each other.

Leonard without Hearns, Duran and Hagler would not have been as sweet. Ali without Frazier would have been like salt without pepper. Same of Arguello and Pryor. They are all joined together in shared greatness, the loser really winning as well. They all risked much to gain the kind of immortality that still has fight fans talking about them well into their dotage.

If Timothy Bradley, Amir Khan, Devon Alexander or anyone else in boxing today – including Mann Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. – hope to have that same kind of longevity, the kind that transcends a man’s final fight, there is only one way to get it. It is only with the acceptance of great risk that boxing offers up its greatest reward.
That reward is a life beyond living. A life that lives in the lore of the sport long after the fighters themselves have faded and all that’s left of them is the memories they created. Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander will be trying to create memories for a new generation of fans on Jan 29, knowing there is only one way to do it – risk all you have.

“This is a huge fight,’’ Bradley said. “I don’t know on what scale everyone else out there sees this fight but this is the biggest fight of my career and Devon’s career.  It shows what type of fighters we are.  We are young and both in our prime and you rarely ever see two undefeated guys – two world champions – two Americans, fight each other.  You rarely see that and it’s come down to this.

“I am seeded No. 1 and he has to prove to the world that he is better than I am.  That’s going to be a hell of a challenge. I’m hungry to show the world that I am the best 140-pounder out there.  This division is loaded and I feel I am the best. I’ve got to prove it on January 29th.’’

That is the essence of what long made boxing one of America’s most popular sports. It is why the biggest crowd in the schoolyard even today is around two young boys trying to prove who’s the toughest kid in the fifth grade.

Too often in recent years boxers and the men who manage and promote them seem to have forgotten that. They mistake empty victories, undefeated records and phony title belts for achievement. Boxing has always been about proving who the better man is, which is why one champion out of many is always the sport’s greatest selling point.

Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander will be trying to prove who that man is at 140 pounds come Jan. 29. When they’re done the proving won’t be finished however.

There will still be Khan and Maidana and Marquez waiting for them both. If the men who promote them will can simply get out of the way and allow them to face each other they’ll be surprised about two things.

One will become a superstar and they’ll all get paid more than once because the public doesn’t care about how many fights you’ve won as much as they do how you got those wins.

“I do think the state of boxing right now is at a low,’’ Bradley said quite rightly, “until you have great fights like this in the 140 division. I think it’s going to bring it back.  We are the most talented division in boxing and we are going to bring it back just like the old days.  If it’s an awesome fight like I think it’s going to be we are going to do it again for the boxing fans and for the world.  This is the best fight in boxing because you are not going to see Manny and Floyd fight any time soon.’’

It’s time for boxing to create new heroes and there’s only one way to do it. The old-fashioned way. Put them at risk and see how survives.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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