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Bradley Better Not Think He's Hearns

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The Moment has come for Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, two guys who may be the best 140-pound fighters in the world. So now what?

Considering their skills and relative youth, this is not likely to be the last such moment in either of their careers but without question when they meet Saturday night inside the Pontiac Superdome it will be the biggest fight of their lives. How each approaches such a moment – and how each copes with the demands of it – will go a long way in deciding who survives it and advances, which is where my concerns for Bradley begin.

Although he is four years older than the 23-year-old Alexander and more battle tested by tougher opposition, Bradley has spent much of this week talking and sounding like someone who has forgotten the most important thing at a time like this – who he is.

On Wednesday Bradley spoke of having worked the mitts with Detroit legend Thomas Hearns, a guy who wasn’t called Hit Man for nothing. He said Hearns kept telling him to turn over his right hand for more power and he suggested that is the approach he may take against his slick and quick southpaw opponent.

Bradley intends to come into the ring sporting the short shorts and high tube socks of Hearns and his peers from the 1980s, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler, hinting he intends to be a throwback to another time.
If this is all just talk and fashion statement it's fine but if it is a reflection of how he actually intends to fight the undefeated Alexander (21-0, 13 KO) it is a mistake of monumental proportions because when The Moment comes the most important thing a fighter can do is remember who he is…and who he is not.

Timothy Bradley is undefeated himself (26-0) and with good reason but he has only 11 knockouts and that’s with good reason too. He is not the kind of fighter who carries into the ring with him what promoter Don King would call “double  shock power.’’ He is no Hit Man, although he generally hits his man a lot.

Rather, Bradley is as methodical as a lumberjack and effective in the same way they are. He whacks away and whacks away and eventually cuts down his opponents, turning them over time into less than what they were when the fight began. To beat Alexander, who has lightning speed and fast hands, he must hew to that approach and not deviate.

If he can maintain his usual volume of punches and normal accuracy Bradley will be a formidable opponent for Alexander to deal with even though the speed advantage would seem to be in Alexander’s corner. But if he really feels he needs to be a throwback to another era he will be throwing away the biggest fight of his life.

“I feel I’m a monster at 140 pounds,’’ Bradley said. “I feel stronger than everybody. I think Alexander will be aggressive. I think he’ll force the action. A lot of people feel he’s going to box me but I just feel (he’ll be the aggressor) and I’m ready for it. If he wants to slug it out let’s go!’’

First off, Devon Alexander didn’t get to 21-0 by slugging it out with anyone. Although he may be a slightly more powerful puncher than Bradley neither has the kind of knockout punch that, say, rival Amir Khan carries with him. More importantly, Alexander is the kind of guy who hits you two or three times and then disappears, a fighter who wins with speed and elusiveness more than aggression.

So to assume Alexander is going to decide to “slug it out’’ is, in my mind, to prepare for the wrong kind of battle. Worse, it is one thing to work the mitts with Thomas Hearns. It’s quite another to think you HAVE the mitts of Thomas Hearns.

“I love to take risks,” Bradley said.  “That’s what this fight is all about. ‘’

Although boxing is the ultimate risk business it is risk-reward ratio that is most important inside the ring. The winner will have unified half the outstanding world titles at 140 pounds and set themselves up as the No. 1 junior welterweight in the world, creating a potential monster payday against Khan, assuming Khan is willing to take a similar risk. But the fighter who puts himself in that position will be the one who best manages the pressure of the moment without losing himself, something Alexander has more experience with than Bradley.

Last August, Alexander faced former world champion and Olympic medalist Andriy Kotelnik in what was his biggest fight until now. Although he won a clear decision, Alexander did not box well and admitted this week he was overwhelmed by the moment and tried too hard to prove his superiority, paying a high price for it in the process.

“I got away from the plan,’’ Alexander said. “I wanted to impress people too much.’’

Wanting to impress is a noble thing but it can’t be achieved if one tries to be what they are not to do it. That is the fear Bradley supporters should have going into this fight.

In the end of course, it may all have been just talk. He may wear the short shorts and high socks of 30 years ago but still box like who he is, which if he does may very well lead him to the victory he so desperately wants.
But if Timothy Bradley really wants to achieve his goal he has to remember he is a fighter who works methodically, not concussively. He is a fighter who cuts you down a little at a time, breaking down your body and your defenses before finally breaking down your will.

He is not Thomas Hearns even if he dresses like him. He is who he is. Even if he remembers who that is, this still will be a difficult fight but if he doesn’t it will become an impossible fight to win.

“He can do whatever he comes to do,’’ Alexander said. “I’m prepared to do it all. I believe in my ability.’’

That’s what Timothy Bradley has to do too. Not in the ability someone else was blessed with but in the ability he’s been given. If he does he can win Saturday night but if he thinks he has to be someone other than the guy who won those other 26 fights that led to this moment, he’s in for a big surprise…and a bigger heartbreak.

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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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