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Critics Still Waiting For Vitali's Body To Break Down

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Big Shannon Briggs couldn't get it done versus Vitali. Could the equally XL Solis? (photo by Hogan Photos)

In four months it'll be nearly eight years since WBC heavyweight title holder Vitali Klitschko 41-2 (38) was stopped by former champ Lennox Lewis after the sixth round of their title clash at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Vitali, due to a terrible eye gash suffered during the bout, was not allowed to come out for the seventh round. At the time of the stoppage Klitschko was leading on all three judges scorecards by two points.  Since trading punches with Lewis back in June of 2003, Vitali hasn't been really pushed to the point to where he's faced adversity in any of his subsequent bouts.

Due to the way Vitali's face seemed to bust up and all the injuries and postponements he's been subject to since fighting Lewis, most boxing observers have been predicting how Vitali's body will soon implode and that'll pretty much be it for him as far as being an elite heavyweight and title holder. Well, nearly eight years and nine fights later, Vitali is still one of the two premier heavyweights in boxing (along with his younger brother Wladimir) and hasn't lost since fighting Lewis.

In a little over a month Vitali will defend his WBC title for the sixth time against Cuban Olympic Gold Medalist Odlanier Solis 17-0 (12) in Germany. The fight will be shown in the United States via the Epix cable network out of New York. And with the fight looming on the horizon, those who'll want to make a case for Solis pulling the upset will build it around whether or not this will be the night that Vitali's body will finally betray him. Don't count me amongst those who will say that. Sure, that's about the best case for the raw boned 260 pounder with skills and confidence—minus a work ethic. However, if you've been betting against Vitali to lose based on his body breaking down in his last few fights, you're probably underwater like more than two million mortgages in the country.

For those who have picked against Vitali since his comeback win over Samuel Peter, it's been strictly based on the inkling that they'd see his body breaking down during a bout or perhaps in training camp. They've thought he'd be hindered physically as to what he could do during the fight. And although it hasn't paid off so far, it's a plausible scenario with merit. In terms of his legs, they seem to become very stiff during patches of his recent bouts and you can tell they're bothering him. At times it appears that he has virtually no mobility, and then he works through it and his movement smoothes out and he fights with more fluidity. Recently, Vitali's people have reiterated that his legs are almost gone due to his time spent fighting as a kickboxer. I think it's more father time and genetics, although I don't doubt that his years taking kicks to the legs aggravated and escalated whatever seems to hinder his moment during spurts of his recent fights.

For the better part of Vitali's comeback, it's been common to hear that in the end his body will cost him his title on fight night more so than his inability as a fighter, or the skill-set and fighting ability of his opponent. Which I guess in a roundabout way is a supreme compliment to him and an indictment on the upper-tier elite who make up today's heavyweight division. I believe it's a combination of the two. And at this time I cannot pick Odlanier Solis to upset Vitali Klitschko on March 19th simply based on the fact that I'm rolling the dice that this is the night his body will implode in some form and he won't be able to finish the fight. Vitali may be unorthodox to watch, but he's shown through his career that he's an outstanding natural fighter. He doesn't have the technique that his younger brother Wladimir has, but he's more talented and tougher. Which is also why he'd fare better in a hypothetical tournament against some of the past heavyweight greats who dominated their respective eras.

The only trepidation that I have picking Vitali every time out is, (and about Wladimir too, for that matter) is that if something's wrong with them, they're not a given to fight through it. They'll worry about their health first, their legacies second. They have sensibilities that'll kick in different from the likes of some past greats who fought to almost deaths doorstep, and even then feared defeat more than being carried out of the ring.

In conclusion, I don't see Odlanier Solis pushing Vitali Klitschko close to the point to where discretion will be the better part of valor. If Vitali loses before he retires, I won't be one of those who can claim they predicted the upset before the fight. I just don't see anybody out there that a case can be made on their behalf to justify them as even money, let alone a favorite to beat him before he retires from boxing.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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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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