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From Manuel Ortiz To Carlos Zarate, Bantamweights Can Bang



From Manuel Ortiz To Carlos Zarate, Bantamweights Can Bang They’re little and often overlooked but history has shown that 118-pound bantamweights pack more excitement pound for pound than a room full of heavyweights.

Beginning with Fernando Montiel’s defense of the WBO and WBC bantamweight titles against Nonito “Filipino Flash” Montiel on Saturday and ending in two months when Abner Mares fights Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko for the IBF version, the boxing world gets a full look at how mighty bantamweights truly are.

If you’re new to the bantamweight division you might think having this many good bantamweights is an aberration. Not at all.

Back in the 1970s bantamweights like Carlos Zarate, Alfonso Zamora, Lupe Pintor, Alberto Davila and tons of others were selling out arenas from Mexico City to Los Angeles on a regular basis.

One primary reason was their explosiveness. When the “Zzz Boys” (a nickname tabbed on Zarate and Zamora by the now extinct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner) fought in the late 1970s at the Inglewood Forum, there was not a seat empty.

Zarate (45-0, 44 KOs) entered the ring with Zamora (29-0, 29 KOs) in 1977, both fighters had tabbed a combined 73 knockouts in 74 pro fights. Ironically, their showdown took place on April 23, the same date as the coming bantamweight tournament finale between Mares and Agbeko, and Vic Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez at the Nokia Theater in L.A.

It was an explosive atmosphere that literally had explosions from people lighting cherry bombs in the audience. Can you imagine that happening today? Homeland Security would empty out the arena.

Right during the middle of the fight a guy in a wrestler’s mask jumped in the ring challenging all comers. He was taken down by a number of L.A.P.D officers in riot gear who were in no mood to be kind. The fight resumed and fans were equally divided on who would win. That April 23, both bantamweights expected to win and had the notches to prove it. But it was the taller and more technical Zarate that found an opening and floored Zamora three times in the fourth round before that fighter’s trainer/father threw in the towel that ironically landed on his son’s face. Then Mr. Zamora went after Zarate’s trainer Cuyo Hernandez and both began throwing blows.

They don’t have fights like that any more.

“Man, those firecrackers scared everyone,” said Alfredo Perez, who attended the fight with his father. “Then that wrestler and the way the fight ended. It was a crazy atmosphere. I’ll never forget it.”

Years earlier the Inglewood Forum was the site for other bantamweight struggles including many of Ruben Olivares. Battles against Takao Sakurai, Lionel Rose, Alan Rudkin, Kazuyoshi Kanazawa, Jesus Pimental, Rafael Herrera, and several against Chucho Castillo between 1969 and 1972 put the bantamweights on the map. It also shot interest in Mexican fighters too.

“Those were the days,” said Johnny Ortiz, a former boxing trainer, manager and boxing radio host. “Ruben Olivares was one of the best boxers to ever come out of Mexico. He could box and he could hit.”

In the late 1930s through the 1950s another bantamweight dominated the world. His name was Manuel Ortiz,  who was born in Corona, California, a small suburb near Riverside, California. Until Orlando Canizales arrived, it was Ortiz who held the record for bantamweight title defenses. He often fought at the Olympic Auditorium and captured the bantamweight world title in 1942 and kept it until 1947 a total of 14 title defenses before losing to Harold Dade. Then he won it back and won four more title defenses before losing to Vic Toweel in 1950. It was bantamweight domination when there was only one world title in the world.

“Manuel Ortiz was the kind of fighter who would only fight as hard as he needed to fight. Sometimes he looked not so good. When he fought good guys he was unbeatable,” said Leonard Castillon, 95, who saw many of Ortiz’s battles at the Olympic and the Hollywood Legion Stadium. “He hit real hard and was a great boxer.”

Ortiz was the first of the great bantamweights from this country who brought recognition to the division. Now, 60 years later, another group of 118-pound dynamos have arrived ready to explode on the boxing scene like their predecessors.

Who will be the one to emerge as the best?

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura



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



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



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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