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Abraham No Knockout, Cruiserweights Steal Show

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181567_10150093434754370_257450734369_6511532_7030055_nabFALLEN KINGS AND FALLING STARS;There was an excellent fight card in the lush-life region deemed North Rhine Westphalia last Saturday with plenty of thrills, spills and technical skills on duked-out display. The funky, artistic looking industrial area of Mulheim an der Ruhr appears a bit different than many of the surrounding German towns near the Netherlands border, and there was a special buzz around the packed, moderately-sized arena.

Too bad for the still quite popular Arthur Abraham that he couldn't be as much a part of it as he and his team envisioned.

On prefight paper a TKO 2 is exactly what the doctor ordered, but not how it occurred in the abbreviated, anti-climactic contest against hard luck Stjepan Bozic. It wasn't Abraham's fault in any way, unless you can blame someone for having too hard an elbow area.

Abraham entered the standing room sell out looking almost shy,but leapt out of his shell as soon as he was introduced. Whether or not he had tweaked more early action into his style remained unanswered due to the brief duration, but he looked headed in the right direction.

At least it looked like Bozic showed up ready, confident and loose as he danced around during Abraham's 200 decibel entrance.Bozic tried to catch Abraham cold and whaled away wildly to the body without landing much. He did tag a startled Abraham with a couple hooks. Bozic stayed busier but after about a minute Abraham double-clutched into 4th gear and started thumping in heavy body work.

Bosic charged out again for round two and tried to get past Abraham's peek-a-boo style defense as Abraham started planting himself for heavy leather. Bozic darted in and crashed his left wrist against the bottom of Abraham's right glove area, then bent the wrist again on Abraham's elbow a second later. There was a freeze frame moment as Bozic recoiled with a face of tortured shock then knelt to the canvas while Abraham slowly circled the ring and extended his arms in a frustrated gesture to the booing crowd.

Michael Buffer earned his paycheck by announcing the official time of 1:01 in a manner that made it sound like Abraham had scored a steamrolling triumph. Though the swarm cheered sincerely, Abraham's face said there was no big celebration in order. Still, it seems like the glass is more than half full.

Abraham's unlucky failure to close the show with a bang in his confidence builder against a heavy underdog opponent is just the latest in a stinging string of frustrations since stumbling against Andre Dirrell and freezing against Carl Froch.

“2010 was bad for me because I was too passive,” reflected Abraham. “But that year is over and I will not talk about it any more. I was in good shape from my training, working very hard to be more aggressive and go to my opponent's body more, but I did not get the chance to show the people. There is nothing more I can do except keep working. I have to win two more fights in the Super Six.”

Capping a big fight night with a strong, aggressive display was exactly what Abraham needed to re-establish himself as Germany's favorite fighter. Instead, a number of the night's other participants endeared themselves to the patrons more. It was difficult to determine exactly how many fans were inside, but approximately 3,013 were counted.

Steve “USS” Cunningham did himself and his homeland proud again, with a solid showing against inspired challenger Enad Licina. Cunningham remains based in Philadelphia but is still a prominent new addition to the Sauerland stable, and has done enough PR to have a growing fan base here.Cunningham wasn't mentioned in all of the promotional material and he wasn't booked for the live TV broadcast,but his fight was the most legitimate “title” tilt on the card and he showed why he is the consensus cruiserweight champ.

Cunningham embodies the kind of dedicated, professional type precision Germans love. A bit more pop and he'd be near the top of pound for pound lists.

Cunningham had a solid jab working from the start but considerable underdog Licina showed up in great shape and came to win, no matter how much of a longshot that possibility was. Licina charged in behind some dangerous right hands and made Cunningham blink, but the champion remained totally composed.

Cunningham scored many fine combinations, but between his relative lack of one punch stopping power and Licina's determined conditioning it became clear the challenger wasn't going anywhere; although that no-go territory also included the winner's circle.

There were scattered boos when the verdict was announced but scoring seemed very accurate based on an informal ringside poll.Scoring: Howard Foster 118-110, Dave Parris 117-111, Manuel Palomo 115-113. The Sweet Science saw it 118-110.

“He was strong but I'm world champion who can win by boxing, scuffling, any way I need to,” said a fresh faced Cunningham.”I caught a flu here and my legs got a little weary, but I'm the USS Cunningham, a ship of war. Drop bombs, missiles, troops, whatever it needs to be done to win the mission. He caught me a couple times and I had to dig in, but I was taking his energy (by) hitting him to the body, so he really didn't hurt me. Now I'm looking for unification, unification, unification.”

Probably the most dramatic contest was the primary co-feature of Yoan Pablo Hernandez challenging Steve Herelius for one of those silly “interim” designations. Whatever the so called sanction, these guys made it a very worthwhile sporting affair while it lasted.Both left handers were in top shape. When one man landed the other made a point of scoring back immediately.

Herelius appeared to have an Achilles tendon problem around the 3rd. After the 4th and extended medical consultation for an obviously distressed Herelius, it was determined that the bell would sound and if Herelius didn't come out he'd lose via TKO.So he limped out and went for broke. Hernandez didn't exploit the injury by mauling, though he didn't need to as the busted up Herelius plodded along; noble but completely futile.When a huge straight right then a wicked, short uppercut dumped Herelius, he tested his leg and got up for more of what was obviously next. A dozen thuds later, a red towel was thrown, just as Herelius went sprawling again. Official time was 1:19 of the 7th.

With considerable drama and fan response it wasn't a hollow victory, but it wasn't as fulfilling as might have been, either.Hernandez's powerful showing and emotional post fight words to the crowd indicated he would be a popular factor in the future 200 pound landscape, especially if Sauerland promotions finalize their cruiserweight tournament.
Even without the tournament, there are more than a few good showdowns on tap.

Considering the venue's clear, close sight lines throughout and the fact fans could get eight scheduled fights for around twenty two US bucks, this was one of the best boxing bargains to be found. Hopefully, it set the standard for a great 2011 in Deutschland duke outs.

Hernandez looks like the type attraction with staying power, and Cunningham is obviously a class act. In today's boxing market, they might have to travel, but trips around Germany usually mean very nice confines at the top of the European boxing scene.

Abraham didn't really get the chance to soar, but at least he didn't crash, either.

“I am very disappointed tonight because I wanted to please my fans, but the most important thing is that I won and that I feel good. I am ready to keep training harder than ever. I know Ward is considered a big favorite now, but I will be ready because it is very important for me to look good the next time I fight in America,” mused Abraham.

Trainer Ulli Wegner, who recently called Abraham to task by questioning his fighter's courage seemed satisfied for the moment. “Saturday was for Arthur to reconcile with his fans. We've made progress in recent weeks but we still have a long way to go. It is never easy.”

Considering realistic current odds against Abraham beating Ward in the next Super Six session, probably in or near Ward's California home base; Abraham needs to do something drastic to give himself any real chance to be competitive, let alone pull off the upset.

While Abraham's jaw always seems sturdy, he may have something of a glass psyche.

Abraham should find another journeyman, maybe at light heavyweight, and fight again within a month.He still needs more mental mechanics, until he's seen so much he won't get jarred off track as often. If the people inside Abraham's camp know he's not ready, could he find himself with a back injury like Froch's that caused a postponement of their initially scheduled showdown?

The best strategy is probably to get Abraham to Philly for a few weeks of sparring with Cunningham and philosophy with USS trainer Brother Nassim.

For Abraham to have any real shot against Ward, “King Arthur” needs something drastic, far outside his usual comfort zone.

Whatever or wherever that cruel magic may be, it eluded Abraham yet again last weekend.

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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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