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Hatton – Alvarez: The Vaquero vs. The Carpet-Fitter

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AlvarezHattonPrePC_Blevins6L'il Hatton has been brought in to be the noble loser. If and when Canelo gets past Ricky's bro, who should he fight next? (Hogan Photos)

One of the things I love about boxing is the way it throws together two men from far flung corners of the globe – men separated by not only geography but also language, culture and ethnicity. The type of fighters who, had they entered any other profession, would likely have never laid eyes upon each other. One of the more intriguing cultural clashes in recent times – though probably not in a boxing sense – sees unbeaten sensation Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez meet Matthew ‘Magic’ Hatton on March 5th  for the vacant WBC Super Welterweight belt at the Honda Centre in Anaheim, California.

Alvarez, the son of ranchers, grew up riding horses in Guadalajara, Mexico. Had he never found boxing it is likely he would have followed his family into the ranching business fulltime but fate had other plans and Alvarez now looks like being the most successful Mexican export since Corona, tacos and black tar heroin. With his shock of red hair, teenage freckles, and sheepish smile there is a gentle, boyish quality about him but once in the ring he is every bit as hardened and ruthless as compatriots like Chavez, Barrera and Morales.

Matthew Hatton (or ‘Ricky’s little brother’ as he is more commonly referred to) also worked in the family business before he took up boxing – fitting carpets in the grim industrial heartlands of Manchester, England. Hatton – with his clipped northern tones and no-nonsense, slightly earnest, approach to life – is something of a throwback to a more halcyon era. An era in England’s past when men were called names like Stan, Arthur and Cecil and didn’t face the challenges of a moribund economy, mass immigration and a criminally underperforming soccer team. Hatton will be looking to lift his nation but more cynical observers believe he will do nothing more than uphold the great British sporting tradition of the noble loser.

That these two fighters should even be contesting Manny Pacquiao’s vacated WBC super welterweight belt is controversial. Alvarez spent the vast majority of his career at welterweight while Hatton has never even fought at 154lbs and is only rated as fifth in the 148lb division. The WBC has since given the justification that all top contenders at Super Welterweight were unavailable but two of them were quick to dismiss that excuse. Ryan Rhodes and Vanes Martirosyan, ranked fourth and sixth respectively, went public with the fact they were never even contacted. You might expect this kind of skullduggery from the WBA but the WBC is meant to be the best regarded of the sanctioning bodies. Although, describing the WBC as the best regarded sanctioning body is probably a bit like saying Hodgkin’s disease is the most well thought-of form of cancer.

So the back-street machinations of WBC aside, what have we got?

Alvarez was brought up the hard way. He fought his first professional bout at 15 with no amateur experience – an age which, incidentally, would have left the promoters liable for prosecution had it been staged in Hatton’s country. Five years and 35 fights later, Alvarez had won them all except for the minor blemish of a draw in his fifth fight. Even for a Mexican that is an astonishing figure. To put it in context, IBF Light Middleweight holder Cornelius Bundrage, age 37, has had one less fight than Alvarez, while WBO holder Serhiy Dzinziruk, age 34, and WBA champion Miguel Cotto, age 30, have both had one more. Alvarez is only 20 years old! It’s certainly fair to say they do not mess around in Mexico.

2010 was an impressive year for Alvarez. Despite stepping up a level in competition, he came through with flying colors, scoring four knockouts in five bouts. Among those victories was a ninth-round knockout win over Jose Cotto (yes, that’s the less famous brother… are we beginning to see a trend?), a spectacular one-punch, sixth-round knockout of Carlos Baldomir, and a solid points victory over wily old campaigner Lovemore N’Dou.

It’s clear that Golden Boy Promotions has a new Golden Boy. Alvarez has already attained the stratospheric level of fame in Mexico that is ordinarily reserved for elite soccer players and if Oscar De La Hoya can replicate even a fraction of that Stateside, it can only be a good thing for boxing. Part of the plan is to get him speaking English – something most top Mexican boxers failed to accomplish. If he can learn the lingo and continue knocking out opponents then maybe, just maybe, the retirement Pacquiao and Mayweather may not sound the death knell on boxing, after all.

It seems inconceivable that Hatton could upset this and – to be realistic – that’s probably why he was picked. De La Hoya has been quick to talk up his experience and European belt but the likelihood is the Englishman does not have tools to trouble Alvarez. His technical ability is limited by comparison and – with only 16 KO’s in 41 wins – we’re not far from Paulie Malignaggi territory. On the other hand, Alvarez is not only a big puncher but clinical with it. The one chink in his armor is a lack of hand-speed but Hatton is slower and will not be able to exploit it. The only gamblers backing Hatton will be frothing-at-the-mouth English jingoists – the smart money will be placed on the red-headed Mexican man-child to claim the WBC belt.

So granted, in a purely boxing sense, this may not be the most exciting of match-ups but for me there is an intriguing, almost literary, quality to it. I imagine years before, Alvarez riding his horse in the barren Mexican desert like some kind of tragic young hero from a Cormac McCarthy western and then I think of Matthew Hatton – lunchbox tucked under his arm – arriving at a red-brick terraced house in rainy Manchester to lay a carpet. And the idea that years later they would meet in California to fight for a world championship is unlikely, poetic and exciting. The Mexican vaquero versus the English carpet-fitter… it has a ring to it.

The fight will probably suck, though.

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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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