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How Pacquiao's Different From Past Crossover Boxing Superstars

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Last week Manny Pacquiao went to New York City and visited the Daily News, and then traveled to Washington D.C. to meet President Obama at the White house. These stops are in part due to the promotion of his upcoming welterweight title bout with former three division champ Shane Mosley. Like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya, Pacquiao has become a superstar and major presence on the world stage and once again, a pugilist has taken America by storm. Pacquiao's fights are events and more than just boxing fans look forward to watching him fight. Which also was the case with Ali, Leonard, Tyson and De La Hoya.

However, if you think about it, Pacquiao is different than the other fighters mentioned above in this sense. In reality, the only thing Manny shares with Ali, Leonard, Tyson and De La Hoya (Oscar is a tier lower than Ali, Tyson, Leonard and Pacquiao as being a natural fighter) is that he can flat out fight and is truly a once in a generation talent/fighter. If you think about it, outside of the ring Manny is very nice and somewhat boring. He's to the letter when it comes to political correctness, and that was years before he became a Philippine congressman. And in a thousand interviews you'd be hard pressed to find something he's said negative about anyone.

As much as he's routinely disparaged by Floyd Mayweather in the media, he responds by saying  he prays for Mayweather to get his life together. Could anyone imagine Ali or Tyson having Mayweather dog them in the press like Floyd has Manny, and them responding like Pacquiao recently has? Not in a million years. Both Muhammad and Mike would've retorted and gone deeper into the gutter than Mayweather could ever imagine. As for Leonard and De La Hoya, they'd respond in some condescending manner and act as if they're above dignifying Floyd's antics with an acknowledgment. Yet Manny says he's praying for Floyd.

Another major contrast is Pacquiao is the only one who wasn't groomed to be a superstar from the moment he turned pro. All the fighters I mentioned were essentially stars before they'd even proven themselves. Pacquiao had been a great fighter for many years before he became a superstar. And looks also played a part in the fame behind Ali, Leonard and De La Hoya. It's no coincidence that all three of them had leading man good looks. Tyson, who was promoted as an animal, more like King Kong than as a human being, didn't need those kinds of looks. But would De La Hoya have been a star if he'd looked like Bernard Hopkins? These fighters were superstars partially because crossover boxing is show business, and they all had the faces to allow for the crossover.

For the last couple years promoter Bob Arum has been saying that Pacquiao is as big as Ali, Leonard, Tyson and De La Hoya when it comes to being an international superstar, (he's not at Ali or Tyson's level yet). But Arum promotes Manny and maybe he was lying yesterday and is telling the truth today. Then again maybe this time Arum really is telling the truth. Whatever you think about what Arum says, there's no denying that Pacquiao is currently as big as Peyton Manning, LeBron James and Tiger Woods in regards to being a superstar throughout the world.

If you compare Pacquiao to Ali, he's at a disadvantage. Ali was a the fastest and flashiest flashy heavyweight in history who became a member of the Nation of Islam, then refused to fight in the Vietnam war. He was out of boxing 43 months and made a successful comeback. Ali stirred the pot on race, politics, religion, and free speech. Tyson was a man-child who was promoted as the biggest life-taker since George Foreman, whose life outside the ring came apart once he became undisputed heavyweight champ. Ray Leonard was an Olympic hero who adopted the moniker “Sugar” from Ray Robinson and then took on Muhammad Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee, and his early fights were broadcast by Howard Cosell, another vein that traces back to Ali. Oscar De La Hoya was an Olympic star like Sugar Ray Leonard and was promoted as being the kid next door. And like Leonard, Oscar was managed and promoted by corporate millionaires on the way up.

Another difference between Pacquiao and the fighters mentioned above is, 90% of the fans who watch him fight are rooting for him to win. Whereas when Ali and Tyson fought, half the people watching wanted them to win and the other half wanted them to lose. And the same applied to Leonard and De La Hoya, who were perceived by many as being the beneficiaries of marketing and television executives who saw to it that they got every benefit of the doubt on the scorecards when they fought. Most likely the only people who watch Pacquiao fight that are rooting against him are die hard fans of Floyd Mayweather.

Other than being a great fighter, Pacquiao really doesn't have much in common with Ali, Leonard and Tyson, aside that his fists speak loudly in the ring. And it says something about the way Pacquiao's popularity has exploded being that he's not an American and was fighting as a featherweight when he first showed up on HBO. On paper, Pacquiao's popularity might be hard to translate into US standards, in that he's small (Americans are obsessed with heavyweights), he speaks English as a second language (Duran could get away with that because he had a persona that made him larger than life), and because, culturally speaking, US fans like their heros to trash talk a little bit, but there are cultures where modesty and piousness are actually bankable. Bear in mind that, for the Philippine people, Manny presents a very good image to the rest of the world, so there's every reason why they should love him.

Boxing fans in America are drawn to this Philippine fighter who speaks fondly of his opponents before and after the fight, and at the same time manages to provide thrilling and exciting bouts every time out, even on the nights that his opponents are not good enough to really push and challenge him. They also love that he genuinely wants to prove he's the best and winning really means something to him. Add to that that he's a clean liver and stays out of trouble, there's nothing not to like about him.

Frank Lotierzo can be reached 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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