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Wladimir Klitschko’s First Defeat: A Blueprint to Beat the Champ

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Count me among those who had never seen Wladimir Klitschko vs. Ross “The Boss” Puritty. But cruising Youtube the other day, I found that Universum has a high res version, which they are probably all too happy to post, considering Wlad no longer makes them money. Puritty might have gotten beat by a lot of guys and treated like another opponent, but I want to go by what I see in this fight. He may have been dismissed as a journeyman but that doesn’t do him justice. First of all, he was big: A thick, solid, natural 250-pounder with good height and reach. He had meaty legs and slabs of hard beef around his midsection. A cement head on top of a sturdy neck. His hands were heavy and he was at ease working behind a steady forward-march and disciplined high guard. He was at a good age for a heavy (32) and had 38 fights against a Who’s Who before meeting a 22-year-old Wlad in 1998.

Anyone who thinks Wlad is just a headhunter needs to watch this fight. He may be that now but not then. He went to the body with wicked pinpoint shots to both sides and had a particularly hard straight right to the gut. But Puritty took it like few can. He demonstrated the power of pressure. Even though Wlad was winning every round and typically impressive, he was backing up a lot and forced to move more than he would’ve liked. His energy expenditure had to concern him and his corner. As the rounds accumulated, he slowly degenerated. His coordination became suspect, with rubbery legs and heavy arms; he looked 5% worse each round after the 5th. Lesser men than Puritty wouldn’t have been able to do this but he showed a serious tolerance to punches to the head and body.

He applied steady pressure on Wlad that wore down the younger man mentally and physically. Even though his feet were slow and he didn’t throw a lot of punches, he was strong enough to let most of the head shots ricochet off his gloves. He made Wlad work while conserving his own energy. Wlad ran a marathon in the ring, working the perimeter, rather than commanding the center with his formidable jab and turning his man. It was a skill he had yet to learn. Round by round, Wlad got floppier as he battled fatigue, having worked hard to gain such a commanding lead. Like a marathoner approaching the wall at the 20-mile mark, he had been reduced to crawling across the finish line.

Anyone that says Wald has no heart is wrong. He was spent well before the championship rounds, but trying like hell to keep it together. Fatigue had not made him a coward; just vulnerable. His desire to win was unremitting. But as with what later happened against Lamon Brewster’s bullish strength, big punch, determination, and almost inhuman capacity for punishment, Wlad’s Drago-like body began to betray him, which ushered in panic. He was used to hitting guys and having them fall over like toy soldiers. The American kept inching forward and didn’t mind the punches too much or even losing the first 10 rounds. Like Schmeling said of Louis, Puritty’s body language broadcast: I see something.

On this night Wlad reminded me of Amir Kahn today, particularly in his last fight against Marcos Maidana. Loaded with athletic talent, there’s a tension in their bodies that makes them subject to attrition. For all their gifts, they would not be classified as boxing iron men. That is not to say that they aren’t warriors or champions. But Jake LaMotta or George Chuvalo they are not. Forget the old chin issue, though that is hardly their strength. They are at their best when fresh. They look superb early on, or when they can dictate the pace. Once weariness sets in after they’ve been redlining beyond what can be sustained for 36 minutes, they fall apart. Those long appendages start to flail and their weakness registers everywhere. Never seen Money May like this; his rhythm, coordination, and overall body control looks the same in the last round as the first. B-Hop at his best is like this too; he does the controlling. If he’s losing control or getting tired, he’ll stop the fight for five minutes and claim a debilitating foul, as he did against Joe Calzaghe or Roy Jones Jr. in their rematch. So while Wlad was winning all those rounds, he wasn’t really in charge—his control faded as the rounds mounted.

Wlad has grown wiser and more conservative with age. He has developed into a legitimately great champion. But we will never see him go out guns-ablazing like he once did, which is bad for the fans but good for his ledger. If today’s version of Wlad fought the same well-conditioned, unintimidated Puritty that showed up in ‘98, the results might be the same. The blueprint is there. Brewster and Puritty were the right type of vets that withstood the onslaught. And when the stunning Ukrainian machine began to succumb to the elements, they had the power to finish the job.

But who today can follow this plan and hope to succeed?

There’s another approach to derailing Wlad, à la Corrie Sanders. This is the one David Haye would do well to follow. Is it a plan, though, or just faith in a puncher’s chance? Which is just a prayer that timing, speed and alignment converge in a moment of extraordinary physics that rearrange Klitschko’s fine porcelain features. For all of Haye’s explosiveness and power—that he may or may not carry to heavyweight—he’s not in Sanders’ category as a puncher. Of the South African’s 31 KO’s, 28 came within three rounds or less. 18 opponents never made it out of the first (although Puritty went the 12-round distance with him).

Adamek? Povetkin? Haye? Solis (should he get in shape and upset big brother Vitali this March)? Looks like Wladimir’s reign will go unthreatened for as long as he likes.

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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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