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Donaire, Bradley: Two Roads, One Star

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Bradley AlexanderThere may be many ways to skin a cat but these days there seems to be only one way to become a boxing superstar, as Tim Bradley is beginning to understand.

If Willie Pep were fighting today (not to compare one of the sport’s greatest pure boxers to Tim Bradley, by the way) boxing fans would not be lining up to watch him or writing checks to cable networks to buy him on pay-per-view. They’d be booing him for inaction.

That is how the game, or at least the perception of the game, has changed over the years. While boxing may still call itself “The Sweet Science’’ it pays most often today for guys who swing ax handles.

In his own way Bradley was as dominating in his recent dismantlement of WBC junior welterweight champion Devon Alexander as Nonito Donaire was in his one-punch knockout of unified bantamweight titleholder Fernando Montiel, yet Donaire became an instant star with one left hook while Bradley remains in boxing’s shadows despite landing nearly 100 of them to the face and body of an undefeated champion for 10 one-sided rounds.

Bradley (27-0, 11 KO) methodically broke down Alexander, who many believed had superior speed, by first tearing at his body before later moving to his head. During the course of this beat down, Bradley took away Alexander’s spirit, breaking his mind before finally breaking a hole over his right eye with an inadvertent head butt.

At that point Alexander (21-1, 13 KO) completely unraveled. Overwhelmed by the relentless pressure Bradley had been putting on him, he quit. It was a classic case of a mentally stronger fighter taking away the physical advantages of an opponent and thereby breaking him down mentally round by round. It was, frankly, a boxing masterpiece.

Yet when it was over no one was calling for Bradley’s ascension to the top of the pound-for-pound ratings and debate over whether or not he should be in line to fight Manny Pacquiao – which was rampant before the fight – all but ceased.

“I was faster,’’ Bradley said. “If that’s the best in the world then that’s weak. He was jumping in. He just didn’t want to get hit with the big shot.’’

Because of that he didn’t land one but he peppered Alexander with a multitude of small ones, including 98 power shots and 39 jabs. What they combined to do was break young Alexander both psychologically and physically.

There is a subtlety to that kind of work inside a boxing ring which eludes most fans and nearly all television executives. Once there was a time when that kind of skill would be widely admired. He would be seen as a fistic surgeon, a technically dominating force.

Today the boxing world and the real world are more fast-paced. There is little room for, or understanding of, subtleties either outside the ropes or inside them. Knockouts and the men who deliver them have always been the driving force in boxing because this is, after all, the hurt business and nothing hurts more than a concussive shot to the mandible.

What’s changed is the make-up of fight fans, who for the most part are people who look at Donaire’s one-punch knockout of Montiel as not only the primary validation of greatness but the only one.  

Donaire’s concussive powers were already well known, as were Montiel’s. It seemed assured one of them would not have to work a full shift and that turned out to be Donaire (26-1, 18 KO), who wobbled Montiel in the first round and sent him crumbling to the floor in the second. Although Montiel’s body got up, his mind was still on the floor and so the fight was stopped at 2:25 of the second round. It was, to be sure, a marvelous execution.

“I hit him with a left hook, looked down and saw him twitching,’’ Donaire said. “I knew the fight was over then.’’

What he also knew was with that one punch he had pushed his way into the pound-for-pound debate in a way Bradley had not. Although few would argue that anyone but Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. are some form of 1-2 in that discussion, Donaire catapulted himself toward the top while Bradley failed to move the needle.

Donaire immediately became the best bantamweight in the world and one of the sport’s most explosive performers. Bradley, on the other hand, was immediately seen as having to face England’s Amir Khan, a power puncher of note himself, to further establish his 140-pound bonafides with the paying public.

That is the nature of boxing in the 21st Century. If you possess concussive power you can quickly enter the public’s collective consciousness. If you don’t, you’re Timothy Bradley, a dominating performer in a way too few people understand.

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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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