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TYSON ON ANIMAL PLANET : FOR THE BIRDS OR FOR THE PREY ?

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“The pigeon. It's the first thing I ever loved in my life”
“No Iron, Just Mike” Tyson
        

WINGING IT – This Sunday evening March 6th, “Taking on Tyson” premiers on Animal Planet; an unlikely reality series based on of all things : pigeon racing. The hook involves the long-avowed pigeon lover, Mike Tyson.

For now at least, the nature network could have a potential dynamo in the resurging celebrity Tyson, or they could have a flame out freak show.

Luckily for the “reality TV” art form, most of what preview footage was available looked distinctly crisp with innovative intimate character, camera work and conversational clips. The show aspires to the same earthy charm Tyson often displays.

Let's hope Tyson continues to find a comfortable role playing himself with a respected perch in society. Will this program continue a successful Tyson rebranding?  

Checking their program guide, you can tell that the Animal Planet's format has drastically changed since inception. The newly stated focus is on “human based”, animal related programming, but any marketing department understands the reality of “Reality” is slamming sensations, not subtlety. Perhaps AP is going the skanky shoreline direction of MTV. I can't speak for the consumer base, but without having seen it a show like “Pit Boss” seems pretty demeaning.

As for “Taking on Tyson”, many viewers relate to roots based themes and stock type characters who play against convention. Can the show grab the same appeal as something like “Deadliest Catch”, without the suspense factor or impending risk?

Promotional clips give hope that broadcasting powers aim for higher ground and shoot for genuinely basic human interactions; absurd, poignant, real.

“I feel ridiculous even trying to explain it,” says Tyson of his aerial passion. “My life sucked as a kid. I didn't go to school because I got bullied every day, that's why I got involved with pigeons.”

At times the homespun yarn grows a bit thick, and tag lines like “He may have moved on from Brooklyn, but he took his love of pigeons with him” approach the level of parody, but overall the show exhibits a lot of genuine humanity and quality.

How far can nostalgia and normalcy go? Is there a possibility of another season?

Maybe they can follow a proven formula and find a charismatic veterinarian to play occasional sidekick and demonstrate/explain animal studies. Tyson is intellectual enough to put amusing spin on it. He's owned enough exotic pets (insert punch line) to have plenty of anecdotes.

Every week they could also, in recognition of Tyson's rough past, carry out some sort of charitable endeavor that effects a related character or situation in the neighborhood. Imagine scenes of Tyson on the rooftops, maybe helping out a different kid each week.

Pigeons are from the Columbidae family, with 300 species. Hanging out even for a brief period along riverfront Jersey or New York can produce sightings of more than twice that many odd ducks. If the show's producers get the right character cameos with Tyson as both tour guide and carnival barker, the show could be something rare: a zany reality, minus the crudity or self assumed sense of entitlement and narcissism.   

If we start to see things like Snookie or The Situation as contestants, we'll know which way the project is headed, though the show's Jersey neighbors wouldn't be the worst guest stars marketing wise. If Tyson's crew is going to have guest stars, may they aim high and abstract.   

With “Hangover 2” pending release and upcoming induction to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, much in Tyson's mercurial material world seems stable and satisfactory. There is little mention of the “other” sport in Tyson's life, but the iconic Tyson already carries a bright torch of consumer recognition for boxing by name or image alone.

The show is currently scheduled for six episodes, and reportedly provided Tyson with some considerable, much needed compensation. 

Clearly, weight is on Tyson as foundation, catalyst and “talent” for the program.

Will it be a knockout coup that returns for an extended flight? Like many of his final fights, it looks like “Taking On Tyson” could go either way, but at least the odds aren't against him. History shows how much a focused, ready Tyson can achieve.  

The camera still loves Tyson, a rare bird of prey and a sitting duck. 

Here's hope that Tyson's current karma is good, and that he soars in this new opportunity.

With a positive persona, lets hope viewers flock to him.

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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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