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Oh HBO, What Are You Doing To Sergio Martinez? BORGES

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Oh HBO, What Are You Doing To Sergio Martinez?The best and the worst in boxing will be on display at the MGM at Foxwoods Saturday night when middleweight champion Sergio Martinez faces former junior middleweight champion Sergiy Dzinziruk.

Martinez will be fighting not only for himself but also for 13-year-old Monique McClain, a seventh-grader from Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Middletown, Conn. whose story he became aware of once he reached Foxwoods. Learning that McClain had been forced to leave school in January as a result of incessant bullying by some classmates, Martinez not only agreed to visit with the young girl but to also, in a sense, fight for her.

According to the Middletown Press, the Middletown Board of Education has thus far refused to provide her with a tutor or transfer her to a different school district. Before the final press conference, Martinez invited McClain, her mother and her grandmother to lunch and then introduced them at the press conference, saying at one point he was once the victim of bullying growing up in Argentina himself.

According to the story, the bullying began when McClain showed up at school in September with her hair braided. That anyone should care how someone wears their hair is ridiculous which made it fitting that Martinez would fight for her cause because, well, it’s ridiculous that Martinez has himself been bullied into having to fight Dzinziruk one fight after having knocked out Paul Williams in spectacular fashion.

That one-punch demolition made Martinez an instant star and should have led him to the kind of follow up fight that might cement his name into the minds of the sport’s fans. But, the story goes, HBO had other ideas.

The network’s long-respected boxing franchise is in sad disarray these days, having lost Manny Pacquiao’s May 7 fight with Shane Mosley to SHOWTIME and having wasted multi-millions on boring fighters and bad matches. Forcing Martinez to fight the former junior middleweight champion is only the latest – and far from the worst – example of the cable giants inability to know a good fight from a bad one or who to promote and who to ignore.

Martinez was forced to give up the WBC title when HBO said it would only accept the unknown Dzinziruk as his next opponent even though he had a mandatory challenge he had to make to retain the WBC title against Sebastian Zbik. Why, you ask, might HBO take such a position when Martinez has the potential to become a star and Dzinziruk is the kind of defensive southpaw who doesn’t make good fights?

Business, that’s why. As part of a deal made with promoter Gary Shaw to bring them Timothy Bradley, HBO agreed to a deal that also guaranteed Dzinziruk a date on HBO and the decision was made that this would be the way to fulfill it.

Never mind that Dzinziruk had done nothing as a middleweight to deserve a title fight. Never mind that he is a southpaw and a defensive one to boot, and generally two southpaws make for ugly fights. Martinez deserved better after delivering one of HBO’s most spectacular recent moments by destroying Williams in a rematch.

Of course, maybe that was part of the problem too because Williams is one of many fighters managed by Al Haymon, a man who has developed an almost Svengali-like control of HBO’s boxing budget. Martinez only got a rematch because their first fight was rife with controversy and he ended both that and the myth of Williams’ skills with one crushing shot to the mandible. Al Haymon could not have been happy about that and the way HBO matched Martinez it wouldn’t appear it was either.

Dzinziruk’s style, to be kind, is unpleasant to watch and unlikely to make what HBO’s executives seem to care least about these days – a good fight. That is not to say he is without skills. He is in fact difficult to deal with. He’s also difficult to watch. So why would you force a potential bright young star to fight him?

The likelihood HBO Sports president Ross Greenberg or chief aid Kery Davis could identify Dzinziruk in a lineup of one is slim. The likelihood they ever sat at ringside and watched him fight even less so. Yet they would hear of no one else and so Martinez was bullied into a match most boxing people assume will not be enjoyable television.

That problem is compounded by the fact SHOWTIME has counter-programming on its pay-per-view arm with a fight that figures to be, if nothing else, a fight for as long as it lasts when Miguel Cotto squares off with mercurial but at least aggressive Ricardo Mayorga. Bad enough Martinez must overcome counter-programming but to have to do it against someone it will be most difficult to look good against just to pay off an HBO “debt’’ is another reminder of how boxing got itself marginalized.

Still, Martinez has acquitted himself well. He has praised Dzinziruk, insisting, “HBO got the best available opponent because he has the credentials. Nobody forced me to fight. I only want to fight the best.

“I’ve fought similar guys several times in Europe. The problem is no press in America know them. He will use all his intelligence against me and wait for me to make a mistake to counterpunch.’’

That, of course, is the problem. He waits and waits and waits. And while he’s waiting not much is happening and pretty soon fans are nodding off. Yet Martinez said none of that nor did he complain about being forced to give up the WBC title to earn a payday on HBO.

These titles may not mean anything to the people who write the checks (except when it’s advantageous to say they do) but they do mean something to fighters, who grew up dreaming of wearing one of their belts.

Technically he’s fighting for the “Diamond Belt’’ which is just another way for the WBC to get a sanction fee. He’s also still middleweight champion in the minds of anyone who knows anything about this.

But he also was the victim of a bully, just like little Monique McClain. Maybe that’s why Martinez made a public service announcement against bullying which is on YouTube and made the young girl his ringside guest.
She’ll be there tonight watching the 2010 Fighter of the Year and the author of the Knockout of the Year in a fight he was, in a way, bullied into business considerations beyond his control. Martinez lost the title belt he’d earned and didn’t get the type of opponent he deserved but there’s a lesson for Monique here too because there he’ll be. Doing what she’s been forced to do as well.

Fighting back against forces attacking him for no real reason.

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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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