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This Underdog, Solis, Might Have Some Bite In Him



ADA_7428Tonight in Cologne, Germany, Vitali Klitschko will be a heavy favorite to retain the WBC heavyweight title from the challenge of an often too-heavy Cuban challenger named Odlanier Solis, and rightfully so. The question is how live is the underdog?

Arguably Solis is the best challenger the elder Klitschko has faced since defeating Samuel Peter 2 ½ years ago not because of the quality of Solis’ recent competition but because of the Cuban’s deep and highly successful amateur background as a six-time Cuban national champion, winner of the 2004 Olympic gold medal in Athens and conqueror of Cuban legend Felix Savon in two of their three matches.

Those experiences don’t necessarily translate into being able to handle the robotic but powerful Klitschko but they should at least allow him to stay competitive for a time. If that time is long enough and Solis’ resistance is stern enough might the 39-year-old Klitschko begin to implode simply from the fact it has been so long since he faced a formidable challenge that he won’t quite know how to handle the psychological as well as physical pressure?

Klitschko (41-2, 38 KO) thinks not of course and neither do the wiseguys and oddsmakers and understandably so. Solis (17-0, 12 KO) faced far sterner competition in Cuba than he has since he defected, in fact, his biggest professional victory probably being  his second round knockout of journeyman Monte Barrett two years ago. On paper that would explain the sense many in Germany have that this is a coronation, not a fistic election fight, but someone who knows much about what both men will be facing sees at least an opening for the former Olympic champion.

“I think he (Solis) needs to really go to the body and just really come inside on Klitschko and really not get hit while he's coming inside and also use his feet, because I noticed that he's stationary on his feet – a little more feet action,’’ said retired former unified champion Lennox Lewis this week. “He's got a tremendous history.  It kind of reminds me of my own being a world junior champion and having all the different amateur accolades.  I think if he puts a lot of that into motion, uses a lot of different amateur moves, such as you know combination punches and some quickness and definitely, like I said, on the body, and throws some good left hooks to the head as well …if he reaches Klitschko's.’’

The implication was he felt all things are possible, although more so for Klitschko than for Solis. Perhaps that was just a bit of pre-fight hype by someone who is part of the fight’s broadcasting team on the Epix premium channel network. Then again, frankly, he may have a point as much because of the age and relative immobility of Klitschko as from what Solis will bring to Lanxess Arena.

“I never fought against a guy who has so many titles as an amateur,’’ Klitschko said of Solis. “He's Olympic gold medalist, three times a world amateur champion, and undefeated as a professional. A fighter's amateur career is very important for professional boxing, and that's why I know it will be not easy task.’’

Klitschko may be on to something if Solis can stand up to the initial barrage Klitschko figures to fire in his direction and do something more. At some point fairly early in the fight he has to fire back because if he doesn’t the towering Klitschko will walk him down and, minute by minute, chop him to pieces as he did Shannon Briggs in his last title defense.

Certainly Solis cannot match Klitschko’s raw power and he lacks the professional experience Klitschko has behind him but he is younger, fresher and, one would think, well aware that this is his moment, the dream he grew up with in Cuba long before he fled the country and landed in Germany before finally settling in Miami.

“He wants to become the first ever Cuban heavyweight champion of the world,’’ said Ahmet Oner, Solis’ German-based promoter. “Vitali looked old and slow his last fight. Solis is definitely faster, stronger and technically better than Vitali. Solis knows this is the chance of a lifetime.’’

We will see about that but certainly Solis possesses superior hand speed which could be used to his advantage if he can avoid Klitschko’s sometimes heavy jab to get close enough to make that difference a useable asset.

If he can do that often enough who knows when the soon to be 40 year old Klitschko suddenly ages over night? Might Solis be the challenger to do that?

On paper it would not appear so but boxing matches are not contested on paper. They are contested on canvas in the midst of a ring which has no exit signs. It is a place where things can suddenly and irrevocably go awry. Klitschko certainly understands that having seen it happen to him the last time he faced an Olympic gold medalist.

That man was Lewis, who stopped him in six brutal rounds in which Klitschko had his moments but ultimately suffered a gash over one eye that looked like Lewis had taken a sand wedge to it. Both Lewis and the larger boxing world gained respect for Klitschko that day but that was eight years ago and much has changed for him since.

Age and the passage of time can do things to a fighter that an opponent cannot, often wearing him down until he is vulnerable to a type of opponent who a few years earlier would have been only a minimal challenge to him. Only time and Solis will tell if that is the case but clearly he is as ready as he has ever been professionally to put his best foot forward.

Often troubled by carrying too much weight, Solis weighed in at just under 247 pounds Friday afternoon, 13 pounds lighter than his last outing and 20 pounds lighter than this time a year ago.

That seemed to be a sign not only of having taken his preparation far more seriously than in the past but also an effort to increase his speed advantage. What has gone all but unnoticed however is that although he is a half foot shorter than Klitschko, Solis’ reach is 79 inches, a difference of only one inch from the champion’s.

That means that although Klitschko’s height and his ability to use it to stay out of harm’s way are major assets, Solis’ reach and hand speed could allow him to score frequently without having to expose himself at close quarters as often as one might expect.

Whether that will be enough for Odlanier Solis to pull off what would be considered a major upset and become the first Cuban national to win the heavyweight championship is a question he will have to answer for himself but in boxing it is often on nights like this – nights when little is expected and the storyline has already been written – that dreams are answered and nightmares are born.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura



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



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



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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