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One Step Forward, Two Sticks Back…WOOLY RINGSIDE IN GERMANY

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Klitschko
KOLN, UNDER A CRAZY MOON – Vitali Klitschko's ballyhooed battle with Odlanier Solis turned out to be a flop.

The primary question in the fight's immediate aftermath regarded whether or not Solis did a flop himself.

To a jeering swarm at sold out Laxness Arena, and a gradually more diplomatic Team Klitschko, it seemed that way for a little while, although they immediately deferred to pending medical evaluation.

Was it the Hand of Fate or the hand of Klitschko? In the post fight conference, there was plenty of convincing to be done. 

Right after the fight was waved off by ref Jose Garcia, Klitschko appeared to berate Solis for a perceived lack of honest effort. It wasn't exactly a freeze frame moment like Ali scowling over Liston, but it did indicate Klitschko is still pretty hungry. 

“I felt it was a really hard punch,” said a relaxed Klitschko after the fight with a somewhat sarcastic smile. “But not that hard. Not hard enough to break something. Now he has to go to the hospital and I wish him the best. I hope it is nothing serious.”

The assembled swarm at Laxness Arena made more noise as they continued to berate Solis more than any German crowd in recent memory. The sullen, smirking countenance Solis either adopted or had scripted for the promotion came back to bite his behind.

From the puzzled look on his face, sometimes you couldn't tell if Solis really cared or not. Maybe it was too painful to think about.

Klitschko understood that another step in his personal legacy and his promotional portfolio were blemished, but he was also aware that overall the sold out night was another substantial marketing success. TV numbers will be typically impressive, and it seems like water cooler word of mouth will keep the Klitschko brand buzzing a while as the hype for Wladimir's meeting with David Haye gears up.

In some ways, the crowd of 19,000 acted like Vitali's fluke win was a proper steamrolling. The masses alternated from jovial cheers to spiteful hissing as images of Klitschko and Solis rotated on the overhead monitors. K2 manager Bernd Bonte compared it to Mike Tyson dribbling Trevor Berbick. Nein.

Klitschko did make enough of a slugging statement for bragging rights.

Solis was probably winning the busy but low action round on the strength of some solid body work and a couple stinging straight rights, though Klitschko backed him up with thuds that landed anywhere for much of the session.

Suddenly, Klitschko snapped in a partially picked off right hand that tapped Solis on the temple. When Solis went down in delayed recoil, he immediately grabbed at his knee in a painful reaction and the fight was correctly halted when he couldn't stand straight.

The abbreviated climax was bitterly booed for a few moments, but as the crowd started to stream out and collect deposits on their plastic beer cups it seemed like forgive and forget mode was setting in.

Besides, despite a weak undercard the crowd stayed upbeat. As usual, the audio and visual effects were primo, if occasionally a bit indulgent. The fight was billed as “Im Schatten Des Doms”, which roughly translates to “In the shadow of the cathedral,” a reference to Cologne's historic church. The entrance video showed Klitschko ascending an inner staircase in his boxing robe. Things almost got ridiculous.

Then in the video Klitschko hit a church bell as the familiar, crowd-crazing AC/DC “Hell's Bells” intro blared and the real life Klitschko appeared. It was first rate theatre that will play well for years longer if Klitschko decides to keep going, which seems unlikely for more than another year or so.

Maybe Klitschko was upset because he knows this was one of the last few fights in his campaign.

Euro-pop rockers “Roxette” did a good job getting the place pumped for the main event, which came after a long night of suds, many in oversized, “Oktoberfest” style mugs. As usual at a German fight card, despite amazing amounts of drinking (many ride trains home) there were no drunken jerks to be seen. 

What fight there was in the main event had enough action to stand alone, for better or worse. It was what it was.   

“I was nervous in the first round because he caught Vitali a few times,” admitted younger brother Wladimir.

The card was definitely a very hot ticket, with people roaming the nearby surrounding streets for possible extra ticket holders. Hundreds of happy bystanders waited around a wide red carpet seeking to take smart phone photos of celebrities from the North Rhine region. There was an uncommonly high ratio of women and families, and numerous pairs or groups of females who came unescorted.

The elder Klitschko, now 41-2 (39), may be expanding his own demographic base. It doesn't seem like he can improve his punching power, which still seems evident. Klitschko has learned to get great leverage with off beat, straight arm hooks and short pile drivers, exactly like the punch that did or didn't damage Solis, 17-1 (12) depending who you talk to.

“It was only my knee, nothing Klitschko did,” said a grimacing Solis. “I was able to take his punches and hit him back, but I had bad luck and can't do anything about that.”   

Subsequent dispatches from University Hospital in Cologne reportedly show Solis indeed suffered both ligament and cartilage damage. He was seen leaving the hospital Sunday morning using crutches. Manager Ahmet Oner was quoted regarding further immediately upcoming tests.

Whatever it was, it tripped up Solis' run at the top of the hill, probably for a while. He's now a high risk, low reward signing for other top contenders.

From the looks of those sitting on the K2 side of the podium, Solis shouldn't hold his breath about another Klitschko fight, either.

Maybe we can blame this crappy result on Saturday night's ultra-full, so-called “Super Moon” that floated closer to earth than usual and glowed above a festive, frosty fight scene.

Something certainly effected understandably upset Oner, who left the postfight conference then burst back in screaming wildly at any insinuation Solis wasn't ready to win the contest. A frantic Oner had to be repeatedly restrained. Meanwhile, Bonte sat calmly at the podium like he was waiting for a tuxedo fitting, and continued to press Oner's buttons.

Judging from the energy emitting within the strands during a limited period of observation it seems like the fight was waged, however briefly, at a respectably elite level.

Solis came to fight, but what he brought was not enough to win.

Klitschko has maintained his level of excellence although he didn't get the chance to show it. There was discussion about the possibility of another appearance in May or June, depending on available optional opponents. Otherwise, there's that September date with Tomasz Adamek, who has to be thinking about how to avoid looking like Solis.

With all the intense events going on around the globe these days, Klitschko-Solis was by no means a noteworthy disaster. It was nice that Klitschko solicited donations for Japan relief, and when Michael Buffer called for a moment of silence before the fight you could sense one of those strange, brain stem level human vibes. There have been many such public observations around Germany these days, and maybe that more than anything made it easier for the fans to keep perspective.

“He was a respected opponent with an excellent amateur background. I am proud to have recorded another knockout. How this happened is not my concern, it is another win. The only thing I hope is that Solis isn't badly hurt.” 

Tonight, a lot of folks either showed up or tuned in with high expectations.

A couple of them, bigger than the rest, were named Klitschko and Solis.

They're probably the ones who are most disappointed of all about what happened “Im Shatten Des Doms”.

Too bad for almost all involved that “La Sombra” was forced, for whatever reason, to remain in the shadows.

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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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