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RASKIN’S RANTS: BAD In A.C. With MAB & JCC (Plus FNF, FX, AMC, etc.)

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I was in Atlantic City on Saturday night for the Boxing After Dark card headlined by Yuriorkis Gamboa’s four-round destruction of Jorge Solis (it hasn’t been a very good March for fighters named Solis) and, seated almost directly behind the HBO broadcast crew, I witnessed one of my least favorite forms of fan/journalist interaction:

While the commentators were still working, doing their postfight on-air standup at ringside, a couple of drunk fans were leaning over the metal guard rail, yelling friendly but obnoxiously loud greetings to Max Kellerman and Roy Jones. Look, most broadcasters and writers are happy to chat with the fans; just do them the courtesy of waiting until they’re done working, especially if they’re in the middle of a live telecast or rushing to file on deadline.

That said, there are plenty of appropriate forms of fan/journalist interaction, and Twitter has quickly become a favorite of mine. So for this week’s miniature mailbag, we’re going with a pair of tweets from reader Joel Stern, sent in response to my article last week about Bob Arum’s continued stalling of the Gamboa-Juan Manuel Lopez showdown:

@EricRaskin Put Lopez-Gamboa together now. If there is fireworks, you have trilogy. Barrera-Morales started out on BAD and ended up on PPV
Not sure where this magical groundswell of public desire for Lopez-Gamboa is going to spring from beside the hardcore.
@efronb

Joel,

In 280 characters or less, you made a couple of good points. Barrera-Morales is an excellent example, and even though they never made it to pay-per-view, the Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez series was another fine illustration of how smaller, not-quite-superstar fighters can make substantial money by producing multiple classic fights. Sure, either Gamboa or Lopez might blow the other out, a la Nonito Donaire vs. Fernando Montiel, and you won’t get a rematch or a rubber match. But sometimes you have to take risks—if the fighters are willing to take those risks, Arum can take one too.

And you’re right: Neither Gamboa nor Lopez really have much chance of crossing over beyond the hardcore fan by continuing to pile up wins over B-level opposition. In Arum’s defense, there’s a little something to be said for simply building up name recognition. If a fighter has been around long enough, if he’s fought on HBO a half-dozen times, his name starts to resonate a little. Neither Gamboa or Lopez are going to become household names anytime soon (sadly, that often happens after boxers start to decline). But it’s possible that with each fight, a few more casual fans will develop awareness and the potential PPV numbers will grow ever so slightly.

Still, it sure seems the best possible intersection of hardcore interest and mainstream interest is arriving this year. Having the two fighters in the ring together for postfight interviews on Saturday night was an obvious and correct move. Now you schedule Gamboa-Lopez for July or maybe you let them share a card one last time in July to set up a PPV in October or November.

Either way, to use Arum’s analogy, I think the cake needs to come out of the oven in 2011. You want the fans to be fed … before they get fed up.

And with that, I now feed you your weekly helping of Rants:

• The word “practice” will forever belong to Allen Iverson, and now Roger Mayweather has similar ownership of the word “angles.” That was the highlight of Uncle Roger’s interview that made its way around the web last week, getting the close nod over his calling Manny Pacquiao a “clubfighter.” (Frankly, I agree with Roger; Pacquiao IS a clubfighter. It’s just a really, really big club, approximately the size of the entire earth, and Pacquiao’s the best fighter in that club.)

• I’ve been plowing through the brilliant AMC show Breaking Bad lately, and one of the central themes, particularly in the third season, concerns how our bad decisions tend to have negative effects far beyond anything we ever considered. In that vein, I’m going to go ahead and blame the hiring department at Epix for Nate Campbell’s comeback. Had they made the best possible decision to hire Campbell as their expert analyst instead of the worst possible decision to hire Lennox Lewis, maybe Campbell wouldn’t be making the dubious choice to fight on.

• If AMC has the best batting average of any network on television, FX is a close second—but no matter how highly a network’s executives value quality programming, ratings still matter. Lights Out wasn’t a great show, but it was at least a very good one, and it’s a shame that the positive critical response never translated into adequate public interest. Oh well. Patrick “Lights” Leary might be gone from our lives after the April 5 season finale that is now a series finale, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of the man who brought Lights Leary to life, Holt McCallany.

• I had an excellent seat in Atlantic City on Saturday (I was there covering the fights on deadline for HBO.com, which landed me one row closer than usual), but I still had to suffer through watching no-names like Roy Jones, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Marco Antonio Barrera enjoy superior press seating. What have any of those clowns ever done? There’s no justice in the journalism world.

• Speaking of Chavez, I finally figured out where I’ve seen his current nose before: http://tinyurl.com/4hgun2w (And I’m not referring to Linda Hamilton.)

• Tommy Zbikowski’s professional record now stands at 3-0, after Bob Arum’s new Butterbean just barely avoided a Mitchell Rose-ing at the hands of Caleb Grummet. My prediction: Tommy Z’s record remains 3-0 for a long, long time.

• While the Gamboa-Solis fight was an entertaining little beatdown and the Mikey Garcia-Matt Remillard bout was a reasonable enough affair, by far the best action on the Boardwalk Hall show came in the untelevised fight between unbeaten junior feathers Teon Kennedy and Jorge Diaz. Kennedy showed a lot of poise and skill, Diaz a lot of heart, but there are three people worth criticizing here: Judge Alan Rubinstein, who didn’t give Diaz a single round after the second and somehow scored this close fight 118-109; judge John Poturaj, whose 117-109 card was only minimally more palatable; and whoever it was at ESPN who supposedly turned down this fight. If one of these guys had been Cuban, you’d better believe Friday Night Fights would have snatched it up in a minute.

• Speaking of FNF and the Cubans, sure, he had a made-to-order opponent in front of him, but I’m putting Yudel Jhonson second (behind Gamboa) on my pro-potential list, ahead of Guillermo Rigondeaux. As for the stoppage in Jhonson’s fight with Richard Gutierrez, it was premature, but I don’t really mind in a fight in which one guy has won every single round and the other has shown no signs that he’s capable of winning.

• At the risk of ripping off Chris Berman’s unbearable shtick, how would everyone feel about trying to make the nickname Yunier “Cool Ranch” Dorticos stick?

• ESPN’s Brian Kenny commented on Friday night that it was uncharacteristic of the sportsmanlike Vitali Klitschko to yell at Odlanier Solis when their fight reached a premature conclusion. But do you remember how Vitali got in the face of Corrie Sanders after Sanders blitzed his brother? Vitali is generally very sportsmanlike, but he also has a surly side and his aggressive reaction to Solis being unable to continue was not really out of character.

• As long as I’m disagreeing with ESPN analysts on Klitschko-Solis commentary, I think Teddy Atlas was way off in claiming Solis’ approach was all wrong and that he needed to be more aggressive to beat Vitali. For two minutes and 45 seconds, Solis was boxing and countering nicely and was giving Vitali his most difficult round since he unretired. Against Wladimir, I agree, balls-out aggression is the way to go. Against Vitali, if you’re slick enough, your best shot is to move, counterpunch, take advantage of his stiffness, and maybe get him frustrated and making mistakes. Everyone remembers the Vitali-Chris Byrd fight for the quit job, but Byrd also was giving Klitschko some problems with his speed and boxing ability, and that may have played a small role in his decision to throw in the towel.

• I hate to say it because I enjoy his fights so much, but Antonio Escalante = Augie Sanchez 2.0.

• I’m tired of ending my Rants columns with shameless plugs for my podcast, Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com). So just know that the following plug comes absolutely loaded with shame. Last week’s episode, with guest Max Kellerman, was one of our best yet, and Max’s take on the Top Rank-Golden Boy feud is a must-listen. Also, if you don’t subscribe to the show, you’ll never know which boxer’s fighting future merits comparisons to a dissected frog, whose last name is properly pronounced “Bluhbluhbluh,” or what the “big brother whammy” is all about. And if you lack that knowledge, you’re going to be at a huge disadvantage when the Ring Theory Trivia iPhone app drops.

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.

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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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