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Does “Iron Boy” Have A Little Pep In His Step?

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Calderon-Segura2PPV_posterThey say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In the case of Giovanni Segura vs. Ivan Calderon II this Saturday night, we should only be so lucky.

You see, history can repeat itself in one of two ways, and either one would be a blessing. The obvious repetition would be if this fight looks like Segura-Calderon I, which was named Fight of the Year by The Ring in 2010 and packed plenty of action and drama (as Fights of the Year tend to).

The less obvious repetition would be if this fight looks like Willie Pep vs. Sandy Saddler II, which was named Fight of the Year by The Ring in 1949 and packed plenty of action and drama (again, go figure). The potential comparisons between the two fights are many, and if “Iron Boy” has as much Pep in him as his supporters have long argued, then maybe history made 62 years ago will repeat itself.

Even though Calderon is a southpaw and Pep was not, the stylistic similarities run deep. They’re slick defensive specialists with minimal pop in their mitts. Pep is considered one of the very greatest pure boxers of all-time because he defeated so many top fighters without the luxury of being able to hurt them. Calderon is one of the greatest pure boxers of his day (as the poor man’s Pep, he doesn’t get any “all-time” designation), also carving out a place among boxing’s elite despite shooting blanks.

But both eventually came up against younger, taller, vicious hitting foes and lost their crowns by upset knockouts. In October 1948, Saddler stopped Pep in the fourth round to claim the featherweight championship, handing him only his second defeat in 136 fights. Calderon was unbeaten in 35 bouts when a poor man’s Saddler, the all-offense Segura, convinced him to stay down on one knee last August.

Now Calderon is off the knee and trying to rise all the way back up by reversing the defeat. But it won’t be easy, as Pep would tell him if “The Will O’ The Wisp” was still alive.

To even the score against Saddler required “one of boxing’s greatest displays of will and courage,” as co-authors Steve Farhood and Stanley Weston wrote in The Ring: Boxing In The 20th Century. They called it “a wondrous performance.” All of Pep’s skill was on display as he took seven of the first eight rounds with his legs, with his quick fists, with his ability to clinch and spin and do everything necessary to avoid significant contact from Saddler’s heavy hands.

But Saddler roared back, hurting Pep in the ninth and nearly forcing a stoppage in the 10th. From there, it was a question of how badly did Pep want it and how gutsy could he be. Pretty gutsy, as it turned out. He won probably two of the last five rounds, and though he was barely hanging on at the end and would need stitches in four different places on his face, his early dominance earned him a unanimous decision.

Saddler said afterward, “I don’t think he’ll fight me again.” He was wrong; Pep fought him twice more. What Sandy should have said was, “I don’t think he’ll beat me again.” Saddler won both their third and fourth meetings, proving his style was all wrong for a Pep who was beginning to show signs of wear and tear. The third and fourth fights underlined what a remarkable achievement it was and what a near-perfect performance it required for Pep to beat Saddler even once.

That’s precisely the challenge that Calderon now faces. He’s 36 years old, his legs deprived of some of the bounce they once had. Segura is an animal, in his prime at 28, as technically flawed as Calderon is technically perfect, but able to make up for it with sheer ferocity and youthful energy. Calderon can’t hurt Segura. Segura knows that Calderon can’t hurt him. Calderon knows that Segura knows that he can’t hurt him. The Puerto Rican has to box brilliantly, put more than six rounds in the bank, and somehow survive 36 minutes of Segura’s fury.

As expected, excuses for Calderon’s defeat last August have crept into his prefight interviews.

“I didn’t train right for our first fight,” he said. “My leg muscles were injured. I couldn’t run and training days were suspended in the gym. I usually spar 100 rounds, but all I had was 45 for the last fight. No excuses, he did the job, but that wasn’t the Ivan everybody knows. I need to be able to move my legs to control the fight.”

Many assumed at the time that Iron Boy made a flawed strategic decision because he wanted to give his hometown crowd in Guaynabo their money’s worth. Now he’s asking us to consider that injured legs, not a desire to entertain, were at fault. But either way, there’s something to be said for Segura’s style preventing Calderon from controlling the fight with his own style. It’s part of boxing’s timeless chicken-and-the-egg debate: Did Calderon fight the wrong fight as a conscious decision? Or did he fight the wrong fight because Segura forced him to?

In the seven months since, Calderon has celebrated another birthday while junior flyweight champ Segura has surely experienced the uptick in confidence that comes with beating the man considered to be the best in your division. In theory, the second fight should look a lot like the first—and if anything, it should be more one-sided in the Mexican’s favor.

If Calderon is to win, he’ll have to be a poor man’s Pep who is poorer by no more than a few dollars. A broke man’s Pep can’t pull this off.

Calderon will need to be perfect, as Pep was for the first half of the Saddler rematch. He’ll need to show tremendous heart, as Pep did in the second half.

And then he’ll need to pray that all of that is actually enough to win, as it just barely was for Pep.

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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