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Judges Were Kind, Maybe Too Kind, To Velez And Reile In Costa Rica

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Events in boxing where more than 13,000 fans fill one half of a soccer stadium are moments one should savor.

Not last Thursday.

The boxing card held in San Jose, Costa Rica should have been a night for boxing comparable to graduation night. It should have been a moment of celebration, instead it was an evening filled with disappointment and disillusionment for professional prizefighting.

Costa Rica’s heroine Hanna Gabriel belted out Melisenda Perez after seven rounds of a back and forth struggle to end the night and retain her WBO junior middleweight title. But a terrible bitter taste from two prior fights probably sent a message to the fans that some things don’t add up correctly: like boxing judges' score cards.

A fight for the vacant IBF junior featherweight title between Puerto Rico’s Ada Velez who lives in Florida and Nevada’s Melinda Cooper left many fans in the stadium puzzled.

Why?

Velez was given the title belt by split decision after 10 rounds with Cooper. Though she fought valiantly and with skill the Puerto Rican boxer did not win the fight in the ring. She was never the aggressor and despite some taps to Cooper’s stomach in the first three rounds, and a solid punch or two in the fight, she did not win six rounds in the end.

Velez vs. Cooper

Cooper was introduced to the crowd with the song “Born In The USA” playing and the crowd booed her entrance. It was a long walk of about 100 yards and every step of the way the boos cascaded.

Velez was then introduced, and though the crowd support wasn’t great, she wasn’t from the hated U.S.A. and had some applause. It was a precursor of what to expect from the judges in the fight.

In the first round Velez shot some jabs to Cooper’s body but the best punches were lead rights by Cooper to the head and body. Her quickness was obvious as she beat Velez to the punch.

Both fighters got closer in the second round with Velez landing a good left. During an exchange Cooper landed more than she absorbed. Though both fired, Cooper slipped more than Velez.

A check hook by Cooper landed in the third round but Velez countered with a right hook and clinched. Some right uppercuts and right hooks landed for the Puerto Rican southpaw and gave her the round.

Cooper opened up the fourth round with a solid one-two combination. All through the fight Cooper was the aggressor as Velez seldom fired the first punch. Cooper pinned Velez in a neutral corner and fired a volley that snapped Velez’s head back and wobbled her toward the end of the round.

Velez tried to rally in the fifth round and landed a few counter lefts. Cooper fired back and both exchanged. The Nevada fighter’s punches were much more solid and packed more power, probably because Velez was always moving away and never going forward.

Cooper won the sixth round as Velez refused to initiate any punches. When punches were thrown it was Cooper’s that connected.

Velez connected on some counters in the beginning of the seventh round, but Cooper unloaded a four-punch combination and followed that with a three punch combination. A video replay of the barrage was shown on the big screen showing Cooper connecting and Velez wincing from the impact.

In the eighth round Cooper fired a one-two combination and then both exchanged several times. Cooper’s punches were coming in with speed and Velez took them and countered with a right hook on the button. Cooper retaliated with two counters then opened up with a three-punch combination.

The last two rounds saw both fighters feinting and circling each other. It seemed Cooper felt she was winning the fight easily and Velez felt she couldn’t afford to be knocked down. Few punches were thrown but those that were fired mostly came from Cooper. Velez countered but did not land anything flush.

When the announcer read the score cards he read them backwards so it was confusing for a moment. The American judge scored it 96-94 for Cooper but the Puerto Rican and Costa Rican judges scored it 96-94 for Velez.

Many in the crowd were puzzled when they saw Velez’s arm raised in victory.

It was a shocking development but even more so was the fight prior where Florida’s Stacey Reile was given the decision over Dominican Republic’s Dahiana Santana for the vacant IBF featherweight title.  

Reile is a very tough girl with guts to spare, but her technique is poor and she has the worst jab in the business. It’s not really a jab. She puts it up high then comes down with it as if she was tagging someone. None of her punches are straight, they all kind of look like girls punching in a cat fight. I hate to say it but she landed few punches cleanly.

Santana boxed and fired straight punches and connected often. Nothing was fired hard but she probably out-connected Reile five to one after 10 rounds. She tired in the middle rounds and that enabled Reile to win a few rounds just with activity. But just barely. It looked like the judges would easily find Santana the winner but the Floridian’s arms were raised causing the first shock of the evening. Many of the fans in the stands were watching their first boxing card and must have been puzzled by the announcement.

In the end the two Florida fighters were given the wins, the titles and undeserving recognition.

Most fights I attend I score the fights round by round. I assess each fight with no preconceived notion. Whether I know the fighter or not my scores are based in blows landed, the power of those punches and who’s going forward and who’s going backward. But to make sure I ask bystanders their opinion.

Of the half dozen people I asked no one thought Velez beat Cooper or that Reile beat Santana. For the 13,000 fans in the stadium I’m sure a majority walked out wondering about those decisions too.

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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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