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A Victor Lap For Andre Berto….RASKIN

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4-16-11-hbo-wcb-letterheadYou can spend hours studying the fight videos, absorbing the combatants’ styles, every little intricacy, in hopes of assessing and accurately predicting how a matchup will play out. You scribble in your notebook something to the effect of, “Fighter A drops his right hand about six inches when he jabs, and Fighter B’s strength is his quick counter hook, so B can hurt A with that as long as B can position himself far enough away to lure the jab out but close enough to reach A with the hook.”

If you want to spend hours coming up with this sort of detailed X-and-O breakdown of this Saturday’s fight between Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz, be my guest. But you’re wasting your time.

This fight won’t be won or lost with jabs or hooks or footwork or upper-body movement. It will be won or lost purely on the basis of will. Berto has it. In the quantities required to succeed at the upper levels of this brutal, unyielding, soul-crushing sport, Ortiz doesn’t.

But here’s the beautiful part: It’s a marketable, meaningful TV fight. So congratulations to Andre Berto. Almost every fight he takes, he hears criticism from some corner of the boxing universe. But not this time. This time, all that Team Berto has done is go out and find the absolute perfect opponent in every way. They just have to hope Ortiz doesn’t crumble so quickly and easily that Berto gets criticized after the fact.

None of this is meant to be sarcastic, some kind of “wink, wink” compliment where what I’m really saying is that Berto found another bum against which to pad his record. Ortiz is a talented fighter. (I was among those who believed he was an elite prospect as recently as two years ago, and I’m not going to lie about that now and tell you I was suspicious of him all along.) At just 24 years old, he already has a decent name built up, thanks to the hype before he lost to Marcos Maidana, the thrilling six rounds against Maidana, the conversation-sparking ending to the Maidana fight, and a second wave of hype as he tried to rebuild his image.

These are two gifted American boxers in their mid-20s, a matchup that is well worth HBO’s money and air time.

It’s a fight Berto would have been foolish not to take. Ortiz isn’t Michel Trabant or Miki Rodriguez or Freddy Hernandez, an opponent that presents neither a positive progression in quality nor a compelling contest for the fans. It’s a highly compelling fight on paper.

It just happens to be a fight in which only one of the two combatants has what it takes to win.

The stories have long been out there about Ortiz, how he doesn’t respond well to getting hit and has more flight instinct than a professional boxer can afford to have. We shrugged those stories off as gym myths for a while. Then we came to believe those stories when Maidana convinced Ortiz to quit in the sixth round.

But I was willing to overlook that surrender and give “Vicious Victor” a second chance. Hey, Maidana is a beast. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he’s one-eighth grizzly bear or one-sixteenth Yeti. (Which would make Erik Morales some sort of intergalactic alien beast, apparently.) Toward the end of his fight with Maidana, Ortiz’s eye had swollen just about shut and he couldn’t get out of the way of the Argentine’s right hand, so he opted for self-preservation. A fighter can show insufficient heart one time, feel the backlash slapping him, then dedicate himself to not letting it happen again—see Roberto Duran or Vitali Klitschko for high-profile examples.

But Ortiz lost my benefit of the doubt when, five fights after the Maidana defeat, he again revealed a missing ingredient against Lamont Peterson. No intricate X-and-O analysis was really required for this matchup; all Ortiz had to do was come forward and throw punches, and the fight was his. He scored two knockdowns in the third round by doing precisely that. But then he stopped doing it. He backed off, didn’t punch enough. Ortiz was thinking way too much instead of acting on instinct. Or maybe it’s just his instinct to think. If so, that’s a problem.

Whatever happened, Ortiz turned a knockout win against Peterson into a majority draw. And now this guy is supposed to be able to cope with Berto, a 27-year-old in his prime who can punch, who’s a full division bigger than Peterson, who showed against Luis Collazo and David Estrada and Carlos Quintana that he can handle adversity?

And if what we saw from Ortiz against Peterson set off alarm bells, that was nothing compared to what we heard from him on a recent media teleconference promoting the Berto fight.

Ortiz comment: “When everybody runs from you at 140, you go up to 147, and I shot for the top of the line, Andre Berto.”

Reaction: Who exactly was running from Ortiz at 140, especially after he drew with Peterson? And since when is Berto the top of the line in a division featuring Manny Pacquiao?

Ortiz comment: “[Maidana is] running left and right, dodging me. He sees me in his nightmares. When he gets the courage and comes out of the closet, he can meet me at 147.”

Reaction: When one man makes another throw in the towel, it’s usually not the winner who has the nightmares. Also, “comes out of the closet” probably wasn’t the most prudent wording.

Ortiz comment: “You say I haven’t fought a puncher. Maidana was considered the toughest puncher at 140 and 147 and he couldn’t put me down.”

Reaction: So who was it exactly who did put Ortiz down in the first and sixth rounds of that fight? Is the whole “cause and effect” concept just some big government conspiracy?

I don’t mean to belittle Ortiz or make personal attacks. He’s a tougher man than I am and a world-class boxer. But his comments reveal him to be utterly delusional. If I was going to give him an outside chance at beating Berto, I’d need to hear that he tackled his demons head on, maybe that he had started working with a sports psychologist. But he’s gone the opposite direction, denying that he has demons. And that reeks of a young athlete who lacks the emotional stability to succeed against top opponents.

Ortiz has developed a relationship with fellow Oxnard, California fighter Fernando Vargas. If you could somehow transplant Vargas’ fighting spirit into Ortiz’s body, he’d have a chance at defeating Andre Berto. I still wouldn’t pick him, but I’d acknowledge that it’s a fight either man can win.

Instead I see it as a fight only one man can win. Berto has found his dream opponent. And by Ortiz’s confounding logic, that means Andre Berto will be seeing Ortiz in his nightmares someday soon.

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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