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Never, Ever Count Out “El Terrible”…RALPH G

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Near the downtown section of Tijuana lies the notorious “Zona Norte”. Home to working families barely making a living, “La Zona” is also home to many bars, pimps, hookers, drug dealers and users. It’s like a surreal movie location that even Hollywood’s finest set designers would find a challenge to re-create.

The parents are usually transplants from other states like Sinaloa, Michoacán or Zacatecas. The kids who are born and grow up in this part of Tijuana have no choice but to be hardy and tough.

“La Zona Norte” is also the place where former world champion Erik “El Terrible” Morales grew up and blossomed as a boxer under the tutelage of his father Jose, himself a former fighter.

As Morales was being assaulted against the ropes on Saturday night by Marcos Maidana on HBO pay per view, you couldn’t help but feel for the two division world titlist.

The 34 year old has been fighting since he was five. He rose through the ranks in spectacular fashion after turning pro at sixteen and became an international sports star.

Along the way, he engaged in some of the most talked about fights of his generation. His dislike for Mexico City rival, Marco Antonio Barrera, was as real as their three legendary fights were intense. He was also the last man to defeat superstar Manny Pacquiao.

The cold hard truth is that Morales didn’t want to be in the ring on April 9th 2011 in Las Vegas. But there he was, surviving the onslaughts and the manic rough-housing of 27 year old Maidana. After almost 60 fights, Morales wanted to be retired just as he was in 2007, basking in the fruits of his hard labor.

Instead, after some investments went south and his bank account grew thin, he agreed to a comeback three years later. He scored three wins in his return before a big money fight was secured against the intense and borderline dirty fighter out of Argentina.

“Chino” Maidana, a non stop punching machine, seemed intent on retiring Morales for good as soon as the first bell rang. He came out like a battering ram caught in a hurricane, landing easily and in high volume for the first three rounds. Morales repeatedly found him-self at the end of some wicked combinations that left him with a small eggplant growing over his right eye.

A Maidana win seemed like a foregone conclusion. Boxing fans on Twitter started to proclaim their sadness in witnessing the old lion being taken down.

He could’ve folded or quit as some of Maidana’s past opponents have done. He could’ve shown up, received a beating and collected his hefty $250,000 + minimum purse. He could’ve sat on his stool after round six and pointed to his eye afterwards. But he didn’t. Like the people of “La Zona Norte” he persevered and fought on in order to live and work another day.

Just as Maidana seemingly pummeled Morales against the ropes, “El Terrible” would surge back with rallies of his own. At times hurting and stunning Maidana who was favored 4 to 1 by most betting houses. The fight that started as a mismatch ultimately became competitive, thrilling and dramatic.

In the end, the scores of 116-112 (twice) and 114-114 were more than appropriate. Although the judges didn’t factor in Morales fighting with one eye completely closed for most of the fight, they were fair.

“I fight for the people of Tijuana,” Morales said proudly afterwards. His eye remained swollen and blackened shut after having received an uppercut/hook in the first round and several follow up shots afterwards. “I think Maidana may have won a close fight but it wasn’t a clean win.”

And indeed there are still questions to be answered. Would the out-come have been different had Morales been fighting with two good eyes?

The only definite answer we got on Saturday night was that Morales still has something left. “I have a lot of speed and I showed that I have dignity and heart,” he said after the fight.

Morales will continue fighting even if he doesn’t want to. It’s all about regaining the financial foothold he once had. But how will he fare against the young bucks of the heavily loaded 140 pound division?

Tim Bradley, Amir Khan, Victor Ortiz and Josesito Lopez are part of the new generation of fighters battling for 140 pound supremacy. These are all tough matches for Morales that will either make him a bigger legend or finish “El Terrible’s” career for good.

After all the positive critical reviews, there’s a very good chance that Morales vs. Maidana II will take place not too far in the future. There are even rumors that Morales may face Barrera one last time. Juan Manuel Marquez also remains an intriguing possibility.

It doesn’t matter who he fights next. Morales will cause problems for all the fighters named above. Not only by way of his supreme boxing skills but because of the indomitable spirit that runs through his being.

It’s exactly what you’d expect from someone raised in “La Zona Norte”.

Catch the replay of Morales vs. Maidana on HBO Latino this Friday. You can also catch it on HBO Zone on Saturday.

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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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