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RASKIN’S RANTS: Another Weekend, Another Fight Of The Year Candidate (Or Two)

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Okay, maybe the business of boxing is not at an all-time peak. But as a sport that entertains its fans and makes those of us who follow it feel downright sorry for those who don’t, boxing is vibrant as a Cosby sweater right now. Coming off another weekend of upsets, thrills, and Fight of the Year candidates, let’s double-dip into the mailbag for one email apiece on each of Saturday’s sensational slugfests:

Hi Eric,

Nice call there on Berto-Ortiz, Victor never had a chance, huh? I’m just busting your balls—I felt the same way. (I just didn’t write an article all about how the kid was going to fall apart when the going got tough.) I guess Ortiz is a case, sort of like Vitali Klitschko, of a guy who takes criticism for quitting once and doesn’t let it happen again. Good for him, he fought awesome and showed heart and desire. So here’s my question for ya: What the hell do we make of his wuss-tastic performance against Lamont Peterson now? How can a guy be fearless against Andre Berto and refuse to engage against Peterson, who punches like my great-grandmother?

A lot of writers and fans have been eating a lot of crow the last couple of weeks, but I wanted to say your article about Berto-Ortiz was a fun read even if the opinions ended up being way off base. Keep the good stuff coming, you’re a great addition to The Sweet Science. And don’t be shy about making predictions—they let me know who to bet against!

Take care,
Dave

Dave,

Well done, it’s not easy to kiss a guy’s butt and poke him in the ribs at the same time, but you pulled it off. I’m glad you found my article to be a “fun read,” because that’s really my main goal as a writer. I want to entertain readers and I want to make them think a little bit, and if I get every prediction wrong, so be it; it’s preferable to guessing every outcome correctly but not finding interesting and compelling ways to write about the fights. And, let’s remember, my Ortiz-Berto piece was a column, not a feature story, and a columnist’s aim is to express an opinion with conviction. I took my hard stance, that Ortiz doesn’t have a true fighter’s mental composition, and ran with it. I didn’t write anything about Berto that was untrue and I didn’t write anything about Ortiz’s talent level that was untrue. But I did make false assumptions about Ortiz’s stomach for battle. And I’m delighted to have been so wrong; like Erik Morales the week before, he gave us a stirring fight because he outperformed my expectations.

As for your question about the Peterson fight, if you listened to the most recent episode of my Ring Theory podcast, you know my co-host Bill Dettloff posited a theory that Ortiz might have tanked the Peterson fight in order to land this one with Berto. It sounded outlandish to me at the time, but now that we’ve seen what Ortiz is capable of on a good night, I can’t completely discount that he was carrying Peterson. I’m not saying I actually subscribe to the theory; I’m just saying you can’t totally rule it out. Especially because there’s really no other explanation for the Peterson performance that makes sense, now that we know Ortiz isn’t a mentally incapable fighter.
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Eric,

Just finished watching the Salido-Lopez fight and I’m pretty bummed about the stoppage. Not, like most fans, because it lessens the likelihood of Lopez fighting Gamboa, but because it prevented, in my mind, one of two possible outcomes: one, Salido knocking out Lopez cleanly and being able to enjoy a huge upset win without the cloud of controversy it has attached to it; or two, Lopez surviving the round and going on to win the fight in an even bigger comeback win than the one we saw in the Rios-Acosta fight. Either way, it could have developed into a Fight of the Year candidate. As it is, we saw a very entertaining fight with a very unsatisfactory ending. Which scenario do you think was the most likely had the referee not stopped the fight?

Final question, does Orlando Salido remind you of Glen Johnson? He fights in a similarly tough, dogged style with the air of a perpetual underdog, and you can’t fail to be pleased for him when he wins a fight. Plus, he’s got a wrinkly head to rival that of the Road Warrior.

Keep up the good work!

Joe T.

Joe,

It was definitely a bad stoppage by referee Roberto Ramirez, but it was one of those stoppages where the execution and timing were much worse than the basic intent. Lopez was taking serious punishment in the eighth round, wobbling repeatedly, and he’d been absorbing similar abuse the previous three rounds. Ramirez was correct to be looking in closely, ready to stop the fight as soon as the next neck-snapping punch landed. Despite the resiliency JuanMa had shown in other fights, there comes a time when you have to look out for a guy’s health, even if you can’t completely discount that he can still come back to win the fight. The problem was that Ramirez jumped in at the wrong moment. He saw Salido land a couple of punches and, I guess, thought they did more damage than they actually did. The ref just picked an inopportune moment to stop the bout, and that did tarnish a sensational battle.

Of your two scenarios, I think it was much more likely that Salido was about to knock Lopez out for real than that Lopez was going to somehow rally back. And that’s why, while I dislike the stoppage, I don’t HATE it with every fiber of my being. And I must say, even with the unsatisfying ending, this WAS a Fight of the Year candidate. I still like Hernan Marquez vs. Luis Concepcion for the award as of this moment, but Salido-Lopez, Ortiz-Berto (what a shame that it slowed down over the second half), and Maidana-Morales are all worthy runners-up.

As for Salido, sure, I’ll call him a poor man’s Johnson. I’m going with the “poor man’s” designation because he’s not as likable (a positive steroid test will do that for you), he isn’t as consistently competitive with everyone as Johnson is, and his brain isn’t nearly as visible through his scalp (clearly, you’re a Ring Theory devotee).

But enough about Salido’s brain and Johnson’s brain. It’s time to go inside my brain with the weekly Rants:

• Just a quick scorecard breakdown, I had Ortiz beating Berto 115-111. I thought Ortiz won the first round (10-8), the third, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth, 10th (though the point penalty made it 9-9), and 11th. I gave Berto the second (only 10-9, since he was losing the round clearly prior to scoring his flash knockdown), sixth (10-9 in the Round of the Year candidate in which both scored knockdowns), seventh, and 12th. Ultimately, I thought the judges nailed it. I got an email asking me how Dan Rafael could have scored the fight for Berto, and I’ll repeat my Twitter comment: That scorecard might qualify him for induction into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. Hey, fights look different live sometimes and we all have bad scoring nights on occasion, but to have Berto ahead after 12 rounds was fairly mystifying.

• Ortiz also won the battle of postfight interviews (a battle he hasn’t always won in the past). He was very likable and respectful, without being boring and programmed. Berto, on the other hand, busted out the dreaded “everyone knows that wasn’t me in there” routine, which is basically a fighter’s way of saying, “I’m not going to tell you what my excuses for losing are, but I have them and I want everyone to know I have them.”

• Did everyone enjoy the ring announcing work of Drexl Spivey (http://tinyurl.com/3jf9vy4) on the HBO broadcast?

• So, Mr. Arum, how’s that cake baking coming along?

• No truth to the rumor that it was Khoren Gevor who threw that water bottle at Al Bernstein.

• I criticize Gus Johnson with regularity, noting that both his substance and his style are all wrong for boxing, but I’ll also give credit where it’s due, and his thoughts in tribute to Gil Clancy were well-delivered. The wiping away of the tear was a bit melodramatic, but I guess it was genuine (unless Johnson can cry on command for effect, in which case that’s impressive in its own right).

• Speaking of Clancy, would it have been so difficult for someone at HBO or Showtime to Photoshop out the ear hair in the photo of him we keep seeing? When my time comes, first of all, I hope people will use a photo of me from my 20s, not my 80s, but if they do use a photo from my 80s, I give permission to airbrush out any hair growing from places from whence it didn’t grow in my prime.

• In a fighting fortnight loaded with upsets, the biggest one of all has to be Buddy McGirt finding himself in a winning corner. The last time that happened, Dunkleman and Seacrest were on equal career footing.

• Congrats to all of my fellow TSS writers on their Barney Awards, and particular congrats to the site’s editor, Michael Woods, for steering a ship that tied for the lead in most Barneys this year.

• Hey, I’m not happy about Humberto Soto-Urbano Antillon II falling apart either. But if we get Brandon Rios vs. Antillon in July, I think I’ll get over it.

• True news story: A Russian college professor was stabbed to death recently for insisting in a boozed-up argument that Mike Tyson would beat the Klitschko brothers. The moral of the story: Message boards are actually a pretty good place for fight fans to argue irrationally, when you consider the alternative.

• This is the week Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com) fans have been waiting for, as the one and only Jim Bagg will be gracing us with his presence. Just a heads-up to subscribers that we’re recording Wednesday night (instead of the usual Tuesday) and posting the episode Thursday night (instead of the usual Wednesday). This is either going to be the best episode in the history of the show … or the episode that gets us all stabbed to death by crazy Russian fight fans.

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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