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Paradise Theatre Fight Report: Edgar Santana Wins Comeback

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These are sad times if you’re a boxing fan living in New York. The club show circuit is lame as can be and Madison Square Garden hasn’t been all that committed to putting on cards lately. Of course, this could all change quickly when Golden Boy starts doing their monthly series at the Barclays Center in BK next year. Hopefully, that will create some healthy competition and compel local promoters to step their game up.

Joe DeGuardia (Star Boxing) struck a pre-emptive attack last night, in an attempt to fill this fistic void. He put on his first card in a couple years at the Paradise Theater, which is on the Bronx’s Grand Concourse and just a block away from the D train.

The Paradise, built in 1929, was once of the country’s great movie theaters. It holds about 4,000 and though high school art history is 20 years in my rearview mirror, the architectual might be described as Moorish Revival. More importantly, the Bronx is a boxing rabid place, probably filled with as many boxing fans per capita as anywhere else in the country. Yet, for some reason, the city offers few worthy outlets for both the fighters and fans.

The gym scene here isn’t what it could be. There’s no Wild Card Gym, like Freddie Roach’s in L.A., that pools the talent and has daily sparring you’d pay to see. Our gyms are vulcanized throughout the five boroughs. After a kid competes in the Daily News Golden Gloves, unless he’s that rare, super hot talent (and fighting in an economically desirable weight class), he often decides to hang ‘em up and get a real job.

Indeed, boxing was far from Edgar Santana’s mind for large portions of time since his last fight, an impressive MD 10 over Joselito Lopez featured on Shobox in April 2008  Since then, the popular Spanish Harlem native found himself in serious legal trouble when he was implicated in a major drug cartel with ties to a barbershop he ran. The charges against him were eventually dropped and he opened up another barbershop, Santana Cut Men, where the barbers where robes that say “We Cut Heads.”

No cut man was needed for him in his comeback fight against Robert Jones of Ann Arbor, MI. Santana (now 24-3, 16 KOs) worked a sharp up-jab for the opening round. He slipped Jones’ counters with ease. The opponent made the cardinal sin of standing directly in front of Edgar, which is what he likes. He struggles with boxers with good movement, as he needs to be set to get off.

Santana trapped Jones (8-9-1) in a corner in the second and ripped vicious body shots that dropped him. When he got up, he stayed in the same spot and Santana resumed his assault. The ref interceded at 1:20 of round 2.

Santana weighed 147.5 and said he made the weight easy. The former Jr. welter is 32 and might have one run left in him if he can get his weight down and pick his spots.

Jason Escalera of Union city, NJ was recently signed by Star Boxing and upped his record to 10-0, 9 KOs. He made short work of Mustafah Johnson, stopping him at 1:13 in the first.  The aggressive super middle impressed.  While Johnson sports a terrible record (8-12-1, 2 KOs) and is now on a six-fight losing streak, he went the distance in his last five fights.against respectable names like Elvin Ayala.

In keeping with the night’s theme, jr. lightweight Emanuel Gonzalez stopped his man at 1:41 of the first and raised his mark to 8-0, 7 KOs. He’s also a new signee of Star Boxing. Jocob Throton (2-4-1, 1 KO), from St. Louis, MO had the unfortunate handle of “Nice Guy.” He chose the wrong business—nice guys do social work and volunteer at soup kitchens, not hand out beatings—and apparently the wrong knees; one of them gave out on him within seconds of the bout starting.

Still, I like the way Gonzalez stalks his prey. Tall, strong and streamlined, he wastes little and throws each shot with conviction.  He’s a former NY Golden Gloves champ with experience on the national level

Albanian-American crusier Stivens “Superman” Bujaj turned heads when he entered his first NY Golden Gloves at 18 and won the 201 novice class. He demonstrated KO power and ring savvy that belied his brief time in the sport. He, too, got rid of his opponent before breaking a sweat, needing only 55 seconds to do the trick.

But opponent Chuck Dillard came to fight and was looked to score an upset. At the bell, he bull-rushed Bujaj into the ropes and opened up on him with all his might. Bujaj obliged him and slugged with his back to the ropes. His punches were cleaner, faster and better timed. One hook to the chops and Dillard was unable to beat the count. Bujaj, now 20, goes to 4-0, 3 KOs, while Dillard falls to 4-8-1, 1KOs.

In what was clearly the fight of the night, welter Stephen Owusu  won a UD 4 (40-36 twice, 29-37) over Juan Perez, who was making his pro debut.

Owusu’s record (7-6, 4 KOs) is misleading. He’s way better than this mark suggests, and I was shocked to find out that he was coming off an 11 year layoff! The 33-year-old came in excellent condition and showed no signs of ring rust. He was slick and relaxed and timed Perez with ease.

Mount Vernon’s Perez showed incredible moxie. No matter what he got hit with in the previous round, he came charging out his corner at the bell. No one is babying this kid. This was one of the tougher displays of matchmaking I’ve seen in a long time, given each fighter’s delicate circumstances.  Both fighters have ability. And I couldn’t help thinking of an Andre Berto or Danny Jacobs that go 20 or so fights into their career before experiencing a war like this.

In he opening bout of the night, Jr welter Issouf Kinda went to 10-0, 5 KOs, in stopping Jorge Diaz at 2:55 of the third.

A great night at the fights? What a club show is meant to be? I wouldn’t go that far. But Joe D. has got some genuine crowd pleasers to work with, and both they and the fans deserve to have more.

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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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