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BORGES: What Pacquiao Must Avoid Tonight

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007IMG_2794LAS VEGAS – Avoidance is not generally considered to be Manny Pacquiao’s strong point but it may be a critical one tonight.

When Pacquiao enters the ring to face Shane Mosley at the sold out MGM Grand Garden Arena he will be facing a 39-year-old opponent who is a prohibitive underdog and someone few people in or out of boxing believe is his equal. That, of course, is part of what makes Mosley dangerous.

By all accounts Pacquiao has prepared himself well for this fight, trainer Freddie Roach insisting it has been one of their best and last undistracted training camps. That is a sign to Roach that the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is taking Mosley seriously despite all those who kept telling him this would be an easy fight.

Yet there is more to beating Mosley than simply being prepared for him. At some point, Pacquiao may have to fight himself more than his opponent. Fight off his tendency to go to the ropes when told not to and his willingness to engage in firefights when they are unnecessary and potentially destructive.

Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KO) likes to fight and loves to please and he well understands that what has made him a fistic and fiscal phenomenon beyond his wildest dreams is that the public embraces someone who so willingly embraces the idea of pleasing them by risking himself. In other words, Manny Pacquiao likes to fight, even when merely boxing would safely get the job done.

“I like that,’’ Mosley (46-6-1, 1 ND, 39 KO) said this week. “I like a good scrap.’’

What Mosley has always liked are fighters who come to him. He has long struggled with defensive guys like Winky Wright, who beat him twice, and Sergio Mora, with whom Mosley fought a lack luster draw in his last outing eight months ago. One could include Floyd Mayweather, Jr. on that list except that Mayweather, although elusive and a defensive magician is far more dangerous and destructive than that.

Still, Mayweather has never been one to go boldly where others fear to tread, instead sitting back and looking to counter while using his defensive skills to frustrate opponents and create openings. Pacquiao, in contrast, takes fighting at its word.

This is a great strength but also a worrisome habit that Roach understands he needs to temper early in the fight, when Mosley will be at his most dangerous. It is in those moments that the night will be decided because if Mosley can’t do anything then he won’t do anything later but take a beating.

“First four rounds, very dangerous,’’ Roach intones. “Shane is a good boxer. He still has speed and he has fast hands, punching power and a lot of experience. He knows how to lure you into trouble.’’

That is probably the only thing Roach fears about this fight – that a moment could come when Pacquiao is a little too bold and a bit to reckless and Mosley is lying in wait for him and catches him with a right uppercut (as Antonio Margarito and Joshua Clottey both did several times despite the one-sided victories Pacquiao hung on them) or a sizzling right hand counter like the one he briefly hurt Mayweather with in the second round of what became a painfully one-sided fight from the moment that punch landed and buckled Mayweather’s knees until Mayweather’s hand was raised in victory after he failed to lose another round or be hit with another meaningful punch.

The boxing world looked at that fight and saw a one-sided beating followed by a poor performance against Mora and concluded Mosley is finally damaged goods, an empty shell that appears to be more dangerous than he actually is. Considering that he’s fighting a man considered to be the best fighter in the world that would seem to put him in a no-win situation.

Truth be told without Pacquiao’s cooperation that is exactly where he is, which brings us to the one concern Roach will have tonight.

“Manny likes to attack,’’ Roach explained. “If he attacks without setting it up he could walk into a counter shot, especially if he goes to the ropes. That’s my biggest concern.

“The best place for him to be is in the center of the ring. That’s the safest place to fight Mosley. Manny knows the move to make. He knows what to do when he tries to attack.

“The key to this fight is for Manny to box him and not get into exchanges. Mosley likes to rock back and wait to counter you. He doesn’t have one-punch (knockout) power but speed is power and he still has speed.’’

How much is the question? Mosley is 3-2-1 in his last six fights and 8-6-1 with a no decision since sustaining his first loss in 2002 after opening his career 38-0 with 30 knockouts. In short, he’s been barely a .500 fighter over the past nine years and .500 fighters would not figure to do well against Pacquiao.

That is why Mosley has been made a prohibitive betting favorite all over town, a fact that has irked him nearly as much as the near constant mentioning of his age and the ravages of time on his skills, which frankly have begun to recede. The rest of the world may see slippage but Mosley sees something else. He sees opportunity for whoever is bold at the right moment tonight.

“Fans want to see a fight where they know risk is being taken,’’ Mosley said. “It’s very risky for someone like Manny Pacquiao to fight someone like myself. Is Manny going to get knocked out? Or is Mosley going to get knocked out? The unpredictability of the fight arouses people around the world. Anything can happen that night.’’

That the public has bought into that is reflected by the sellout at the Grand Garden, the added closed circuit seats now available and the projected pay-per-view numbers that have led promoter Bob Arum to predict sales of 1.6 million. If that number is reached it would make this a bigger PPV show than the night Pacquiao defeated Oscar De La Hoya several years ago, a stunning possibility considering Mosley’s declining skills and .500 record of late.

Hype is not the same as reality however and so while Roach worries about Mosley landing a booming counter shot or the kind of right hand that orthodox fighters often have an easy time landing on southpaws like Pacquiao, he also understands doing it will be a lot more difficult for Mosley than talking about it.

There is comfort in that. Comfort that underneath it all seems to hint that he feels a Pacquiao blowout is far more likely than a Mosley upset.

“I have a lot of advantages over him,’’ Mosley insisted. “Now all I have to do is exploit his weaknesses. Once I exploit them I should be able to take care of business.

“People forget. They forget about my punching power. They forget about speed. They forget about all those things.’’

If Manny Pacquiao is among those people, Shane Mosley might pull off the biggest upsets of the year in boxing but he is not. That doesn’t mean he can’t make a mistake and be countered and hurt. It doesn’t mean he won’t be forced to eat a number of uppercuts just as he had to do against Clottey and Margarito and Juan Manuel Marquez, who remains the one fighter who has given him fits.

But to do any of that often enough to win, 39-year-old Sugar Shane Mosley – a Sugar no longer as sweet as he once was – will have to overcome serious problems of his own. Problems like Pacquiao’s left-handed stance, which has caused him troubles in the past; problems like Pacquiao’s speed, which is superior to Mosley’s both of hand and foot; problems like his relentlessness, youth, punching volume and power. They are problems that change the equation once they are all factored in.

“The speed and power Manny possesses are unlike anyone I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ Roach says. “It’s like an explosion when he hits you. Shane’s a great fighter but once in a lifetime a guy like this come along.’’

Once in a lifetime guys – if in fact that is what Manny Pacquiao proves to be – don’t lose to 39-year-old guys with a habit lately of losing nearly as often as they win.

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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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