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THE KIMBALL CHRONICLES The Rematch Ref Was Rotten

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jean-pascal-vs-bernard-hopkins-2 e26b5“And I'm not sure whether to thank or ream the ref, who missed knockdowns that would have helped me, but also allowed me to go Graterford on Pascal.” (Hogan)

If, as the old adage holds, the best referee is the one who doesn’t call attention to himself, you’d have to deem Ian John-Lewis a miserable failure.  Just about the only ones who managed to ignore him completely Saturday night were Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal.

It was Richard Schaefer, arguing for his client Hopkins, who demanded a slate of neutral officials for Saturday’s fight in Montreal, so if you’re looking for somebody to blame John-Lewis’ presence on, you could start with the Golden Boy CEO.

It’s unclear exactly how John-Lewis came to be nominated for his role at the Bell Centre, but it’s reasonable to assume it was not with the recommendation of his national federation. At least half a dozen world-class referees work under the auspices of the British Board of Boxing Control, but Ian John-Lewis is not one of them.

“I was frankly amazed he got this fight,” a British boxing expert told us after watching John-Lewis’ abominable performance in the 46 year-old Hopkins’ historic win over Pascal in the WBC light-heavyweight title fight.

On April 15 of this year, less than five weeks before the Hopkins-Pascal fight, John-Stewart was “severely reprimanded” by the BBBofC for making a royal mess of a March super-middleweight fight at the Liverpool Arena. Although Wayne Reed had cleanly knocked down local Joe Ainscough in the last round of their three-round “Prizefighter” prelim, John-Lewis, who had meted out the count, apparently forgot having done so and scored the round 10-10, awarding the fight to Ainsough on a 30-28 shutout on the only official scorecard.

After the hearing, the BBBofC warned the 48 year-old referee from Gillingham that he was on thin ice and that further transgressions might result in his being banned from the sport.

Just a week ago, John-Lewis drew further scrutiny when he bewilderingly scored a London fight for hometowner Tom Dallas, even though most ringsiders felt the durable American opponent Zack Page had won at least six of the eight rounds. Even Dallas’ promoter Frank Maloney termed the verdict a “lucky” one and described the referee’s work as “a bad day at the office.”

And last October John-Lewis was the referee who allowed Vitali Klitschko to administer such a savage beating to Shannon Briggs that the American wound up in a Hamburg hospital with assorted facial fractures, a concussion, and a torn biceps tendon.

In other words, his work in Montreal wasn’t simply a case of a good referee having a bad night, but one of a bad referee having another bad night.

Granted, two of the aforementioned infractions that got John-Lewis called on the carpet involved scoring, and scoring was not part of his brief in the Hopkins-Pascal fight. At the same time, the referee’s failure to acknowledge two pretty clear-cut knockdowns did potentially skew the judges’ scorecards. (In the ninth and tenth rounds, a Hopkins right hand caught Pascal on the head, and on both occasions Jean remained upright only by bracing himself with his gloves on the canvas mat.)

The rulebook says you get hit and your gloves touch the ring mat, it’s a knockdown. The mistakes in back-to-back rounds seem retrospectively less important only because they did not, in the end, affect the outcome, only the margin of victory.

But John-Lewis’ handling of the fight up until then must also be called into question. From the third round on, he allowed Hopkins to grab Pascal in a clinch and then bang away with his free hand – initially to the short ribs, and as the evening wore on, increasingly to the kidneys. Although he warned him on several occasions, the referee never seemed close to taking a point, and by then it was clear that only punitive action was going to deter Hopkins from the practice. When a fighter keeps throwing illegal punches after he has been ordered to break, it reflects a total disdain for the authority of the referee. No, John-Lewis didn’t lose control of the fight; he never had control.  And who can say how much the evening-long assault to his kidneys took out of Pascal in those later rounds?

Hopkins’ arsenal also included a couple of head-butts, a thumb to Pascal’s right eye, and at least one low blow.

Pascal can’t be absolved from blame, either. With equal impunity, he whacked Hopkins with an astounding number of rabbit punches down the stretch. Pascal did not, as Harold Lederman charged after the fight, “get away with it all night long,” but (encouraged by his corner, which by then could be confident that there would be no repercussion from the referee) he did land better than a dozen punches behind the head over the last three rounds of the fight.  By then Hopkins had all but given up his own holding-and-hitting tactics; B-Hop needed the clinches for breathing space.

HBO, encouraged by the promoters, made a huge deal out of Hopkins’ quest to break George Foreman’s record for winning a title, and then spent the rest of the night denigrating the title in question. This was at least in part the result of HBO’s institutional stance, which considers the recognized sanctioning bodies the scourge of boxing. They sometimes are, but this doesn’t mean that the IBO or the titles created by Golden Boy’s boxing magazine are necessarily an improvement.

The only mention of the WBC came in Michael Buffer’s bilingual introductions – and then, the organization was consigned to co-equal status with the IBO and Ring titles. Lampley, who sometimes seems to have made this thing downright personal, referred only obliquely to “the governing body” which ordered the Pascal-Hopkins rematch, and suggested that while Pascal had won “a belt” when he defeated Adrian Diaconu, his title somehow lacked legitimacy until he fought Hopkins to a draw back in December.

You want to pretend the sanctioning bodies don’t exist, fine. But then on the same telecast, Lampley waxed rhapsodic about Hopkins’ 20-fight reign as middleweight champion. For the first 14 of those, Hopkins held only the IBF title. He had held it for eight years, in fact, before The Ring recognized him as champion. So which is it, Lamps? You can’t have it both ways.

ALSO…

Adrian Diaconu is a lazy, untalented, clumsy oaf, but Chad Dawson actually managed to make him look good.

With the spectre of Ian John-Stewart hovering over the Hopkins-Pascal fight, by the way, Lampley noted that the Dawson-Diaconu action had been “so clean that I never even mentioned the name of Mark Griffin, the referee.”

Good thing, since his name is Mike Griffin.

—Emanuel Steward performed another bit of quick-change artistry, working Dawson’s corner for the Diaconu fight before jumping behind his analyst’s microphone for Hopkins-Pascal, but did anyone notice that Russ Anber performed the same trick in reverse? The Renaissance Man of Canadian boxing worked the Dawson-Diaconu fight as an analyst for Canadian television, and then materialized in Pascal’s corner for the main event.

—Nothing Bernard Hopkins does should surprise us any longer, but the man is 46 years of age, a world champion again, and a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame if he ever does stop boxing. Why does he still feel the need to come into the ring dressed like he’s about to go trick-or-treating?

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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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