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CARL FROCH: “I'm No Jean Pascal, Glen Johnson Is No Bernard Hopkins”…WOODS

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002_IMG_FrochNYCI have yet to meet the man, woman or child not directly affiliated with the Glen Johnson camp who thinks that Glen Johnson will beat Carl Froch in the Super Six semifinal match on Saturday in Atlantic City.

Johnson's trainer has predicted a kayo win, saying, “For us, Froch will be an easy fight. The fight won’t go the distance. Glen will win by KO. I’m sure of it.”

But apart from that, I'm not sensing a tremendous groundswell for the guy who will turn 43 in January, not even after we saw him turn in a shockingly good performance last November against Allan Green, not even though we saw Bernard Hopkins strike a blow for the old guys against Jean Pascal on May 21.

Well, I'm not going against the grain here. I'll not be tabbing the graybeard to get the better of the 33-year-old Nottinhgam, England  resident, who will be defending his WBC 168 pound title in AC. And I'm sorry to inform Johnson of this, if he was hoping to get a report that Froch seems to be looking past him to a fall finale against Andre Ward, but I didn't get the sense as I watched Froch work out at the Mendez Gym in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon that he's overconfident. I didn't see an overly relaxed Froch in a mood too light for the task at hand, which most all figure to be reasonably arduous. Indeed, he told me that he really hasn't enjoyed his two week stay in NYC, as he cited an excess of people and cars and hubbub, which compares disfavorably to his homebase in Nottingham.

“I'm not really a city guy,” he told TSS after a light, get-the-blood-flowing workout.”

No, Froch came off as suitably snarly, with his game face affixed. When asked if he might take the 42-year-old Jamaican a tad too lightly, he shot down that notion. “I'm the consummate professional,” he said. “I'm too professional for that.” His April 2010 loss to Mikkel Kessler, he said, stripped away some patterns that kept him from being his best, and he looks back at that outing (UD12 loss, by scores of 113-115, 112-116, 111-117) as a “kick in the a**.

“I cut corners a little,” he said. “Now there's no complacency. There's no room for complacency.”

Obvious stuff maybe, but you could understand if the guy wasn't quivering at fighting the man with 14 losses, a fighter who maybe just maybe is getting too much love from pundits who maybe just maybe were over-impressed with a showing against Allan Green, who all due respect is something of an underachiever.

Froch figures Johnson will be amped up to be his very best, knowing he'll make a tidy bundle if he makes it to the Super Six final, and with the May 21 vision of 46 year-old marvel Bernard Hopkins fresh in his mind.

“But he's no Bernard Hopkins, and I'm no Jean Pascal,” Froch said. You'll recall that Froch has good reason to say this with some conviction; he fought and beat Pascal in December 2008 (UD12) with the vacant WBC super middleweight crown up for grabs. “I expect Johnson to be strong, tough, to be coming forward, and to be beatable. I expect another loss for him.”

His trainer of ten years, Robert McCracken, a solid pro who retired in 2001 with a 33-2 mark, told me Froch is in the right frame of mind and of sound body four days before the AC tussle. “He's short tempered the way he needs to be,” McCracken said.

The trainer said a few details were attended to after the Kessler fight, stuff that bubbled up a couple bouts after he won that title against Pascal. The ex boxer is confident that Froch wouldn't get suckered into looking at Johnson as a faded shell, but just to be safe, he has hammered home that Johnson is a good puncher, that the test will not be an easy one.  “Carl has to make Johnson miss, and counter him,” he said. He expects Johnson to start strong, but then fade in the face of Froch's jab, and right hand.

No, McCracken isn't foreseeing a stoppage win, which makes sense, since Johnson hasn't been stopped early since 1997 (!), when Bernard Hopkins got him out via TKO in round eleven of their meetup. The fighter and the trainer are of the same mind, that Froch's style is exciting in and of itself, but that he doesn't need to go out of his way to impress anybody by going for the flashy early stop. “I don't want Carl to take a silly chance, or take a silly shot,” said McCracken on his 43rd birthday. (He told me he'd do nothing to celebrate it, not til after the fight. The trainer mistakenly told me he was 42, then caught himself, and remembered it was his birthday!)

Us keyboard tappers like to try and cover as many angles as we can, so many of us are looking around the bend, at a Andre Ward-Froch finale. Barring any injuries or unforeseen snags, that will take place in October or November, with LA, Vegas and New York the top three locations as of now. McCracken said his guy would be well equipped to hand the 24-0 Ward his first loss as a pro.

“Ward is good, not great, fighter,” McCracken told me. “He's beatable. There isn't a fighter in boxing who isn't beatable.”

We talked about about how fighters are entertainers, how they need to entertain fans, or risk having a meager fan base, and subpar earning power from the people in position to make them rich…or not. “Fighters need to entertain,” McCracken said, simply. “It's the best sport in the world. We need to get more people watching it. We need to get a few more skilled fighters to be exciting, to take a chance.”

Ward has a style that isn't universally embraced. He seems to appeal to those who appreciate the subtleties, the nuances, of the sport. He seeks to  not get hit, at times, before he seeks to deliver a blow, and isn't afraid to clutch and grab to stymie a foe's flow if need be. Could he get Froch into that mode, the trainer was asked.

“Froch is the rare guy who can fight, and box,” the trainer said. “He's difficult to train for and adapt to. Froch would fight his own fight.”

McCracken was asked if Ward would be the best boxer Froch will have faced, if if if, I must stress the if, it would be rude to look past Johnson, if the Brit gets past the Jamaican.

“I don't know,” he said. “He fought a fresh Jermain Taylor, Pascal, Dirrell…We'll find out how good Ward is. No one knows yet. Maybe likewise with Carl….”

SPEEDBAG Gym proprietor Francisco Mendez is a budding mogul. He actually owns three gyms in Manhattan, and if you are at all familiar with rents in NYC, you must tip your cap to the guy. The Harlem resident, age 52, has Mendez gyms at 251 Fifth Ave. (at 28th St.), and at 25 West 26th St, with a new, spacious (8,500 square feet) facility due to open next month, at 23 East 26th St. The gyms mostly cater to the white collar crowd, and amateurs. I figure giving the Puebla, Mexico native a plug is the least I can do; he helps the local economy to the tune of over 40Gs a month in rents, so if you're near the area, head over and get in shape! Also, he was savvy enough to turn the air conditioning on for us keyboard tappers and webguys and photogs, so he deserves some good karma in return.

—Froch talked about how his Polish blood is responsible for him being able to keep weight off. Bless his soul. Why oh why don't have more Polish stock in me?! Froch said he ate a hearty breakfast and lunch, and was 170 on the dot.

— The long awaited statue of the late International Boxing Federation (IBF) lightweight champion Leavander Johnson, created by world renowned sculptor and New Jersey native, Brian Hanlon, is now complete and will be unveiled during a ceremony at Center City Park in Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 4, 2011.  The Park is located on Atlantic Avenue between North Carolina and South Carolina Avenues.  The Ceremony will begin promptly at 11am. Johnson, an Atlantic City native son and hero, will be immortalized forever in the heart of his hometown where he will be an inspiration and a constant reminder that “You too can achieve your dream.”  The unveiling ceremony is open to the general public and residents of Atlantic City and surrounding communities are encouraged to attend the event. Johnson lost his life on Sept. 22, 2005 after he contracted a subdural hematoma in a Sept. 17 title defense against Jesus Chavez in Las Vegas.

WOODS ON TWITTER http://twitter.com/#!/Woodsy1069

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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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