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RASKIN’S RANTS: Naazim Richardson, Patti LaBelle & Other Great Fight Motivators

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MosleyPrepares4Mora_Blevins_11For this week’s one-toe dip into the mailbag waters, I’m using an email sent not about last week’s column, but about last week’s Ring Theory podcast. Some quick background for those who haven’t heard the show: We played the Fight Camp 360 clip of Shane Mosley trying to quit and Naazim Richardson trying to talk him out of it, and answered a listener’s question about whether Richardson was right to do that. My co-host Bill Dettloff and I agreed that Richardson was just doing his job, that he was right to at least attempt to motivate his fighter in that instance. Now that you know that, here’s the email:

Hey Eric,

Enjoyed the show as usual, one comment I have to make: If you watched that clip of Shane saying he wanted to quit during the Pacquiao fight and couldn’t see what a bad state he was in, I think, no offense, you may be in denial. I’m not talking about Naazim’s decision to not stop the fight, I’m talking about the fact that so many knowledgeable boxing people were in such a freak-out over Shane’s “lack of effort.” He was clinging on by his fingernails. Arum was pissed off because Shane didn’t sacrifice himself for the sake of Manny’s fans.

He took a spoon to a gun fight and did everything he could to survive. If you thought Shane could have stood and punched with Pac, then you obviously think Shane’s last two fights were anomalies? He clocked Floyd twice and, within that very same round, Floyd had turned it around and for every second onward Shane looked COMPLETELY defanged. Shane can’t pull the trigger. Against Mora he’d have him against the ropes and STILL couldn’t properly throw meaningful shots. Difference there was he could survive in the pocket against Mora even without having any real offense. He didn’t have that luxury with Pacquiao.

Anyway, hopefully the dude retires. Keep up the great work on the show. Damn, you guys can babble on.

—Ponch

Hey Ponch,

I agree with the great majority of what you’ve written. I concur that Mosley’s “lack of effort” was unsurprising, and as Bill and I discussed on the previous episode of Ring Theory, Arum deserved more blame for making the fight than Shane did for performing horribly. We said going in that we thought Mosley was a shot fighter (or very close to it), that he couldn’t pull the trigger, that the fight was a complete mismatch. I like your phrasing—“he took a spoon to a gun fight.” That sums it up.

So there’s no disagreement on any of that. Where I don’t see eye to eye with you is on the subject of how bad of a state Mosley was in late in the fight. He had been mentally defeated. He had long since abandoned any hope of winning. But he wasn’t taking a harsh physical beating. His survivalist approach was preventing him from getting brutalized the way Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto did against Pacquiao. Mosley was taking punches, surely, but he wanted out because he had developed blisters that were bothering him, he knew he wasn’t going to win, and like many fighters do when they get old (think Julio Cesar Chavez, for example), he permitted himself to look for an escape hatch, something he never would have done in his prime. Richardson was apparently delusional about whether his fighter could possibly execute the game plan and turn the fight around. But he was correct in his assessment that Mosley wasn’t in particular physical danger and that he’d spend years regretting it if he quit. Maybe a truly compassionate trainer would have tried to cover up any evidence of Mosley trying to quit and would have stopped the fight himself, making it seem like he did so against the fighter’s will. But that would have been tough for Richardson to pull off. The cameras see everything nowadays.

I stand by what I said on the show: Naazim was correct to try to motivate Mosley to finish strong. If Mosley had a fractured orbital bone and detached retina, like Margarito did, or appeared to be concussed and in a fog, it would have been another story. But Sugar Shane was quitting because he’d had the will beaten out of him. Part of a trainer’s job is to attempt, at least for a few moments, to restore that will.

Now, let’s get to the Rants, covering all of this past weekend’s action, some news items, and, as always, shameless plugs for the only podcast in boxing so entertaining that people are willing to pay for it:

• Just when I thought it was impossible to find anything bad to say about Glen Johnson, he shows up for the Carl Froch fight dressed in Miami Heat gear. Inside scoop: Johnson actually had a tryout with the Heat a few years back, but he didn’t make the team because it was just too inconvenient to stop the game after each possession so the towel boy could wipe pools of sweat off the court.

• Because I can’t listen to Gus Johnson call a fight without criticizing his ineptitude: In the third round, he screamed that Froch was hurt (which he wasn’t), then observed that Froch was tired (which he wasn’t). New rule for Gus: Don’t attempt to infer. Nothing good can come of it.

• As everybody knows, I’m a huge fan of Antonio Tarver as a commentator, but he’s not exempt from my wrath either. In the eighth round, Tarver bellowed, “Did somebody say Fight of the Year?” No, Antonio, nobody said that. Nobody even thought it. Not unless they were watching Hernan Marquez-Luis Concepcion or perhaps Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto.

• And guest analyst Andre Ward gets some abuse too, in the form of a simple linguistic nitpick: Questions don’t get “axed,” Andre. They get “asked.” Only Bernard Hopkins gets to pronounce it that way, because “The Executioner” can play it off as an attempt at a pun.

• As referee catch phrases go, Earl Brown’s “Gentlemen, let’s do it” is perhaps the least annoying I’ve ever heard. As such, he can kiss any hope of getting into the Hall of Fame goodbye.

• Solid win for Mikkel Kessler over the weekend, but I’m saying it right now: Lucian Bute massacres him.

• What, you don’t trust my ability to predict outcomes? Allow me to quote myself, on last week’s Ring Theory, regarding the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sebastian Zbik fight: “This feels like a fairly even fight to me. Chavez isn’t as bad as his critics would have you believe, but he isn’t all that good either, if that makes sense. And Zbik is right in the same vicinity, in terms of how ordinary his talent is. So I expect a close fight, but if it’s close, it goes to Chavez. I mean, there’s no way he loses a decision if there’s any way at all to give it to him. So I like Chavez on points, but I think it could be a bit of a controversial decision.” (And for what it’s worth, I also had Kessler by knockout, Froch by decision, Mikey Garcia by knockout, and Yudel Jhonson by decision. Total amount of money won betting on those results: $0.)

• Back to Kessler vs. Mehdi Bouadla: Penalizing a guy for spitting out the mouthpiece is all well and good, but these refs need to start doing it after the round has ended. Otherwise, you’re rewarding a man for spitting it out by giving him exactly what he was looking for: extra time to recover.

• Good work by Showtime, giving us that shot of Kessler’s bloody right hand after the fight. Too bad Christy Martin trumped them with the tweeted photo of her even more hideous broken hand. Christy is nothing if not squint-and-wince-worthy.

• Hard to ask for much more than that from Mikey Garcia, huh? His first HBO appearance was a tad underwhelming, but his second most definitely was not.

• I’m not a cruiserweight or light heavyweight looking to pad my record with a legendary name, but I’m going to pick a fight with Roy Jones anyway. At the end of Saturday’s HBO telecast, Jones disputed Max Kellerman’s claim that Chavez is “not the champion of anything except for that sanctioning body.” Jones said, “Tonight, [Chavez] goes down as the world middleweight champion, so he is a world champion.” First, let’s point out that fighters are not necessarily unbiased with regard to this issue; in this case, Jones has to call Chavez a “world champion,” or else Jones was never a “world heavyweight champion” by virtue of defeating John Ruiz when Lennox Lewis was the actual champion. Here’s the thing, Roy: If you want to call Chavez “a world champion” instead of a “titlist,” the term that I prefer, well, that’s a matter of semantics and not something I’m going to wage war over. But when you use “the” instead of “a,” and you call Chavez “the world champion,” it’s flat-out wrong. “The” means there’s only one, and if you think Chavez is “the champ,” it means you think Sergio Martinez isn’t. So as far as I’m concerned, on Saturday night Roy Jones declared Martinez a mere contender to Chavez’s legitimate middleweight crown.

• You thought it was dangerous to mess with 46-year-old boxers from Philly? Turns out they’ve got nothing on 67-year-old female pop singers from Philly. Classy move there, Patti LaBelle. Common folk can’t go around thinking it’s okay to talk harmlessly on their cell phones within a few feet of your limo; you have to nip a problem like that in the bud.

• The latest proof that life isn’t fair: Cancer stricken Genaro Hernandez is in the final couple of weeks of his life at age 45. Here’s hoping for a peaceful end for one of the most genuine, likeable people I’ve met in my time on the boxing beat.

• It seems everyone in boxing is “the fighting pride of” wherever they’re from. Just once, I want to see a crappy fighter introduced as “the fighting shame of” wherever they’re from.

• I interviewed Kathy Duva for my main TSS column this week, and we were talking about boxing families worthy of being on reality-TV shows when she gave me this priceless quote: “The Judahs beat the Mayweathers on crazy. It’s not even close.”

• As promised, here’s your formal plug for Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com), and I’m keeping it short and sweet: I think last week’s episode was probably our best yet. If they get any better than this, Ring Theory is moving off the “want” list and onto the “need” list with food, clothing, and shelter.

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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