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Brock Lesnar’s Death Clutch: Book Review

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DeathClutch.HC._COut-of-action due to a flare-up in his diverticulitis that required 12 inches of his colon removed through surgery, Brock Lesnar has released his autobiography, Death Clutch: My Story of Determination, Domination and Survival (May 25, Willliam Morrow). Right now is the ideal time for former UFC heavyweight champion to tell his story—he’s at the peak of his notoriety as an MMA fighter.

Right off the bat, Lesnar opens up and acknowledges that he didn’t come from a privileged upbringing. Raised on a dairy farm in Webster, South Dakota, Lesnar’s parents encouraged him to take up wrestling at an early age.

“Both my mom and dad were very supportive. My mom just didn’t want to hear any whining if I lost,” Lesnar explained to me during a telephone interview to promote his book.

Brock’s wrestling prowess brought him all the way to the 1999 NCAA Division 1 heavyweight final where he lost to Stephan Neal. Vowing to be first, he came back and defeated his then-rival Wes Hand for the top spot in 2000.

But wrestling accolades don’t pay the bills, so when the WWE came calling, Lesnar made haste in answering the call, becoming a superstar in the process. The WWE, however, exacted a punishing schedule upon the wrestlers, who are deemed independent contractors. Lesnar found himself downing many painkillers just to get through the grind.

Although Lesnar left the WWE in 2004, he still had to pay the cost of living. A motorcycle accident impeded his chances of making the Minnesota Vikings, so he had to ask Vince McMahon for another shot in the WWE.

“Vince wanted to bully me like he does everyone else, because most people who end up on the outs with Vince McMahon don’t have a pot to piss in. They have to crawl back on their hands and knees, begging for scraps,” Brock explains in the book of McMahon’s decision to offer the proven superstar a rookie contract out of spite.

Although Brock was still willing to start at the bottom, Vince’s disrespect prompted him to seek out other options in wrestling in Japan. There was still a legal battle with the WWE that nearly destroyed Lesnar’s entire career.

Lesnar had made the fatal mistake that the majority of professional boxers and MMA fighters make on a regular basis—and continue to make each and every single time their contract comes up for renewal: he signed a dangerous clause that restricted the financial opportunities available to him in the future. In this specific case, it was a no-compete clause that prohibited him from wrestling professionally for other organizations.

Only through an expensive series of legal maneuvers, education and a willingness to stand up to McMahon’s strong-arm tactics (including halting royalty payments to Lesnar) did Brock force the WWE to settle the case out of court in 2006.

It’s Lesnar’s rise to the top of the UFC ranks that deserves the most attention. Unfortunately, neither Lesnar, nor co-writer Paul Heyman sought to reveal too much about Lesnar’s tactics and training. We don’t find out much about Brock’s go-to moves, nor about the technical details that go into his success in MMA. Fighting is fighting, something Lesnar is among the best in the world at, but a book is a great chance for analysis and insight into a number of subjects like weight-cutting, strength and conditioning routines, integrating multiple disciplines into MMA training and performance enhancers. Then again, perhaps it’s too early for a current heavyweight contender to reveal his secrets to training.

The other major flaw with Death Clutch is Lesnar’s inability to speak in concrete terms on his financial contracts, whether with the WWE or the UFC. This is obviously due to legal reasons, but it does leave an interesting question for the reader—is Lesnar being paid fairly?

Asked how close the ESPN: The Magazine estimate of his salary at $5.3 million dollars came to the truth, Lesnar stated, “I’ve got no comment. No comment for that.”

The UFC makes money off of its fighters through several revenue streams: the pay-per-view buys (where about half the money goes to the carrier); live gate ticket sales, concessions like hot dogs and $10 beers, and any merchandise sold at events; the UFC video game made by THQ that bears the likeness of all the UFC stars (save Randy Couture, who had the sense not to sign his likeness rights away); licensing UFC content to Spike TV, as well as TV stations across the globe like ESPN UK, Rogers Sportsnet, etc; and through sponsors, which must pay a direct fee to Zuffa in order to sponsor individual fighters in the UFC (and now Strikeforce).

There are expenses in production, staff salaries, fighter payroll, marketing, creating fight promos, lobbying politicians to open up markets where MMA is banned, flying fighters in and out of events, discretionary bonuses, paying judges for overseas fights in Australia and the UK—but without any transparency in terms of opening up the books, it’s hard to pin down an exact number on Zuffa’s profit margin.

With any luck, there will be some government legislation on the table that opens up MMA to the same scrutiny boxing is regulated under, through The Muhammad Ali Reform Act. Fighters need to be able to see exactly what the financial breakdown is before committing their signature to any contract—and it’s very likely that even a superstar like Brock Lesnar might actually be underpaid based on his contribution to the UFC’s bottom line.

Lesnar concludes his book without really confronting his loss to Cain Velasquez. It’s an open wound that reminds readers of the emotional sensitivity that athletes are subject to.

“I don’t even want to think about it. I’m not ready yet,” he explains.

The question of whether Lesnar will return in early 2012 and write a new chapter in his UFC history hangs over the entire story. But he’s proven the critics and cynics wrong many times before. Whatever he decides, no doubt there will be much more to be revealed in the future about Brock Lesnar.

Here is audio of the D'Souza-Lesnar interview:

PART ONE:{youtube}evhn7WwHQLI{/youtube}

PART TWO:{youtube}h1NwzbryCSo{/youtube}

Brian J. D’Souza is a Canadian writer who has covered Mixed Martial Arts for ESPN.com, FoxSports.com and FIGHT! magazine.

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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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