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Boxing Ain’t Dead? Sturm-Macklin Will Draw 18,000 In Cologne FYI…FOLSTAD

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I can see it now. A guy staggers out of a Times Square bar late Saturday afternoon and stumbles into a fist fight right on 45th and Broadway.

The guy isn’t in the fight, but he can see it up there on the big screen, two fighters  swapping jabs and hooks in living color, bigger than life, the same place they celebrate the new year in the Big Apple every January.

The big screen is within walking distance of the legendary Madison Square Garden, but the live fight they’ll be watching on the Jumbo Tron is taking place thousands of miles away in Cologne, Germany.

The guy from the bar can’t believe what he’s seeing, so he goes back to the saloon and tells everyone there’s a fight going on just outside the bar door. Then he orders a double.

The fight is being shown on the big screen at Times Square starting at 5 p.m. Eastern Time this Saturday, thanks to Epix, a premium entertainment channel, video-on-demand and on-line service launched Oct. 30, 2009. Epix will also stream the fight live as part of a free two-week trial offer on Epix.HD.com.

The two guys who will be slugging it out on the big screen Saturday are fighting for the WBA middleweight championship of the world, though you can be pretty sure very few of the Times Square browsers will know who either fighter is. That’s because it isn’t Hagler versus Hearns or Leonard versus Duran or even Cooney versus Holmes. It’s Sturm versus Macklin. Germany versus Ireland. One accent versus another, thicker accent. And unless you need a passport to get to Times Square, you probably don’t know who they are.

Well, maybe you know one of them. Felix Sturm of Germany. He’s the guy who ripped the “S” off the chest of Oscar De La Hoya back when the Golden Boy was still leaping over tall buildings with a single bound.

Seven years ago, Sturm lost a controversial decision to De La Hoya who was helped along by some questionable, hometown judging.

Turns out Sturm, now with a record of 35-2-1 with 15 KOs, wasn’t one of those one-fight wonders. He can fight. A three-time middleweight champ out of Germany, he’s been the WBA champ for the past four years and he’s defended his title nine times. NINE TIMES. His most recent defense – a seventh round TKO in February – was against a guy with the familiar name of Hearns. Ronald Hearns, son of Hall-of-Famer Tommy Hearns.

Then there’s Matthew “Mack the Knife” Macklin, an Irishman by way of Birmingham, England, which is like being a Texan by way of North Dakota.

Macklin is 28-2 with 19 KOs. And like Sturm, he sounds comfortable on a conference call. No one liners or  half-baked answers. Nothing the grand kids can’t hear. Both Sturm and Macklin should pursue broadcasting careers when they’re finished with this fighting stuff.

But right now the only thing they want to talk about is each other and Saturday’s fight, which is expected to draw a crowd of more than 18,000 in Cologne. That‘s a pretty good sign that the fight game may be on wobbly knees here at home, but it’s still knocking people out back in the Old Country.

While Sturm is the reigning champion and local favorite, Macklin doesn’t sound awed by the idea of fighting for the world title, even if he has to do it in the other guy’s backyard.

“Obviously, with the fight being in Germany, people are saying I’m going to have to knock him out just to get a draw,” Macklin said. “But I’m not dwelling on that. I’m sure I’ll get a fair crack. Hopefully, it won’t come down to (the judges).“

Since this is his first shot at a world title, Macklin said it’s only natural that Sturm is the favorite.

“But you know, I’m twice European champion and I’ve beaten some good fighters,” he said. “And to be honest, I’ve had the best performances in my career when I’m in against the best fighters.”

That’s good because he’ll be up against one of the best on Saturday.

He said he has a tendency to drop his standards to the level of the guy he’s facing, which doesn’t always bring out the best in him.

“But when I’m up against it, when I’m going in as an underdog or at 50-50, that’s when you see the best of me,” he said.

Asked what concerns him most about Sturm, Macklin said the guy always seems to find a way to win. And that’s enough to scare anyone.

“He’s got a great defense, a very good jab and a good left hook,” Macklin said. “Those are the things that jump out at you (when you watch him fight).”

Sturm’s jab is considered one of the best in the game. Macklin described it as “hard and fast.“ He also hooks well off it.

“But you know, you can always nullify the jab, especially if you’ve got a good jab yourself,” Macklin said.

Any predictions?

“Yes,” Macklin said. “There’s going to be a new world champion on Saturday.”

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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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