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UPDATED THURSDAY: ESPN's “Friday Night Fights” Heads To 2011 Home Stretch

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SGOVWOZKFIHJTOX.20101126111329Wolak-Rodriguez will be, we promise you, a shootout.

The Summer Solstice is upon us, and for me, that means we are headed toward the backstretch of ESPN's “Friday Night Fights.”

Well, it also means ludicrous ConEd bills and a decent excuse to get Italian ice every day…But I digress.

TSS spoke to ESPN's director of boxing programming, Doug Loughrey, and he sized up the show to this point and gave us some tidbits on what the next couple months holds for FNF.

“I'm happy with the Friday Nigh Fights has gone this year so far,” he told us. “On ESPN2, ESPN3, Deportes, all the platforms, boxing is doing well.”

Ratings are up 11%, year over year, and Corona Extra entered the mix as a presenting sponsor, joining Just For Men, AT&T and Ford as advertisers. Also, Loughrey likes that they are up 13% in the men 18-34 demo. “We are the Kansas City Royals of boxing, spending-wise, we're frugal, but the sponsors have allowed us to spend a little more.”

Viewers should be pretty pleased with one main event that Loughrey is pumped about, the July 15 Delvin Rodriguez-Pawel Wolak clash, which will unfold at NYC's Roseland Ballroom. “Delvin, who I like, has been going through a rough patch. Whether it was a bad decision, or he was maybe unprepared for a fight, regardless. He finds himself in against Wolak, and it's a real crossroads fight for Delvin. He has to win or his career is pretty much over.” Loughrey said he was told by Team Wolak that they've sold about 900 tickets, so Rodriguez will have to get hustling to pack his crew from Danbury, CT into Roseland to outshout Wolak rooters.

Loughrey is also proud of FNF's entry into the 3D space. They'll do 3D shows on June 24, July 1, July 8, July 22nd and August 5, he said.

Loughrey said he'd like to get banger Ruslan Provodnikov, a FNF staple, back on the air before the season closes, with the Aug. 19th show. He had to plug a hole on the July 29 card, which was to be headlined by Juan Diaz, who pulled out to pursue his law degree. Viewers shouldn't be too crushed–the alternative is a Edison Miranda-Yordanis Despaigne clash, which pits the 34-5 Colombian vet against the Cuban who is actually a year older, at 31, than Miranda. Referencing some of those “trickle down economics” from before, viewers would have been pleased to see Joel Casamayor on FNF, on July 29. He was to meet Jorge Teron, looking to get back on the prospect track after losing to Brandon Rios last year, but word is Casamayor was in a car accident, and may have broken ribs, which would sideline him.

Andre Dirrell is on Loughrey's wish list, as is, or was,  Dmitriy Pirog, who has been pursuing Sergio Martinez, to no avail, and would be well served to get some face time in the States to build his visibility. But we got word Thursday that Pirog is taking an overseas fight instead, so he will remain something of a mystery guy for the near future.

As always, I urge fight fans to tune in to FNF, and not just because I do work for the same corporation. It behooves us to support the vendors, so they are encouraged to telecast more boxing.

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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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