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Haye Fight Is A No-Win But Better Not Lose Situation For Wladimir

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 Klitschko-HayeSuch is the essence of boxing that 35-year-old Wladimir Klitschko’s entire legacy is on the line Saturday night in Hamburg, Germany, not just the 50 percent of the heavyweight title that he controls.

Despite being 55-3 with 49 knockouts and 16-2 in heavyweight title fights, if the 35-year-old Klitschko gets clipped on the chin by the loquacious and bodacious David Haye and loses the IBF and WBA titles to the WBA champion it will be as if he never won a thing. That is a lot of pressure to carry into the ring with you, even if you do weigh 242 sculpted pounds and stand 6-foot-6 (give or take a hair).

It is also a lot of proving to do for a guy seemingly trapped by his dominance of a mediocre era in heavyweight boxing and Haye’s relatively thin resume. If Klitschko is knocked out by the former cruiserweight champion, it will be widely argued that he was always little more than a papier mache champion who dominated arguably the worst collection of challengers the heavyweight division has ever seen.

By comparison, the era of Michael Dokes, Tim Witherspoon, Tony Tubbs, Tony Tucker, Pinklon Thomas et al is a golden age of heavyweights, which should make clear how sad the present collection of sad sacks in the division truly has become. That is not Klitschko’s fault but it is his reality, which is what makes the Haye fight at the same time so important to his legacy and so unlikely to greatly improve it.

Basically, if Klitschko wins, much of the world will simply view Haye as a fraud, a pumped up cruiserweight with only four heavyweight fights and none of them against a particularly demanding opponent. He stopped journeyman Monte Barrett, won the title with a cautiously fought majority decision from Nikolay Valuev and then stopped 38-year-old former champion John Ruiz and ponderously unaggressive former Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison in his forays into the division.

So if Klitschko beats a man he outweighs by 29 pounds (243 to 213) he will, for the most part, not get all that much credit for it except that people will concede he probably defeated the best of a sorry lot of contenders at Imtech Arena, a 55,000-seat outdoor soccer arena that figures to be jammed with juiced up Germans and lathered up Brits, a fact that could well put the best fights of the night in the stands rather than in the ring.

Yet while he may get only minimal credit for victory, if Klitschko loses it will deeply call into question those 16 title victories and 10 straight defenses of the IBF championship he won from Chris Byrd five years ago. It is a Catch-22 situation centering around catching leather or avoiding it.

If the quick-handed and power punching Haye lands one of his “Hayemakers’’ and shatters Klitschko’s chin and his title reign it will not be as if he was beaten by the British version of Joe Louis. Some might even argue Haye is closer to Jerry Lewis, his notoriety coming as much from his trash-talking and often amusing verbal assaults more than any physical ones he’s launched since becoming a heavyweight.

Against Valuev, the 7-foot Russian whose hands move roughly about as quickly as the rotation of the Earth, Haye stayed on the outside and contented himself with winning a match that resembled a kid trying to smash a piñata while always wary it might spin back and clip him in the nose.

Saturday night, Klitschko has promised he will not be his usual passive self, relying on his long jab and fighting tall to protect a chin that has come up short three times in his career in KO losses to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster and also led him to be floored three times by Samuel Peter in a fight Klitschko still ended up winning (which should tell you all you need to know about Samuel Peter).

Haye has taunted and defamed both Klitschko and his older brother WBC champion Vitali, insisting each is a paper champion who has never faced a true challenger coming to win. The truth, frankly, is Haye’s defense there but the larger question is might he not be just the latest extension of that?

If he is and Klitschko destroys him it doesn’t really help the champion’s international perception but at least it doesn’t turn him into a fraud. But if Haye (25-1, 23 KO) ends up standing over a fallen Klitschko it will confirm all those who have long questioned his accomplishments. To be fair, one can’t say Klitschko has really ducked anybody. His problem is that here hasn’t been anyone worth ducking.

If Haye proves to be that guy it will infuse the division with new life and a far higher volume than has existed since Mike Tyson began to slip into oblivion. Haye will have a perfect next opponent in Klitschko’s big brother, a clash that would be both the ultimate unification fight and also an opportunity to wipe out what remains of the Klitschko Era’s legacy.

If he does not – and frankly unless he gets lucky early he probably will not – all Wladimir Klitschko will have gained is a reprieve from the doubts that so many in and out of boxing have about his reign as heavyweight champion.

That is the case unless one thing happens. If the fight turns into a rousing brawl that he survives he could be elevated in the same way his brother was when he lasted six bruising rounds with Lewis in Lewis’ final fight as heavyweight champion before succumbing to a cut over his eye that looked as if Lewis had taken a sand wedge to his face.

Although he lost, Vitali Klitschko fought so bravely – and had an ill-prepared Lewis in so much trouble – that he came out of that fight elevated by it despite his defeat. He is still viewed eight years later as the tougher of the two Klitschkos and in most ratings is ranked above his brother even though the younger Klitschko is surely a more proficient boxer.

That is what a display of heart can do for you. It will only be that way for Wladimir Klitschko however if he does both. He has to be thrust by Haye into a perilous situation and then overcome it and win. If he does, the skeptics may not look at him differently because of Haye’s suspect status but at least no one will be able to argue that when he faced his greatest challenge he didn’t respond.

Fairly or unfairly (and frankly it’s probably unfair) that is the situation Wladimir Klitschko will find himself in when he slips between the ropes at Imtech Arena to face David Haye. It’s a no win but better not lose situation fraught with danger and the kind of pressures that can break a man more readily than perhaps Haye himself can.

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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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