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Klitschko-Haye and Bouie Fisher…HAUSER

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KlitschkoThompsonAction_SANDERS_10It’s time to revisit that region of purgatory known as boxing’s heavyweight division.

A critic might say that Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye set the sweet science back forty years. But that would place boxing in the halcyon days of Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. Better to say that Klitschko-Haye did nothing to lift the sport’s flagship division out of the doldrums that it has been in since Lennox Lewis retired seven years ago.

Klitschko-Haye was built on Haye’s mouth; not his boxing skills. But once the bell for round one rings, it’s impossible for a fighter to bullshit his way through a prizefight. Either a fighter is there to fight or he’s there to run. Haye was there to run. When the moment of truth came, his resolve faded.  He was elusive and not much more.

Putting the best face on things, David’s fans could say during the early going that he was fighting a cautious tactical fight. But by the fourth round, the horrible realization set in that this would be twelve rounds of boredom.

There was no way that Haye could beat Klitschko from the outside, but he was content to stay there for the entire fight. He fought like a man who simply wanted to make it through the fight without taking much punishment, collect his paycheck, and go home. Over the course of twelve rounds, he landed a meager six punches per stanza.

Meanwhile, Klitschko fought like Klitschko. He landed (count them) zero body punches during the entire fight and an average of 2-1/2 “power” punches per round. A viewer who didn’t know that this had been advertised as a fight between two of the three best heavyweights in the world and watched with the sound off could have been forgiven for thinking that he’d tuned into an encounter between inartistic club fighters.

Klitschko prevailed on a lopsided unanimous decision.  Afterward, Haye complained that he’d broken a toe on his right foot three weeks before the bout and couldn’t push off properly on his punches.

That ranks with “I hurt my pinky.”

Vitali Klitschko will defend his version of the heavyweight title against Tomasz Adamek in Poland on September 10th. That fight will have more action than this one but be just as one-sided. People are fond of saying these days that the American heavyweights suck. Except for the Klitschkos, the European heavyweights aren’t very good either.

Meanwhile, Klitschko-Haye was reminder that, in boxing, a good jab and a straight righthand beat a big mouth.

And let’s acknowledge the fact that, while Wladimir has flaws as a fighter (including, possibly, a cruiserweight chin), there are things that he does very well. If boxing fans are going to praise Floyd Mayweather Jr for his defensive skills, Klitschko deserves credit too.

 

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The boxing world lost a treasure on June 30th with the death of English “Bouie” Fisher.

Bouie was best known for taking a 25-year-old ex-con with an 0-and-1 record and molding him into the middleweight champion of the world. His relationship with Bernard Hopkins soured when the mega-dollars started rolling in and Bernard decided to cut his longtime trainer’s end of the purse. They split bitterly, reunited, then split again.

During good times, Fisher said of Hopkins, “When it comes to boxing, Bernard isn't old; he's old school. Bernard is a throwback fighter when it comes to dedication in and out of the ring. Boxing never leaves his thoughts. He lives, eats, and dreams boxing. He puts in the work that’s necessary to be great. I know a thing or two about growing old. And I can tell you that no one grows old overnight. As long as a fighter is properly conditioned, his age won't show all at once. You can see a lot of things with old eyes if you've been around boxing a while. Young eyes aren't always as good.”

Then came the split, and Bouie noted, “Bernard is a very difficult person to deal with. He wants all the glory. He wants all the credit. He wants all the money. It's all about him, him, him. At one time, Bernard was like family to me. But my family has been raised and taught to be respectful and kind to other people; and Bernard just isn't that way. Bernard thinks money is everything. Money is good to have; you need it. But it's not everything. Right and wrong matter. I believe that, if you do right, everything will be fine. When you do wrong to other people and then try to justify what you've done, you wind up lying because the truth won't help you.”

Yet in the end, Fisher said reflectively, “I had a nice run with Bernard. It could have been better here and there. But I'm proud to have been with Bernard. I think he's one of the best middleweights since Sugar Ray Robinson.”

Bouie was a gentleman. He adhered to the view, “In boxing, there's always people saying bad things about other people. So I say, ‘Protect yourself at all times and mind your own business.’”

Some other thoughts that he shared with this writer over the years follow:

 

*         “Boxing is a great sport. It will always be a great sport. It's not easy; that's for sure. There's nothing easy about boxing. There's plenty of heartache. A lot of tears have been shed in this business. But I'm proud to have been part of boxing history.”

 

*         “Too many times, when you try to tell young men something today, they become resentful and don't want to listen. They say, 'What's this old gray-haired guy talking about!' And I tell them, 'You know, I didn't just dye my hair gray. I earned my gray hair. You should go out and earn yourself some gray hair too.' But what makes me want to pull my gray hair out sometimes is when a young man with all the talent in the world doesn't want to do the work and make the sacrifices that are necessary to reap the rewards that his talent can bring him.”

 

*         “Becoming a great trainer takes years of knowledge and experience. Some of the trainers who people call 'great' today aren't even good. They were just placed in great situations. I'm still in school with boxing. No one ever learns everything there is to know about boxing.”

 

*         “I've had my glory. I've seen my children grow to be good men and women. I raised eight children in the middle of the ghetto and didn't have two hours of trouble with any of them. All my children finished high school and have good jobs. Four of them graduated from college. One of my daughters has been voted 'outstanding teacher of the year' two times at her high school. Another works with retarded children. Now I'm sending my grandchildren to college. Right now, I'm sitting in my home, looking out the window at the sun melting the snow. This afternoon, I'll be in the gym teaching some young kids how to slip a jab. Everyone should be as happy as I am now.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His next book (Winks and Daggers: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) will be published by the University of Arkansas Press in August.

 

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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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