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Jose A. Rivera Trying Another Comeback

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (July 8, 2011) – After winning close to 40 fights in 15 years and capturing three world titles, Jose Antonio Rivera suddenly reached a point in his career he never thought he’d see three decades ago when he first put on a pair of gloves at 8 years old.

“Boxing wasn’t fun anymore,” said the former three-time world champion from Worcester, Mass.

Weighed down by personal problems outside of the ring, Rivera hit the wall in 2007 when he lost his World Boxing Association (WBA) light middleweight title to Travis Simms. He announced his retirement shortly thereafter, only to attempt a brief comeback 10 months later that left him with an injured hand.

This time, it appeared Rivera (40-6-1, 24 KOs) was done for good, but the former welterweight and light middleweight title-holder proved you can’t keep a champion down for long, making his second comeback in May with a unanimous decision win over Luis Maysonet at the Palladium in Worcester.

Only three months removed from his 38th birthday, Rivera now has his sights set on a much bigger prize as he prepares to continue his comeback Friday, July 29th, 2011 on the undercard of Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports’ “Heat Wave” show at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

Rivera will fight in a special eight-round light middleweight attraction on a show that features two championship bouts – a 12-round showdown between Kevin McBride (35-9-1, 29 KOs) and Mariusz Wach (24-0, 12 KOs) for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) International heavyweight title, and a 10-round intrastate battle between Elvin Ayala (23-5-1, 11 KOs) of New Haven, Conn., and rival Israel “Pito” Cardona (36-10, 28 KOs) of Hartford for the vacant WBC United States National Boxing Council (USNBC) middleweight title.

“I’m trying to push myself and test myself to see how much I have left in the tank,” said Rivera, who was born in Philadelphia and also lived in Puerto Rico before moving to Worcester as a teenager. “My goal is to get back into world-championship form.

“I want to ease my way into a couple of fights this year and by next year hopefully I’ll be knocking on the door of another big fight. … You’re only as old as you feel.”

Asked how old he feels, Rivera said, “Twenty-eight, both mentally and physically.”

How he feels mentally is arguably more important right now than how Rivera feels physically, especially considering the internal problems that derailed his career four years ago. His first comeback attempt in 2008 ended with a win over Clarence Taylor, but Rivera admits he still would’ve walked away again even without the subsequent hand injury because his “mind wasn’t right.”

“The injury was just the icing on the cake,” he said. “That gave me a more convenient excuse to retire, but the truth is I was still dealing with a lot of personal stuff, too.”

The idea of returning to the ring a second time was always in the back of his mind during his retirement phase, but Rivera didn’t pull the trigger until he knew he was mentally ready.

“I had to type up all the loose ends in my life,” he said. “As soon as everything was good, I said to myself, ‘OK, now is the time.’ Being mentally prepared is the key. I don’t care how strong you are. You could be a beast in that ring, but if you’re not mentally ready, then it all goes out the window.

“That’s what got me to take some time off. Everything going on in my life was affecting my performance and my career.”

On May 20th at the Palladium, Rivera proved he made the right decision with a convincing win over Maysonet, a Hartford native who entered the bout with 32 wins, including 25 by knockout. The former world champion struggled early, but settled into a groove later in the fight after solving Maysonet’s game plan. Rivera captured an eight-round unanimous decision, 79-73, on all three scorecards.

“I didn’t expect him to try to outbox me,” Rivera said. “He seemed hesitant to move inside. We trained for a brawl, and I had to adjust midway through the fight. His style kind of threw me off a little. By the time I warmed up in the sixth, seventh and eighth rounds, I was unloading on him.

“To tell you the truth, it went by so quickly. When I went back to my corner after the eighth round, the referee came to me and said the fight was over. I asked if he had quit and the referee said, ‘No, that’s eight rounds!’”

Rivera’s next bout on July 29th will go a long way toward determining whether his dream of winning a fourth world title – he captured the WBA light middleweight and welterweight titles, in addition to the International Boxing Organization (IBO) welterweight title – is a realistic premise or an improbable fantasy. One thing that’s certain is Rivera views his age as an advantage, not a roadblock, as he aims to follow in the footsteps of legends George Foreman and Bernard Hopkins, who beat the odds to win world titles at the ages of 45 and 46, respectively (Hopkins accomplished the feat by beating Jean Pascal the night after Rivera’s comeback win over Maysonet).

“A lot of people knock it, and that’s fine because it just gives me more motivation, but the great thing about being an older fighter is I bring a lot of experience to the ring,” Rivera said. “I know my body. Conditioning has always been the key to my success, and it’s one of the main reasons I became champion, but some of my losses were a result of overtraining when I was younger; I left it all in the gym. The things I took for granted back then are things I no longer take for granted anymore. That’s what makes it enjoyable.”

Rivera’s having fun again, and that could be bad news for the elite fighters in the 154-pound division.

“I just want another chance at a title fight, whether it’s the WBC, WBA or IBO – any of them,” Rivera said. “This is a great opportunity for me, and I’m excited to be on this card. I’ve always wanted to fight at Mohegan Sun and now I’ll have that chance. I’m just thankful Burchfield was able to make it happen.”

The undercard of “Heat Wave” features Pawtucket, R.I., middleweight Thomas Falowo (3-0, 3 KOs) facing Russ Niggemyer (2-2, 2 KOs) of Hilliard, Ohio; New Haven welterweight Edwin Soto (6-0-1, 2 KOs) battling Jose Duran (6-5-2, 3 KOs) of Sarasota, Fla.; undefeated heavyweight Artur Spzilka of Poland (5-0, 3 KOs) facing Philadelphia’s David Williams (6-4-1, 2 KOs), and New Bedford, Mass., welterweight Johnathan Vazquez (4-0, 3 KOs) taking on Agustine Maurus of Lawrence, Mass., in Maurus’ debut. Cruiserweight Jose Torres of Springfield, Mass., will make his debut; super middleweight Greg McCoy (2-3-1, 1 KO) of New Haven will fight in a separate four-round bout; and super middleweight Keith Kozlin (6-2, 4 KOs) of Warwick, R.I., will face Woonsocket’s Reynaldo Rodriguez (5-2, 2 KOs) in a six-round intrastate showdown. Also, former “The Contender” reality television star Jeff Fraza (17-3, 10 KOs) of Haverhill, Mass., will face Pawtucket, R.I., light middleweight Eddie Soto (12-2, 4 KOs) in a six-round bout. All fights and fighters are subject to change.

Tickets for “Heat Wave,” which are priced at $40, $65 and $105, can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254 or Ticketmaster at 1.800.745.3000. Fans can also purchase tickets online at www.cesboxing.com, www.ticketmaster.com, or at the Mohegan Sun Box Office. For more information on “Heat Wave,” visit www.cesboxing.com or www.mohegansun.com. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the first bout scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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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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