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Why The New Jersey Judges May Have Thought Williams-Lara Was An Amateur Fight…LOTIERZO

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The fallout from the abysmal scoring and decision rendered by the judges in the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara junior middleweight elimination bout lit up the boxing community like we haven’t seen in some time. As a result, judges Don Givens, Hilton Whitaker (who both scored the fight in favor of Williams) and Al Bennett, who scored it a draw, were  suspended indefinitely by the New Jersey State Athletic commission. Hooray for the New Jersey commission for reacting properly. That’s all well and good, but what does this do to prevent this from happening again in New Jersey, New York or Las Vegas in the future? Perhaps it will scare the judges in the future, but that puts them in a bigger conundrum than what Givens, Whitaker and Bennett faced prior to Williams-Lara.

For years I’ve said to friends, colleagues and fans that when deplorable decisions by boxing judges are submitted, there’s only one of two reasons for it: 1) the judges are totally inept and shouldn’t be allowed to work a fight or 2) they’re persuaded in a passive-aggressive manner as to which way the close rounds should go so that the next significant fight can be made – and more importantly, the judges will remain in the running to work it or be part of the card.

Is it really hard to fathom that all three judges that worked the Williams-Lara fight approached it with the mindset that, although they have nothing against Erislandy Lara, boxing, from a business vantage point, is probably best served if Williams wins. Paul is a big star and there are potential monster fights that can be made down the road involving him against Sergio Martinez, Manny Pacquiao and maybe even Floyd Mayweather, if he gets by the relative unknown Lara. Therefore, in order for them to score rounds for Lara, he’d have to win them conclusively. And that’s what turned out to be the problem for them because he did. Either the three judges were too inept to see it or were afraid to score the bout in favor of Lara unless he beat Williams half to death, which he didn’t.

Sadly, a lot of boxing judges have to work fights in a manner that leaves them vulnerable. Score the fight correctly and go against the money fighter and it’ll be a long time before you work again. Sure, scoring the fight as to what took place in the ring will keep the judges in favor with the fans and writers, but it won’t help to get their phone to ring again for the next big card. Only this time the judges were thrown under the bus by the commission, something that’s never happened before. And let’s be honest, Williams Dec-12 over Lara isn’t anywhere close to the worst decision we’ve seen in boxing or Atlantic City for that matter.

If the New Jersey Commission is so honorable and trying to do the right thing they should tell us how their judges are appointed and what they do to go on to become judges. I applied to be a boxing judge in New Jersey to deputy commissioner Sylvester Cuyler back in 1996 or 1997. Cuyler knew of my background and 30 plus years of experience in boxing as a fighter, writer and fight collector. However, that was during the time that Larry Hazzard was the top man, and I wasn’t one of the boys and viewed as an outsider. And believe me, those type of groups and factions still exist in the boxing community. Anyhow, in order to discourage me, Cuyler told me that in order for me to get to the point to where I could judge four and six round professional bouts  I had to tour New Jersey and Pennsylvania and score amateur fights for three or four years. Then he’d review my cards and if I did a good job scoring three round amateur bouts, I’d be issued a license as a professional boxing judge. To which I said, ‘in all honesty Mr. Cuyler, I can start tonight and render competent decisions as well or better than any judge you have working now. In fact, I’ve watched more live boxing over the last 30 years than every judge you have working fights at this time combined.’

At the end of the day I said thanks, but no thanks. He won and I never pursued becoming a boxing judge. That experience was enough for me to realize that I wouldn’t be a good fit for the New Jersey Commission and probably every other commission in the country. My personality and temperament would’ve never allowed me to become one of the good ole boys and I left it at that. So I for one am not all giddy about what the New Jersey Commission has done and suspect that’ll it’ll be business as usual in the future. It’s just that this time the three judges (Givens, Whitaker and Bennett) were blindsided when they were thrown under the bus. Yes, I’m glad the commission nailed all three judges though I seriously doubt it’ll change anything and there have been worse decisions (although there was nothing indecisive in Lara’s winning the fight), but I’ll take small victories where they come.

Everybody who watched Williams-Lara, and who knows what they were watching, knows that Lara beat Williams on July 9th 2011 in Atlantic City. I’m just not sure that the judges also didn’t see it. It very well may be that they couldn’t consciously score the fight the way their eyes saw it, because of the mitigating factors mentioned earlier. The fight was too easy to score because all the memorable punches were landed by one fighter while the other one was missing with almost every meaningful punch he threw.

Then again, in amateur boxing, activity and volume count more than clean punching and power. So if New Jersey judges Givens, Whitaker and Bennett gained their licenses by scoring amateur fights (which I doubt) than maybe Williams really did deserve the decision over Lara?

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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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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