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Virgil Hunter: “We Are Going To Stop Carl Froch”..MARKARIAN

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WardBikaPrePC_TJ_Hogan_3Andre Ward’s Agenda: Five rounds of sparring, hitting the pads, and in-ring movement.
Focus: Cork Position

Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter is constantly throwing advice towards the young champ during sparring. He rarely raises his voice, using a monotone approach while Ward circles his opponent. “Don’t leave the cork. Stay in the cork,” he says. “See it was there, and then you left it again.” Hunter continues to speak. Ward hears him almost as if it is the only sound in the room. There are tricks to the craft that has made Ward the favorite of the 168 pound championship bout and Super Six Tournament final against Carl Froch on October 29th, yet trainer and fighter agree, their game is a work in process.

So they continue to apply polish.  Since mid August and until the end of this week, Ward works at King’s Gym every other day before training camp heats up on September 12th. Two weeks ago, I was in attendance when Ward sparred, a four round session watched by MMA fighters Nick and Nate Diaz.

This past Wednesday, Ward sparred five rounds, hit the pads, and worked on in-ring movement with Virgil Hunter. “My trainer is never satisfied. He is always angry,” Ward playfully told me. “Call it tough love,” I said. 

“You’re right, it’s tough love,” Ward agreed. Hunter chimed in, “You were throwing wide punches.” Then Ward said, “You see what I mean, man?”

More than anyone else, Hunter has the champions’ ear. And he brings an extra level of incentive for a man that Hunter thinks does not need anyone else to push him.  

“That man does not require outside motivation but when people doubt him, say he can’t do something, or question his skills or ability, man, it makes my job easy,” Hunter said. “He already works hard. Why critics give him more drive beats me.”

Mr. Hunter got more candid in a discussion we had after Ward finished training.

RM: First off, tell me about your thoughts going into the fight with Carl Froch.

VH: It was a fight that we wanted. We are really looking forward to it. It is a great way to close out the Super Six with two of the original participants ready to close it out. I am happy about it.

RM: Carl Froch is coming into this fight confident. Do you put any stock in that?

VH: No, it is good that he is coming in confident because it eliminates any avenue of excuse. That is who he is. I respect him for it. And particularly, it is good for boxing for him to be confident. The only way he could put a damper on it is by coming up with excuses: ‘Why the fight didn’t go this way or why it didn’t go that way,’ he has done that before. Getting this far in this business, with all of the praise from the fans and media, he would be doing him a disservice to make any excuse.   

RM: Both you and Andre spoke about Froch trying to minimize your accomplishments. Explain that.

VH: Well, I think it is just in him. If you notice he will say that he ruined Kessler or ruined Arthur Abraham. It is really a shame. He won the fight against Abraham. You didn’t ruin him. You fought a good fight. You lost the fight against Kessler. You said you handled Dirrell easy. You lost that fight. You know, Dirrell hit you and hurt you. He put you in frustration mode. We’ve seen how you react when you get frustrated and how dirty you get. If he would have fought that fight anywhere besides Nottingham, he would have gotten disqualified.

RM: Do you consider Froch is a dirty fighter?

VH: I consider him dirty when his back is against the wall and he gets frustrated. When he gets frustrated, he resorts to tactics that are definitely not in the Queensberry rules.

RM: Can you give me a specific example of when Carl Froch was dirty in a fight?

VH: Well, hitting Andre Dirrell behind the head and throwing him to the ground. Froch should be professional enough to know how to handle himself in those situations. The bottom line was that he was able to get away with it. Once he knew that he was able to get away with it, he kept doing it.

RM: Right. Froch also said that if he gets hit with head butts against Ward, he is going to retaliate.

VH: When you look at Andre’s fight, with the exception of the Kessler fight, Kessler was just as responsible for the head butts as Andre was. European styled fighters just stand there. So when you are making a maneuver, they will just stand there and crash right into you. A lot of Kessler fans want to minimize Andre’s performance, saying that Kessler would have won the fight if there were not head butts or cuts. That is totally untrue. It would have been different if Kessler was winning the fight and all of a sudden he got head butt and it turned the tide. You know, Kessler went downhill from round one on. You can’t use the head butts as an excuse. So that is why we want to give Kessler a shot to redeem himself. After the Froch fight, we want to give Kessler a chance. We have it out for Kessler.

RM: You want to fight Kessler again?

VH: Yes we do. We have it out for him. We want to set the record straight once and for all. We hope that he takes the fight because it is something that we want personally.

RM: So after the Froch fight, although there are a number of other challengers out there, your personal choice is a Kessler rematch? You beat him decisively, why fight him again?

VH: Well, Showtime made Kessler champion emeritus. Showtime said that he will get the winner of the Super Six. So after we win the Super Six, we want to make sure that Showtime gets what they want. We want to fight Mikkel Kessler right after we fight Carl Froch.

RM: What about Bute?

VH: Bute will come in time. Bute should fight Froch, Dirrell, and some of the other top contenders in the division. Bute is a great fighter. I am not minimizing him at all. But in all fairness he should at least satisfy the fans with fights against Froch or Andre Dirrell. Right now the fans don’t know that he belongs. They could only base it off of the competition that he has fought. You want the fans to believe that he truly belongs based on who he beat. Right now both participants, Andre (Ward) or Bute, are not going to get what they deserve if they fight each other. If Bute beats Froch, Dirrell, and Abraham you will have a hot fight with Andre Ward.

RM: So you think that Lucian Bute needs to prove himself?

VH: I think he needs to prove himself, yes. And with all due respect, I think Glen Johnson is a step in the right direction for Bute. But he has shown signs of slowing down. I’ll put it this way; the Glen Johnson fight will tell us more about Bute. If he decisions Glen then he will just do what Carl Froch did. But I will give Bute all the credit in the world if he knocks Glen Johnson out.

RM: So you still have Kessler and Bute in the radar. Going back to Froch, how do you compare his performance against Kessler to Andre’s? Froch stated that his fight against Kessler was an all out war, and Ward’s fight against Kessler was unwatchable. Froch told me that he has not seen Ward’s fight against Kessler because it was unentertaining.

VH: Well when Froch fought Kessler, neither one of them showed dominance. Kessler just showed that he was a better technician so he out boxed Froch. If Froch did not look at Andre’s fight against Kessler he is fearful. He is having a problem facing what he is going to face. He really needs to look at what he is going to face because I don’t want any excuses after he loses. Froch has watched our fight against Kessler, trust me. When you get two evenly matched guys going toe to toe or trench for trench it will be entertaining because neither one of them is showing enough skill to get away from the other. That is what happened in the Froch vs. Kessler fight. But when you have a situation like Andre’s, when he dominated Kessler, there was not any need for him to go blood and guts. He just controlled the fight.

RM: So Froch’s performance against Kessler was exciting because they have the same type of skills?

VH: Exactly, their talents are balanced in the same areas. But Kessler is a better technician. If they fought again I think Kessler would dominate Froch.

RM: Do you feel like Andre will get all of the credit he deserves after this fight?

VH: No, he might not be that superstar that transcends boxing. But he will be that superstar that defeats superstars.

RM: So how are you going to defeat Carl Froch?

VH: You know, there is no strategy involved. We are not even training for strategy. We are training to win the fight.

RM: Do you normally train for strategy?

VH: Sometimes. But there will be no attention to detail when we face Carl Froch. It is not what he will present. It will be about what we bring to the table. This is Andre’s fight. This is for him. I am staying out of it as much as possible. We are not saying much. We have been here before.

RM: So, it doesn’t matter how you win?

VH: We are going to stop Carl Froch. This fight will not go the distance.

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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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