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All Must Bow To the Master…MARKARIAN

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HopkinsPrepares4Dawson_Blevins17The word legend gets thrown around too easily in boxing. Anyone who has won a championship in multiple weight classes seems to qualify for that term. Legends are fairytale figures, or Paul Bunyan type of heroes. They are not supposed to have many flaws. Nobody is perfect in this sport that we love,  not even Bernard Hopkins. The man missing two front teeth old enough to live comfortably in a retirement home is the best light heavyweight boxer in the world. When he defeated Jean Pascal via unanimous decision on Saturday, May 21st in Montreal, Canada to become the oldest fighter to win a championship, the legend aura already surrounded him. 

It would not have mattered if he lost to the young Canadian because Hopkins at 46 had already lived up to his mythical title. On that night, the legend, the Executioner, became the Boxing Master.

His mere presence in the ring at such a tired age is to most mortal humans an accomplishment in and of itself. But the fact that he is competing at an elite level against fighters that were 17 years younger, like Kelly Pavlik in 2008, and 18 years younger just like Jean Pascal, is downright fascinating. Did I mention that he dominated both of those fights?

As it turned out, the master looked like the younger man against Pascal. He used the jab to set up the overhand right that seemed to land at will. He used his superior defense to disturb any Pascal attack. And he played mind games every step of the way. At one point, Hopkins began doing push-ups in the middle of the ring while he was waiting for Pascal to leave his stool and begin the round.

The master does not win with the most power or the most speed. He wins with the most skill, more substance than style. On Saturday Sensei Hopkins will tutor us again defending the 175 pound title against Chad Dawson, a tall, lanky southpaw. Now, unlike Pavlik and Pascal who made up for their faults with power and athleticism, Dawson is a boxer first. He explores the fundamental ability to hit and not get hit to win. Clean counter punching is his strength.

The time he got messy in a bout against Pascal last year resulted in an 11th round technical decision loss. At 29, Dawson has youth on his side and a secret weapon named Winky Wright in his corner, a man scarred by the sword of the master back in 2007, losing by unanimous decision. Wright was never the same after that but provides for Dawson the necessary wisdom of ring experience. Matter of fact, many Hopkins opponents, Trinidad, De la Hoya, Tarver, Pavlik, even Jermain Taylor, who defeated Hopkins twice by controversial decision in 2005, share Wright’s fate, they were not the same fighter after a Hopkins lesson.

You have to think when it is going to end for the boxing master named Bernard Hopkins. Going into Saturday night, Hopkins is at least 15 years older than five of his last six opponents. Count Dawson at 17 years more fresh. “Fighting young killers,” Hopkins calls it.

There are no records of man who have wrestled a tougher battle in boxing against the biological clock. Hopkins beats everyone. Two decades ago, BM perfected the art of doing whatever it takes to win. Punches landing on thighs and groin head butts are two Hopkins phantoms a referee yet discovered. The Master has tricks. He is too clever – to the point where we know not what we see at times. For grandpa, victory looks almost effortless, gritty not cool, exuding a correct amount of energy to win every round. His taunts angered Pascal and subdued Tarver, they frustrated Pavlik and apparently made De la Hoya quit. Yes, BM has lost but rarely is taken out of his element. Opponents do not force him to submit.

Here we are in the era of performance enhancement drugs, with growth hormones promising a drink from the fountain of youth. Two of the boxing greatest talents (Mayweather and Pacquiao) are divided by blood testing and financial hunger. A fighter born when Lyndon Johnson was President during the Vietnam War reminds us that if you are looking for a master in sport, you have come to the right place, a 46-year-old definition of old school.

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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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