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He’s George Tahdooahnippah

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PICNative Americans are often misrepresented as something out of the past rather than a people of a present.

More than any other group perhaps, they are often defined by images and ideals from days gone by—or perhaps more accurately—by cinematic representations of such things which have had a tendency to be overly romanticized by an entertainment-hungry American public.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating the past. Indeed, there are many fascinating things from Native American history worth of celebration.Like many nations who help people this planet, Native Americans have provided rich contributions to the fabric of our society. American Indian governments served as the models for representative democracies, they were the first to raise honeybees and turkeys to produce food, and they made numerous discoveries in the fields of mathematics, medicine and science.

Yet for all their accomplishments, Native Americans have had comparatively few sports heroes. Sure, Jim Thorpe was lauded by his contemporaries.Olympic medalist Abel Kiviat called Thorpe “the greatest athlete to ever live,” but how many other Native American athletes can you name (if you could name Thorpe to begin with) without the help of an Internet search engine?

Now name the boxers. Joe Hipp anyone? Danny Lopez? The list gets much more obscure after that. (Boxing historians might note that while all-time greats Joe Louis and Henry Armstrong claimed Native American heritage as well, they are generally not considered Native American boxers.)

George “Comanche Boy” Tahdooahnippah (pronounced tad-uh-napper) wants to change that. A middleweight prospect from the great plains of Lawton, Oklahoma, Tahdooahnippah represents something Native Americans don’t get too much of—a bona fide potential world boxing champion.

And it almost never happened.

Tahdooahnippah didn’t start boxing until he was twenty-three years old.While he always admired the sweet science, he didn’t have the opportunity to participate in amateur boxing growing up because it didn’t exist there at the time. Instead, Tahdooahnippah honed his competitive sprit in other contact sports. He excelled at football, wrestling and eventually kickboxing.

“I’m a competitor, and all of those sports are gladiator sports,” he told me.“You have to battle, you have to train, and you have to work. I’m a competitor.”

Being a competitor is one thing. Being a successful competitor, like Tahdooahnippah, is quite another. As he traveled the road that would lead him to boxing, he won wrestling titles, kickboxing tournaments and even a Toughman Competition. He fell in love with the competition. He fell in love with winning.

“In those sports, anything can happen—you can get knocked out,” he explained as we discussed the similarities between those sports and boxing.“It’s all about competition—who wants it more.”

Despite the success, something must have been missing for the fighter who would one day be known as “Comanche Boy,” because soon after he won his first and only Toughman Competition at light-heavyweight, he decided to dedicate himself to boxing.

“Boxing came natural to me,” he explained. “My grandparents, my uncle, my father—they all came from a heavy boxing background in the Indian boarding schools.”

Tahdooahnippah was influenced by a past that preceded him, but he has made a name for himself by what he does in the present. He’s aggressive and full of vigor when the bell rings. He comes to the ring wanting to prove himself as a fighter and it shows.

“I hit and don’t be hit,” he said when we talked about what he does best inside the ring.“I’m hungry. I go in there and I want it more. I haven’t met anyone in the ring yet that wants it more than me. That’s why I’m undefeated.”

Tahdooahnippah ran his record to 28-0-1 before fighting for the WBC Continental Americas middleweight title against 19-2 Jimmy Holmes.Tahdooahnippah tore his biceps in the very first round throwing a right hook, so he finished his opponent off with his left to earn the KO victory. Tahdooahnippah was glad to have won the strap, but since his injury required six months of recovery time, he was stripped by the sanctioning body. (Editor Note: One would think the WBC would respect the fact that he was hurt in the fight, and give him some leeway in returning to action. This strikes me as quite unfair.)

Always the one to look at the bright side of things, Tahdooahnippah has remained optimistic about what it might have done for his career.

“Honestly, when my power hand was hurt, I had to start focusing on my other skills. I really picked up on my jab, my defense, and my head movement. The injury was really a blessing in disguise. “

Tahdooahnippah is happy to speak of blessings. He feels his life is already full of them both inside the ring and out, and one gets the impression in talking to him that he’s had an active role in his many successes.

“I’m a father and a husband,” he proudly affirmed.“I work for my Comanche Nation. I’m a representative for them in and out of the ring. I love taking care of my kids. “

Family is important to him. He knows life inside the ring can be short, and he knows that most of life is spent outside of the ring both now and after his boxing career. He seems a man aware of his time and place in the world. He knows who he is and why he’s here.

“My father is full blooded Comanche, and he raised me to be proud of our heritage. There are not many of us. We have to carry our heads up high. I wake up and I‘m a Comanche man. At the end of the day, there aren’t very many of us. We aren’t even a speckle in the world’s population so I try to carry myself in the ring by being the warrior and the provider that we [the Comanche] are.”

More than that, as if it wasn’t enough, he sees a gap in the sports world he hopes he can help fill.

“You look around in the professional sports, and you don’t see any Native Americans. Minus just a few guys, there aren’t any. Whose gonna be the great warrior that will make all Indian people proud? “

Maybe it’s George Tahdooahnippah, I want to say, but I don’t have to because he does it for me.

“That’s what my drive is…I want to show everybody what I can do for my people.”

Tahdooahnippah seems like the kind of guy who already knows words can be hollow. He speaks confidently but with a genuine thoughtfulness. He knows what he’s up against.

“People aren’t looking at an undefeated Oklahoma fighter. I realize that. I realize they aren’t going to put me up on some pedestal and give me big money fight…but I know what I can do, and it’s time to prove it.”

“I put in my work. I put in the building process of winning and learning.It was kind of the Julio Cesar Jr. approach, you know? We took our time because of my limited amateur experience, but at the same time I’m not as young as him.”

Tahdooahnippah is ready for his chance. It’s sink or swim time for the 33-year-old undefeated fighter from the great plains of Oklahoma, and he knows it.

“We’re looking for something good for July or August. If I gotta be the prospect, I’ll be the prospect. If I gotta be the opponent, I’ll be the opponent—so I can chop him.”

Tahdooahnippah isn’t just a boxer. He’s not just a Comanche or just a father or just a son. He’s not just a confident fighter hoping to make a name for himself. He’s not just someone who wants to represent his people and inspire others. He’s George “Comanche Boy” Tahdooahnippah.

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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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