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Boxing Gives Lee Ortega A Reason For Being

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IMAG0214-1-1Of all sports, when you take a look at a guy's record, and see he has been away from the game for a long spell, in boxing, there is an OK chance that it was because he was removed from circulation for a bit. Boxing does tend to attract men who like to follow their own path, who don't conform to societal norms without testing limits and boundaries. But because the sport embraces these iconoclasts and outcasts and rough diamonds, I try to remind fans and haters alike that boxing serves an important purpose in our world. It gives a reason for being for people, frequently young men without means and social connections who are under-served in our increasingly every-man-for-himself atmosphere in the United States, where income inequality is at levels not seen in 80 years. Boxing welcomes in the angry, the frustrated, the scorned, and shows them how discipline and becoming part of a surrogate family and team and aiming for a goal that promises no easy riches and no certain fulfillment can carry them away from a life of aimless drifting towards the margins where jail or an early death awaits them. Boxing every year takes hundreds of boys who are destined for a flameout, for a prematurely curtailed life marked by a trail of mental, emotional and physical carnage, and helps re-mold them into contributors to society. We don't hear about that much, because most of us tend to gravitate toward the negative, but boxing has prevented countless murders and assaults and incarcerations over the years. Think about it.

Lee Ortega is a guy who has a gap in his record. He debuted as a pro in 2000, fought six times in nine months…and then fell off the map. He went 4-2, and in fact fought Paul Williams in his first professional outing.

So, where was he?

“I was away,” the 35 year-old, who grew up in the South Bronx and now lives in Connecticut, told TSS. “I'm not proud of saying this, I was incarcerated. That's my past life. I was trying to make easy money, and I chose the easy wrong over the hard right.”

Ortega paid his debt to society, and exited the facility ten months ago. He picked up his gloves and is now hustling to make up some lost ground. Now trained by John Scully and Robert Lee Velez, who used to train Hector Camacho Sr., Ortega scored a UD5 win against Darryl Johnson in North Carolina on May 19, fighting at super middleweight in his first fight in 11 years.

Ortega in his previous life got good at boxing in the Army, and then was gunning to make the US Olympic squad in 2000. He fell short, so he decided to turn pro. He got busy but then a car accident, while he was living in Georgia, busted him up. He moved to NY, but found the cost of living excessive and so he moved to Connecticut. He sold used cars and did body work. But he fell prey to temptation, to the lure of easy money, via drugs. The FBI nailed him, and he went away for 41 months.

“I had a lot of time to think, see where my mistakes came from,” Ortega said. “I lost some of the best years of my athletic life but I believe I came out stronger and with more knowledge. I proved it against Johnson. I fought in his hometown. I always had butterflies before a fight but on that night, I had tunnel vision. I wanted to take him out, because I want to get somewhere.”

You get that? Boxing is giving this guy, who has a track record of trying mightily to stay focused on positive goals but sometimes straying, a reason to stay on the sunny side of the street, keep clear of the shady. He has an enormous reservoir of pride, but the pride can hurt him, as when in prison he refused to run with a gang, and they tried to enlist him, and he had to fight to keep clear, and time was added to his calendar. Lee Ortega today is an example of boxing being a good thing for society.

“Boxing helps me keep focused on something good. I never did drugs, I don't drink or smoke, I'm still pink inside. Boxing is not just a sport. You take it serious you can change your life. There's no going out, I'm training for fights. Before a fight, I can't have sex, I got to keep my legs strong. I want to thank God because he gave me wake up call. I am hungry and determined,” he said. “Now, it's all or nothing. At my age I can't be BSing.”

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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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