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FOXWOODS RINGSIDE REPORT Rodriguez, Darchinyan, Decarie Win

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187E-Rod wasn't matched tough on BAD, though Escalera does possess oodles of heart. Talent, not as much. Most seem to be keen on a Rodriguez-Kelly Pavlik scrap.

On paper, this HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader from Foxwoods Resorts in Mashantucket, CT, was ESPN2 fare. Indeed, the B.A.D. card coming in two weeks featuring Donaire-Nishioka and Rios-Alvarado—is exponentially more compelling. Saturday night’s three televised fights exceeded expectations.

This may be partly due to the venue itself; not a bad seat in the house at Foxwoods. Lest you think there’s no such thing as a bad seat in from press row, think again. But this press row is nestled close to the ring, and I found myself ducking under some wild swings that missed.

The main event was a scheduled 10-rounder between super middlweights Edwin “La Bamba” Rodriquez and Jason “Monstruo” Escalera. While the chance of being featured HBO is hard to pass up, I’m not sure why Escalera’s promoter (Star Boxing) thought it wise to throw him in with the vastly more experienced and polished Rodriquez? Nothing in Escalera’s resume and quality of opposition suggests that he was ready for this undertaking. But his ring entrance to the theme music of “Halloween,” complete with the Michael Myers mask, was a good touch.

As expected, Rodriguez moved his record to 22-0 (15), while Escalera took his first loss and now goes 13-1-1 (12).

Referee Steve Smoger stopped it at 12 seconds into the 8th round. It was a good stoppage. Escalera had taken a great deal of punishment but also deserved the right to fight on, as he kept swinging and was game…until that moment when he wasn’t, and the ref immediately spotted this.

Most referees wouldn’t have let Escalera out of the first, as he took a merciless beating and was teetering around the ring. That Smoger let it go (with his instincts proved correct, as the fighter had plenty left) is one of the reasons why so many wish he was the third man in every fight.

It was a bad omen for Escalera when he lost his mouthpiece three seconds into the first, lost it again later in the round, and offered no more resistance than a heavy bag—and like any heavy bag, he had no idea how to hold.

But the thickly muscled Escalera has a sturdy constitution and heart. He had a better second and third. Which isn’t to say he won either round. He was surviving. He was lucky that Rodriguez had thrown over 100 punches in the first, most of them loaded up, and scaled back his pace.

Going into the fourth, Rodriguez’s trainer Ronnie Shields instructed, “I want you at distance, where you can hit him and he can’t hit nothin’.” His charge followed his counsel. Previously, against Donovan George and Will Rosinsky, he allowed himself to get drawn into brawls when he should have boxed. This was all Escalera could hope for, his only chance, but Edwin wouldn’t oblige him. He boxed nicely at a controlled pace he could easily sustain. He continually jabbed, slipped shots, dipping under them, touching the body, took effective turns, dropped lead rights, and moved out of the way. Rinse and repeat. Escalera had no answer. To add insult and injury, Escalera spat out his mouthpiece again.

With a little over a minute left in the fourth, Escalera landed his best shot of the night, a digging right to the stomach that was wrongly ruled a low blow. It was on the beltline but Jason’s belt was fairly high—not as high as Steve Smoger wears his pants, of course. The shot really hurt him. He folded and took over 40 seconds to recover. Smart fighter, Rodriguez went right back at him, throwing to the head to raise his arms and open up body. It worked. And the body was punished.

Escalera somehow hung on. But he took a lot of damage in the fifth, at one point badly wobbled by an overhand right, causing Smoger to take a close look. Rodriguez tried to finish him in the first half of the sixth but went back to boxing when Escalera refused to fold.

More punishment ensued in the seventh. Escalera’s legs looked bad but he kept trying. Once again, he lost his mouthpiece when he took a flush uppercut. Early in the eighth, Edwin finally banged him out.

Rodriguez deserves credit for not fighting down to his opponent. The question now is can he fight up to the next level? His promoter Lou DiBella will be looking to step him up soon. An obvious choice of opponent is Kelly Pavlik, who’s now campaigning at that weight but not yet looking like the Ghost of old. If Pavlik has, in fact, lost some zip on his fastball, he’d represent an ideal step-up for Rodriguez.

Luis Orlando Del Valle, 26, is a solid if unspectacular super bantam (122) prospect with a 16-0 (11) mark going into the biggest fight of his career against Vic “The Raging Bull” Darchinyan. Del Valle’s promoter Lou DiBella obviously figured Vic was shopworn and too undersized to be the bully he always attempts to be.

But at 36, with a record of 37-5 (27), Vic won his first world title at 112 in December 2004. He rampaged through that division and continued his dominance at 115, save the night he ran into Nonito Donaire’s picture-perfect left hook. When he moved up to 118, the law of diminishing returns began to tell. But when he lost, it was to the elite, guys like Joseph Agbeko, Abner Mares, and Anselmo Moreno. You can be sure none of them considered Vic easy work.

Last April he lost a UD 12 to unheralded Shinsuke Yamanaka in Japan. Between that loss, his age, and his going up yet another weight class, the Armenian looked like a big name scalp from the multiple NY Golden Glove champ on the rise.

Wrong. Vic’s awkward southpaw stance, his fierceness, roughness and vast experience was way too much for the he younger man. The older fighter won a UD10: 99-91 twice and 96-64.

Del Valle came out cold with perceptible jitters. As is his custom, Vic threw everything with murderous intent. In the third he began head-butting, using his elbows, pushing down on De Valle’s neck when they were tied up. When it comes to how well he employs such tactics, Fritzie Zivic is nodding approvingly from the grave.

In the middle rounds, Del Valle chose to stand in front of Darchinyan rather than use his legs and box. This really played into the vets hands, as he’s a superior brawler. Del Valle landed a good shot now and there but he couldn’t follow up with much else and capitalize on the moment. He seemed to have no game-plan. He was taken to school.

In the later rounds, Vic was noticeably fatigued. His legs were going and he was breathing through his mouth. Yet he showed his specialness, almost ignoring his body’s messages. He never stopped winging and landing. He pot-shotted and moved when necessary.

Vic was buzzed late in the 9th with a left hook. He was so spent he looked unable to lift his arms. But Del Valle was unable to follow up with clean shots, while the (potential) future Hall of Famer showed his underrated guile, remaining shifty enough to frustrate Luis’ attacks. Still spent, if no longer hurt, Darchinyan used his veteran savvy to make it through the 10th.

Time will tell if this fight will make or break Del Valle. It’s unlikely that Darchinyan will win another title at this weight class, but he’s gatekeeper material. Like Jorge Arce, another veteran of similar class and grit, you can never count them out.

While Canadian welterweight, Antonin Decarie put on a dominant performance against previously unbeaten prospect Alex Perez, of Newark, NJ, this one was unworthy of landing on an HBO card. The bout served as a replacement to the previously scheduled fight between highly ranked light heavy contenders Isaac Chilemba and Zsolt Erdei.

Decarie had no problem finding the rangy southpaw with his power shots. Perez, who has served as lead sparring partner for Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto, failed to use his height advantage and as many of his home-town fans (including one especially vocal one on press row) were imploring him to make better use of his jab. And despite wearing camouflage trunks, perhaps in homage to the late great Diego Corrales whom he physically resembles, he don’t crack like Chico.

Decarie was the busier fighter through the first five rounds and only 1 round was close. He employed some effective body work to set up his right hands and hooks. A cross-hook combination mid-way through the sixth round hurt Perez and Decarie followed it up with a right hand which floored Perez. The end came soon after as the Canadian pressed him against the ropes and landed a number of big rights. Referee Danny Schiavone called a stop to the fight at the 2:54 mark. It was a good stoppage as Perez was on shaky legs and offered no response.

Decarie goes to 27-1 (8) and Perez is now 16-1 (9).

Only seven of the Canadian's 26 previous victories came by way of stoppage so it was a bit of surprise how Decarie was able to viciously dispatch him. Decarie was elated and voiced his desire to back on HBO against top competition. Light heavy Jean Pascal, who’s in the same camp as Decarie, seemed to be the second most excited man in Mashantucket and paraded around like a proud father.

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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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