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STERN VIEW: Yamegai-Silva Draw, Linares Gets W

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LinaresVelazquez Hogan7The talented but chinny Linares (right) got the W after two straight losses via stoppage. (Hogan)

Saturday night in Sacramento, Ca. big time boxing returned to the historic Memorial Auditorium. A Golden Boy Promotions, Don Chargin Productions and Paco Presents promoted event saw highly touted welterweight Yoshihiro Kamegai of Japan engage in a grueling fight ten round majority draw with Jorge Silva of Tijuana, Mexico. In the co-feature, lightweight former world champion Jorge Linares returned to the ring to regain his footing after two tough losses. Linares boxed his way to a wide decision over former world champion Hector Velasquez.

The Memorial Auditorium, built in 1926, with its steep balcony that appears to hang almost above three sides of the ring, and its art deco flourishes, is a fabulous fight venue. The reported crowd of 1,422, including area legends Loreto Garza and Tony Lopez, who helped build the boxing history of the arena, was made up of primarily of denizens of local gyms and groups of family and friends rooting on area boxers fighting on the card. But the crowd also included many members of that select community, the true fight fan.

One such fight fan was a man named Alejandro, a muscular, bespectacled Hispanic man in his mid-fifties, who waited in line for refreshments dressed in a crisp white suit with thick red pinstripes. His shiny black shoes were reptilian in origin. He stood tall and proud, with the aura of a man who spent time in places where standing tall and proud is necessary for survival. When complimented on his attire, and after staring to ensure he was not being clowned, he stated, “Back in the day, we all used to come dressed up to the fights, not because it was the custom of the time, but because we were able to express who we really are.”

Anglos, Hispanics and African-Americans all moved and talked comfortably and with ease amongst each other because they were all there for a shared purpose. The lone exception was a Hulk Hogan impersonator, complete with gray handlebar mustache, black tank top, tight wrangler jeans, and blue and white head covering bandana. Hulkamania almost made a fatal mistake when he started barking and growling at California Boxing Hall of Famer Richard Savala, who graciously laughed him off.

The main event featured welterweights Yoshihiro Yamegai, 21(18)-0-1, against Jorge Silva, 18(14)-2-2, in a ten round smasheroo that had to make Yamegai’s management wonder what happened to Yamegai’s first named opponent, veteran war horse and stepping stone Cosme Rivera.

Yamegai came into the fight with a reputation as an all action brawler with outstanding power. His American T.V. debut on Fox Sports was certainly designed to lead to a spectacular knockout that would have the executives at HBO and Showtime eager for his services. Twenty year-old Jorge Silva with two TKO losses and a career spent almost entirely in Mexico must have looked to the matchmaker a like suitable meal.

From the opening bell, Silva let everyone know that nobody was going to take his lunch. Ten rounds of heavy body punches, hooks to the head, and hard punches repaid with harder punches ensued. The last ten seconds saw the boxers throw everything they had at each other leading the crowd to rise and cheer the action as one.

When it was over both fighters smiled and embraced, forever bound in what they had just endured. They then proceeded to hug their opponents’ trainers and corner men. They all knew they had just engaged in something special.

The crowd did not return to their seats when the action was over, but stood and awaited the decision. Tension and adrenaline were still alive in the air. The judges ruled; 95-95, 96-94 for Kamegai, 95-95. A majority draw. Despite a few boos, the crowd cheered. When a crowd cheers a draw, you know the action was good.

In the co-feature, Jorge Linares, 32(20)-3, out-boxed the technical pressure of Hector Velasquez, 51(35)-18-3, to a wide unanimous decision.

Linares showed the movement, combination punching and all-over skills that made him a world champion. Linares’ right hands bruised up Velasquez’s face, and he went hard to the body with left hooks and uppercuts. Linares blocked most of Velasquez’s inside work and caught Velasquez repeated coming in.

But, Linares also showed the limitations that he will probably always have. Velasquez repeatedly walked Linares down, and marked Linares’ face while not landing a ton of punches. One got the feeling that if Velasquez had more firepower, Linares could have been taken deep.

Nothing was revealed about Linares’ future except we will probably see him in some future wars.

In other action, junior middleweight Hugo “Boss” Centano Jr., 16(8)-0, of Oxnard, CA, entered the ring in a pink sombrero and pink trucks and the affects of a dandy. So clean shaven one wondered if his face is follicularly challenged and with his hair gelled in a retro Bob’s Big Boy style, you knew he had to box well. Justin Williams, 4(2)-6-2, entered the ring with black trunks and grit. Williams is from New Orleans.

Centano won a unanimously 60 to 54 on all the judges scorecards. Centano was the busier fighter throughout, working off his jab, going to the body, opening up with more multi-punch combinations as the fight progressed. He has some slick head movements and pivots. Despite his pretty boy image, he would drop his hands in defiance and then came back firing whenever Williams’ punches found him.

Williams, who took the fight on two weeks notice, was a cut above most of the red corner fighters. His says his career has not taken off because, “I’ve had to deal with some things.” Williams had some success with his crosses and overhand rights, his jab was quick, but he simply was not busy enough, a fact he attributed to a lack of training. His defense was tight and he saw Centano’s punches coming, not a bad quality to have for a fighter currently making his living as an opponent. There are worse things for a 24 year old young man to do than spending a few nights fighting in unfamiliar cities across the country. Williams was last seen getting the number of a very attractive young Asian woman.

Throughout the evening drawn out shouts of ‘Teaaammm Robbbb’ echoed throughout the arena. In the last fight of the night, Guy Robb, 10(4)-1, of Sacramento won a unanimous 60-54 decision over 50 fight veteran Aldolfo Landeros of Mexico City. Robb broke his habit of engaging in unnecessary, albeit fan friendly wars. Robb boxed and moved off his jab, mixed in hard 1-2’s, worked the body when offered, and generally shined his way to victory.

Preston Freeman looked smooth, relaxed and sharp winning his pro debut. Andy Vences won his debut as well. San Franciscan Jonathon Chicas KO’d his hapless opponent in the 2nd. In front of at least 100 personal supporters, Sacramento native John Abella, 3(2)-0, knocked out his game opponent, Pablo Cupul, 6(4)-9, in the 4th round.

Earlier in the day, ten miles south of the Memorial Auditorium and a world away from the T.V. lights, 48 amateur boxers from the ages of 9 to 29 fought 24 fights at Cabellero’s Gym. Hopes and dreams as big as any professional’s were there to be found along with the several hundred people of all races, colors and creeds who packed into a small gym in the third row of buildings off a light industrial strip mall just off the freeway where no one speeding past could see.

Born in hard places and growing up hard, these young boxers were coming to fight hard. This was a serious affair. After witnessing a few bouts, the mom of a boxer making his amateur debut sought the assurances of her son’s coaches, who were resting in the alley, that her son would be okay.

One of the best amateur fighters that day was middleweight David Lopez of San Francisco’s World Class Boxing Club. A southpaw, Lopez fights with quick in and out foot movement, a good defensive judge of range and a quick lead right hook that he swings like an eight pound sledgehammer. His combination of movement and power confounds his opponents to the point where tough men with intentions of inflicting nothing but hurt are left standing, round after round, docile and confused.

David Lopez, 28, fights to make up for time lost to several years of being locked up and time lost to a life that spiraled out of control after his father died from the ravages of drugs. Lopez also fights for his four year old son Miguel. Lopez, looking to turn pro next year after getting in as many amateur fights he can, harbors no illusions of winning world titles. But he wants to learn the pro game, both in and out of the ring, in order to guide his young son to achieve such heights.

Another day of fights in a gym in an American city. No boxer was paid for their performances that Saturday afternoon, just the opportunity given for their hunger to be fed.

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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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