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Gary Russell Jr. Might've Scored The KO of the Year



011RussellvsCastanedaIMG 5702Check out the “Oh shoot” face on the lady at lower right. (Tom Casino).

We might have just have witnessed the knockout of the year from Gary Russell Jr. Saturday night. There’ve been some very good knockouts this year, namely Kessler’s of Green and Garcia’s of Morales, but what separates this one from the rest is the way in which the knockout came –the way it was set up.

Here, I’d like to highlight exactly why I thought this knockout had that little something extra that the others didn’t and why I feel it should go down as the knockout of 2012.

Firstly, at 5’5’’ and with a 61’’ reach, it was obvious to everyone that Gary Russell Jr. needed to get inside and beyond the height and reach of Roberto Castaneda. During the first and second rounds, Russell Jr. operated mainly on the front foot, releasing speedy jabs and combinations from his southpaw stance. Despite winning both rounds easily, Russell Jr. hadn’t really imposed himself on Castaneda yet, who was using his length as best he could in order to stifle and keep Russell on the outside. Russell Jr. made a subtle tactical adjustment and the knockout transpired soon after.

The knockout took place in three phases.


Russell Jr. began moving away on the back foot. Castaneda immediately followed. As Castaneda threw a jab up top, followed by a right hand to the body, Russell Jr. stepped away, avoided the shot and reset. Notice how Castaneda succeeded in getting his lead foot beyond the lead foot of the southpaw, Russell Jr. Even though he missed the mark with the right hand, there were some moments of encouragement here for Castaneda. But was Russell Jr. merely giving him false hope?

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Again, Castaneda lunges in with a right hand. This time though, Russell Jr. lands a short, compact left hook the body before stepping back out of range. Notice how Castaneda no longer has the outside position as he’s stepping in. This time as he’s trying to land his right hand, Castaneda ends up inside of Russell’s right – shoulders and feet. In his eagerness to get forward and touch Russell Jr. Castaneda has forgotten about his positioning.

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Castaneda is now becoming defensively irresponsible and overly aggressive as he’s coming forward. As he steps in for a third time, Castaneda attempts to land a jab followed by a right hand. Russell Jr. is onto this. As Castaneda sticks his jab out, Russell Jr. slips inside and lands a grazing left hook to the body and moves to the outside position using Castaneda’s follow up right hand to roll under with the punch. All of a sudden, Russell Jr. now finds himself with the perfect angle to come back across with a right hook as Castaneda is stranded because his hands are by his waist with his feet square and glued to the mat. Needless to say, as Castaneda was throwing another right, Russell Jr. came back across and landed a perfect right hook which snapped his head back and rendered Castaneda unconscious before he hit the canvas.

All of this took place within the blink of an eye. Although the actual knockout blow was extremely violent and will likely be the focus of most people’s attention, the set-up from Russell Jr. beforehand was simply stunning. Russell Jr. managed to force his opponent into forgetting the plan by becoming overly aggressive and then used his opponent’s aggression against him. It was a perfect example on how to get inside on a longer opponent without the need to apply pressure; the same results can also be achieved by making an opponent come to you. It takes intelligence and timing to orchestrate such a cerebral finish. Gary Russell Jr. seems to have this in abundance.

Of course, everyone knows how extremely gifted Russell Jr. is. His speed, power and athleticism are what have caught the eye so far, but Saturday night, I found myself even more impressed with Russell’s boxing brain. Sure, Roberto Castaneda isn’t a world beater, but it still required a lot of skill and thought from Russell Jr. to be able to set a fighter up and take him out in that way.

There’s often more to a knockout than just a hard punch. As Gary Russell Jr. showed in the knockout of 2012 last night, there’s a science involved too.

And it sure was sweet.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura



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



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



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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