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Rest In Peace, Preston Freeman

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 Preston FreemanThe right cross came quick, came straight, turned over just before impact and the impact was hard. In the first round of his first fight as a professional boxer, on Oct. 6, 2012, Preston Freeman dropped fourteen-fight veteran Jose Mendoza with a right hand en route to a clear decision win.

One of the differences in witnessing a fight in person, as opposed to on T.V., is that the glimpses of the spectacular are so vividly etched into your memories as to be close to permanent. In Preston Freeman’s three fight undefeated career at junior welterweight, he produced many of these revelations. In each of his fights he debuted something new. His first fight, he showed relaxed poise, ridiculous poise for a 19 year old making his pro debut), reflexes and the right. In his second, power. In his third, he showed us a jab that could control any lesser fighter, a precision check hook, and footwork. Yes, Preston Freeman was one to watch.

And oh, his uppercuts. Most fight fans are attracted to the power punchers. I don’t think this is because fight fans take great pleasure is seeing another man knocked unconscious, although those fans certainly exist. Instead, I think that the punches themselves are the excitement. True power punching at the elite level explodes with such force that the punching produces its own light, color and energy. That is what I saw when Preston Freeman threw his uppercuts. People would gasp. His uppercuts made the ring a dangerous place for his opponents. The ring may have been the safest place for Preston Freeman.

On Wednesday night, Preston Freeman, 20 years old, was shot and killed outside a nightclub in University City, a city within St. Louis, Mo.

A 2012 National Golden Gloves semi-finalist, Freeman moved at 19 to Salinas, Ca. to turn pro under the guidance of the Garcia family. Freeman was trained by the father and son team of Max and Sam Garcia and managed by Kathy Garcia, Max’s wife. According to an article published in the Monterey Herald, this move was made in part to escape the St. Louis street violence that previously claimed the life of Preston’s younger brother. Preston had returned to the St. Louis area this Monday after complaining of homesickness.

Preston Freeman’s death will linger in the boxing community he touched. From his young chief trainer, Sam Garcia, who had dreams of taking Preston to a world title, to the Familton brothers, to Max and Kathy Garcia, who literally opened their home to him while he lived and trained under their roof, to his training partner, middleweight Paul Mendez.

His death will lay heavy on the young men and women training at the North County Athletic Association, the amateur boxing club in St. Louis where Preston learned to box.

Too much comes from the shooting death of Preston Freeman, and the deaths of children like him that fill the metro section of our newspapers – mothers, fathers, family, friends who will never be whole again. The lessons of futility, hopelessness and despair, again and again, echoing, deafening through his community.

My interactions with him were brief. But I am lucky to have had the pleasure to see him in the place where he earned the opportunity to be larger than life: under the lights, shining, in the ring.

Being in the ring with Preston Freeman was not a safe place for trained professional boxers to be. Unfortunately for Preston Freeman, the ring may have been the safest place for himself.

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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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