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Bilal Mahasin: From Prison Back to The Ring, A Dead Game Fighter

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While several thousand people traveled to Las Vegas from all over the United States and Mexico last Saturday night to watch Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez fight at the highest level, several car loads of people from Oakland, Ca. made the hour plus trip to Sacramento’s Red Lion Inn to watch a man embark again on his own journey. After a decade in prison, Bilal Mahasin returned to the ring to prove that he is a born fighter and fulfill his mission to become a champion. The junior welterweight’s performance in defeating Moris Rodriguez via six round unanimous decision proved that even professional boxing’s humblest of locales are capable of producing sublime moments that match anything produced in Vegas under boxing’s brightest lights.

Bilal Mahasin was born in the struggle that exists in American cities, traveling from Oakland to Los Angeles to St. Louis and back and forth again. “Fighting is my nature,” he says. Fighting in school and in the streets, he loved it when he walked in the boxing gym for the first time in Los Angeles at the age of fifteen. Bilal would work out in the gyms of the cities he found himself in. Never competing, but always training hard and sparring the best he could find.

At nineteen years old he committed an armed robbery in Missouri and went on the run. Mahasin describes the event as an isolated incident and says he resolved to change his life soon after. Returning to Oakland, Ca., he trained with Robert Salinas and his Excitement Crew out of Kings Gym. After just one amateur fight, Salinas told him he was ready to turn pro. With a warrant out for his arrest, Mahasin fought under the alias Manuel Rose. After quickly winning his first two bouts and working as a sparring partner for world class fighters, Mahasin was arrested after he won his third bout, which was televised on ESPN2: “They say they found me because of that fight.”

Mahasin was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to 12 years, of which he served 10 years and two months. Mahasin is a third generation Muslim. Having found himself before his arrest and conviction, Mahasin spent his time inside prison acting as a spiritual leader to other prisoners. “It is my responsibility to help others,” he says. He was also always thinking about his boxing. Andre Ward trained in the same gym with him when Ward was an amateur. Mahasin points to Ward winning a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics as inspiring him to remain focused while locked up.

Out of prison and fighting for the first time under his real, Mahasin, 4-0, entered the ring in St. Louis Cardinal red and his long dreadlocks tied tightly behind his head. Mahasin was fighting out of in the opponent’s corner as the man who is not supposed to win. For a man coming off of an eleven year break from professional boxing, he looked to be in tremendous physical condition. He faced Sacramento trained boxer, 23 year old Moris ‘The Silencer’ Rodriguez, 4(3)-3-1, who wore white trunks and shoes and his corn rows tied in a pony tail.

If you are going to fight junior welterweight Moris Rodriguez, you better be able to box or you better be able to hit with authority because Moris Rodriquez throws each and every punch like you just knocked his mom down and stepped on her favorite hat. Moris is not a crude plodding banger, but is swift of foot and has a left hook that can drop a man with one shot. His losses have come against quality prospects. These are losses that Mahasin says he studied. Rodriguez is a tough choice to return against. But, Mahasin fought with a focus emanating from his presence that spoke of his purpose.

Rodriquez came out hard charging from the start, affording Malasin no opportunity to shake off any ring rust. Rodriguez attacked behind a 1-2 to the body to set up his overhand right and his left hook. But for all the ferocity of his comings, Rodriguez often neglected the goings. Mahasin found the range early amidst the danger, stepping back just in time and countering with quick hard straight punches in between Rodriguez’s wider assault. Mahasin was steadily walking the tight rope. The last punch of his counter combinations often landed flush to the Rodriguez’s head. Rodriguez threw the same combinations, while Mahasin would change his regularly. By the end of three, Mahasin was hurting Rodriguez. Round four saw Mahasin turn to the aggressor, walking Rodriguez down and keeping him in close range, landing the type of shots that made one wonder how much more could Rodriguez withstand. But withstand them he did. Several times during the remaining rounds Mahasin looked to finish and Rodriguez would storm back each time. Slumped in his corner between rounds, his team dousing him with water to revive him, Rodriguez was pushed to him limit, but always arose to fight again. The fight ended how it began with Rodriguez forging ahead possessed, having to walk through Mahasin’s hard counters, now crosses and hooks, trying to land the knockout punch that never came.

In his victory, Bilal Mahasin showed that he was a step above the rest of the fighters on the card, promoted by Uppercut promotions. He has the focus, reflexes, quick hands and feet, technical form and smarts to make a run at as a pro. How he does this with only one amateur fight and a decade living in hard conditions away from the sport, is a wonder.

When I complimented him on his focus in the ring he quietly chuckled and said he has lots of sources of motivation from which to pull. He is the last free man in his family. His dad and older brothers are serving life sentences. His mom is fighting breast cancer. He is caring for his nephew, a young amateur boxer. Mahasin views his life as part of a divine decree. These struggles are something he is intending to make it through.

“Boxing is a part of me. If there was no professional boxing, I would still box,” Mahasin states. Having taken no abuse in this fight, he wants to fight as soon as possible, “to prove a point.” And what is that point? “That I am a dead game fighter. I want to be recognized as a champion.”

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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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