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Mendez-Barthelemy Tops FNF Return Jan. 3

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ESPN Friday Night Fights Returns January 3 with World Title Showdown

2014 Season to Include 26 Telecasts, New Technology and Re-Branded ESPN Deportes Show  

ESPN Friday Night Fights presented byCorona Extra will return for its 17th season Friday, Jan. 3, at 9 p.m. ET live on ESPN2, WatchESPN  and broadband Spanish-language ESPN Deportes+ with a 12-round IBF title bout between Junior Lightweight titlist Argenis Méndez (21-2-1, 11 KOs) and undefeated Rances Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KOs). The 10-round co-feature will include up and coming  Middleweight contender Caleb Truax (23-1, 4 KOs). ESPN Deportes – which will re-brand its coverage as Noche de Combates (formerly Viernes de Combates) with some telecasts on Saturdays – will air the bouts on Saturday, Jan. 4, at 9 p.m.

The first of 2014’s 26 telecasts, from the Target Center in Minneapolis, is co-promoted by former Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and his promotional company Iron Mike Productions. Tyson made his promotional debut in August to close out the 2013 Friday Night Fights season in a night that featured Méndez in the world title main event.

“We are eagerly anticipating the upcoming season of Friday Night Fights and Noche de Combates,” said Brian Kweder, ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions. “We start the season just as we finished last season with a world title fight co-promoted by Mike Tyson’s Iron Mike Productions. The biggest change for 2014 is that we are assigning dates to promoters with as much advance notice as possible to allow for even better fights and bigger crowds.  We’ve partnered with a group of promoters who have always delivered in the past and are committed to upping the ante even further for 2014. Having a world title fight and names like Kendall Holt, Zsolt Erdei and Arash Usmanee early this season show that the strategy is already paying dividends.”

ESPN2 Commentators/Studio:

Blow-by-blow commentator Joe Tessitore and ringside analyst Teddy Atlas will return to describe the action for ESPN2. Both are recipients of the prestigious Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism presented by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA): Atlas (2001), Tessitore (2010). Studio host Todd Grisham (@GrishamESPN), who will fill-in ringside for Tessitore during the season opener, will return for his second season providing all the latest boxing news and highlights. Bilingual reporter BernardoOsuna (@osunaespn), who last year became the series’ first-ever on-site reporter, will contribute to Friday Night Fights in English, and Noche de Combates (Fight Night) in Spanish.

ESPN Deportes Commentators/Studio:

Delvin Rodríguez will call the fights with Pablo Viruega for Noche de Combates on both ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes+, while Leopoldo González and Claudia Trejos will anchor the studio. Hall of Fame referee Joe Cortez will join Trejos and González in studio throughout the season, with Osuna providing reports and interviews each week.

ESPN Deportes’ weekly 60-minute boxing news and analysis show Golpe a Golpe will be co-hosted by Juan Manuel Márquez and Jorge Eduardo Sánchez. A Los Golpes (7:30 p.m. Mondays) will provide the latest boxing news and analysis with co-hosts Osuna, David Faitelson and analyst Julio César Chávez Sr.

New Technology:

Friday Night Fights telecasts will include alternate point of view cameras mounted in different locations capturing the atmosphere of the venues and fights. Friday Night Fights will also feature more live audio during fights to give viewers more access to the fighters and trainers.

Ultra-Mo:

Every Friday Night Fights telecast will continue to implement an ultra slo-mo camera, providing some of the most dramatic and amazing replays of a fight’s biggest punches.

WatchESPN and ESPN3:
Every Friday Night Fights card will be available on WatchESPN, ESPN’s online destination that delivers live access to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and ESPN Buzzer Beater/Goal Line on computers, smartphones and tablets. Replays of Friday Night Fights cards will be available on ESPN3, ESPN’s multiscreen network accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Roku and Apple TV.

ESPN.com:

Making the Rounds, ESPN.com’s original boxing show with Jim Basquil,Brian Campbell and Kieran Mulvaney, will discuss boxing’s top stories each week and include analysis of Friday Night Fights cards. Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn)will continue to write features and provide analysis for ESPN.com.

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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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