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ShoBox Preview: Angelo Santana-Hank Lundy

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“Prospect” is a term that has lost all meaning in the fight game. Often, it’s applied far too early in the career of a fighter who hasn’t proven much. Of course, it’s all business; if a young fighter can be branded with that label and matched carefully, suddenly a marketable attraction emerges.

On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with this; however, in reality, unintended side effects of over-diagnosing prospects are far-reaching. Soft matchmaking to build padded records has created a surplus of fighters whose glossy records outshine their in-ring accomplishments. Valuable learning experiences, some of which take the form of an “L” in the record books, are avoided in the interest of preserving prospect status. When a loss finally does occur, young fighters are dismissed quickly as frauds when they may end up as better fighters after losing.

Angelo Santana is one such fighter who has lost some luster after losing for the first time in his last outing. The 25-year old Miami-based Cuban went into his fight with Baha Mamadjonov with a nice looking record, a harrowing story of his escape from Cuba at the age of eighteen, and the heavy hands by which stars are made. Santana was also one of the last remaining glimmers of hope in Don King’s ever-dwindling stable of talent. Though he lacked the deep amateur pedigree and subtle craft of other Cuban standouts like Erislandy Lara and Guillermo Rigondeaux, Santana’s fan-friendly style looked like it could make some waves.

Then he lost, which isn’t (or, rather, shouldn’t be) a huge deal in and of itself. Mamadjonov is an underrated fighter whose determination and scrappiness would produce a tough outing for many. The weightier problem for Santana is the manner in which he lost; Baha Mamadjonov is by no means a slick craftsman, but his hustle and head movement puzzled Santana throughout the fight. Santana simply had no answers as the busy and aggressive Mamadjonov pushed forward, building a head of steam in the middle rounds of the fight. While it ended in a ninth-round TKO, Santana looked more bewildered than battered when the bout came to a halt.

For some, Santana became the latest big bust. That assessment might be a bit premature; sure, the loss to Mamadjonov might be an indicator of irreparable flaws, but it might also be the type of lesson that few young fighters experience anymore. Really, the loss was not a career-breaker; Santana didn’t absorb excessive punishment, and close viewings of the fight tape could yield countless areas for improvement. It all may depend on how Santana and his team approach the unexpected setback.

Many questions will be answered when Santana, 14-1 (11 KO), returns to the ring on Friday night (Feb. 21) against tough junior welterweight veteran Hank Lundy, 23-3-1 (11 KO), at Cleveland’s Wolstein Center. The 30-year old Lundy is himself familiar with the turbulent tides of fortune in boxing. Just two years ago, the Philadelphia native was progressing through the ESPN2 circuit toward some big-fight options before unexpected losses to Ray Beltran and Viktor Postol temporarily derailed Lundy’s progress. A comeback win last summer against Olusegun Ajose put Lundy back in position to make some big things happen, provided he can get past Angelo Santana on Friday.

The decision by Santana’s handlers to fight Lundy following the loss to Mamadjonov is a bold one, considering Lundy’s experience, speed, and movement all surpass what Santana encountered in his lone defeat. Team Santana’s willingness to fight Lundy is either a demonstration of supreme confidence in their man or a serious error in matchmaking judgment for a fighter looking to rebound from his first loss. Either way, his handlers deserve credit for avoiding the easy path of worthless knockouts that would do little to enhance their man.

All this leads to a genuinely intriguing matchup that is a classic crossroads fight for each man. In one corner stands Santana, who seeks to prove that all the praise he garnered early in his career was warranted. Across from him stands Lundy, who desperately wants to grasp the opportunities that once slipped through his fingers. The one commonality between the two fighters is that the outcome will dramatically impact the career trajectory of each. In addition, each fighter possesses traits that could expose the other’s weaknesses. As illustrated in his loss, Santana’s inability to adapt in the heat of battle could be his undoing against a versatile boxer-puncher like Lundy, who could create endless riddles for Santana to solve. For Lundy, he’s had his share of problems with big punchers, specifically in his first career defeat at the hands of John Molina in a fight Lundy was winning handily until the gritty Molina scored the comeback KO in the eleventh round. If Santana pressure Lundy effectively, he might be able to reap similar rewards.

High stakes and well-matched styles make for potentially terrific fights. Santana-Lundy certainly fits the bill, which gives fight fans reason enough to tune in.

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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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