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The Top Five Biggest Bouts in D.C. History

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HopkinsMurat Hogan77-1 c2686Bernard Hopkins’ (54-6-2, 32 KOs) light heavyweight title unification bout with Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) is going to be one of the biggest bouts Washington, D.C., has seen in years. It is certainly the most hyped bout the D.C. Armory has hosted.

“When I was in Washington (on Jan. 25) promoting the Lamont Peterson (junior welterweight title) fight at the Armory, the people there showed me a lot of love and respect,” Hopkins told ESPN last week. “I got mad respect for the fans there and they got mad respect for me in D.C. Fighting in D.C. is like fighting in Philly as far as I'm concerned. It will definitely be a Bernard Hopkins house and I will give them something to cheer about.”

The comparison with Philadelphia boxing is the ultimate compliment from the boxer formerly known as “The Executioner,” who’s fought a few major bouts in Washington. The sport has had its highs and lows in both cities, but right now is a great time to be a boxing fan in D.C.

During those moments of high popularity, Washington has hosted some big-time fights. Some of lived up to their hype. Some have not. Here is the top five.

5. Mike Tyson vs. Kevin McBride, MCI Center, June 11, 2005

The fact that this fight was even a big deal is a testament to the state of boxing at the time. Tyson was years removed from greatness and was coming off a fourth-round knockout loss to Danny Williams in Louisville, Ky., 11 months earlier. McBride was his handpicked opponent to get him back on track. It was not to be. The MCI (now Verizon) Center crowd instead saw McBride dominate the fight and Tyson called it a day and a career at the end of the sixth. McBride then proceeded to go 2-6 in his final eight fights.

4. Andrew Council vs. Keith Holmes, William Joppy vs. Julio Cesar Green, MCI Center, September 24, 1999

It is hard to beat hometown favorites fighting for titles in their hometowns. In this co-headlined bout, D.C. native Keith Holmes successfully defended his WBC Middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Washingtonian Andrew Council. Then, William Joppy pleased his hometown crowd by stopping Julio Cesar Green on cuts in the seventh round in a rubber match to retain his WBA Middleweight title. Joppy would lose his belt to Felix Trinidad in 2001. Ironically, Holmes lost his to Hopkins in 2001 as well.

3. Joe Louis vs. Buddy Baer, Griffith Stadium, May 23, 1941

One of the members of Louis’ “Bum-of-the-Month Club” was the brother of former heavyweight champion Max Baer. While he wasn’t in the class of fighters of his brother, Baer was solid and had just come of a stoppage of “Two Ton” Tony Galento at the D.C.’s Uline Arena a month earlier. When he faced Louis, Baer put him on the canvas in the first round, but Louis quickly took control. The “Brown Bomber” dropped him three times in the sixth round. When the last knockdown came close to the bell, Baer’s manager, Ancil Hoffman, came into the ring to protest and refused to leave, causing his fighter to be disqualified. The two met again seven months later in Madison Square Garden and Louis knocked Baer out in the first round.

2. Muhammad Ali vs. Jimmy Young, Capital Centre, Landover, Md., April 30, 1976

Every major city seemed to be building arenas and stadiums in the suburbs during the 1970s and 80s so Landover, which is about nine miles from D.C. and a stop on the metro line, makes this list. This bout would be one of many controversial decisions that Ali won between 1976 and 1978. In Young, he faced a fighter who frustrated the best of the era with superb speed and technical skills. Ali showed up unprepared and overweight and Young exposed “The Greatest’s” technical flaws. While Ali still had his moments, Young dictated the pace of the fight. When the unanimous decision was announced in favor of Ali, the reaction was most certainly mixed.

1. Riddick Bowe vs. Jesse Ferguson, Roy Jones, Jr. vs. Bernard Hopkins, RFK Stadium, May 22, 1993

The only fight card ever held at RFK hosted a defense by the most physically gifted heavyweight champion of the 1990s who also made his home in Maryland and a championship fight from the two top contenders who would go on to become two of the greatest middleweights of all time. Riddick Bowe made quick work of Jesse Ferguson, knocking him out 17 seconds into the second round. Roy Jones won the vacant IBF Middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Hopkins, who would have to wait almost 17 years to get his revenge. Sadly, the attendance did not live up to the hype, as only 9,000 people attended.

The coming months will tell where Hopkins/Shumenov falls on this list. My guess is that if it doesn’t crack the top five, it will definitely be an honorable mention.

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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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