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Martinez-Cotto NYC Presser Report, Part 1: Arum Thunders Next To Mella DiBella

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They are two certified characters in a sport, and a world, which is losing them, because conformity is rewarded, and dissent discouraged all the more in an economic context dominated ever more so by fewer and fewer large entities.

Lou DiBella and Bob Arum, two Brooklyn-born dealmakers, sipped coffee and chatted, and at times, especially with Arum, thundered about the fight they are co-promoting on June 7 at Madison Square Garden, which pits two verified stars, Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez in an almost-middleweight tussle.

It will be shown via PPV by the HBO, to those who wish to see it but can’t attend what will certainly be a sold out event. Yes, a buzz was vibrating at MSG on Tuesday, during a press conference to herald the early summer faceoff.

DiBella sat down with select press, and talked about the fight, how it came to be made, what kind of chances his guy Martinez, possessor of a most stareable face, a Hollywood-ready visage marked by lines appropriate for a 39-year-old man, but none of the features, the mashed nose, the lumped scar tissue over the brows, which announce “prizefighter.”

The promoter, who is keeping fingers crossed that his dad bounces back from pneumonia in short order, and fielded well wishes from those in the fraternity who know how he treasures his parents, said that the scrap was announced earlier because…well, he wasn’t sure why.

“It had nothing to do with us,” he said. Basically, Team Cotto held up the works because they jostled for a couple contractual and procedural edges. “When Cotto is sitting down in the ring it won’t matter,” he said, referencing Martinez’ promise to drop and stop the Puerto Rican vet by round nine.

DiBella expressed mild annoyance about the negotiations, stating that money matters weren’t too hard to hash out, but Cotto proved a stubborn sort when it came time to sift out billing and such minutiae as placement on posters. “We gave more edges than he deserves,” Combustible Lou said. But, he allowed, Cotto is a massive draw in NYC around the Puerto Rican Day parade.

As for the Argentine Martinez, DiBella tips his guy to be the better man, but he showed admirable candor in not trying to proclaim that Martinez has undergone a full-body overhaul, including a magic wand session which makes his right knee 100%. He’s had three surgeries on that pesky saboteur, and DiBella said that his guy lives in a chronic state of pain. But, he said, the boxer is rip-roaring ready to defend his 160 pound crown, and is at around 165 pounds as we speak.

“He’s never taken any hits to the head, his face looks prettier than when he started,” DiBella said.

Dark clouds have formed in the boxers’ eyes when thinking back to an incident in Mexico, about 3 1/2 years ago, when Martinez met Cotto at an event. He went to shake hands with the PR legend, and Cotto, he says, blew him off. That stuck with him, and he’d like to make Cotto pay for the affront, which Cotto says he doesn’t remember.

You can trust 99% of what the promoter says when he enthuses, as he did Tuesday, that, “They’re gonna throw down. It’s gonna be a real fight. Both are gonna throw down, it’s who they are.”

At that point, Arum came into the room, and inquired about DiBella’s dad. The 82-year-old, who first promoted a massive event at MSG in 1970–it was a Muhammad Ali-Oscar Bonavena fight–got a coffee and listened to DiBella answer queries before hopping in.

DiBella made it clear that he thinks it’s silly that the contract calls for both men to weigh 159 pounds or less, being that the middleweight title is up for grabs. Cotto got that concession, hoping to get Martinez, the bigger man, closer to his playing field come fight night. The guess is that Cotto knows Martinez’ knee is still rounding into shape, and every way he can make him work, and drain him pre-fight, he will work toward.

Arum surprised me by calling the catchweight “stupid,” and made clear he thinks it’s silly for the fight to be at 159 pounds.

“It’s a power trip,” he stated.

The same case could be made for the fight to place who’s face on the left side, the “better side,” on fight posters. Cotto, the better draw, but not the title holder, received that honor, something that at the end of the day will likely matter very little.

Arum drew chuckles when he noted that he can’t be the hypocrite on the issue, as Manny Pacquiao will get the left side treatment over a champ, Tim Bradley, in their rematch April 26.

DiBella said he hears some of the Twitwits calling for Martinez to fight WBA 160 pound champion Gennady Golovkin, but he stuck to his guns, saying that Golovkin isn’t a big drawing card, and besides, Sergio could make more money fighting other foes if and when he gets past Cotto. He said that Golovkin, unless he fights maybe Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., isn’t a PPV draw.

“Who’s Sergio ducked?” he asked rhetorically. “Sometimes guys just don’t intersect.”

Arum chimed in, and said that Golovkin’s drawing power and fanbase is still a work in progress. He said that he hasn’t been embraced by all Russians and is more so a Kazakh treat.

I brought up the issue of potential PPV exhaustion. I’m all for people making money, I’m no commie, dammit, but I don’t think fans should have to keep emptying their wallet to buy premium content when they already pay extra for the premium cable channels. Arum countered by saying that different segments of the population buy different PPVs, so he expects the June 7 will perform quite well. Also, he repeated the old standby that many people pitch in and crowd living rooms, so the cost per person is actually quite low. I’m still waiting to see the stat breakdown and market research which cements that stance. How many people you know ask people to chip in $5 or $10 at PPV parties? Exactly….

Arum said he thinks the Cotto-Martinez PPV could exceed the buy numbers enjoyed by the Chavez Jr.-Martinez bout, and I dare say I agree. The vet promoter said an MSG sellout will juice the PPV numbers and reminded all that “this is still New York, still the media center of the world.”

All involved agreed that this PPV will provide a better bang for the buck, and a much more evenly matched bout than the May 3 Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana tussle, that is clear.

Arum, ever candid, and today intermittently quite feisty, took aim at the Golden Boy crew. He thinks their Canelo-Angulo PPV did poorly at the box office, he said, and thinks that fewer than 6,000 paid full price to see them fight live. The promoter veered into cantankerous territory when I asked him about the possibility for an end to the Cold War, with the rumor mill churning out stories of Oscar De La Hoya’s supposed rift with Richard Schaefer. Arum virtually exploded that the press wasn’t doing their proper job, asking the more pertinent questions about how Golden Boy and Showtime is running their programs, and called for more Woodward and Bernstein type efforts. I’m Woods, I countered, not Woodward, and do the best that I can, so there. Arum also seemed to be down on HBO boss Ken Hershman, and voiced his dismay at a decision which I’m pretty sure hasn’t been made yet, that of who will stand across from Ruslan Provodnikov in his next tangle. Arum has his POV and that doesn’t jibe with Hershman’s, seemingly. Basically, Arum is a master at such jockeying and can sometimes obtain a concession or change of terms on the strength of a desire for mollification. Short story long, he maintains that such decisions are holding up the pairings fro Juan Manuel Marquez’ and Provodnikovs’ next bouts.

While captive, I asked Arum about Mikey Garcias’ next; the kid has been a NY mainstay, and he didn’t blow anyone away in his last showing, against JC Burgos. It was a win, but many of us are hoping he secures a foe and a fight to bring the best out of him. Yuriorkis Gamboa has been pitched as that guy but Arum said that fight is DOA.

“It’s not gonna happen,” he said. “Who the eff is Gamboa? He effed me in the Rios fight,” Arum said, referencing a late-inning pullout by the Cuban a few years ago. Arum said that a match pitting Garcia against WBA champ Takashi Uchiyama could be in the cards.

Arum said that the blossoming of Macau as a platform opens up things for him, for guys like maybe Garcia, or Guillermo Rigondeaux or Miguel Vazquez, who get turned down by HBO, but have belts and skills. Arum said that Top Rank will be back in Asia on May 31, in July, in perhaps Singapore in September, and back to Macau in November.

Nonito Donaire was turned down by HBO, he said, so he will land overseas, and hope to build back his rep. Also, Arum is jazzed about an end of June date, his first one, on the mainland in China, in Shanghai. Rigo could get a July date over yonder in July he said, and that would likely be it for him and Top Rank.

Arum talked up a new boxing magazine show, a two hour production, which will run in China once a week, on Tuesday nights, starting in May. More people will likely watch that, he said, than watch the Super Bowl. He also was salivating at the though of his guy Zou Shiming winning a title, and then getting a promised audience with the leader of China. HBO too should be licking their chops at the thought of luring all those new boxing fans, Arum said.

Arum said he will visit the Congressman, Manny Pacquiao, next week, and said that Coach Roach reports Manny “looks great.” He said that he’s happy to note that reports of Manny’s fine form are uniform, even from those who usually veer negative.

More Top Rank stuff–Arum had dinner on Monday with WBC diamond belt 175 pound champ Jean Pascal in NYC, and came away impressed with his smarts. He might put Pascal in against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., at 175 pounds, maybe at Cowboys Stadium. Gennady Golovkin is also in the mix for that July date, which will be another PPV. Arum thinks the press will push for a Chavez-Golovkin bout, and I agree.

160 is no longer possible for Junior, Arum opined, just as 140 is a bridge too far for Brandon Rios, he said. Arum said that he thinks Juan Manuel Lopez, fighting Saturday in Puerto Rico, should retire, he said.

I could go on another 2,000 words, but must make dinner for my kids…

Check back in a bit to hear what the fighters, Cotto and Martinez, had to say Tuesday in NYC.

Follow Woods on the Twitter.

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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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