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Before We Slam HBO, Let’s See How Sched Plays Out Till July, Shall We?

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The constancy of the calling of the horse race is something I haven’t gotten used to. The average fan is, I think, much more savvy to much of what used to be internal matters in sports, and thus, guys like me spend more time talking politics than prizefighting than we used to.

Nah, I don’t mean the Obamacare/fillibusters/etc. stuff, although you all know I often muddy my hands in that pigpen and cast my opinions about.

I’m talking about the goings on at HBO, at Showtime, in the offices and on the Twitter feeds of the promoters, etc. The Twittersphere has seen much chatter lately about what’s going on at HBO, for instance. The so-smart-they-oughta-get-hired-if-only-those-chuckleheads-recognized-my-brilliance crew hasn’t been shy about lobbing 140 characters or less screeds of dismissiveness at the gang of decision-makers at HBO, busting their collective chops for the perceived dropping of the ball in the Adonis Affair. Maybe you’ve taken a swing yourself, opining that Team HBO was derelict in duty at not signing Stevenson for a multi-year deal, and focusing your ire on Ken Hershman and company for leaving wriggle room for Stevenson to slide out from what seemed to be a done deal, a tasty faceoff for semi-supremacy in the light heavyweight division. Maybe you saw some of the industry’s heavyweight keyboard tappers call HBO “cheap,” and hurl some other groin-strikes…..And maybe you missed the mea culpas when more facts came to light, and it ended up, seemingly, being a case of a fighter, Adonis Stevenson, throwing a curveball into the mix, adding a new advisor into the equation, and blowing up the equation.

Now, I’m by no means on board with everything the HBO crew has done, or will do, quite likely, moving forward. I’m of the mind that all involved should be pushing for only the best fighting the best sorts of bouts, that we the fans need to see fewer set up bouts, table-setting specials, and by and large should be rewarded with only premium fare when we tune in to that premium network, and the other one which counts pugilism as a vital building block of their offerings. And I deplore anything more than occasional PPVs, as I believe that construct asks too much of the fans, that they bear too much of the walletburden to be fight fans…But I do think the tizzy that erupted from the Adonis Affair was overblown, and perhaps more than a bit unfair to the showrunners at HBO.

I’m not here to attach blame to one person, to smear Stevenson, label him a ducker, and shout at the heavens that Al Haymon is a curse upon the sport, a bubonic plague of a presence whose fingerprints will be found on the corpse of pugilism in another couple years, after he chokes the life out of the sweet science.

Nah, I see nuance.

I see one fighter throwing a “curveball” which will possibly enrich him more than the deal that was being presented to him, and I try to see it from his perspective, or at least accept his decision-making from a place of humility. Because I will enjoy an Adonis Stevenson-Bernard Hopkins bout if the chips that Showtime and Golden Boy and Al Haymon are readying to be placed on the table come together as envisioned. And I also see beyond that one event, that one chapter of the theater of the unexpecteds’ 2014 yearbook which featured eyebrow raising plot twists, and so much finger pointing and social media I told ya so-ing…

Peter Nelson is in charge of a lot of HBO’s matchmaking, and I was struck by his attitude as we briefly chatted after a press luncheon for the Sergey Kovalev-Cedric Agnew card in AC. He wasn’t panicked, wasn’t in accusatory mode. His POV was basically this: we will put Plan B into effect, and while we haven’t figured out what Plan B is, exactly, we can be sure it will be compelling…and entertaining…and who knows, maybe even be better than a Stevenson-Kovalev clash. I took note of that stance, at how he seemed to be seeing the events of the week from a “where others see mistakes, I see opportunities” lens.

The focus on the present is something followers of Zen worship talk up, and there is immense wisdom in that mindfullness. But sometimes we do all lose site of the forest, friends. Agreed, this first quarter for boxing has been something of a stinkbomb, though we all did enjoy the NBC Fight Night card on Friday night. But the optimist, the lobbyist in me, for seeing the bigger picture, for letting events play out a bit more before snapping into j’accuse mode, reminds that we are starting a solid run of programming on HBO. HBO is the platform for this Saturday’s pick ’em collision between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. That’s the first of four significant events. To be fair, some planning, some measure of intelligence and plotting and foresight had to go into this pairing, and the move-making which led to it. HBO and Top Rank and Bradley put together ingredients which have made Bradley a considerably more highly-regarded hitter since he and Pacman gloved up in 2012, no? We all have to remember, this sport is made up of a thousand and one freelancers, and there is no lord high commissioner setting a schedule, a year in advance, and etching it on a tablet of stone. Or not…usually it’s more fun to get on Twitter, and throw barbs at the suits lol…

Next, on May 17, we should be rewarded with a compelling clash between two men who have career questions to answer, Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado. That is a promising style matchup, is it not? And if not a pick ’em, most aren’t saying Marquez is a lock, not after being outboxed by Tim Bradley in his last outing.

Then, HBO put together another pick ’em event, with Top Rank and Lou Dibella, the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez clash at Madison Square Garden. Flip a coin-er, no? As anticipated as any bout this year, quite likely, right?

And then we should be seeing everyone’s favorite wildcard, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. welcoming everyone’s favorite baby-faced banger, Gennady Golovkin, to the 168 neighborhood, on July 19. Most of us like GGG to have his hand raised at the end of that night, but methinks the Chavez chin will help him do a bit better in this one than many anticipate.

All in all, let’s hit the reset button, shall we, and re-convene in July, and then weigh in on how the HBO crew is doing. This should be a solid run till mid summer, and here’s hoping it aids in putting the Adonis Affair in proper perspective.

Follow Woods on 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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