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The Bud Abides

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There were a few moments in the Crawford-Beltran fight where I found myself thinking, “This is what boxing needs.” There’s times when even the steadiest fight fan can begin to doubt their own commitment to the sport, and succumb to depressive sky-is-falling thinking about the present and future of the sport, always looking for some savior to come around. Boxing is no different that any other part of life, things can always be better. It’s just that in boxing that something better sometimes walks into an arena and suddenly claims it in a star-making performance, as Terence Crawford did last June against Yuriorkis Gamboa.

So far 2014 has been a carefully orchestrated dud. We were sold a false bill of goods in Chris Algieri, we were given an unceremonious and sad beatdown of the legendary Bernard Hopkins, we saw Mayweather milk a few bad rounds in the spring into an overhyped and absurd rematch against Marcos Maidana. And we’ve seen fight after overmatched fight as the entire matchmaking business of the sport has come to a screeching halt, offering only sacrificial lambs like Rod Salka into the churning wheelhouse of real fighters who pocket diminished purses in the name of staying busy.

Not the man Omahans call Bud, who in with three fights in one year, has effectively cleaned out the lightweight division of serious competition. Crawford hit the scales before the fight at 153, so a move up in weight into a much more competitive division at 140 is a foregone conclusion. A newly-minted star in a Midwestern burg known mainly for its most illustrious citizen, Warren Buffet, fits the bill as a hard-working, thoroughly humble and normal dude. True to form for a man whose simple tastes reflect his modest Nebraskan sense of the world, Buffet attended the fight in the nosebleeds to watch the champion outbox the rugged Mexican, Ray Beltran.

Much is made in boxing match-ups about height and length discrepancies. Size dominated the story heading into Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Chris Algieri, where Algieri fought with a substantial height and length advantage. But pro boxers are very well accustomed to fighting through their own disadvantages. Pacquiao was able to time Algieri’s jab and counter with a right hook. Rare is the case when a guy with only a two inch reach advantage can effectively control a fight with a jab. Crawford composed a symphony of jabs upon Beltran’s left eye on Saturday night.

The jab is where boxing fundamentals begin, and often where they end. It’s the action that establishes the pace and rhythm of any boxer. Brawlers can’t be bothered with jabs, but the stick-and-movers live and die by the jab. It’s the safest punch, the one that extends furthest from the head over the lead foot. But it’s not without risk: if it isn’t snapped or if it’s too easily timed, powerful counter rights fired over the top of a lazy jab are the punctuation with which many a boxer’s undoing are written.

Learning and honing a solid jab is one thing, but being able to switch stance and do the same while keeping enough power in your non-dominant hand is another thing altogether. In the second round, Crawford did exactly that out of a southpaw stance and peppered Beltran with lightning-quick right-hand jabs for the rest of the night. Chalk it up to elite dexterity and speed with a dash of Midwestern discipline; there’s not a fighter 135 and under that can match Crawford’s current skill set.

Beltran, who has seen plenty of southpaw action as Pacquiao’s sparring partner, was disrupted by Crawford’s tactic all night. His corner implored him in between rounds to let his hands go, fire combinations. Maybe they weren’t watching the same fight. There were rare moments where Beltran was able to sneak inside the jab and trade power punches with Bud, but Crawford was always able to get back on his jab upon the notice of a Beltran right hand to his chin. It seemed that Beltran could only get off when Crawford felt willing to trade with him.

Maybe it’s not fair to label Crawford the Great Black Hope, the man who promises to represent America in the next ten years’ pound for pound lists, but it sure is special to see a fighter connect with his hometown and basically invent a boxing presence where before stood only Ron “The Butcher” Stander some 40 years ago. Crawford, along with his trainer Brian McIntyre, fund their gym in North Omaha and have built a community around their efforts that translates perfectly to this observer in Buffalo who still wonders what could have been with Baby Joe Mesi over ten years ago.

Crawford will move up and fight someone bigger and tougher than Beltran. He has a 1-1 amateur record against Danny Garcia, but who knows when Garcia will be finished fighting his biannual collection of corncobs. The path is certainly cleared, for better or worse, for Bob Arum to hitch Crawford to his lead horse in Manny Pacquiao. Crawford at the very least is positioned to be a negotiation fall-back chip for whatever Arum is planning for Pacquaio’s next.

For my part, I’ll raise a Thanksgiving glass to Crawford’s outstanding 2014 and ask the Bobfather and all powers that be to give us more fights of Crawford’s ilk.

— Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank

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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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