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Leo Santa Cruz Fighting on Stiverne-Wilder Undercard Jan. 17

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WBC SUPER BANTAMWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPION LEO SANTA CRUZ TO DEFEND AGAINST JESUS RUIZ; TALENTED AMIR IMAM RISKS UNDEFEATED RECORD AGAINST FIDEL MALDONADO JR. SATURDAY, JAN. 17, LIVE ON SHOWTIME®

FROM THE MGM GRAND GARDEN ARENA IN LAS VEGAS

In The Most Important Heavyweight World Title Fight in the U.S. in Years,

Lethal-Punching WBC Champion Bermane Stiverne Puts His Title on the Line
Versus Unbeaten No. 1 Mandatory Challenger, Deontay Wilder

In the Main Event of a SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING Tripleheader

Tickets on Sale Now!!!

LAS VEGAS (Jan. 2, 2015) – Crowd-pleasing WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion Leo “Terremoto” Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs) puts his title and unbeaten record on the line in a 12-round bout against Jesus “Estrella” Ruiz (33-5-5, 22 KOs). Plus promising world-ranked undefeated junior welterweight Amir “Young Master” Imam (15-0, 13 KOs) will face hard-hitting Fidel“The Atrisco Kid” Maldonado Jr. (19-2, 16 KOs) in a 10-round fight, promising an undercard full of action on Saturday, Jan. 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).

The Jan. 17 “Return To Glory” fight card co-promoted by Don King Productions and Golden Boy Promotions is highlighted by a heavy-duty main-event matchup that has stirred the interest of even the most casual sports fan — dangerous defending WBC Heavyweight World Champion Bermane “B. Ware” Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs), of Las Vegas by way of Haiti, against unbeaten mandatory challenger Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs) of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Tickets for the event are on sale and priced at $500, $350, $250, $125 and $50, not including applicable service charges and taxes. Tickets are limited to eight (8) per person with a limit of four (4) at the $50 price range. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Tickets also are available at www.mgmgrand.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

“2015 is going to be a huge year for boxing and Golden Boy’s opening act in Las Vegas will get things started with a bang,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Founder and President of Golden Boy Promotions.

“In addition to Deontay Wilder looking to bring a heavyweight title back to America for the first time in a decade, longtime favorite Leo Santa Cruz and rising star Fidel Maldonado Jr. — electric fighters with significant power — will both appear in separate fights on the undercard, giving boxing fans a chance to see three top stars in action on a single card.”

All-action and two-division world champion Santa Cruz, of Los Angeles, Calif., will be making his fourth defense of the 122-pound title he won with a third-round knockout over Victor “Vikingo” Terrazas (37-3-1, 21 KOs) on Aug. 24, 2013. Santa Cruz, 26, is coming off of a second-round technical knockout over Manuel “Suavecito” Roman (17-3-3, 17 KOs) on Sept. 13 at MGM Grand.

Before stepping up a notch in weight, Santa Cruz was the IBF Bantamweight World Champion, winning that belt in June 2012 and making three defenses. An excellent body puncher who is at his best when he keeps up a relentless pace, pressures his opponents and wears them down, Santa Cruz is 7-0 with three knockouts in world title fights.

Santa Cruz, who’s as personable and courteous outside the ring as he is ferocious and determined inside, said, “I feel great about my upcoming fight with Ruiz. He is a strong fighter, undefeated in the past two years and the kind of opponent I want to fight.”

“I want to put on a great show on Jan. 17,” Santa Cruz continued. “And show boxing fans that I am a strong fighter ready to go to the next level and take on the top, tough fighters in the division: Guillermo Rigondeaux, Scott Quigg, Carl Frampton and Abner Mares.”

Jesus Ruiz of, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, retired his amateur status at the tender age of 16. He has won five in a row, including a clear 10-round decision in perhaps a career-best performance over Leonilo “Veneno” Miranda (36-7, 33 KOs) in his most recent start on Nov. 7, 2014.

A professional since November of 2006, the 25-year-old Ruiz will be getting the opportunity of a lifetime in just his third start in the United States (and third outside of Mexico). He won a lopsided eight-round decision over Enrique “Cuate” Quevedo (16-7-1, 10 KOs) on Aug. 24, 2013, in Cabazon, Calif., after losing his U.S. debut on an upset split decision in Tucson, Ariz., in July of 2008.

“I want thank Golden Boy Promotions and SHOWTIME for this great opportunity to fight for the world title,” said Ruiz. “I know many believe I have no chance, but I am well prepared and ready to give my all. I am ready for war and ready to leave it all in the ring like a true Mexican warrior.”

Like the heavyweights in the main event, Albany, New York native, Amir Imam (pronounced “EE-mom”) and Fidel Maldonado Jr., of Albuquerque, New Mexico, are not accustomed to putting in a full night’s work. Between them they have gone the distance only six times in a combined 37 fights.

“Amir Imam is a great kid and a very exciting fighter, and this is going to be a very exciting fight,” said Hall of Fame promoter Don King. “I think Amir is going to be the next Tito Trinidad. He can both box and punch and he is going to be a bad man. I want a title for Amir and this fight with Maldonado is en route to that.”

“This is by far the biggest fight of my career and I’ve got to show the world what I’ve got,” Imam said. “I know that Maldonado is a southpaw and he comes forward and throws a lot of punches. I plan on boxing the kid for 10 rounds, but if the opportunity for a KO comes then I will go get it. I’m not letting anyone take this opportunity away from me. I have worked too hard for it.”

“Maldonado had a great amateur background, he’s very smart and he’s a very good fighter. It’s going to be a great fight,” said Imam’s head trainer Stacey McKinley. “Maldonado’s fought a better class of fighters than Amir but never fought a fighter like Amir and most have not. He’s not strong enough for Amir and Amir will walk straight through him. Amir will be Don King’s next superstar.”

Imam, an amateur standout and silver medalist at the 2011 U.S. Olympic Trials, “doesn’t get paid for overtime” in the professional ranks as 11 of his fights ended in rounds one or two.

The 24-year-old has steadily improved as his professional career has progressed and is 2-0 on ShoBox: The NewGeneration. In what was expected to be his toughest test, Imam knocked out Jeremy “Hollywood” Bryan (17-5, 7 KOs) in the second round of his ShoBox debut on April 12, 2013.

Since the Bryan blowout, Imam’s taken a big step up in competition, most notably in his last three fights, beginning with a fourth-round stoppage of then-undefeated Jared “The Quiet Storm” Robinson (14-0) on Feb. 21, 2014, in Cleveland on ShoBox; the following May 10 on a unanimous eight-round decision over Yordenis Ugas (15-3, 7 KOs) (it was Imam’s first fight to go the distance since his pro debut in November 2011); and most recently, last Dec. 13 when he stopped Santos “El Toro” Benavides (23-6-2, 17 KOs) in the sixth round.

Maldonado Jr., 23, is a tough, hard-nosed, aggressive-minded left-hander who’d won six straight, five by knockout, before his last outing ended in a third round no contest against Fernando “Picapiedra” Silva on Dec. 20, 2014, in Cancun, Mexico.

“I have been training hard since my last fight against Fernando Silva, and have had no time off,” said Maldonado Jr. “I am ready to get the job done, and I hope he is ready. My goal is to show fans that I can put on a great show, step up the competition and get ready for a title match one fight at a time.”

The NC stopped some of the momentum Maldonado Jr. had regained in the previous 18 months, since suffering his second pro loss on a disputed 10-round split decision to fellow prospect Michael “The Artist” Perez (21-1-2, 10 KOs) on Aug. 24, 2012, on ShoBox in Indio, Calif. Maldonado Jr. was out-boxed and clearly behind on points early but rallied to floor and hurt Perez badly with the last punch of the hotly contested fight in which Maldonado Jr. felt he was robbed.

***

SHOWTIME Sports® will present ALL ACCESS: STIVERNE VS. WILDER on Friday, Jan. 9 at 10:45 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME.

Stiverne vs. Wilder, a 12-round world championship bout for Stiverne’s WBC Heavyweight World Title, is co-promoted by Don King Productions and Golden Boy Promotions. Unbeaten WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion Leo Santa Cruz defends against Jesus Ruiz and undefeated junior welterweight Amir Imam meets Fidel Maldonado Jr. in the co-featured bouts. The event will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., and will air live on SHOWTIME (10:00 p.m. ET/ 7:00 p.m. PT). The telecast will also be available in Spanish via secondary audio programming (SAP). Preliminary bouts will be televised live on SHOWTIME EXTREME (8 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).

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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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