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Wilder Smartly Used His Tools, Out-Thought, Out-Fought Stiverne

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When a fighter is groomed and hyped to be the next sensation, but because of the way he was perhaps overly deliberate fashion which he was moved along and managed, it’s hard to get a true gauge on how good he really is.

This past weekend Deontay Wilder 33-0 (32) won a 12-round unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne 24-2-1 (21) to capture the WBC heavyweight title. During the run-up to the bout, many, including myself, questioned Wilder’s knockout record, stamina, boxing skills and ability to take a punch.

During the 58 rounds he fought as a pro prior to fighting Stiverne, it was impossible to say for certain exactly what Wilder brought to the ring as an upper-tier heavyweight contender. Sure, he scored some impressive knockouts, he showed glimpses of good form and movement, but his stamina and chin were still x-factors.

It’s easy to look great against journeymen and has-beens the way most prospects do on the way up. But an untested quality like Wilder cannot be assessed fairly until he has someone noteworthy in front of him, like a Bermane Stiverne. Now, after fighting a live world-class fighter for the first time, we can make our deductions of what we see in Wilder as a fighter with more impunity.

This past weekend Deontay Wilder took and passed his first test as a world-class professional heavyweight boxer. And he passed with relative ease. Wilder out-boxed and out-fought WBC title holder Bermane Stiverne in at least eight of the 12-rounds they fought, and it could’ve been nine if he didn’t choose to run out the clock in the 12th and final round. Wilder showed that he does possess some versatility and is a more competent boxer than I thought he was. He used his long left jab to nullify Stiverne’s pedestrian aggression and at the same time exhibited the ability to fight effectively in retreat. In fact, Wilder was much more proficient and effective on the move and going backwards than Stiverne was moving forward.

Other questions lingered over Wilder before the fight, such as those concerning his stamina, being that he never fought past the fourth round before the bout, along with his durability and ability to absorb a big shot and fight back. As to the first question, Wilder showed terrific stamina. Granted, the pressure that Stiverne was applying didn’t rekindle any memories of “Smokin” Joe Frazier, but he was moving towards him, despite it being in the manner of a rudderless ship. (And I can’t help thinking how Wilder benefited by having a fighter in front of him who had literally no clue as to how to fight as the effective attacker.)

In regards to Wilder’s chin, it passed its first test. Most everyone agreed before the fight that Stiverne was more than an adequate puncher with both hands. And Stiverne landed some of his best left hooks and right hands on Wilder’s chin. Yes, he moved Deontay but was never close to having him in trouble or going down that I saw. As of this time it looks as though Wilder’s chin won’t be the liability that some thought it could be before the fight. However, I sure wouldn’t be surprised if he lost by stoppage in the near future. His defense isn’t terrific and I doubt he’ll be standing long if someone like Wladimir Klitschko dings him a few times cleanly if they eventually fight.

As to the result of Wilder’s fight against Stiverne, I think his superior size and physicality played a major role as to the way the fight unfolded, and give Wilder credit for seizing on what was presented to him. And by that I mean, Stiverne did Wilder a huge favor by trying to bring the fight to him. Bermane must have figured that Wilder was just too long and tall to try and sit back and counter. Deontay’s reach would’ve enabled him to hit and pot shot Stiverne all night long from outside without being susceptible to being countered, simply because without moving his feet, there’s no way Stiverne could’ve reached him, at least not with anything consequential. Prior to the bout I stressed that Wilder’s reach would be more applicable to Stiverne’s surprisingly long arms. And that really forced Stiverne into fighting a style that isn’t him and one that he’s totally inept at executing, especially against a bigger opponent who he couldn’t man-handle or walk over.

Going into the fight no one foresaw Stiverne bringing the fight to Wilder, that’s not who Stiverne is. However, as we saw Bermane had to get inside to have a chance to unravel Wilder, but he just didn’t know how to do it, and that’s why he looked so ordinary. He slowly followed Wilder around the ring in a straight line, throwing no punches, eating frequent jabs and occasional rights.

By bringing the fight to Wilder it may have looked like he was pressuring Deontay, but in reality all he was doing was moving forward, and that’s not pressure. Pressure is supposed to disrupt the opponent, force him to rush his offense and make him do things he doesn’t want to do. Which Stiverne didn’t achieve. Actually, his lack of head movement and ineptness at cutting the ring off provided Wilder the ideal target to pot-shot and pick his spots against.

Wilder showed great composure and took what Stiverne gave him. He pot-shotted when it was the right thing to do, and then loaded up when he had the openings and Stiverne was backing straight up. Wilder boxed smartly and trainer Mark Breland did a great job preparing him from a strategic vantage-point. Wilder was a little better than I thought and Stiverne couldn’t do anything because of his compromised physicality and ineptness regarding effective pressure.

Wilder looked good passing his first test, but he’s a work in progress and has a way to go before he can compete with Wladimir Klitschko. On a night that he looked more like a poor man’s Lennox Lewis than he did a poor man’s George Foreman, his stock rose and he will stimulate interest in the heavyweight division when he next fights.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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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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