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Northern California Regional Report

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San Jose, CA, junior lightweight Andy Vences began his night by striding across the ring straight to his opponent’s corner, standing inches from Cesar Valenzuela’s face, staring long and hard into Valenzuela’s dark eyes, mean-mugging, until the commission ordered Vences back to his corner for this breach of pre-fight protocol. Andy Vences ended his night by walking across the ring to the seated, vanquished Valenzuela and lightly kissed Valenzuela on the forehead with compassion and respect. In between those moments, Vences endured the test of his boxing life.

On Saturday night, January 24, 2015, in Brooks, CA, the usual suspects filled Club 88 at the Cache Creek Casino Resort for a night of Northern California professional boxing.

A majority of the ticket holders for this Don Chargin Productions and Paco Presents promoted show appeared to be family and friends of the fighters, along with a mix of boxing of boxing fans, the curious, and the foolish.

Middleweight Paul Mendez and featherweight Guy Robb were the featured fighters. Each boxer notched wins, building their records for the true challenges yet to come. But the fight that elevated the show, the fight that revealed the strength of character inherent in real competitive professional boxing, was Andy Vences against Cesar Valenzuela.

Cesar Valenzuela, 7(3)-4-1, of Phoenix, AZ, entered the ring in red trunks and around his head a red bandana, folded, pressed and creased old school cholo style. A tall, rangy, 5′ 10″, junior lightweight, Valenzuela has spent much of his career on the road fighting hometown prospects with winning records. Valenzuela has upset more of them than he has lost. For Valenzuela, there was nothing unfamiliar about these unfamiliar surroundings.

Andy Vences, 10(6)-0, was the house fighter. He sported red and white trunks and a pencil thin mustache. Vences, nationally ranked as an amateur, has spent his entire professional career in Northern California, defeating lesser boxers with his superior technique, speed, smarts and power.

From the opening bell both fighters were sharp. Valenzuela worked his long jab to the head and Vences his faster jab to the body. The crowd grew silent as fight crowds often do when quality is on display and the stakes unexpectedly raised.

In the second round, Valenzuela found a home for his right cross, set up by the long jab. By the third, Valenzuela was seeing everything that Vences was bringing. Vences, who does not use much side to side head movement, could not counter the longer Valenzuela and could not escape the long 1-2. Vences had to adjust or lose.

In the fourth, Valenzuela subtly walked Vences down, landing the cross repeatedly. A quick flicking double jab followed by a hard straight right cross landed flush and Andy Vences was hurt. Forced to hold Valenzuela tight like a drowning man to a life raft, Vences was in trouble. He could not survive many more right hands.

Andy Vences dreams to be the champion of the world. Why else enter this profession? Why give up the time with loved ones. Why give up the youthful nights out with friends. Why work two jobs taking odd shifts so you can pay for gas to and find time to drive hours away to your trainer’s gym. Why else commit to the sacrifice? The sacrifice demands the endless training, conditioning, sparring, honing of technique, the torturing of your body. Why else, but for the dream. Day after day, year after year, Vences makes the sacrifice. All this work necessary not to beat those who you should easily defeat, but necessary for those moments, those few seconds in the fight, that mean the difference between victory and defeat, those seconds that hold your dream in the balance, that make your career.

After the referee broke Vences from holding late in the fourth round, Vences drove Valenzuela to the corner and unloaded a pair of hard left hooks to Valenzuela’s body just at the bell. Vences was awakened. When Valenzuela threw the 1-2 in the fifth, the composed and reinvigorated Vences hopped back quickly just out of range and then sprung forward even quicker to deliver a tight, lightning fast counter left hook to Valenzuela’s chin, dropping Valenzuela hard to the ground under the ropes. Valenzuela beat the count, but was stopped shortly after at 2:17 of the fifth round. Vences dream can remain uncompromised, bright, true.

At 35 years of age and with 13 losses, Jose Silveira of Merida, Yucatan Mexico, has probably long abandoned any grandiose dreams he once held as a young boxer. Jose Silveira is a professional opponent. He is brought in to lose, but brought in to lose with a purpose. He is good at his job. He forces the young and the hungry to go rounds and solve a puzzle. He provides promotional matchmakers a measuring stick to assess a prospect’s ability. Fighting younger, faster, bigger, stronger professional boxers for half an hour at a time is not an easy way to make a living. Silveira takes his job seriously and brings a master craftsman’s attention to detail.

Jose Silveira in his fight with Sacramento featherweight Guy Robb, 15(8)-1 put on a seminar in cagey defensive boxing. The much smaller Silveira would move or pivot or side step away from punches at the last instance. When he couldn’t move away, he would slip and weave the punches. When he couldn’t slip or weave, he would block. When he couldn’t block, he would roll his head to take away the punches impact. Robb found great difficulty hitting him with any conventional combinations. Robb didn’t have much to fear from the light hitting Silveira, but he wasn’t able to open up and blast away in the style that has made Robb a local action hero. For whatever reason the referee stopped the fight in the seventh round. Robb got the TKO. Yes, Silveira was not trying to win, but he was not in danger and deserved the professional courtesy and respect of being allowed to finish the fight.

The main event ended quickly when middleweight opponent Ernesto Berropse tore his left bicep and had to retire at the end of the first round. Paul Mendez, 17(8)-2-2, had to be disappointed having spent a training camp for naught and leaving his many fans who spent their time and money to travel the almost four hours from Salinas, CA, wanting more.

Light heavyweight Ryan Bourland, 6(3)-0, of nearby Vacaville, worked over work-horse Loren Myers (9-21) and earned a four round unanimous decision. Bourland hit Myers with everything he had while Myers kept coming forward in slow motion. Myers thought he won despite eating over a hundred punches. Myers was the less tired to the two.

Junior lightweight Michael Gaxiolo, 3-0, defeated Adrian Rodriguez via four round unanimous decision. Each got paid to do something most amateurs do better, but the barrier to entry into professional boxing is low even if the inevitable cost is high.

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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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