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Shadow Box III

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The compelling worlds of film and boxing met once again at The Third Annual Shadow Box Film Festival, held December 5th and 6th in Manhattan.

Now in its third year as the world’s only all-boxing film festival, Shadow Box featured fifteen films that were shot or produced in seven different countries.

The School of Visual Arts Theater, in Chelsea, once again hosted the festival.

A surprise visit from former world heavyweight champion Larry Holmes added excitement to the screening of ‘Larry Holmes in the Arena,’ a documentary about the life and career of the under-appreciated champion.

Director Evan Gray told the inspiring story of Holmes’ climb from poverty to the heavyweight championship of the world.

Because he followed Muhamad Ali as champion, and did not possess a personality nearly as charismatic, Holmes’ skills and achievements were never given their just due.

The film also showed the treacherous waters Holmes had to navigate with promoter Don King to be paid fairly and commensurate with his stature as champion.

‘Hardy,’ a student film directed by Natasha Verma, focused on the life of Brooklyn’s Heather Hardy, a single mother raising a daughter while pursuing a professional boxing career.

Hardy was candid and revealing in recounting her life for the camera. A powerful scene unfolded as she described being raped as a young girl and how that experience shaped her view of people and the world around her.

The story followed her as she used three fights on a short-term deal to impress her promoter Lou DiBella, and secure a multi-fight contract. A romantic involvement with her trainer Devon Cormack adds a unique wrinkle to the film as Hardy strives to secure a better life and future for herself and her daughter.

The glory days of a New York boxing institution were beautifully depicted in Chris Cassidy’s ‘Sunnyside,’ a short film about the legendary Sunnyside Garden in Queens, New York.

Featuring commentary from some of the arena’s top fighters – Bobby Cassidy, Gerry Cooney, Vito Antuofermo, and Lenny Mangiapane, director Cassidy captures the ambience and excitement of New York’s last fight club.

The viewer can almost smell the cloud of cigar smoke that hung over the ring that served as a proving ground that could lead to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

Arena matchmaker Gene Moore, among others, provided colorful anecdotes about the fights, fighters, and boxing characters that made Sunnyside Garden such a historic venue.

Making its world premiere at the festival, Brin-Jonathan Butler’s ‘Split Decision’ was a timely look at the island nation of Cuba, Cuban boxers, and their complex relationship with the U.S.

Focusing on supremely gifted boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux, while tracing Cuba’s storied boxing lineage, the film followed Rigondeaux as he defected from Cuba to seek fame, fortune, and a better life in America.

Considered one of the best amateur boxer’s ever, as a professional Rigondeaux must contend with a new culture as well as an audience indifferent to his artistic ring style.

As Rigondeaux climbs the professional rankings on his way to a world title, Butler interspersed commentary from Cuban boxing stars who resisted the seduction of a life in America.

Heavyweight legend Teofilo Stevenson, still regal despite succumbing to alcoholism, is steadfast in his assertion that despite being offered millions to defect, remaining in Cuba was an easy decision for him.

Two-time gold medal winner Hector Vinent was removed from the Cuban national team for fear that he would defect. He describes the U.S. “like a girl who loves you but you don’t like her, you have to ignore her.”

With a home in Miami and a new fiancé, despite a wife and son back in Cuba, Rigondeaux has firmly embraced the life that America has offered him, even though a secure boxing career remains uncertain because of his “boring” boxing style.

Butler’s book, ‘A Cuban Boxers Journey: Guillermo Rigondeaux, from Castro’s Traitor to American Champion’ serves as an excellent companion piece to the film.

As the film ends the trainer of current Cuban star Cristian Martinez stated that he believes Rigondeaux has made the wrong choice in leaving his homeland. “Ten years from now Rigondeaux will not be champion, he will be forgotten in the U.S. and away from his family and people in Cuba. What will he have?”

Butler’s interesting film presents the complicated example of what it means to be an elite Cuban fighter faced with the choice to remain in Cuba or defect to America.

The short film field showcased many outstanding films, including: ‘Greatness: The Story of Floyd Patterson,’ which eloquently explores the life of the soft spoken, compassionate heavyweight champion.

‘Champion’ was the festival winner for best short film. It tells the touching story of a former Iraqi boxing champion who has settled in Chicago and feels blessed to earn his living as a cab driver and provide for his loving wife and family.

‘A Fighting Chance on Long Island,’ produced by Newsday’s multi-media department, illustrates the profound impact boxing can have on people from all walks of life.

Focusing on the Westbury Boxing Gym, the fighters and trainers there provide vivid personal reflections as to how boxing, in many cases, saved their lives.

Ireland was represented at the festival with three films.

‘A Fighting Heart: The Story of Johnny Kilbane,’ tells the rags to riches story of the longest reigning world boxing champion of all time.

Writer/director Andrew Gallimore profiled the colorful life of Jimmy McLarnin, darling of the depression era, in ‘Babyface Goes to Hollywood’.

Returning to the festival for the second consecutive year, Matthew Dobbyn’s short film ‘Babyface’ follows 19-year-old James Tennyson as he attempts to become the youngest Irish boxing champion in 65 years.

The John Garfield Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to outspoken promoter Lou DiBella for his many and varied contributions to boxing.

Fans of intriguing and passionate films should circle the first weekend of December on their calendars and look forward to the festival’s fourth year.

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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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