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Larry Wilmore Takes on Boxing with Mike Tyson on the Nightly Show

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Thursday evening on the Nightly show, host Larry Wilmore was joined by long time boxing manager, Jackie Kallen, ESPN’s LZ Granderson, comedian Keith Robinson, and Mike Tyson to discuss the state of the fight game.

Wilmore’s intro had one of the better jokes of the night, when referencing the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, he said, “I haven’t been this excited about a fight since I was this excited about the fight they should have had five years ago.” Yeah, Larry. We know. We know.

After the opening, Wilmore then moved to his desk and covered the week’s current events before returning to the subject of Manny and Floyd and their press conference on Wednesday. After a pretty funny joke challenging whether this was the biggest fight to ever hit Vegas (he contended 2Pac and Biggie was more Biggie), he got to the crux of the night’s episode, what is the state of boxing? The host ran off a laundry list of the sport’s issues: corruption, lack of stars, apathy, and competition from MMA. Literally he was asking if the sport is dying in spite of the biggest fight ever on the horizon as well as the introduction of the new NBC Premier Boxing Champions series.

It’s a thorny question. Can it be true that the sport is in trouble while at the same time being on the verge of its biggest attraction ever and holding a major TV network deal? The concern over the health of the athletes was raised as well in regards to combat sports in general with the revelation that nearly 1/3 of all MMA fighters suffers a traumatic brain injury during a fight and 20% of all boxers will be diagnosed with the same over the long term.

After the break, the show returned with the panel of Kallen, Granderson, Robinson, and Tyson, to discuss these issues and more. Tyson took issue with Wilmore’s assertion boxing is “past its heyday” by pointing out that Mayweather is the highest paid athlete in the world which means people are spending their money “pretty freely” on a boxing match. Although the host’s suggestion that this fight is an aberration is one that even hardcore fight fans have probably considered.

Kallen, the former manager of James Toney and subject of the pretty awful boxing movie, Against The Ropes, supported Wilmore’s belief that the sport has changed and not for the better. Robinson then argued that MMA too often ends up being two guys hugging up against a fence. Actually, that’s not what he said at all, but this is a PG-13 web site, so I cleaned that up.

By far, Tyson provided the high points of the discussion. When the subject of Don King and corruption came up, he shared with saliency that opportunistic promoters are hardly anything new, saying that “boxing is the only sport in the history of the world where all the deals are not on the table.” On the subject of the often depressed financial state of those that take up boxing as a profession, Mike was typically blunt, referring to his brethren as “slum dwellers.” When Kallen tried to soften his statement for him, Tyson came back twice as hard, saying “I’m from hell. I was born in hell.” He continued, “Every time I won a fight, I do good, it’s one step out of hell.” Quite wisely, no one argued with him after that.

By far, the most enjoyable portion of the episode was “Keep It 100” with Wilmore holding up a series of cards with boxers faces on them and asking Tyson whether he thought he could take them or not. The photos included everyone from Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali to Jake LaMotta and Robert DeNiro as Jake Lamotta. Mike was confident he could take Rocky 1, but he had his doubts about Rocky 4.

I’m not sure anything was solved during the episode regarding the present or future of boxing, but it was good to see a program like the Nightly Show discuss the sport. While there are legitimate concerns about the current condition and future of boxing, there can be no denying that access and interest has grown of late. That’s definitely a good thing.

You can watch the entire episode at Comedy Central’s web site HERE.

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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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