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The Story of Roberto Duran Comes to the Big Screen in “Hands of Stone”

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“Hands of Stone,” starring Edgar Ramirez as Roberto Duran and Robert DeNiro as legendary trainer, Ray Arcel, is expected to open this winter in wide theatrical release.

Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz (best known for The Secuestro Express), the film is already completed for release by the Weinstein Company and will likely be positioned for major awards exposure.

The film is reported to be a wide encompassing view of the Panamanian great, with the bulk of the focus on the fighter’s relationship with Arcel. Of course, both of his classic bouts with Sugar Ray Leonard are expected to provide much of the drama in the feature. Leonard will be played by star of The Voice and longtime R&B hitmaker, Usher.

It will be interesting to see if the pop star is up to the role. He certainly will have no issue managing the fitness expectations.

Edgar Ramirez is not that well known to American audiences. His greatest exposure stateside has been in smaller parts, such as an assassin in “The Bourne Ultimatum,” or as the sidekick to Mickey Rourke in the little scene Keira Knightley bounty hunter flick, “Domino.” However, anyone who has seen him play the real life terrorist revolutionary, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez in 2010’s “Carlos” should be inspired by the casting. Ramirez has chops to spare and should have no trouble managing the physical demands of the part.

Obviously, DeNiro’s participation elevates the precedings. To see the former Raging Bull take to the corner in a picture about one of the all-time great fighters in boxing history should be a delight.

The film should offer a chance at renewed appreciation for the career of Duran. Except among the most hardcore of fans, you hear his name spoken with less frequency than one might expect for a man the Associated Press named the #1 Lightweight of the 20th century. Duran held titles in five different weight classes and finished the sport with a record of 103-16 with 79 knockouts. The total number of fights is staggering when you apply it to the current level of activity for top fighters.

Duran had won a remarkable 40 consecutive fights in a row in just under 7 ½ years when he took on the undefeated Sugar Ray Leonard for the Welterweight title in 1980. Leonard was favored, but Duran took a unanimous decision in the classic bout that became known as “The Brawl in Montreal.” Duran felt deeply disrespected going into the ring by Leonard and prognosticators as well as by the promoters who gave him only 1/5 of the purse that Leonard would receive.

While that victory made Duran’s name in the sport, their rematch just five months later diminished it in the infamous “no mas” bout, which ended with Duran walking away in the 8th round and awarding Leonard a TKO. Even after all these years, it remains one of the more baffling moments in all of sports. Duran was only slightly behind on the judge’s scorecards and not in any real trouble in the 8th. There were claims of stomach cramps by Duran, questions about his conditioning by others, and a statement by his manager, Carlos Eleta, that he was simply embarrassed. Regardless, the result remains an enigma to those who have viewed the fight.

Duran fought for another 20 years after that, becoming only the second boxer to fight in five different decades. He went on to win belts at light middleweight, middleweight, and super middleweight, but never quite regained the luster of his lightweight years leading up to his first two fights with Leonard. In most of his marquee match ups post Leonard 2, Duran fell short (Benitez, Hagler, Hearns, Leonard 3, Camacho).

Still, Duran had one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of the sport. The venerable Burt Sugar rated him as the 8th greatest fighter ever, and in 2002, The Ring slotted him as the 5th greatest fighter in the last 80 years.

A reevaluation of Duran’s place in boxing history is probably well-timed, if not overdue. Perhaps “Hands of Stone” will create just that discussion. Its subject is deserving of that much and more.

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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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