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The Return of Andre Ward

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In his first fight after a 19 month layoff, Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs) defeated Englishman, Paul Smith (35-5, 20 KOs), by a 9th round TKO. The WBA Super Middleweight champion’s first effort to reclaim not only his standing in the fight game, but his marketability as well could be described as a qualified success. “Qualified” because Smith was so clearly out of his league and could charitably be considered “not in the best shape.”

Fighting in a non-title bout at a catch weight of 172—which Smith missed by going over by 4.4 lbs. (a near epidemic in the sport right now)–Ward showcased many of the skills and adaptability that allowed him to win a gold medal in Athens, storm the Super 6 tournament, and take him near the top of the “pound for pound” rankings–albeit against an inferior opponent.

Onto the rounds…

Round One: Ward content to work the jab early. Rarely throwing much else. It looks like SOG could win the fight with that punch alone. There is real snap on it. Smith looks soft and slow. The extra weight does not look to be an advantage for the Brit.

Round Two: Ward moving forward now. Letting his right hand go more often than in the first. Ward lands a chopping right to the top of Smith’s head. To say Smith is not doing a lot is an understatement. Good uppercut by Ward. Ward lands a sharp right-left combo to Smith’s face. A face that is taking on a reddish hue already.

Round Three: Ward looking to pick up the pace. He appears to realize he can do most anything he wants against Smith. I’m a little surprised he isn’t going to Smith’s soft middle more, but then again the shots to the head can’t miss.

Round Four: Entering the round, Ward has landed 72 punches to Smith’s 10. It feels worse than that. Ward finally goes to the body with a sharp right to the side. Smith lands a left hand and Ward laughs. Not the “I’m hurt and I’m smiling it off” kind of laugh either. More like a “good for you!” kind of thing.

Round Five: Thudding straight right by Ward. You wonder if Smith is getting tired of this. Ward now finding the body more. This is target practice. It’s surprising when Ward misses. Smith lands a head butt at the end of the round. It’s easily his best moment of the fight.

Round Six: This is a supremely professional performance by Ward. That being said, you’d like to see him step on the gas and get Smith out of there. Smith has been TKO’d twice (Groves and DeGale). It’s there for Ward if he wants it. Ward’s jab seems to be attached to Smith’s head by a string and Ward can snap it whenever he wants. Smith looks very worn at the end of the round.

Round Seven: Every round since a fairly quiet first is almost exactly the same. Smith lands a decent right and Ward swallows it and returns to form. Call it a clinic, a mismatch, whatever. It’s all of that and more. Smith lands a solid left. This has been his best round by far. Not that it means much.

Round Eight: Smith has a cut over his left eye. His face is so red you can barely tell blood from skin. It’s worth mentioning that Smith has never looked out on his feet. He is getting hammered though. Excellent left uppercut by Ward backs Smith up. Sharp combo by Ward pushes Smith against the ropes. Some jawing at the end of the round between the fighters. For Smith, that may qualify as resistance.

Round Nine: Ward hurts Smith with a right to head. Smith is backing up constantly and is now bleeding from almost everywhere above the neck. Smith’s corner does him the favor of throwing in the towel.

Paul Smith was set up as the classic “opponent”—a distinction as generic as his name–for a top level fighter looking to knock off the ring rust and he played that role with aplomb. Nearly every time Smith has stepped up in competition (DeGale, Groves, Abraham X2), he has lost. That did not change tonight.

Therefore, it wasn’t just important to the Ward camp to win tonight, they needed their charge to look good doing it. While he certainly did, it’s still somewhat difficult to judge where Ward is. He looked to be in great shape, his hands were fast, and his tactics superior. Smith Never stood even the slightest of chances.

Ward’s protracted contract dispute with Dan Goosen put him on the shelf during what should have been the prime of his career. It’s hard to imagine how much money Ward has lost by sidelining himself. It took the death of Goosen and a settlement with his family to get the “SOG” back in the ring. Now fighting under the fledgling promotion of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, the 31 year-old fighter has a narrower window to recover his standing and set himself up for big money fights. That journey got off to a solid start tonight, but Ward will want to test himself against better competition before getting in the ring with Golovkin or taking a rematch with Froch.

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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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