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Donnie Nietes UD12 Francisco Rodriguez Jnr.

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Donnie “Snake” Nietes (out of Philippines, now 36-1-4) asserted his dominance as the world’s #1 108lb fighter today with a tactically brilliant if narrow defeat of ironman Francisco “Titanium” Rodriguez (out of Mexico, drops to 17-3-1) in Cebu, Philippines. Falling short of my pre-fight prediction of a fight of the year candidate, this was nevertheless an absorbing contest won by Nietes on the official cards by scores of 115-113, 119-109 and 118-110. The closest of these cards mirrored my own.

Despite seeing it closer than two of the officials I was impressed, once again, with the guile of the Snake. He reads a fight as well as anyone in boxing right now and he identified, early, what it was that he needed to do to triumph.

This was to keep Rodriguez off him. Having recognised Nietes as the puncher here, I suspected this would mean an aggressive approach from him from the first, but in fact Nietes, after testing the waters of the potential shoot-out in the second, preferred to bait and trap Rodriguez. This, he did, and with great success, allowing Rodriguez the box-seat for punches but always ready to bring over his right hand, so inevitable in its accuracy, and a super right uppercut to the body. This had a deeply discouraging effect on Rodriguez and his swarming fight-plan was soon compromised. Coming in low, he denied himself the left-hook to the body, a punch that has served him so well in the past and one to which Nietes has appeared vulnerable, in favour of sniping punches to the head, which were enough to keep the fight close but at no time saw him nose into the lead.

As to noses, Rodriguez very likely finished this fight with his broken. Nietes is underestimated as a puncher and although he is not a concussive knockout artist, his blows have a wearying affect, and did so even on the man they call Titanium. Rodriguez perhaps picked up the sixth round due to some excessive waiting on the part of Nietes, leaving the fight all square on my card, but it was clear that Nietes had assumed control, even if it was left to Rodriguez to decide when and how often they would squabble. Nietes dominated these squabbles in the seventh, eighth and ninth, making Rodriguez miss, landing every punch in the book from the left uppercut to the right hand to the body, and generally making the Mexican pensive about the surges that serve him so well.

They served them exquisitely well when he took on Katsunari Takayama last year in Mexico but Takayama had so little punching power, Rodriguez was able to just barrel through him and land his own blows. Here, Nietes forced him to hold which soon degraded into elbowing and pushing on the back of the head, infractions that drew repeated warnings but no deductions from notorious referee Russel Mora. Nietes, the very personification of cool in the ring, did not so much as blink but rather calmly returned to outmanoeuvring and out-thinking the by now reticent Rodriguez.

A Mexican still, he rallied in the tenth and eleventh, stealing these rounds from a tiring Nietes on aggression and persistence although his reluctance to pull the trigger in his swarming remained apparent. It was apparent, too, when Nietes, thirty-three years young, let it all hang out to dominate the twelfth and earn himself a unanimous rather than a split decision, that he was resting rather than fading in previous round.

For Rodriguez, it is time for a long hard look in the mirror. He is only twenty-one but he struggled desperately to make the 108lb limit, despite having won his straps at 105lbs. It is unlikely he will ever see that weight again and arguably he should abandon 108 also. Forcing a twenty-one year old body into a weight-class that has all but rejected him may not be wisdom, but equally it seems a career as an opponent – all be it a high class one – beckons in the deeper waters up at fly.

Still, Rodriguez is never in a bad fight. Whatever he does next I will be watching.

For Nietes, the domination continues. The one loss on his record, against Angky Angkotta all the way back in 2004 was a hideous decision and his streak since then is phenomenal. He will remain an underrated figure in the west, but in the corner of the world where they know him, the Snake remains poised.

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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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