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GARCIA PROVED YOU CAN JAB WITH A JABBER

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Paulie Malignaggi generally subscribes to the age-old boxing principles that it never pays to hook with a hooker or jab with a jabber. As a power-deficient technician whose own seldom-employed hook won’t ever remind anyone of Gerry Cooney, who was at ringside, or the late Joe Frazier, Malignaggi figured his best chance of upsetting 6-to-1 favorite Danny Garcia here Saturday night at the Barclays Center was to outjab the former WBC/WBA super lightweight champion, who was making his debut as a full-fledged welterweight.

It was a sound fight plan, at least on paper, except for one thing: Garcia’s jab was harder and better than Malignaggi had anticipated, and so was the Philadelphian’s patient, controlled strategy. It all led to Garcia (31-0, 18 KOs) systemically breaking down Malignaggi (33-7, 7 KOs) en route to a ninth-round technical knockout victory in the scheduled 12-round main event of the “Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN” telecast.

The outcome had pretty much been decided on the official scorecards (798-73 twice, 78-74 on the other) when Garcia landed a ripping overhand right to Malignaggi’s left ear in the ninth round, scrambling the battered Brooklyn native’s equilibrium and prompting referee Arthur Mercante Jr. to step in and wave the proceedings to a halt at the 2-minute, 22-second mark. It was a proper call; at the time of the stoppage, the “Magic Man’s” face was lumped and reddened to a fare-thee-well, and his likelihood of winning on a late knockout shot, given his negligible power, was about as long as winning the PowerBall and MegaMillions lotteries on the same day.

“I wasn’t going to give in, but little by little he broke me down,” Malignaggi, a former super lightweight and welterweight champion who was one of boxing’s biggest overachievers and is now likely to retire, said of the rising, choppy waters he was trying to navigate with little success.

Although Malignaggi’s supporters – that would seem to be the majority of the 7,237 spectators, although Garcia (five appearances) actually has fought more in the Barclays Center than homeboy Malignaggi (four) – screamed their disapproval at Mercante for what they believed was a too-quick termination of the bout, the 34-year-old object of their affection agreed that it was the proper call.

“At first I was mad about the stoppage, but in hindsight, it was fine,” Malignaggi said. “I’m not the 25-year-old kid who fought (future Hall of Famer Miguel) Cotto anymore.

“I went from being a championship fighter at one time in my career to just being a pesky guy it’s hard to look good against. I feel like I can still compete, but against this level of fighter I came up short, you know? So it’s a tough decision to keep going.”

Garcia, 27, doesn’t have nearly as many pothole-hazard on his boxing odometer as Malignaggi, but there are those who wondered if he had lost some pep in his step since maybe the most impressive performance of his career, when, as an underdog, he schooled Argentine power-puncher Lucas Matthysse in winning a clear-cut unanimous decision on Sept. 14, 2013. But the strain on his body of trying to continue paring down to the super lightweight limit of 140 pounds sapped his strength and energy, and, after a desultory and disputed majority decision over Mauricio Herrera in his father-trainer Angel’s homeland of Puerto Rico, his last title defense, he lost some career momentum in blowing away no-chance longshot Rod Salka in two rounds in a non-title affair and winning a disputed majority decision over fellow super lightweight champ Lamont Peterson in a catch weight bout.

“Man, I feel great,” said Garcia, who in his official welterweight debut came in a tick below the 147-pound welter limit at 146.6 pounds. “We went hard in this training camp for eight weeks straight. I never felt weak. We were able to cut off the ring, use the jab. We were able to execute everything we4 worked on. Chased some chickens (remember that scene from “Rocky II”?). Everything just came to life today.” There are those who will say that Garcia didn’t make an exclamation-point kind of statement against Malignaggi, who lost for the third time in his last four bouts and was stopped in four rounds by then-IBF welterweight champ Shawn Porter in his most recent bout, which was 16 long months ago. And while all that is true, to some extent, neither did Garcia make the mistake of thinking he could just walk through a crafty veteran who has had a history of making other very good fighters look bad at times.

Malignaggi was to have taken a tuneup bout against a lesser opponent in Danny O’Connor (26-2, 10 KOs) on May 29, but that fight fell through when Malignaggi suffered a cut eye in training. With the alternative of returning full-time to his job as a highly regarded color analyst for Showtime (he was voted the winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Sam Taub Award, for excellence in broadcast journalism for 2013), Malignaggi might have decided to retire then. But when the opportunity of testing his hand against someone of Garcia’s caliber suddenly presented itself, the old itch returned.

Now that itch has been scratched, apparently for the final time.

“I’m gung-ho,” Malignaggi explained. “I go from zero to 100, you know? I didn’t just come back for a tuneup. I had a tuneup scheduled for May, a decent fighter in Danny O’Connor. But I just wanted to jump back in the big mix. In hindsight, maybe taking on a lesser fighter would have been good. Maybe taking on Danny Garcia after 16 months wasn’t so smart. But you know what? I don’t regret it, man. I was happy to share the ring with a great fighter. I’ve shared the ring with many great fighters in my career. I didn’t take any shortcuts, that’s for sure.”

Malignaggi had hoped to get under Garcia’s skin, like a nagging rash, with the sort of trash talk that he speaks as fluently as, say, a Bernard Hopkins or Floyd Mayweather Jr. He had boldly predicted that “No one from Philly is going to come into my house and school me.”

But Garcia didn’t take the verbal bait. Angel had instructed him to stay with the program, and, in time, Danny’s advantages in youth, power and talent would begin to pay dividends.

“I knew Paulie was going to use his jab and try to throw off my rhythm,” the younger Garcia said. “I’m pretty sure he watched tapes of some of my other fights against guys that had a little bit of success. But we prepared perfect for this. We prepared to stay calm and not get desperate … to, you know, just break him down.”

Garcia was already controlling the action, but even more so in the middle rounds when he began jabbing, accurately and with snap, to Malignaggi’s left shoulder and chest. That disrupted the timing of Malignaggi’s jab, forcing him to take small backward half-steps and recalibrate when he had hoped to counter Garcia’s jab with quick overhand rights.

“I still have an annoying style, but Danny made little adjustments in there,” Malignaggi said. “I was trying to win the jab war. It was going back-and-forth. I felt that Danny had a slight advantage in the rounds, but I couldn’t gain complete control. I had my moments. I was grasping at it, but then he’d take it back. It’s a testament to his character.

“His hard jabs to my chest and shoulder rocked back my momentum. His jab was real heavy. It gave him command of the pace of the fight.”

And the jab wasn’t the only weapon in Garcia’s arsenal that packed some pop.

“I’m not going to tell you he’s the hardest puncher I ever fought, but he carried his power well,” Malignaggi said. “Danny’s got some solid strength, some solid power. He’s one of the better punchers.

“Danny Garcia is a good fighter. I think he’s going to move on to good things. This is the kind of fight that will make him better. He was forced to think in there, to make some adjustments. I’m a pesky guy. I’m a But he stayed calm and he didn’t show frustration. I just want to give him his props.”

For Malignaggi – a singles hitter in a home-run sport whose brash manner and antics – who can forget when he began to lose his hair extensions in a close 2008 points nod over Lovemore N’Dou? — the next step is to continue to improve his already celebrated commentating skills. Garcia has plenty of options in a deep welterweight division, but both he and former IBF welterweight champ Shawn Porter (26-1-1, 16 KOs) are part of adviser/manager Al Haymon’s even deeper stable, and Porter was on hand to “scout” Garcia as well as to call him out. For his part, Garcia had previously stated that Porter was “tailor-made” for him.

“If Al Haymon wants Danny Garcia-Shawn Porter, we can do it,” Garcia.

Said Porter: “We heard from the grapevine I’m tailor-made for Danny Garcia. Words from his mouth. I want to answer those words.”

In the co-featured bout, WBA middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs (30-1, 27 KOs), who traded knockdowns with Sergio Mora (28-4-2, 9 KOs) in the action-crammed first round, scored a second-round TKO when he again floored Mora in the second roud, causing Mora’s right leg to twist grotesquely under him. Although Mora beat the count, he immediately knew that he had sustained a severely sprained if not broken right ankle, at the least, and possible damage to his knee. He informed referee Gary Rosato that he was not able to continue, which seemed the proper call. After Mora was examined by ring physicians, he was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for an MRI to determine the extent of his injuries.

“He took the only way out that was available to him,” said Jacobs. “I really wanted to stop him,” Jacobs said of the hobbled Mora. “I didn’t want him to quit on his stool. I wanted to beat him on my own. But I think he knew the outcome would have been the same a few rounds later, anyway.”

Of course. Mora clearly had resorted to the old use-a-broken-or-sprained-foot excuse.

What Jacobs would like is an all-Brooklyn showdown with Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (31-0-1, 22 KOs), a good friend. But it’s pro boxing, and sometimes friendship needs to be put aside when a dollar can be made.

“I’ll leave it to my manager, Al Haymon, and see what he says,” Jacobs said when asked what was next for him. “I think Brooklynites deserve something special and I think me and `Kid Chocolate’ would be that special fight here at Barclays.”

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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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