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TitleShot : Boxing documentary film to get out of the vault

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For 20 years the film negative of this remarkable documentary TitleShot – probably the last to be shot entirely on 16mm film– has been in cold storage. Life and circumstances had interrupted its completion, and other award-winning documentaries were made in the meantime. Now a Kickstarter campaign is launched by filmmaker Gaylen Ross to finally finish this film.

The good news is that the lapse of two decades has allowed for a unique time capsule: a window into a boxing era now gone. Much of TitleShot was filmed at New York’s world-famous Gleason’s Gym during a very exciting era when the place was filled with World Champions and contenders. TitleShot shows what really happens to a professional fighter through the rise and fall of professional junior middleweight Ugandan boxer Godfrey Nyakana. From training at Gleason’s to fighting at the Great Western Forum of Los Angeles, TitleShot captures the uniquely exquisite blow-by-blow action of professional boxing through Nyakana’s title quest.

Careers have risen and fallen (and some to return again) since TitleShot’s filming in the late 90’s. Godfrey is seen sparring with then up-and-coming Shane Mosely (as Shane’s father/trainer looks on) or getting pre-fight bedroom advice from legendary featherweight Kevin Kelley and his wife. Included are some of boxing’s greats, like trainer Bob Jackson, former middleweight contender turned trainer, “Irish” Bobby Cassidy, and a few no longer with us — legendary cut man Al Gavin, Muhammad Ali’s trainer Angelo Dundee, and promoter Cedric Kushner. These old-school trainers and cornermen are the last of a breed and represent the glory days of boxing.

Equally we see how much has gotten worse for the middle class fighter since then. For those in the film like Kelley or Mosley, and Godfrey, boxing in the 1990s offered the possibility to survive until a real payday came along. Today the distance between the elite fighter and the emerging contender is probably greater than its ever been. Gleason’s gym is still filled with fighters, the dreams are still there. But the brass ring is ever further away.

Through the extraordinary verite cinematography of Bob Richman, (Metallica, The September Issue, Paradise Lost,) TitleShot offers some of the best in the ring fight action and emotional intensity of great fight films. The film travels with Godfrey from match to match – the preludes, the fights themselves and their climatic outcome. A former Commonwealth games gold-medal winner, Godfrey travels 3 hours on the subway each day from a tiny basement apartment in the East Bronx to Gleason’s. For Godfrey this is not just a fight for a title but for his life — manager, trainer, big money backers, wrapped up in the American dream.

All the while we meet other struggling boxers who are on their own way up or down, including a Detroit heavy weight who meets up with Godfrey, as both find common ground as they travel through South Central Los Angeles. Tough battles lead to the stunning pain that accompanies a knockout loss, or the exhilaration of a win as this roller coaster ride careens from locker rooms to midnight strategy meetings with trainer and manager. The film stays with Godfrey and his team, as they groom him, train him, celebrate with him or pull him back from defeat until that final title shot. The title is a dream not only for Godfrey, but also for his trainer Bobby Cassidy, who confronts his own lost chances as a boxer, while pursuing the championships for his fighters.

The film will update where the fighters are now: Godfrey Nyakana has returned to Uganda and is now mayor of a district of its capital, Kampala, or fighters like Kevin Kelley, and Shane Mosely currently training his own son, while planning a comeback in the ring.

Director Gaylen Ross

Producers Gaylen Ross, Andrew Ford

Consultants: Bruce Silverglade, owner Gleason’s Gym

and Robert Cassidy, sports journalist

Photo courtesy Chris Cassidy

Kickstarter Campaign for TitleShot is http://kck.st/1gmNCH5 And on Facebook TitleShot

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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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