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It was 18 years ago today…. Chris Eubank vs Joe Calzaghe

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On October 11th, 1997 32 year old former world champion Chris Eubank met fellow countryman Joe Calzaghe, then 25 years old, in a truly epic encounter, not just for British boxing but for the world pugilistic scene in general. The fight would be at the Sheffield Arena and the vacant WBO World Super Middleweight title was on the line.

After fighting his last fight in July of 1997, veteran champion Steve Collins of Ireland had retired and left the WBO World Super Middleweight Title without an owner. Collins had taken the belt from Eubank back in March of 1995, ending Eubanks reign at just over four years. Though Eubank lost a re-match with Collins in September of 1995, his career record stood at an outstanding (45-2-2) and if you include his time with the WBO Middleweight belt, Eubank had held a world title for roughly five years. Having held this particular belt for four years already, pedigree earned Eubank a shot at the WBO’s Super Middleweight belt.

While Eubank was nearing the end of his fine career, twenty five year old Joe Calzaghe (22-0), who held the British Super Middleweight title, was just getting started with his hall of fame career. Calzaghe had originally been slated to face Collins, who injured himself and retired just a few weeks before the fight in what was the up and comer Calzaghe’s first world title shot. Eubank, a proud and valiant warrior, stepped in for the fight on short notice. To give Calzaghe credit, that detail of a changed opponent should not be lost, as Collins and Eubank are very different fighters. But the now vacant world title was on the line, and Calzaghe was hungry for the recognition a world championship would bring him.

The live atmosphere in the Sheffield Arena was electric, with both men having a lot of crowd support. That same night, England’s football team had secured a place in the 1998 World Cup with a 0-0 tie in Rome over Italy which certainly added to the festive atmosphere. The support co-main event saw “Prince” Nazeem Hamed bring the whole show with a seventh round stoppage of Jose Badillo that would go down as the 8th defense of his WBO Featherweight title. For the Eubank-Calzaghe fight, Ahmed would sit ringside and take part in a constant dialogue with Eubank throughout the twelve rounds, as Eubank several times emphatically told him to “shut up” while he was fighting.

Michael Buffer did the introductions, and Joe Cortez was the referee. As the two men entered the ring, Eubank looked focused, his muscular body tense as he seemed to engage his gloves in a staredown. For his part, Calzaghe was not tense at all, rather he seemed loose and relaxed. In retrospect, Calzaghe already had that steel-eyed confidence he would show throughout his career.

The bell rang, and Eubank came out fast, determined to take it to Calzaghe. Less than 15 seconds into the fight, Eubank was sitting on the canvas. He appeared unhurt, but he was down and he was eying Calzaghe with a new measure of respect. It was a “good shot” as Eubank mouthed to Calzaghe while he took the count.

Eubank would ride out the storm in the opening rounds. He appeared determined to get inside and hammer Calzaghe, but the lithe Hammersmith born fighter appeared a step ahead in the fight throughout the early rounds. In the middle rounds however, Eubank still had a reserve of energy and when Calzaghe slowed down a bit, he found success with body shots. Eubank would attempt to rush Calzaghe like he did at the start of round 1 several times with some success in the middle rounds, as he was able to crowd Calzaghe and land inside.

After round seven, when Calzaghe’s punch output had dropped considerably and Eubank had launched many withering shots, Eubank slowly turned to the crowd and pumped his fists in the air. The crowd responded. Though battered, the aging champion still had some fight left in him. And Calzaghe, who had 21 KO victories in his 22 wins, had only been the distance once, in an eight rounder (to Eubank’s cousin Bobbie Joe Edwards). There were open questions about his stamina and his overall ability to manage a full twelve round fight.

But Calzaghe would answer the critics, stepping it up as the middle rounds became the late rounds. In the 10th round, Eubank was hit with a short shot as he came forward, forcing him to put his gloves to the mat momentarily. It was ruled a knockdown, and the ruling took more of the wind out of Eubank’s sails. Calzaghe showed a maturity in the ring he had not had a chance to show before as he closed out the fight strong. Eubank landed a hard shot that may have hurt Calzaghe just as the fight came to an end, but it certainly was a case of too little, too late. They embraced briefly, with Calzaghe disengaging as he looked to celebrate in his corner. Buffer announces the judges cards after the full twelve rounds, “Dave Parris scores the bout 118-109, Paul Thomas scores it 116 to 111 and Roy Francis scores it 118-111 for the winner, who is now WBO Middleweight Champion of the World, Joe Calzaghe!”.

After the win, Calzaghe would hold the WBO title for ten years, until he gave the belt back to move up a weight division. Calzaghe would fight twice more, and he would retire with an outstanding record of (46-0). In his last defense of the title, Calzaghe was 35 years old and facing the challenge of a 28 year-old bruiser from Germany named Mikkel Kessler, who was undefeated at 39-0. Just as Eubank had passed the mythical torch to Calzaghe when they fought, it looked as if Calzaghe was now in the position to lose his place to the younger Kessler. Instead, Calzaghe put on a dazzling fistic display that some call the most inspiring fight of his career. After that, he would move up to Light heavyweight and defeat Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. before calling it quits for good. He was inaugurated into the Canastota, New York International Boxing Hall of Fame with the Class of 2014. For Calzaghe in many ways his hall of fame run started 18 years ago today, when he defeated Chris Eubank.

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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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