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Saul “Neno” Rodriguez Blitzes Ivan Najera in Lightweight War in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS—With several potential future match-ups staring at him as he entered the ring, Saul “Neno” Rodriguez stepped into the ring to face dangerous Ivan Najera with all eyes on upon him.

Could he pass the test?

After less than one round Riverside’s Rodriguez blasted San Antonio’s Najera out before a boisterous crowd at the Chelsea in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Friday. Sitting in the front rows were potential future opponents Felix Verdejo and current junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford.

The fight lasted exactly 2:06 as Rodriguez quickly jumped on Najera with a left hook that ballooned the eye of the Texan immediately. They circled around each other cautiously, flicking punches and combinations and stepping out of each other’s danger zone.

Rodriguez fired a left jab and a right uppercut that connected, but not solidly. It was obvious he found a hole for his combinations. Najera gamely kept his composure ready for an opening. Instead, a Rodriguez right to the shoulder and left hook to the head snapped Najera’s head violently and down he went.

As Najera was getting his count from referee Kenny Bayless, Rodriguez stood calmly in the neutral corner as cool as an iceberg in Alaska. Sitting just below where Rodriguez was standing, was champion Crawford peering up at the lean Southern Californian slugger. It was as if he was sizing him up for someone to meet in the future.

“I knew he was hurt. His legs were shaky,” said Rodriguez. “I had to be careful though because he could still be dangerous. I had to pick him apart punch by punch.”

The fight resumed and Rodriguez flipped on the switch as he headed toward Najera with torpedoes locked and loaded for action. Rodriguez launched a four-punch combination and down went Najera again, for the final time. His once loud support cast fell silent. The referee waved the fight over.

In the audience was another baby-faced assassin, Verdejo, who earlier this year defeated Najera by decision. You wonder what went through his mind?

“I took pictures with him after the fight,” said Rodriguez, not showing any signs of anxiety about facing the Puerto Rican prospect who shares a similar record and similar power stats. “I really don’t think about the next fight. I let my manager think about those things. I just keep working on my craft; trying to get better every day.”

Nearby HBO television executives looked on. Could Rodriguez be the future?

“That’s good if they’re interested,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the next step. I just have to keep getting better. It’s easy when you spar with guys like Mikey Garcia and Brandon Rios. They make you better. You learn in the ring.”

Other bouts

Mexico’s Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (33-0, 24 Kos) defended the WBO International super middleweight title to win by unanimous decision over Netherland’s Gevorg Katchikian (from Armenia; 23-2, 11 Kos). Ramirez pounded his way to victory over Katchikian, who lost his tasted for combat after some punishing body shots in the fourth round. After that, he went into survival mode and tried to pot shot his way to victory. Ramirez pounded and pounded at Katchikian who took away the body shot but took himself out his own firing range. The judges scored it 100-90 twice and 99-91 for Ramirez.

Russia’s Konstantin Ponomarev (29-0, 13 Kos) won by majority decision over Mexico’s Ramses Agaton (17-3-3, 9 Kos) to remain undefeated. Just this week Agaton was approved by the Nevada Commission after the original opponent from Germany pulled out. The Mexican southpaw proved durable and crafty as he stayed competitive in every round of the welterweight match. But Ponomarev pressured Agaton against the ropes in almost every round and fired blows like a machine nonstop. Agaton had some moments by punching in-between the Russian’s constant punching especially in the seventh round. But Ponomarev’s durability and constant punching dictated the pace. One judge scored it a draw while the other two saw it 79-73 for Ponomarev.

Austin’s Casey Ramos (21-0, 5 Kos) used a constant body attack to keep Philippine Island’s Adones Aguelo from mounting any kind of serious attack. After eight rounds Ramos swept all three judge’s cards 80-72. There were no knockdowns.

Ukraine’s Oleksandr Gvozdyk (8-0, 4 Kos) blasted out Brazil’s Cleiton Conceicao (20-8-2) with body shots in the second round. A left to the body sent the Brazilian to the floor. He beat the count and was met with a right hand and down he went for good at 50 seconds of the second round. “Only the (Sergey) Krusher hits harder than me,” said Gvozdyk.

Southpaw speedster Toka Kahn Clary (17-0-1, 11 Kos) floored Mexico’s Sergio Lopez (18-11-1, 12 Kos) in the second round with a right hook. Though Lopez beat the count a left cross from Clary at the end of the round had Lopez on spaghetti legs. The corner very wisely stopped the fight at the end of round two. Rhode Island’s Clary wins the super featherweight fight by second round knockout. “I want to fight (Vasyl) Lomachenko next year,” said Clary.

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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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