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Only in America Steve Kim!!!!

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I had the chance to talk to HBO's boxing sage Larry Merchant on Thursday afternoon where I asked him if had recovered from being ringside calling the debacle that was the WBA heavyweight title fight between John Ruiz and Kirk Johnson. I was worried, you should never be that close to anything that toxic.

” Well,” said a chuckling Merchant.” All I can say is, it's a great country when guys like John Ruiz can make that much money.”

It's ironic, because Ruiz's promoter is none other than one Don King. And you know what King's catchphrase is: Only in America!!!! And while 'the Quiet Man' is probably the most maligned heavyweight since Primo Carnera, what Ruiz really is, is a testament to the abilities of King to move and promote a fighter. Whether it's by hook or by crook, you gotta give it to King, he's made millions for Ruiz- and I'm pretty sure a little bit for himself.

Ruiz, is a guy that you want to root for, there isn't a nicer guy in the sport. His lack of ego or pretension for a heavyweight titlist is startling. But then, he might have some self-esteem issues with how he's treated by the boxing world. And he may be deserving of some of the derision he receives. After all, it's hard to get too attached to a fighter who favorite combination is jab-right hand- clinch.

 Or one that seems to have a 'glass groin', not that punches down there shouldn't hurt, but geez, some of those supposed low blows against Evander Holyfield and Johnson seemed to be either legitimate body shots or punches that landed on his hip and upper thigh region.

But I give him credit, he survived 36 rounds against Holyfield ( ask Hasim Rahman if 'the Real Deal' is a dead man walking) and he defeated a highly touted challenger in Johnson that came in as a 3-1 favorite. No, it wasn't a performance that will be put into a time capsule, but it has to be mentioned that it was Johnson that had his cage rattled by a sharp counter-right from Ruiz that had him staggering off his feet twice at the end of round nine. Referee Joe Cortez, who had a terrible night in there, missed the two knockdowns, but Johnson would do a good job of knocking himself out just a round later with his fourth low blow. At the end of the day, he won. It ain't pretty, but as they say in baseball, even that blooper into left field looks like a line drive in the scorebook.

But the reality is that both fighters lost in terms of their stature this past weekend. Johnson, will have a hard time living this down. Especially after recieving a million dollar signing bonus from Duva Boxing.

Johnson was supposed to set himself up as a possible challenger to the recognized heavyweight champion of the world Lennox Lewis and take Duva Boxing, the fledging promotional outfit of Dino and Donna Duva, to the upper echelon. He was zero-for-two.

Ruiz, on the other hand, gets to keep his title and that's about it. There's a perception( and it's probably correct) that he wins fights by not raising the level of his performance but by bringing his opponents down to his level. Anyone remember the Pete Carril coached basketball teams at Princeton in the 90's? Playing with a group of actual student-athletes( from the Ivy League no less), Carril's teams played at a molasses like tempo of a long gone era of basketball. And with this style, his teams would frustrate and defeat more than one college basketball factory come tournament time. That's John Ruiz in a nutshell. Eventually, Princeton would run into a team that wouldn't succumb to their tempo and run them out of the tourney. Lewis, would be that guy for Ruiz, but his trainer Emanuel Steward made it clear that his man would have no use for a Ruiz fight. HBO, has stated that they would bring back Ruiz if he were to fight Lewis, David Tua and fellow Puerto Rican Fres Oquendo The bout with Tua would be the most intriguing in my view for several reasons. One, Tua KO'd Ruiz in 19 seconds in 1996. Secondly, Tua, if he should down Michael Moorer on August 17th, would have his second consecutive solid victory as he downed Fres Oquendo in March.  And lastly, Ruiz and his people have always stated their desire to gain revenge on the 'Tuaman'. If this doesn't induce an exciting fight from Ruiz, nothing will. As for the proposed matchup with Oquendo, something King would love to do since he promotes both heavyweights, a bout in San Juan between two Boricua's for a heavyweight title is a great storyline. But if you seen these two guys fight, you know that it's most likely a snoozer waiting to happen. But make no doubt about it, King has something up his sleeve- he always does.

You can bet he's already putting the full court press on HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg regarding a Ruiz-Oquendo promotion. Promising him a great event and more importantly, a high rating. But regardless, I gotta hand it to King, he's done more with less than any promoter in recent memory. Only in America. And yes Larry, this is quite a country. COMEBACK GRANT Michael Grant continues back on the comeback trail this Saturday against journeyman Robert Davis. After his quick KO loss last summer to Jameel McCline( which was his comeback bout after his devastating loss to Lewis), his trainer Teddy Atlas decided that the best way for Grant to begin his re-comeback was to fight low level opposition away from the glare of the television spotlight. Grant, racked up five wins, while going through some shaky moments, but then that's why Atlas didn't want him on the tube. Grant, was like a person who was involved in a horrific auto accident who would have to relearn how to walk all over again. At first the steps were shaky and hesitant but now he can at least take a short jaunt to the corner store and not fall on his face. Now, he takes a big step this weekend, but not in taking on Davis, who has been hand-picked by Grant's management, but by performing in front of a national audience which has vivid memories of the last two times they saw him. Atlas always speaks of being a professional. This Saturday night, Grant gets another test of what it is to be one.

POPO

Later that night on Showtime, WBA-WBO 130 pound champion Acelino ” ” Popo”  Freitas makes his return against Daniel Attah. The last we saw of 'Popo' he was downing Joel Casamoyer in a 12-rounder that was closely contested.
Attah, looks to be a decent foe, but what could be Freitas' most dangerous opponent could be his own complacency. Afterall, he was coming off a career-defining win, was welcomed back to Brazil( where he is a national hero, second only in the sporting world to it's national soccer team) with a hero's welcome, most likely spent some time celebrating his country victory in the World Cup and who knows what else. There's an old boxing proverb that states,” the most serious fights sometimes, are the one's you don't take seriously.” We'll see just how serious Freitas has been the past few months.

I TOLD YOU SO
I don't want to say,” I told ya so”, but I told ya so. Never trust a guy( in this case Kirk Johnson) who struggled twice with Al Cole and was hesitant against Larry Donald. Especially against a fighter who's been battle-tested against Holyfield. And never, ever trust him, if he just cashed a million dollar signing bonus beforehand.

A wise, old veteran trainer told me this week,” They say that a hungry dog will go across a crowded street with a thousand cars to eat. A dog with a full stomach wouldn't cross the sidewalk for a steak.” That in a nutshell, described the attitude in which Johnson seemed to fight against Ruiz.

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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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