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Imagine That, Just Good Fights

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After a relatively slow month of October, the game of boxing has a November that could be one to remember. This past weekend, the world's best featherweight (and one of the best fighters in the world period), Marco Antonio Barrera put on a classy display of boxing against the still-respected Johnny Tapia.

Then, this upcoming weekend we see an interesting clash between two former jr. welterweight titlists who are still considered to be among the division's elite when Vince Phillips takes on Sharmba Mitchell. A week later, we have a featherweight title bout between Erik Morales and Paulie Ayala that should be an entertaining affair.

And then finally, we have the rematch of the pulsating blood-and-guts, back-and-forth war that was Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti.

And what's the one common thread of all these fights? Yes, they were or still are fights that every boxing fan should look forward to, but that's not what I'm talking about. Do you notice something about these matchups? Give up? Well, do you see any of the sanctioning bodies mentioned here? No. And it's not because I'm on a Max Kellerman-like crusade/rant to discredit these organizations- they can do that for themselves, thank you- but because these fights don't have any sanctioning bodies involved: period.

Imagine that, making good fights for the sake of good fights? I can't believe it, but that's what I'm seeing here. Perhaps it's a trend, most likely it's not; but it proves a few points here.

First, all these fights are being made possible with the licensing fee's of HBO or Showtime. Which means that if those two cable giants want to push for a fight- they can get it done. Except of course when it comes to Roy Jones and HBO, but that's for another column. It shows just how influential and powerful these networks really are in the current marketplace of boxing. They are not just broadcasters, but they're promoters to a large degree.

Think about it, aren't they the ones that approved the matchups to go on their airwaves and most importantly, supplied the money to make these fights a reality? They even play a large part in choosing the dates of the fights. Awfully similar to a promoter, isn't it?

Secondly, it shows that boxing fans want good, competitive matchups. After all, how many fans can tell you all four major titlists at featherweight? Probably not that many- but for the record, that would be Scott Harrison of the WBO, Derrik Gainer of the WBA and the WBC and IBF are currently vacated- but ask them who the top dog is at 126 pounds, the consensus would be Barrera.

Do you think the fact that the first Ward-Gatti war was just a regular 10-rounder with no title at stake took away from the action in the ring? I don't think so. And the ironic thing is that the first fight took place on the same night that Kostya Tszyu, who is currently the undisputed jr. welterweight champion, defended his belt successfully with an easy 12-round decision over Ben Tackie. Now, which fight is the one you remember? All the belts at the Gap, couldn't get your mind off of what happened between Ward and Gatti.

Third, the networks can spur change. Now, this goes back to my first point; the networks played a role in these fights happening and in the case of Barrera, who has ditched the WBO and WBC hardware, HBO has basically sponsored his quest to go title-less but with the recognition of being the divisions champ.

But unfortunately, only a handful of the game's premiere fighters fall under this umbrella. Unless you have a long term network deal with an HBO or Showtime, the title is oftentimes the only leverage you have in negotiating or making fights. Lennox Lewis has been able to juggle belts because he knows that as long as he wins, he will be considered the champion of the heavyweight division until he loses. But Winky Wright, on the flip-side, at jr. middleweight doesn't. And it's not only because Oscar De La Hoya could make that claim, but it's because even with his IBF title, it will be hard to entice 'the Golden Boy' to ever get in the ring with Wright, a crafty and tricky southpaw. And if he drops his belt, well, good luck to Winky in getting consistent work since he's a managers worse nightmare.

And this points out the double-talk of HBO, who at times is the Hypocritical Boxing Organization. Think about it, on one end they always make a point to mention that they don't recognize these 'spurious' belts. Well, they sure have been doing a lot of these bogus mis-mandatories of these organizations for Roy Jones the past few years haven't they? Also, countless people in the industry including promoters, managers and others in the know, tell me all the time that HBO in their contracts will demand that a 'title' fight be included on their undercard.

And yes, they do recognize titles when they have to. Why else would they televise the fight between John Ruiz and Kirk Johnson for the WBA heavyweight title? Think about it, just about everyone is in unanimous agreement that we have one heavyweight champion, the aforementioned Lewis, right? And wasn't Ruiz the same guy that they have been on a smear campaign against the past few years? And now, suddenly, when they sense an opportunity to make a Lewis-Johnson unification match in Toronto, Canada, they want to recognize the WBA? Huh?

To go further, why did they telecast the third bout with Evander Holyfield? It couldn't have been because it was a good matchup- the first two weren't exactly Foreman-Lyle if you know what I mean. And now get this, they are attempting to prop up the very same Ruiz to one Roy Jones and billing it as some historic event where a middleweight attempts to win a heavyweight title.

A heavyweight title (when it's convenient) that they say that they don't recognize with the same fighter they have done everything to discredit. Just how historic is that?

But hey, at least we have some good fights in the upcoming weeks.
RANKINGS

Gary Shaw, who is promoting the fight between Phillips and Mitchell, announced on a conference call last week that he would be asking the IBF to make this fight an eliminator for the top ranking in the IBF. Therefore setting up a chance for either fighter to get another crack at Kostya Tszyu. Currently, the number one and two spots are listed as vacant and the three and four guys (Ward and Gatti) are fighting each other on the 23rd of this month but haven't asked for any special consideration for their fight. Phillips and Mitchell, currently are not ranked by the IBF.

A source within the organization tells me that Shaw's request will be turned down because of the timing of it( simply too close to the fight) and the fact that neither guy is currently rated.

But Shaw does make a compelling argument on the fighters behalf.

” Basically, one guy beat Kostya Tszyu( Phillips knocked him out in 1997) and the other guy( Mitchell) was even on the cards before he suffered an injury that had nothing to do with boxing. And these are two guys that are willing to fight one another and then be willing to fight Tszyu. I'm not sure Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti want to fight for the title.”

Shaw has a point, both the camps of Ward and Gatti were offered approximately the same amount to face Tszyu but opted instead for the rematch with each other for about the same amount. You can even assume that if Gatti wins the rematch, that a rubber match is the most attractive option for both men and not a shot at the undisputed crown.

Phillips adds this,” I beat Tszyu to take the IBF championship from him. Second of all, I beat Micky Ward, I gave Ward the first opportunity for a world title shot, correct? Terron Millett, who I lost the title to- Sharmba beat him. So the IBF has to recognize this to that extent because we've beaten the people that they're putting in their rankings and just ignoring us.

” So that should put us in the mix. I'm a former IBF champion, I beat the number three contender. I beat their former world champion, who's a champion again, which is Kostya Tszyu.”

I give them this, they do make a decent argument.

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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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