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Tokunbo Olajide’s Surprise

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Tokunbo Olajide

It looked so perfect for middleweight prospect Tokunbo Olajide.

Olajide, the younger brother of Michael ‘the Silk’ Olajide’, a middleweight contender of the late 80’s, was on the fast track to boxing utopia.

He had ‘the look’ that managers and promoters all look for. Also, he had the bloodlines that can turn into ‘feel good’ stories that the media just eats up.

The younger Olajide is also an affable and intelligent young man with interests outside of boxing. And to top it off, he was born and bred in the media capital of the world- New York. Olajide had it all. And he was on the verge of breaking out from being just a mere contender to being a legitimate world class contender who would eventually ascend to being a world champion.

But a funny thing happened on his way to super stardom: he would get knocked out on national TV by an unknown Colombian Epifanio Mendoza in one round.

With a left hook-right hand combination, Olajide is now on the fast track for becoming the next Shannon Briggs, much less ‘Silk’ Olajide, who at least was undefeated prior to his championship challenge of IBF middleweight titlist Frank Tate.

And more than just an unblemished mark was wiped out with this stunner. Out the window goes scheduled meetings with all the major promoters that were scheduled for the next few days and weeks as Olajide had just broken away from Cedric Kushner and was a free agent. And believe me, all the familiar names were hot on his trail. Also, HBO had shown plenty of interest in showcasing Olajide in early 2003 on it’s ‘Boxing After Dark’ series. With one ill-advised fight, he goes from prospect to suspect. And yes, it was an ill-advised fight in every respect. The Olajide decision makers failed to adhere every rule of Boxing 101. This bout was televised live on ESPN2 on Sunday afternoon. So yes, the exposure would have been great, except, just how much exposure could they have gotten going up against a cadre of NFL games? Also, this event took place at the Regent Wall Street Hotel in New York City- not exactly the Madison Square Garden. But the real snafu came when the original opponent dropped out and Mendoza was accepted as an opponent. Not much was known about this Colombian except that he was 15-0 with 15 knockouts. Yes, you read the correctly, 15 up, 15 down. And he was much bigger physically than Olajide. Of course, they didn’t find out till it was too late because Olajide’s people didn’t deem it necessary to get a tape on this unknown. Yeah, we could be doing some ‘Monday Morning Quartebacking’ but as one veteran matchmaker told me,” Listen, when you get a guy from Colombia with that kind of record, he can either fight a whole lot or he can’t fight at all and he’s built up. Now, if he has 15 straight knockouts, you stay away from him. But if he only has five or six knockouts, then you think about rolling the dice.” And Olajide crapped out. Why even take that risk when you have all the major promoters lined up and willing to make a favorable deal with your fighter and HBO is about to showcase Olajide as one of their bright young stars? Perhaps because Tommy Gallagher who trains Olajide was also the shows promoter. Which puts him in a conflicted position- not to say that he didn’t have anything but the best of intentions for his fighter- but wouldn’t it have it been easier for him to take his fighter off the card if he didn’t have to worry about his show or his commitment to ESPN2? After all, let’s just say, Olajide would have won that fight, what would have really been gained? He would have won a bout against an unknown novice in front of a very small audience. And while being a free agent is theoretically a great thing in boxing, it also has it’s drawbacks. In this instance, who was looking out for Olajide? I seriously doubt a Top Rank and Bob Arum would have allowed one of their bright young stars to get in there and take such an unneccesary risk with so much on the line. Also, companies such as Top Rank, Main Events and Don King, have matchmakers to ensure that such maladies don’t take place. Do you really believe that a Bruce Trampler or Carl Moretti would allow a ‘live’ or unknown body in there against one of their youngsters who looking at getting some HBO air time? But this is boxing and the spin doctoring has begun. A press release has been put out by the Olajide people stating that there man had fractured his right ankle in the fight and had undergone successful surgery to repair it. Now, I’m not doubting any of that, boxing is a very tough, physically demanding sport, but a knockout loss, is a knockout loss. And Gallagher is quoted as saying,” He wasn’t knocked out, he was unable to continue because of his ankle. He had his full senses but it was obviously too severe an injury to continue.” That maybe true, but should he have ever been facing a guy that dangerous to begin with. Remember, it was Mendoza’s punches that sent Olajide to the canvas that eventually injured his ankle. The press release also notes that Olajide’s ankle will be in a cast for six weeks with rehabilitation to follow. It’ll be at least several months before he continues. Who knows what type of fighter he’ll be when he comes back but you get the feeling that he’ll never be the same again. CURSE OF THE WALRUS A word of warning to any fighter who tries to leave Cedric Kushner. Hasim Rahman, Mark Johnson, Kirk Johnson, Shane Mosley and now, Olajide, all left Kushner for what they thought were greener pastures, only to lose shortly there afterwards. Olajide, according to my sources could have been resigned by Kushner for a signing bonus of about $75,000, but Kushner, who always seems to be swimming in red ink couldn’t come up with that kind of money. Olajide was looking for a signing bonus of around $200,000 from the major players before his stunning loss. I’d say his stock crashed worse than Enron’s. And remember that famous story of Don King coming to the fight with Joe Frazier and then leaving with George Foreman, after Foreman knocked out Frazier brutally in Kingston, Jamaica? Well, Lou DiBella, was in attendance and he was very interested in the services of Olajide. Now, he’s set up meetings with Mendoza and his people. Hey, DiBella, was looking to sign an undefeated middleweight prospect and those plans haven’t changed. Adding insult to injury is that Olajide’s people had held off an finalizing any deals with promoters till after this last fight to maximize their leverage. I guess it would be a major understatement to say that it backfired on them. MIS-MANAGEMENT I’d have to say that this moves is right up there with Felix Trinidad Sr.’s decision to allow his heavyweight Fres Oquendo to face David Tua. The scenario was this, Oquendo, considered an average prospect just a few years ago, had beaten the likes of Cliff Etienne and David Izon to secure the top rating in the WBO. The Etienne and Izon fights were sound calculated risks that paid off as Oquendo would stop both men. And with Wladimir Klitschko the champ of the WBO, you’d figure with HBO telecasting that fight, that Oquendo, by forcing a purse bid, would have gotten at least a million bucks for his challenge of the big Ukrainian. It was time for ‘the Big O’ to sit on that ranking like a bean bag. Instead, they accept a bout with Tua for about $400,000, who can punch like a mule. And it must be noted that Oquendo’s whiskers aren’t exactly the sturdiest. Where was the upside in this? As his former promoter Dan Goossen told me the week prior to the fight,” They’re taking 4 years of our hard work and making a number one contender a number seven.” Goossen, like many others, was predicting a Tua KO. Which is what precisely happened when Tua would finally catch up to Oquendo in the ninth round of their bout. And on the flip side, Kevin Barry, the manager of Tua has brilliantly guided his fighters career. After that win they would take on Michael Moorer- another guy with a good name, who’s chin isn’t exactly Rocky Marciano-like. Tua, would stop Moorer in less than 30 seconds. And all of sudden Tua is thought of again as a monster. He may not be a monster, but he is well managed. Oh, and just why did Trinidad Sr. take that fight? I’ve heard from associates of his that he wanted to take that fight and beat Tua, because fellow Puerto Rican and WBA titlist John Ruiz had been flattened by Tua in 19 seconds. In other words, they wanted to shame and embarrass Ruiz into a fight. It just proves, that it’s sometimes the fights you don’t take that are more important than the one’s you do.

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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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