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Peter Finney Wins BWAA Liebling Award

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Peter Finney

PETER FINNEY WINS A.J. LIEBLING AWARD

They are a vanishing breed, sports writers and columnists who are as
instantly identifiable with their cities as, say, baseball’s Stan
Musial is in St. Louis, basketball’s Bill Russell is in Boston and
former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier is in Philadelphia.

Peter Finney, the newest winner of the A.J. Liebling Award for
Outstanding Boxing Writing presented by the Boxing Writers Association
of America, is one of the last of his kind, a New Orleans civic
treasure whose 67½ years of writing about sports in his hometown – not
only boxing, which long has held a special place in his heart — is a
perfect amalgamation of journalistic talent and incredible longevity.

Finney, 85, will be presented the Liebling at the 85th annual BWAA
Awards Dinner in the spring, the date and site of which has yet to be
announced. He joins a prestigious scroll of past Liebling winners that
includes, among others, Shirley Povich, Budd Schulberg, W.C. Heinz,
Jimmy Cannon, Robert Lipsyte, Bill Gallo, Dick Young, Edwin Pope,
William Nack, Larry Merchant, F.X. Toole, Pete Hamill, George Plimpton
and Liebling himself.

“When I think of New Orleans, I think of Peter,” said one of Finney’s
contemporaries, Jerry Izenberg, sports columnist emeritus for the
Newark Star-Ledger. “That city needs Peter. I hope the people of New
Orleans understand what they have in him.”

Added longtime sports columnist Larry Felser of the Buffalo News: “I
don’t know anybody in the business that doesn’t like Peter and respect
him. He’s the classic New Orleans gentleman.”

Finney began his newspaper career, as a 17-year-old, recent high
school graduate, stringing for the New Orleans States. The first of
his 10,000-plus bylined stories appeared on June 22, 1945. His career
has outlasted that of the now-defunct State, and since 1980 he has
been churning out award- winning sports stories for the
Times-Picayune, further establishing himself as an icon to generations
of devoted readers.

“It’s never been like work to me,” Finney once said of his approach to
his craft. “It’s something I enjoy doing. That’s how I feel. I’ve just
been lucky to hang around, I guess.”

Although he is a general sports columnist who in recent years has only
occasionally authored a boxing piece, Finney is the big gun his
newspapers would roll out whenever a truly major ring event demanded
public attention. He has covered, among others, Muhammad Ali, Sugar
Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.

“Boxing has a charm all its own,” Finney said. “You’re right there at
ringside, and it’s a captivating sport, especially at the top level. I
remember the Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fight at the Superdome in
1980. Sugar Ray was a great boxer and had a lot of charisma. One thing
I definitely remember about that fight was watching a man from Panama
at ringside waving a little Panamanian flag. After Duran quit, the man
just dropped the flag in his lap and wouldn’t look up.

“The Ali-Spinks fight in 1978 was one of the most dramatic events the
Superdome everhad because it involved Ali, and he didn’t disappoint.
Ali was a mesmerizing athlete. I remember going up to his training
camp in Pennsylvania, and as we were asking questions, he was doing
magic tricks with a rope.

“New Orleans was always a great boxing town. Bernard Docusen fought
Sugar Ray Robinson for the welterweight title at Comiskey Park in
Chicago when Sugar Ray was at his peak in 1948, and it was a great
fight. Actually, New Orleans’ love affair with boxing goes back to the
Corbett-Sullivan fight in 1892, which was the first U.S. fight held
with gloves under the Marquess of Queensbury rules. People think I
covered that fight, but I just missed that one!”

The Liebling is but the latest of honors that have been bestowed upon
Finney. He received the Dick McCann Memorial Award, the highest award
presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in 2010. He was inducted
into the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame in 2012, and is also
enshrined in the New Orleans Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame, Louisiana Sports
Writers Association Hall of Fame, LSU School of Journalism Hall of
Fame and the (Loyola University of New Orleans, Peter’s alma mater)
Wolf Pack Hall of Fame. Not only that, he has been voted Louisiana Sports Writer of
the Year a record 17 times by the National Association of
Sportscasters and Sportswriters.

“The Liebling Award is a great honor, and I’m very grateful to the
Boxing Writers Association for finding me worthy of such recognition,”
Finney said.

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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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