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BORGES: Who Rules Bantam, Fighters Or Promoters?

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Donaire_Montiel_weighin_110218_001aFeb. 18, 2011, Las Vegas, Nevada —  Two-time world champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (L) and WBC/WBO Bantamweight champion Fernando Montiel weigh in (both fighters were 118 lb)  for their upcoming world title fight to be held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Saturday, February 19, live on HBO Boxing After Dark. Top Rank promotes this event in association with Zanfer Promotions.  — Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top RankIt is often difficult to be sure who a world champion should fight next but in the case of Nonito Donaire and Fernando Montiel the answer is obvious. What is not is how to make the obvious happen.

Montiel is risking the unified (WBO and WBA) bantamweight championship he holds against the younger and possibly more powerful Donaire tomorrow night on HBO in what should be the kind of classic little big men showdown that once made Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao fierce rivals.

It is a rare thing lovers of the sweet science are being handed – a sweet matchup and a fight fan’s fight.

Montiel is the craftier and more experienced fighter; Donaire the stronger and more aggressive. That sets up a classic contrast in styles that will, hopefully, showcase both the skills and the entertainment value the little big men so often bring to the ring.

While each has already claimed the winner should be considered the best bantamweight in the world, they have also conceded in almost the same breath that that issue cannot be fully settled between them alone.
That’s because two months later, in the final of SHOWTIME’S two-fight bantamweight tournament, IBF champion Joseph Agbeko defends his portion of the 118-pound title against undefeated Abner Mares (21-0-1, 13 KO), a confrontation they arrived at by first defeating Yhonny Perez and Vic Darchinyan, respectively. Whoever emerges from that as the SHOWTIME (and IBF) champion will have walked a hard road to glory and would be as deserving of being called the best bantamweight in the world as the Donaire-Montiel victor.

Yet Agbeko and Perez also concede the issue of who rules the 118-pound division cannot be settled until the winners of these two matches meet. Logic, common sense and the demands of honest competition all cry out for it, as should any real fan of boxing. The essence of the sport is to find out who is the better man. The essence of a champion is to have proven that point against all comers in the only place that counts in boxing – inside the ropes.

Yet that is where we run headlong into what makes this sport so frustrating. The fighters all agree the issue needs to be settled in the ring and are agreeable to doing so. Their managers say the same, although you never really know with those guys.

So the only thing that could hold up a fall ultimate unification fight at 118 pounds is the fierce and often illogical rivalry between promoters Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya.

Even Arum admitted recently that the winners are logical opponents yet such is the wall between his company and De La Hoya’s that the two sides scheduled dueling press conferences (one by phone the other live in L.A.) at roughly the same time to celebrate and publicize their two shows.

No other sport operates like this, which is why most other sports are on healthier ground than boxing. Why can’t grown men act like it? Why can’t they do business in a business-like fashion without so often acting like rival teenage gang leaders rather than what they are, which is guardians of the game by virtue of the choke-hold they have on the sport at the moment?
Probably the best thing that could happen for boxing is that Agbeko, who for the moment at least is represented by Don King, defeats Mares. That’s no knock on Mares, who is undefeated for a reason and proved his mettle by getting up off the floor to defeat Darchinyan and win a shot at Agbeko with blood on his face and a buzzing noise between his ears.

Rather it is merely a reflection of how the business of boxing has been so turned on its ear that it is easier today for Arum to make a deal with his long-time rival King than with his former fighter, De La Hoya. Since Arum promotes both Donaire and Montiel (sounds like King circa 1980 doesn’t it?) the easiest way to crown one true bantamweight champion would be for Agbeko to back up his words.

“I’m only thinking about Mares now but I know I’m going to defeat him and look for the winner of Donaire and Mares,’’ Agbeko said.

Mares, speaking at the opposite end of the Nokia Theatre in L.A. at the time, echoed the same sentiment when he admitted, “I know I should focus on Agbeko. It’s a tough fight. But I’d like the winner of Montiel and Donaire. That’s the fight the people are asking for – to go against the winner of that fight.”

If Donaire prevails he will have beaten in back-to-back fights former WBA champion Wladimir Sydorenko and unified champion Montiel, an impressive debut in the bantamweight division.

“After Montiel I will have two belts with one more to go to accomplish the dream I have wanted since I was a young boy,’’ Donaire (25-1-, 17 KO) said. “I could be the first undisputed world champion from Asia.’’

There’s only one way to do that and Arum did not sound all that interested in pursuing it because, well, he has control of other fighters he could make just as much money with fighting Donaire while having the comfort of being the promoter of both sides of the equation.

“To stay at bantamweight and fight the winner of Mares and Agbeko or off to 122, where we have two 122-pound champions (Steve Molitor and Miguel Vazquez),’’ Arum said when asked about Donaire’s future prospects.

“And he’s going to keep moving up in weight. We have killer featherweights. We have fighters for him to fight to make exceptional fights all the way up through 135 pounds.’’

In other words, who needs to know who the best bantamweight in the world is if it means doing business with De La Hoya?

If Montiel has his hand raised he would have beaten long-time WBC champion Hozumi Hasegawa and a rising star in Donaire with the only real bantamweight obstacle left to overcome an obvious one. Yet he faces the same problem Donaire has if Mares prevails against Agbeko – Arum is his promoter, too.

“I do want these kind of (big) fights,’’ Montiel (43-2-2, 33 KO) said. “I do want to be known and I do want to be the best.’’

To do that, Montiel conceded, you have to fight the best. He would argue that’s him if he defeats Donaire but he understands you can’t shadow box your way to greatness. The Agbeko-Mares winner would have just as legitimate an argument to make and so a fight between the winners would be an exclamation point on the bantamweight division, a moment in time in which no one would be unsure any longer who rules the 118-pound division.

Unless, of course, that turns out to be Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya and not the fighters after all.

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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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