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The Klitschkos Don't Have To Acquiesce To Networks Or Promoters

Frank Lotierzo

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It's rare, but interesting to watch what happens when the balance of power shifts over to fighters, away from the networks or promoters. And that's what has happened over the last decade in regards to the way Wladimir and Vitali Klitscho have navigated their careers.

It's no secret to anyone who follows professional boxing, especially the heavyweight division, that Wladimir 55-3 (49) and Vitali Klitschko 41-2 (38) have dominated the heavyweight division since former champ Lennox Lewis announced his retirement one year after he defeated Vitali in his last fight. And if you're honest and shed your bias, Wladimir hasn't been close to losing since he lost to Lamon Brewster back in April of 2004 (except for a brief scare versus Samuel Peter in their first fight), and Vitali has virtually won every round he's fought since he lost to Lewis in 2003.

Yet for some reason it's hard to find their fights broadcast when they defend their titles. Why is that? Is it because they're usually one sided? Or, is it because they're usually not that exciting and the network of champions can't control them and who they fight. If title bouts involving  Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko aren't shown on HBO because they don't make for very exciting fights, many have short memories.

Muhammad Ali was a great showman and fighter, but how many of his bouts excluding the ones against Joe Frazier and George Foreman were actually exciting? Ali's athleticism was a thing of beauty to watch, but in reality he only showed up in great shape and fought like he had an interest in the outcome of the fight when he was confronted by a fighter who was a legitimate threat to beat him. How many of those fighters were around in the sixties and seventies not named Liston, Frazier or Foreman?

Larry Holmes was a great and fundamentally sound boxer who fought everyone of his era. Again, I ask, how many of his fights were non-stop back and forth action excluding his bouts versus Ken Norton, Mike Weaver and Tim Witherspoon. Yet many of Holmes' title defenses were aired on HBO in the eighties. Personally, I'd also like to include Mike Tyson amongst this group, because to me his fights weren't exciting. Most of them were against over-matched foes who were has beens or journeymen. Mike either destroyed inferior opposition or struggled and lost to many of the fighters who weren't intimidated by him. However, I'm well aware that the public loves quick knockouts, regardless of who the mid-level fighter is getting knocked out. And Mike certainly provided many of those nights for boxing fans.

One of the big differences between the title reigns of Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes and the Klitschkos is, Wladimir and Vitali are challenged less during their bouts. And a lot of that is because the heavyweight division is more pedestrian today than it has been in years. In addition to that, the Klitschko brothers are extremely big and know how to use their size and fight tall. Other than that, there's not much difference. Ali and Holmes were dominant champions and a majority of their title defenses aired on American television, something that's not the case with the Klitschko's.

Why aren't the title defenses of either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko broadcast by HBO anymore? Personally, I believe a lot of that has to do with the fact that they're not American. But even more than that I believe a lot of it has to do with the brothers having other options. Wladimir and Vitali are different than other fighters. They can fight in Germany against any contender and sell out a 50,000 seat venue. Therefore they don't have to beg and accept HBO's terms, and no doubt the non-boxing suits at HBO find fault with that.

The brothers have their own promotion company and can keep most of the money. Again, not many fighters in the history of boxing have held that latitude. In regards to the Klitschko brothers, HBO and Showtime aren't the only games in town. Everyone knows that the few networks who do broadcast boxing aren't used to fighters having that type of leverage.

Is there a morsel of a doubt in anyone's mind that if the Klitschkos were American and capitulated to HBO and their editorial decisions, that we'd be told by Lampley, Merchant and Kellerman just how great and dominant they were every time they fought? There's no doubt in my mind that that's what we'd be hearing.

In the United States, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko are considered boring and safety first fighters. And because of that mindset, their fights don't create much, if any, buzz in America when they fight. But they just keep winning. Instead of them getting credit when they win, it's usually said afterward that it was more because of their opponents' ineptness as to why they won as opposed to their skill set and fighting ability. However, they've cleaned out the division and every other past champ who went through the division during their era got credit for that. During the eighties everyone said Holmes and Tyson often faced limited opposition. And did Rocky Marciano dominate a great heavyweight division during the early to mid fifties? No, he just beat everybody who was there like both Klitschkos have done.

The Klitschkos own Europe and aren't seen as boring at all. American fans should remember that, over there, fans are trained to watch differently. Which is why fighters like Henry Maske or Sven Ottke had enormous fan bases. In fact, until people started to figure out just how good he was, Joe Calzaghe was tarred with the same brush.

Regardless of how one views the Klitschkos, they've had an incredible run and have had the final say in the heavyweight division for seven plus years. On top of that they've had a big say over their careers and haven't had to acquiesce to any promoter or network. How many past heavyweight champs can say that?

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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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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