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RASKIN’S RANTS: Literally Lame Heavyweight Challengers, Figuratively Lame Heavyweight Commentators

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alg_sergio_martinezIn honor of yet another boisterous crowd at Montreal’s Bell Centre on Saturday night, let’s get things started with an email from my frequent Twitter/email compadre Jordan Stone-McLean, one of the finest fight fans I know of from north of the border:

Hi Eric,

I wanted to bounce this off someone. A middleweight tournament, a plan for Sergio Martinez:
Semis:
Dmitry Pirog vs. Daniel Jacobs
Andy Lee vs. Matthew Macklin

I think these fights can sell based on the rematch and Irish/English rivalry, respectively. All these fighters have been or are scheduled to be on HBO soon and none should be overly expensive. More importantly, none are fighting in the Top Rank Boxing League.

Finals:
Winner vs. Winner
Loser vs. Loser

The overall tourney winner then fights Sergio for the championship. Ideally, Martinez would fight someone in the main event on each of these two cards, potential candidates would be Kermit Cintron and Alfredo Angulo. I think both of those fights are bankable, especially the latter. I also think neither is a huge threat to upset the apple cart, but in fairness nobody south of 168 pounds is.

Downfalls:
– No contingency for Sergio losing
– Golden Boy Promotions
– Who is Matthew Macklin?
– Angulo is on the milk carton
– The WBO

Upside:
– Martinez has to wring a few profitable fights out of this pool of young talent and I think this is the best way, rather than unceremoniously eating them one-at-a-time
– Boxing writers tend to write more about tournaments just by virtue of them being tournaments., e.g. 140-pound series of fights vs. 118-pound tournament
– I don’t see Pirog or Lee making boring fights
– More Lou DiBella??—JSM

Jordan,

I think it’s a fine idea, other than the fact that I really don’t see any of the four fighters being able to compete with Martinez. But all of the fights you’re proposing are good ones, and if the problem with Pirog specifically is that nobody knows who he is yet, two wins on HBO should remedy that. You’re right that a tournament structure automatically generates interest and that we all want a whole lotta Lou. For my money, a series of fights against guys like Cintron, Angulo, and Pirog (who, in case you can’t tell, would be my pick to win the tournament) are the best possible way for Martinez to pass time until the Super Six is over, the winner has fought Lucian Bute, and we can get a pay-per-view mega-fight matching undisputed super middleweight champion against undisputed middleweight champion. I think by that time, assuming neither Manny Pacquiao nor Floyd Mayweather is willing to fight him, it will make perfect business sense for Martinez to step up to 168 pounds.

All in all, I like the way you’re thinking, Jordan. I might quibble about the “loser vs. loser” consolation bout (because a guaranteed HBO return can take some of the urgency out of the semifinal matches), but otherwise, I’m giving it the greenlight.

Unfortunately, my greenlight doesn’t count for much in this business. All I can really hope for is that my writing entertains my readers, so let’s get to the Rants:

• I’m going to go against the general grain and say that I’d like to see Odlanier Solis get another chance against Vitali Klitschko when his leg injuries are healed. I don’t believe for one second that Solis was looking for a way out and quit—that’s an irresponsible accusation to make. It seems more like he came in with a pre-existing injury and hoped it wouldn’t trip him up, but it did. In any case, for most of that first round, Solis appeared to have a plan, had figured out how to land counterpunches against Klitschko, and was doing reasonably well. Once David Haye and Tomasz Adamek have had their chances, assuming neither succeeds, I’m curious to see if a healthy Solis can give one of the Klitschko brothers a real challenge. It sure beats the hell out of watching Sam Peter try again.

• Of course, the Klitschko-Solis fight was only half the story on Saturday afternoon; the other half was Epix’s debut boxing broadcast. Obviously, they have some technical kinks to work out. Then there are kinks that can’t be worked out—like the fact that Lennox Lewis, a great heavyweight champion and an all-around nice guy, has never had anything interesting to say and is useless as a commentator. On the Klitschko-Solis broadcast, the weakness that stood out most was Lewis’ utter lack of energy. If the color analyst looks like he’d rather be napping, how am I supposed to be inspired as a viewer? I’m pleased to have Epix involved in boxing, but if these are the sort of “talent” decisions they’re going to make, hiring an HBO discard who wasn’t discarded by accident, it doesn’t bode well.

• Direct from the mouth of Epix President and CEO Mark Greenberg last week: “Our announce team is going to include Sam Rosen doing the blow-by-blow with Tony Paige along with Lennox. We think we have an opportunity to help breathe some life into the sport, as others have been doing as well, by trying to attract a younger audience.” Rosen, unquestionably a quality pro, is 63. Paige, a fine representative of boxing for many years, is 57. Lewis is 45. Subjective views about the quality of the announce team aside, does this feel like a formula for attracting a younger audience?

• Hey everyone, James Kirkland’s back … has no remaining space available for tattoos. In other news, James Kirkland is back.

• How lucky is Jhon Berrio that the controversial Klitschko-Solis ending came along just one day later to make everyone forget how suspiciously he went down and stayed down against Kirkland? Come on, Jhon, make it look good. I don’t mean to tell you how to do your job, but next time, wait for a punch to land. Just a thought.

• Things I like about Brad Solomon: a good story (learning to box in jail), hunger, skill, and quickness. Things I don’t like about Brad Solomon: He’s the latest member of a generation of fighters trying to use Roy Jones’ style without possessing Roy Jones’ supernatural ability.

• While some folks express moral opposition to Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II or view it as a sort of loser’s-bracket bout, I have to say, I’m legitimately fired up for it. It’s an even matchup with a number of possible outcomes and it’s the most genuine grudge match in recent boxing history. Count me in. Just don’t try to tell me Cotto’s in line for a rematch with Manny Pacquiao if he wins.

• Speaking of good matchups, on a much smaller scale, I’m looking forward to Peter Quillen vs. Jesse Brinkley. That’s one of the better fights Telefutura has given us in a while. (Admittedly, that’s akin to saying, “This is one of the better Nicolas Cage action flicks,” but still, a compliment is a compliment.)

• By the way, I was wondering what the “88M” title was when I watched the Cotto-Mayorga pay-per-view: http://fightnews.com/Boxing/wbb.jpg. It turns out it’s the WBB title. Sweet. I was really getting bored only having 37 sanctioning bodies to choose from.

• Here’s news most boxing writers won’t give you: In a recent World Series of Poker Circuit tournament at Caesars in Atlantic City, Brian Ali won and Jeff Frazier finished fourth—and, yes, Ali knocked out Frazier.

• Don’t miss a brand new episode of Ring Theory this Wednesday, where we’ll welcome HBO’s Max Kellerman for his second guest appearance “geeking out” with me and Bill Dettloff. We’ll discuss Sergio Martinez’s future, this weekend’s Boxing After Dark card headlined by Yuriorkis Gamboa, Nonito Donaire signing with Golden Boy, and much more. Call me biased, but I predict the conversation will be more compelling than any roundtable analysis you saw on Epix this past Saturday afternoon.

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.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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