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Hopkins Had A Great Night, The Same Can't Be Said About The HBO Broadcast Crew…LOTIERZO

Frank Lotierzo

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What's left to be said about former middleweight and current light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins 52-5-2 (32)? It's been conveyed in this column for years that Hopkins is the most unique in and out of the ring all-time great in boxing history. His lifestyle, his approach to fighting/boxing, his toughness and his understanding of the sport of boxing in the ring and at the negotiating table far exceeds that of any past fighter or champion. And everything that took place in his title winning effort against Jean Pascal in his last bout further endorses that.

This past weekend Hopkins took apart former title-holder Pascal 26-2-1 (16) in a rematch following the draw they fought five months ago. With his unanimous decision victory, Hopkins at age 46 becomes the oldest professional boxer in history to win a world title. And don't let anyone say Pascal was some sort of cupcake or soft touch. Pascal posses faster hands than Hopkins at this stage and he's a bigger puncher, especially with his right hand. If Pascal was taught how to fight and upgraded his corner he'd be really good. And he'll no doubt be better the next time out due to his 24 rounds spent fighting the professor himself.

Hopkins fought a beautiful fight against Pascal, and like in their first fight, after the fifth round and having been down or shocked a few times, school was in session. After being down by a round after the fifth, Hopkins began to press the fight and disrupt Pascal with a punch that is unconventional for him, the right lead. Landing a right lead is like a hard jab and usually disrupts the opponent and forces him to have to reset. Mix in a few counter left-hooks and Pascal's style of attacking in waves and spurts waves virtually solved. As long as the fighter applying the strategy has a big enough chin to absorb the big counter-right that Pascal sometimes landed in return, everything will be alright. And one thing we know about Hopkins is his chin and toughness are equal to any fighter you'll ever see.  Combine that with his boxing aptitude and determination and Hopkins adds another chapter to boxing history and his storied career.

In the next few days and weeks Hopkins will be praised and lauded like he's never been before by others. And that's great and well deserved by Hopkins. However, I've been there and said it all for years and am not a bit surprised by the event or accomplishment.

So I'll pour cold water on the night instead.

The broadcast team of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Emanuel Steward had one of their worst nights. And the three of them had me wanting to mute the volume and watch Hopkins work in peace without sound. However, I enjoy getting annoyed sometimes and left the volume alone. Their bad night started with praising Steward for turning Chad Dawson into Thomas Hearns after spending one training camp working with him.

Before the main event, Dawson fought Adrian Diaconu in a light heavyweight elimination bout. Both Dawson and Diaconu had been defeated by Pascal and were looking forward to fighting the Hopkins-Pascal winner. From the onset of the bout Lampley and Kellerman were praising Dawson for his new found leverage and power. However, by the mid-point of the fight they backed off of saying Dawson was reborn and began saying it'll take Steward more than one fight to bring out Dawson's potential and make him fight with more urgency. Really, I wasn't aware of that, thanks Jim and Max.

Then the main event started and the now team of three (Lampley, Kellerman & Steward) continued insulting our intelligence by trying to tell us that Hopkins changed his style and is now a crowd pleasing attacker in the manner of Matthew Saad Muhammad. Wrong. Hopkins, fully realized that because of Pascal's greater hand speed and power, he couldn't wait on him. In fact waiting on Pascal was too risky for Hopkins and Bernard knew the only way to neutralize Pascal was to disrupt his sporadic attack. Hopkins, by asserting himself and getting off first, re-directed Pascal's wave of sudden punches. And once that happened and Pascal had to think his way through the fight he became desperate, and that's the last thing you want to show Hopkins, because he'll increase the pressure and keep feeding you what you don't want. Once that was the case Hopkins owned Pascal mentally, physically and stylistically. Hopkins saw everything Pascal was throwing or trying to throw. And once he had Pascal looking for the lottery punch the fight was his.

In addition to everything else Hopkins did to unsettle Pascal, thumbing the eyes and kidney punches, remember, he's not going to ruin you just by using the rule book. And the push-ups: Only a superstar has the prerogative to pull a stunt like that. The ref didn't even say anything about it. Imagine a four round fighter trying to pull that nonsense. Hopkins will use any extracurricular device to undo his opponent.

However, the broadcast team of Lampley, Kellerman and Steward were telling the audience that Hopkins at age 46 suddenly realized that boxing fans want exciting fights where fighters take risk, and Hopkins wants to give the fans what they want. How ridiculous is that? Hopkins wants to win and add to his legacy and cash a big check. He could care less if he has to stink the place out or go to war like former light heavyweight hall of famer Matthew Saad Muhammad – as long as he gets what he wants.

Hopkins didn't reinvent himself this past weekend against Jean Pascal. He changed his style and plan of attack because the situation and opponent demanded such. Just a year ago Hopkins was being torched for his rematch with Roy Jones and for it being a terrible fight. The difference is Hopkins couldn't fight Jones the way he did Pascal, because that would've been to Roy's advantage. And you better believe that if, and yes I said if, Hopkins fights Chad Dawson next, the fight will more resemble the type fights we've been seeing from Hopkins over the last decade more so than his last bout with Jean Pascal. And the same applies to a Hopkins-Bute fight. If they meet the fight will be fought at a measured and systematic pace. And no doubt the HBO broadcast team will tell us Hopkins is old and no longer a crowd pleaser.

When Kellerman talked about the “new” Hopkins during the interview, Bernard was quick to jump on the bandwagon. That doesn't mean he actually believes it, but he's smart enough to recognize a good PR pitch when he hears one.

I'll say it now. Hopkins is an old fighter and isn't a crowd pleaser, unless his opponents style dictates that he has to be in order to win. What Bernard has left is intelligence, toughness and conditioning, and with the talent pool being what it is in professional boxing, that's more than enough.

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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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