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RASKIN’S RANTS: Hopkins Does It His Way, HBO Won’t Let Williams Do It His Way

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A lot of 46-year-olds couldn’t drop and bang out five pushups under any circumstances. Bernard Hopkins does it for fun in the middle of going 12 hard rounds of combat against an opponent 18 years his junior. Unless you’re Jack Palance, who was presumably looking down from above and wondering why Hopkins was wussing out and using both arms, you had to be impressed.

And I’m not just talking about the pushups, of course. Almost everyone in the boxing world was blown away by what Hopkins did to Jean Pascal on Saturday night. Their first fight was close enough, at least with two knockdown calls going against Hopkins, to make a case for a draw. This time, even without the benefit of two knockdown calls he arguably should have gotten, Hopkins won convincingly. Most of the feedback via email and Twitter was overwhelmingly reverential. But I got one email that played a little bit of devil’s advocate, so let’s take a look:

Eric:

With all due respect to what B-Hop just did at the crazy age of 46, doesn’t it seem the praise of this performance is going a little overboard? I mean, Pascal just isn’t that good. He tries hard and is pretty athletic, but his punches are just so sloppy and he’s totally unimaginative. And Hopkins fought great for 46, or even for 40, but if you don’t adjust for age, I think he had a ton of performances better than this one. Am I crazy to say this shouldn’t go down as one of Hopkins’ top five time capsule performances?

Loving your stuff on The Sweet Science and Twitter,
Dan

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the kind words, but yes, you’re crazy not to put this in Hopkins’ top five. In my view, there should be some adjusting for age when assessing the quality of a performance. I’ll agree with you to a point; some are calling this Hopkins’ greatest night, and I’m sorry, but he could win a world championship at age 86 and it wouldn’t top what he did against Felix Trinidad—still the greatest boxing performance I’ve ever witnessed in person. And aesthetically, it’s hard to rate Hopkins-Pascal II over Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik. But you have to factor in that Pascal, regardless of his limitations, was the legitimate light heavyweight champion of the world and Hopkins beat him clearly on his own turf, even convincing the Canadian crowd to briefly chant “B-Hop! B-Hop!” I half-expected Bernard to answer Max Kellerman’s first question by launching into the “If you can change” speech.

This wasn’t Hopkins’ all-time greatest performance, but when we factor in age and historical importance (as we should, to a point), it’s in the discussion for number two. I see no reasonable excuse not to rank it in his top five.

And with that, it’s time for the Rants, starting with a few more thoughts on Hopkins’ history-making night:

• I would definitely download “My Way” with the alternate B-Hop lyrics on iTunes before I would download any of the seven versions of Manny Pacquiao and Dan Hill performing “Sometimes When We Touch.”

• Several rounds before HBO posted its postfight graphic on great older-age championship performances in various sports, I noted how Hopkins was putting Jack Nicklaus’ Masters win at 46 to shame since, you know, one happened in boxing and the other happened in golf. Then HBO put that graphic up and included more than just one “sport” about which you can have an intelligent debate over whether it’s a sport or not. I don’t mean to denigrate the skill involved in golf, auto racing, or any other activity where you can get a sweat going if it’s hot enough out, but there’s really no comparison between what Hopkins did and what most of the other standouts listed in the graphic did.

• The HBO broadcasters were on point throughout the Hopkins-Pascal fight, expertly putting the developing result into perspective at all times. Jim Lampley was in the zone during both his monologue during the first minute of the 12th round and before signing off at the end of the telecast. And Kellerman had one of his best ever lines with “If you live long enough, you see Shane Mosley stink it out and Bernard Hopkins light it on fire.”

• On the opposite side of the battle against Father Time, we have Roy Jones. The “Roy needs to retire” observation became trite a long time ago, so I’ll stay away from that. Instead I’ll make this observation: Steve Smoger is one of the best refs in the business but is the wrong choice for a Jones fight.

• By the way, lost in our obsession with telling fighters when to retire is the reality of how challenging day-to-day life is for many of them without boxing. I’m not saying we shouldn’t want them to hang up the gloves before they get hurt. But in the last two years alone, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, and now Oscar De La Hoya have all served as reminders that walking away from boxing at the right time has its perils as well.

• Following up on last week’s column on Face Off With Max Kellerman, a reader named Guy Oshky passed along this link to the airing schedule for the Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye episode, and now I pass it along to you (even though, in the DVR age, such information is generally unnecessary): http://www.hbo.com/#/schedule/detail/Max+Kellerman+Face+Off%3A+Klitschko+vs.+Haye/571777
• Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I would rather have seen Paul Williams vs. Nobuhiro Ishida than Williams-Erislandy Lara. Ishida has a better storyline and a more fan-friendly style, even if perhaps Lara stands a slightly better chance of pulling the upset.

• Exhibit A in why people who don’t know anything about boxing shouldn’t be allowed to talk about boxing: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6562677

• There’s plenty of reason to think James DeGale still has a bright future after suffering a close defeat to George Groves on Saturday—especially if the Olympic gold medalist dedicates himself to learning the art of infighting. He has long arms and abjectly fails to shorten up his punches on the inside, instead throwing wide shots that have almost no hope of landing before his opponent’s do. Either he needs to work on that, or he needs to request that Luis Pabon referee all of his fights.

• I’m not a boxer, just a guy acting like a know-it-all from the privacy of my ringside or couchside seat, but the next time John Revish hurts an opponent during the final round of a fight in which he’s hopelessly behind on points, he might want to think about following up with additional offense. Meanwhile, Sadam Ali is a decent enough prospect, but it’s hard to overlook his average-at-best hand speed and non-existent head movement.

• Sweet Jesus, Mauro Lucero is still fighting? (Not judging. Not calling for a retirement. Just expressing disbelief.)

• It’s not too late to check out last week’s episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com), with special guest Tim Starks, founder of the Queensberry-Rules.com blog. You can listen to a free preview clip (http://tinyurl.com/43ds83r) and then, when you have several days with absolutely nothing to do, enjoy an episode so long and chock full o’ goodness that it makes every subscriber feel guilty about underpaying for the privilege of listening.

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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