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Slow Road versus Fast Track When Jose Benavidez and Mauricio Herrera Meet

David A. Avila

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When Jose Benavidez steps into the boxing ring against Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera two schools of thought will be confronting each other like a raging hammer against an assault-proof anvil.

Benavidez, blessed with the tools of the sweet science that should guarantee success, has been guided to this point as if by an army engineer guiding troops through a mind field.

Herrera, on the other hand, has been thrown into a pit filled with bombers, shankers, head butters and speedsters that others feared and still emerged at the top like a modern day Perseus.

Benavidez (21-0, 15 Kos) and Herrera (21-4, 7 Kos) meet on Saturday Dec. 13, to decide which mode of operation has succeeded or passed its expiration date at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. HBO will televise the meeting between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotion’s representatives.

Let’s start with Riverside, California’s Herrera.

Herrera began his pro career at age 27, a mere seven years ago. It’s an age that some prizefighters contemplate ending their pro life. But Herrera’s amateur coach had a distaste for the pro style and refused to allow the student to pursue competition in a prize ring. Always a faithful student, Herrera grudgingly followed his master’s request. After years of watching others he had defeated in the amateurs rise to glory, Herrera broke ranks and asked veteran trainer Willy Silva to train him for the pros.

Silva jumped at the opportunity. Formerly, the trainer had worked with bangers like Carlos “El Elegante” Bojorquez and Shibata Flores. When the two merged they called local promoters Thompson Boxing Promotions who had guided the early careers of Josesito Lopez and Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley to success.

Ironically, Bradley fights on the same fight card against Diego Chaves.

Thompson Boxing’s Alex Camponovo, one of the most astute matchmakers in boxing, talked to Herrera and Silva knowing that at age 27 there was no time to play it cute. After three “gimme fights” to shake the rust, Herrera began facing opponents in 2008 that others avoided like Alan Velasco, Daniel Cervantes and Pavel Miranda. It was sink or swim for Herrera whose defensive and offensive talents were tested immediately.

“I stopped Pavel Miranda and he (Benavidez) nearly got knocked out by him,” says Herrera, 34.

Crowds began to fill the arenas whenever Herrera’s name was put on the poster. It was quickly apparent that Herrera was a special talent. The better the opponent the better he performed as if not wanting to waste the inner gifts.

“I always asked Alex (Camponovo) to put me in against the best,” said Herrera. “I don’t care what their records are or who they are.”

Despite facing monsters like Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov the paychecks were far less than others were getting.

“I got only $8,000 for Provodnikov,” said Herrera, adding that now he gets more than $100,000.

That fight that took place nearly four years ago saw Provodnikov blast Herrera with some blows that nearly closed his left eye in the first round. But the crafty fighter whose nickname is “El Maestro” shut down the Russian juggernaut and soon had Provodnikov’s face a swollen mess. It was like watching an old 1950s fight between Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio. Herrera won the razor close fight but the rewards for the win were meager. Meanwhile Provodnikov was given the better paydays.

Herrera’s contract with Thompson Boxing ended and both he and his trainer Silva awaited for a phone call from that organization to reinstate him with a small bonus. They waited and waited and finally decided one more hour would do it. A call came but not from Thompson Boxing, it was Golden Boy Promotions asking if he would be interested. Herrera quickly said yes and when asked what kind of fight?

“I want to fight the best,” said Herrera who was given WBA and WBC champion Danny “Swift” Garcia. The boxing world knows the rest of the story.

Benavidez was an amateur legend at age 17 when he turned pro and was already a talked about boxer who had legendary confrontations with Golden Boy’s Frankie Gomez. He was just a teen when he turned pro and stepped into the Wild Card Gym to train with Freddie Roach.

“He has a lot of talent,” said Roach when I first saw Benavidez.

Tall, fast and blessed with power, he had tools that you cannot teach. Because he was still a teen and growing, Top Rank put Benavidez on the slow more deliberate road. Though on occasion he was called upon to spar with Wild Card stable mates such as Manny Pacquiao, the Arizona youngster was seldom matched with any threats until 2012. But those tools have been honed and polished and it is time now for the 22-year-old to fulfill the promise many saw in him as a youngster.

“I heard Herrera was real mouthy,” said Benavidez during the press conference. “Let’s see what he says when we get in the ring.”

Herrera, who acknowledges that Benavidez has skills and talent, says boxing is more than that.

“It takes experience against fighters that have experience to fight the best,” said Herrera. “He’s going to know the difference when we fight. School will be in session.”

—- Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank

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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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