Saturday, June 15, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend is filled with interesting fights that range from extremely hard to select a winner to a glorified squash match and with various titles on the line.

The most publicized match of the weekend is also the most lopsided as Tyson Fury battles unknown Tom Schwarz in his first appearance as part of the ESPN/Top Rank organization in Las Vegas.
Fury, who is the lineal heavyweight champion, but does not physically possess a title, is entering the fight after his draw with Deotay Wilder, in which Fury dominated the bout, but was floored twice by Wilder and despite winning many more rounds allowed Wilder to escape with a draw.
I thought Fury won that fight anyway, which shows his domination even with the knockdown, but shows his chin can be questioned within reason.
If you thought Andy Ruiz knocking out Anthony Joshua was an upset, Tom Schwarz defeating Tyson Fury would be earth-shattering.
Schwarz is undefeated but has never fought a top fifty fighter, let alone defeated one or even fought anyone that you have ever heard of, so who knows what Schwarz really brings to the ring.
In other words, this is the ultimate squash match or a star vs "Enhancement Talent".

The semi-main is interesting from the light heavyweight division as veteran contender Sullivan Barrera faces Jesse Hart, who is moving up from super middleweight for his venture into the division.
Barrera, who is a solid backend of the top ten contender ilk that has become a gatekeeper of sorts that defeats fighters of a certain level (Joe Smith, Felix Valera for two examples), but isn't quite an elite level fighter with losses to Dmitry Bivol and Andre Ward.
Hart, who lost two exciting and fairly close decisions to Gilberto Ramirez in super middleweight title fights, seems to have more than his hands full in this one.

ESPN+ adds to their fight day with a featherweight title fight from the United Kingdom as IBF champion Josh Warrington defends against his mandatory contender Kid Galahad.
Warrington, who decisioned Carl Frampton in his last fight, looks to move forward to a rumored unification fight with WBO champion Oscar Valdez but must get by the undefeated Galahad to do so.

DAZN returns with the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series inside the cruiserweight tournament with three titles on the line between the two fights.

The main event will see newly gifted WBO champion Krzysztof Glowacki defending that title as well as fighting for the vacant WBC title against former division Mairis Briedis.
Glowacki was elevated by the WBO from one of their lesser titles, which might be the only reasonable reason to have those ridiculous "titles" to become their full champion.
Both titles in this fight were formerly held by Oleksandr Usyk, who vacated all four championships in the division after winning last year's WBSS, for his move to the heavyweight division.
Briedis formerly was the WBC champion before losing a majority decision to Usyk in last year's semi-final in the only fight that Usyk has been challenged in over his career.
I scored that fight a draw and off that fight, Briedis looked to be a solid favorite to win the second year tournament,
Instead, the top seed threw a shoe in horse racing parlance and against the eighth-seeded and hand-picked per WBSS rules, Noel Mikaelian and appeared to have handily lost as I had Mikaelian ahead 115-111.
I was stunned to see Briedis given a unanimous decision with two of the cards being fairly wide,
Briedis' performance is what makes this interesting as Briedis should be able to outbox the slow Glowacki.
Glowacki never stops moving forward though and if he catches Briedis, who knows what happens and if Mikaelian showed a declining Briedis, Glowacki could very well take Briedis out.

The other end of the tournament looks to have an explosive ending on tap as the IBF championship vacated by Oleksandr Usyk will be decided by the victor of the Yunier Dorticos-Andrew Tabiti fight.
The undefeated Tabiti decisioned Ruslan Fayfer in the first round in a dull fight, while Dorticos lost in last year's semis via a final round knockout in a fight of the year candidate against Murat Gassiev before a first-round decision win over Mateusz Masternak that saw Dorticos go the distance for the first time in his career.
I think this one should be an exciting shootout that could end early with both fighters landing quickly and often.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 141-127.

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz
R.L: Fury Unanimous Decision
TRS: Fury KO 8

Light Heavyweights, 10 Rds
Sullivan Barrera vs Jesse Hart
Both: Barrera Unanimous Decision

IBF Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Josh Warrington vs Kid Galahad
Both: Warrington Unanimous Decision

WBO and Vacant WBC Cruiserweight Titles/ World Boxing Super Series Semi-Final. 12 Rds
Krzysztof Glowacki vs Mairis Briedis
Both: Briedis Unanimous Decision

Vacant IBF Cruiserweight Title/World Boxing Super Series Semi-Final. 12 Rds
Yunier Dorticos vs Andrew Tabiti
R.L: Dorticos KO 6
TRS: Dorticos KO 4

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Dog Days of Summer

Well, Hello.

Been a bit this week since I typed a few notes.
It's not always easy in June sometimes when there is a lull in the live baseball schedules (eight days between games, pushed to nine after a rainout) and you add in two league championship series that even though you prefer one team to another, you don't care enough to write about it making things to write about scarce for a bit.

One thing that I've gained after doing this for so many years now is just how hard it is to write something every day.
I have it easier compared to a columnist in a newspaper as I have different teams or boxing to write about before I pull something out of the past to write about and during certain times, I struggle and it isn't my full-time position!
I have so much respect for the people in print/digital media that have to come up with something almost every day and do so with a rare clunker, so doing this has made me realize that.

It's funny, there are times that I have so much to say and so little time and there are others that I have just nothing to say, sports or otherwise.
I have opinions on non-sports issues, but I'm not always sure people want to hear/read them.
One bad experience has made an impact here and I'm not sure I would be cut out for the brickbats and catcalls that come as part of a real columnist's job.
You have to have a thick skin and though I'm sure you can develop that over time, I'm not sure I would react as well to an opposing opinion that gets too strident on an issue that is important compared to someone being critical of a sports opinion.
I suppose if the day is right, I could see a controversial post, but I'm not planning on it.

The next few weeks will pick things up as I'll have a trip, Cavaliers and Devils drafts and the usual things that I scribble down and I'll hopefully cope better with the next stretch of time without everyday things to write about.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Boxing Challenge:Golovkin Rolls,Valdez cruises

The main events on the competing networks Saturday night ended as expected, but who truly knows what the future brings for either of the two victors.

DAZN's top pairing saw the return of Gennady Golovkin for the first time since his controversial majority decision loss to Canelo Alvarez that the majority of boxing observers feel that he won, yet many wondered what Golovkin has left at 37 years of age after two tough fights against Alvarez.

We received a few answers to a few questions, but not the main answers, which are- Will Oscar De La Hoya and Canelo Alvarez agree to a third fight and will it be next in the fall and just what Golovkin will have in the tank for that bout?
Golovkin proved that he can still punch and that he will run over anyone below the top level as he showed with his fourth-round knockout of Canadian Steve Rolls at Madison Square Garden.
Rolls fought well and even won the second round on my card, but you felt the similarities to past Golovkin wins- Rolls was being walked down and the boom was coming, the question was how would Rolls respond?
The response was not great as one Golovkin left hook crashed home in the fourth round and sent Rolls face down to the canvas and after an attempt to rise ended in failure, it was time to look forward.
GGG predictably called for Canelo, Oscar De La Hoya predictably trolled with a shot at the quality of Rolls (Like Rocky Fielding was Joe Calzaghe in Canelo's return) and told GGG to win a belt (only the WBO belt of Demetrius Andrade isn't with Canelo) and he'd "consider" the third fight.
It may not be up to Team Canelo as DAZN's President John Skipper reportedly wants that fight next and he isn't paying Canelo for Rocky Fielding's or Golovkin for Steve Rolls'.
I'd bet on what Skipper wants he will get and despite the public posturing of arguably the biggest troll in boxing, the guy that writes the checks is likely to get what he wants and after Anthony Joshua's loss to Andy Ruiz on his platform, Skipper may not want to gamble on waiting until the spring for both guys to win (and not get beat up) their next fight.

ESPN and Top Rank countered with Oscar Valdez defending his WBO featherweight strap with a unanimous decision over gutsy but outmatched Jason Sanchez in Reno Nevada.
Valdez scored a fifth-round knockdown and dominated from thereafter, although Sanchez would occasionally battle back with a right hand or two, the challenger, who was taking a large rise in competition, simply couldn't compete with the champion, who almost finished Sanchez off in the final round and just missed scoring the stoppage.
I scored Valdez a 118-109 winner and the talk after the fight wasn't a unification fight with the winner of IBF champion Josh Warrington against mandatory contender Kid Galahad later this month or recently signed by Top Rank, former champion Carl Frampton.
Instead, the discussion was of a move up to junior lightweight and WBC junior lightweight champion Miguel Berchelt.
I'd think that a match against the new WBO champion at 130 pounds and fellow Top Rank promotee Jamel Herring would be a better bet for success, but I'd be fine with Berchelt-Valdez.
I'd prefer Valdez-Warrington or Valdez-Frampton to that, but I could live with Berchelt-Valdez.
I'd favor Berchelt in that one, but Valdez certainly has a solid chance of victory.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica four points to three on the strength of calling the round of Gennady Golovkin's knockout.
I moved my lead to 141-127.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Boxing Challenge

Only two fights in the boxing challenge this week as the undercards for both main events (DAZN and ESPN) are underwhelming.

The biggest fight is the return of former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, who fights for the first time since his controversial two fights vs Canelo Alvarez that saw GGG draw and lose a majority decision, against undefeated Canadian Steve Rolls.
The bout will be the first for Golovkin under new trainer and former cruiserweight contender Johnathan Banks, who trained Wladimir Klitschko after the death of the great Emanuel Steward.
Banks replaces Abel Sanchez, who had trained Golovkin since Golovkin's move to the United States years ago and it'll be interesting to see if any small refinements have been made to Golovkin's game under Banks.
This isn't really about Rolls either, who hasn't faced anyone that could even remotely consider a contender and only a ShoBox win over Demond Nicholson in 2017 coming close to being a name on the record and Golovkin can understandably be given a squash match after the Canelo fights and to chip some rust off.
After all, Canelo had an "enhancement match" in his first post-Golovkin match against softer than custard chinned Rocky Fielding, so there is nothing wrong with Golovkin doing the same, I only wish that he would have done so far sooner and should GGG get rid of Rolls quickly, I'd even suggest another similar, if mildly tougher foe before a projected fall third fight vs Alvarez.
Is the object to prepare Golovkin to defeat Canelo with perhaps a new wrinkle to help the judges see better, errr add to the picture? Or is it simply to be more active to bring to the table what "lost" the first two fights?
That's about the sum of the interest in this one unless Rolls fools us all and takes Golovkin the distance.

ESPN and Top Rank counter-programs with Oscar Valdez defending his WBO featherweight title against Jason Sanchez.
Valdez fights for the second time since his broken jaw against Scott Quigg and looked impressive in his return win over Carmine Tommasone in February.
Sure, it was a soft touch, but Valdez needed one of those after tough fights against Miguel Marriaga, Genesis Servania, and Quigg along with the broken jaw.
As for the undefeated Sanchez, who really knows what the New Mexico native brings to the ring?
Sanchez has fought one fighter with a record that you would call impressive, a unanimous decision last October over then-undefeated Jean Carlos Rivera, who then lost his next fight, has fought just one scheduled ten rounder (the Rivera win) and has fought some of the worst opponents that a recent challenger for a title has faced.
Sanchez's second best win is 13-6-2 Daniel Olea and in his last six fights, Sanchez has fought fighters with records of 58-46-2, 3-35-4 (yes three wins), 1-8-1, and 12-27-2.
In other words, he's a completely blank slate and it'll take a cosmic leap for Sanchez to pull this upset.

Thanks for the nice comments on the Five Punch Combination.
I think I'm going to continue it, it helps me get my boxing thoughts out in lieu of the old podcasting days!
Thanks again!

In the Boxing Challenge, I lead R.L.Malpica 137-124.

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
Gennady Golovkin vs Steve Rolls
R.L: Golovkin KO 5
TRS; Golovkin KO 4

WBO Featherweight Title 12 Rds
R.L: Valdez KO 7
TRS: Valdez KO 6

Friday, June 7, 2019

Five Punch Combination

Trying a new column with five points (hence the title) with opinions and sometimes ideas on the fight game.

    With the semi-finals of the cruiserweight division of the World Boxing Super Series coming up a week from Saturday, the three of the four titles that were vacated by Oleksandr Usyk were still open for a new champion.
The WBA had already handed their title to Denis Lebedev, a long-time favorite of theirs, but the other three still needed to be filled.
Surprisingly two of the three have stepped up with decisions that made sense with an opening for the third to take advantage of a situation for next weekend as well and if everything falls into place, the winner of the tournament will hold three of the four titles and boxing will avoid the usual chaos that unfolds when a unified champion vacates his titles.
First, the WBC announced that the winner of the Mairis Breidis-Krzysztof Glowacki would be their champion and on the same day, the WBO stated that they had elevated Glowacki to their full champion from one of their minor titles.
With that decision, two of the four championships would be unified with the conclusion of their bout and with the WBA with Lebedev, only the IBF belt remains vacant and they have a terrific opportunity for next weekend as well.
The top two contenders for their title actually face in the other semi-final as Andrew Tabiti (1) and Yunier Dorticos (3) (There is not a number two contender at this writing) and the IBF could rule that their bout could be for their title.
That makes sense and would then have the winner of the tournament hold three titles and be the legitimate ruler of the division.
For once, things could actually work out well for boxing.

    Zab Judah returns to action tonight at the age of 41 against the "Hebrew Hammer" Cletus Seldin in New York.
Judah, whos career that was filled with several highs and lows, but for the most part for such a talented fighter never seemed to live up to his talent, has fought just two times in the last six years and you would think would have ring rust, but I think if Judah has even half of his toolbox remaining, he should have more than enough to defeat the limited Seldin.
Seldin has more than enough power to hurt Judah, should Judah not have the ability to stay away from him, so there is some intrigue here, but I still wonder about Judah with a win or loss as a win might see him step up in competition at 41 and despite the ability that he once had, could get hurt.

    I also love the July 27th junior welterweight title in Arlington, Texas between WBC champion Jose Ramirez and WBO titlist Maurice Hooker for two reasons.
I love the 140-pound division being down to two champions with this winner having two titles and the WBSS final unifying the WBA championship of Regis Prograis with that of IBF king Josh Taylor with hopes that the two winners can make a deal for a fully unified champion that would hopefully stick around for a while, but rarely happens.
I lean slightly toward Ramirez in this fight that could go either way, but that is mainly because Hooker has been recently having problems making weight.
A motivated and ready on the scales Hooker is more than capable of winning this one and it should be a really good one from Arlington, Texas.

    The second reason is Matchroom/DAZN and Top Rank/ESPN working together to make a fight that was made at the right time.
Top Rank allowed their guy (Ramirez) to fight on the opposing platform because it was the right thing for their fighter and boxing fans with the bonus of what their guy gains with a win.
Kudos to both sides for working together for the best for their fighter and with this cross-promotion and the recent common ground between Top Rank and PBC for Wilder-Fury II shows that this can be done when the will is available, but it does make me wonder one thing- If Top Rank and PBC can work together for Wilder-Fury, why not for Errol Spence vs Terence Crawford?
And perhaps there is more to the failure to sign that fight that everyone wants than just Bob Arum or Al Haymon?

    PBC announced their undercard for Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman and after the stink that still waifs through boxing from the terrible slate behind Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia have come through with a pretty strong supporting cast.
Yordanis Ugas, who just missed taking the WBC belt of Shawn Porter in his last fight (I scored the fight a draw) takes on Omar Figueroa, who once looked to be a future star before inactivity ate away at his career.
I really like that fight and the winner will likely be in a position to challenge someone for a title in the near future.
Former junior welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets battles John Molina in what should be a straight-ahead action fight.
Lipinets looked very impressive in mowing down Lamont Peterson and sending him into retirement, while Molina lost to Figueroa in his last fight, but has made a career of bobbing up when thought to be finished in the past.
In the opener, former bantamweight champions face off as exciting and undefeated bomber Luis Nery meets Juan Carlos Payano in what should be an interesting affair.
Payano was knocked out in one round by Naoya Inoue in the WBSS, so it will be interesting to see how Nery stacks up with Inoue as Inoue-Nery ranks with the best fights that boxing can make.
Terrific job by PBC bouncing back from their previous PPV undercard and I hope to see more like this as time goes by.

One for the road:
                            I wish I could say the same for the card offered by the same PBC for Fox two weeks later.
The main event features Adam Kownacki, who sells tickets and can be entertaining against the right level (and style) of heavyweight against washed up Chris Arreola, who I'm sure will offer the usual refrains of "best shape of my life, new this or new that has revitalized me" etc.
Should Arreola have anything left, this could be entertaining, but it's more likely to be a name for the Kownacki record as they attempt to keep him active before feeding him to Deontay Wilder.
Speaking of those "new me" statements, Andre Berto against Miguel Cruz fits that bill as well.
Actually, Berto uttered just those quotes in the fight announcement and entering the fight with a split decision loss to Devon Alexander that he didn't deserve and a stoppage loss to Shawn Porter, I'm not buying the 35-year-old Berto, although he is likely to be favored against Cruz, who has fought one opponent of note in losing a lopsided decision to Josesito Lopez in 2017.
The curtain-jerker isn't good either as Marcus Browne, who is in line for a light heavyweight title shot against Jean Pascal.
Browne looked very strong in dominating Badou Jack in January, while Pascal trudged through a decision loss to Dmitry Bivol and looked like a finished fighter while doing so.
I'm not sure what this fight does for Browne other than keep him active and for Pascal fighting a bigger and younger fighter is how aging fighters can get hurt.

I could use input on this, so feel free to let me know about the format and how often you might like to see this.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox-Baseball

Cleaning out the inbox brings an all baseball version as I attempt to catch up here at the home office from various time spent doing several things, few of those that I wanted to spend my time doing.

One baseball goodbye of note that I didn't want to wait for a passings post as Bill Buckner passed at 69 from complications from Dementia.

Remembered by most for his error in game six of the 1986 World Series with the Red Sox that really shouldn't have happened (I still wonder why Red Sox Manager John McNamara with a two-run lead moving into the bottom of the tenth, didn't replace Buckner with the defensively superior Dave Stapleton), I'll remember Buckner for reasons other than the error.
Buckner started with the Dodgers and hit over .300 three times for Los Angeles including a .314 mark for the 1974 National League champions, but really flourished after being traded to the Cubs as the main part of a package that sent Rick Monday to the Dodgers.
Buckner won the 1980 batting title, hit over .300 four times with the Cubbies and it was his lefthanded contact first swing that I envied as I couldn't emulate that swing because I was a right-handed swinger.
Never a power hitting first baseman (Buckner's career high was 18 with those 1986 Red Sox), Buckner was similar to Wade Boggs before Wade Boggs as he consistently made contact, put the ball into play and see what happened.
Buckner's ability to make contact shows with his strikeout numbers as he never struck more than 39 times in a season and only 18 times in over 600 at-bats in his battling title-winning season.
I'll remember the error of course, but there were far more good things to recall about the career of Bill Buckner than just one miscue.

Photo Credit: Josh Bean discusses the past and the possible future with plenty of cool pictures of the slowly crumbling Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville Alabama, the former home of the AA Southern League's Huntsville Stars.
The Stars moved to Biloxi, Mississippi after the 2014 season and Joe Davis Stadium has sat idle ever since.
Joe Davis was built for the Stars franchise in 1985 and will likely be demolished rather than renovated
Minor league baseball will return to the Huntsville area next season in the Huntsville suburb of Madison as the (sigh) Rocket City Trash Pandas as Madison built a new stadium to entice the move of the current Mobile Bay Bears to the Huntsville area.

The Athletic and baseball writer Ken Rosenthal looks at the man that seems to be possibly behind the turmoil of the Miami Marlins front office as Gary Denbo isn't looking to make friends and that's good for him as he doesn't seem to be making any.
Derek Jeter's right-hand man, as the article referred to Denbo certainly has his own ideas and apparently has more than a few problems in dealing with employees.
One very interesting area was where it was an incident with Denbo that caused the Greensboro Grasshoppers to change affiliates leaving the Marlins after 16 seasons and joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.
I was surprised to hear the news of Greensboro's decision last year and the story behind it was one that I did not know about.

The Athletic is back again with an article on the Giants 2014 trade for Casey McGhee that resulted in two minor league pitchers joining the Reds organization.
Five years later, one of those pitchers is Luis Castillo, who is 6-1 with an ERA under two and a half.
The article also mentions other bad trades that were made by the Giants of that era, which has set the stage for the current state of the parent club.

We wrap up with Dallas SportsDay and their behind the scenes article on Fox Sports Southwest field reporter Emily Jones McCoy and her relationship with some of the Texas Rangers.
I found it interesting because I've mentioned before remembering McCoy in her first days in television covering various Big 12 sports and football previews, but I've met many of the Rangers mentioned in the article and I found their thoughts on Jones intriguing as well.

2019 Baseball Draft: Indians Draft Daniel Espino

The Cleveland Indians owned the 24th pick in the MLB Draft and over the last decade, the Wahoo's high school selections had panned out at a better rate than their college selections.
Stars such as Francisco Lindor, promising players such as Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield that are just beginning their big league career (Yankees and Mariners respectively) and Cleveland top prospect Triston McKenzie were all high school selections with upside, while the Indians college first-rounders were the proverbial safer selections that have ranged from pitchers Alex White and Drew Pomeranz (Both traded away and only Pomeranz has reached his floor) to Indian outfielders Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer, and Mike Papi, none of whom resemble an everyday starter, let alone a key member of a title contender.

In other words, when the Indians have gambled on possible top-level talent (usually high schoolers), they have found success and when they played the draft conservative, they got what they paid for- conservative results.
Cleveland attempted to tap potential upside again from the high school ranks for the fourth draft in a row going back to 2015 (The Indians did not have a 2017 top pick) after Brady Aiken and McKenzie in 2015, Will Benson in 2016 and Bo Naylor and Ethan Hankins last year with the selection of Daniel Espino, a Georgia righthanded pitcher (Like Hankins last season), that is originally from Panama.

Espino, who moved to the United States in 2016, holds the record for highest fastball speed at 99 at the Perfect Game, which is a showcase event for high school prospects.
Espino is noted to have the potential to have a five-pitch mix with both the curve and slider being regarded as plus pitches by the Indians.
Espino's numbers at Georgia Premier Academy were eye-popping with an ERA of 0.32 and 100 strikeouts in only 44 innings along with allowing just ten hits over those innings.
Now, I'm usually dubious of high school numbers because you always have to wonder just how many future professional or even college hitters that pitchers will be facing, but even considering the competition, those statistics are very strong.

Espino has a commitment to LSU that will have to be bought out, but I would be surprised that would prove to be an obstacle for the Indians.
Espino has the tools of a top of the rotation starter, but some wonder about his thin build (6'2 200) and think he may eventually settle in as a closer.
The build might be the reason that the best fastball in the draft that doesn't appear to have control issues could be available at the end of the first round.

Sorry, this took a bit longer to finish, quite a few crazy days since last week here, but things settling in, so I'm thinking that the inbox could use some cleaning next up.