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.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

2019 Baseball Draft: Giants select Hunter Bishop

The first round of the major league baseball draft was held on Monday and I wasn't quite as up on the available picks as I have been on past seasons.

Some years, I have been intensely interested and in others such as this year not as much, so I'm not going to be as critical as I have been in past years about the player selected or as far as a player that was not picked in favor of the selected choice.

The Giants selected first of the teams here in the tenth position and attacked a position that with one exception is weak on the major league roster, let alone in the minor league system.
The selection of outfielder Hunter Bishop of Arizona State is an attempt to take a player that has broken out in the 2019 season and one that they think could progress quickly to the big league squad.
The lefthanded-hitting Bishop is thought to be athletic enough to perhaps play centerfield and could deliver power to a franchise in desperate of it after launching 22 homers for the recently eliminated from the postseason Sun Devils.

The good news- Bishop is very athletic (committed to Washington on a football scholarship before deciding on baseball at ASU), improved every season at Arizona State, could play center, which playing in spacious Oracle Park would be a tremendous advantage for the Giants.
And the developed plus power that suddenly arrived this season, Bishop could even be a corner outfielder if he couldn't make it in center.
I've read reports that had Bishop as one of the best three players in the draft and being among the elite in the physical tools in the draft.

So, if all of that is true, how on Earth did the Giants manage to land Hunter Bishop at the tenth spot in the draft?
Well, for all of the tools that Bishop possesses, he only performed well in one of his three Tempe seasons and before this season, had hit only ten homers in the two seasons previous combined and
had shown a serious vulnerability to the curveball.

Is Hunter Bishop a developing potential star that took a few seasons to find his stride?
Or is Bishop someone that played well as an upperclassman and happened to have a strong final season (Bishop could return to ASU, but highly likely to sign with the Giants)?
The consensus seems to have Bishop having star potential, but with only one top-notch season, there are question marks as far as Bishop's proven production that has been enough to at least make some wonder.

The Giants chose upside over floor and that's something that I applaud in first round picks in the MLB Draft.
There are few things that I hate worse in the baseball draft than low upside college players that project as safe and when they make the majors are usually role players at best.
I'm much more understanding when a risky player that has the potential to be a star doesn't work out than I am when the safe pick turns out to be average, such as the parade of Indians college outfielders have shown through the years.
And speaking of the Indians, I'll be writing about their first round pick next time.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Smith Dazzles in NYC

With all of the massive repercussions from Andy Ruiz's victory over Anthony Joshua to take away three of the four heavyweight titles, I am only now getting around to the other three fights in the weekend boxing challenge.

In the co-feature at Madison Square Garden, the best super middleweight in the world also made an American debut, although the United States bow for Callum Smith was far more spectacular than that of Anthony Joshua as Smith blew away Hassan N'Dam in only three rounds to retain his WBA 168 pound title.
Smith scored a knockdown in each of the three rounds and N'Dam, who hit the floor six times in a loss to Peter Quillin and another four in his loss to David Lemieux, was overmatched from the opening bell.
You had the feeling that this was the type of fight that fighters can be seriously hurt in with a bigger and stronger fighter like Smith against a too gutsy for his own good N'Dam, who would continue to beat the count with each knockdown and take a prolonged beating, so the referee's stoppage was a very good one.
Smith, who appears to have only one possible fight inside the division that would be really interesting (I think David Benavidez against Smith would be very interesting, should his out of the ring problems be in the past) has been rumored as a potential opponent for Canelo Alvarez, should the Canelo third fight against Gennady Golovkin fall through later this year.
Smith's younger brother (Liam) lost to Canelo a few fights back, but Callum is bigger and stronger than Canelo and should that be held in England, which has been floated as a possibility, I'd think Smith has a pretty fair chance of winning that fight.

PBC's card from San Jacinto, California saw a surprise in the main event as Ivan Redkach, who had struggled at 135 and 140 pounds of late after receiving early notice as a prospect, stunned former two-division champion Devon Alexander by scoring three sixth-round knockdowns and finishing a badly buzzed Alexander then and there.
Alexander led slightly on my card (48-47) in five predictably sludgey rounds in typical Alexander style filled with bumps, nudges, and grabs before an uppercut that drove Alexander out of his crouch (I've been screaming for years for Alexander opponents to do that!) and a chopping left that reminded me of a Tim Witherspoon style right and sent Alexander face first to the mat.
Give Alexander credit, he got up from what looked to be a candidate for knockout of the year, but the fight was essentially over then and there with the following two knockdowns as simple formalities leading up to the official end.
I'm not sure what this means for Redkach, who disappointed as a lightweight prospect and seems a bit small to defeat top welterweights, other than he'll likely receive a few more fights with PBC, but for Alexander, who I thought defeated Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto only to be given a draw and a split decision loss, it might be time to pack it in.
Much was made of the replacement of longtime trainer Kevin Cunningham in favor of Roy Jones for Alexander and it wasn't Jones that crumbled under that uppercut, so he's not to blame for the loss, it simply might be Alexander's time.

The co-feature was a predictably boring middleweight bout as Willie Monroe Jr outboxed Hugo Centeno via unanimous decision.
The less said about this the better (I had Monroe winning 96-94), but about the only interesting part of this fight where the post-fight interview with Monroe with Jordan Hardy saw Monroe call out (sigh) Jermall Charlo, where an excited (for some reason) Hardy breathlessly commented: "Hopefully we'll see that one soon!".
Oh brother, so that means that should Charlo-Monroe happen before the end of the year (with PBC, that's not a guarantee) after a projected Charlo win over Brandon Adams, Over a three year span after Charlo's knockout of Julian Williams, which is really Charlo's only top-notch victory, Jermall Charlo's opponents after moving to middleweight are: Jorge Heiland, Hugo Centeno, Matt Korobov, Brandon Adams and Willie Monroe.
Not exactly a way to create excitement around your fighter.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica scored four points to my two (two points each for Callum Smith and Willie Monroe, while I added only Smith's points) to trim the lead to 137-124.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Ruiz shocks Joshua! Heavyweight Division in Flux!

Photo Credit: Al Bello-Getty Images
Madison Square Garden was prepared for Anthony Joshua to dispatch Andy Ruiz, retain his three titles and with a successful American debut, begin to pound those drums for a fight with Deontay Wilder.

For two and a half rounds, everything was following the script, Joshua was using the jab, keeping the shorter Ruiz at bay and when Joshua sent Ruiz crashing to the mat in the third round, the stage was seemingly set for Ruiz to go away and for Joshua to try and sell Kubrat Pulev as another challenger that was worth watching even if they weren't Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury.

Then Andy Ruiz got up.
The fight changed as Joshua moved for the kill as Sergio Mora (I believe so) raved at ringside about Joshua's patented finishing ability, Ruiz began landing counter right hands and soon after it was Joshua on the floor!
Ruiz saw his chance for a massive upset and unlike so many fighters in a similar position in heavyweight title history, he didn't become passive.
Ruiz has been criticized by many (including me) for not moving his hands enough (I thought it cost him the fight in his only loss to Joseph Parker) and on this occasion, that mistake wasn't about to be made as he hurt a stunned Joshua and dropped him again near the end of the round.
A real argument could have been made that the fight could have been stopped right there with a clearly dazed Joshua, but referee Michael Griffin was paying attention, knew the end of the round was near and in an excellent officiating decision allowed the bell to clang and Joshua to trudge to his corner.
Joshua would have his moments in the 4th and 5th (even won the 5th on my card narrowly), but you had the feeling that Ruiz wasn't going away entering the sixth where Ruiz began to throw combinations and the Andy Ruiz on this night was fighting up to his potential and you could feel Joshua almost slump his shoulders at the end of the round.

In round seven, both fighters were throwing big shots from the start of the round, but it was Ruiz with the shorter and faster shots that seemed to bother Joshua more than really hurt him and twice Joshua went down from Ruiz's punches, but yet with a tinge of a beaten fighter with his mouthpiece flying out from the second knockdown.
Here is the one thing I would say about the stoppage,
Joshua goes to his corner, places his hands on the ropes, keeps looking to his corner like a fighter that expects a break for the missing mouthpiece, the referee removes his hands, Joshua puts them back and then the fight is stopped.
Do I think Joshua was hurt? Yes
Am I OK with the stoppage? Yes, because I think Joshua would have likely gotten a clean mouthpiece and then knocked down again, his legs were that gone-But I do think he was thinking/hoping for that break in a desperate manner and considering Michael Griffin gave him one break already in continuing, I have no problems in not giving him another.

I thought both Ruiz and Joshua were classy in victory and defeat, which is more than I can say for Deontay Wilder on Twitter degrading Joshua (Tyson Fury was very encouraging to Joshua in his tweet) and PBC mouthpiece Ray Flores, who used the opportunity to praise his boss Al Haymon for giving Ruiz another chance after his release from Top Rank and needle Joshua, but if Joshua is the biggest loser on this night, Deontay Wilder is second.
Like so many fights that never happened, Joshua-Wilder will never be as big as it could have been with both fighters undefeated and therefore will more than likely see both fighters make far less, if and when that fight ever happens.
Deontay Wilder lost a lot of money last night and that might be money that he'll never get back, although I don't think he'll need any financial donations anytime soon!
Another loser is the streaming service DAZN, who had based much of their boxing kingdom around Joshua (along with Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin) and took a huge blow with the loss.
DAZN too will have much on the line in the rematch.

You still have to feel good for Andy Ruiz, who lived up to his potential in the ring on this night.
Ruiz may look like a 1980's heavyweight, but looks can be deceiving.
The rematch will be quite interesting, can Ruiz reach those heights again?
Will the inevitable media tours and appearances take something out of him?
Fighters that have never dealt with that before can react in different ways and fighters that pull major upsets often are unable to deal all that comes with the fame and the title- think Leon Spinks, Buster Douglas, Oliver McCall, and Hasim Rahman to name a few.

As for Anthony Joshua, he will likely attempt one of the harder things in boxing-change a style that has been effective for him in order to adopt a new one that protects a vulnerable chin.
It's been done, most notably by Wladimir Klitschko and Lennox Lewis, but those two champions had Emmanuel Steward to guide them through that transition- Anthony Joshua will not.

Now we have total chaos in the heavyweight division- even worse than before.
Ruiz has three of the four titles but doesn't have a notable win other than this one against Joshua.
Wilder is the biggest puncher, most fun to watch and longest reigning champion but faced little in good competition other than Luis Ortiz and I thought he lost to Tyson Fury.
Fury is the linear champion and I thought he beat Wilder, but he's often dull to watch and he lacks a top 10 win other than his boring win over Klitschko.

You could toss these three in any order and it would be a reasonable rating, but I'll go Fury (because I thought he beat Wilder), Wilder (Mainly on the win over Luis Ortiz and the near stoppage of Fury) and then Ruiz for now.
And don't forget this, it was the IBF's top contender in Kubrat Pulev that was up next for Joshua in the title rotation and the IBF could insist on Pulev being next for Ruiz, regardless of the rematch clause.
I'm sure Pulev will be offered step-aside money, but if he declines that, the IBF could strip Ruiz of their title for fighting the contractually obliged to and more financially lucrative Joshua rematch.

A crazy night in heavyweight boxing and the division is now more muddied than before, which was substantially so.
It could be quite a while before this clears up.

Back later with the rest of the boxing weekend.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Boxing Challenge

Boxing's weekend is centered around New York with our top-ranked fighters in two divisions on the same card and a far lesser slate on cable that seems to be nothing more than a counter-programming move against the best event of the day.

DAZN brings forth their claimant to the heavyweight champion, who brings three championships with him as Anthony Joshua defends against late replacement Andy Ruiz.
Ruiz replaces Jarrell Miller, who fell out after failing drug tests (Yes, that's plural) that found that Miller had more PED's in his system than toppings on a pizza, yet the drop in quality between the original opponent and the replacement is nil.
Ruiz showed talent in his only loss, a narrow decision to Joseph Parker for the vacant WBO title, but tired late in a winnable fight that seemed like lack of conditioning could have cost him that fight.
Parker would later drop that belt to Joshua and Ruiz returned to his less active schedule with a fifteen-month absence from the ring.

Give Ruiz credit for taking this fight on shorter notice than preferred after his fifth round win over Alexander Dimitrenko on April 20th and I think he's not a lesser fighter than Miller, so this isn't a squash match, but Joshua deserves to be a strong favorite.
As for the champion, who not only follows WBC champion Deontay Wilder's devastating performance against Dominic Breazeale but Wilder's announcement yesterday of a rematch vs Luis Ortiz (who turned down seven million to take Miller's place against Joshua) in the fall before a rematch vs lineal champion Tyson Fury of their draw in December 2018, early in 2020, Joshua makes his American debut and needs a smashing performance to maintain his claim as the best of the bunch.
I think Ruiz will have an occasional moment or two, but in the end, should show the difference between a top-five contender and a top ten model.

The co-main features the top super middleweight in the world in his American debut as WBA champion Callum Smith defends his title against long-time middleweight fringe contender Hassan N'Dam.
Smith won the World Boxing Super Series with his knockout of George Groves last September and has been mentioned for a possible Canelo Alvarez fight in the fall if the Canelo-Gennady Golovkin third fight (It's Golovkin if DAZN gets their way, but it could be Smith should the Golden Boy gang get theirs) doesn't happen.
Smith again is a clear favorite over N'Dam, who is coming off a win over Martin Murray in a battle of former contenders that are past their expiration date as serious title contenders, but failed in his attempts to leap from a lower part of the top 12 to a higher level in losses to Peter Quillin and David Lemieux.

Since it's a big fight night, it just wouldn't be right to have one of the other two promotional entities/television/streaming media not counter-program their card and tonight it's PBC and FS1 with a card that pales in comparison, but is FREEEE (copyright to Steve Kim) with a former champion that rarely excites even in victory against a once top prospect that never reached a contender's level with an undercard match of two former title challengers that really weren't qualified to be one.

In the main event, former 140 and 147 pound champion Devon Alexander returns after a draw with Victor Ortiz (that I had Alexander winning 118-110!) and a split decision loss to Andre Berto ( I had Alexander winning 116-111) against Ivan Redkach, who makes entertaining fights against fighters that stand toe to toe and are of a just below top 10-15 status.
Redkach's loss last year to John Molina was a tremendous fight that saw both fighters hit the floor in a four round war, but when facing a boxer that moves, Redkach looks very ordinary as he did in a lopsided 2016 loss to current IBF junior lightweight champion Tevin Farmer.
Alexander is far more similar to Farmer than Molina and this looks like a fight with two fighters from different levels.

The co-feature is a middleweight fight that matches former world title challengers (I'm being generous with that description for Centeno, who fought for a vacant minor title) that are more fringe contenders that true title threats.
Willie Monroe Jr faces Hugo Centeno in a fight of marginal middleweights on the outside of contention.
Monroe is a slick boxer that can't bust a grape (6 KO's) with one solid win (Gabe Rosado, which isn't unusual against guys that move) while Centeno has failed miserably against contenders (knocked out in two by Jermall Charlo and in ten by Macjej Sulecki, a no contest in a fight that he lost in every round ended by an accidental headbutt against Julian Williams), yet seems to continue to have opportunities like this given to him.
Centeno's third round knockout of Immanuel Aleem is the only highlight on his record and while Aleem fits in well with fighters on the level of Monroe and Centeno, he isn't a true top ten contender either.
The winner will likely move onto another shot at someone beyond their level, while the loser is likely to be headed to trialhorse status.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 135-120

WBA/IBF/WBO Heavyweight Titles. 12 Rds
Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz
R.L; Joshua KO 4
TRS: Joshua KO 9

WBA Super Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Callum Smith vs Hassan N'Dam
R.L: Smith KO 10
TRS: Smith KO 6

Welterweights.10 Rds
Devon Alexander vs Ivan Redkach
Both: Alexander Unanimous Decision

Middleweights. 10 Rds
Willie Monroe Jr vs Hugo Centeno
R.L: Monroe Unanimous Decision
TRS: Centeno Unanimous Decision

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Bob Kalsu and division

Memorial Day brings thoughts of the Americans that died in battle and the Forgotten Superstars series looks at the only active professional athlete to be killed in the Vietnam War.

Bob Kalsu played just one season for the Buffalo Bills before going to Vietnam and losing his life.
Kalsu had been an All-America guard at Oklahoma and in the waning days of the American Football League, Kalsu was the backup to future Hall of Famer Billy Shaw and was thought to be moving into Shaw's position upon his retirement (Shaw's final season was Kalsu's rookie year and it's easy to assume that would have happened without Kalsu's military commitment)

I'm not going to get into Kalsu's story too much here.
Sports Illustrated and the defunct Grantland did that in the linked articles and very well at that.
However, what it does make me think of is patriotism in the country then and now and how our country is as divided now as it was then, but for differing reasons.
Back then, the dividing line was the Vietnam War and I could respect someone's view on the issue, no matter the opinion.
War is a moral decision and one person's justified encounter can be another's invasion without cause and it is one that can be seen either way.

The Vietnam War divided a nation and yet here we are again with another divided country and the divisive party this time is not as much about a political party as much as it is about one man and his party relentless rolling over to his behavior.
Not that the opposition has done anything to make themselves a viable option other than say "we dislike....." and I think that's the problem in opposition.
Stand for something.
One side stands for keeping power no matter the cost, the other simply in taking that person away without plans for doing so and there is your divide over nothing.
Stand for something.

Bob Kalsu stood for something and left a potentially lucrative career to serve, much as Pat Tillman would do later, but I wonder what Kalsu would say today about the division in our nation.
Would he be as fast to serve again if needed today?
Would he be OK with a country grinding its gears against each other?
I wonder how far we have come in the interim since the Vietnam War and how as a country we haven't seemed to learn about unifying as a nation.
We can have differences in policy, opinions and how we see things, but as a nation, we have never seemed to recover from the cleaving of the nation over the Vietnam War,

That being the case, There are few people alive (and those numbers dwindle every day) that lived during a time that truly was Country first.
Not partisan ideas, Not political parties and certainly not over the political leaders that have been chosen to represent their parties over the last decades.
No matter your side, I'm not sure I'll ever see the days of a united country again unless it's a short term coming together after tragedy.
It's too bad and after a day of remembering lost lives for a country and way of life that the world used to envy, that my thoughts went to division, not unification.
Bob Kalsu and so many others like him., deserve better.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Haney steals the show, Herring upsets Ito

Despite a world title changing hands, there could only be one star of the night and it was clearly Devin Haney, who dominated a normally solid Antonio Moran for six rounds and hammered home a looping right hand in the seventh for a memorable one punch knockout on DAZN.

It was Haney's DAZN/Matchroom debut and he was dazzling in his performance as Moran, who lost a close decision to Jose Pedraza last June, was overmatched against Haney.
I scored Haney as the winner of every round before the memorable ending and the fight's only question by the fourth round was whether Haney would be able to stop Moran, who had never been stopped in his previous losses.
Haney will have to take another step up when he challenges for a world title, but I wouldn't be surprised a bit if, by 2021, the fight fans are talking about as the "fight that must be made" would match Devin Haney with Teofimo Lopez.

On ESPN, the WBO junior lightweight title was the centerpiece of a pro wrestling like storyline as former Marine and Olympian Jamel Herring pulled an upset of champion Masayuki Ito in Kissimmee, Florida via a unanimous decision.
Herring was just too slick for Ito, who was noted for never having an amateur fight before turning pro and it showed against the skilled, but never noted for being outstanding Herring.
In hindsight, Ito was made to order for a fighter of Herring's style and I should have seen that coming.
Herring avoided the wild lunges of Ito well and was able to control the fight from the outside as Ito seemed confused by Herring's left-handed stance and was rarely able to land.
I scored Herring a 116-112 (8-4) winner which agreed with one judge, with the other two scoring a too wide 118-110.
Herring dedicated the win to his late daughter, who passed away from SIDS as an infant and would have turned ten on the day of Herring's title win.
It's a compelling story, but one that isn't likely to end in a long championship book as Herring may fight WBC champion Miguel Berchelt in a unification fight in which Herring will again be a sizable underdog.

In the co-main event, Jose Pedraza returned from his loss to Vasyl Lomachenko to stop Antonio Lozada in the ninth round of their ten round event.
Lozada showed lots of heart and aggression and gave Pedraza little quarter, but the difference between a top ten fighter and a top twenty fighter can be vast and despite the effort, Pedraza wore Lozada down before being knocked down and finished in the ninth round.
Pedraza may be blocked in the lightweight division for now and might have to move to 140 pounds for another title shot.
Pedraza is unlikely to receive a Lomachenko rematch for two (and likely three after his match with Luke Campbell) belts and the remaining champion Richard Commey (IBF) is defending against Ray Beltran next,a victory should see Commey cash in against Lomachenko for all the lightweight gold and Pedraza is surprisingly unranked by the IBF.

Over with the PBC on FS1 from Biloxi Mississippi, the Hamburglar peeped his head outside the arches as former Olympian Terrell Gausha appeared to have clearly outpointed former champion Austin Trout in a fight that could be called boring and well, I'm calling it boring, but Gausha didn't receive the deserved nod as the judges called the fight a draw with three divergent and inaccurate card.
I had Gausha winning originally 96-94, but a rewatch (hey, I was at work and I was bored!) saw me give Gausha a 97-93 decision.
The Gausha judge scored it 99-91, which was ridiculous, but the 95-95 wasn't good (I thought my original 96-94 Gausha was generous to Trout), but the 96-94 Trout card was terrible.
It wasn't that Gausha was exciting or terrific in triumph, mind you, but Trout looked slow and just didn't move his hands enough.
Trout called for a rematch, saying he hadn't fought enough of late and while that may be true (and just whose fault is that again?), I don't think anyone really wants to see this again and what would it prove even if they did.
PBC could stick either of these two against Julian Williams or the Tony Harrison/Jermell Charlo winner anyway, so a rematch seems pointless.

I would like to add one point- Austin Trout seems to be the first fighter to succumb to the matchmaking style of PBC, where you fight once a year and maybe face a top-notch boxer every other year.
Inactivity dulls the skills and inactivity hurts an older fighter more than a younger one as far as sharpness goes, but the younger fighter is hurt by not fighting enough by not learning what you need to learn as an older fighter to dig deep, win a fight that you shouldn't or discover the tricks of the trade to give you a chance to win in a fight you might not be the favorite to win.
The system that PBC pushes for their fighters is that you'll get good pay for fewer fights and take less damage and that makes sense- in theory.
However, what that seems to be doing as well is limiting their fighters prime (in earning years as well as performance), affecting their long term performance and keeping them from the careers that their fighters are capable of.
Austin Trout might be the first test case of my theory, but over the next few years, I'm willing to bet that he won't be the last.

The other fight in the challenge from China has not taken place yet (Later this morning), so I will edit this post with the result and update to the boxing challenge after it is over.

In the boxing challenge as of this writing, I have added three points to Ramon Malpica's two with the Devin Haney fight being the difference in points.
Both of us picked Jose Pedraza's win for one point, both of us picked Masayuki Ito in his loss and the Trout-Gausha draw gives no points.

Editor's Note; Carlos Canizales defeated Sho Kimura via unanimous decision.
Ramon added two points for that win and took four points to my three for the weekend.
Ramon cuts my lead in the challenge to 135-120.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Boxing Challenge

Not a huge boxing weekend, but in what has been par for the course of late, cards from all three major boxing sources and at close to the same time.

ESPN will post two of the four challenge fights with the only world title on the line Saturday among the three with the WBO junior lightweight title of Masayuki Ito being defended against former Olympian Jamel Herring in Kissimmee Florida.
Herring has a great story, former Olympian, Marine with combat experience and as a parent that lost a child from SIDS, Herring challenging for the world title on Memorial Day weekend makes Herring the sentimental favorite against Ito, who will be fighting for only the second time in the United States, but returns to Kissimmee, where he upset then-undefeated Christopher Diaz to win his title.
The winner appears to be slotted for a unification tilt against WBC champion Miguel Berchelt, who is also Top Rank promoted.

The co-feature from Florida will see former IBF junior lightweight and WBO lightweight champion Jose Pedraza returning from his loss to Vasyl Lomachenko against Antonio Lozada.
Pedraza didn't fight badly despite losing a lopsided nod to Lomachenko, so he's favored here and Lozada, who stopped Felix Verdejo in the tenth round in an upset in his last fight in March 2018, but has been inactive since.

FS1 has a crossroads junior middleweight fight in Biloxi, Mississippi, as their main event with former champion Austin Trout fighting former Olympian Terrell Gausha.
Trout's been off for just shy of a year since his majority decision loss to then WBC junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo, but he fought well in spots against Charlo and should be favored against Gausha, who fought mildly in his title challenge against then WBA kingpin Erislandy Lara in October 2017 and has fought just once since.
The winner of this might have a shot at a champion since PBC controls most of this division, but will likely take a year or more off before doing so in the usual PBC promotional pattern.

DAZN and Matchroom are in Oxon Hill, Maryland with highly touted lightweight Devin Haney in his bow with Eddie Hearn's group.
Haney was a huge catch for Hearn as the 20-year-old looks to have everything that it takes to win a title, if not becoming a star.
Opponent Antonio Moran fought respectably in losing a close decision last June to Jose Pedraza, but if Haney is as good as I think that he is, Haney should see a small test, but not have too many problems.

The WBA is my least favorite sanctioning body with their too many titles and ridiculous ratings, but I'll thank them for streaming the junior flyweight minor title fight between undefeated Carlos Canizales and Sho Kimura from China.
You may remember Kimura for his majority decision loss to Kosei Tanaka last year in which he lost his WBO title in the TRS fight of the year, although I had Kimura winning a fight that could have been given to either fighter.
Canizales appears to be a big puncher, but his only blemish on his record is a draw with Ryo Taguchi against the only notable fighter on his resume', so let's see how he matches up with Kimura.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 132-116

WBO Jr.Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Masayuki Ito vs Jamel Herring
Both: Ito Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Jose Pedraza vs Antonio Lozada
Both: Pedraza Unanimous Decision

Junior Middleweights 10 Rds
Austin Trout vs Terrell Gausha
Both: Trout Unanimous Decision

Lightweights 12 Rds
Devin Haney vs Antonio Moran'
R.L: Haney Unanimous Decision
TRS: Haney KO 8

Junior Flyweights.12 Rds
Carlos Canizales vs Sho Kimura
R.L: Canizales Unanimous Decision
TRS: Kimura Unanimous Decision

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Case for and against Deontay Wilder

After Deontay Wilder's one round demolition last Saturday night of Dominic Breazeale, suddenly some of the American media (boxing and otherwise) began to seriously discuss Deontay Wilder as the best heavyweight in the world, despite Anthony Joshua holding three of the four recognized heavyweight titles and Tyson Fury holding the lineal title.
As impressive as Wilder was in brushing aside the challenge of Breazeale and it was impressive- was it enough to really consider him as the best heavyweight in the world?

Here is the case for why Wilder is that man in the division and then I'll make the case for why he still  has much to prove.

The Case For:
                       Deontay Wilder is the biggest puncher in the division and with the arguable exception of Naoya Inoue, is the biggest puncher in the game.
Anthony Joshua is a huge hitter as well, but Wilder is the harder puncher of the two.
Tyson Fury isn't a top puncher,so while Wilder-Joshua for punching power is worth arguing, Fury doesn't even enter the picture.
The one punch power that Wilder possesses saved his title against Tyson Fury with a 12th round knockdown and anyone Wilder hits, he has the potential to take out.

                      Deontay Wilder has perhaps the biggest win of any of the three with his win over Luis Ortiz.
Yes, if we are looking at career resume's Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury each holding victories over Wladimir Klitschko are far bigger wins, but Luis Ortiz was closer to his peak than Klitschko was.
Klitschko vs Fury was one of the duller heavyweight title fights in history, while Klitchko floored Joshua and hurt him badly in their match.
Fury's win came first, but Klitschko was clearly sharper and better prepared in his challenge of Joshua.
Still, Luis Ortiz was the "best heavyweight that no one will fight" and Deontay Wilder showed courage and a better chin than I expected in beating Ortiz.

                    Deontay Wilder has made more title defenses than either Joshua or Fury.
Granted, many of those defenses were against C-level fighters, but Wilder still has more experience at the champioship level.
Almost all of those with the exception of Ortiz and Fury, weren't exactly even middle level contenders (you can make an argument that Dominic Breazeale might have been the best of the Wilder challengers outside of those two,although the first fight vs Bermane Stiverne would have a case as well), but still a title defense is a title defense.

The Case Against:
                              Deontay Wilder hasn't beaten anyone other than Luis Ortiz.
Remember that Tyson Fury drew with Wilder and it took two knockdowns to salvage that draw, so that's not a win, so you basically have Wilder with a resume that has a very good win over Ortiz, a draw against the lineal champion and a huge dropoff to Bermane Stiverne and Dominic Breazeale with another sizable dip for Wilder's other opponents.
Wilder is still relatively untested against top opponents and will have never faced a puncher on the order of Anthony Joshua.

                             Deontay Wilder still has a very questionable chin and he's just waiting to be exposed.
Wilder has never faced a puncher like Joshua, Ortiz is a good not great banger and Fury has never been noted as a knockout artist, despite his size.
Still, Wilder was in deep waters against Ortiz and full credit for surviving Ortiz in the fifth round, but the fight that I cannot get out of my mind is his early fight against journeyman Harold Sconiers.
Sconiers, who finished his career with a 18-27-2 mark, dropped Wilder in the second round of their fight and had Wilder in all kinds of trouble in Wilder's thirteenth pro fight.
Points for Wilder for getting up and winning, but the Harold Sconiers' of the world shouldn't be hurting fighters of the level of Deontay Wilder, no matter the point in the career that they fight.

                      Deontay Wilder is not at the technical level of the best heavyweight in the world.
Wilder is wild, wide open and undisciplined in his attack and that leaves Wilder vulnerable.
Wilder did try to fight off the jab and in a more orthodox manner once- in his title winning fight against Bermane Stiverne and that resulted in the dullest fight of his career, which made me question Wilder's ferociousness entering his fight with Luis Ortiz.
It could be that for Wilder to be technically stronger, that it takes away from what makes him the puncher that he is.
If Wilder fights straight up against Anthony Joshua, it might be a tedious fight and might leave him very vulnerable to Joshua's right hand, but charging in recklessly could result in an early KO loss.

I wouldn't rate Deontay Wilder as the top heavyweight in the world.
I would rate him as the hardest puncher in the division, if we look at pure power, but I'd rank him second overall behind Anthony Joshua and ahead of Tyson Fury despite Fury winning more rounds in their draw.
Fury's biggest win was a plodding and boring win over Wladimir Klitschko and even though Fury might be the superior fighter, I'd rank Wilder ahead of Fury for now.

Happy Anniversary

I actually forgot about the TRS anniversary a few months, but I was never going to forget this one.

I won't be spending very much of my 32nd anniversary with the lovely Cherie, thanks to part one of a scintillating three-day training for work brought to you by the state of Maryland (the celebration was earlier this week) and my time today is limited to this early morning note (unless I'm lucky enough to have time around lunch), so I wanted to type a few words about these 32 years.

As those of you that know me personally have discovered, I'm not an easy person to know and even in many cases like.
Cherie, besides being the most patient and tolerant soul that I know, brings a calmness to my life that I'm usually in desperate need of.
She deals with me with love and the passion that she has for her family and faith is at a level that I'm fortunate enough to be around.

32 years ago, it was a blazing hot day that the law deemed us husband and wife and we deliberately kept the wedding small, but even then many of the observers that day have moved on.
Some have passed away, another few drifted away as people do in life and yet others have walked away, but the consistency in my life has always come from the person here, that I write of here usually as "the lovely Cherie".

I don't have to make grand social media proclamations about having the best this or the best that, when you have good things, it's the folks that show through actions, not words that are best able to reveal what they have.
That's why you don't read/see me talking about the best wife or the best kids or bragging about an accomplishment, it's not about that.
It's about appreciating what I have personally with Cherie and the wonderful children that we have together that is the important thing.
Besides, so many others have good things as well, who am I to judge what others have?
Is there a power ranking for family life? Are we attempting to achieve a top-four ranking to reach the equivalent of the college football playoff?
When you put it that way, doesn't it seem sort of silly?
It's all about what works for them and therefore us.

Happy Anniversary, dear- Thanks for tolerating me and all of the dents and pings that come with me,
Let's keep the ball rolling for many many more of these!
Sorry that my time for this is short- blame Maryland!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Things I'd change in sports

We all complain about sports and things that drive us nuts, but if you had the power to change one thing about an individual sport, what would it be?

I'm sure I could come up with quite a few, but I'm going to try to keep it to one in order to preserve some items for a possible future version on this topic.

               It's not even close-Interleague play.
Hate it.
The other major sports would kill for the tradition of the separate leagues and here baseball is diluting that.
I'd eliminate that tomorrow or for those of you in the major markets that just have to have that Mets-Yankees series each year, each team is assigned one 'rival' for a four-game series every year for a two-game home and home.

There are things I'd change about baseball, but most are scheduling, statistical or administrative.
I don't mind most of the proposed in-game changes such as the pitch clock, limited mound visits or even a rule that would eliminate the pitching specialist that forces a pitcher to pitch to three batters, so for an opinionated traditionalist, I don't think I'm THAT bad!

Pro Football:
                      I'll go with a game change and revert to their original overtime period of fifteen minutes.
I know their change to ten minutes was supposedly in the vein of "player safety" (Like the NFL cares about that with Thursday night games every week),  but since ten minute periods are barely enough for both teams to have one possession at times, let alone multiple possessions.
I know there were just two ties last season, but there were a few near-misses and the system seems set up more to encourage ties rather than break them.
I'd almost rather just keep ties after regulations than have them at the end of overtime.

College Football:
                             Again, it's overtime, but in a different manner.
I've never liked the college overtime because I think it eliminates the special teams' aspect from the game and it artificially inflates statistics, but when we move into these six and seven overtime periods, overkill is a word that only mildly describes those exhausting games.
The NCAA is trying to tweak this with a change that alternates two-point conversions after the fourth overtime rather than a entire possession. but while that may help in safety in keeping exhausted players off the field, my change would be this- start each possession at the 50 rather than the current 25 yard line.
This would have the effect of more space to make mistakes and I think that would lessen the likelihood of those endurance marches disguised as overtime games.

College Basketball:
                                The easy answer is adding the baseball rule to basketball, which would allow high school players to jump to the NBA, but once they step onto a college campus, they aren't eligible to leave until after their junior year.
This would allow players to make money quickly and not have to go through the sham of attending classes for essentially one semester, NBA teams to have the option of taking the raw player and developing those players themselves and still getting better-prepared players from the college ranks.
The colleges win as well with coaches and supporters having players in their programs for at least three years as they can plan for the future without worrying about an NBA departure and fans can embrace players as long-term parts of their programs.

Pro Basketball:
                         The college basketball change affects the NBA too, so I'll select something small for the pro game.
I really hate their no-trade rule on the clock during their drafts.
It's ridiculous that players like Dirk Nowitzki that spent their entire career with a team (Mavericks) cannot technically say they have been with the organization forever because they were drafted by someone else, in Nowitzki's case the Bucks.
In addition, it takes away the moment of the player being drafted with all the pictures, etc and ruins it for everyone when the players meet the commissioner, take photos, etc with the hat and logo of a team that they spent ten minutes with.
It's a minor change, but an easy one to make.

              Another easy change- the far too soft terms that expansion teams are now entering the league are simply unfair.
I know that every time that the expansion entry fees leap through the roof that the argument is- "well since they are paying so much, they deserve competitive teams".
I couldn't disagree more.
I know that so many thought Las Vegas advancing to the Stanley Cup was a cute story and many fans were rooting for them, but here are my points- yes, I get that it takes time to build and that time taken can seem interminable, however, here is my argument- If you pay no price (I.E. live through the losing times) because your local team is an instant winner, what will happen when that team eventually drops in the standings?
That is why I question the expansion teams being too good too quickly as the honeymoon can peak too soon.
Look at Columbus and their fans this season, you only have one first time (which is why to a certain age group the Miracle of Richfield Cavaliers are more fondly remembered than even the championship Cavaliers), do you want to use that too soon and have the casual fan base think that things come this easy always?
Las Vegas will be the first test case, but the next expansion in Seattle will be a further test of this theory.

             I'd love to return to 15 round fights, but even more than that would be a change to weighing in on the morning of the fight.
I know that is not a perfect solution as fights could come in weakened from weight loss (although an early morning weigh-in would help immensely), but I'd rather the fighter that cannot make weight be penalized more than the fighter had fewer problems hitting the mark fighting a blown up fighter.
In addition, the fighter struggling at the scales would have an extra 12 hours or so to enable him to make the weight.
I know there are people that think that day of weigh-ins aren't good for the fighters, but is it any better to have inflated boxers with 36 hours before a fight to jump up sometimes two divisions by bell time?
Daniel Jacobs has twice in marquee events pulled stunts designed to have a massive weight advantage in those fights against Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez and I think a day of the fight weigh-in would take some of that edge away from those that use that tactic.
Again, this has its own problems, but I think it solves more problems than it causes.

I'll likely be returning to this in future posts as some sports there were just too many things to change!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Forgotten Superstars: Toby Harrah

I've written before about my favorite player growing up with the occasional note that I found online and I've even written about his trade to the Indians that changed my baseball allegiance forever, but I've never devoted a Forgotten Superstars segment to Toby Harrah.

Harrah was my favorite player for no particular reason really.
My dad had been a Washington Senators and stayed with the team when they moved to Texas to become the Rangers and even though he would eventually shift to the Orioles as he grew tired of waiting for a baseball return to the District (Ironically, he's never warmed up to the Nationals). when I was picking baseball teams, I selected the teams that he rooted for (Which didn't happen after that except for the Maryland Terrapins)  in the Rangers and Pirates.

Harrah was originally drafted by the Phillies. but was drafted away by the Washington Senators in the minor league draft, similar to the rule five draft today after his first season.
Harrah made his major league debut with the Senators late in the 1969 season, used mostly as a pinch-runner with only one plate appearance before winning the starting shortstop position for Washington in their final season in 1971.
Harrah would be the final active player to have played for the Washington Senators when he retired after the 1986 season, but his rookie season as a Senator was nothing to indicate stardom as Harrah hit just .230 with only one homer in 127 games with 23 errors defensively.
The 1972 move to Texas didn't improve Harrah's numbers appreciably, but a strong first half and the MLB rule to have one player from each team allowed Harrah to make his first of four All-Star teams. For the 1972 season, Harrah's average rose somewhat to .259 and doubled his power numbers to two homers, but in 1973, Harrah's career showed his first signs of being more than an average player as he hit ten homers along with keeping his average in the same area (.260) for the 57 win Rangers in the only season that Whitey Herzog managed in Texas.

It was 1974 that saw Harrah's breakout season as the surprising Rangers under Billy Martin improved their record by thirty games from the previous season (54 to 84 victories) and Harrah was a key player in the upturn as he again finished with a .260 batting average, but hit twenty homers with 74 RBI.
Harrah's time playing under Martin helped him develop as a player, but what is also did is develop Harrah as a favorite of Martin's and seemingly every off-season was filled with rumors and various attempts by Martin's next team in New York trying to acquire Harrah to play shortstop for the Yankees.
It's funny, had the Yankees obtained Harrah, they would have never received the famous 1978 playoff homer from Bucky Dent or if there is a parallel universe somewhere that has Red Sox fans cursing the name Toby Bleeping Harrah!

Harrah continued to improve his game in 1975 with a career-high in RBI (93) and jumping in batting average to. 293 in making his second All-Star team and would be voted to his only starting All-Star spot in 1976 despite a small slide in statistics to .260 with 15 homers.
Yes, for those of you scoring at home, Toby Harrah's batting average was exactly .260 for three out of four seasons!

In 1977, the Rangers moved Harrah from shortstop to third base and Harrah responded with his career high in homers with 27 and led the league in walks with 109.
Harrah's eye at the plate was underrated, but from 1975 to 1985, Toby never struck out more often than he walked and he was an underrated base stealer as well as he swiped 27 bases in the second of his three 20/20 seasons (also 75 and 79) in 1977.
Harrah didn't make the All-Star team despite the improved numbers due to the competition at third base in the AL at the time, but despite hitting. 263, this was likely his best overall season as a Ranger with his top Texas OPS number as well at .872.

The 1978 Rangers were favored in some quarters to win the AL West as owner Brad Corbett traded for Al Oliver, Bobby Bonds, and Jon Matlack as well as signing free agent Richie Zisk, but even with 87 wins, the Rangers never seemed to jell and finished five games behind Kansas City as crusty veteran manager Billy Hunter battled with his team all season with Hunter being fired on the season's next to last day.
Toby must have struggled with Hunter as he delivered his career-worst season as well (.222, 12 and 59 with only a career-high 31 steals standing out on the stat sheet), although I've never read particular problem between the two, only the general problems with Hunter and the team.
I've always wondered how Hunter sat his starting third baseman for both games of a 1978 doubleheader, yet he was healthy enough to pinch-run for his only appearance on my tenth birthday which my present was tickets to see the Rangers in Baltimore.

The disappointing season for the Rangers meant another shakeup was in store and the Rangers made several moves that included moving Bobby Bonds after one season and the two most popular Rangers- Mike Hargrove and Toby Harrah.
The three were moved in three different trades, but by June 1979, all three were with the Indians (Hargrove was traded to the Padres over the winter before a June trade to Cleveland).
I've written before about the trade that unofficially sent then ten-year-old Shawn to the Indians as well with the Rangers adding Buddy Bell in the one for one trade.
There has been a small myth that the Rangers "won" the trade, but I'd argue that the trade was pretty even.
Bell was the better fielder and the better hitter for average, Harrah was the superior power hitter (Bell finished with only six more career homers, despite playing two more seasons) and was more of a threat to steal a base.
If Texas had an edge, it was that they had Bell for eight years (.293, 87, 499 RBI and .782 OPS)  to Harrah's tenure in Cleveland lasting five ( .281, 70, 324 RBI and  .799 OPS), but via average, it's very even.

The Indians in the '70s and 80s were always a team looking for an identity.
One year they would build around power, another speed and in others, pitching.
The Wahoo's would also zig-zag between veteran teams and youth so after the Indians had tried to work with youth for the past few years entering 1979, they were attempting to bring in some veterans to lift the team to respectability and despite finishing sixth in the best division in baseball, they were respectable at 81-80 as had they been in the western division, they would have finished fifth, but a half-game (due to a rainout that was not replayed) out of fourth and only a game in a half behind third-place Texas.
Harrah helped those 1979 Indians, an average team long forgotten by all but the most diehard Cleveland fans, to that record with the final of his 20/20 seasons, hitting homers and steal right on the nose with 20 in each column.
Harrah's numbers dropped in 1980 (.267 and 11 homers) and his average improved in the strike season of 1981(.291 and 5 longballs), but his career season was on tap as in 1982, Harrah made his fourth and final All-Star team as he hit above .300 (.304) for the only time in his career, smacked 25 homers (second highest in his career), knocked in 78 runs from the second spot in the batting order, stole 17 bases, finished with a career-high of .888 and played all 162 games- all at the age of 33.
That was his last big season as in 1983, Toby's stats took a fall (.266 and nine homers) and missed a month of the season, so the time was right for the Indians to move him and finally after all those years, the Yankees got their man as Harrah was sent to Gotham for reliever George Frazier, outfielder Otis "My Man!" Nixon and minor leaguer Guy Elson.

The Yankees would be disappointed as Harrah hit just .217 and one home run in only 88 games as it seemed Harrah didn't care for playing in New York and at the age of 36, looked to be through as the Yankees returned Harrah to Texas for outfielder Billy Sample.
Harrah was moved to second base and played pretty well in 1985 (.270, 9 and an OPS of .820) in 126 games, but he would retire after a weak 1986 season at the age of 37 hitting only .218 with seven homers in 95 games.
Harrah would be elected to the Rangers Hall of Fame in  2009.

Harrah would later manage the Rangers for 76 games in the 1992 season to a record of 32-44, which was disappointing considering he replaced Bobby Valentine, who was canned after a 45-41 start.
Harrah would never manage in the big leagues again, but he would manage in the minors and coach with a few teams in majors including the Indians with former teammate Mike Hargrove managing and the Rockies with the player that his name is most attached to as the bench boss- Buddy Bell.

Toby Harrah isn't often thought about as a Hall of Fame level player,  but by some sabremetricians, Harrah's career is more highly thought of as Baseball Prospectus ranks him as the 25th best third baseman ever ahead of some Hall of Famers and rated near the top of Wins Above Replacement Players or WAR) five times in his career.
Tobt Harrah had a pretty solid career, was my favorite player and the latest addition to our Forgotten Superstars Universe.