Monday, July 29, 2019

Devils trade for Nikita Gusev

The New Jersey Devils have been mentioned even after the draft as a team that could have a big move still in their pocket with a large amount of cap space.

The Devils made that move in added what they hope will be at least a top-six forward and with luck, an eventual first liner as the Devils obtained left wing Nikita Gusev from the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The Devils traded their 2020 third-round draft and their 2021 second-rounder to the Golden Knights for Gusev, who has dominated the Russia-based KHL over the last few seasons.

Gusev had leverage with the cap starved Knights in that he could return for one more season in the KHL and then return for the 2020-21 offseason as a free agent and leaving Las Vegas with nothing for Gusev, whose rights they acquired from Tampa Bay during their expansion draft.
The Devils offer of two picks was reportedly more than the one that came from the other suitor, the Columbus Blue Jackets and put them at the forefront to make the deal.
Ray Shero quickly signed Gusev to a two-year contract worth nine million and avoid any concern about a return to Russia.

There are two schools of thought about Gusev, who led the KHL in points and assists last season and won the league's MVP award for the 2017-18 season.
The doubters wonder if at 27, Gusev is as good as he is going to get, worries about his size 5'11 and slight of build and that he isn't the most skilled skater around.
The believers counter with what they claim are Gusev's elite hands and vision and believe he'll easily be a top-six forward.

Gusev's play in the KHL was superior to that of both Evgeny Dadonov and Artemi Panarin (newly of the Rangers) and one would think that Gusev should be at least close to their level, if not superior and for that type of production, I'll take him for the cost of a 2 and 3, especially when you consider that they won't be in the same draft year.
This is a low risk and high reward trade by the Devils and I'm all in!
It's going to be a very fun season of hockey, I think in New Jersey.
For a look at some Nikita Gusev highlights, play the video below!

Pirates send Jordan Lyles to Brewers

The Pittsburgh Pirates have lost their last eight games, fallen into last place in the National League Central and taken any slim hopes of a wild card charge off the table.
What that losing streak also did was save the Pirates from being deluded into thinking that the team was a playoff contender and making a trade to shore up an effort destined to fail as it did last season and the Pirates have started the process of moving players, if the offer strikes them as fair.

Pittsburgh traded righthander Jordan Lyles out of their rotation to the team that allowed him to test free agency after last season in the Milwaukee Brewers.
In return, Pittsburgh received an interesting prospect in minor league righthander Cody Ponce.

Lyles was 5-7 with an ERA of 5.36 and has pitched poorly in the month of July, as he pitched longer than four innings in only one of his four starts.
Lyles was the scheduled starter for tonight's game against the Reds, which he was obviously pulled from.
Lyles pitched well for the Brewers in the eleven games that he appeared for them after Milwaukee acquired him from San Diego around last year's trade deadline, but all of those appearances were in relief.
Pittsburgh decided to install Lyles in their rotation with mixed results and considering that Lyles was under a one year contract and would be a free agent at the end of 2019, I think Cody Ponce is an interesting return for Lyles.

Cody Ponce was the Brewers second-round pick from Cal-Poly in 2015 and was progressing up the ladder as a starter until struggling last season at AA Biloxi to a 7-6 record with an ERA over four.
Returned to the Shuckers this season and used from the bullpen, Ponce has an ERA of 3.29 in 27 appearances and 38 innings, striking out 44 and walking twelve.
At 6'6 and 240 pounds, Ponce has the type of frame that makes you think that could hold up under the use that relievers deal with and still be durable.
Relievers often can a little longer to develop as many times they have been failed starters in a system before learning to convert to a relief role.
Ponce was assigned to AA Altoona and is the type of player that is worth a shot-especially with a free agent that you likely aren't interested in retaining.
It'll be interesting to see Ponce's progression in a new system and manner of pitching.

Indians obtain Wood and Arroyo from Tampa Bay

The Cleveland Indians have made their first move of the silly season as the Wahoos traded with the Tampa Bay Rays to add pitcher Hunter Wood and utilityman Christian Arroyo for the postseason run.

Hunter Wood is the major part of the deal with as righthanded help for the bullpen with a fastball in the middle 90s.
Wood was 1-1 with an ERA of 2.48 in 19 appearances for Tampa, striking out 24 in 29 innings and will likely slot in as the seventh or eighth-inning setup man,
Wood has been assigned to AAA Columbus as a temporary measure until space on the 40 man roster can be made later this week.

Christian Arroyo was once a first-round pick(2013) and highly touted prospect for the Giants with a highly regarded bat, but after being traded to Tampa in the trade that sent Matt Moore to the Giants for the 2017 stretch run, had been a disappointment.
Arroyo is currently on the disabled list with an issue with his right forearm and may not be able to return this season, although a September recall is possible.
Arroyo can play multiple positions around the infield and might best be used as a utilityman with a very good contact bat.
Arroyo hit .220 with two homers for Tampa in fifty at-bats and hit .314 with eight homers for AAA Durham in 121 plate appearances.
Arroyo was placed on the Indians disabled list upon completion of the trade.

Cleveland gave international slot money to the Rays along with outfielder Ruben Cardenas in return for the aforementioned two players,
Cardenas was the Indians sixteenth round selection in the 2018 draft from Cal-State Fullerton and played 84 games for low A Lake County, hitting .284 with 10 homers in 320 at-bats.
The 21 year old outfielder ranked in the top five in six batting categories in the Midwest League and is projected to have plus power, although his ability to make contact at higher levels has been questioned and a collegiate back injury helped Cardenas slide in the draft far more than had been projected before Cardenas final season with Fullerton.
Cardenas was assigned to Tampa's low A affiliate in the same Midwest League with the Bowling Green Hot Rods.

This trade may not spin the world, but hard-throwing young relievers with controllable years are always going to have a strong market and even though relief pitchers are the least stable position from year to year of late, anytime you can add one such as Wood, it could be a good deal.



Sunday, July 28, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Davis dominates homecoming

The Showtime portion of the weekend looked to be the weaker of the two events and it lived up to expectations as both the main event and the top supporting bout both ended in two uncompetitive rounds from Baltimore.

Gervonta "Tank" Davis rolled his treads over an overmatched Ricardo Nunez in two rounds to retain his WBA junior lightweight championship.
Some questioned referee Harvey Dock's stoppage, but I thought it was fine, Nunez was about out on his feet and unless he slipped on Ted DiBiase's mysterious loaded black glove, Nunez wasn't going to threaten Davis on this night, or likely any night.
Davis, who did what you would hope he would against a huge underdog, then called out Tevin Farmer for a unification fight, carried out the IBF title belt that he lost on the scales, claimed he was the IBF champion and said he hoped to make a Farmer fight before the end of the year.

Here are my problems with that:
One, Davis lost that title due to his own actions and that belt should have stayed in his trophy case (When a champion loses a championship, they do keep the physical belt, which is how Davis possessed an IBF title to display)
Two: Fans still learning the sport are often confused by the excessive amount of championships as it is, no need to confuse them on who the champion is.
Three: Jim Gray, who did mention Tevin Farmer, didn't correct the Davis claim to the viewers, which would have been as simple as saying "this is the title that you lost by missing weight, which Tevin Farmer now holds".
Coming on the heels of Fox/PBC not listing Terence Crawford as a welterweight champion on the Thurman-Pacquiao fight, again this looks like PBC propaganda.
And finally-Four: As much as I would like to see Davis vs Farmer and that's a fight that I think Davis would win, PBC and Floyd Mayweather (Davis' Promoters) have shown almost no exertion in making fights with other promoters as we have seen with Top Rank, Golden Boy, and Matchroom and nothing I've seen so far makes me think they'll start now.
I really get annoyed when fighters from all promoters call guys out for fights that are unlikely to occur, but it REALLY bugs me when PBC guys use this tactic as they have been the largest impediment to signing inter-promotional big fights.

I'd like to see Davis-Farmer next, but it's more likely that we'll see Davis against another Nunez type in his next fight.
Much as PBC can ice Terence Crawford from their top welterweights, Top Rank can do the same to Davis with their top fighters at lightweight and junior lightweight.
The state of boxing today, ladies and gentlemen.

The undercard was underwhelming as aging Yuriorkis Gamboa swatted aside a badly shot Roman "Rocky" Martinez in two rounds in a lightweight match of two former champions at lower weights.
Gamboa knocked Martinez down in the second and finished him off with a right hand later in the round.
Martinez looked nowhere near his old self and needs to step away from the game before he gets hurt.
Gamboa, who scored his first KO in five years, will likely return in a fight that will be used to build a younger fighter's resume.

In the first fight, lightweight Ladarius Miller won a controversial split decision over Jezreel Corrales in a less than memorable and very awkward fight that if remembered at all, will be recalled only for the awful decision by referee Brent Bozell to deduct a point from Corrales for holding with 40 seconds remaining in the fight.
That deduction cost Corrales a draw as one of the two cards for Miller saw Miller win 95-94.
I had Corrales a 95-94 winner after the lost point, so I wouldn't scream robbery by the judges, but the Bozell decision clearly cost Corrales on his record.

Speaking of Maryland's judges and referees, Maryland is beginning to host higher-level boxing cards
far more often than in the past and yet on far too many occasions, their referees and judges are shown to be not up to the task.
If Maryland is going to stage bigger and better fights, they need to improve the quality of their officials, either by licensing top officials from other states or training better ones here.

Finally, it was nice to see veteran Barry Tompkins back with the main crew announcing for Showtime.
I'm not a hater of Mauro Ranallo, but not a fan either of his forced puns and pop culture takes along with his Gus Johnson-like tendency to inject exciting commentary when there is often no reason to
do so, but Tompkins is a much better fit for boxing telecasts than Ranallo, who seems to be far smoother for his other gigs with mixed martial arts and pro wrestling.
Showtime has the best production and the best two color commentators in the sport with Al Bernstein and Paulie Malignaggi and it would be nice to see more of Tompkins, who does blow by blow for Showtime's ShoBox series, and has been the voice of so many famous boxing highlights from his time on HBO and ESPN, on the main offerings on the network.

In the boxing challenge, I added four (Two each from Davis and Gamboa) to two for Ramon Malpica (Two from Davis) to extend my lead to 198-173.

Boxing Challenge:Ramirez stops Hooker in six- Unifies two titles

It was the fight that I was looking forward to most and it was worth the wait as Jose Ramirez broke through in the sixth round and stopped Maurice Hooker with a savage barrage that gave the referee little choice but to stop the fight with Hooker helpless along the ropes taking big punches.

To that point, the fight had been very evenly fought with several exchanges (I had Ramirez winning three of the previous five rounds) that saw both fighters landing bombs against the other.
The fight saw a knockdown in the first round scored by Ramirez, but as Ramirez admitted in the post-fight interview that Ramirez had stepped on Hooker's foot to cause the knockdown.
Even in the final round, Hooker had his moments and all the way to the end, Hooker was scoring his share of points and the left hook that Ramirez landed that drove a badly hurt Hooker into the ropes came from nowhere as Hooker lobbed out a lazy punch that Ramirez fired his left over.
Ramirez didn't waste his opportunity as he leaped onto the dazed Hooker, fired multiple punches and just as the referee was preparing to step in, Ramirez showed a killer instinct with one final missile that snapped Hooker's head back and gave the arbiter no choice but to end the fight.

For Ramirez, this not only gives him two titles and bragging rights for Top Rank but gives him a plausible argument for being the best in the 140-pound division, although the Regis Prograis-Josh Taylor winner would have a similar claim of holding two titles and an elite level victim on their resume'.
Ramirez showed aggression that he hasn't always shown and I loved him finishing off a badly hurt opponent.
Young champions don't always do that in similar situations and I was impressed with Ramirez not allowing a damaged opponent to regroup and closing the show.
I've always liked Ramirez, sometimes more than most, and before Regis Prograis entered the WBSS, a Ramirez-Prograis showdown was coming soon with Ramirez being the WBC champion and Prograis was their minor beltholder.
However showing foresight and faith in their fighters, promoters Bob Arum (Ramirez) and Lou DiBella (Prograis) agreed to table such a fight and gambled that a fight down the road between the pair would be worth far more and be more important.
That fight is one fight away from happening, although I wouldn't sleep on Josh Taylor's chances, who could very well defeat Prograis in their upcoming as that fight seems just as difficult to select as Ramirez-Hooker was.

The other fight in the boxing challenge saw Tevin Farmer retain his IBF junior lightweight title with a unanimous decision over Guillaume Frenois of France in a fight that was pretty tedious to watch.
The main excitement from this one saw Frenois consistently whining, flopping and moaning about Farmer's punches below the belt in an attempt to gain points or even a win that his own punches were not going to be able to deliver.
As for Farmer, who defended his title for the fourth time in the year since he won the championship, I admire the activity and wish other fighters would emulate his example, but he's defeating B and C level opponents and could use a step up in competition.

In the boxing challenge, I scored three points (Two for Farmer and one for Ramirez) to Ramon Malpica's one for Farmer to increase my lead in the boxing challenge to 194-171.

I am watching the Showtime card now and will be back later with a review of their event from Baltimore.



Saturday, July 27, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The Boxing Challenge ends July with two cards with three world title fights in two different divisions including two fighters that consistently talk smack about and to the other, yet are unlikely to ever enter the ring against each other as things currently stand.

DAZN has the fight that I am most excited about as two undefeated and very talented young world champions from two different promotions took the leap forward to make a great fight with the political factions to be damned as WBC junior welterweight champion Jose Ramirez travels to Arlington, Texas to battle WBO champion Maurice Hooker in his hometown.
Hooker, who fights on DAZN for Matchroom, has the site and network advantage, but Ramirez and his promoters Top Rank have confidence that their champion can overcome that and leave Texas with both belts.
It'll be very interesting to see what happens and where this fight is staged.
Hooker, who has an official one-inch height advantage, although I'd bet he's taller than that, and the reach advantage will try to make it an outside fight as Ramirez attempts to get inside.
The term "Pick em" fight is a term used often in boxing, but it has been quite a while since I've seen a fight that is as difficult to choose from like this one.
It's good for the sport when promoters (Take a note PBC) cross party lines to actually make the best fights and hopefully, the winner here with their two titles can then make a fight with the winner of Regis Prograis-Josh Taylor, who will have the other two titles, to have one true champion.

The co-feature will have IBF junior lightweight champion Tevin Farmer defending his title for the fourth time in under a year, against Guillaume Renaud of France.
Farmer has been the most active champion in boxing, although against B level competition and Renaud appears to be another from that group.
Still, even considering the opposition, it's nice to see a fighter willing to fight more often than his peers.

Showtime is matched opposite with DAZN on Saturday night with a three bout slate led by the homecoming fight in Baltimore by WBA junior lightweight champion Gervonta Davis.
Davis, who is one of those fighters that spends more time sparring on social media with other fighters (Tevin Farmer) than he does throwing punches in the ring, faces mandatory challenger Ricardo Nunez, who appears from the limited video that I have seen to have a puncher's chance, but not a likely one to trouble Davis.
Davis, much like another PBC fighter Gary Russell, has tremendous talent but just doesn't fight enough to stay in the eye of the public and that's too bad as he has the skills to become a major star.

The undercard features an evenly matched, if not fighters in their prime as former champions Yuriorkis Gamboa takes on Rocky Martinez in another one of those fights in which the winner moves on ( the winner is rumored to possibly face Gervonta Davis, groan) and the loser might call it quits.

In the opener, former WBA junior lightweight champion Jezreel Corrales moves to lightweight against Ladarius Miller.
Miller, who holds a win over WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring, is a mover and will likely try to box the often awkward Corrales as his best chance at victory.
Corrales has fought just once against a low-level foe since he was surprisingly knocked out in October 2017 by Alberto Machado, so he will have some inactivity to work through against Miller.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 191-170

WBC-WBO Junior Welterweight Title Unification. 12 Rds
Jose Ramirez vs Maurice Hooker
R.L: Hooker Split Decision
TRS: Ramirez Split Decision

IBF Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Tevin Farmer vs Guillaume Frenois
R.L: Farmer KO 6
TRS: Farmer Unanimous Decision

WBC Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Gervonta Davis vs Ricardo Nunez
R.L: Davis KO 6
TRS: Davis KO 3

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Yuriorkis Gamboa vs Rocky Martinez
R.L: Martinez Unanimous Decision
TRS: Gamboa KO 7

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Jezreel Corrales vs Ladarius Miller
Both: Corrales Unanimous Decision

Friday, July 26, 2019

Giants sell Derek Holland to Cubs

The recent run of excellent play may have changed the San Francisco Giants from sellers to buyers at next Wednesday's new "Hard" trade deadline, but the team made a minor move today by sending pitcher Derek Holland to the Chicago Cubs for cash considerations.

The 32-year-old lefthander had a record of 2-4 with an ERA of 5.90 in 31 appearances ( Seven starts) this season in his second season with the Giants after a decent 2018 in San Francisco (7-9, but a 3.54 ERA in 30 starts).
Holland started the season in the starting rotation and his first five starts weren't awful, but in what turned out to be his final two starts of the season, Holland allowed six and seven earned runs and would never return to the rotation.
Holland pitched well from the bullpen over the last month but allowed four runs in one inning in his final appearance last Saturday and in a bullpen with fellow southpaws Will Smith and Tony Watson (for now at least) Holland had become a luxury item.

The one very minor surprise of this deal is that the Giants didn't receive some type of low minors/recent signee from the lowest level for Holland rather than bank whatever cash the Cubs paid.
Perhaps that was the only offer or the Giants weren't enamored with any of the lottery tickets that might have been offered by Chicago and were just happy to get something for a player that they possibly could have been considered for release.

Two weeks ago, I figured I'd be writing about the Giants return for Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, and Tony Watson.
Now all three could still be Giants at this time next week.
Considering the Pirates decision last year to allow a few weeks of strong play allow them to delude themselves that they were contenders and cost themselves Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, I'm more than a little concerned that the Giants may be doing the exact same thing.
Could this run be fools gold in the long run?
Perhaps, but it has put pressure on the Giants to make the right decision on personnel and one that could affect the future of the franchise.

Realignment

The Athletic has been posting a series of articles on various schools and how the big bang of conference realignment a few years back affected those schools.

I was more interested in some of the articles than others ( Maryland, Boise State, Independents, and Texas A&M), but all brought interesting tales about the trials, tribulations and even success stories for those schools that were moving up and down the conference trail.

As someone that has decried many of these moves ( I still miss being able to root for Maryland) that have cost programs attendance, fan interest, and long-time rivalries,
I find these articles interesting, but what I usually scoff at are the various ideas that are offered for the next round of movement.

Some of these schools have made financial gains at the cost of on-field performance, others are still struggling and still, others have a fan base that isn't buying into their new home.
I'm not saying the numbers add up, but taking those out of the picture and assuming that the world is perfect, here are a few moves that might help regain some interest and put things as they could be.

Create a new Eastern football conference.
Yep, it was talked about going back to the 70s, had a chance of happening both with and without Penn State, existed without Penn State and then crumbled as a part of the various realignment moves.
Penn State's fans miss being the big bad wolf and their rivals, now scattered about, miss playing them.
Penn State may have made the best adjustment of the Big Ten's four additions, but that still doesn't mean they would be happier as the kingpin.
Conference Members: Penn State, Rutgers (Big 10) Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College (ACC), West Virginia (Big 12), Connecticut, Cincinnati, Temple (AAC) and Buffalo (MAC)

ACC/SEC
A few tweaks to these two conferences that would enhance rivalries, yet wouldn't destroy existing ones.
The SEC trades South Carolina to the ACC for Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech was originally an SEC school and would give them extra games with Georgia.
South Carolina returns to the ACC where they started and gets extra games in different sports with Clemson.
The only downside in this trade is the ACC losing the Atlanta market, which could be an impediment.
If that's a huge issue and it could be, Florida State as a land grant school to the SEC might be a possible replacement.
I would have made a few more trades, but moving some teams that would have made sense for geographic reasons or rivalries would have taken conference stalwarts from their long-time home and would have made my plan no better than what has happened already.
Kentucky or Georgia could have made good ACC swap partners with waiting rivals, but as long-time SEC members, I didn't want to touch that.

Big 12

Option One-Going East
Since the Big 12 has lost West Virginia above, they'll need to replace the Mountaineers.
West Virginia has made a reasonably smooth move to the Big 12, but the travel has to be killing them and the lack of a true rival would make their fan base welcome the new Eastern conference.
Losing West Virginia places them at nine schools, they have to at least reach twelve.
Two solutions here.
If they move to ten and want to save travel, the logical pick is Houston, who has a history with the Texas schools and would be an easy travel partner.
If their number is eleven, the natural replacement would be Louisville or Cincinnati.
If you want to go to twelve and both want to go, take them all.
I think twelve makes sense as the two new teams go together with the Keg of Nails trophy returns from someone's closet.
If Cincinnati decides to go west. the big winner is struggling independent Massachusetts, who may slide into the Eastern League.

Option Two- Going West
If the Big 12 wants to make a big splash, here's how they do it by going West.
They bring back Nebraska and Colorado, neither of which have flourished away from natural rivals, although Nebraska seems to be building something with Iowa. add Houston to their Texas brethren and sign BYU, bringing arguably the largest national base of fans except for Notre Dame.
This would be the option that rebuilds the most rivalries and fan passion, but also would take a better deal to reel them in.
If the Big 10 really needs to keep Nebraska and they may because of losing Penn State, and 14 teams become a must, an underrated get might be New Mexico, who with increased revenue from a larger conference could develop into a very nice Power Five school.

Option Three
The Big 12 doesn't have to have any of the schools back that have left them although all would be welcomed back as they all would contribute (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M). but there is one school that fits geographically, would have instant rivals both old and new and I think would slot in very well-Arkansas.
Arkansas has struggled off and on in football and basketball in the SEC and even though they have an old rival in Texas A&M and two neighboring schools in LSU and Missouri, none have really taken off as a rival.
Arkansas would renew a rivalry with tradition with Texas and I think that with improvement, Oklahoma might be an excellent secondary rival or even Oklahoma State as well.
Taking Arkansas and Houston doesn't expand your footprint, but it does help your football in the base of the conference.

Big 10
The Big 10 has lost Penn State and Rutgers under this setup and could lose Nebraska.
Rutgers has been a drag from day one and wouldn't be missed, but that leaves Maryland.
Maryland's fans lust for an ACC return, so how does it happen?
The conference would likely not want to lose the New York (not that Rutgers brings it) and the Washington market, so how do you keep them?
You trade Maryland for Virginia Tech.
On paper, that looks lopsided but think about this- VT brings better football and with 35,000 alumni in the DC area, I'd bet that they won't feel like they are out of the market.
Virginia Tech hasn't been in the ACC long enough to feel real ties and Maryland would be thrilled to be home.
It's not a perfect solution, but it's the best one.

Pac 12
We now go west, where the Pac 12 seems to be struggling with football that hasn't been competitive, a television network that few want to carry and programs with declining attendance.
Utah has been more competitive than expected, but Colorado has been a small disappointment and potential expansion candidates such as New Mexico, Boise State or San Diego State would likely be unable to make a difference.

If adding teams is a problem and deleting weaker teams would be one (You'll never be able to separate the Washington teams, Oregon, Arizona, Northern or Southern California teams), What's the answer?
This is a wacky one and would never happen, but here goes- A deal with the Mountain West for relegation.
Every five years, the bottom teams (can be two, three or four)  by average would drop to the Mountain West and switch places with the top teams from that league.
This could be a combined stat for all sports or just for football and basketball, but every few years say for example Boise State and Fresno State move to the Pac 12, Oregon State and Colorado move down.
You protect all rivalries as Oregon State drops down but still plays Oregon in every sport.
This isn't a great solution, but I don't see viable options for a conference that seems to be sinking.

The Sixth Conference.
The American likes to market itself as a Power "Six" conference and under these moves, would lose Houston and Temple.
Here are the schools to replace Houston and Temple and not hurt themselves along with adding these two schools if none of these events occur to make their case even stronger.
Boise State and your choice of Marshall, UAB, Appalachian State, Arkansas State or Troy.
Connecticut recently announced plans to leave the AAC anyway, so two or three teams are needed to stay at an even number (Keep in mind Wichita State is a non-football playing member).
If you are keeping Houston and Temple, you have ten football schools, why not go after arguably the best program of the Group of Five in Boise State with a national following and pick the best all-around program that you wish from the CUSA or Sun Belt.
It would be a great way to build the football program and maybe keep ringing that bell for a power Six.

This took a lot of time and the reason that I didn't post yesterday.
Hope you enjoyed it!







Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Sad News: Dadashev passes away

Sad news from the ring as junior welterweight Maxim Dadashev passed away today at the age of 28 from injuries suffered from his fight Friday against Subriel Matias.

Dadashev was the slight favorite entering the fight against Matias with victories over former lightweight champions Darley Perez and Antonio DeMarco and Matias was untested without a victory of note other than a win over fading veteran Bredis Prescott.
However, despite a game effort by Dadashev, it was Matias taking a large lead on the scorecards with a power punching attack that slowly wore down Dadashev.
When trainer Buddy McGirt waved the fight off in the corner before the final round, Dadashev protested briefly, but allowing him to come out in poor condition and needing a KO to win would have been foolhardy and that decision seemed to be the right one as Dadashev nearly collapsed to the floor leaving the ring and would be almost carried to the dressing room.
Dadashev then began to vomit and an ambulance was immediately called for him to be taken to a local hospital, where he would undergo two-hour brain surgery to attempt to alleviate bleeding on the brain.
Dadashev was placed in a medically-induced coma with hopes that the swelling would decrease, but that did not happen and he would not regain consciousness again.
Dadashev leaves behind a wife and young son.

Maxim Dadashev knew the risks involved in professional boxing and took those risks willingly.
That's what professionals take into the ring in any combat sport- the possibility of a severe injury that can affect the quality of one's life and on some rare occasions cost them their life.
It's what is different about boxing and as Max Kellerman has said rings true "You play Baseball, You play Football, No one plays Boxing"

It's also the best and worst of our sport.
The gallantry of a fighter far behind on the cards with a title fight on the line fighting for an opportunity for that final round to try to win, despite the injuries that would end his life and the worst is as simple as a life gone far too soon.
Many will question the sport and you might be surprised to read that I am all for those questions.
Nothing evolves without asking questions on what can be developed to make things better, make things safer and yet do so without changing what makes the sport so dramatic and appealing despite the risks and chances that every fighter takes every time that they step between the ropes.

In the end, a quote I've heard but I don't know whom to attribute it to rings home the most- "You mourn the loss, but you don't wear the black armband forever".
Boxing mourns but moves on.



Monday, July 22, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Title Fight Joke, Contenders win.

Part two of the boxing challenge discusses the matches that I didn't have a chance to watch quickly and we start with the live bout shown on Fox as part of the PBC preview for the Pacquiao-Thurman card as Caleb Plant defended his IBF super middleweight title for the first time with a third-round crushing of undeserving challenger Mike Lee.
Plant dropped Lee once in the first and finished Lee off after three more knockdowns in the third.

I have been critical of Caleb Plant for his boring style and kid gloves handling by his promoter, but he impressed me with his title victory over Jose Uzcategui and even though he proved nothing as he blew out Lee, who had never fought anyone approaching even a fringe contender and hadn't fought in thirteen months, I was glad to see Plant do what fighters do against overmatched opponents- take them out quickly and look great doing it.
I wrote when Plant won his title that I foresaw several undistinguished opponents in his reign before he would eventually have to face a quality opponent and the defense against Lee wasn't a good start to making me incorrect, but I would like to see Plant against someone better and gauge just what type of boxer he is.
Hopefully, his promoters will have some faith in him and give us a better opponent than a Mike Lee type in his second defense to see where he stands in the division.

The bigger joke was the IBF, who usually is the most reasonable of the sanctioning bodies, stamping this mismatch with their approval as a title fight.
Considering the above notes with Mike Lee having never faced anyone remotely considered a ranked fighter, had fought at light heavyweight rather than super middleweight and hadn't fought in a year, this was a joke of a title event with PBC at fault for making this match and the IBF even more so for sanctioning it.
If PBC wanted to showcase Plant on the free portion of the card against Lee- Fine, do so as an over the weight non-title fight at light heavyweight and avoid cheapening the title with mismatches such as these.
Champions often face fighters that aren't in their class, but to face someone of the stature of Lee should not be stood for by the sanctioning body.
Call me a crusty purist, but I think more of the "true" championships than this.

Yordanis Ugas scored a first-round knockdown as the ropes kept former WBC lightweight champion Omar Figueroa from falling to the mat and bullied the smaller man throughout the fight to win a unanimous decision as the top supporting bout on the Pacquiao-Thurman card.
Only a fifth-round point deduction for holding kept Ugas from a perfect scorecard as I had him winning every round (119-107) over Figueroa, who lost for the first time in his career.
Ugas will be the WBC's mandatory challenger for the winner of the Shawn Porter-Errol Spence unification fight in the fall and Ugas lost a controversial decision to Porter ( I scored the fight a 114-114 draw) back in March, so he'll be a deserving challenger.
As for Figueroa, who once looked to become a possible star with an exciting style before inactivity slowed his ascent, I'm not sure where he goes from here despite only one defeat.
Figueroa didn't look strong enough to compete with the top welterweights and I'm not sure he could make the junior welterweight limit of 140, so he may be in quite the career pickle.

I still have Luis Nery's knockout of Juan Carlos Payano in the queue, so I'll update this after I have had the time to watch that one from the PBC card.

In London, the Matchroom/DAZN main event saw Dillian Whyte dominate most of the fight before being knocked down by an Oscar Rivas uppercut in the ninth round.
Rivas hurt Whyte after Whyte lifted himself off the floor, but by the end of the round, Whyte had begun to battle back and moved back into controlling the remaining three rounds.
Whyte's win earned him a minor WBC belt, but more importantly, became the mandatory contender for the WBC's real title that is held by Deontay Wilder.
I scored Whyte an easy 117-110 winner (10-2 minus the knockdown) and I think his challenge of Wilder will be a good one, win or lose as Whyte's fights usually are filled with action and even when they are a step down in action, Whyte has a flair for the dramatic as he showed in this win over Rivas.




Boxing Challenge: Pacquiao dethrones Thurman

As I was away for the weekend, I haven't watched all of the Boxing Challenge fights, so I'll spend this time writing about what I have seen and will try to watch the others with an update soon.

In the main fight of the weekend (I have not seen the remainder of the card), Manny Pacquiao controlled the fight from the get-go when he scored a knockdown in round one and took Keith Thurman's WBA welterweight title by a split decision that was never that close.
Pacquiao's first-round knockdown didn't severely hurt Thurman, but what it did was establish that the naturally smaller Pacquiao had the type of power that Thurman, who had been hurt in fights by fighters that weren't huge punchers in the past, was going to have to respect and deal with.
I can't believe someone actually thought Thurman won this fight (Glenn Feldman scored a Thurman a 114-113 winner) as it was a competitive fight throughout, but one fighter clearly controlled the action.
I scored Pacquiao a 116-111 victor (8-4 and a knockdown) and for him, he could face the winner of September's IBF-WBC unification fight between Errol Spence and Shawn Porter early next year or perhaps that rematch with Floyd Mayweather (I hope not).

Also on Saturday, DAZN was on tap with a London card with Dillian Whyte against Oscar Rivas in a heavyweight eliminator. Haven't seen the Whyte victory yet, but I did see the other bout where heavyweight Dereck Chisora brutally knocked former title challenger Artur Splilka out in the second round.
Chisora isn't quite of title stock level, but he'll give anyone a tough scrap and when matched properly he advances from tough out to winning those exciting fights.

Friday night and ESPN+ was the provider for two IBF title eliminators that saw two promising young fighters move on for a title chance and left another fighting for his life.
In the main event, Teofimo Lopez earned a title fight with IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey with a unanimous decision win over Masayoshi Nakatani.
Lopez was forced to finish the scheduled distance for the first time in his career and seemed to lack the explosiveness that his career has seen thus far.
Watching the fight, the first thing that leaped out at me was the physical advantage that Nakatani had against Lopez.
At six feet tall and longer armed, Nakatani was able to keep Lopez on the outside and negated his power a bit, but even still, Lopez won the fight on my card going away at 118-110 and it shows how highly he is thought of as a prospect when you are a bit disappointed over a fight that a prospect won 10 of 12 rounds.
Going the distance is part of the maturation process for a prospect turning into a contender, but it always adds at least a little bit of thought of the possible flaws of the fighter.
The answers will begin to arrive in a fight against Commey for his IBF title, who could very well be undefeated as well, with both of his defeats coming via split decision.

The other eliminator saw Puerto Rico's Subriel Matias defeat Maxim Dadashev when Dadashev could not answer the bell for the final round when Dadashev's trainer Buddy McGirt stopped the fight.
Dadashev was well behind on the judge's scorecards ( and mine 107-102) and Matias was landing the harder punches throughout a grinding bout that saw both land plenty of hard punches.
It seemed senseless for Dadashev to continue considering that Matias had won the previous rounds and Dadashev had little chance of a final round stoppage, so the mercy ending made sense, but then Dadashev had to be helped from the ring, almost collapsed on his way to the locker room and was rushed to the hospital, where he would eventually undergo brain surgery.
Full wishes for a recovery to Dadashev, whos career is almost certainly over, but for Matias, he looks to be a very talented young fighter that will be an underdog to the winner of the Regis Prograis-Josh Taylor unification fight (Taylor is the current IBF champion), but brings the type of talent that won't be simply a walkover for either champion.

Thursday's offering was brought to you from Golden Boy on RingTV.com and some regional sports networks and GBP might have wished they did not offer that in hindsight as their middleweight prospect from Ireland, Jason Quigley was unable to keep veteran Tureano Johnson off of him and was overwhelmed by the former title challenger's aggressiveness with the result being Quigley's corner stopping the fight after the ninth round.
Johnson entered the fight with questions after a physical shellacking against Sergey Dereyvanchenko and a listless draw versus 26-13 Fernando Castaneda, but he was his old buzzsaw self against Quigley and re-established himself as at least a top 10-15 contender in the division.
As for Quigley, this pounding now raises questions about his future and should he have one, he'll need a few softballs to rebuild any confidence that he has remaining after this fight.

In the boxing challenge for the week (Including the fights I'll write about later time permitting), I outscored Ramon Malpica 12-9.

My points: Two each from: Manny Pacquiao, Dillian Whyte, Yordanis Ugas, Luis Nery, Caleb Plant,
                   One                 : Teofimo Lopez, Dereck Chisora

Ramon's:    Two each from: Caleb Plant, Luis Nery, Subriel Matias.
                   One                 : Dillian Whyte, Teofimo Lopez

The standings are currently in my favor at: 191-170





Friday, July 19, 2019

Boxing Challenge

Another big weekend in the boxing challenge with matches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday offers an important heavyweight fight on DAZN with a huge card on PBC.

On Ring.TV or on some regional sports networks, the main event is an interesting middleweight bout between undefeated Jason Quigley and veteran Tureano Johnson.
This shapes up as an action fight as Johnson rarely takes a backward step and Quigley has stopped twelve of his sixteen opponents.
Johnson is the best foe that Quigley has faced, but there are questions with just how much he has left in the tank.
Johnson took a brutal beating in a 12th round KO loss to Sergey Dereyvanchenko and in his first fight since that loss, battled to a draw in an eight-rounder against a fighter with a 26-13 record, so Quigley may be catching Johnson on the back nine of his career.

Oxon Hill Maryland is the site for ESPN+ on Friday with the phenomenal lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez in an IBF eliminator against Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani.
Should Lopez win as he is expected to, Lopez becomes the mandatory contender for the title held by Richard Commey and will face Commey in the fall.
The winner of that fight will unify all four titles early next year against the winner of Vasyl Lomachenko and Luke Campbell's fight in September, who will hold the other three titles at 135 pounds.

The other fight on the challenge slate is another IBF eliminator for the mandatory contender slot for their champion, who is currently Josh Taylor, but could be Regis Prograis after their unification fight/World Boxing Super Series final.
Undefeated Maxim Dadashev is only 13-0, but has two solid wins over veterans Antonio DeMarco and Darleys Perez, while his opponent Subriel Matias has stopped all thirteen of his opponents, but none of the caliber of Perez or DeMarco.

DAZN delivers a heavyweight doubleheader from London with the main event a WBC eliminator for the mandatory contender spot for Deontay Wilder's championship.
Dillian Whyte, who has been more than qualified for a while for a title shot faces Oscar Rivas, who defeated Bryant Jennings in his last time out.
Whyte should be the favorite and would make a solid mandatory for Wilder in the next year or so.

Perennial fringe contender Dereck Chisora, who gives almost every contender some trouble faces Artur Spilka, who generally fights exciting fights in the co-feature in what should at least be entertaining as far as action goes.

The main card of the weekend is on pay per view with the PBC putting together a strong four-bout card with the main event, an excellent one with WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman defending against Manny Pacquiao.
The legendary Pacquiao has revitalized his career since moving to the PBC with wins over Adrien Broner and Lucas Matthysse, but he's still 40 years old and age tends to land with a thump at this level, not one with a creep.
Thurman, who has had his nickname of "One Time" changed to fit his inactivity and lack of knockouts of late, still is a solid boxer-puncher and despite his undefeated record, some (including me) have questions to be answered.
I can see this ending in almost any way, which is what makes this such an intriguing fight.

The welterweight eliminator for a shot at WBC champion Shawn Porter is interesting as well as Yordanis Ugas takes on former lightweight champion Omar Figueroa.
Figueroa was once thought of many (including me) as a future star with a fan-friendly style, but inactivity and out of the ring issues have put the brakes on what was a promising career.
Ugas had a recent winning streak snapped against Shawn Porter in a fight that many thought Ugas won, so this is an excellent co-feature.

A fight that could steal the show is another welterweight battle as former junior welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets opposes veteran warhorse, John Molina.
Lipinets was very impressive in driving former junior welterweight champion Lamont Peterson into retirement in his last fight, while Molina usually delivers a good fight, even in a losing effort.
Keep in mind that Molina has taken more than his share of punishment in his career and as mentioned with Manny Pacquiao, the check for that with older fighters can come due suddenly.

The opener is talented bantamweight Luis Nery, who is the one fighter that just might give Naoya Inoue a run for his money.
We'll see how Nery stacks up against Inoue, as he faces Juan Carlos Payano, who Inoue knocked out in one round in the World Boxing Super Series.

In a televised fight with a preview of the card on Fox, Caleb Plant defends his IBF super-middleweight title for the first time against Mike Lee.
Plant, who was matched very carefully in his rise up the rankings against a parade of journeymen and enhancement talent, surprised many (especially me) with an upset win over Jose Uzcategui to win the title.
Plant, who usually is dull to watch, might be more willing to engage against Lee, a former football player, and Subway pitchman, who hasn't fought since June 2018 and has never beaten anyone in the top 50.
This is a totally undeserved title shot for Lee, is exactly the type of title fights that I predicted that PBC would be looking for Plant's reign and this is a ridiculous fight to have signed in the first place.
The IBF should be embarrassed to have sanctioned this at all.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 179-161

Middleweights. 10 Rds
Jason Quigley vs Tureano Johnson
R.L: Quigley KO 6
TRS: Quigley Unanimous Decision

Lightweights 12 Rds
Teofimo Lopez vs Masayoshi Nakatani
R.L: Lopez KO 4
TRS: Lopez KO 2

Junior Welterweights 12 Rds
Maxim Dadashev vs Subriel Matias
R.L: Matias KO 7
TRS; Dadashev Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Dereck Chisora vs Artur Spilka
Both: Chisora Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights 12 Rds
Dillian Whyte vs Oscar Rivas
R.L: Whyte KO 6
TRS: Whyte Unanimous Decision

WBA Welterweight Title 12 Rds
Keith Thurman vs Manny Pacquiao
R.L: Thurman Split Decision
TRS: Pacquiao Split Decision

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Yordanis Ugas vs Omar Figueroa
R.L: Figueroa Unanimous Decision
TRS: Ugas Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights 10 Rds-Editor's Note; Fight canceled with a late pullout by Molina
Sergey Lipinets vs John Molina
Both: Lipinets Unanimous Decision

Bantamweights 12 Rds
Luis Nery vs Juan Carlos Payano
R.L: Nery KO 8
TRS: Nery KO 3

IBF Super Middleweight Title  12 Rds
Caleb Plant vs Mike Lee
R.L: Plant KO 6
TRS: Plant KO 10



Thursday, July 18, 2019

Pernell Whitaker

Another loss to the sports community as Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker was killed last Sunday after being hit by a car in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Whitaker won championships at lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight, and even junior middleweight in a one-fight cameo at 154 pounds and arguably wasn't legitimately defeated for over 15 years after his pro debut in 1984.
Whitaker lost his first attempt at a title to Jose Luis Ramirez for Ramirez's WBC lightweight title in a decision so awful that it smells to this day, Whitaker's draw with Julio Cesar Chavez only misses the stench of the Ramirez loss  because it was scored a draw and his loss to Oscar De La Hoya, while not being as bad as the aforementioned two, was still a fight that most thought Whitaker deserved to win.
In only his 1999 decision loss to Felix Trinidad and his final fight, a TKO defeat due to an injury to Carlos Bojorquez were fights that Whitaker was truly beaten and in the case of Bojorquez, it was a case of an injury ending a fight early.
Whitaker was past his prime and at junior middleweight, far heavier than his optimum weight, but still would have likely pulled the Bojorquez fight out, in my opinion, had he not been injured.

Pernell Whitaker's 1984 Olympic gold medal was, along with Mark Breland from the American team, one that few wondered if he would have won his gold had the feared Cuban team not been part of the Soviet boycott (revenge for the USA boycott of the 1980 Moscow games) as Whitaker and Breland were the two gold medal winners that would have been favored to win the tournament even with the field at full strength.
Whitaker defeated a total of eleven fighters (13 if you choose to count Chavez and De La Hoya) that held world titles during their career and it was a testament to his greatness that very few on that list were challenges to the best defensive fighter of my time.

For all of Whitaker's wins, few of them were what you would describe as exciting even against the best of his competition.
In fact, many of those wins were so dominant that the most interesting part of the fight was to see the small percentage of punches landed against Whitaker's defense, which was more about avoiding punches than getting on the bicycle and moving around the ring using your legs
Pernell Whitaker's defense was the greatest of my era of watching boxing even better than other defensive wizards such Wilfred Benitez and Hector Camacho and it could be interesting watching Whitaker dazzle and shine as he made top-notch boxers swing and miss like a slugger swinging from his heels- For a while.

Unless you really loved defensive boxing, Whitaker's act could get a little stale after a few rounds and almost all of his wins in championship competition were via decision with the exception of his left hand which ended his lightweight unification battle with Juan Nazario in the first round.
Whitaker had so many lopsided wins in his career and even though his "draw" with Julio Cesar Chavez was regarded by many as the performance of his career (I scored Whitaker a 117-111 winner), but the fight that I'll remember Whitaker best for wasn't against any of those champions that I mentioned earlier.

In January 1997, Whitaker was showing the first signs of slipping a bit after his two wins over Wilfredo Rivera (the first of which was a debatable split decision victory that some thought should have been in Rivera's favor and the second of which was a fairly easy win for Whitaker) in his only fights of 1996.
Whitaker was facing Cuban Diobelys Hurtado, a talented but extremely untested prospect and expected to be far out of his league against Whitaker in Whitaker's latest title defense.
However, for ten rounds, Hurtado would fight the fight of his career and although he would hold a title later for a brief period, would never fight this well again.
Hurtado held the lead on the scorecards after ten rounds and as the boxing world looked on in stunned amazement, only had to survive the final two rounds to pull an upset that would rival Douglas over Tyson and with Whitaker never having been in this situation before, who knew how he would react with his title on the line.
What Pernell Whitaker did was something that was against his fighting style and something he had never been before- Be legitimately (regardless of judging) be behind on the scorecards and turn on an attack that abandoned caution.
Whitaker turned on the motor and knocked out Hurtado in the eleventh to save his championship and show the grit that he had never had to use before.
After all, in his loss to Jose Luis Ramirez and the draw against Chavez, Whitaker's corner (along with almost everyone watching) thought he was ahead on the scorecards, so being aggressive wasn't needed, so this was new territory for Whitaker.
For all the defensive performances and the superior skills that Whitaker had shown, this would be the fight that I remember most about Pernell Whitaker- when the gameplan must be changed and the title slipping away, Whitaker showed the championship heart that never had been proven because there had never been a situation to bring it to the forefront.


The win over Hurtado was the last highlight of the Hall of Famer's career as three months later, Whitaker dropped the disputed decision to Oscar De La Hoya, won a boring unanimous decision over Andrey Pestryayev that became a no-contest, when Whitaker failed a post-fight drug test and then would lose to Felix Trinidad after a 15 month layoff before the Bojorquez loss over two years after that.

Pernell Whitaker certainly ranks with the top lightweights of all time and Whitaker could be rated as the greatest defensive fighter ever and even if not rated that highly, he deserves to be in the conversation.
It'll be a while before we see someone with the pure skills of Pernell Whitaker and that fighter will have some big gloves to fill...








Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Jim Bouton

Photo: Seattle Times
Sad news as former pitcher and author Jim Bouton passed away recently at the age of 80.

Bouton, a twenty-one game-winner for the New York Yankees in 1963 would injure his arm two years later and find himself looking to hang around the game using any means necessary- even transitioning to a knuckleball pitcher.

Bouton's attempts to stay in the major leagues were chronicled in my selection for the best baseball book ever written by anyone, but hands down the best by a player or former player- Ball Four.
Ball Four was Bouton's diary of the 1969 season, a season that saw expansion inflate the league by four teams, therefore, giving a large number of journeymen a chance to hook up in the bigs rather than triple a baseball.
Considering the four-team expansion (baseball has never expanded by more than two teams in one season before or since), anyone that played on one of those teams was going to have some stories (I've often wished someone on the 69 Montreal Expos would have written a similar book, considering baseball's first Canadian team and in a predominantly French culture at that, it could have been hilarious) and with the articulate Bouton keeping track of the happenings, it had a chance to be a good book under the constraints of sports books of the time.

Instead, it became a classic as Bouton let loose on many of the daily antics of the clubhouse that had never been written about before and gave the reader a look at just how one-sided baseball was at the time between the organization and the player.
Players today have a huge advantage over the team when it comes to contractual issues and it's not all great for the game, but in the pre-free agency days, the scale was all in favor of the team and with Ball Four now at fifty years of age, it's really interesting to scan the grid for a day when contractual issues were controlled by the team.

Ball Four was a controversial book for its time, although it seems almost tame today, but Bouton paid the price for that controversy as by the time the 1970 season was over, Bouton had been demoted by the Houston Astros and after two starts for the Astros AAA affiliate in Oklahoma City, Bouton decided to exit baseball before the decision was made for him.
Bouton's retirement was justifiable by his performance (4-6 and an ERA just shy of five and a half), but adding that to the attention from the book from people in and out of the game, the message was easy to see- If you are going to violate the code of clubhouse- You better be good enough to be worth the hassle and at that stage of his career, Bouton simply wasn't.

However, there was a time that Jim Bouton's eccentricities were worth that hassle and more.
The Yankees could live with those when Bouton won 21 games in 1963 and added 18 more in 1964 along with two or the Yankees three victories in the World Series that they would lose to the Cardinals in seven games.
They couldn't when he injured his arm in 1965 and trying to pitch through it, finished 4-15 with an ERA of almost five as the Yankees decline from the top of the American League occurred all at once.
Bouton's record didn't bounce back (3-8) for a bad Yankees club in 1966, although he would have respectable stats otherwise (2.69 ERA in 19 starts), but spent 1967 and 68 between the majors and AAA and with name value, Bouton made sense to be brought into Seattle for their expansion voyage with the Pilots.

In the expansion summer of 1969 and as he wrote Ball Four, Bouton would spend time with three teams, the expansion Pilots, the Pilots AAA affiliate in the Vancouver Mounties and the Houston Astros, who obtained Bouton for the memorable (If you read the book) Dooley Womack, who was a Bouton teammate with the Yankees.
It's the stories of three teams, three cities and the ensuing escapades that made the book such a classic and I'm not sure it would have been the same had a star player written the book.
It's the fading player that's trying to hang on and the empathy you feel that makes the book timeless.
You find yourself connecting with Bouton and his family with the money concerns that come with a player with an uncertain future.

After retirement, Bouton continued to dabble in various fields.
Bouton moved into local sportscasting in New York with some success as his full-time job, but Bouton would be a delegate to the 1972 Democratic convention for their nominee George McGovern,
would be the villain opposite Elliott Gould in the 1973 film "The Long Goodbye" and attempt to bring Ball Four to television as the star of a CBS sitcom that lasted just five weeks.



Bouton's most surprising of all of his eclectic careers would come when Bouton limbered up his fingers and bringing the knuckleball off the shelf for a baseball comeback.
Bouton had a benefactor in Ted Turner, who put the word out to his baseball people in Atlanta that Bouton was to be given an opportunity and would make 21 starts in the Southern League for the Braves AA affiliate in Savannah.
Bouton would pitch well and it just so happened that a young Terry Pluto happened to be working for a Savannah newspaper and would write his first book on the season, although Bouton didn't fully cooperate, it's still an interesting look at the comeback- if you can find the long out of print book.
Bouton would make five starts for the 1978 Braves in September, finishing 1-3 with an ERA of just under five, but in three of those starts pitched very well including a win over the division contending Giants and a 2-1 loss to Sparky Anderson's Big Red Machine in which he pitched eight strong innings and might have had a chance to return for the Braves, who finished last in 1978.
Instead, Bouton decided to retire for good and move onto other things including being a co-inventor of Big League Chew bubble gum, attempting to save a Massachusetts ballpark from demolition and writing updated books on Ball Four before a stroke in 2012 damaged his memory and speaking.

Jim Bouton was always a fan-friendly player, but it was the writing of Ball Four that cemented his legacy as more than just an otherwise average career.
Writing that book not only made Jim Bouton a key part of baseball history, but it is also likely what keeps the memory of the only one year team in modern baseball history alive in the Seattle Pilots.
An otherwise forgettable bad baseball team manages to be remembered because of Ball Four and the wonderful stories from a time gone by and yet to any baseball fan worth their salt, they've read Ball Four at least once and so many can remember a name of an otherwise undistinguished player or a phrase from the book and connect it with "Seattle Pilots" or "Ball Four" without batting an eye.
I'm not sure if Ryan and I could spend more than an hour without a line from the book or a reference to a player or an event from it, even today!

Ball Four might have been hated by the baseball establishment of the time, but its contributions to generations of baseball fans and historians cannot be underestimated.
If you are a fan, Bouton's book likely almost locked you in as a fan and allowed us to lean in and feel like you were a part of something special- even if just through words and paper.
Thanks for everything and as always Smoke 'Em Inside.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Boxing Challenge; Vargas wins, Rios upsets De La Hoya

I had a little bit of time and was able to watch the two remaining shows from Saturday night and the boxing challenge bouts were both expected and unexpected in their results.

In the main event, Rey Vargas retained his WBC junior featherweight with a unanimous decision over Tomoki Kameda.
Vargas, an effective if not exciting fighter, generally evaded the charges of Kameda, who attempted to be aggressive throughout and stunned Vargas in the final rounds, but also had a point taken away for unsportsmanlike conduct.
I scored Vargas a 116-111 winner (8-4 rounds, with the 12th round being the rare 9-9 round with the point deduction), but he didn't exactly thrill anyone in victory.
Vargas could face WBA/IBF champion Danny Roman in his next fight, which would be an interesting fight that could go either way between two versatile and exciting boxer-punchers.

The co-feature was a surprising standout also from the junior featherweight division as undefeated and lightly tested Diego De La Hoya and veteran Ronny Rios slugged it out for six rounds before Rios stunned the cheering crowd at Carson with a right uppercut that landed with perfect timing to drive the slumping De La Hoya to one knee.
De La Hoya slowly rose and beat the count, but he clearly had conceded the fight and replays show that he may have told the referee that his day was concluded before the stoppage.
De La Hoya might have had the referee stop the fight anyway, but the way the fight ended will make observers consider the desire of De La Hoya in the future.
As for Rios, a fighter that has disappointed in his chances to move up a level after being considered a top prospect, this is a career highlight that should get him further fights along the ladder and might even be considered for a shot at Daniel Roman, if the Roman-Vargas fight is not made next.
Rios was decisioned by Vargas in a previous title attempt, so Roman is the more likely target for Rios, should a title opportunity be offered.

PBC put together two very strong action encounters in their top two fights from Minneapolis on FS1.

Welterweight Jamal James continued his buildup for a future title shot with a unanimous decision win over former lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco.
DeMarco hurt James in the second round, but James managed to weather the storm and won a wide decision (97-93 on my card) in a fight that showcased several exchanges of big punches.
DeMarco will likely receive another fight at a similar level, despite a 2-5 record over the last five years off this effort, while James seems to lack that something that would make him a stern test against the champions of the division.

The co-feature saw Gerald Washington come from behind on the cards to drop Robert Helenius for the count in the eighth round of a limited, yet give and take battle of two heavyweight fringe contenders.
I had Helenius slightly ahead at 67-66 entering the eighth when Washington landed a series of right hands, the final of which drove Helenius across the ring to the mat with a dazed Helenius only able to hook his glove around the bottom rope at the fight's end.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each added four points for this set of fights.
179-161 is the current tally in my favor.



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Boxing Challenge; Stevenson overwhelms Guevara

It was a busy boxing weekend- so busy in fact that I haven't had time to watch them all with several competing cards.
Therefore, I'll be writing two posts with this one covering what I have seen of this writing and one perhaps tomorrow with the remainder of the bouts.

On ESPN from Newark, New Jersey, former Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson overwhelmed another overmatched opponent in Alberto Guevara as Stevenson knocked down Guevara twice in the second round before ending the sad mismatch in the third.
I know the narrative is that no one wanted this fight (Guevara was the third fighter to accept the fight) and that may have been the case, but what I've noticed is that the recent increase in power shown by Stevenson has correlated with the leveling off of his opposition and pitting him against fighters with questionable chins.
Now, I think Shakur Stevenson is extremely talented, looks to be a possible major star (although his number one contender status in the WBO is premature) and power does often develop as young fighters age (I remember many fighters that developed punching power as their career moved on after early questions), but this appears to me to be another Top Rank promotional kudo as they moved Stevenson up the rankings against few that would challenge him and just as he arrives for his world shot against a champion that Top Rank promotes (Oscar Valdez), that champion looks ready to move up weight, leaving Stevenson with what will likely be another squash match for the vacant title.
Don't take any of that as a knock on Stevenson, he's doing exactly what you would hope to see against enhancement talents and against those fighters he has fought in a much more fan friendly style, but if he's ready to fight for a title- I'd like to see him face a stern test.

The co-feature saw a borderline Hamburglar alert as bantamweight contender Joshua Greer won a majority decision over Nikolai Potapov.
Greer, who ESPN ran features on and made the fight all about with a sad back story from Greer growing up in Chicago, was walked down and outworked by Potapov for most of the fight, yet was given the majority duke.
I scored Potopov a 115-113 winner and I may have been generous to Greer.
The ESPN commentating, which I'll be looking at soon in a boxing broadcasting post, was its typical self with Andre Ward in one round discussing how he "told Potopov how he quit in his only loss, although I (Ward) tried to do it in a nice way and he seems to be doing it again", being admonished by Mark Kriegel (who is being far better used in his current role than doing full color analysis) that he didn't see Potopov quitting at all as the fighters came out for the next round.
Ward's response was "I didn't say he was getting to quit".
Priceless.

Earlier in the day, ESPN Plus offered two interesting heavyweight fights between heavyweights that are just approaching contender status.
In the main event, Daniel DuBois knocked out Nathan Gorman in the fifth round in a pairing of unbeaten's for the British heavyweight title.
DuBois, who reminds me physically of a young Frank Bruno, controlled the fight after an even round one and knocked Gorman down in the third, cutting him above the left eye.
DuBois put Gorman down in the fifth and Gorman showed bravery in getting up to attempt to continue, but the referee wisely saw no point in allowing this to continue.
I would think DuBois might be headed for a fight against Joe Joyce with both being promoted by Frank Warren and the history of British boxing that will see their best fighters eventually fight each other in front of a big crowd with the winner of that fight moving up in the rankings for a potential title fight, but after the fight Warren was quoted as saying he might place Gorman against Joyce next in what would appear to be a tactic of keeping his two prospects apart for a bit longer/

As for Joe Joyce, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist was forced to fight to the full distance for the first time in winning a unanimous decision over former contender Bryant Jennings.
Jennings had his moments, but simply didn't throw enough punches against Joyce to win on the scorecards and was hurt by officiating with Joyce throwing shoulder blocks the entire fight without a penalty, but Jennings lost a point late in the fight for a low blow.
For Jennings, this could be the passing of the baton as he enters the role of gatekeeper after his second loss in a row, while Joyce just seems so limited in his skills.
Joyce's punching power appears to be good, not great (Jennings was never shaken), he throws a fair amount of punches but doesn't always commit to them and I wonder how he will deal with a quality fighter that he doesn't have a size advantage over.

The final fight of this portion of the recap saw the Olympic conqueror of Joe Joyce as 2016 gold medalist Tony Yoka returned in France from a one-year drug suspension from the French Anti-Doping Agency for missing three tests between 2016-2017.
No judgment of this as Yoka missed those tests, not failed them (although why would you skip something that you would pass, is another question), but the return was a successful as Yoka stopped former fringe contender Alexander Dimitrenko in the third round.
Yoka won the first two rounds with little action before knocking Dimitrenko down in the third with a right uppercut.
As the fight continued, Yoka landed several rights that ended with Dimitrenko sprawled chest-first on the top rope as the referee stepped in.
I'm not sure what the future holds for Yoka, although I suppose some money could be made with a Joe Joyce rematch with the always easy to sell France vs England angle, but for Dimitrenko, who has lost his last three fights and all by stoppage (Yoka, Bryant Jennings and Andy Ruiz) in the last year, it might be time to walk away or at least be carefully matched from here on out.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica 10-9 for this portion.
I earned three points each (Win, Result and Bonus for Round) from Shakur Stevenson and Daniel Dubois, two from Tony Yoka and one each from Joe Joyce and Joshua Greer.
Ramon gained three points from Tony Yoka, two from Shakur Stevenson and Daniel DuBois and one each from Joe Joyce and Joshua Greer.
The challenge now stands at 175-157


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Boxing Challenge

Time is very short for me today and I don't have extra time to do the usual preview for a quantity if not quality weekend in the boxing challenge.
Still, I needed to notch the actual selections for posterity.
I'll note the network for these bouts as well.

ESPN-Newark
Featherweights. 10 Rds
Shakur Stevenson vs Albert Guevara
R.L: Stevenson KO 6
TRS: Stevenson  KO 3

Bantamweights. 12 Rds
Joshua Greer vs Nikolai Potapov
Both: Greer Unanimous Decision

ESPN Plus-London
Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Daniel DuBois vs Nathan Gorman
R.L: DuBois KO 3
TRS: DuBois KO 5

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Joe Joyce vs Bryant Jennings
R.L: Joyce KO 5
TRS: Joyce KO 7

Antibes France- No American TV
Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Tony Yoka vs Alexander Dimitrenko
R.L: Yoka KO 3
TRS: Yoka KO 6

Carson Ca- DAZN
WBC Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
 Rey Vargas vs Tomoki Kameda
Both: Vargas Unanimous Decision

Junior Featherweights. 12 Rds
Diego De La Hoya vs Ronny Rios
Both: De La Hoya Unanimous Decision

Minneapolis-FS1
Welterweights. 10 Rds
Jamal James vs Antonio DeMarco
Both: James Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Robert Helenius vs Gerald Washington
R.L: Helenius KO 6
TRS: Helenius KO 3



Friday, July 12, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Murata rolls over Brant

I've written before that some times you can feel that a prediction is wrong thirty seconds into a fight and I had that feeling with the Rob Brant-Ryota Murata rematch.

I had given Murata a better chance in the rematch than it seemed many did, but despite not being a true believer in Rob Brant against elite middleweights, he had swarmed Murata in the first fight with the sheer accumulation of punches thrown and Murata just seemed so slow.
I picked Brant, but I noted Murata was the bigger puncher and would have his moments in a better and closer fight in the rematch.

Those thirty seconds into the first round, I knew who was winning this fight.
Brant fired plenty of punches and looked like the same fighter as before, but it was Murata that looked different.
Murata looked like a hunter, moving aggressively forward and didn't look slow and lumbering, instead Murata moved like a cat in a first round that was extremely entertaining with both fighters landing often in exchanges.
The fight wouldn't see the end of another round as Murata landed a right hand that stunned Brant and he would never recover or avoid another right as Murata handed it again and again, although it was a left that sent Brant to the floor for the only knockdown.
Brant rose but was unable to clinch or make Murata miss with his right and eventually referee Luis Pabon had no choice other than to end the fight.

Murata notches the biggest win of his career and suddenly becomes a viable future opponent for one of the top middleweights with the addition of the minor belt involved, could be an interesting opponent for any of them- especially if Canelo Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin would be interested in traveling to Japan, where they might have a chance of selling the Tokyo Dome out for such an encounter.
Perhaps Murata had simply figured out what to do against Brant, but it will be very interesting to see if the Murata that won this fight can be maintained and if so, how he matches up with the top of the division.
As for Brant, this is the type of fight that may have set his true level as a top 15/Gatekeeper type that will make interesting fights with his high punch output, but with a lack of power and now with questions about his chin, Brant's next fight or two could see him re-establish himself as a contender or become the first name victim on a promising young fighter's record.

The co-feature saw another title defense for WBC light flyweight champion Ken Shiro as Shiro dominated Jonathan Taconing for three rounds before a right-left combination knocked down Taconing in the fourth round and with leg-weary Taconing unable to steady himself upon rising saw the fight stopped.
For Shiro, it was his sixth title defense and the undefeated champion has two lucrative options against fellow Japanese fighters as he could attempt to unify his title against the also undefeated WBA champion Hiroto Kyoguchi, who holds the Ring Magazine title as well in what would match the top two fighters at light flyweight or Shiro could move to flyweight and challenge talent Kosei Tanaka for Tanaka's WBO title.
Both would be interesting fights and either would be highly anticipated fights in Japan.

In the boxing challenge, I added two points for Shiro's KO win with Ramon Malpica adding one for Shiro's win.
I moved my lead to 165-148.
I may briefly update this post later with the Saudi Arabian fights that are not being televised in the United States.

Editors Note; Amir Khan stopped Billy Dib in four, while Hughie Fury stopped Samuel Peter in seven.
I added four and Ramon picked up two to move the challenge to 169-150



Boxing Challenge

I'm in the middle of my tribute to the late Jim Bouton and it's not finished  yet (look for it sometime over the next few days, I really want to do the subject justice) ,but the boxing challenge calls and with a massive boxing weekend ahead along with two fights on Friday morning from Japan, this needed to be started.

ESPN Plus is the home for a two-fight card, one with a title on the line and one that is a fight of legitimate interest, even if the title is not so legitimate.

The main event is a rematch with Rob Brant defending the minor title that he won in an upset last October over Ryota Murata via unanimous decision.
Brant throws a ton of punches, is the younger fighter and won their first fight by a clear margin over the ponderous Murata, so why should anyone think this fight will be any different?
Well, I think Murata is the bigger puncher, may have taken Brant lightly in their first fight (Brant had lost his only fight against a quality opponent via decision to Jurgen Braehmer) and this fight will be in Japan rather than Las Vegas, so I wouldn't say Murata is without a chance to reverse the result in their second battle.
I would even say that I think this fight will be a closer fight than the first one and that Murata will have his moments- But I think Brant overwhelms him and wins on the cards, but keep in mind, those cards will be filled out by judges that will be listening to a pro-Murata crowd.

The co-feature will see WBC junior flyweight champion Ken Shiro attempting to defend his title for the sixth time against the challenge of Jonathan Taconing of the Philippines.
Shiro has looked very impressive over the course of his reign and I don't think Taconing will be the fighter to stop this train.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 163-147

Middleweights 12 Rds
Rob Brant vs Ryota Murata
Both: Brant Unanimous Decision

WBC Light Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Ken Shiro vs Jonathan Taconing
R,L: Shiro Unanimous Decision
TRS: Shiro KO 8

Editors Note: I had these fights from Saudi Arabia for the challenge but missed them on Ramon's email.
The fights have not started yet (90 minutes away), so I'm adding our picks.

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Amir Khan vs Billy Dib
R.L: Khan Unanimous Decision
TRS: Khan KO 6

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Hughie Fury vs Samuel Peter
R.L: Fury Unanimous Decision
TRS: Fury KO 9


Monday, July 8, 2019

Cleaning out the box-Passings

I'm finishing up the final cleaning of the inbox with some recent passings and that should tidy it up for a while before it fills back up.

Goodbye to Max Wright at the age of 75 from Cancer.
Wright, who retired from acting in 2005, was a character actor for many years before landing the lead role as "Willie Tanner" in ALF in the 1980s.
One would have thought that Wright would have been happy with a hit TV show and finally getting his big break, but Wright reportedly hated the show and everything about it.
ALF was a difficult show to film as the puppet needed to be moved incrementally and the show maintained a long and grueling schedule in the process of performing.
Wright was so miserable on the set that he rarely dealt with any of his co-stars and reportedly performed his last role in the final scene of filming and walked off the set, grabbed his bags and left the facility.
Wright did realize how happy the show made others as a later interview acknowledged "the joy that the show brought to viewers".

Goodbye to Arte Johnson at the age of 90.
Johnson, who was about ten years older than I would have expected, was most famous for his tenure on "Laugh-In", but I remember him better for his guest-starring roles on anthology shows such as Love Boat and Fantasy Island among others.
Johnson also was a regular on game shows such as Match Game etc and did voice-over work for years.

Goodbye to Tony Barone at the age of 72.
Barone, the head basketball coach at Creighton and Texas A&M before joining the Memphis Grizzlies as an assistant and finishing a season as the Grizzlies interim head coach in 2006-07.
Barone was successful at Creighton, winning over 100 games and leading the then mid-major to two NCAA's before struggling in his seven years at Texas A&M in finishing 44 games under .500

Goodbye to Kerry Marbury at the age of 67.
Marbury rushed for over 1,600 yards in two seasons (1971 and 1972) at West Virginia before leaving a season early in an era when the NFL would not take players before their senior class graduated.
Marbury played two seasons in Canada with Toronto and Ottawa before finishing his career in the WFL with a brief appearance with the Birmingham Vulcans.
Marbury played his high school football on the same team as Alabama head coach Nick Saban in winning two West Virginia state titles.

Finally, Goodbye to Jared Lorenzen at the age of 38.
Lorenzen, who became better known for his girth during his playing career, was an excellent quarterback at Kentucky as Lorenzen broke the school records for passing yards and touchdowns previously held by Tim Couch, before winning a Super Bowl ring with the Giants as the backup to Eli Manning.
Lorenzen had lifelong struggles with weight but had recently lost over 100 pounds before his death.
This ESPN article by Tommy Tomlinson looks at that struggle and how Tomlinson relates it to his own weight struggles.