Thursday, April 11, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Hitchins survives Lemos

     I haven't had time to write this week or even watch boxing but I need to keep the challenge updated.

In the only fight I have watched, Richardson Hitchins won a controversial unanimous decision over Gustavo Lemos in a junior welterweight eliminator.

Hitchins has been razzed by me in the past for his less-than-electric efforts and he was more entertaining in this fight but I thought Lemos was the busier fighter, hurt Hitchins badly in the eighth round and he was the better fighter over the last half of the fight.

I scored Lemoa the winner with a score of 116-112 but the judges disagreed with two scoring for Hitchins 115-113 and the other an amazingly terrible 117-111.

I haven't watched Diego Pacheco's unanimous decision win over Shawn McCalman, who I thought was overmatched but fought well according to reports.

I also missed (because no one has this available) Bahkram Murtazaliev's eleventh-round knockout of Jack Culcay in Germany to win the vacant IBF junior middleweight title.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 46 Pts (4) 
Ramon Malpica: 45 Pts (4)
Vince Samano: 20 Pts (4)

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Boxing Challenge

     After an overstuffed boxing weekend last week, the plate is far smaller for this week with only three fights for the challenge.

DAZN/Matchroom has two of the fights from their Las Vegas card with one bout as a title eliminator and the other involving one of the top young fighters in the sport. 

The main event is an IBF junior welterweight eliminator between unbeaten Richardson Hitchins and Gustavo Lemos.

Lemos will be fighting for the first time outside of Argentina and will be fighting for the second time since his only name win in a fifth-round knockout of former featherweight champion Lee Selby.

Hitchins earned his biggest win in his last outing in a dominant unanimous decision win over former world title challenger Jose Zepeda.

Hitchins has only seven knockouts and isn't noted for his exciting fights, so unless Lemos is the latest Argentine to aggressively hunt down boxers (like Lucas Matthysse or Marcos Maidana to name two), this could be a dull distance fight.

The co-feature will showcase one of the best young fighters in the game with super middleweight Diego Pacheco, who has the look of a future star, against unbeaten Shawn McCalman.

McCalman's record is filled with non-entities from the Midwest circuit and he has only seven knockouts in his fifteen wins.

On paper, this is an absolute mismatch and Pacheco will decide whether he wishes to end this early or get a few rounds of work for the night.

Germany is the site of the remaining challenge fight as the final of the four junior middleweight titles removed from Jermell Charlo will receive a new owner as Bahkram Murtazaliev will meet Jack Culcay for the vacant IBF championship.

Murtazaliev, who seemingly has been the mandatory challenger since the Nixon Administration, had spent the last few years receiving step-aside dollars from PBC for allowing Charlo to fight in more lucrative fights which is nice work if you can get it but hasn't fought anyone of world-class ability.

Culcay is a solid fighter at the European level but has been defeated in all three of his fights when attempting to step up his opposition against Maciej Sulecki, Sergey Dereyvanchenko, and Demetrius Andrade.

Boxing Challenge

Vacant IBF Junior Middleweight Title. 12 Rds 
Bahkram Murtazaliev vs Jack Culcay
All; Murtazaliev Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights. 12 Rds
Richardson Hitchins vs Gustavo Lemos
TRS and V.S: Hitchins Unanimous Decision
R.L: Hitchins KO 6

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
Diego Pacheco vs Shawn McCalman
R.L: Pacheco KO 9
TRS: Pacheco KO 3
V.S: Pacheco Unanimous Decision

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Cleaning out the Inbox

     We return with another cleaning of the inbox with a few articles of interest.

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the arguably the greatest college basketball game ever and Sports Illustrated talked to some of the terrific players involved for their memories of the 1974 ACC Tournament final between N.C. State and Maryland.

Some may say the 1992 Duke-Kentucky game was better and the ending unquestionably was more memorable but the Wolfpack's 103-100 win still holds the top spot in my opinion.

Two Hundred and Three points were scored in the era that lacked either a shot clock or the three-point shot with three players selected in the first round of the 1974 draft ( State's Tom Burleson Maryland's Tom McMillen and Len Elmore), and the top overall picks in the 1975 draft (David Thompson) and 1976 (John Lucas) as well as three other with shorter pro careers (N.C. State's Monte Towe and Maryland's Mo Howard and Tom Roy) and another who would have a long career as a major league pitcher (N.C. State's Tim Stoddard).

The one scar on the game and it's speculatory, what happens if this game is outside of the 'neutral' floor for State, who shot twenty-six free throws to Maryland's eight during the game.

The Athletic writes about the history of the NIT and how to deal with the problems of players not wanting to play in the tournament (like in football's bowl games) to prepare for the NBA draft.

The NIT removed their mandate this season that a regular season conference champion that lost in its conference tournament and didn't receive an NCAA bid in an attempt to fend off a bid by Fox Sports to start their own postseason with a sixteen-team bracket with the Big Ten, Big Twelve, and Big East each receiving two automatic positions.

That decision bought the NIT one year as Fox announced this weekend that they would be creating such a tournament for next season, so hopefully the NIT will return the small conference regular season champions to their tournament as they deserve.

The Athletic also writes about how the Columbus Blue Jackets have become the most inept franchise in hockey.

I have to be honest, I didn't realize the Blue Jackets were that awful, and while I knew they were nothing to be excited about in their history, I didn't realize they were THAT bad!

And while the smoking gun was the draft selection in 2005 of Gilbert Brule over Anze Kopitat, the funniest is the story told about 2008 first-rounder Nikita Filatov, who scored a whopping six NHL goals, who offered this when his coaches tried to show him better ways to follow up at the net.

"Filly don't do rebounds".

I love this and think I might try this at my job when asked to do something I don't like- "Shawn don't do...." I'm sure it will go over extremely well!

Another story from The Athletic follows former Giants minor league pitcher John Gavin as he deals with life after baseball.

It's a very interesting article to see how athletes transition into the real world and it's easy to have some sympathy for what players go through after sports.

We wrap with Vanity Fair's cover article on one of my favorite actresses, Anne Hathaway, 

It's an interesting piece on the actress, how she prepared for roles, how she entered the profession, dealing with social media, and several other topics to boot.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Browns sign Justin Hardee

 The Cleveland Browns needed a special teams replacement after the team lost Mike Ford to the Houston Texans and it seems they have found him in Cleveland native Justin Hardee.

Hardee played for the New York Jets over the last three seasons after starting his career in New Orleans from 2017-2020 and made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player in 2022 as a Jet.

Hardee just turned thirty and until last season was listed on the roster as a wide receiver before moving to defensive back before 2023.

Hardee played in eleven games last season for the Jets, exclusively on the special teams units, so he isn't a player that occasionally sees time in the secondary like Mike Ford was used last year.

While signing a special teams standout was expected after the defection of Ford to Houston, I'm mildly surprised that the Browns didn't sign someone who would be able to play on the field in a few situations, which it doesn't seem that they would be able to do with Hardee.

I'm not disappointed with Hardee, just a little surprised.

And another reason for this?

The recent changes to kickoff for next season have to be on the minds of every team and the Browns are no exception signing proven special teams standouts will hopefully address the new rule.

However, without any data, it's not a guarantee that players who played well on kickoffs (the same rules for punts remain) under the previous rules will maintain their effectiveness, although it is very possible, so the Browns (and others) may continue to dip into the pool of players to upgrade the special teams units. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Wardley and Clarke go to battle!

   It may not have received the attention of the first Amazon card from PBC and in the United States, it might not have even gotten the media that Gilberto Ramirez's cruiserweight title-winning fight gathered but on Sunday from London, Peacock streamed a heavyweight slugfest that had to be seen to be believed as unbeaten big men, Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke battled to a draw after twelve rounds that only left those who saw wanting more.

Wardley retained his British and British Commonwealth titles with the draw, which isn't as important in the big picture but could still be an added incentive for the possible rematch.

The judges scored the fight 114-113 for Wardley, 115-112 for Clarke, and even at 113-113 each.

Wardley fought most of the fight through a cut on his nose that would require stitches after the fight and it seemed that he was going to end the fight early when a right hand in round five sent Clarke careening into a corner and after a follow-up volley, sent Clarke to the floor for what would be the only knockdown of the fight.

Fortunately for Clarke, the round was near its end and he saw the end of the round but after Clarke lost another point for low blows in the seventh round, Clarke fell well behind on my card.

The Olympic bronze medalist wasn't finished though and throughout the second half of the battle,  Clarke landed the harder punches with Wardley tiring badly, and at times, it looked like Wardley was the fighter running out of time.

Wardley responded with his share of right hands but Clarke was getting the better of the exchanges and was banking the rounds to tighten the scorecards.

Wardley's right eye was nearly closed with the ringside doctor taking a look during the tenth round to check his vision . Clarke was the stronger fighter in the tenth before Wardley changed the momentum with a strong round eleven that made me wonder if either fighter would last to the final bell.

Both fighters landed well in the final round but Clarke landed more often and it was Wardley who was fortunate to last the distance and somehow stayed on his feet, which enabled him to receive the draw by not losing a point for a knockdown.

I scored Wardley the winner 114-112 with the knockdown and point deduction making the difference.

When you consider the knockdown and point loss, I have a hard time seeing how you score Clarke the winner by three points as the judge that voted for Clarke did but the fight was close and exciting with a rematch having a great deal of appeal.

Possibly, that could happen but it's also possible that each man could use an interim bout before they would face each other again.

Clarke is the older fighter (32) and needs to be moved faster than Wardley (29), so a speedy rematch might be more important for him.

A rematch is certainly welcomed but it will have a high standard to meet to be as memorable as the one held last Sunday.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Fundora upsets Tsyzu in bloody battle

      The initial PBC card on Amazon ended with an entertaining upset that saw both men spill blood and temporarily stick a cog in a fight that was anticipated for later this year as Sebastian Fundora won the WBO and the vacant WBC junior middleweight titles from Tim Tszyu in Las Vegas by a split decision.

Tszyu was doing well in the first two rounds before an errant elbow that was just short of Dusty Rhodes from Fundora split Tsyzu open on the forehead/hairline, causing impressive bleeding that would impair Tszyu's vision for the rest of the fight.

Fundora battled through an injury of his own, a broken nose sustained early in the affair, and Fundora, who had been noted in the past for not using his physical gifts (6'6 height and eighty-inch reach) showed ring smarts by using them and hitting Tsyzu at will with his jab,

I scored the fight even at 114-114 with the judge's votes going to Fundora at 116-112 and 115-113 and a dissenter for Tsyzu at 116-112.

I'd be all for a rematch when you consider the carnage done by the bionic elbow but it was Errol Spence who was brought into the ring to challenge Fundora after the fight, which is ironic when you consider that a Tsyzu victory had been rumored to have earned him a mega-fight with Spence's conqueror Terence Crawford.

Arguably the least deserving and least popular champion in recent memory was dethroned in the co-feature as Isaac Cruz won the WBA junior welterweight title from Rolando Romero by an eighth-round knockout.

Cruz won every round, hurt Romero badly in the first and seventh rounds, and finished him in the eighth.

The amazing thing about this fight is that one judge somehow had Romero leading!

While this is the first world title for Cruz, his promoters (PBC) aren't loaded in the 140-pound division but it would be fair if someone (PBC or the WBA) took care of Ismael Barroso, who dominated Romero before losing on a ridiculous stoppage by Tony Weeks, and while Romero was sidelined with a back injury, won the interim title with a first-round KO of Ohara Davies.

Barroso was supposed to be first in line for Romero's return but somehow PBC was able to place Cruz first in line.

I'd favor Cruz over Barroso but it is time to do the right thing.

Erislandy Lara retained his WBA middleweight title with a second-round KO of Michael Zerafa in another bout that really accomplished nothing other than keeping a title with Lara.

The less written about this the better.

Serhii Bohachuk won a lesser title by unanimous decision over Brian Mendoza in a fight that Bohachuk controlled and the always gritty Mendoza showed guts and heart.

Bohachuk was originally scheduled to face Sebastian Fundora for the full WBC title but in the mess created by Keith Thurman's departure, was dropped to fight for the minor title.

Bohachuk will be waiting a while for his promised chance to win that title as Fundora will either face Tim Tsyzu in a rematch or possibly Errol Spence next and perhaps even both before Bohachuk gets his chance.

I scored Bohachuk a winner 117-111, which was the same as two judges with the other scoring 118-110.

In fights that I haven't had time to watch yet on a crowded Holiday weekend.

Julio Cesar Martinez retained his WBC flyweight title by majority decision over Angel Cordova.

Gilberto Ramirez won the WBA cruiserweight title over Arsen Goulamarian by unanimous decision.

Alexis Rocha stopped Fredric Lawson when Lawson's corner stopped the fight at the end of round seven.

I'll try to be back later with some thoughts on the heavyweight battle from London which ended in a draw, so those results are included in the boxing challenge totals.

Boxing Challenge

TRS:42 Pts (10)
Ramon Malpica: 41 Pts (9) 
Vince Samano: 16 Pts (1)  

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Estrada Unifies, Valdez wins

    Top Rank and ESPN+'s card from Glendale, Arizona featured two excellent fights at the top of the card with plenty of action.

In the main event, Oscar Valdez won the interim WBO junior lightweight title by a seventh-round knockout over Liam Wilson.

Normally, I don't acknowledge interim titles but Valdez will become the full champion sometime in May when Emanuel Navarette fights for the WBO lightweight title and is unlikely to return to the division, so will vacate the title.

I had Valdez slightly ahead at the time of the stoppage (58-56) and I thought the stoppage was a little early but Valdez was in command of the fight and it was an understandable decision.

Both fighters sustained facial damage and Valdez's face blew up for the second fight in a row, so there are still questions about how long Valdez will hold up in the future.

In the pre-fight, both WBC junior lightweight champion O'Shaquie Foster and IBF featherweight king Luis Alberto Lopez each mentioned future challenges against Valdez, should he emerge victorious, each could be a possible opponent later this year.

In the co-feature, Seniesa Estrada survived a stern test from Yokasta Valle to add the IBF and WBO minimumweight titles to the WBA and WBC titles she owned previously to win a unanimous decision.

All three judges' scores were the same as mine, 97-93 for Estrada, who outboxed Valle from the southpaw stance for most of the fight but Valle's straighter punches often found a home and under different rules (twelve-round fights or three-minute rounds) Valle might have won the decision as she was the stronger fighter down the stretch.

I'd like to see a rematch but that might be a hard sell for Estrada, who entered the fight with extensive emotions towards Valle's trainer, Gloria Alvarado, and Valle's promoters, Golden Boy, for her previous connections with both, and she could decide to move up in weight to junior flyweight or flyweight.

Valle was the more aggressive fighter so the crowd did have pockets of boos after the fight but I thought Gloria Alvarado's postfight comments were a bit out of line when you consider the personal issues that were involved.

Women's boxing does need to tweak one major issue and while I have always said the two-minute rounds prevent knockouts, a case can be made for the two-minute rounds adding more excitement.

The WBC seems to be the holdup on moving to three-minute rounds as many of the stars of the sport are asking to happen but I think that the best compromise could be for championship fights to stay at two minutes but move them from ten to twelve rounds.

It isn't perfect but I think it would be reasonable.

Lightweight Raymond Muratalla looked a little flat in winning a unanimous decision over Xolisani Ndongeni by scores of 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93, with my score agreeing with the final score listed.

Muratalla did not look dazzling against Ndongeni, who fought well but was unable to hit hard enough to keep Muratalla off him and was fortunate to make the final bell as Muratalla turned up the pace in the latter rounds.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 32 Pts (3)
Ramon Malpica: 32 Pts (4)
Vince Samano: 15 Pts (0)