Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Overhand Right

   The overhand right returns after a long absence as we opine on a few recent news from the world of boxing.

I don't usually give too much credit to the WBA but when it's due...

The worst of the four sanctioning bodies recently refused requests from long-reigning champions to delay mandatory bouts against contenders who have been more than patient in waiting for their turn.

WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz hasn't fought at that weight in over three and a half years or defended against a mandatory challenge in four and a half, and despite his promise to fight "regular" champion Leigh Wood to dispose of another WBA regular title, Santa Cruz asked for an exemption to fight newly crowned WBC champion Rey Vargas.

Normally, I'd be all in favor of a unification fight but this clearly was another dodge by Santa Cruz and his promoters, who also promote Vargas and just as importantly do not promote Wood, a Matchroom fighter, in order to keep things in the PBC house.

Considering Santa Cruz's blatant disinterest in the division, it's pretty easy to see what would happen if the WBA would grant the exemption and Santa Cruz would defeat Vargas- rather than fight Wood, Santa Cruz would likely keep his newly won WBC title and vacate the WBA belt.

The WBA's refusal and order for a purse bid for a Santa Cruz-Wood fight was the right thing to do and it forced PBC and Matchroom to work together to get a deal completed.

The camps have come to terms and although the network and date are yet to be decided, the floated date is November 12th or 19th, which is very interesting because those are the two dates that have been rumored as the target for an Errol Spence-Terence Crawford showdown and it seems that Santa Cruz vs Wood could be the co-feature on PPV.

That would be a welcome change to have an important and exciting fight on a PPV card as the secondary fight to a great main event- Good for PBC for placing it there if that is the plan!

The WBA also refused a waiver for their light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol to skip top contender Gilberto Ramirez in favor of another in-house fighter, in this case, Matchroom and Joshua Buatsi as Ramirez is signed with Golden Boy Productions.

While Buatsi is a deserving contender, Ramirez is even more so with a 168-pound title on his resume and wins in two WBA eliminators to secure the top contender spot.

Plus Bivol hasn't made a mandatory defense since a win over Sullivan Barrera in 2018, so he's far overdue for a mandated fight- especially one against the undefeated Ramirez which should be a good matchup between two undefeated fighters with championship backgrounds.

In both cases, the champions might have received their hall passes had they had a better background in being active against their best contenders.

I'm not against either Santa Cruz-Vargas or Bivol-Buatsi, neither is a bad fight at all but the mandated fights are even better with two deserving and patient challengers- Good for the WBA for making these happen.

As for that Errol Spence-Terence Crawford fight, it is rumored to be close to happening and it would likely take place in November in Las Vegas,

The long-anticipated fight between unbeaten welterweight champions had been held up for years by the promotional issues between PBC (Spence) and Crawford's then-promoter Top Rank but since Crawford's agreement with Top Rank ended with his last fight, a win over Shawn Porter, the fight is closer to being signed.

While the winner is likely to vacate the titles and move to 154 pounds, the problems in making Spence-Crawford may return like a bad case of food poisoning with two undefeated young stars that are likely to each collect one of the titles that are vacated in Jaron "Boots" Ennis and Vergil Ortiz.

Ennis is loosely affiliated with PBC and has a commitment to Showtime while Ortiz is promoted by Golden Boy and their broadcaster is DAZN, so I could easily see a few years move by before those two meet in the ring.

Hopefully, we won't have to suffer through another interminable wait before we do.

Josh Taylor has already vacated two of his four unified junior welterweight titles and it seems that he will shortly drop his third.

Taylor has dropped the WBA title rather than fight their undistinguished top contender Alberto Puello and the WBC belt instead of defending against the very deserving Jose Zepeda and soon will drop the IBF championship rather than defend against Jeremiah Ponce.

Ponce has won two stay-busy fights since stepping into the IBF's top contender spot with an impressive tenth-round knockout of favored Lewis Ritson in June 2021 in Ritson's hometown in England but while I like Ponce as a fighter and think he is deserving on ability, in the talent-packed division I'm not sure Ponce's wins are deserving of being in the top ten let alone a mandatory challenger position.

Taylor is keeping the WBO title in order to fight a rematch of his controversial win against Jack Catterall.

The answer to this mess could have been as simple as the three organizations giving Catterall credit for the fight that he deserved to win and installing him as the top contender in all three (along with the WBO) group's ratings and mandating the rematch everyone wants to see but that would take intelligence and cooperation- both traits that are seldom used in boxing.

I'm usually not thrilled with some of the cards that PBC and Fox have placed on PPV rather than on a free platform with the Keith Thurman-Mario Barrios and Luis Ortiz-Charles Martin shows this year alone coming to mind.

While I'm not sure of the price of the event or the need for it to be on PPV at all, the PBC card on Sunday, September 4th is a pretty nice slate.

The main event between former heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz and former title challenger Luis Ortiz could be a boom or bust bout as it could be an exciting slugfest or a clinch-filled bore but it still is an intriguing fight and should the winner do so with a conclusive knockout, it's not out of the question that they could be in position to challenge for a title again.

And the undercard is interesting as well with Isaac Cruz's comeback from his close loss to Gervonta Davis against rugged veteran Eduardo Ramirez in a lightweight eliminator, former champion Abner Mares returning from a multi-year layoff against former title challenger Miguel Flores, and talented prospect Jose Valenzuela battling former WBA junior lightweight champion Jezreel Corrales.

Maybe it should not be a PPV card but credit to PBC for putting together a strong event from the top to bottom.

Boxing Challenge: Lopez returns with Campa KO

     Former lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez returned to the ring for the first time since his surprising split decision defeat to George Kambosos as a junior welterweight and knocked out Pedro Campa in the seventh round.

Lopez fended off the perpetually aggressive Campa with aplomb throughout the match, winning every round and nearly closing the left eye of the rugged Mexican, who was fighting in the United States for only the second time.

Lopez knocked Campa down in the seventh with a right jab and overwhelmed Campa along the ropes with a series of right hands to force the referee to step in and end the evening.

I thought Lopez looked good, not great, and for all of his talents- Lopez will have to prove how much the Kambosos loss and various issues took away from him against a better caliber of fighter than Pedro Campa to know for sure.

Lopez invited Golden Boy Promotional head, Oscar De La Hoya, to the fight for a potential Ryan Garcia fight that should it be able to be put together would be a big fight, albeit not nearly as large as it would have been at this time last year.

Given Garcia's history of not being able to make fights and dropping out of fights that have been made, I'd be reluctant to say that I feel strongly that a Garcia-Lopez fight will be able to be signed soon but it would be an interesting fight with Lopez the better-rounded fighter while Garcia is the stronger puncher and with a larger frame that I think is a little better suited to the junior welterweight division.

Top Rank announced during the post-fight interview that Lopez will return to the ring in December on ESPN on Heisman night and while Garcia is an unlikely opponent, Top Rank possesses several contenders in the division that could be a challenge on the next leg of Lopez's comeback.

If I had to pick one of those, I'll guess on Arnold Barboza as a possible foe.

Barboza attended the fight, has called out Lopez in the past, and has fought on the network several times, so would give Lopez a recognizable name as an opponent.

I'd really like that fight and while I think I'd give Lopez a small advantage in a Barboza battle, it's a good enough fight that I wouldn't make Lopez a large favorite.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 143 Pts (2)

Ramon Malpica; 121 Pts (2)

Vince Samano: 116 Pts (1) 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Boxing Challenge

    I haven't been as active this past week due to my vacation, so I hope to use the next few days to catch up on things and get back to a regular routine.

We start with a one-bout boxing challenge Saturday as things are light compared to a loaded next Saturday.

ESPN will showcase the return of former lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez for the first time since his title loss to George Kambosos late last year.

Lopez's surprising split decision defeat and title loss to Kambosos is easier to understand after the fight when it was discovered that Lopez suffered from Pneumomediastinum during the fight, a medical issue that could have caused severe damage to Lopez during the battle and perhaps even death under certain circumstances.

All things considered, the performance and even defeat of Lopez look far better in hindsight than it did immediately after the loss to Kambosos.

Lopez makes his return at 140 pounds and enters a junior welterweight division that is packed with champions, future champions, and contenders that could result in several top-notch affairs that Lopez could participate in.

Josh Taylor is still the champion, even after vacating two of his titles( WBA and WBC), and soon could be allowing his IBF title to go away from himself as well, former champions Jose Ramirez and Regis Prograis are in the picture, Ryan Garcia claims he will not return to the lightweight division, Jack Catterall will be receiving a rematch vs Josh Taylor after most people believe he defeated Taylor, and that doesn't cover talented contenders such as Jose Zepeda, Subriel Matias, Arnold Barboza, Gary Antuanne Russell and Jeremiah Ponce in a packed division,

With many of those fighters, including Taylor, fighting with Top Rank (Lopez's promoter), Lopez could have a lucrative future with easy fights to make, if he can get by Saturday's fight against Pedro Campa.

Campa has only one defeat in his career but only has fought outside Mexico once and has never fought anyone near the caliber of Lopez.

Teofimo Lopez seems to have everything in place for a spectacular ring return and set himself up for big fights in 2023- all he has to do is take care of business on Saturday night.

Boxing Challenge

Junior Welterweights. 10 Rds
Teofimo Lopez vs Pedro Campa

Ramon Malpica: Lopez KO 5
TRS: Lopez KO 3
Vince Samano: Lopez Unanimous Decision

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Ortiz stops McKinson

     Undefeated welterweight contender Vergil Ortiz returned to the ring from a one-year absence to bully his way through a tough but outclassed Michael McKinson with a ninth-round stoppage in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ortiz hadn't reached the ninth round in his previous wins and he barely made it this time as a body shot sent McKinson to the mat with seconds remaining in the eighth round, which was just enough to allow McKinson to survive the round.

McKinson injured his leg on the knockdown and showed plenty of guts even attempting to continue but the first time Ortiz attacked, McKinson hit the floor again and his corner waved the towel to signal the end of the fight.

The fight played out as expected as the light-hitting McKinson didn't have nearly enough pop in his punches to keep Ortiz away from him and wasn't quick enough to outbox the stronger fighter.

My scorecard had Ortiz far ahead at the end of eight rounds at 79-72.

Give McKinson credit for effort but he was over his head and seems a better fit at the European level than among those of the world-class ilk.

As for Ortiz, he is now rated first in both the WBA and WBO but will be waiting for a while in the WBA as Eimantas Stanonis is ahead of him in their line and that's even before a potential Errol Spence-Terence Crawford unification that would slow things down further.

Should Spence-Crawford fall through, Ortiz could be a good consolation prize for Crawford and while Crawford would be a deserving favorite, Ortiz would be far from outgunned in his first title attempt.

If a title attempt isn't occurring right away, Ortiz would be best served to keep active but I'm not sure what opponent would be available for him.

Perhaps another attempt could be made for rugged veteran David Avanesyan to fight Ortiz or maybe Conor Benn could be convinced to give Ortiz a try, should his catchweight fight fall through against Chris Eubank Jr.

However, the most likely and easiest to make would be an in-house fight against Alexis Rocha, who will give Ortiz a good try but like Michael McKinson, isn't quite in the same league as Vergil Ortiz.

The co-feature saw an upset as Blair Cobbs won a unanimous decision over former WBO junior welterweight champion Maurice Hooker after scoring three knockdowns in the first two rounds.

Hooker had a recent passing of a close friend in his personal life and it showed early as Hooker looked unprepared and unmotivated early with Cobbs scoring three knockdowns and Hooker barely making it through the second round.

Cobbs rebounded well from his first loss, a knockout defeat to Alexis Rocha but while Hooker deserves credit for hanging in there and even winning a few rounds after his terrible start, Cobbs was never seriously threatened.

I had Cobbs a 97-90 winner, same as two of the three judges with the other tabbing Cobbs a 96-91 victor.

Hooker may have some excuses for his out-of-the-ring distractions (Hooker also missed weight and had to pay Cobbs a set sum of money for the fight to take place) but he looked very slow and most of his punches were wild and winged punches.

Hooker's next fight could tell the final tale on whether or not he is a shot fighter- it's one thing to lose to Jose Ramirez or Vergil Ortiz, it's another to lose to Blair Cobbs.

Earlier in the day from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Michael Conlan easily won his comeback fight from his final round defeat to Leigh Wood with an easy unanimous decision win over shopworn former three-time title challenge Miguel Marriaga.

Conlan boxed, Marriaga walked around, and although Conlan scored knockdowns in the seventh, eighth, and ninth rounds, none of the knockdowns saw Marriaga hurt, and all of them could have been scored pushes or slips.

Marriaga suddenly burst to life in the final round and even wobbled Conlan a bit but it was the only round that he won and it might make Conlan wonder if he is truly over the loss to Wood.

My score was the same as two judges at 99-88, the other scoring 99-89.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 141 Pts (4)

Ramon Malpica: 119 Pts (4)

Vince Samano: 115 Pts  (4)

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Boxing Challenge

     The boxing weekend is again a bit lighter than usual but there are some crucial matchups with one including the return of a talented young welterweight that only needs increased opposition to prove how good he can be.

Vergil Ortiz returns to the ring in the first time in nearly a year and faces an underwhelming opponent in undefeated Briton Michael McKinson from Fort Worth, Texas on DAZN.

The two were scheduled to fight in March but Ortiz dropped out due to a serious condition (Rhabdomyolysis) and McKinson decisioned late replacement, Alex Martin.

Ortiz has knocked out each of his eighteen opponents. After his most recent victims (former WBO junior welterweight champion Maurice Hooker and contender Egid Kavaliauskas), McKinson seems to be a cut below Ortiz's competition of late.

While McKinson's undefeated, he hasn't even fought the best European welterweights. although he does have a win over then-undefeated prospect Chris Kongo and in his twenty-two wins, McKinson only has two knockouts, so it's hard for me to see how McKinson keeps the power punching Ortiz off him for twelve rounds to win a decision.

This fight only plays out one of two ways- either McKinson moves all night and maybe survives to the final bell or he tries to hold off Ortiz and is stopped in the early to middle rounds/

The co-feature will see Maurice Hooker returning for the first time since his loss to Vergil Ortiz in March of 2021 against flashy Blair Cobbs, who suffered his initial defeat last time to Alexis Rocha.

Hooker has lost just twice and both by knockout, however, both were to top-notch fighters in Jose Ramirez and Ortiz.

Alexis Rocha is a nice fighter but he's not to the level of either Ramirez or Ortiz and he stopped Cobbs conclusively in eight rounds, so Hooker should be the clear favorite in this one.

Hooker has the height and reach advantage and seems to be the bigger puncher.

Cobbs has made some interesting fights in his career but I think he is a level below Hooker.

In the other challenge fight, Michael Conlan fights for the first time since his final round knockout loss in what might be the fight of the year to date against Leigh Wood.

Conlan led on all three scorecards of a great fight but couldn't hold off Wood, who landed a right hand that knocked him through the ropes outside the ring, and was out cold before he hit the floor.

Conlan's return from Belfast, Northern Ireland will be streamed on ESPN plus against veteran Miguel Marriaga, who has lost in three title challenges and has lost two of his last three in lopsided fashion.

Marriaga seems to be the perfect comeback opponent for Conlan- a decent name that appears to be a fading fighter isn't going to hurt Conlan and could allow him to gain some confidence after such demoralizing defeat.

Boxing Challenge

Welterweights. 12 Rds 
Vergil Ortiz vs Michael McKinson
Ramon Malpica & Vince Samano: Ortiz KO 6
TRS: Ortiz KO 9

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Maurice Hooker vs Blair Cobbs
R.L: Hooker KO 4
TRS: Hooker KO 6
V.S: Cobbs Unanimous Decision

Featherweights. 12 Rds
Michael Conlan vs Miguel Marriaga
R.L: Conlan Unanimous Decision
TRS: Conlan KO 9
V.S: Marriaga Split Decision 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

    The tribute page never stops growing and we are back to honor a few recent persons of note that have left us.

Goodbye to William White at the age of 56.

The former Ohio State Buckeye defensive back spent eleven seasons in the NFL for three teams after being named captain in his senior season of 1987.

White started a Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons in the 1998 season and finished his career with twenty interceptions.

White's son Brendon played four years for Ohio State and was the defensive MVP in the 2019 Rose Bowl win over Washington.

Goodbye to Charles Johnson at the age of 50.

Selected by Pittsburgh in the first round in the 1994 draft, from Colorado, Johnson spent the first five of his nine-year career with the Steelers and seemed to be about to enter elite status in his final season in Pittsburgh, where he caught 65 passes, seven touchdowns (both career highs), finished with over 800 receiving yards and would then sign the largest receiver contract of the following free agency period with the Eagles.

Johnson's numbers in two seasons with the Eagles were disappointing for the expenditure that Philadelphia invested in him. He would play one season each with New England and Buffalo, catching only seventeen passes over that time.

Goodbye to Dwight Smith Sr. at the age of 58.

Smith Sr. the father of former Baltimore and Toronto outfielder Dwight Jr, finished second in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year voting, finishing second to teammate Jerome Walton for the award after hitting .324 for the NL East champions.

Smith never received that type of playing time again and spent the remainder of his career as a platoon outfielder and pinch-hitter for the Cubs and three other teams, winning a World Series as part of the 1995 Atlanta Braves.

Smith finished his career with a final average of .275 when he retired in 1997.

Goodbye to Lars Tate at the age of 56.

A second-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 1988, Tate led Georgia in rushing as both a junior and senior before the 1988 draft and would lead the Buccaneers in rushing in both of his seasons with Tampa Bay.

Tate would play in three games for Chicago in 1990, carrying the ball three times for five yards in his final NFL action.

Tate's son Donavam was the third overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft by San Diego but never made the major leagues with the Padres. 

Monday, August 1, 2022

DeShaun Watson suspended for six games

  The news finally came down today and the Cleveland Browns gamble on DeShaun Watson will have to wait a little longer to see what the Browns traded for as arbitrator Sue L. Robinson suspended Watson for the first six games of the 2022 season.

Robinson's recommendation isn't final as the league can file an appeal of the suspension within three days in which commissioner Roger Goodell could impose a harsher sentence along the lines of the league's asked for suspension of one year and a fine of multiple million dollars.

Roger Goodell is tucked into a tough corner- retain the suspension and catch the wrath of female fans for the long term.

Overturn and lengthen the Watson suspension and the NFLPA will have a reason to question their agreement to use an arbitrator in these matters.

After all, it does seem to be a waste of time to go through a process to avoid Roger Goodell as the judge and jury, if Goodell can simply override the opinion of the agreed-to neutral arbitrator.

I'm not going to offer an opinion on the correct length of the suspension or even compare it to other cases that Roger Goodell has ruled on in the past but putting my status as a Browns fan aside for a minute, I think the suspension should stay as-is.

I realize that is self-serving but I'll fall back on this-What good does it do to have an independent neutral arbitrator, if you establish that Roger Goodell can still brush their decision aside?

I think I'd say that even if the suspension would not have been Browns-friendly because it just doesn't make sense to have an unbiased party decide and it can then go back to Roger Goodell for his ruling.

The NFLPA would likely file suit should Goodell increase the suspension and there will definitely be long-term ramifications as when the next labor agreement expires at the end of the 2030 season.

I know that's eight years away but that doesn't mean that the next negotiations wouldn't start with one foot in a hole over this as it's more likely than not that DeShaun Watson is still playing in the league at that time.

I'm not sure that we have heard the end of this topic yet but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The question is who is holding the lantern?