Sunday, September 26, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Usyk Dethrones Joshua

     The boxing world lost arguably its biggest fight when Anthony Joshua was upset in his native London by unanimous decision to Oleksandr Usyk and lost his WBA, IBF, and WBO championships to the former cruiserweight champion.

The defeat ended hopes of a Joshua-Tyson Fury fight that would have unified all four heavyweight titles next spring and makes fans wonder where the division is going after Fury fights Deontay Wilder next month.

I wrote in my preview of the fight that I almost picked Usyk and had he looked a bit more impressive in his two heavyweight wins, I would have done so.

I thought that should Usyk defeat Joshua, he would do so in similar ways as Michael Spinks had surprised the larger Larry Holmes- keep the larger man off balance with lunges on the inside, getting out before he can be hit and when he is on the outside, stay far enough outside that he isn't hit there.

Usyk did all of these well and smoothly but the bigger surprise was that Usyk was the more powerful puncher of the two as he stunned Joshua several times during the bout and badly hurt Joshua with under a minute to go in the final round, driving a dazed Joshua into the ropes and if there would have been another minute to go in the fight. I think Usyk might have put Joshua away.

Usyk swept the final five rounds of the fight on my card to win 117-111 (9-3) and two of the official cards were close to mine at 117-112 and 116-112 with the other card for Usyk at 115-113 which I thought was a little closer than it was, but there were three close rounds on my card (I gave two of three to Usyk) so that isn't a crazy scorecard.

Joshua is expected to activate his rematch clause for next spring, the WBC is expected to mandate that next month's Dillian Whyte-Otto Wallin winner will immediately face the Fury-Wilder winner so a unified championship isn't happening before next fall and the real fly in the ointment to all of this could happen if Wilder would defeat Fury as I doubt Al Haymon puts Wilder in with Usyk at all.

Remember for all the vast power that Deontay Wilder possesses, he isn't a large heavyweight and he's closer in size to Usyk than he is Fury, so with Usyk's boxing ability I don't see a path for a Usyk-Wilder fight should Wilder win.

Give credit to a history-making effort by Oleksandr Usyk and credit to Anthony Joshua who could have folded his tent in the late rounds when he suffered an eye socket injury and caused his eye to swell almost shut and instead fought through to finish the fight.

On the undercard, Lawrence Okolie retained his WBO cruiserweight title with a third-round knockout of unknown Dilan Prasovic.

Okolie scored a late knockdown in the second round and quickly finished off Prasovic with a body shot early in the third.

I'd like to Okolie against IBF champion Mairis Bredis next to establish the winner as the best cruiserweight in the world.

Callum Smith crushed Lenin Castillo with one right hand that scared anyone that saw it as Castillo twitched badly while on the canvas.

Castillo was reported fine after a hospital trip and the win by Smith was very impressive as Castillo had never been stopped before and had lasted the full twelve rounds against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol.

For Smith, it could see Bivol in his future as Bivol's championship is the only one of the four not controlled by Top Rank and Bivol has worked with Smith's promoter Matchroom in the past.

In Madrid. the comeback of former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez continued with a unanimous decision over veteran Briton Brian Rose.

I scored Martinez a 97-93 winner and Martinez survived a rough second round where Rose had Martinez in a good deal of trouble.

I'm not really sure if I'm ready to state that Martinez is ready for a title shot, but even at 46 he's still capable of competing against anyone other than the elite and just under the elite of the division.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica five to four with the difference being a bonus point scored by me for calling the round of the Lawrence Okolie knockout win.

I lead the challenge 130-114.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Boxing Challenge

    The boxing weekend revolves around Europe with the heavyweight champion defending his three titles, a cruiserweight title on the undercard, the former unified super middleweight champion making his return to the ring after his initial defeat, and the continual comeback of who was once the top middleweight in the world- all in Europe on Saturday.

The top fight of the weekend pits the holder of three of the four major heavyweight titles against the only fighter to hold all four of the cruiserweight titles at the same time as Anthony Joshua defends against his WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk in a battle of 2012 Olympic gold medal winners (Joshua Super Heavyweight and Usyk Heavyweight) in London.

Joshua had planned to face Tyson Fury in a fight that would have resulted in all four titles being unified before the fight was kiboshed by an arbitrator's decision to force Fury into a contractual obligation for a third fight with Deontay Wilder, so fighting his mandatory contender in Usyk will allow Joshua to move to a Fury (should both men win their fights) fight without needing to worry about any organizational obligations.  

Usyk has very impressive speed and skills and Joshua will always have the sector of being knocked out by Andy Ruiz and knocked down by other opponents, most notably Wladimir Klitschko but Usyk hasn't dazzled anyone in his two heavyweight wins over Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora.

The most likely result is the naturally bigger man breaking down the more naturally talented smaller man but I cannot get the Michael Spinks upset of Larry Holmes out of my thoughts.

Spinks, especially in their first fight as I thought Holmes won the rematch with Spinks officially winning, was able to avoid the jab, use enough awkward movement on the inside, and land a few punches and get away without getting hammered against Holmes and I can see Usyk having success with a similar strategy.

There are a few differences though.

Usyk is a little more of a classic boxer than Michael Spinks was and for all of the greatness of Larry Holmes, Holmes didn't possess the one-shot power of Anthony Joshua.

If there is a road to victory for Oleksandr Usyk, that is the most likely travel map.

Lawrence Okolie defends his WBO cruiserweight title for the first time against Dilan Prasovic as the co-feature from London.

Okolie impressively won the WBO title with a sixth-round knockout of Krzysztof Glowacki in his last fight and other than IBF champion Mairis Breidis is the best cruiserweight in the world.

It's not often that I can say this but I know nothing about Prasovic other than he is undefeated and is from Montenegro, not exactly known for developing boxing champions.

Callum Smith returns to the ring for the first time since his defeat to Canelo Alvarez last December and will be moving up to light heavyweight.

Smith suffered his first defeat against Alvarez and didn't really have a lot of options at 168 pounds, so moving up to 175 pounds might not have been a choice for the Briton as much as a forced decision.

Smith takes on veteran Lenin Castillo, who has lost both of his fights against top opponents in losing a decision to WBA champion Dmitry Bivol and another to Marcus Browne, who is the number one contender in the WBC rankings.

Castillo lost convincingly to both but did knock down Browne in his defeat, so should Smith be able to stop Castillo in his division debut, it would be a nice feather in his cap.

The other fight in the challenge will not be televised in America as former WBA and WBC middleweight Sergio Martinez continues his unlikely comeback against Brian Rose.

Martinez will fight for the first time since defeating Jussi Koivula by ninth-round stoppage last December and while Koivula's name was known for his loss to Conor Benn before losing to Martinez, Saturday's opponent is also recalled for a lopsided loss in Brian Rose, who was dominated in a 2014 challenge to then-WBO junior middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade, losing every round before being finished off in seven.

Martinez is 46 years old and I'm not really sure what the end game is for Martinez as he wasn't interested in fighting Gennady Golovkin in his prime, can't see him against Jermall Charlo or Demetrius Andrade and I don't see any seniors tour opponents that make sense either.

Still, give Martinez credit for his comeback as he isn't fighting MMA fighters or celebrities.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 125-110.

WBA, IBF, and WBO Heavyweight Titles.12 Rds 
Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk
R.L: Joshua KO 10
TRS: Joshua Unanimous Decision

WBO Cruiserweight Title 12 Rds
Lawrence Okolie vs Dilan Prasovic
R.L: Okolie KO 4
TRS: Okolie KO 3

Light Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Callum Smith vs Lenin Castillo
Both: Smith Unanimous Decision

Middleweights.10 Rds
Sergio Martinez vs Brian Rose
R.L: Martinez KO 5
TRS: Martinez KO 8 

Friday, September 24, 2021

PPM

  Another big week in football and the PPM!

Last Week: 10-5
Overall: 29-14

College
Ohio State over Akron 52-17
Boise State over Utah State 27-21
Minnesota over Bowling Green 37-14
Texas over Texas Tech 45-35
Middle Tennessee State over Charlotte 20-19
Clemson over N.C. State 28-14
Louisiana over Georgia Southern 30-17
Houston over Navy 27-17
Washington over California 26-21
LSU over Mississippi State 37-28

Games of the Week
Wisconsin over Notre Dame 24-20
Texas A&M over Arkansas 30-27

Pro
Browns over Bears 28-14
Patriots over Saints 17-15

Game of the Week
Buccaneers over Rams 37-33

Thursday, September 23, 2021

George Foreman vs the Toronto Five

   Boxing has always had time for a good sideshow and the current Jake Paul roadshow is far from the first ridiculous event to hit the ring,

Recently, I wrote about Paul and mentioned a few of boxing's goofy events, and my nephew, Jeff, asked if I would write about one event with an athlete in his prime that participated in a farce.

In April 1975, George Foreman hadn't fought since his October 1974 upset loss of his title to Muhammad Ali, and while today that wouldn't be considered to be a big deal, at that time it was a little unusual and with rumors flying about a change to the psyche of Foreman after his surprising knockout loss, promoter Don King came up with the idea of Foreman defeating five guys in one night to rebuild Foreman himself and in the eyes of the fans for a potential Ali rematch.

Understandably, the opponents weren't going to be top ten caliber but considering the issues of Foreman's stamina the argument was going to be made by Foreman that five guys scheduled for three rounds would be the same as going a full fifteen rounds.

So in Toronto, Wide World of Sports televised Foreman's "comeback" with Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali calling this farce with a surprisingly mute Don King sitting beside Ali as the circus played out.

Foreman's first opponent in veteran Alonzo Johnson, who had two claims to fame- he was one of the main sparring partners for Muhammad Ali and in Ali's eighth pro fight Johnson had taken Ali the ten-round distance.

That noted, Johnson was never more than a journeyman and hadn't fought in years before being installed as the opening challenger.

The first thing that I think of when seeing Johnson is the resemblance to the nearsighted boxer in the early 80s film "Tough Enough" starring a young Dennis Quaid and the second thing is that Johnson fights similar to the character as well.

Foreman fights the first round on his toes in an absolutely awful Ali impersonation as he boxes Johnson from range rather than walking down the older and out of his league opponent.

That's about the only way that Johnson could get out of the first round against George Foreman-If Foreman fought in the least aggressive way possible.

Foreman must have realized this in the corner as he quickly charged out and finished Johnson in the second with his trademark powerful looping shots.

The next opponent was even more anonymous than the rest in Jerry Judge and Judge delivered the most interesting match against Foreman.

Foreman comes out much more aggressively against Judge and drops the much smaller Judge to a knee with an uppercut and give Judge credit for getting up and trying to continue but the fun has just begun as Foreman walks in to finish Judge, Judge launches a desperate right hand that not only lands bur stuns Foreman, who clinches for a few seconds.

Judge survives the round and the two fighters jaw at each other after the round with Foreman playing full wrestling heel talks to Ali and the crowd between rounds.

One would think that Foreman would start the round strongly to finish Judge off but instead decides to dance around the ring with his legs flailing looking more like Pee Wee Herman dancing to "Tequila" rather than Ali.

Finally, Foreman drops Judge, the referee waves off the fight, and shortly thereafter Foreman and Judge share the obligatory post-fight responses with all seeming well for the next fighter to give Big George a try- BUT NO (this works really well with Cosell being at ringside and I can use a Cosell phrase), as the fighters exchange words and then begin to exchange punches as if the fight has resumed!

Judge then takes Foreman to the mat as if he was Dan Gable and would receive two points for the takedown before the fighters are finally separated.

Foreman then goes to the ropes and raises both arms in the manner of Clubber Lang in the opening montage of Rocky III as Ali taunts Foreman and the crowd boos along with throwing trash into the ring.

Next up is smallish Terry Daniels, who in today's game would have been a cruiserweight but had name recognition for a title challenge of then-champion Joe Frazier in 1972.

The problem with Daniels was that since that fourth-round knockout loss to Frazier, he had won just six of nineteen bouts and was simply too frail to hold up against the booming punches of Foreman and Foreman dropped Daniels in the first round but ran out of time to finish him.

Foreman landed some heavy shots in the second, driving Daniels around the ring but as Daniels offers a flurry against Foreman, Foreman waves to the referee to end the fight-AND THE REFEREE LISTENS  TO HIM!

Daniels follows Foreman to his corner and as with Jerry Judge, Foreman begins exchanging punches with Daniels, eventually knocking him to his knees with an uppercut as the corners for both men begin pushing and shoving each other.

By this time, Cosell is in full "above it all" mode using every synonym that one can think of for farce with Ali publicizing an appearance later that night as he continues to belittle Foreman.

The fourth fighter to take his chances is veteran trialhorse Charlie Polite, who would finish his career with twenty MORE losses than wins, and would fight on for a few years after this with his most notable fight coming against a young Gerry Cooney, who would stop Polite in four rounds.

However, Polite had fought a young George Foreman five years before in Foreman's hometown of Houston and lasted into the early part of the fourth round before being stopped, so Polite had some first-hand knowledge of Big George.

Polite's knowledge of Foreman came in handy as he was the first opponent to last the three rounds as Polite used various survival tactics with laying on the ropes (as Ali constantly instructed), tying Foreman up in close, and using movement to hear the final bell and although Foreman did knock Polite down in the final round, Polite wasn't in serious danger of being knocked out.

These fights weren't being scored as they were technically exhibitions, so Foreman wasn't declared the winner but the crowd continued to boo and jeer Foreman, who continued to joust with Ali after the fight but at least Foreman didn't punch Polite after the fight ended so progress with this fiasco had been made.

The final fight of the evening was thought to be quasi-interesting as former fringe contender Boone Kirkman was scheduled to be in the cleanup spot for the evening.

Kirkman had been undefeated in November 1970 before a battle of unbeaten heavyweights against George Foreman at Madison Square Garden saw Foreman knock Kirkman down three times in less than two rounds in what was Foreman's biggest career win to that date and perhaps his most notable win before his title victory over Joe Frazier, although an argument could be made that his win over Gregorio Peralta might deserve that honor.

Kirkman was being considered for a possible rematch with Foreman after a 1973 win over former WBA champion Jimmy Ellis before being upset by Al "Blue" Lewis in a tuneup fight in 1974.

Kirkman lost his next two fights by late-round TKO to contenders Ken Norton ( seven rounds) and Ron Lyle (eight rounds) so he was facing Foreman on a three-fight losing streak.

Foreman knocked Kirkman down in the first round and cut him over his left eye but as Charlie Polite did, Kirkman made it through the three rounds.

Ali missed the end of the evening as he had to make his plane to his event and missed a tired Foreman complain about the tactics of the five attempted to emulate Ali's winning strategy in Zaire.

Boxing is dealing with the various circuses with the Paul brothers, legends fighting in their 40s and 50s in glorified sparring sessions, and other athletes trying to be fighters, so its effects on the game can be mixed but don't believe that boxing has always been above the fray of the carnival circuit- events such as this and Muhammad Ali vs Antonio Inoki ( held a year after this) prove that not to be the case.

As for George Foreman, Foreman's Toronto tryst was his only ring appearance in 1975 but he would rebound with two huge wins over top contenders Ron Lyle ( in the 1976 Fight of the Year) and Joe Frazier (winning their rematch) and two other wins over fringe contenders Scott LeDoux and Dino Denis before a shocking upset loss in 1977 to Jimmy Young.

The Young loss would send Foreman into a ten-year retirement until 1987 when Foreman emerged to begin the trail back to the heavyweight championship but the real road to redemption began with a frustrated Foreman attempting to flex his muscles against five overmatched heavyweights as he vainly tried to regain his mojo for a rematch that never arrived.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Browns notch first win over Texans 31-21

    The Cleveland Browns pulled away in the second half to win their home opener over the Houston Texans 31-21.

Baker Mayfield completed 19 of 21 passes with a touchdown, Nick Chubb scored a touchdown with 95 yards rushing, and rookie Demetric Felton caught Mayfield's touchdown pass to lead the team with 51 yards receiving.

The Browns improved to 1-1 with the victory and will host the 1-1  Chicago Bears next Sunday.

Brownie Bits

1) The Browns didn't look completely smooth in their win but there were a few very bright spots in the win.

The main thing is the win over a team that you expect to defeat.

2) Baker Mayfield left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury that immediately made you wonder how seriously he was injured,

Mayfield gutted his way through the game and give him full credit for toughness as well as his leadership.

3) Mayfield injured the shoulder on a tackle on his only interception but the interception wasn't on Mayfield in my opinion.

Anthony Schwartz cut off his route and enabled Houston's Justin Reid to snare the pass.

4) Baker Mayfield's accuracy was excellent with 19 of 21 passes and Kevin Stefanski helped a bit in that area after the shoulder injury by leaning on the running game and passes that got the ball out quickly to avoid Mayfield taking hits that could be avoided.

5) As for that running game. Nick Chubb's 95 yards came on only eleven carries and his late touchdown put the game in the Cleveland win column.

6) Chubb's 26-yard score almost seemed like he was on the field by himself running down the field.

The offensive line blew off the ball and the play was extremely well blocked.

7) The biggest loss was wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who left the game on the Browns first possession and did not return to what has been reported as a sprained MCL.

Landry is listed as week to week and even if Odell Beckham is able to return to the field against the Bears, I look for the Browns to use the tight ends even more in Landry's absence- especially Harrison Bryant.

Just a hunch.

8) Sixth-round draft pick Demetric Felton was thought to be a possible steal when he was selected as one of those "Swiss Army Knife" weapons as a running back and receiver.

Felton beat out special teams ace Khadarel Hodge, who was well-liked by the coaching staff, for a roster spot and he showed against Houston just what he can add to an offense when he grabbed a screen pass from Baker Mayfield and turned it into a 33-yard touchdown pass when he avoided being tackled three times.

Felton reminds me a bit of Darren Sproles, who filled a similar role for a few different teams in the league for over a decade.

If Felton can approach that standard, the Browns are going to be quite happy.

9) My favorite draft pick of the Browns 2020 draft was safety Grant Delpit in the second round but a torn Achilles tendon in training camp kept Delpit from making his debut until the game against the Texans.
Delpit proved to be worth the wait as the safety finished with five tackles, a late sack that caused a fumble, and almost added an interception.

Delpit is going to make a larger and larger impact as this season moves on.

10) The downside was that Delput's sack/fumble was the only one of the day for the Browns pass rush.

Hopefully against a rookie in Justin Fields, the Browns can step that up this Sunday against the Bears.

Ohio State knocks off Tulsa 41-20

    The Ohio State Buckeye was expected to take out their anger from their loss to Oregon on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in Columbus.

Instead, the problems with the Buckeyes became more visible as Tulsa hung close until the fourth quarter when Ohio State finally busted open the game for the 41-20 victory.

TreVeyon Henderson rushed for an Ohio State freshman record 277 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Ohio State offense.

Ohio State improves to 2-1 on the season (1-0 Big Ten) and will host Akron next week at the Horseshoe.

Olentangy Offerings

1) TreVeyon Henderson's 277 rushing yards set the record for an Ohio State freshman breaking the record set by Archie Griffin against North Carolina in 1972.

Henderson was the offensive bright spot of the game for Ohio State and it's a good thing because at times they didn't have much else going for them.

2) Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman commentated the game for FS1 and I loved Brando's comparison of Henderson to that of Duane Thomas.

When you watch Henderson run, there is a certain amount of glide for Henderson and an ability to change gears that are seldom seen.

I wrote about Duane Thomas in 2016 as part of the Forgotten Superstars series.

3) C.J. Stroud threw for 185 yards with one touchdown and one interception and it seemed like Ryan Day was very protective of Stroud with his playcalling.

After the game, Stroud commented on a "sore arm", which I have to say is concerning from a freshman quarterback that did throw a lot against Oregon but has played in only three games.

4) I was surprised with how many people were just killing C.J. Stroud during the game.

The Buckeye nation has been awfully hard on the redshirt freshman and although he does seem to need some mechanical work on his throws as many of his passes are far too high.

Stroud's a young quarterback that isn't really a running threat, it will take time.

5) Considering all of that, I do wish that we would have seen Kyle McCord at least a little during these three games.

I understand the Oregon loss and the wins over Minnesota and Tulsa were not of the type that is usually expected against the competition of that ilk but McCord should be getting a few snaps in the event of an injury to Stroud.

6) Kerry Coombs was exiled to the press box with Matt Barnes moving to the sidelines.

I saw some improvement in a few areas but Tulsa often seemed to have receivers wide open that immediately made me think of blown coverages or players running to the ball rather than staying at home and taking care of their assignment.

7) Chris Olave was held without a catch for the first time since 2018 and only Garrett Wilson finished with more than 33 yards receiving.

8) I did really like the play of the freshmen corners in Denzel Burke and Cameron Martinez.

The two corners are already the standouts in the secondary and Martinez grabbed an interception for a Pick Six in the waning moments of the game.

By the end of the year, Burke and Martinez could be the stars of a defense in desperate need of them.

9) Tulsa QB Davos Brim finished with 428 yards passing and two scores, so this defensive problem isn't going to be solved overnight.

I did see a few signs of progress but I cannot say that I have no concerns.

Penn State looked very good in defeating Auburn, both Michigan and Michigan State have performed better than expected thus far and Ohio State may be fortunate to not play Iowa or Wisconsin in the regular season.

Unless significant progress is made, this could be (and emphasis on could) a 9-3 or dare I say it 8-4 season, which should be a one-season aberration.

10) Normally, I would brush aside Rutgers and Maryland (the two games following Akron) but Greg Schiano seems to have improved Rutgers to be at least decent and Maryland could have the receiving corps to give the Buckeyes issues.

This is one of those seasons that other than Akron, I won't be taking any team for granted.


Friday, September 17, 2021

PPM

    Another weekend of football as Taylor spikes home another big slate of games in the PPM!

Last Week: 9-6 
Overall: 19-9

College
Ohio State over Tulsa 48-28
Texas Tech over Florida International 43-30
Boise State over Oklahoma State 38-36
Houston over Grambling 45-17
Texas San-Antonio over Middle Tennessee State 31-23
Bowling Green over Murray State 30-29
Arkansas State over Washington 24-21
N.C. State over Furman 28-16
LSU over Central Michigan 50-17
Arkansas over Georgia Southern 45-20

Games of the Week
Auburn over Penn State 28-24
Alabama over Florida 38-21

NFL
Browns over Texas 38-21
Saints over Panthers 31-24

Game of the Week
Chiefs over Ravens 36-30