Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cleaning out the inbox-Sports Version

The inbox is just overflowing with items and it's funny how that works out sometimes.
Sometimes it takes me a few weeks to build an inbox and others a few days is enough to build up a sports and a non-sports version as it is currently.

We'll start today with the sports version and two articles on our favorite college football player that didn't play for Ohio State in years-Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who is as dominant a defensive lineman as I've seen in years.
I've written before about Oliver and the amazing things that he does on the field and you'll only hear his name more and more in the future.
Oliver is almost sure to be (barring injury) a top-five selection in the 2019 NFL Draft and I have to admit I'm already dreaming of a Browns defensive line with Myles Garrett on the outside and Ed Oliver up the middle.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports writes of the working background of Oliver and it seems like his family sure isn't going to allow fame and prosperity to go to the head of the Houston Cougar star.
ESPN writes of the legend of Ed Oliver and asks can Oliver win the Heisman?
I don't think he has a chance even though he'll be the best player in the game as the bias against defenders for the award and playing for a Group of Five team should take care of that-deserving or not.
Don't believe the hype (Think about how many times you have read me overhype someone and get back to me)?
Watch this video with some of the plays that I've raved about in the past...

ESPN is back with an article on Kinston, North Carolina and the large amount of NBA stars that Kinston has put into the league.
It seems like every few years, another Kinston product makes it big in the NBA and the article looks at the city of Kinston and all of the problems that the city has dealt and continues to deal with.
It's quite interesting and makes you realize what it takes to make the big time and the issues that players have to overcome, even in a small city the size of Kinston.

Eleven Warriors writes of an idea, which is unlikely to happen, but would be terrific if it did- in creating the Ohio Classic, an event that would include all thirteen of the Division I basketball teams in Ohio.
I'd love to see something like that as I've been a proponent of Ohio State playing Cincinnati and Xavier for years, but I can't see a tournament that large happening.
I'd be pleased with an annual four-team tournament with Ohio State, Cincinnati and Xavier joining a fourth team that would either rotate or have the team with the highest power ranking from the year before earn the fourth slot, but the Ohio Classic would be even better.

The Hardball Times writes of the 50th anniversary of the 1968 season in baseball, known as the "Year of the Pitcher".
The article is about baseball, but it discusses most the ineffectual commissioner of the time, General William Eckert and how baseball handled the in-season assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy,
It's interesting to see how it was handled then and wonder how it would be handled today in the 24/7 news cycle climate...

Hardball Times finishes the inbox with Bruce Markusen's look back at the late Oscar Gamble, who passed away in late January.
Gamble was best used as a platoon outfielder against righthanded pitchers in his best years with the Indians and Yankees, especially in Yankee Stadium where Gamble could take advantage of the short right field dimensions.
Gamble's career year though came in 1977 with the White Sox with 31 homers for a team filled with one-year contracts that surprisingly contended for the American West title and won 90 games.
However, what most fans of the time (especially younger ones like me) remember was the massive Afro from his days in Cleveland that appeared on Topps cards in 1974,75,76 before being forced to cut the Afro upon his arrival in New York.
The 1976 Topps Traded card is a longtime favorite of collectors of the age with the Afro shown with an airbrushed Yankee hat on the card.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Devils aren't finished-Acquire Patrick Maroon

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The New Jersey Devils were an unknown factor entering today's trade deadline after trading for Michael Grabner a few days before the deadline.
There were a few Devils related rumors including a Hail Mary request for the Ottawa Senators to trade defenseman Erik Karlsson, but nothing concrete.

The Devils didn't add Karlsson (no one did either as Ottawa decided to keep their star), but Ray Shero wasn't finished making deals as he sent a 2019 third-round draft choice and the rights to center J.D. Dudek, a 2014 sixth-round draft choice that is currently playing for Boston College to the Edmonton Oilers for another rental in left winger Patrick Maroon.
Maroon, like previous acquisition Michael Grabner, is a free agent at the conclusion of the season but brings 14 goals and 16 assists on the year as an Oiler to New Jersey.
Maroon, who scored a career-high 27 goals last season, turns 30 during the playoffs and has changed his career over the last season and a half in Edmonton, as in his previous four full seasons in Anaheim and Edmonton, Maroon's high in goals had been only 12.

The interesting points to ponder on Maroon are;
He's a big brawny player (6'3 220) that will be a force in front of the net, has been known to be physical to the point of dropping the gloves on occasion and has scored all 14 of his goals this season at even strength.
Much like Michael Grabner, the effectiveness of Maroon at even strength should be quite a help to the Devils offense.
Nothing against players and their powerplay performance at all, but it is always a plus to me when I see players that accumulate their statistics at even strength.
I would think that Maroon will be seeing his time on the third and fourth lines as he doesn't seem to have the speed to keep up with the smaller, speedier skaters on the upper two lines.

An interesting note on the prospect traded in J.D.Dudek, who has six goals (17 points) with the Boston College Eagles.
I thought that name sounded familiar and it is as his father Joe Dudek, was once on the cover of Sports Illustrated (with Bo Jackson) as a Division III running back at Plymouth State.
Dudek also played for Denver in one of the replacement games during the 1987 strike and ripped up the Oakland Raiders on a Monday night for 128 yards and two scores to be the NFL's player of the week.
Dudek would play the following week in the final replacement game and never played in the league again, although he would finish the season on the Broncos taxi squad.
For more on Joe Dudek, Grantland's article from 2012 can be found here.

Patrik Elias- 26 retired by Devils

I'm feeling a little more hockey friendly, but the scheduling still gets in the way even when I try to watch.
On Tuesday's, I miss games because I have to go to work early due to another person's schedule (which means I'll miss tomorrow's game against Pittsburgh, 7;30 starts often bring things down to the wire and anything after that is a no-hoper to see the game.

However, I made sure on Saturday night that I was watching for the jersey retirement ceremony of Patrik Elias and the ceremony took so long that the game was substantially delayed and I was able to watch just one period of the Devils comeback win over the Islanders.

That is the only negative note that I could make about this event because it might have been the best ceremony of this type that I have ever watched.
Teams have these events from time to time and (football usually isn't about retiring numbers due to the size of rosters, so they usually do an honoring of some type) they are usually nice and well done.
However, what they usually aren't are all that entertaining.
Don't get me wrong, they are always nice to watch as fans get to say their final goodbye with very nicely done tributes for the player being honored, but entertaining?
Not usually.
The exception became Patrik Elias Night in New Jersey where the 26 worn by Elias joined the four other numbers retired by the team and raised to the rafters (Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko and Martin Brodeur) because it was entertaining.

Patrik Elias entered the arena through the stands alongside the fans and was given one of those plastic green hats that so many wears for St.Patrick's Day, which Elias memorably doffed after a St.Patrick Day win at the Rock.
The Devils brought in plenty of former players to speak to the crowd, but the highlight of the night was the speech by Elias, who was both emotional, open and witty with his speech (shown below via YouTube) with Elias stopping to take a "Selfie" with the crowd as well!
I really enjoyed where Elias acknowledged the huge offer that he was given by the Rangers as a free agent once and he decided to stay- believing in the team concept under the Lou Lamoriello years and how important that it was to him to spend his entire career with one franchise.
That might have been the best speech that I've ever seen at one of these events all told and I think Devils fans will be remembering this night for a long time.

As far my favorite Patrik Elias memory, it has to be his blindside pass to Jason Arnott to beat Ed Belfour in Dallas for the Devils second Stanley Cup.
Of the Devils three titles, it is the second one that means the most to me.

The first championship is special because it was the first, but in many ways, those Devils were a team that fell into that noted rhythm that means so much in any postseason play and the third title team was one that beat a hot goalie (I'm still ticked that J.S Giguere won the Conn Smythe), yet the title runs at that time were close enough that it wasn't too special.
Ah, but that second team...
Those playoffs were special because those Devils were a great team.
They finished just two points behind the Flyers in points (103) in the Eastern Conference (yet were seeded fourth because of the divisional setup at that time), took out the top-seeded Flyers in the Eastern Finals by breaking their heart coming back from a 3-1 deficit along with the hit heard round the world by Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros in game seven that essentially ended Lindros' career and then the defending champion Stars in a great six-game series.
It's that championship team that is my favorite and it was those playoffs that saw Patrik Elias step onto the stage with not just the assist to Arnott, but it was Elias that scored a goal that so many forget-his goal with under three minutes remaining to drop Philadelphia 2-1 in game seven with 20 points scored in those playoffs.
That team was my favorite of the three and a young (23 at the time) Patrik Elias was such a huge part of that team, so of course, he will always rank near the top of my favorite Devils.

Patrik Elias was a smooth player that will likely get his ticket to the Hockey Hall eventually and will go through another ceremony that will make him a hockey immortal and not just a Devils immortal.
Devils fans will long remember both his personality and play as a permanent part of the Devils family.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Boxing Challenge: Rungvisai nips Estrada.

HBO Sports
The boxing challenge had a rarity in the last few weeks as the World Boxing Super Series did NOT have the best fight of the weekend!
I wrote about the Callum Smith victory earlier Saturday, so that does not need to be recapped.

The four-bout show from Los Angeles (3 televised by HBO) featured some strong action and the main event was a fight good enough in the ring and close enough on the scorecards to consider doing it again.
Sriasket Sor Rungvisai retained his WBC junior bantamweight title by the width of a paper sheet with a majority decision win over Juan Francisco Estrada in a thrilling fight.
Rungvisai built a lead and held off the late charge of Estrada including a twelfth round that is as good as you'll see this year.
Rungvisai earned the votes of two judges with a reasonable 115-113 and a ridiculous 117-111 overruling a 114-114 draw card that agreed with my personal card.

McWilliams Arroyo pulled off a surprising upset of heavily favored Carlos Cuadras via a majority decision.
Cuadras started well as he did in his close loss to Juan Francisco Estrada, but again relaxed and allowed Arroyo to get back into the fight.
I scored Arroyo a close 96-94 winner, but would not have argued with the same score that chose Cuadras as the victor.

Donnie Nietes retained his IBF Flyweight title with a seventh-round knockout of Juan Carlos Reveco.
I had Nietes winning every round when he nailed Reveco with a right hand late in the sixth that sent Reveco wobbling to his corner.
Nietes finished Reveco less than a minute into the next round for the victory.

In the non-televised title fight (Thanks to Ring.Tv for showing the fight live) Artem Dalakian won the vacant WBA flyweight title with a unanimous decision over veteran Brian Viloria.
I had Dalakian a 115-112 winner (One point deducted from Dalakian for pushing down on Viloria), but an elbow that sliced Viloria's forehead open in the eleventh and produced as ugly of a gash as you could see in the ring caused Viloria to visibly slow down and gave Dalakian the final two rounds to put the victory and championship away.
The scores were far too lopsided for my tastes, but the winner was the correct one.
The time may be the right one for the 37-year-old Viloria to consider walking away from the game.

In the boxing challenge, I scored four points to Ramon Malpica's three on the weekend to move my lead to 26-21

I received two points from Artem Dalakian's win and one each from Donnie Nietes and Callum Smith.
Ramon added one point each from wins by Rungvisai, Nietes, and Smith.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Boxing Challenge-Smith decisions Holzken

Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series
The World Boxing Super Series semi-finals ended as softly as its beginning was exciting as the Super Middleweight completed the final matchup as second seed Callum Smith won a dominant but less than exciting unanimous decision over late replacement and kickboxing champion Nicky Holzken in Nuremberg Germany.

It could have been far worse, Holzken came forward and tried to win, but the massive gap in experience and skill was far too much for the Dutch native to overcome.
Holzken fought better than expected and he brought up some memories of seeing some PKA Karate stars of the 1980's (I watched that on ESPN) such as Dale "Apollo" Cook struggle against low level competition in their boxing attempts.
The karate/kickboxers that attempt to make the leap in boxing never seem to have the ability to punch hard and Holzken actually was better with his punches than I expected, but he is simply starting far too late in the sport.
Callum Smith was certainly fighting a safer fight than I expected against the late substitute and would have been better suited to hit the gas to finish this fight strongly, but in tournament action, the win is the most important thing and Smith won going away on my card 118-110.

One final note on a fight that won't be especially memorable for many (including a crowd that was less than enthralled by both the action and the absence of hometown fighter Jurgen Braehmer), but is the most interesting on a dull night, Watching the post-fight "staredown" between the two finalists-Callum Smith just seems so much larger than George Groves and I didn't expect that.
Considering how much the rangy Smith used the jab to fend off the novice Holzken, it'll be interesting to see if Smith can do the same against the experienced and crafty Groves.
Groves used his jab well to neutralize much of the offense of the taller Chris Eubank Jr so it will be key for Groves to do the same to Callum Smith.

The tournament for the super middleweights didn't look as strong as the cruiserweights from the start and the bracket looked highly likely to be an all UK-battle in the finals with Callum Smith favored in his part of the tourney and the winner of Groves-Eubank to fill the other slot.
The WBSS needs to have better fighters on standby than the likes of Nicky Holzken for future emergency situations but as Burt Reynolds uttered in the underrated comedy "Breaking In"- "we learn by doing" and hopefully a lesson has been learned by the dull fight, silent crowd and amount of no-shows for the next time that this situation comes into play.

Still have the Superfly card and a few words on tonight's retirement of Patrik Elias to write tonight as well.

Boxing Challenge

I've been critical of the caliber of the schedule of HBO Boxing over the last few months, but there is nothing to criticize the "Network of Champions" for this weekend as their three-fight broadcast from the flyweight and junior bantamweight divisions are as good as I could ask for.
With three solid fights that you could make an argument for either combatant winning each of the fights, the only issue that I have is this- Why isn't HBO televising the fourth good fight on the card?
Either with an online stream or a farm-out to HBO Latino, I would have found a way to televise Brian Viloria against Artem Dalakian for the vacant WBA flyweight title, but other than that, I don't think anyone can quibble with the HBO card.

The main event offers the WBC junior bantamweight title as champion Sriasket Sor Rungvisai ( TRS # 2 at 122), the two-time conqueror of Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez, defends against Juan Francisco Estrada (TRS #3), the number one contender and former flyweight champion.
Rungvisai and Estrada are both entertaining fighters that have varied skills and styles that should produce an interesting exchange of tactics with a fight that shouldn't have a favorite entering the fight.
I'm as excited about this fight as I've been in a while and I think it has fight of the year level possibilities.

The co-feature is the one that might not be a pick'em fight, but it's one that does not have a prohibitive favorite as former WBC junior bantamweight champ Carlos Cuadras battles McWilliams Arroyo, a two-time title challenger.
Cuadras lost a unanimous decision (by one point on all three scorecards) to Juan Francisco Estrada in his last fight or it would be Cuadras facing Rungvisai while Arroyo lost a unanimous decision to Roman Gonzalez in his last fight.
Cuadras is surprisingly unranked at TRS, but that is more of a sign of the divisional strength and certainly not a negative on Cuadras, who would have a solid chance of winning against any fighter ranked above him in the division.
Cuadras should win this one, but Arroyo could give him all that he wishes.

The first fight drops to the flyweight division as Donnie Nietes (TRS #2) receives his first American TV exposure as he defends his IBF flyweight belt against top contender Juan Carlos Reveco (TRS #4).
Nietes has won titles at minimumweight and light flyweight, while Reveco has won titles at light flyweight and flyweight with the fight matched two of the best four flyweights in the world.
Nietes has not lost since 2004 (his only loss via split decision), while Reveco has won three in a row since losing his WBA flyweight title to Kazuto Iota and then losing their rematch.
Ioka retired in December as our top-rated flyweight, while in our last ratings, Nietes was second to Ioka, but was jumped by the exciting Daigo Higa to replace Ioka at the top of the division.

An untelevised bout on the HBO card fills the WBA flyweight title vacated by the aforementioned Ioka.
Brian Viloria, a champion at both light flyweight and flyweight, attempts to win another title as he takes on undefeated Artem Dalakian of Ukraine.
The issue here is which will prove to be a larger factor- the lack of world class opposition faced by Dalakian or will the 37-year-old Viloria finally show his age and step away from the world stage?

The World Boxing Super Series concludes its semi-final round in the super middleweight tournament and it appears that it will be doing so with a less than competitive fight.
The Callum Smith (TRS #4)-Jurgen Braehmer bout was the least enticing of the four semi-final bouts in the two tournaments, but it became even worse when Braehmer dropped out earlier this week with an infection of some type.
Tournaments in boxing always take the chance of being slowed by injuries and supposedly the WBSS was going to be ready with qualified replacements when needed.
The replacement for Braehmer is far from "Qualified" as undefeated Nieky Holzken enters to fight Smith.
The former kickboxing star is undefeated, but has fought no one of any stature at all and looks to be overmatched.
I used to love watching PKA Karate in the early days of ESPN and found it entertaining, but I remember when a few of those guys tried boxing and even at the lower levels of the game struggled.
It's a different game and those guys usually struggle with getting leverage on their punches.
This is a mismatch and the WBSS needs to be better prepared with standby opponents if their tournament is to continue to grow.

In an untelevised bout (I think it will be on tape delay later in the week) from Japan, Danny Roman makes his first defense of his WBA junior featherweight title against Japan's Ryo Matsumoto.
Roman, who fights for Thompson Boxing, who puts on a nice club card on Facebook once a month,
I've never seen Matsumoto, but he is advertised at 5'11, which is extremely tall for a 122 pounder and should make an interesting sight in the ring.

A bout that we are counting in the challenge now, but isn't until the middle of next week is also from Japan as Luis Nery (TRS #1) defends his WBC bantamweight championship against the man he won the title from in Shinsuke Yamanaka (TRS #4).
Nery scored a huge upset in knocking Yamanaka out last year in the fourth round but failed a VADA drug test after the bout.
Nery claimed it was due to contaminated meat (Don't laugh, this happens often to Mexican fighters) and the WBC allowed Nery to keep the title provided he would give Yamanaka an immediate rematch.
Yamanaka had held the title for over six years and made 12 successful defenses so this will be an interesting fight to see whether Nery's win was a fluke or this fight is the end for a proud champion in Yamanaka.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 22-18.

WBC Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Sriasket Sor Rungvisai  vs Juan Francisco Estrada
R.L: Rungvisai Unanimous Decision
TRS: Estrada Unanimous Decision

Junior Bantamweights. 10 Rds
Carlos Cuadras vs McWilliams Arroyo
Both: Cuadras Unanimous Decision

IBF Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Donnie Nietes vs Juan Carlos Reveco
Both: Nietes Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBA Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Brian Viloria vs Artem Dalakian
R.L: Viloria Unanimous Decision
TRS: Dalakian Unanimous Decision

World Boxing Super Series Super Middleweight Semi-Final 12 Rds
Callum Smith vs Nieky Holzken
R.L: Smith KO 8
TRS: Smith KO 5

WBA Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Danny Roman vs Ryo Matsumoto
R.L: Matsumoto Unanimous Decision
TRS: Roman Unanimous Decision

WBC Bantamweight Title, 12 Rds
Luis Nery vs Shinsuke Yamanaka
R.L: Nery KO 5
TRS: Yamanaka Split Decision

Friday, February 23, 2018

Devils trade with Rangers?

Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports 
The New Jersey Devils figured that they were likely to make a trade before the deadline to improve their surprising chances of making the playoffs (they are the seventh seed right now), but few figured they would make a trade with the rival New York Rangers.
After all, the two teams had never made a trade since the Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey and became the Devils in 1982, so who would expect it to happen now, even with the Rangers well out of the playoff picture.

Well, there is always a first time and the Devils acquired veteran right winger Michael Grabner from the Rangers for a second-round draft pick in the 2018 draft along with Russian defenseman Yegor Rykov to upgrade their forwards.
Grabner has scored 25 goals for the Rangers this season and interestingly only one of those goals comes from the power play.
What Grabner adds is speed- as in lots of it.
Grabner should slot in on a wing of the Devils fastest line, which to me would be with Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha and should add the type of finisher at even strength that particular line has lacked,
The thirty-year-old Grabner is likely a rental unless the Devils try to re-sign him as he is a free agent at the end of the season, but with the amount of cap space the team has, the Devils could make a run at retaining Grabner should they choose to go in that direction.

The cost for Grabner wasn't overly excessive, the second rounder going into a rival's pocket isn't preferred, but it's the cost of doing business and you don't upgrade talent without giving something away.
As for Rykov, he's a 20 year old defenseman that is playing well (2 goals, 12 assists +13 in 51 games) in the KHL and was a Devils 5th round pick in 2016, so he's a nice prospect, but not a standout one.

I haven't watched as many games recently as I should be. but with Grabner's career with the Rangers and Islanders, I've seen a lot of his career and I feel pretty comfortable talking about his skills.
Grabner is going to help the Devils, I think it will be quickly and I think he's going to make a huge difference in stretch drive action.
I'll try to watch more hockey soon, Rachel still is in mourning over Adam Henrique and I haven't felt the same way watching without her, but I'm starting to feel the energy return a bit.

Still plenty to write this weekend with boxing, cleaning of the inboxes for both sports and non-sports and maybe something else as well.

Pirates obtain Corey Dickerson-Outfield shakeup

The Pittsburgh Pirates spent the week collecting outfielders and added the most proven product of the day today as the Pirates obtained Corey Dickerson from Tampa Bay in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray and some cash towards Hudson's contract.
As hard as it is to believe, a trade was consummated as " a salary dump" and it was the Pirates not dumping the heavy contract.!

The 28 year old Dickerson will be arriving at PNC Park off his career season in Tampa last season where he hit.287 with 27 long balls and 33 doubles, which is important at PNC with the power alleys, although the larger alley is to left center, which might not be as crucial to the lefthanded-hitting Dickerson's success.
Keep in mind that Dickerson slumped badly in the second half (.232, 10 homers and 82 strikeouts) and isn't noted for being a strong defender- a negative at PNC Park where the left fielder has to cover more ground than any other left field in the game.
However, even though he is going to have his share of strikeouts, Dickerson should at his worst be good for at least 20 homers.
Dickerson will make just under six million this season and the Pirates will have him under contract until the end of the 2019 season.

Daniel Hudson disappointed a bit (2-7 4.38 ERA) in his only season in Pittsburgh, mainly because they expected a little more for his contract after signing him to a two-year contract for eleven million.
The righthander was expendable to the Pirates after various bullpen reinforcements such as Kyle Crick from the Giants, Michael Feliz from the Astros in trades, free agent signing Josh Smoker from the Mets and Rule 5 draftee Jordan Milbrath from the Indians and the bullpen looked to be one of the strengths of the Pirates.
Pittsburgh also included minor league second baseman Tristan Gray, who the Pirates picked in the 13th round of last year's draft out of Rice.
Gray is more intriguing than you would think for a 13th rounder after a .269/7/37 line in his first pro year at short-season West Virginia but is more of a lottery ticket as a college bat than a sure prospect.

The chance for the Pirates to add Corey Dickerson must have been somewhat of a surprise because earlier in the week, the Pirates added a lefthanded-hitting and a righthanded-hitting outfielder and from the looks at that time, both looked to be contending for the left field starting spot.
Now both players might be battling for one spot on the roster with the other headed for AAA Indianapolis.

At this time last season, Michael Saunders might have been looked at in a similar fashion as Corey Dickerson is today, coming off a career-high season in doubles and homers and off his first All-Star selection.
The 31-year-old Saunders left Toronto for Philadelphia and produced a terrible line in a season that saw him hit so poorly as a Phillie, he returned to Toronto (Combined .202/6/21).
Saunders is better than 2017 (Though he always will strike out a ton), but I think his 24 homers in 2016 is unlikely to be repeated, but his cost wasn't nearly as high for Pittsburgh (a minor league contract/ spring training invite) than it was for Philadelphia just one year before and Saunders is at least an interesting contender to be a bat off the bench.

Pittsburgh attempted to buy low with a cash purchase of outfielder Bryce Brentz after the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez to a large contract and needed to free up a roster space.
The 29-year-old was at one time thought of as a possible elite prospect but has been hampered by wrist injuries and despite coming off the Red Sox 40 man has only 90 plate appearances in the big leagues.
Brentz has been so injury plagued that until last season when he played 120 games for AAA Pawtucket, he had not played in 100 games since 2012!
Brentz did smack 31 homers for the PawSox, so the Pirates are hoping that perhaps he has rebounded and could be a steal in the making.
We'll see if Brentz is a true late bloomer or turns out to be one of those 4A  players that turn out to be AAA hired guns to travel the International and Pacific Coast leagues.
At a minimum, I think Brentz has the potential to add power somewhere, the question is where-left field where he would have to chase off Corey Dickerson, the bench in Pittsburgh or chasing flyballs in Indianapolis.

No matter the result of the left field battle, it will be interesting to follow how Austin Meadows hits in Indianapolis.
Meadows does need time in AAA and his main issue has been fighting off injuries since first playing in the Hoosier State in 2016.
One would have to think that Meadows will at least spend the first two months in AAA, but what if those two months are dazzling ones that force his way to Pittsburgh?
I would think the player that loses out in that scenario would be Corey Dickerson, but it could be Gregory Polanco, should his production drop in 2017 carry into 2018.

The inbox is overflowing,so look for a sports and non-sports version soon, another look at assault weapons and there is the boxing challenge, so lots of posts over the next few days...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

TRS Boxing Ratings-Part Two

The TRS ratings return with part two, consisting of the lightweight division and lower...

A note at lightweight, where Terry Flanagan has vacated his WBO lightweight belt but has yet to fight at 140.
Flanagan will be removed from the lightweight ratings in April.

Thanks again to our "committee" members Ramon Malpica and Vince Samano for their help and the next ratings will come out sometime in the month of April...

1) Mikey Garcia WBC Champ 14 Pts (Up One)
2) Jorge Linares WBA Champ 13 Pts (Down One)
3) Terry Flanagan 8 Pts (Up One)
4) Robert Easter IBF Champ 5 Pts (Down One)
5) Ray Beltran WBO Champ 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Anthony Crolla

Junior Lightweights
1) Vasyl Lomachenko WBO Champ 15 Pts
2) Miguel Berchelt WBC Champ  12 Pts
3) Alberto Machado WBA Champ (Unranked) 7 Pts
    Gervonta Davis (Up One)
5) Jezreel Corrales 2 Pts (Down Two)
Also Received Votes: Miguel Roman

1) Leo Santa Cruz WBA Champ 15 Pts
2) Carl Frampton (Up One) 11 Pts
3) Oscar Valdez WBO Champ (Down One) 8 Pts
4) Gary Russell WBC Champ 7 Pts
5) Abner Mares 4 Pts

Junior Featherweights
1) Guillermo Rigondeaux 13 Pts
2) Jessie Magdaleno WBO Champ 12 Pts
3) Rey Vargas WBC Champ (Up Two) 11 Pts
4) Daniel Roman WBA Champ (Unranked) 4 Pts
    Moises Flores
Also Received Votes: Issac Dogboe

1) Luis Nery WBC Champ 15 Pts
2) Ryan Burnett WBA/IBF Champ (Unranked) 10 Pts
3) Jamie McDonnell  (Up One) 7 Pts
4) Zolani Tete WBO Champ (Unranked) 6 Pts
    Shinsuke Yamanaka (Down Two)
Also Received Votes: Juan Carlos Payano

Junior Bantamweights
1) Naoya Inoue WBO Champ 14 Pts
2) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai WBC Champ 13 Pts
3) Juan Francisco Estrada 9 Pts
4) Jerwin Ancejas IBF Champ (Unranked)5 Pts
5) Roman Gonzalez 2 Pts (Down One)
    Khalid Yafai WBA Champ (Unranked)

1) Daigo Higa WBC Champ (Up Two) 14 Pts
2) Donnie Nietes IBF Champ 13 Pts
3) Sho Kimura WBO Champ (Up One) 7 Pts
4) Juan Carlos Reveco (Up One) 5 Pts
5) Moruti Mthalane (Unranked) 2 Pts
    Andrew Selby (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Kosei Tanaka, Zou Shiming

Pound for Pound
1) Vasyl Lomachenko 29 Pts
2) Gennady Golovkin 26 Pts
3) Terence Crawford 24 Pts (Down One)
4) Errol Spence 20 Pts  (Up Three)
5) Canelo Alvarez 13 Pts
    Anthony Joshua (Unranked)
7) Naoya Inoue 8 Pts (Unranked)
    Sergey Kovalev
9) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai 7 Pts (Unranked)
10) Mikey Garcia 5 Pts (Down One)
Also Received Votes: Jermall Charlo, CP Freshmart, Murat Gassiev, Keith Thurman

Monday, February 19, 2018

TRS Boxing Ratings-Part One

It's been six months, which is longer than I like, but the TRS ratings are finally back!
Thanks to Ramon Malpica and Vince Samano for their votes.
As always the ratings are in two parts with the lightweight division and under in the next post, along with the pound for pound ratings.

First two brief notes-Even though Terence Crawford has vacated all four of his belts at 140 and plans to campaign at 147, he will still be ranked at 140 for this rating period since he has yet to fight at 147.
By the next rankings in April ( that is earlier than usual, but I want to get back on the usual time frame of 4 times a year), Crawford will not be rated at junior welterweight.
Also, votes were received before this past weekend's fights.

1) Anthony Joshua WBA/IBF Champ 15 Pts.
2) Deontay Wilder WBC Champ 11 Pts (Up One)
3) Luis Ortiz 9 Pts (Down One)
4) Joseph Parker WBO Champ 7 Pts
5) Alexander Povetkin 2 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Jarrell Miller

1) Murat Gassiev WBA/IBF Champ 15 Pts (Up One)
2) Oleksandr Usyk WBC/WBO Champ 12 Pts (Down One)
3) Mairis Breidis 8 Pts
4) Yunier Dorticos 5 Pts (Unranked)
5) Kryzstof Glowacki 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Denis Lebedev, Andrew Tabiti

Light Heavyweights
1) Sergey Kovalev WBO Champ 15 Pts (Up Two)
2) Dmitri Bivol WBA Champ 8 Pts (Unranked)
    Adonis Stevenson WBC Champ
4) Artur Beterbiev IBF Champ 6 Pts (Up One)
5) Oleksandr Gvozdyk 5 Pts (Down One)
Also Received Votes; Sullivan Barrera, Eleider Alvarez

Super Middleweights
1) Gilberto Ramirez WBO Champ 15 Pts (Up One)
2) George Groves WBA Champ 9 Pts (Up Two)
     Chris Eubank Jr. (Up Two)
4) Callum Smith 6 Pts (Down One)
5) David Benavidez WBC Champ 3 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes; James DeGale, Andre Dirrell

1) Gennady Golovkin WBA/WBC/IBF Champ 15 Pts
2) Canelo Alvarez 12 Pts
3) Billy Joe Saunders WBO Champ 7 Pts (Unranked)
4) Jermall Charlo 4 Pts (Up One)
     Daniel Jacobs (Down Two)
Also Received Votes; Sergei Derevanchenko

Junior Middleweights
1) Erislandy Lara WBA Champ 13 Pts
2) Jermell Charlo WBC Champ 12 Pts
3) Jarrett Hurd IBF Champ 10 Pts (Up One)
4) Sadam Ali WBO Champ 5 Pts (Unranked)
5) Austin Trout 2 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes; Maciej Sulecki, Liam Smith

1) Errol Spence IBF Champ 15 Pts
2) Keith Thurman WBA/WBC Champ 12 Pts
3) Shawn Porter 7 Pts (Up One)
4) Manny Pacquiao 6 Pts (Up One)
5) Danny Garcia 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Kell Brook, Jeff Horn WBO Champ

Junior Welterweights
1) Terence Crawford 15 Pts
2) Julius Indongo 8 Pts
    Sergey Lipinets IBF Champ (Up Two)
4) Antonio Orozco 6 Pts (Down Two)
5) Viktor Postol 3 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Jose Ramirez, Regis Prograis, Felix Diaz

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Boxing Challenge:Groves exposes Eubank and Hamburglar Alert!

Photo Credit: Getty Images
The boxing challenge was similar to the last two weekends in boxing as there may have been a large number of bouts domestically, but once again it was the World Boxing Super Series without an American television home stealing the show from a live stream.

The WBSS moved to their first semi-final in the super middleweight division with a sizable amount of interest in an all-UK faceoff with both the WBA title and a berth in the finals on the line as George Groves earned the biggest victory of his career with a unanimous decision over Chris Eubank. Jr.

The choice in this bout was one of the hardest for me to make in quite a while as both fighters had reasons to pick them and pick against them and despite my rooting for Groves through the years, I had concerns about him winning on the big stage and hesitantly selected Eubank.
I was happy to be wrong in this case as Groves used his jab to control the fight's tempo and distance, befuddling Eubank and leaving him frustrated and settling for wild shots that found air more often than Groves.
Eubank did hurt Groves in the final round after Groves suffered a separated shoulder (more on that soon) and showed signs of the power that made him a betting favorite, but Groves hung on and took a clear decision (117-111 on my card) and a trip to the finals.
The shoulder injury to Groves does throw a wrinkle into the tournament plans for the finals as it is unlikely to see Groves be ready to make a return to the ring by June 2nd on the planned date for the finals against next week's winner of the Callum Smith-Jurgen Braehmer tilt.
As for Eubank, he showed the same lack of discipline that he did in his only previous loss to Billy Joe Saunders and looked to be a fighter looking for his identity in the ring.

We move back across the Atlantic for five challenge bouts on two networks from PBC and yet another mostly disappointing evening.
PBC started with a two-fight show that ran way long since a scheduled squash match for talented prospect Carlos Balderas surprisingly lasted the four round distance and the result of that decision saw the PBC running competition against itself for a while.

The main event wasn't as bad as it could have been considering that it matched the continuing comeback of Devon Alexander against the usually excuse-filled performances from Victor Ortiz.
It was not only scheduled for 12 rds instead of the standard 10, I was shocked to see the WBC sanctioned this as a title eliminator since Alexander had won just once in his comeback and Ortiz hasn't had a win over a contender in years.
It was better than expected, mainly because despite being decisively outboxed and having his eye puffed, Alexander wasn't a banger in his prime and the sometimes soft Ortiz hung in there likely because he wasn't getting seriously hurt.
As the Showtime card started and this fight moved on, it appeared that the only question for the judges was the margin for Alexander as watchers prepared to move to Showtime.
I didn't have many questions as I saw Alexander a huge 118-110 winner, but it was time to bring out the Hamburglar as the cards were stunning at 115-113 for ORTIZ!? with two more at 114-114 for a majority decision draw and the early favorite for the awful decision of the year.
I suppose it wouldn't be a Victor Ortiz fight without something odd happening and say what you will about Ortiz in the ring-the happenings are never dull when Ortiz is around.

The other fight was really bad as Caleb Plant handily (119-109 on my card) won an IBF title eliminator over trialhorse Porky Medina to near a shot against new IBF champion Caleb Truax and the world's first ever all-Caleb world championship fight.
The less said about this the better and Plant is deadly dull to watch.

The drawn-out card on Fox caused me to miss most of the curtain raiser on Showtime as Yordanis Ugas won yet another eliminator in the welterweight division (there were three on the day) this one of the IBF variety with a seventh-round knockout of Ray (missing any sugar) Robinson.
I saw the knockout but missed the first six rounds, so no scoring on the Ugas victory.

The second bout saw a rematch of a fun fight from last year as David Benavidez defended his WBC super middleweight belt for the first time against the man he defeated for the vacant title-Ronald Gavril.
Benavidez had won a narrow split decision in their first fight, had claimed he was ill for that fight and wanted an immediate rematch to remove all doubt.
The doubt was removed as Benavidez dominated on his way to a unanimous decision that saw Gavril win the final round on my scorecard to avoid being shutout (119-109).
The talented 21-year-old champion dominated Gavril with his jab and proved that there would be no need for a third encounter any time soon.
I have a feeling that this time next year that we might be discussing David Benavidez and Gilberto Ramirez in a title unification bout as the latest big fight that boxing fans will miss out on due to the issues with promoters and networks...

The main event was one that I wasn't really excited about as Danny Garcia returned to the ring for the first time in nearly a year against the shopworn Brandon Rios in yet another welterweight eliminator, the second of the evening for the WBC.
If they had half as many title defenses as eliminators, Keith Thurman's nickname wouldn't be used as a metaphor for how often he fights!
Rios, a former Zabbie winner, had been fed journeyman Aaron Herrera last June for his first win since 2015 to revive his name to be fed to someone in the future,
Garcia had a mixed bag for the evening- the good news is that he knocked Rios out with a strong right that saw Rios rise but had the fight ended by referee Kenny Bayliss in the ninth round.
I had Garcia ahead 79-73 (7-1 in rounds) entering round nine and despite the protest of Rios for the fight being stopped, Rios clearly dropped his left and invited the Garcia right that ended a long night from the PBC, so he can only blame himself for a loss that frankly should give him pause of getting out of the business.
Rios is dreadfully slow and having his best days at lightweight, Rios lacks any pop remotely resembling his power at lower divisions, the time may be right for him to consider walking away.

The bad news for Garcia?
Danny was hit far more than he should be by someone of Rios' speed and you cannot blame that all on rust.
Garcia, even in his wins, hasn't been the same fighter at 147 as he was at 140 and now he's beginning to get hit more often?
I thought Garcia won almost every round, but Rios scored enough to hold some interest and I wonder if Garcia has seen his best fights in the back window?

The evening wrapped with one of those pro wrestling style shouting matches that seem to follow the PBC almost every telecast and especially when you have any combination of Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, and Garcia around.
These three constantly challenge each other for future matches, street fights, hot dog eating contests and whatever else floats their boat on that evening.
It's getting to the point that it's simply silly that these things constantly happen between the three and nothing seems to ever come of it.
It's tired, old and much of it seems to be poorly acted.
Here was a tweet of mine from last night about this situation and for the record-Thurman and Garcia are the first two named with Porter being the third.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica 6-4 on the night and moved my overall lead to  22-18.
I scored two points each on wins by David Benavidez and Caleb Plant with one point wins from Danny Garcia and Yordanis Ugas.
Ramon added two points for Benavidez with one each from Plant and Garcia.

Hoping to have an episode of Fightheads this week on the podcast to talk about these fights and next weekend's fight in the World Boxing Super Series and finally a good card coming from HBO!!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Boxing Challenge: Beltran nips Moses

The feel-good story of 2018 boxing finally happened last night in Reno as Ray Beltran won a unanimous decision over Paulus Moses in Reno, Nevada to finally gain an elusive world championship- the previously vacant WBO lightweight title that was given up by Terry Flanagan in order to move up to the junior welterweight division.

The fight was much harder for Beltran than most, including myself, predicted against the 39-year-old Moses fighting out of Zambia.
I had the fight far closer than the judges did as it turned out on the cards, but I thought Beltran squeaked out a narrow 115-113 verdict.
In fact, I had Moses slightly ahead before I had Beltran sweeping the final three rounds for the two-point win (7-5) on my scorecard.,
The surprising Moses fought very well, cut Beltran in the third round and hurt Beltran twice before his age caught up with him and faded late.
I was very pleased for Beltran, who has had a hard-luck career, but I hated two of the scorecards (117-111 9-3 in rounds), it had the feel of one of those fights that judges throw out on occasion that they give every early round to the pre-fight favorite because they "think" they should win, which winds up with far wider scorecards than often should occur in situations where the underdog fights better than expected.
Beltran was expected to be the fallback choice for Vasyl Lomachenko in May if the Lomachenko-Jorge Linares stalemate continues, but his cuts in his victory may make it difficult to return that quickly, although a career-high payday might heal those cuts faster than usual.

In the co-feature, touted power-hitting welterweight Egid Kavaliauskas wasn't as impressive as I had hoped in a sixth-round stoppage of former minor titleholder David Avanesyan in the sixth round.
Kavaliauskas finished Avanesyan as soon as he seriously hurt him, but to me, he looked a bit sluggish and I thought Tony Weeks stopped the contest a little early (I do believe I've written that before).
All things considered, a knockout win over a top 10-15 type contender is a solid victory in Kavaliauskas' first fight at that level.

I continue to be disappointed in the ESPN announcing crew.
Joe Tessitore has always been average to me, Timothy Bradley tries hard, but always seems to be hesitant to criticize and I still wonder who thought giving Mark Kriegel such a large role as the color commentator, when he clearly is overmatched there was a good idea.
I was pleased to see Claudia Trejos on the program, I always thought she was very solid when I first watched her in the Solo Boxeo days.
I'd like to see a larger role for Trejos on future Top Rank shows, especially if it would be part of a larger revamp.
I'm glad ESPN is back in boxing, but they need to at least consider some changes.

The wins gave Ramon Malpica and I each two challenge points and moved the total to 16-14 entering this evening.
I could be back this afternoon with a few breaks with the George Groves-Chris Eubank Jr. bout from the U.K.

Giants sign Tony Watson

 Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco Giants still needed to upgrade their bullpen, but they were dancing along the line of the luxury tax that the team has been trying to avoid all during the off-season so you could wonder just what the team planned on doing other than some low-risk reclamation projects on a  minor league contract to attempt to grab lightning in a bottle.

The Giants have either pulled a rabbit out of a hat, decided that they weren't going to worry about paying the tax or have a move in mind to save some money, but no matter how things turn out of the options above, the signing of left-handed reliever Tony Watson comes as a surprise.
The need for a southpaw from the pen was huge as the team lacked a proven lefty to start the season as Will Smith is expected to miss the few month or two as the only proven choice for the top lefthander's position and with so little money to spend, the Giants didn't seem to be in a situation to improve the roster.
The acquisition of Watson bumps younger lefties Josh Osich and Steven Okert each down a notch in the bullpen and might mean an Osich vs Okert battle for the left-handed long man roster spot with the other returning to AAA Sacramento.

The 32 (Turns 33 in May) year old Watson had spent his entire career in Pittsburgh as the top lefthander out of the Pittsburgh pen before moving into the role of the closer in 2016 after the Nationals traded for the then-closer for the Pirates in Mark Melancon.
Watson pitched well in 47 games with Pittsburgh (10 saves), but was moved out of the closer's role in favor of a harder throwing lefthander in Felipe Rivero before finishing the year in Los Angeles after being traded at the deadline with a strong  2.66 ERA in 24 Dodger appearances.
Watson will more than likely be the setup man and gives the Giants a viable choice as a closer in the event that Mark Melancon's injuries keep him from regaining his past form.
Watson keeps the ball down and usually employs a sinker and slider as his go-to pitches with a changeup occasionally worked into the mix as well.

The addition of Tony Watson fills a void on the roster and should be a bullpen upgrade for now.
The team hasn't officially announced the deal, but it is reported to be a multiple year agreement and it'll be interesting to see the financial terms and then make some educated guesses on what happens next.
When you consider the extremely cold market for most free agents with camps for pitchers and catchers beginning to open, I am more interested in usual in seeing just how much money Watson's deal is worth and did he move quickly before the market really dipped as spring training gave teams more and more leverage over the remaining free agents?

Hopefully, I'll be back later this afternoon with a review of last night's vacant WBO lightweight title fight between Ray Beltran vs Paulus Moses, but if not I'll be around later tonight with more from the boxing weekend.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Boxing Challenge

Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series
The boxing challenge returns with a big week with a world title being filled on ESPN Friday night, PBC cards on Fox and Showtime on Saturday and the World Boxing Super Series moving to the super middleweight semi-finals as well, so this should be a fun weekend with an eight-fight challenge!

The biggest fight to me is the World Boxing Super Series semi-final that features WBA champion George Groves defending against Chris Eubank Jr in the better fight of the two super middleweight semis.
Both fighters won impressively against lesser opposition in the first round and seem to have that British grudge match thing going that happens so often there.
I'm more of a fan of Groves, who has come up short in most of his big fights than Eubank, who lacks a name win, but his split decision loss (his only defeat) to Billy Joe Saunders looks much better now than it might have previously.
This really is a pick 'em bout and although I'm rooting for Groves, I have a feeling that this might shade towards Eubank.

Top Rank has a two-fight card tonight with the main event filling the WBO lightweight title vacated by Terry Flanagan as veteran Ray Beltran, who has become the poster child for bad breaks gets another chance to become a world champion as he battles Paulus Moses.
This might be Beltran's best and last chance, so he'll need to take advantage of it against Moses, who at 39 makes Beltran look young at 36!
The co-feature is an interesting welterweight fight as unbeaten Lithuanian Olympian Egid Kavaliauskas faced David Avanesyan.
Avanesyan lost a close decision to Lamont Peterson last year so this might be another fight that could go either way this weekend.
Keep an eye on this one, as I would not be shocked at all to see the winner if they win in impressive fashion to start to mentioned for fights against Terence Crawford or even Manny Pacquiao as Top Rank attempts to build some future opponents for their two welterweight stars.

And then there is always Al Haymon's PBC to put together fights that are about as compelling to watch as those November specials from the SEC where Alabama plays Mercer, Auburn tackles Coastal Carolina etc..

Their evening starts on Fox as Haymon continues to fill those time buys that he has taken such a bath on and does so on throwaway cards in order to keep his main benefactor happy with the better providings on Showtime.
Fox features the comeback of former two-division champion Devon Alexander against perennial Zabbie contender Victor Ortiz in a welterweight bout.
Alexander did look good in his first comeback bout against Walter Castillo and Ortiz's style (straight ahead and willing to quit) looks made to order for Alexander, who I still think has a title shot in his future with PBC as his name and resume would at least look good on paper in potential in-house challenges of Errol Spence or Keith Thurman.
The co-feature is another uninspiring offering in an IBF super middleweight title eliminator for a shot at champion Caleb Truax, who pulled arguably the upset of the year in 2017 with a stunning decision win over James DeGale, who was rated number one by us at that weight.
Caleb Plant, who PBC has nudged towards the top with several televised appearances against opponents that might have struggled against Robert Plant faces veteran journeyman "Porky" Medina for a future title shot.
Medina is more of a top twenty fighter than a true contender, but he'll clearly be the biggest name and best opponent for Plant. so there is a little intrigue, even if the winner deserves to be nowhere near a title shot.

After those thrillers, the Haymon gang moves to Showtime for a three-bout card of varying interest and quality.
The main event features the ho-hum return of Danny Garcia, who after taking nearly a year off after his split decision loss in a title unification fight vs Keith Thurman, returns against another Zabbie contender Brandon Rios in a WBC title eliminator that seems looks more squash match than main event as PBC attempts to get something out of the former lightweight champion's resume.
The worst thing about the PBC evening is that they matched the wrong guys!
Danny Garcia vs Devon Alexander likely wouldn't set the world on fire, but it's a more competitive bout than Garcia-Rios or Alexander-Ortiz and if you really wanted an exciting win to build someone up that is past their prime-a Victor Ortiz-Brandon Rios fight would be fun to watch as far styles go and would have given the winner a small bump for a feeding to someone down the road.
Instead, we have two seemingly over the hill fighters that are overmatched in main event contests-
PBC rolls on!!!

The second bout is the best bout of the PBC evening as WBC super middleweight champ David Benavidez defends the title he won last year in a great fight against Ronald Gavril.
Benavidez won a narrow split decision in their bout for the vacant title in their first bout that could have been decided for Gavril just as easily and the WBC mandated an immediate rematch.
The winner along with WBO champ Gilberto Ramirez ( In my opinion, Benavidez vs Ramirez might be the best fight that can be made at 168) would be a good and interesting matchup against the winner of the World Boxing Super Series (The winner of the tourney will be the WBA titleholder).
If the rematch is close to the first fight in action, this is the best PBC fight of the weekend.

The opener is another IBF eliminator, this one at welterweight with one of the very few fighters that have been helped by PBC as Yordanis Ugas faces Ray (No Sugar) Robinson.
Ugas was a disappointment as a pro after defecting from Cuba before the advent of the PBC but has put together a nice winning streak against decent opposition that includes Ugas winning bouts taken on short notice.
Robinson is roughly along the same level of Ugas' recent competition, so Ugas should be favored to win the eliminator.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 14-12.

Vacant WBO Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Ray Beltran vs Paulus Moses
R.L: Beltran KO 6
TRS: Beltran KO 4

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Egid Kavaliauskas vs David Avanesyan
Both: Kavaliaukas Unanimous Decision

WBA Super Middleweight Title/World Boxing Super Series Semi-Final
George Groves vs Chris Eubank Jr.
R.L: Eubank Unanimous Decision
TRS: Eubank Split Decision

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Devon Alexander vs Victor Ortiz
R.L: Alexander Unanimous Decision
TRS; Alexander KO 8

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
Caleb Plant vs Porky Medina
R.L: Plant KO 8
TRS: Plant Unanimous Decision

Welterweights 12 Rds
Danny Garcia vs Brandon Rios
Both: Garcia Unanimous Decision

WBC Super Middleweight Title 12 Rds
David Benavidez vs Ronald Gavril
Both; Benavidez Unanimous Decision

Welterweights. 12 Rss
Yordanis Ugas vs Ray Robinson
R.L: Robinson Unanimous Decision
TRS: Ugas Unanimous Decision

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Forgotten Superstars:Craig Morton

Photo Credit: Peter Miller AP Photo
The Forgotten Superstars universe is back with another segment and as I've noted before, this series, despite its name, isn't always about superstars.

I belong to a Facebook group that strictly discusses the NFL of the "Golden Era of 64-94" and someone made a well, ridiculous statement comparing Joe Namath to Craig Morton, so after the thread, I started thinking about Morton's story and I thought he'd be a good fit for the series.

Craig Morton's stats might be similar to Joe Namath, but there really wasn't a comparison, Namath was a talented passer that was eroded away by knee injuries that were destructive at that time, but would be easily fixed today.
Morton, on the other hand, was a good, not great quarterback that might be better remembered if not for a few bad breaks in fortune.

A natural dropback passer, Morton was drafted by the Cowboys in the first round of the 1965 draft (5th overall) and looked to be blocked for a long time by starter Don Meredith, who was just 27 when Dallas drafted Morton.
An interesting note considering the discussion that brought Morton to mind- Who was the other quarterback drafted in the first round that year, seven picks behind Morton?- Joe Namath by the Cardinals, who couldn't sign Namath, who preferred the AFL Jets.
St.Louis Joe doesn't have the same ring as Broadway Joe, does it?

Morton would occasionally play in his four seasons behind Meredith, when Meredith was injured (Which was still more than you think a young QB would play in those times), but still looked to be blocked over the long term before Meredith surprisingly retired at the young age of 31.
If you really like the "What if" game- try these two questions without answers.
Imagine if Meredith had played until he was 39 (the age when Morton retired), Meredith's final year would have been 1977 so it could have been Meredith bringing Dallas to four Super Bowls (winning two and losing two in that time) and six NFC Championship games ( the four Super Bowl teams plus losses in 1972 and 1973), how much would that have affected the career of Roger Staubach, who either would have been a career backup or Staubach likely would have been traded elsewhere as Morton eventually was?
The other question- Would Monday Night Football have been as successful without Don Meredith sparring with Howard Cosell in the early '70s when MNF began?
Interesting to consider.

Back to Morton, who took over the starting job and despite constant shoulder problems would lead Dallas to two division titles in his first two seasons as a starter and brought the Cowboys to a Super Bowl against the Colts.
More unfortunate bounces as some of the craziest plays that you'll see in arguably the worst played Super Bowl ever saw Morton's Cowboys, who were likely the better team, lose on the final play of the game to the Baltimore Colts 16-13.
No matter the quality of the game, with some breaks (watch the NFL Films highlights of that game, every bounce went the way of the Colts) and it would have forever been Super Bowl-winning quarterback Craig Morton, just as we remember guys like Mark Rypien, Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, etc.

The following year in 1971 saw the Cowboys as the favorites to win the Super Bowl, yet with head coach Tom Landry paralyzed by indecision on whether to use Morton or Roger Staubach as the starter and Landry getting to the point of using the two on alternate plays, the Cowboys stumbled to a 4-3 record halfway through the season.
Finally, the team asked Landry to make a decision between the two, without offering a preference other than a selection.
The selection of Staubach began the Cowboys NFC reign of terror as the Cowboys would make the playoffs every year except one for the remainder of Staubach's playing days and would win the Super Bowl at seasons end.
Morton did have another chance as he started all of the 1972 season after Staubach suffered a separated shoulder in the pre-season, leading the Cowboys to a 10-4 record and the wild card (In 1972, there was just one wild card team) after finishing second to 11-3 Washington in the NFC East.
Again, Morton would come up short in the playoffs as Dallas trailed San Francisco 28-16 with minutes remaining.
Landry inserted Staubach into the game, watched him produce two touchdowns in 90 seconds and pull off a miracle 30-28 victory.

Morton would not start another game in Dallas as he sat behind Staubach for the 1973 and half of the 1974 season before a shocking mid-season trade with division rival New York.
Can you imagine making a trade of a quarterback that has taken you to a Super Bowl in mid-season to a division rival, no matter how crummy that rival is? ( The Giants were 1-5 when making the trade and finished 2-12) ?
Morton had signed a "Future's Contract" with the WFL's Houston Texans in an attempt to find a team to start on and the Cowboys decided to get something for him before the WFL contract kicked in.
Morton signed his contract with Houston, but wouldn't have played there as the Texans moved to Shreveport, Louisiana halfway through the WFL's only full season.
Dallas received the Giants first and second-round picks for Morton and turned the first-rounder into Hall of Famer Randy White.
The Giants received two and a half years of mediocre football as they went 8-25 under Morton, who threw 29 touchdowns against 49 interceptions.
Morton's immobility meant he needed to be protected by a good offensive line and the Giants didn't even approach average in protection as Morton was sacked 99 times as a Giant.

The Giants were ready to move on from the 34-year-old Morton and swung a trade with Denver for their vagabond veteran Steve Ramsey in a trade immortalized in the book "Orange Madness" by the then-unknown Woody Paige with the quote "Our shit for their shit".
Morton brought the Broncos to their first playoff berth, division title, and AFC championship all in his first year despite numbers on the surface don't look special (1929 yards, 14 touchdowns and 8 interceptions), but his season was exactly what the Broncos needed with the best defense in the conference, Morton just needed to avoid mistakes.
Morton led the Broncos into the Super Bowl and ran into his old friends in Dallas, who mauled him with several sacks and allowed Morton to complete just eight passes in the game (Four of the Eight were thrown to Cowboys) before driving him from the game in the third quarter.
Denver's only touchdown in the 27-10 loss was scored with Norris Weese taking the snaps.

After the 1977 season, despite the Denver success, the Broncos tried to replace Morton constantly.
In 1978, Morton held off Norris Weese for the starting job and guided the Broncos to a repeat division title and in 1979, the Broncos went to the playoffs as a wildcard at 10-6 with Morton as the main starter, but Weese started six games and with Morton throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in 79 (19 picks to 16 scores), the Broncos again attempted to replace Morton.
Denver traded their number one pick to the New York Jets for Matt Robinson and expected Robinson to be their anchor at quarterback.
Instead, Robinson was so bad (2 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in seven starts) that by the end of the 8-8 season that saw Red Miller lose his job, it was Morton with more starts with nine.

With Robinson gone for 1981, Morton notched arguably his best statistical season under new head coach and former teammate Dan Reeves as the Broncos just missed the playoffs at 10-6.
Morton threw 21 touchdowns and notched his only season of over three thousand yards passing for the surprising Broncos, who weren't knocked from the playoff picture until the final week of the season when they lost to the Chicago Bears.
However in that game, with the Broncos knowing a win would give them the AFC West title and a loss would leave them on the outside (Denver would tie with San Diego at 10-6, but lose a tiebreaker), Morton threw for under 100 yards and three interceptions, before Steve DeBerg entered the game in a 35-24 defeat.
That was the last stand for Morton, who would start just three games for the 2-7 Broncos in the 1982 strike year and the 39-year-old would retire at the end of the season.

Morton was out of football for less than a year as in the middle of the 1983 USFL season, Morton was hired to replace his old coach Red Miller as the head coach of the Denver Gold.
Morton would finish at 12-12 over his season-plus with the Gold and would be replaced by Mouse Davis for the final season of the league.
That was the last football job for Morton, who now is retired and living in Northern California.

A superstar?
No, but the Forgotten Superstars series isn't always about being a superstar, sometimes it's just bringing back a memory or two.
We welcome Craig Morton to our Forgotten Superstar universe and coming soon I'll have another addition as well...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Palentine's Day?

As a big fan of the television series "Parks and Recreation", the lead character "Leslie Knope" created her own holiday "Galentine's Day" which is for ladies and all their friends.

Guys aren't doing that with "Valentine's Day", although it wouldn't be the worse idea that I've ever heard for my baseball buddies to try in the off-season, so I put my own spin on the "holiday" by taking both of my ladies out for lunch and spending the day with them.
I was fortunate to have Tuesday off (I've been working them during the winter) for a change and decided to do something a little special.

They each have become fans of a newer pizza place in town in Noralli's and I took them where they wanted to go.
The pizza was fine (I had something called the Farm which didn't have any vegetables, go figure) and the company was better.
I need to do more of that and even though Cherie and I do this once or twice a week, I need to make time more often.

At the same time, the real season nears as less than two months from now, I'll be traveling as I have two small trips planned for the first month of the season.
Cannot get here fast enough for me...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Cleaning out the inbox

Pipino Cuevas left hooks Pete Ranzany
It's been a while since the inbox was cleaned, so I'll do that while making a series announcement later in the post for the boxing readers out there.

Thanks to Steve Kim of UCN Boxing for mentioning me and my semi-live tweeting of the Roy Jones supposed finale in his piece on the faded former champion.
Steve's my favorite boxing writer, he's a gracious past guest with Ramon Malpica and me on Fightheads and his own podcasts with are must listen for me (One with Mario Lopez and the other with Gabe Montoya ).
Steve covers Roy's career and decline quite well and makes a good point about Jones using his once unparalleled speed and reflexes to spawn an entire era of imitators, who could never approach his ability to the detriment of their careers.
It's a great point and it's similar to what I've blamed Michael Jordan for years- players that grew loving the dunking and thinking it was OK to shoot the basketball 30 times a night to finish with 25 points, no matter the efficiency and not doing the other things on the floor that helped make Jordan such a great all-around player.

We also should have our latest boxing ratings out later this week, which is always fun to me to put together between my thoughts, Ramon's and my "old school pugilism" buddy Vince Samano.
I'm really looking forward to seeing if Oleksandr Usyk's title unifying win over Mairis Briedis was enough to keep him at number one in our cruiserweight rankings or was Murat Gassiev's perhaps more impressive win over Yunier Dorticos in a title unifier of his own enough to lift Gassiev up and over Usyk before their faceoff in the World Boxing Super Series final?

I haven't talked to Ramon about the number of listeners since our shift from live show to podcast format, but I'll try to soon.
Doing boxing shows is so much fun and I love not only talking boxing (Old and New) with other boxing folks, but I love hearing different perspectives as well.
Even if I don't agree, I always like to think about things in a different way to either confirm an opinion of mine or occasionally change my mind.

I'm going to start an occasional boxing series here to join the features such as Forgotten Superstars, Cleaning out the inbox and .
I have three possible choices for the series with the possibilities being a 8 or 16 man tournament in the major weight division with my takes (This might take a long time to play out), a series that discusses great fights that never were or one that looks at worst decisions in boxing which would cover both bad decisions in the ring (judging or tactics) or out of the ring ( mistakes made in fighting the wrong opponent, dodging an opponent or making a mistake that cost fighters and/or promoters lots of potential cash..
I hope to make a decision and start one of those soon.

Now we move to the actual inbox items with the offseason surgery to my favorite golfer Jessica Korda (long-time readers may remember Jessica from the first ever PPM) to her jaw.
Apparently, this has been an issue dating back to childhood and cost her playing time last season and after a surgery that lasted over twice as long as it was scheduled to along with 27 screws in her jaw that left her unable to eat solid food for months. Korda expects to return to the LPGA tour in the next few events as the tour makes in winter swing through the Far East.
Golfweek talks to Jessica all about the surgery and the aftermath.

Anne Dudek has been an actress that I have loved since seeing her on "House" as one of House's associate doctors and I've always thought she was badly in need of a break and she may have gotten one as part of Comedy Central's new comedy "Corporate".
I haven't seen it yet, but have all the episodes on DVR, so I hope to watch it soon.
Hollywood Life talks to the talented actress about Corporate and her acting career.
Hopefully, Corporate is a hit, Dudek deserves a break.

Former Fox News anchor Jenna Lee abruptly left the network last year to move to Texas with her family, but now she is starting a new venture online called SmartHer News.
Readers of the autographing things here might remember in the past when Jenna helped me add cards of her dad-former Vikings and Falcons quarterback Bob Lee to my collection.
Best of luck to her in her new project!

The New York Times gave some space to Mrs. Emily Kelly to discuss the medical issues with her husband, former Ohio State, and Saints safety Rob and the article is just striking.
The Newark Advocate talks to Rob Kelly about his concerns about his health and the future of the game here.
I love football. but the more that you read and hear about the men that play the game after they leave it, really makes you wonder just how much longer the game is going to be around.
I don't think it is going away anytime soon, but the more Rob Kelly's that become known by fans, the decline in interest is going to become steeper and steeper...

Nutria is a large rodent species (Think a cross between a beaver and a rat) that has long been an invasive species in the Deep South, but look out because apparently there are a few in Northern California and when Nutria breed-the population explosion is immediate!
They eat a ton and they can be quite destructive to the habitat, so it'll be interesting to see if California can head off the Nutria before they can establish a new foothold!!!

Inbox cleaned, I have some other posts planned for the next few days that I hope you'll find interesting.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Jan and Dean Record

I'm not a huge fan of spending full price on books.
I'm actually the type of reader that most publishers (and to a lesser extent, authors, I suppose) absolutely hate because I'm not an immediate buyer, I'm willing to shop around and I'm willing to wait years (usually, not always) to read/buy a book at a decent price.

Since the advent of the Kindle, I generally look for books to go on sales as Amazon likes to yo-yo prices up and down and once I locate a book of interest, I'll check it out often to see if prices have dipped.
There are many books like this, but one of note was the Jan and Dean record by Mark Moore.

The book looked interesting, but the price for the printed book was through the roof and even the Kindle version was usually around thirty dollars, which for an E-Book is not just stiff, it's concrete!
However, around New Years Day, a bunch of books that usually were priced higher than I was ever going to pay showed up at around five bucks per (must have been lucky because I've never seen them anywhere near that low before or since) and I grabbed them.
One was Paul Reeth's book on the USFL (Maybe I'll write about that soon as well), another was Marvin Kalb's look back at 1956 in Russia (I'm in the middle of that book right now) and there was the Jan and Dean Record.

I've been a Jan and Dean fan since I was a child as I've written before and there were loads of facts in this book that I never knew and items that I never have never seen even online as I tried to fact check, so it is about as comprehensive as you are going to find.
In fact, the detail is so impressive and minute that you can easily get swallowed up by the sheer mass of the material.
Facts ranging from Jan Berry fathering a child as a high school senior and having his parents raise the child as his sibling to The Who's Keith Moon being such a massive fan of the duo that he pushed to have the Who cover many songs of theirs ( he was successful just once) to details of Jan's life after his 1966 accident and the up and down relationship of the two along with details down to the amount of money paid to about everyone that you could think of down to paying the college bookstore, it's just more than I can type.

I thought I knew a lot, but after reading this book, I learned so much more and not just about Jan and Dean either.
The reader learns just how dirty that record business really was in those oft-romanticized times (I imagine that it hasn't changed often over the years), just how hard the talent worked for not always the glamorous pay and those famous West Coast studio musicians of the time.
Mark Moore talked to anyone remotely involved with Jan and Dean and I am staggered just by the number of people that he had to have spoken to alone, let alone the research.

It's a niche' book and unless you are an uber fan, the price alone will deter you whether in physical copy or e-book.
However, considering the amount of time and research involved, I can almost recommend the price (if you are rich, just buy the darn thing) and I never thought I'd remotely consider saying that about a 75 dollar book!
Kudos to Mark Moore for putting together the type of reference book that you don't expect to see about a music group and if you see it reasonable, grab it even if you are barely familiar with Jan and Dean, the story itself will grab you and suck you in...

Back later with more as I have another feature on my mind that I want to bang out as well as this one, which I've started three previous times and found myself interrupted by other posts along with a falling tree!!!