Thursday, February 28, 2019

Cleaning out the Inbox-Passings

The passings portion of the inbox has a few notes of interest and we start with-

Goodbye to Peter Tork at the age of 77.
Tork was part of the Monkees television show/band and was generally regarded as the most legitimate musician of the quartet.
Tork played keyboards and bass when the band went on live tours and was the only band member that actually played on their first two albums.
Tork was also mentioned by the late Davy Jones as being the only one of the four Monkees that didn't basically "play themselves on the series" and regarding Tork as a "serious guy that thinks about deeper things in the world".
The Monkees tended to re-emerge every ten years or so as someone would put them on TV or release a DVD set etc and Tork was usually a part of that, but when you watched such things, one could wonder just how much joy he received from the show and what it brought along for the ride.
I was too young for "MonkeeMania", but I was among the first to catch their act in re-runs and I'd say was a fan, although not a top-notch fanatic about the show.
Tork passed from Adenoid cystic carcinoma, which is a rare cancer of the neck and head.
The Monkees now have only two surviving members in Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz.

The next two passings were brought to me by Lefty Koch, who is always looking out for things like this for TRS and we thank him as always.

Goodbye to Gene Littler at the age of 88.
Littler was best known for one of the smoothest swings in golf and that won him 29 events and a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Littler won one major tournament in his career as he won the 1961 U.S.Open as he came from behind on the final day of tournament play to catch Doug Sanders for the victory.
Littler signed some cards for me a few years back and sent a very nice note thanking me for remembering him and his career.

Goodbye to Don Newcombe at the age of 92.
Newcombe spent most of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, coming to the majors in 1949 as just the third African-American pitcher (Dan Bankhead, also with Brooklyn and Satchel Paige preceded Newcombe) in the big leagues.
Newcombe won 20 games three times with the Dodgers with his peak season in 1956 with a record of 27-7 and 268 innings pitched.
Newcombe may have been overworked in that season as he won only eleven games in 1957, was traded to the Reds in 1958 where he won 13 games in 1959 and was out of baseball following the 1960 season.
Newcombe was known in the game as a tremendous drinker and noted in Danny Peary's book "We played the game" that could have cost him a spot in Cooperstown.
Newcombe may have been right as another fifty wins and under the circumstances that Newcombe played under, it's not out of the question that he may have made the Hall.
Working against a Newcombe case might have been a career ERA of 3.56, which while respectable was not otherworldly for the time that he played, he never notched an ERA under three in a season and his strikeouts per nine innings for a pitcher often remembered as a fireballer was a low 4.7 for his career.
Newcombe straightened his life out in the late 1970s and started the Dodger drug and alcohol awareness program with conjunction with the team in 1980.
Doing a little research on Newcombe for this note, I knew that Newcombe had played in Japan after leaving the majors in 1962 with the Chunichi Dragons, but I found out one thing that I didn't know.
Newcombe didn't pitch in Japan other than one game but played 81 games as a first baseman and outfielder finishing with a .262 average with 23 doubles and 12 home runs for the third place Dragons.

And we finish with a goodbye to Morgan Woodward at the age of 93.
The versatile character actor might be remembered by different people for different roles as he was heavy in Steve McQueen's "Cool Hand Luke", Jock Ewing's best friend "Punk" Anderson on "Dallas" and made the most guest appearances in the entire run of "Gunsmoke" with 19, but I'll remember him more for two roles.
To me, Woodward will be best remembered for his two appearances on "Star Trek" in two different roles- "Dr.Simon Van Gelder" as a director of the criminally insane and as "Captain Ron Tracey" a Starfleet captain that was traumatized from the loss of his ship and became a power-mad dictator on a distant planet that plays into the mindset during the Cold War.
Woodward also brings to mind his role as "Shotgun" Gibbs, the deputy sidekick to Hugh O'Brien's Wyatt Earp on the show of the same name.
That show was way-way before my time and it never reached my circle through the years on the syndicated circuit-until a few years ago when the series hit the STARZ Western channel.
That's where it hit my radar as every time it seemed that I visited my parents, that show was on.
Allow me to say this- as a person that loves a few westerns (Wild Wild West, Have Gun Will Travel, Alias Smith and Jones, and Rawhide) and has many many more in the take or leave category-this show ranks with the worst.
Complete with an actor that carries quite an argument for one of the worst of the time, if not all-time, Earp just comes off as corny as any stereotypical program of the genre' that you can think of- and it seems like I've seen them all!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Devils keep collecting- Trade Kinkaid and Johansson

Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero wasn't expected to stop his dealings by Monday's trade deadline after his previous trades and he did not do so as the Devils made two more swaps before the end of the trading period arrived.

The first of those two deals were announced early in the morning as the Devils traded goaltender Keith Kinkaid to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 5th round draft pick in 2022.
The 29-year-old Kinkaid had disappointed the Devils this season with his play after being given every opportunity to replace Cory Schneider as the day to day goaltender after Schneider's awful play last season.
Kinkaid's save percentage was under .900 and he was allowing well over three goals a game for the season, so that makes a very strong case for a squandered chance.
Rookie Mackenzie Blackwood, who has played well in his eleven starts (Two shutouts and allowing over a goal fewer than Kinkaid) will remain with the team with Cory Schneider for the remaining time in the season and won't have to be at the ebb and flow of the roster needs from game to game to not have to return to AHL Binghamton as such.
Kinkaid will be a free agent at the end of the season and frankly, I'm surprised that under those conditions that the Devils found anyone to give up anything for Kinkaid, albeit a late round draft pick four drafts away, so even a small morsel of a return at this time for Kinkaid is a win for Ray Shero and the Devils.

As the deadline neared, Shero struck again as he moved the player that most observers looked at as most likely to be sent away before the end of trading as the Devils traded forward Marcus Johansson to the Boston Bruins.
Johansson had scored 12 goals with 15 assists for the Devils this season in 48 games and had been playing well since the return of the All-Star break with five goals and six assists in twelve games.
Johansson has a concussion history that cost him much of his first season (29 games, five goals and nine assists) with the Devils (Ironically, the player that caused that concussion-Brad Marchand, will now be a Bruins teammate), I'm sure that dropped his marketability a bit, but still at 28 and motivated by free agency at the end of the season, Johansson can help the Bruins in their playoff run.

The return for the Swedish forward was close to what the team paid for Johansson before the 2017-18 season (a 2nd and 3rd) as the Devils picked up Boston's second rounder in the upcoming draft and their fourth rounder in the 2020 draft.
The Devils will also pay forty percent of Johansson's salary for the remainder of his contract, which isn't an issue as Johansson will be a free agent at the end of the season for Boston.

The four trades by Ray Shero have added three picks in June's draft- Boston and Nashville's second rounders and the third rounder of the Dallas Stars along with Boston's fourth rounder in 2020 and the fifth round pick of Columbus in 2022, so for a team at the bottom of the standings, the Devils did exactly what you would wish- trade four players that are not part of the Devils future, all would be free agents at the end of the year and added five draft picks, three of which could be used in trades to help the team return to being competitive next season.
One can always hope for more, but all said, there is no reason to huff and puff about what the Devils received in return.

Now the Devils play out the remaining games, see where the pick in the draft falls,which looks like barring a strong late run will at least fall in the top five, and start talking trades again with the extra draft picks that they now hold.
And wait until next season, when perhaps TRS might make a return to the Devils televised package...

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bits and Pieces-Hotshots lose first game

Catching up on a few bits of news over the last few days with some opinions and thoughts as we head into another week.

I didn't have a chance to watch the Arizona Hotshots first loss as it was on something called "Bleacher Report Live", which is a streaming service that I have, but life calls and I just missed it.
The 23-15 loss in Salt Lake to the Stallions is the only game of the Hotshots ten game schedule that will not be shown on a network, so even if I miss a game live from here on out, I will be able to watch on DVR.
The biggest loss wasn't just the game defeat, but the loss of quarterback John Wolford to a back injury.
Backup Trevor Knight is reported to have struggled after replacing Wolford so Wolford's health will be paramount going into next weeks game at home vs 0-3 Atlanta.
That game can be seen at eight PM EST on NFL Network.

The other sports news of note (on the field, as you'll see shortly) is the Indians signing Hanley Ramirez to a minor league contract worth one million and incentives.
The 35-year-old righthanded hitter struggled last year with the Red Sox in hitting .254 with six homers before a June release, but he did hit 23 homers in 2017 for Boston and on a non-guaranteed contract for a team almost begging for power from right side of the plate, Ramirez will be given every opportunity to make the club.
Ramirez would likely see time at first base and as the designated hitter, should he make the ballclub.

The Athletic writes of a quiet signing that could play benefits for the rebuilding Giants, who signed the well-traveled and talented, yet somewhat disappointing over his career Cameron Maybin.
Maybin, who is one of those players that you think should be 38, yet turns only 32 in April, has played for seven teams before the Giants and has always been a player that looks like he has the tools to be a star, but the parts always seem to be more than the sum.
Maybin appears to have changed his swing a bit and maybe it is what he needs to finally play close to his potential, but it could also be just another spring training prayer from a player trying to hang on and a team playing several bingo cards.

The Browns continue to move away from the Sashi Brown era as vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry took a promotion to vice president of football operations with the Eagles.
Berry was hired by the Browns in 2016 and mainly concentrated on pro personnel during his three years in Cleveland.

I've tried to avoid too much about the Robert Kraft affair in Florida, mainly because of the heinous crimes of sex trafficking and that not enough information is available to really tag Kraft as of this writing, of the lightweight soliciting charge or the more serious charges of somehow being involved with the sex trafficking ring, which could cost him his football franchise.
I've tried to avoid it because of my dislike for the Patriots/Belichick/Brady etc, but today I'm forced to address, but not because of Robert Kraft.

Longtime readers know of my "sports crush" on LPGA golfer Jessica Korda and Korda was the"face of the PPM" one football season.
They also might remember Michael "call me Miguelito Loveless" Landucci getting Jessica to sign an 8 x 10 (pictured) as a gift for me at a tournament that I still kick myself for not going to, so what's the connection?
Apparently, Korda's long-time fiance' Johnny Del Prete was arrested for soliciting in this bust and his name was released today, which makes me wonder about Del Prete's skill in talent evaluation and his intellect.
You have Jessica Korda and you go to a grungy massage parlor with the ladies being in such reported conditions ???
Folks, we have a leader in the clueless division for 2019's tool of the year title and hit the Dave Johnson (famous horse racing announcer) voice now!'
"And down the stretch, we come!! It's Johnny Del Prete way out in front, no one is catching him this year, Del Prete's lead is Secretariat-like, It's ALL JOHNNY DEL PRETE TO THE WIRE"!!!
What a tool.

Back later with any trade news from the NHL.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Eubank finishes DeGale, Dirrell nips Yildirim

The boxing challenge weekend begins across the pond in London with what should be the end of the career for former champion James DeGale, who was dominated and outclassed by the often-crude bomber Chris Eubank Jr at the O2 Arena.

DeGale, who has not been remotely the same caliber of fighter since his draw in January 2017 against Badou Jack in a title unification fight, was driven into a turnbuckle in the second with only the corner holding him up, which was correctly called a knockdown by Eubank's left hook, which DeGale was seemingly unable to avoid throughout the fight.
Eubank rolled up round after round as he bulled DeGale around the ring and would score another knockdown in the tenth round with another left hook as he sent a sinking DeGale to his knees.
Eubank would run out of time in the tenth to finish DeGale and one would see the frustration in that in the eleventh as DeGale attempted to hold and Eubank responded with a spinebuster that would have made Arn Anderson proud that would cause a point deduction.

I had Eubank an easy 118-107 with DeGale winning just one round, but one of the three official scorecards was a shockingly awful 114-112, which would have been a draw without the two knockdowns.

While James DeGale really needs to get out of the game with his health intact, Chris Eubank suddenly has some options with a rematch with Billy Joe Saunders (Saunders won their fight by split decision) very possible with Saunders fighting for the vacant WBO title at the weight in his next fight, countryman Callum Smith for Smith's WBA title or as Eubank Sr offered at the post-fight press conference a move back down to middleweight.

In the other 168 pound fight of the day, Anthony Dirrell won the vacant WBC championship amid controversy via a split technical decision after ten rounds over Avni Yildirim in Minneapolis.
The WBC's open scoring was shown in its impish destruction as per organization rules, each corner was given the scores after the fourth and eighth rounds with two cards showing Dirrell leading.
Therefore, after an accidental headbutt in the ninth opened a nasty cut over Dirrell's left eye, his corner, knowing they were ahead, gambled that the cut was bad enough to get the fight stopped.
The cut was bad, but in my opinion, not bad enough to end the fight with just three rounds remaining.
The gamble paid off as the fight was stopped midway through the tenth and since it was caused by a headbutt, the decision went to the judges, and since the corner knew they were likely ahead on the cards, etc and why open scoring sucks.
The worst part of the decision was the card that had Yildirim winning 8-2!
I had it 5-5, so a close card that could be given, either way, wouldn't have bothered me, but that's a really bad scorecard.
The sad part of this is what will be remembered is the ending and not what was a better than expected fight in which Dirrell fought with determination (well, until the end) after a pre-fight buildup where he mused about retirement and Yildirim placed some bad memories of his KO loss to Chris Eubank away from some observers.
I would imagine the WBC would call for an immediate rematch, it seems to be in order.

In the other challenge bouts, Humberto Soto won a unanimous decision over Brandon Rios in Mexico on DAZN in what was a guilty pleasure of a fight.
It was fun to watch between two former world champions that saw each fighter hit and be hit and also shows the value of an unofficial "seniors tour" in boxing.
What I'm trying to say that if some of these fighters are matched properly (I.E. against each other), they can deliver some entertaining fights and hopefully not get hurt.
The guilty part is they are still getting hit with punches that they shouldn't be getting hit with and should be taking no punches at all at a certain stage.
Soto managed to fight hard in spots, countered well off the ropes, and even though he seemed like the smaller fighter going into the match, he looked bigger and blockier than Rios in the ring.
I had the fight closer than the judges at 116-112 for Soto, but the right fighter "got the duke".

In the Showtime co-feature from London, Olympic silver medalist Joe Joyce stopped former WBC champion Bermane Stiverne in six rounds to win a few trinkets and move up in the WBA rankings.
Give Stiverne credit, he did try to win in this one, especially early with some counter rights that found a home with Joyce that was just enough to keep things interesting.
Still, Stiverne ran out of gas quickly and those rights started to be thrown with less and less frequency as Joyce just kept throwing punches.

Stiverne was dropped in the third and might have been better suited to end his evening there, but rose to continue to take a beating until the end in round six.
Hopefully, this will be the last for Stiverne, who likely will soldier on as a trialhorse, but for Joyce-there is work to be done.
I like the punch output and he has more power than similar punchers of volume such as Jarrell Miller. but he was getting hit by the slower Stiverne and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does when the opponent is quicker and stronger.

In a non-televised bout, former IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby overcame a bad cut to decision America Omar Douglas in a lightweight bout.
I have not been able to watch this of this writing.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica 6-5 (the extra point coming from Chris Eubank) to cut his overall lead to 41-40.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Devils trade Ben Lovejoy

The New Jersey Devils continued to add chips to the draft pile for the June draft with the trade deadline coming up on Monday with a deal with the Dallas Stars early Saturday morning.

New Jersey traded veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy to the Stars to get something for a player that is a free agent at the end of the year and one that I wouldn't expect to carry a lot of value, yet the Devils managed a draft pick that is higher than I would have expected them to receive.

Lovejoy has spent the last two and a half seasons with the Devils after signing as a free agent as part of the Ray Shero Pittsburgh wave initially after Shero's hiring to run the front office.
Lovejoy is a stay at home defenseman as his two goals and five assists belie, but at plus one in plus/minus, Lovejoy was one of just two Devils with a positive number in that column.
Still, at 35, Lovejoy was likely to be on the bubble, at best, to return to the Devils next season and getting anything in return in a season this dismal for the Devils is a minor coup.

Coming to New Jersey in exchange is defenseman Connor Carrick and likely the larger part of the trade, the Stars third round draft pick.
The Devils now possess two second rounders (Their own and Nashville's) and two third rounders (Anaheim and Dallas) and could use the extra ammo to trade up in the draft or perhaps grab an expensive veteran from a team desperate to clear cap space as the team has done in the past in adding players such as Kyle Palmieri and Marcus Johansson for two examples.

As for the 24-year-old defenseman Connor Carrick, New Jersey will be his fourth career stop following Washington, Toronto, and Dallas with a goal and three assists in fourteen games this season with the Stars.
I remember seeing Carrick as a Hershey Bear and he reminds me a lot of ... a much younger Ben Lovejoy.
Decent enough defensively, very limited on the attack end, a player that you can get by with as part of your third defensive pairing, but not a player that you look at as a long term presence on your roster.
Carrick will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so the Devils have some flexibility in bringing him back next season or not and basically received him as an added attraction to the third rounder (which again is more than I expected for Ben Lovejoy) to give the team a handful of games to evaluate Carrick.

One would have to like a third rounder for Ben Lovejoy on its own and it doesn't hurt to add Connor Carrick on a cameo basis.
The Devils will likely still be looking to move more veterans by Monday's deadline, so it'll be interesting to see any possible deals and returns.

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend has some very interesting and for the most part, competitive and difficult fights to pick the victors, which for boxing fans is about as much as one can ask for on any given weekend.

The biggest two fights are both in the super middleweight division, one for a title and one not, with the bigger of the two being the one without a belt on the line from England in the afternoon.

Former IBF super middleweight champion James DeGale faces Chris Eubank Jr in England in what is a true crossroads bout that I can see going either way.
DeGale hasn't been the same fighter since taking a beating against Badou Jack in a unification bout in January 2017 that was judged a draw (I thought DeGale held off the late rally of Jack to win a close decision) and since lost his title to heavy underdog Caleb Truax before winning the title back, but didn't look like a peak fighter in doing so.
DeGale then vacated his title to look for "bigger challenges", but has only won an eight round fight to stay busy since.
Eubank Jr might be a fighter that proves to be a top ten level boxer, but not a top five one as he has lost his two biggest fights, both bitter matches against countrymen Billy Joe Saunders ( a win would have put him as the mandatory contender for then WBO middleweight champ Andy Lee, a fight Saunders would win) and more recently George Groves for the WBA title in the World Boxing Super Series semi-finals.
The questions are these - Does DeGale have enough left to defeat a top ten fighter such as Eubank and does Eubank have enough talent and his often-questioned desire to defeat DeGale, if DeGale is not as depleted as he may be?
DeGale is the better fighter at his best, but we might not see his best again.

The Degale-Eubank fight is on Showtime Saturday afternoon at 3;30 and will also be televising a heavyweight eliminator between Olympic silver medalist Joe Joyce and former WBC champion Bermane Stiverne.
The 33-year-old Joyce is being moved quickly due to his age and none of his seven victims are near the quality that Stiverne once had, but that Stiverne looks to have been left in the past as his one round loss to Deontay Wilder is the only round that he has fought in the last 28 months and at 40, looks to be exactly what Joyce's management is looking for- a name fighter that might be perfect for their fighter to look spectacular against.
In an untelevised challenge fight, former IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby jumps two divisions to lightweight in his first fight since losing that title to Josh Warrington.
Selby faces Philadelphia's hard-nosed Omar Douglas, who always comes to fight, but suffered both of his losses when he moved up in competition in decision losses to Edner Cherry and Javier Fortuna.

Fox Sports One will fill the vacant WBC super middleweight title that Badou Jack gave up to move up in weight with former champion Anthony Dirrell battling Avni Yildrim for the green belt in Minneapolis.
Dirrell, who only has one defeat ( to Badou Jack in 2015), attempts to regain that title after never receiving a rematch with Jack, which surprises me with both of the pair promoted by PBC, has won five fights since including a one round KO of Caleb Truax before Truax briefly held the IBF championship, while Turkey's Yildirim has also won five in a row (one over a fighter with a record of 3-31!) after being knocked cold in three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr in the first round of the World Boxing Super Series.
Dirrell is talking about retirement, so I do wonder about the motivation for the Michigan native, but is Yildirim talented enough to send him there?

DAZN travels to Tijuana. Mexico for what should be an old school loser leaves town (or sport in this case) as Brandon Rios faces Humberto Soto in a junior middleweight fight that style wise should be entertaining, if not at the world-class level.
Once you get by that you have two former lightweight champions facing each other at 154 pounds and that neither has defeated a top ten fighter in years (Rios' DQ win over Diego Chaves in 2014 Soto's decision victory over John Molina in the same year), you might see an action fight with neither fighter able to move away from the other.
Credit to both fighters management teams for matching them carefully enough in their declining years in giving them a chance to win, yet hopefully not get their fighter hurt.
Rios seems to be a hair more versatile than Soto and that might be enough to make the difference.
The only problem is that the winner (Especially if Rios) will likely attempt a leap in opponent next time and that's a recipe for the type of pounding that sees a fighter injured.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica leads me 36-34.

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
James DeGale vs Chris Eubank Jr
R.L: Eubank Split Decision
TRS: Eubank Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights, 12 Rds
Bermane Stiverne vs Joe Joyce
R.L: Joyce KO 5
TRS: Joyce KO 2

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Lee Selby vs Omar Douglas
Both: Selby Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBC Super Middleweight title. 12 Rds
Anthony Dirrell vs Avni Yildirim
Both: Dirrell Unanimous Decision

Junior Middleweights.12 Rds
Brandon Rios vs Humberto Soto
R.L: Rios KO 10
TRS: Rios Unanimous Decision

TRS Boxing Ratings-Part Two

Part two of the TRS boxing ratings cover the lower weight divisions and the pound for pound rankings as well.

One brief note-at junior lightweight, I had received one ballot before the Andrew Cancio upset of Alberto Machado, which is why Machado is rated ahead of Cancio.

1) Vasyl Lomachenko WBA/WBO Champion 15 Pts
2) Mikey Garcia WBC Champion 12 Pts
3) Jose Pedraza 7 Pts (Up One)
4) Robert Easter 5 Pts (Up One)
5) Richard Commey IBF Champion 3 Pts (Unranked)
    Anthony Crolla (Unranked)

Junior Lightweights
1) Miguel Berchelt WBC Champion 13 Pts
    Gervonta Davis WBA Champion (Up One)
3) Tevin Farmer IBF Champion 6 Pts (Up One)
4) Masayuki Ito WBO Champion 5 Pts (Unranked)
5) Alberto Machado 4 Pts (Down Two)
Also Received Votes: Andrew Cancio

1) Leo Santa Cruz WBA Champion 15 Pts
2) Gary Russell WBC Champion 10 Pts
3) Josh Warrington IBF Champion 9 Pts (Up Two)
4) Oscar Valdez WBO Champion 8 Pts
5) Carl Frampton 2 Pts (Down Two)
Also Received Votes: Kid Galahad

Junior Featherweights
1) Rey Vargas WBC Champion 13 Pts (Up Two)
2) Guillermo Rigondeaux 12 Pts
3) Emmanuel Navarette WBO Champion 11 Pts (Unranked)
4) Danny Roman WBA Champion 4 Pts
5) Issac Dogboe 3 Pts (Down Four)
Also Received Votes: T.J. Doheny IBF Champion

1) Naoya Inoue 15 Pts
2) Luis Nery 12 Pts
3) Zolani Tete WBO Champion 7 Pts (Up Two)
4) Emmanuel Rodriguez IBF Champion 5 Pts
5) Nonito Donaire 3 Pts (Unranked)
    Nordine Ouabaali WBC Champion  (Unranked)

Junior Bantamweights
1) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai WBC Champion 15 Pts
2) Juan Francisco Estrada 11 Pts
3) Kai Yafai WBA Champion 9 Pts
4) Jerwin Ancajas IBF Champion 5 Pts
5) Roman Gonzalez 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Donnie Nietes WBO Champion

1) Artem Dalakian WBA Champion 14 Pts
2) Kosei Tanaka WBO Champion 13 Pts (Up One)
3) Charlie Edwards WBC Champion 7 Pts (Unranked)
4) Moruti Mthalane IBF Champion 4 Pts (Up One)
    Vincent LeGrand
Also Received Votes: Sho Kimura

Junior Flyweights and Under
1) Ken Shiro 14 Pts
2) Kiroto Kyoguchi 13 Pts
3) Angel Acosta 9 Pts
4) Hekkie Budler 3 Pts
    Ryo Taguchi
Also Received Votes: Milan Melindo

Pound for Pound
1) Vasyl Lomachenko 30 Pts
2) Terence Crawford 26 Pts
3) Errol Spence 25 Pts
4) Naoya Inoue 18 Pts
5) Mikey Garcia 15 Pts (Up One)
6) Canelo Alvarez 14 Pts (Up One)
7) Oleksandr Usyk 13 Pts (Up Three)
8) Gennady Golovkin 11 Pts (Down Three)
9) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai 7 Pts (Down One)
10) Jarrett Hurd 6 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Oleksandr Gvozdyk
                                    Anthony Joshua
                                    Luis Nery

Thursday, February 21, 2019

TRS Boxing Ratings-Part One

The TRS boxing ratings return a little later than usual, but that's more than okay when you consider the number of fights that have been taking place of late.
There are quite a few changes since our last ratings in November with so many important fights during that period.

The votes were in before the fights of this past weekend, so the results of those bouts are not reflected in the ratings.

Also with the Cruiserweight division having a world champion that holds all four titles, Oleksandr Usyk is recognized as the world champion and he has five contenders, which is why the cruiserweights look a bit different than the other divisions.
This will only apply when a champion possesses all four titles.
Usyk may be leaving for the heavyweight division, but since he has not vacated his titles, he is still rated as is Gilberto Ramirez, who is expected to vacate his 168-pound title but has not officially of this writing.

Per usual, today's ratings cover the heavyweights through the junior welterweights, while part two will cover the lightweights down through the flyweights.

1) Anthony Joshua WBA/IBF/WBO Champion 15 Pts
2) Deontay Wilder WBC Champion 11 Pts
3) Tyson Fury 10 Pts (Unranked)
4) Luis Ortiz 5 Pts (Down One)
5) Jarrell Miller 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Dillian Whyte

WORLD CHAMPION: Oleksandr Usyk
1) Marius Breidis 8 Pts
    Murat Gassiev
3) Yuniel Dorticos 7 Pts
4) Krzysztof Glowacki 6 Pts (Down One)
5) Andrew Tabiti 1 Pt

Light Heavyweights
1) Oleksandr Gvozdyk WBC Champion 15 Pts (Up Four)
2) Dmitry Bivol WBA Champion 12 Pts
3) Sergey Kovalev WBO Champion 8 Pts (Unranked)
4) Artur Beterbiev IBF Champion 5 Pts (Down One)
5) Marcus Browne 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Elieder Alvarez (Down Two)

Super Middleweights
1) Gilberto Ramirez WBO Champion 13 Pts
2) Callum Smith WBA Champion 12 Pts
3) David Benavidez 8 Pts
4) Caleb Plant IBF Champion 7 Pts (Unranked)
5) James DeGale 4 Pts (Down One)
Also Received Votes: Jose Uzcategui

1) Canelo Alvarez WBA/WBC Champion 15 Pts
2) Gennady Golovkin 12 Pts
3) Daniel Jacobs IBF Champion 8 Pts
4) Billy Joe Saunders 4 Pts
5) Jermall Charlo 3 Pts
Also Received Votes; Demetrius Andrade WBO Champion, Sergey Dereyvanchenko

Junior Middleweights
1) Jarrett Hurd WBA/IBF Champion 15 Pts
2) Jaime Munguia WBO Champion 9 Pts (Up Two)
3) Erislandy Lara 8 Pts
4) Tony Harrison WBC Champion 6 Pts (Unranked)
    Jermell Charlo (Down Two)
Also Received Votes: Julian Williams

1) Errol Spence IBF Champion 14 Pts
2) Terence Crawford WBO Champion 13 Pts
3) Keith Thurman WBA Champion 7 Pts (Up Two)
4) Shawn Porter WBC Champion 6 Pts (Down One)
5) Manny Pacquiao 5 Pts (Down One)

Junior Welterweights
1) Jose Ramirez WBC Champion 14 Pts (Up One)
2) Regis Prograis 13 Pts (Down One)
3) Maurice Hooker WBO Champion 7 Pts (Up Two)
    Josh Taylor
5) Ivan Baranchyk IBF Champion 2 Pts (Unranked)
    Kiryl Relikh WBA Champion (Down Two)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Cleaning out the Inbox-Passings

Catching up on the recent passings that pile higher in the digital inbox as we continue to try to keep things swept up around the world headquarters.

Goodbye to Pedro Morales at the age of 76.
Morales was the first man to hold title reigns with both the WWF (then the WWWF) title and the Inter-Continental title.
Morales' reign as WWWF champion came way before my time, but his Shea Stadium match vs fellow "babyface" Bruno Sammartino that went to a time limit draw in 1972 was the biggest gate for a pro wrestling match in New York for years.
My best memories (or worst as a "heel" fan) of Morales were when he became the I-C champion defeating TRS favorite Ken Patera in December of 1980 when Patera was on his way from leaving the territory before a series of matches in 1981 where he dropped the title to another noted TRS favorite in the Magnificent Muraco in Philadelphia in June 1981 before winning it back in December in Madison Square Garden.
Muraco would return to the territory in January of 1983 and defeat Morales for the title at the Garden.
Muraco moved onto bigger things, but that would not be the case for the aging Morales, who was not the type of wrestler that would click with a national audience that was not very familiar with him.
Many other older grapplers were in the same boat as McMahon expanded and Morales rarely was defeated at first, but his opponents became lower and lower on the cards as Morales lost more than a step before retiring in 1987.

Goodbye to Rocky Lockridge at the age of 60.
Lockridge, who has become somewhat famous for a crying event on a show called "Intervention" is more famous to fight fans for his 93 second knockout of then-undefeated Roger Mayweather to win the WBA junior lightweight title and later reign as the IBF champion in the same division.
The rugged Lockridge was ironically not a huge puncher, but he forever changed the career of Mayweather (uncle of Floyd Jr) who would still continue with a successful career but never fought in the same manner again as Mayweather changed his style to protect his vulnerable chin.
Lockridge had burst on the scene in 1980 with a split decision loss to WBA featherweight champion Eusebio Pedroza, that was more remembered for the dirty tactics of the future Hall of Famer that for any action in particular.
Lockridge would be knocked out in two by Juan LaPorte and lose another close decision to Pedroza before he moved to 130 pounds, where he would find his greatest success in defeating Mayweather and Tony "the Tiger" Lopez to win titles, but other than the Mayweather KO, he again was best defined by defeats to more Hall of Famers, losing his WBA title to Wilfredo Gomez in Puerto Rico by a majority decision that was so terrible that Gomez "the winner" was so badly beaten that Gomez wouldn't fight for over a year (common today, but not then) and was dominated and knocked out by the undistinguished Alfredo Layne in his return.
Lockridge would also lose a majority decision in a challenge for Julio Cesar Chavez and his WBC title, the even card turned in by one judge was the first card that Chavez had not won by that stage of his career.
Lockridge had battled homelessness and drug addiction since leaving boxing and had been in nursing homes of late having suffered several strokes over the last few years.

Goodbye to Bob Friend at the age of 88.
Friend, who finished with a losing career record for the Pirates, spent all but the final season of his 16-year career in Pittsburgh and won 20 games for the 1960 world champions.
Friend is still the Pirates all-time leader in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts, 54 years since he last pitched for the team.
Friend also won 20 games in 1958 along with winning the league ERA title in 1955 for the last place Pirates.

Goodbye to Les Thornton at the age of 84.
England's Thornton was best known for his reigns as NWA and WWF junior heavyweight champion along with brief stays at the beginning of the WWF expansion and Georgia Championship Wrestling.
Thornton was one of the few Georgia wrestlers that accepted Vince McMahon's offer of a job that McMahon likely thought no one would accept.
Thornton won a few television matches and I remember doing a Piper's Pit before shortly leaving.
Thornton was noted for his real-life shooting (actual wrestling) ability and was involved in the death of Dory Funk Sr. outside the ring.
Funk supposedly said that he could escape a particular hold of Thornton's on his ranch in 1973.
Funk escaped the hold, but the strain caused a heart attack that proved to be fatal.

Goodbye to Pat Caddell at the age of 68.
Caddell, who in recent years had drifted rightwards on the political dial, was a key part of the team that not only that won the Democratic nomination for George McGovern in 1972, but won the Presidency for Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Caddell worked in many prominent campaigns for the White House after Carter but never worked for another successful campaign and the pollster's last swing was with Jerry Brown in 1992.
Caddell was prominent for years as a media pundit for various networks, most recently with Fox News and served as an advisor to Republican contributor Robert Mercer in 2016.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Hotshots rally past Memphis 20-18

Photo Courtesy: Memphis Commercial-Appeal
For almost three full quarters, it appeared the young AAF was about to see the biggest upset in its infancy as the heavily favored Arizona Hotshots, who scored the most points in week one with 38, were held scoreless by the Memphis Express, who were held without a point in the league's opening week.

Then the grinding began as the defense forced a Christian Hackenberg offense to a dead stop, while John Wolford began to move the Arizona offense as he hit Rashad Ross for a 16 yard touchdown pass for the Hotshots first points with barely a minute left in the third quarter.
Memphis responded with their only real scoring drive of the day when Zac Stacy ran 49 yards to move the ball downfield for a drive that would end in a Christian Hackenberg scramble for a four-yard rushing touchdown and an 18-6 Memphis lead.
Looking at a 12 point deficit, Arizona ripped off eight points as Justin Stockton rushed for a 45 yard touchdown that was paired with John Wolford keeping the ball on a quarterback option for a two-point conversion to trim the lead to 18-14.
After forcing a punt, Wolford then hit Josh Huff for a 64 yard gain to the Memphis eight before firing the game winning touchdown to Tim Cook out of the backfield for a 20-18 lead that held up after stopping one drive on a failed fourth down sneak by Christian Hackenberg and then forcing Memphis out on downs on their final drive with seconds to go to clinch the victory.
John Wolford finished with two touchdowns to go with those two early interceptions while Tim Cook's 73 yards rushing led a Hotshots ground game that finished with over 200 yards spread around four backs.

The now 2-0 Hotshots will travel to Salt Lake next Saturday afternoon for a rematch against the Stallions on "Bleacher Report" which is the only Hotshots games all season that will be online viewing only...

Hot off the Grill

1) The victory over Memphis was the first ever victory for a road team in the AAF.
After all four home teams won in week one, Birmingham rallied for a comeback home win over Salt Lake earlier in the afternoon to improve home teams record to 5-0 before the Arizona win.

2) In a ten game season, every game carries importance and it appears that the AAF is going to be a league that home field advantage is going to give a substantial amount of assistance.
The Hotshots didn't play well for 44 minutes of a 60 minute game against what appears to be the league's worst team and was forced to make a late rally to pull out a win.
If home field is going to be that important, every victory that can be pulled out of the five road games will pay even more dividends than usual. Winning trumps looking good.

3) John Wolford's two early interceptions led to ten of the eighteen points that Memphis scored to put the Hotshots into such a hole.
Wolford didn't cross 100 yards passing until the second half, but the fourth quarter passing was what you would hope for, especially on the pass to Josh Huff for the huge gain that would set up the game winning touchdown.
Wolford showed plenty of poise in rallying his team and that was in contrast with the opposing quarterback.

4) And that leads us to Christian Hackenberg, formerly of Penn State and a second-round choice of the Jets a few years back.
Hackenberg threw for just 102 yards, looked rattled against the Hotshot rush in being sacked four times and other than his late run for a touchdown looked more interested in arguing with his coaches.
I always thought Hackenberg was far overrated in his Penn State years and he hasn't developed a lick since Bill O'Brien left Happy Valley.

5) Former Ram running back Zac Stacy finished with over 100 yards against the Hotshots and might be the most impressive back that I've seen thus far.
Stacy's the type of second chance player that the AAF will hopefully be able to build on as the spring league that players will want to play in, going into next season when the AAF will be attempting to recruit players against the XFL.

6) Another big game for linebacker Steven Johnson, who finished with six solo tackles, four of those for loss.
Johnson did make a really dumb play in blasting Christian Hackenberg after he was a yard inside the end zone on his fourth-quarter touchdown run, but that's a play of aggression which while similar plays cannot be allowed to continue, can be excused.

7) Josh Huff finished with two catches for 84 yards and even though, on the first catch, Huff fumbled after a gain. Huff is the deep threat on this team with Rashad Ross as the possession receiver in adding another touchdown to his stats after an excellent opening week.

8) The Hotshots ran for over 200 yards against Memphis with three backs rotating to earn carries.
Tim Cook had the most carries and yards (13 for 73), but when your three backs (Cook, Jhurell Pressley and Justin Stockton) each have long gains for the day of  28, 36 and 45 yards, you are able to rip off huge chunks of ground.

9) Da'Sean Dorsey finished with two of the four sacks against Christian Hackenberg and the Arizona pass rush in a league that seems to be a league plagued by less than strong offensive line play has harassed passers in both games.
Dorsey was among the last players cut by Baltimore and is the type of player that as mentioned above that the AAF will have to show they can develop and put into the NFL if they want to thrive.

10) Next week against Salt Lake might be a game that places the Hotshots in an excellent position after only three games.
Salt Lake is already at 0-2 and would be three games out with seven to go and should San Diego lose today to Atlanta and start 0-2, a 3-0 Hotshot start with two of the wins on the road would bode very well for a playoff berth- even this early!

Boxing Challenge: Another Night with the PBC

Boxing returned to the PBC and Fox Saturday night from Los Angeles ( I always hear Van Earl Wright saying that) with another tepid card telecast filled with far too many commentators, graphics bloopers, and good, but not great action.

Due to the early start for television, the card apparently started with the featured bouts with the undercard following deep into the night, according to Steve Kim, my go-to boxing read.
Steve's live-tweeting of the undercard was hilarious and made me laugh plenty, but made me wonder just why PBC didn't start the card in the afternoon and run-up to the top bouts as Steve's photo showed about the same amount of fans near the end as attend most Hagerstown Suns games.

Snark aside, Leo Santa Cruz did what he has traditionally done against overmatched antagonists- overwhelmed them with volume punches matched by few fighters in the game.
The durable opponents go the distance and lose a lopsided decision, which was the case in this one as Rafael Rivera was able to win the opening round and had a few moments for himself but would win no further rounds on my card or any of the three judges as Santa Cruz galloped to a unanimous decision to retain his WBA featherweight title.
Santa Cruz can be a fun fighter to watch, but there is a certain monotony in his performances and there does seem to be another feeling of been there before when you see him in the ring.
Santa Cruz also seems like a really nice guy that is easy to root for and has an interesting back story with his father training him while battling cancer (his father pictured above also reminds me of the late wrestling manager Paul Jones with the mustache and hat), but these types of fights are not gaining him any fans and he's at the stage of his career where he needs to decide just what he wants to be.
Does he want to be remembered as a top fighter of his era or is fine with being a belt collector and is content with swatting light flies with the occasional upper to mid-level contender?
Santa Cruz says he wants WBC champ Gary Russell, which would not only be a fascinating title unification that should be easy to make with both fighters promoted by PBC, if not for one problem-Santa Cruz does not fight a lot and Russell fights even less, so coordinating their schedules might take years.
That's typed in some snark, but there is a certain amount of truth to the statement as well.
It would be one of the better fights in the game, but both men will have to be willing to gamble on greatness and Santa Cruz has seldom shown the willingness to do this (only in his split series with Carl Frampton) and Russell hasn't shown that willingness at all.
Sometimes athletes can be content with what they have, but either way Santa Cruz title defenses against the likes of Rafael Rivera are not the type of main event fare for network prime time television and needs to be coupled with a better top bout in the future.

The co-feature looked like a really exciting bout on paper and it was strong enough action-wise, yet it felt to me like when you look forward to a great meal at a nice restaurant and when it's over, it was good, but not quite up to what you expected.
Former WBC lightweight champion Omar Figueroa once was looked at as a future star.
I even named him way back when I began to work with Ramon Malpica as my pick as a can't miss player for his power and exciting style.
Figueroa has fought only once in the past three years, left a division due to weight issues, and reportedly did so again prior to his fight against veteran John Molina, who figured to come to Figueroa, make a firefight and re-establish Figueroa as a potential opponent for any of PBC's welterweight stars.
Instead, Figueroa didn't shine as expected, had PBC's fight commentators (Dan Goossen and Lennox Lewis) flowing criticism his way (Goosen thought Molina won) and even though I had Figueroa winning close (96-94), it didn't feel like a redemptive evening by any stretch.
While two of the three scorecards were ridiculous (98-92 and 99-91), this should have been the type of night that saw Figueroa take out Molina and show why so many thought so highly of his talent.
In all sports, there are athletes who don't seem to want to stand out as much as others want them to and therefore don't live up to expectations.
Omar Figueroa looks like he is going to be one of those athletes.

The Fox broadcast was pretty cluttered with speaking mistakes, graphic errors, and just too many damn people to listen to.

PBC/Fox needs to fix this and quickly (their next broadcast is in three weeks with Shawn Porter vs Yordanis Ugas) before their broadcasts hit rock bottom.
I thought Kenny Albert as the blow by blow man was a large upgrade over Chris Myers and Dan Goossen is decent enough as an analyst and isn't afraid to voice opinions, even if they are wrong as Goossen believed that not only did John Molina defeat Omar Figueroa, but he was robbed by the judges, which is an opinion not shared by many others.
Lennox Lewis is rather bland and unlike Goossen, has to have his thoughts dragged out of him and stated during the fight that he doesn't like to score fights, which isn't mandatory for a commentator, but shows his reticence in offering opinions.

The larger issue is the others fighting for air time as there are just too many voices, not enough time and as a result, you wonder what the point of it all is.
Ray Mancini is usually on point and he knows the history of the game very well, but under this format, viewers don't get enough of Mancini because PBC almost always squeezes in an active fighter from the stable to sit at the desk and rarely do they have the time to offer anything of value, even before the limitations of the person involved, which in this case was IBF super-middleweight champion, Caleb Plant.
Plant offered little insight other than generalities and seemed very uncomfortable in the role as he was using the time that would have been better used for Mancini's time

Kate Abdo, who was imported from Great Britain for Fox's soccer and boxing coverage, is solid enough as the host, but she simply has too many scorers around her and one ball to pass.
Heidi Androl is pleasant enough, but like so many others that have been given positions in boxing television, doesn't seem to know the product well enough, just as in her interview with Leo Santa Cruz after his win asking him about a unification fight with "Gary Marshall".
Since I am assuming there would be a small audience for Santa Cruz against the late producer of "Happy Days", the slip-up was a sign of a lack of knowledge.

Fox isn't alone in hiring the less than boxing savvy interviewers/hosts, DAZN has Kay Adams among their telecasting problems, but when you are using folks not from the boxing community (Androl's background is hockey and MMA) it's better for the program if you limit their time or at least keep them to fluff pieces that don't allow their lack of knowledge to shine through.
An old saying has been used "Less is More", for Fox the lesson may be "Fewer microphones mean more knowledge.

All of that aside, Fox does have one standout that makes their broadcast worth sticking with until the end If you live in the DMV (District, Maryland, and Virginia for non-locals) you are fortunate enough to have the card followed by the weekend news with Lauren DeMarco.
I wonder if Ms. DeMarco wants to work for Fox boxing??
Perhaps those ideas on another day...

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica scored four points to my three (including the Rob Brant victory Friday night) over the weekend with the difference being Leo Santa Cruz winning by decision.
Ramon extended his challenge lead over me to 36-34.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Brant stops Baysangurov

Photo Credit: Top Rank
From the bustling streets of Hinckley, Minnesota, ESPN's main event showcased native son Rob Brant in his first fight since his surprising upset of former Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata to win a minor middleweight title.

This being boxing, Brant wasn't about to be fighting a decent contender in front of a casino sized crowd in a homecoming event, so undefeated and unknown Khasen Baysangurov was brought to Minnesota as the foil.
I don't blame the promoters/managers etc for Brant. I might have done the same thing.
Still, you have the feeling that this could be one of those wonderful lopsided "Enhancement" matches and nothing Baysangurov had on his limited resume' was going to change that thought before the fight.

The actual fight didn't change many minds either as I thought Brant won the first nine rounds by the sheer volume of punches that had little problems making contact along with a 10-8 round for the second after Brant dropped Baysangurov with a right hand.
Baysangurov did win the tenth on my card and even landed a strong right hand that stung Brant along the ropes, so even though the needed knockout was highly unlikely, it was plausible.
Instead, Brant closed the show for his crowd with a knockdown in the eleventh and finished Baysangurov with a dazzling group of punches that dazed the Russian and forced the referee to step in.

The easy decision would have been to box the final two rounds and win a lopsided decision, but I liked Brant turning up the heat and winning by stoppage.
Wins in that manner always look better against average opposition and fans remember victories that are finished in such fashion far more as well.
I'm still not convinced that Rob Brant is a top-five level middleweight (The TRS ratings are out next week), but he is easily a top ten fighter and I'm anxious to see his next fight which will hopefully be against a better opponent.
Brant's activity will make him interesting to consider even against the elite of the division, but he didn't throw nearly as many punches in his only loss, an almost inexplicable decision loss at super middleweight in the World Boxing Super Series to the faded Jurgen Braehmer.
Brant will not be able to repeat that performance if he eventually expects to win against the best middleweights, but he'll have a chance anyway should his style of late hold form.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Boxing Challenge

A very short boxing challenge this week with only three fights with uninspiring cards from ESPN on Friday and Fox on Saturday.

A personal note if you please,
(A Gordon Solie nod there), it has come up once or twice on why I rarely have ShoBox bouts in the challenge.
It's mainly because often I haven't seen the fighters before and I hate going off records only which can be so deceiving.
ShoBox is one of my favorite things in boxing and I mean no disrespect.

ESPN on Friday travels to the boxing hotbed of Hinckley, Minnesota for the first defense of middleweight Rob Brant's minor title.
Brant pulled off a huge upset last year to win that "title" from former Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata in a terrific performance that was impressive enough for Murata promoter Top Rank to sign Brant to a partial promotional agreement.
Alas as often happens when a fighter has a homecoming fight, the opponent is often a soft touch or one so unknown that it is hoped to be a soft touch and that rule proves the point again in Russia's Khasen Baysangurov, who possesses the required glossy record (17-0 7 KO's) and the lack of competition to really know the opponent's level- Baysangurov checks that box with only one fighter on his record of note in journeyman Paul Valenzuela.
I always hate these fights because one just doesn't know if this is a squash match or a fight that proves Baysangurov as a worthy contender.
We'll see.

Fox and the PBC aren't to be outdone with the squash match mentality with WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz making one of his yearly (or occasionally twice yearly) appearances.
The talented Santa Cruz tends to rarely make the fights that fans and media would like to see take place (credit is given for his two bouts vs Carl Frampton, some credit removed for demanding a rematch when he lost and refusing a third fight after he won) and follows a template as follows- fight a squash match, take six months off, fight a good not great fighter in a fight many are meh about, take six more months, return with a squash match and the beat goes out.
I'm sure the fighter and his team have their share in this, but some blame needs to go to PBC as they follow the same path with WBC champion Gary Russell, except Russell usually fights once a year,
Late replacement Rafael Rivera (original opponent Miguel Flores was no better) has a glossy 27-2 record, but lost both fights in his last three outings and was almost shutout by solid contender Joseph Diaz, who is a cut below Santa Cruz.
I have a feeling many people in and out of the PBC camp are going look back at the careers of Santa Cruz and Russell and might have lost some opportunities.

The other bout could be fun as former lightweight champ Omar Figueroa attempts to revive a once promising career against durable veteran John Molina in what could be a fight filled with action.
Figueroa, who has fought just once in over three years and not at all in nineteen months, looked very strong in blasting out aging veteran Robert Guerrero in three rounds, while Molina gives almost all of his top opponents a tough night, despite usually losing them.
This should be the best fight of the weekend.

Ramon Malpica leads me in the boxing challenge 32-31.

Middleweights 12 Rds
Rob Brant vs Khasen Baysangurov
Both: Brant Unanimous Decision

WBA Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Leo Santa Cruz vs Rafael Rivera
R.L: Santa Cruz Unanimous Decision
TRS: Santa Cruz KO 8

Welterweights 12 Rds
Omar Figueroa vs John Molina
R.L: Figueroa KO 9
TRS: Figueroa KO 7

A little bit of this..

Sometimes you are motivated to write and other times you are not.
That might not be the major reason that I've never made a dime on this, but I know it's not the only reason.

I had ideas for columns and even started a few (Blogger has a few posts that have been started), but I never felt up to finishing.
Keep that in mind, in a week or no when there is a flurry of posts!

The Cleveland Indians outfield situation doesn't look strong entering Arizona, but the Indians added another competitor in the race for starting positions with the signing of free agent Matt Joyce.
The 34-year-old Joyce hit .208 with seven homers in 83 games for Oakland last season, which doesn't exactly fill one with confidence that this is the answer for the Indians offense, but the hope that Joyce hits more along the lines of his 2017 season where he hit a career-high 25 homers for the Athletics.
It's low risk, a little over a million if he makes the team and incentives, but I'm not overly hopeful.

I do have some hopes for another signing, this one for the bullpen as the Indians signed Alex Wilson, formerly of the Tigers.
Wilson notched a 3.36 ERA for the Tigers last season in 59 games and has been solid in his six-year career with Boston and Detroit so this could be a signing that helps a bit.

Remember the post when Nik Stauskas was acquired by the Cavaliers and I wrote how he was worth a flyer, only to be traded the next day to Houston?
Stauskas was traded the following day after that to Indiana and was waived by the Pacers.
After all that, where did Staukas wind up? Cleveland.
Salary caps can make strange things happen.

And then there's Marquese Chriss, who has scored double figures in three of his four games as a Cavaliers and sent a crunching dunk over the head of noted Brooklyn shot blocker Jarrett Allen that sent the league into a gossip frenzy.
It's only a few games, but Mr.Chriss seems motivated to please and just might be a Cleveland steal

In boxing, Marcos Maidana has decided to return to the ring in what looks to be a bad decision.
Maidana looks like he's gained 75 pounds at least in photos and before he starts training, he's closer to heavyweight than his desired welterweight for his return.
Maidana has not fought since his loss to Floyd Mayweather in September 2014, so almost five years off isn't going to help Maidana very much, but his mauling style may age better than others.
I still would rank an all-Argentine brawl between Maidana and Lucas Matthysse as one of the top few fights that I would have loved to have seen that never happened.

The Chicago Cubs are starting their own network "Marquee Sports" in conjunction with Sinclair Broadcasting, who are so right wing that they make Fox News look moderate.
The Cubs expect to have games exclusively on Marquee for the 2020 season.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Browns sign Kareem Hunt

The other shoe finally dropped in the saga of running back Kareem Hunt, who despite a fabulous year and three-quarters running the football with the Kansas City Chiefs was released after the discovery of an abuse tape against a female in a hotel in early 2018.

It's the Cleveland Browns that grabbed that shoe and signed Hunt to a one year contract for a flat one million dollars on the word of general manager John Dorsey, who drafted Hunt in the third round of the final draft that Dorsey ran for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Quick sidebar, John Dorsey's final draft with the Chiefs nabbed Patrick Mahomes and Kareem Hunt and it was DORSEY that was relieved of his duties in order to keep Andy Reid, who has to be part of the Mount Rushmore of coaches that you never want on the sidelines if you need to win a big game?
BTW- That Rushmore includes Reid, Marty Schottenheimer, Dennis Green and your choice of these in no particular order- Dan Reeves, Don Coryell, Chuck Knox or Marv Levy.
I'd love to include the vastly overrated Bill Cowher to this for his Reid-like run of four home losses in AFC Championship games, that was thisclose to a Hail Mary by the Colts to making it five, but Cowher did win one Super Bowl, which saved him from this list.

Before we discuss the football side of this, I want to make sure any of you know where I stand on Hunt's assault on a lady friend in a hotel last year- I think firm penalties should be levied and there should be steps taken to be able to play in the league, steps that are even harsher than how the league deals with other issues that a player can be suspended for committing.
I'm not against second chances, but I'm not convinced Hunt has spent enough time away from the field yet to state that he has paid his dues yet.
I'm not even sure the Browns will even see Kareem Hunt on the field in 2019.
Roger Goodell will certainly suspend Hunt for a period of time that should be a minimum of six games and could be a season or more.
One never knows to expect from Goodell, but there will be some type of penalty and it won't be light.

However, I am tired of these tremendous on the field and troubled off the field players being available and then dazzling in their rehabilitation process for the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers etc.
I don't like how that makes me feel as a fan, but has been shown by fans of those teams, they do not hide their championships away after employing such types.

Moving to Kareem Hunt on the field, assuming he gets to play sometime, suddenly between Hunt and Nick Chubb with Duke Johnson, the Browns could have the best three group of running backs in the league.
Hunt led the leagues in rushing as a rookie with 1,327 yards, rushed for another 827 in eleven games before his Chiefs release and a player like this in his prime would never be available for free without baggage.
Hunt can run, catch and can be a three-down back.
The Browns combining him with Chubb in a two-back look could scare defensive coordinators a lot, but the only downside is neither back might get the type of carries to wear down defenses otherwise.
If the Browns and Hunt would receive a favorable result from the league, the Browns could talk about moving Duke Johnson.
I'm not sure that happens before the 2019 draft, but it could before the 2020 draft.
If Hunt would be given a long term suspension after Johnson would be traded, the Browns could go from deep to thin, which is why I don't see Johnson being traded yet, if at all.
Other than that, I can't see a thing wrong with this signing as far as on the field. but I'm not getting excited yet- I'll believe he plays when I see it.

It may not have been a chance that the Browns had to take, but it might be a risk worth taking.

Boxing Challenge: Ramirez rallies past Zepeda

ESPN and Top Rank put together a pretty nice card on a Sunday night from Fresno, California, which saw two entertaining fights at 140 pounds.

Photo Credit: Top Rank
In the main event, WBC champion Jose Ramirez was somewhat surprisingly extended by Jose Zepeda and needed a late rally to escape with a majority decision and retain his junior welterweight title.

Zepeda shot to the lead with some very smooth boxing and controlled a lethargic Ramirez well over the first half of the fight, but whether you want to credit Ramirez for a late charge or blame Zepeda for a late fade, Ramirez turned the tide and took a narrow 115-113 nod on my card.

These are the type of tests that every champion needs to pass to continue to progress and even though Jose Ramirez may not have been at his best, he retained his title.
As Jim Valvano used to say "Survive and Advance" and sometimes that's the best way to describe a victory.

The opener was an entertaining bout as former WBO lightweight champion Ray Beltran moved to 140 pounds and hooked up with Japan's Hiroki Okada for nine back-and-forth rounds before Beltran landed some booming right hands to knock down Okada twice in the ninth before the bout was waved off.
Beltran knocked Okada down in round two, but Okada rose and buckled Beltran in the same round to set the way this fight was going to go with give-and-take action.
I had Beltran slightly ahead at the time of the stoppage (76-75) and Beltran might be the next foe for Jose Ramirez, which could very well be the last stand for the aging, but still more than adequate veteran.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica scored three points to my two and took the overall lead at 32-31.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hotshots Outrace Stallions in AAF Debut

The debut game for the Arizona Hotshots in Tempe went about as well as the franchise could have expected.
Photo Credit; Az Republic
The crowd was very into the game, the game was exciting and the Hotshots didn't only win over the Salt Lake Stallions, they did so in an entertaining fashion as Rick Neuheisel's gang of green and gold left their new home with a 38-22 victory.
Hotshots quarterback John Wolford threw for 275 yards and four touchdowns with two of them to Rashad Ross, who finished with over one hundred yards receiving on the evening.
The now 1-0 Hotshots will travel to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis next Saturday to play the Express, who were shutout in their opener in Birmingham.

Hot Off The Grill

1) Watching three of the four games opening weekend, the biggest issue in quality of play looks to be these two- quarterbacking and protecting the quarterback.
The Hotshots and Stallions did a decent enough job protecting their passers, but the Birmingham-Memphis games and the half that I saw of the San Antonio-San Diego contest, saw some really poor pass protection and some bad quarterbacking, other than from Birmingham's Luis Perez in their win.

2) The one game that I didn't see was the Orlando home blowout of Atlanta.
Steve Spurrier's offense looked to be a good fit for wide-open new leagues and Atlanta losing their head coach Brad Childress in training camp didn't seem to be a competitive matchup.
Orlando was rated with Arizona as being the best team in the league and from the results of the opener, that looks accurate.

3) The Hotshots selected Trevor Knight as their expected quarterback in the AAF Quarterback Draft, but even though reports said Knight is going to see action and didn't play badly in training camp, the starter and camp standout proved to be John Wolford, who proved the decision to be a smart one for the first week with four touchdown passes and some nice touch on his passes.
I remember seeing Wolford at Wake Forest and liking his arm but wondered about his size as an NFL prospect.
Wolford was cut out of the Jets camp, but at his age (24) Wolford should be just the type that can profit from the plays and snaps of a league such as the AAF.

4) Rashad Ross finished with five catches for 103 yards with two of those catches for touchdowns with another non-scoring catch for 41 yards.
Ross might be the best receiver in this league, but here is the red flag on Ross, he's 29 (older than almost all the players defending him), he hasn't played in an NFL regular season game since 2016 and his career stats consist of nine catches and one score.
Ross will be the type of player that can play very well in the AAF and won't make teams at a higher level but will give a young QB a veteran receiver to lean on this league.

5) The Hotshots also have two more veteran types that aren't likely to make the NFL but are again as with Rashad Ross, perfect for a young quarterback to throw to with some experience in the big leagues.
Former third-rounder Josh Huff caught 44 passes over three years with the Eagles and Buccaneers and Gerald Christian was "Mr.Irrelevant" in 2015 with one career catch with Buffalo.
Both are the type of steady veterans that are going to help Arizona thrive in the passing game.

6) The run game is going to be solid, I believe with a committee that combined for 149 yards against Salt Lake with Jhurell Pressley of New Mexico leading with 64 yards on 18 carries.
Justin Stockton averaged 6.6 yards on his seven carries and the former Texas Tech Red Raider could be the top back by the end of the season.

7) Arizona's defense was noted as a leading reason that the Hotshots were ranked as at least the best in the Western Division, if not the best in the league.
The Hotshots knocked down eight Stallion passes in the victory and the secondary defending seven of those.
NFL veteran Rahim Moore lends stability and made four tackles, but it was Robert Nelson with an interception and a pass defended that led the secondary in this victory.
Arizona allowed the most points of a victorious team in week one, but I bet by the end of the season, it's the Hotshots at or near the top of the defensive statistics.

8) Arizona also received excellent games from two members of the front seven.
Linebacker Steven Johnson of Kansas was the standout with seven solo tackles, a batted ball, and an interception, but Rutgers linebacker Steve Beauharnais finished with four solo tackles, four assists with one of those solos a tackle for a five-yard loss and even when Beauharnais did not wrap up the man, he seemed to be near the football on almost every play.

9) The player with the most NFL experience on the team is former Jets kicker Nick Folk, who hit two of three field goals with the miss bouncing off the upright from 46 yards.
Folk connected from 53 yards with one of his attempts and even at his age shows he still has plenty of leg.
I wouldn't be against John Dorsey and the Browns signing Folk to a deal to bring him to Browns camp right now, which is allowed by AAF rules and he could still kick for the Hotshots.
Considering the Cleveland kicking problems over the last season and Folk's experience in cold weather with the Jets could be helpful as a Brown.

10) Salt Lake is going to win some games and these two teams rematch in two weeks in Salt Lake City.
The Stallions have a very interesting running game with speedy former Charger Brandon Oliver (8 attempts for 40 yards) and former Viking Matt Asiata ( 4 carries, 4 yards, and a score) adding a power aspect, so if they have the lead, they could be very difficult to catch.
Both the Stallion passers (Starter Josh Woodrum and backup Matt Linehan) threw a touchdown, but each was intercepted as well and their combined passing yards were a less than fabulous 159 yards.

11) The two dominant players that weren't in the game I watched closest, each had connections to TRS.
Orlando wide receiver Jalin Marshall is a former Buckeye who caught a touchdown and was the leading receiver for the Apollos and San Diego defensive end Damontre Moore, who finished with a sack with six quarterback hits against San Antonio was a player that I really liked in 2013 when he was a third-round pick by the New York Giants.
Moore spent time with five different NFL teams because of his still immense talent and he was a dominant player at Texas A&M before Myles Garrett became Myles Garrett.
Marshall spent 2016 with the Jets after a poor decision to leave Ohio State early and hasn't been in the league since.

12) I thought the league had a good first weekend.
Most of the talk has been positive or at least not negative and they need to build on that.
Only two of the four games were reasonably close and only of those two was high scoring.
The level of play will have to continue to improve and I would say it was around the level of an NFL exhibition game when the stars are on the sidelines, which isn't bad for a start.
I'll be interested to see how the ratings and reception are for the second week of the season.

Sunday, February 10, 2019


The AAF kicked off on Saturday, but since our chosen team plays in the final of the four games of the league's opening weekend, I could take my time doing the preview for the Arizona Hotshots and wait for some sort of depth chart to become available. (Of this writing, it hasn't)

Why the Hotshots? Well, when a new league begins and you go through the process of picking a team, there are usually three factors-Location, Coach/Players and Color/Logo/Uniforms.
The location in the AAF was not going to be a factor as the closest team to me is Atlanta, so that was not going to matter (It could possibly be a factor with next year's XFL arrival with a team in Washington) and without a team in Ohio, the AAF territorial draft was not going to place a bunch of Buckeyes (and Bowling Green Falcons) on one team, although San Antonio had a mild edge with the assignment of Houston with Arizona being assigned Texas Tech since Lubbock is of similar distance to Phoenix as San Antonio.
With those considerations off the table, that left the coach and the "accessories" to decide from.

Of the coaches, two especially stood out- Chicago Bear Hall of Famer and former San Francisco 49er head coach Mike Singletary and former college head coach (UCLA, Washington, and Colorado) and football analyst Rick Neuheisel had the edge on the field.
In color scheme, I liked the Gold/Green of Arizona and the Metallic Blue/Silver of Salt Lake and I liked both teams helmets and Arizona's touch with a logo on one side and the player's number on the other.
In the end, Arizona stood out as being the one franchise that managed to check all of the boxes and they won out.

The funny thing about new leagues is that sometimes the team that you pick isn't always the team you end with.
Watching games can change things and by the end of the season, who knows?
In the USFL, I stayed with the Blitz/Wranglers, but as the season played out, I was also rooting for the Breakers, Showboats, and Gunslingers in their games as well.
We'll see how the season plays out.

It'll be interesting to see what I think of the rule experiments that would differ from the rules of the NFL.

Two Point Conversion- Each team always goes for two, no extra points-
I'm fine with this

No Onside Kicks- If a team is losing by 17 or more, they may go for possession by converting a one play-4th down and 12.
I'm fine with this

No Kickoffs- Ball placed at the 25.
Kickoff returns are exciting, but most kickoffs are downed in the end zone anyway,
I'm fine with this

Play Clock at 35 seconds rather than 40
I'm fine with this

Overtime- One possession for each team from the ten, must go for the two-point conversion.
if game still tied- Game ends in a tie.
Not sure I like this, but with teams forced to try for two, This shouldn't come into play often

Eye in the sky- An official with a camera view that shows all 22 men on the field can throw a flag at any time. No Review, No Huddle. Penalty called, Game Moves On.
I'm more than fine with this.

Only Five Rushers to rush the passer.
I'm not sure about this one, if you line up on the line, you are considered one of the five eligible rushers.
You can be called for a fifteen yard penalty for Illegal Defense, if more than five on the line.

Cancio stuns Machado, Davis rolls Ruiz

 (Photo: Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions)
The boxing challenge looked to have two junior lightweight champions that eventually would be forced to meet in what a generous person would call a showcase bout and what a cynical one would describe as a squash match.

Quickly after WBA champion Gervonta Davis crushed Hugo Ruiz like a 7up can in breaking his nose and finishing him in one round on Showtime, that gave me time to flip to DAZN and WBA minor champion Alberto Machado's showcase against Andrew Cancio.
It looked that Machado was on his way to a one round evening as well after dropping Cancio about 25 seconds after I changed the stream.
The difference was Cancio got up, began to fight back and three rounds later, the early leader for the upset of the year was in the books as Cancio scored three knockdowns with body shots and battered a suddenly disinterested Machado before the fight was stopped.
The new champion will likely be targeted by several in the division thinking that he is an easy mark, but despite his average record, Cancio may not appear to be a long term stock to buy, but once again, the rule comes up that being thrown in tough and accumulating a few losses isn't always a bad thing before the big time comes calling.

Rey Vargas was knocked down in the second round by Franklin Manzanilla and looked vulnerable to the Salidoesque tactics of the challenger.
Those tactics soon would backfire with two different point reductions that canceled out the knockdowns over the course of the fight and Vargas did what he does-control from the outside and delivered a solid, but unspectacular effort to win going away by unanimous decision to retain his WBC junior featherweight title.
I had Vargas winning 117-111, which was pretty close to the official score.
I have hope that the winner of the WBA-IBF unification fight at the weight between Daniel Roman and T.J Doheny on DAZN could be convinced to unify further against Vargas, who isn't proving a lot with his defenses against lesser contenders.

Joseph Diaz dominated neighborhood rival and childhood friend Charles Huerta in winning every round on my round and winning an easy unanimous decision.
Huerta did his best, but this is the difference between a world-class competitor and an average ten round fighter.

On Showtime, the main event did see Gervonta Davis do what you expect someone of his talent to do when facing an undermanned, outgunned late substitute when he smacked Hugo Ruiz around for a round before blowing him out like a baseball bat going through the bottom of a paper cup.
The problem is that Ruiz was the first fight in ten months for Davis after fighting just once last year and doesn't appear to have any peers in his division capable of giving him a hard fight other than WBC champ Miguel Berchelt, who is not with PBC.
Davis could move to lightweight after trouble making weight for Ruiz, but the picture isn't any better there with WBA/WBO lightweight champ Vasyl Lomachenko and IBF champ Richard Commey having agreements to fight on ESPN through their promoters.
WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia would be a very attractive fight and one easy to make, depending on the outcome of Garcia's fight with Errol Spence next month.
Other than Garcia, I just don't see Davis having a fight to be excited about for quite a while.

Lightweight Javier Fortuna slogged his way to a unanimous decision win over Sharif Bogere in a sloppy mix of styles that could be considered ill-advised matchmaking.
Fortuna did score a borderline knockdown in the sixth, but the rest of the bout had so much headbutting, wrestling and grappling that I expected Mr.Wrestling II to kneelift both these guys out of the ring.
My card agreed with all three judges 96-93 Fortuna.

Erickson Lubin showed his power in driving former junior middleweight champion (albeit six years ago and lost in his first defense to the long forgotten Carlos Molina) Ishe Smith into retirement with four knockdowns in three rounds before the fight was stopped in the corner after the third.
The intrigue here was could Lubin stop the never before stopped Smith before Smith tested the china chin of Lubin.
Lubin landed first and showed the huge power that he possesses in crushing Smith as never before.
Lubin reminds me a lot of former junior middleweight and middleweight champion and 2019 Hall of Fame Inductee Julian Jackson.
Few in the game had the power of Jackson (Lubin) and Jackson (Lubin) can take anyone out that they hit squarely and conversely anyone that hits them (Jackson/Lubin) has the ability to take them out with chins that describing as questionable would be a very positive assessment to say on anyone's part.
Erickson Lubin will continue to be almost mandatory watching because the ending will likely be exciting and unpredictable.

In the boxing challenge Ramon Malpica and I each scored nine points and remain tied at 29.