Sunday, March 31, 2019

Boxing Challenge:One Strange Day

Matt Heasley for Mikey Williams/Top Rank
In a strange day in what was expected to be a less than exciting boxing weekend gave followers something to at least make people shake their heads and recall what Larry Merchant always said about boxing- "the theatre of the absurd".

From Philadelphia, ESPN and Top Rank's main event was the return to action of WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk with the first defense of his championship.
Gvozdyk was in with what was thought to be a soft touch in French transport Doudou Ngumbu, originally from the Congo, with the fact being unknown of how Gvozdyk would react in his first bout since injuring Adonis Stevenson.
We still don't know how Gvozdyk will react after his fifth-round stoppage over Ngumbu, which saw the fight end with Ngumbu unable to continue, but not after any Gvozdyk punches.
Instead, it was Ngumbu finished off with an injured calf that left him gimping around the ring like Fred Flintstone doing the Frantic and sitting in a corner distraught with tears after a lost chance that at 38 he will likely to never see again.
I thought Gvozdyk won every round but wasn't dominating Ngumbu and the calf hurt the challenger far more than the champions punches to that point.
Gvozdyk will hopefully face a better opponent later this year, hopefully, in a title unification against either WBO champion Sergey Kovalev or IBF standard-bearer Artur Beterbiev, should they win their next scheduled defenses.

The undercard saw a surprise as the WBO's top contender to their welterweight champion Terence Crawford, Egid Kavaliauskas may have lost his mandatory title fight as he struggled to a majority draw against Ray Robinson.
Robinson had been knocked out by Yordanis Ugas in his last fight and was thought to be a stay busy fight for the exposure to the boxing audience for Kavaliauskas to increase attention for a potential Crawford bout.
Instead, the majority draw could see Kavaliauskas dropped from the top contender position, although that isn't a given when you consider any sanctioning bodies ability to make a decision and that's the sanctioning body (WBO) that is coziest with Bob Arum.
Should Kavaliauskas be moved from the top spot, the big winners could be Jessie Vargas and DAZN as it would be Vargas (number three contender with second rated Amir Khan already facing Crawford next) that would benefit most.
Still, despite scores that read 97-93 for Robinson and two scores of 95-95. I thought Kavaliauskas was the 96-94 winner as he threw the harder punches against the mildly busier Robinson, if not impressive in doing so.

Golden Boy Promotions on DAZN presented the other Saturday night card from Indio, California with social media magnet Ryan Garcia in the top spot against veteran Jose Lopez.
Garcia had struggled to a close win two fights previously over Carlos Morales and Golden Boy is attempting to carefully match the nineteen-year-old to re-establish him.
Lopez, much smaller and slower was the perfect foil for Garcia to look good against and was hurt in round one.
Garcia finished the job in the second round with several right hands that put Lopez on the floor for the finish shots, although Lopez would stagger to his corner, where his corner ended the fight before the start of round three.
Garcia has impressive hand speed and what seems to be good power, but he seems very wide open to me and despite Oscar De La Hoya's words after the fight about the competition moving to the top level soon, I'm not sure Garcia is anywhere near ready for the top fighters in the 130 pound division.

Angel Acosta retained his WBO light flyweight title with an eighth-round knockout of former WBC champion Ganigan Lopez as the co-feature.
Lopez attempted to stick and move and was effective against Acosta, who I had slightly ahead 67-66 at the time of the stoppage.
Acosta managed to stun Lopez with a hard left hook in the eighth and managed to shrug off a dazed Lopez and his attempts to tackle the champion enough to drop him for the ten count.
Acosta vs WBC champion Ken Shiro would be a terrific unification fight in the division, but rarely are the best fights in the 108-pound division signed as it's often much easier to build up defenses against lesser contenders or move up to the flyweight division.

In the boxing challenge, I scored six points to Ramon Malpica's five to increase my lead to 72-65.
We each scored two points for the wins by Gvozdyk and Garcia, but I scored two points to Ramon's one for the win by Angel Acosta.

I usually don't write in the boxing challenge about non-challenge fights but I had to write a few words about the Matchroom card from Liverpool England on DAZN.
I considered the main event with former WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith against Sam Eggington for the challenge but decided against it.
However, as I try to watch almost everything, I still watched the card and one of the undercard fights saw former top prospect David Price appear.
Price won an Olympic bronze medal and was thought to be a potential champion with elite level power.
Price still can hurt anyone that he hits, but an alarmingly bad chin against anyone around the top 25 level had led to a series of losses that led to Price being knocked out in spectacular fashion last year against Alexander Povetkin in a fight that was such a mismatch that it shouldn't have been sanctioned.
For four rounds against undefeated former sparring partner Kash Ali, Price looked every bit the part of a contender, but entering the fifth round, the book on Price was referred to as "get through four rounds against Price and watch him melt".
Ali was clearly frustrated by Price and began fouling starting in the third round with a bite, following up with a fourth round shot to the back of Price' head and then taking him down in the fifth with better technique than some linebackers.
The fun began as the fighters rolled along the ropes with suddenly Price's head snaps back against the bottom rope and lets out a yelp.
The referee then has had enough of Ali's antics, disqualifies him as Price rises with a splotch on his torso that rivals that of Dusty Rhodes when he had that marking during that damn video that Jim Crockett Promotions played at every commercial break in 1987!
Price's win will likely see him in another OK Corral showdown against someone from the next level, where his big pop and soft chin are in a race to see which makes its way to the forefront first.

Just another crazy day in boxing and shows once again that even when you think it will be a dull day, boxing always can surprise.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge weekend is a small one and a less than impressive bunch as far as competition, but an important weekend as far as future impact.

The most important fights this weekend are both with ESPN from Philadelphia from Top Rank with Oleksandr Gvozdyk defending his WBC light heavyweight champion for the first time against Doudou Ngumbu.
Gvozdyk won his championship with his brutal eleventh round knockout of Adonis Stevenson that not only won Gvozdyk his title but cost Stevenson his career and nearly his life.
Ngumbu has lost to all the name opponents on his resume and shouldn't be a threat to defeat Gvozdyk, but the interesting portion to watch could be how Gvozdyk reacts if he has Ngumbu hurt and in trouble- did the severe injuries that Stevenson suffered taken away the instinct to finish an injured fighter from the new champion?
No disrespect intended, but similar traumatic events changed the style (and therefore career) of fighters such as Emile Griffith and Ray Mancini, so it would not be a surprise to see that happen with Gvozdyk.
It's a good decision to try to figure out if anything has changed with a matchup with an opponent that he is likely to have a chance to finish off and one that is likely to be defeated, even if the champion lets him off the hook.

The co-feature matches welterweights Egid Kavaliauskas against Ray Robinson (minus the sugar) with Kavaliauskas putting a mandatory summer title shot against WBO champion Terence Crawford in danger, should he lose.
Kavaliauskas shouldn't be in trouble against Robinson, who lasted seven rounds with Yordenis Ugas in his last fight, but should get some needed rounds of work.
Kavaliauskas really isn't ready for Crawford, but with the dearth of contenders on the Top Rank side in the division for Crawford and being the top WBO contender, I suppose that you take the fight that's offered to you.

The other two fights take place in Indio, California brought to you from Golden Boy Promotions with the saga of prospect and social media star Ryan Garcia in the top spot as Garcia battles Jose Lopez as Garcia attempts to place his ring work front and center for the time being and shove his out of the ring drama off to the side.
Garcia really struggled in his second to last fight against Carlos Morales and since then has notched a victory on the Canelo Alvarez-Rocky Fielding undercard and underloaded more drama than a soap opera from the 20-year-old prospect.
Lopez has lost two of his last four, so he's not expected to be a threat to Garcia, but he's good enough to put some pressure on Garcia and should the outside of the ring theatrics affect Garcia any, could be a problem.

The best fight of the weekend though is the co-feature as WBO light flyweight champion Angel Acosta defends against Ganigan Lopez.
This appears to be possibly one of those "Puerto Rico (Acosta) vs Mexico (Lopez) fights " that the boxing media and myself too, always love to rave about and usually makes great fights.
Acosta has lost just once to the talented Kosei Tanaka by decision and all 19 of his wins are by stoppage while Lopez was once the WBC champion in the division before losing it to another talented champion from Japan in Ken Shiro, dropping the title via majority decision before losing via second-round knockout in the rematch.
Acosta's the younger fighter by nine years, has 23 fewer fights and Lopez appears to be slowing down with the mileage odometer closer to the end than the beginning, so Acosta deserves to be favored, but how many times have we seen aging Latino fighters summon an amazing stand in a fight that you would suspect they are overmatched in?
The Top Rank card may have the bigger and more important card, but the Acosta-Lopez fight from Golden Boy would be my choice for the best fight of the weekend.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 66-60

WBC Light Heavyweight Title. 12 Rds
Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs Doudou Ngumbu
R.L: Gvozdyk KO 9
TRS: Gvozdyk KO 8

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Egid Kavaliauskas  vs Ray Robinson
R.L: Kavaliauskas KO 5
TRS:Kavaliauskas KO 7

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Ryan Garcia vs Jose Lopez
R.L: Garcia KO 6
TRS;  Garcia KO 4

WBO Light Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Angel Acosta vs Ganigan Lopez
R.L: Acosta Unanimous Decision
TRS: Acosta KO 6

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Opening Day and the crystal baseball

I wasn't really up to full-scale previews last night at the road office, but I did have a few thoughts before the season started and the always inaccurate season predictions.

The Indians are the team that is just driving me crazy right now.
They have an excellent rotation, but their outfield situation, in particular, is very troubling, even after the signing of Carlos Gonzalez.
Even though the Indians still should have enough to win the AL Central, Minnesota is improved and the pipeline of elite level talent is beginning to arrive in Chicago for the White Sox to begin their window opening of contention.
The Indians refusal to spend and their whining about losing money ( and the absolutely clueless comment by Paul Dolan telling fans to "enjoy him" on the topic of Francisco Lindor, basically punting re-signing him three years before his free agency is about as opposite of fan-friendly as one can be) comes at a time with their own window starting to close a bit.
When a small market team begins to reach that stage, fans frustrations can appear and can get nasty.
In Cleveland, a division title might not be enough to avoid that emotion from this fan base.

In Pittsburgh, the Pirates look like Indians light with what could be an excellent pitching staff with four of the five being young and controllable, but with a lineup that's even worse than the Indians.
Pittsburgh is going to struggle scoring runs, but even with an average lineup, they are in a tough division and would take lots of luck to make the postseason.
Jameson Taillon is sitting on a career year, I think and he'll need to be even better for postseason hopes.

The Giants are attempting to re-tool and it seems like half the organization have been through the waiver wire with players in town for a few days and then gone.
The interesting part of this season will be how well will Madison Bumgarner pitch and with free agency looming, what could the Giants receive in prospects for a dominant Bumgarner with the new trade deadline eliminating August trades?
The Giants need to not only become younger but improve the minor league system, so if any of their veterans other than Buster Posey (contract) play well for three or four months, I wouldn't be stunned if anyone was out the door.

Best Guess
Cleveland 91-71 AL Central Champions , eliminated in first round of playoffs
Pittsburgh 82-80 4th NL Central
San Francisco 69-93 5th NL West

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Minor League Fantasy Draft-Round Four- Luis Patino

Photo Credit:Jeff Nycz
The draft entered its fourth round and I decided that I had plenty of "Dark Horse" hitting prospects to throw a dart or two in my final selections and decided to take the best pitcher available.

The interesting prospect to me was Colombia's  Luis Patino, who pitched the entire season at 18 years of age for the San Diego Padres Low A affiliate, the Fort Wayne Tin Caps.
Patino's numbers were dazzling as a Tin Cap, finishing 6-3 with a 2.16 ERA in 17 starts, striking out 98 and walking only 24.

Patino had skipped short-season baseball in order to start with Fort Wayne and the Padres could have then sent Patino there, should he struggle in the Midwest League, which as you can see did not happen.
Patino will likely start the season for the Padres high A affiliate in the California League in Lake Elsinore.

Joe Werner notes that Patino is 'the righthanded version of fellow Padre prospect MacKenzie Gore" with an "all arms and legs windup" and with this really intriguing note- Patino allowed twenty earned runs all season, but eleven of those came in two starts.
If you delete those starts and only look at Patino's other fifteen starts, his ERA drops to a tiny 1.08.
And for those 98 strikeouts- Patino has been clocked at 100 MPH and has a strong slider, curve, and changeup.
Werner adds that you could make a case that Patino is "the highest-ceiling pitcher in the minor leagues"!

Between the numbers at Fort Wayne and the downright glowing reports from Joe Werner, Luis Patino could be the type of pitcher that you talk about for years as a fourth-round pick.
At the same time, so many variables can happen to a pitcher, especially one that will pitch the season at only 19, so nothing is a sure thing, but I'm very encouraged about the potential of Luis Patino.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Hotshots sink the Fleet-Grab sole control of 2nd place

John Wolford completed 15 of 19 for 212 yards with two touchdowns and the Arizona ground game ripped off 189 yards as a team with two more scores (both scored by quarterbacks Wolford and backup Trevor Knight) as the Hotshots defeated San Diego 32-15 in Tempe.
The win moves Arizona above .500 at 4-3, but more importantly, breaks a tie with the Fleet and gives them sole possession of second place, one game behind division-leading San Antonio.
Arizona will visit those same San Antonio Commanders in a game that would place them in a tie for the division with a win or virtually clinch the division title for San Antonio, should the Commanders earn the victory.

Hot off the Grill

1) The play of this game was a third-quarter defensive stand that slammed the door on a long drive by the Fleet and held them without a point when San Diego QB Mike Bercovici's flip to tight end Ben Johnson barely fell incomplete.
San Diego would miss a field goal in the fourth quarter but never returned to the Arizona red zone again.

2) The other play that AAF fans are still talking came very late in the first half as San Diego tight end Marcus Baugh caught a long pass and after two Hotshot defenders mistimed their leap, Baugh strolled into the end zone but it looked like before the ball crossed the goal line, Baugh flipped the ball forward and the score should not have counted.
The referee that can overrule any missed call looked at the play and decided there was nothing he could do as the Fleet recovered it and the ball wound up out of play.
Still, Baugh, a former Buckeye, caused the entire issue by trying to look cool.

3) John Wolford threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the offense.
The offense was outgained by the Fleet 411-391, but Wolford managed to make the plays when needed.
Wolford may not be an NFL starter, but he'll have a good chance to make a team.

4) Steve Johnson will either be the defensive player of the year or runner-up to San Diego' Damontre Moore.
Johnson finished with seven more solo tackles and a key interception in the fourth quarter that ended the San Diego chances of a comeback.
Johnson spent six years in the NFL as a journeyman linebacker, but in this league, he has been a difference maker.

5) Rashard Ross was injured and I don't have word on his status after his three catches for 53 yards.
Ross has been the most consistent receiver on the team and the main threat downfield, so a loss of Ross (rim shot) would be a severe hindrance to an offense that is just starting to hit its stride.

6) Huge win in this one.
Next week in San Antonio, a win can make things very interesting, but a loss to San Antonio after a loss in this one could have been a huge playoff setback.
The Hotshots have three games to go with two against divisional opponents on the road (San Antonio and San Diego) with a home game against Birmingham in the middle.
2-1 makes the playoffs, I think. Any less and who knows.

Boxing Challenge:Lipinets retires Peterson

In what will definitely receive consideration for fight of the year when those decisions are made, Sergey Lipinets defeated Lamont Peterson by a tenth round TKO when Peterson's trainer Barry Hunter threw in the towel after Peterson was knocked down after staggering across the ring from Lipinets punches.

Lipinets had hurt Peterson several times in the second half of the fight, especially in the sixth round and after that series of punches, the fight began to swing toward Lipinets after being controlled by Peterson to that point, albeit very competitively.
Leading up to the ending, I had Lipinets slightly ahead 86-85 (5-4 in rounds) and with plenty of back and forth exchanges, both fighters had their moments, but Peterson simply began to run out of steam with the questions being how much Peterson had left to hold Lipinets off, could he make it to the finish line and if so, how many of those close early rounds were scored for the hometown fighter on the official cards?

After the grinding battle, a poignant moment occurred as first, Peterson trainer Barry Hunter spoke to the crowd and then handed the house microphone to Peterson, who then thanked the crowd and his local fans as he announced his retirement.
The time is right for Peterson, who won the WBA and IBF titles at junior welterweight and a minor title at welterweight and always fought with heart, but he's lost his last two fights by knockout and has reached a point in his career that he may be headed closer to gatekeeper status than that of a contender.
Instead of fighting on in a quest that looks unlikely and continuing to accumulate punches, Peterson is making the right decision and moving away from the ring.
Let's hope he keeps that decision intact.
As for Lipinets, he's not a bomber, but he punches well enough that if you choose to maul with him, you are taking the chance that he grinds you up.
I'm still not sure he's strong enough to get away with that against a natural welterweight, which Peterson was not, but he'll be entertaining in his future attempts.

Lamont's brother Anthony drew with Argenis Mendez in the other challenge bout.
Other watchers seemed to think this was a more exciting fight than I did, but it was decent enough.
The Fox crew called for a rematch, but it was nothing I have to see again.
I scored Peterson a 96-94 winner, but I wouldn't scream that a draw was ridiculous enough to bring out the Hamburglar.

In the challenge, neither Ramon Malpica or I scored any points with both picking a Peterson exacta.
Hopefully, I'll have time to return later with more from the weekend.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Pulev cuts down Dinu

Saturday night's card from ESPN had been promoted all week as the Kubrat Pulev show as the Bulgarian that holds down the number one contender position in the IBF prepared to make his American debut.
Pulev's opponent Bogdan Dinu was simply the fighter chosen to showcase Pulev, who can either wait for a mandatory title shot against Anthony Joshua or use his newly signed agreement with Top Rank to pursue Tyson Fury.
Dinu had looked almost meek in losing for the first time against Jarrell Miller in his last fight and few considered Pulev to be in danger of endangering his future prospects.
Endangered they were however as Dinu had his moments entering round four, but Pulev seemed to be in control before Dinu landed a right hand that opened one of the worst cuts that you'll see in quite a while along the left eye of Pulev and dominated that fourth round.
Now, the race was on- could the cut be slowed before Pulev could pull this fight from the fire?
The fifth and sixth rounds were entertaining as both fighters landed heavy shots against the other, but Dinu seemed to have landed his best blows and Pulev seemed to have the fight moving toward him despite the blood.
Pulev roared out in the seventh and was seemingly prepared to finish the fight early in the round as he sent Dinu to the mat with what appeared to be knockout blows, but with Dinu on the floor, Pulev struck him on the back of the head.
Dinu was given time to recover and Pulev was deducted one point, although the knockdown remained intact.
More often than not in these situations, the fighter that got hammered on the back of the head doesn't survive to receive any value from the foul and Dinu didn't either as he was dropped after the recovery period and floored again for a second time with the finishing shot seeming to land on a spot very close to the original impact of the foul.
This time, it wasn't a foul due to the circumstances and also this time, Dinu would be finished as the blood continued to flow down the side of Pulev's face as the large Bulgarian contingent cheered wildly.
I had Pulev slightly ahead after six rounds at 58-56 entering the final round.
While Dinu seems to have lost perhaps the best chance that he will ever have to leap into title contention, Pulev's value has to have risen among fans after such an exciting victory and will make a challenge of either Joshua or Fury both more valuable and more interesting.

On the undercard, former WBO junior featherweight champion Jessie Magdaleno returned from his first loss to Isaac Dogboe to dominate a less than interested Rico Ramos over ten rounds to win a unanimous decision.
Former champion Ramos missed weight, fought almost reluctantly and lost every round with the exception of the final two with Magdaleno going into cruise control to safely earn the nod.
I had Magdaleno a 98-92 winner and was never threatened.
No word on Magdaleno returning to 122 or staying at 126 where Top Rank could have fights against WBO champion Oscar Valdez or newly signed Carl Frampton waiting for him.
As for Ramos, I've seen more than enough of his multiple returns and it is more than overdue for boxing observers to move on and simply realize that his title-winning KO of Akifumi Shimoda in 2011 was simply lightning striking.

DAZN and Matchroom were live from London Saturday afternoon (for me anyway) with a typical boxing event where a fighter wins a title in an upset and is given a very winnable first title defense usually before a home crowd.
That stereotype hit every mark that you could think of as Charlie Edwards defended his WBC flyweight title for the first time with a unanimous decision over Angel Moreno.
Edwards won every round on my card and all three judges with the crude Moreno resigned to throwing an occasionally wild right hand.
It was the first defense for Edwards after his surprising title victory over Crisofer Rosales in the fall.
I wouldn't rate Edwards highly against the other champions in the division (Kosei Tanaka WBO, Artem Dalakian WBA, and Moruti Mthalane IBF) but being with Matchroom and their television connections, I bet Edwards will be the easiest one to see his fights live.

In the boxing challenge, I earned five points to Ramon Malpica's four and increased my lead to 66-60
We each earned two points from Charlie Edwards and one from Jessie Magdaleno, but Kubrat Pulev's knockout handed me two points to Ramon's one.

Lots of things to write about on this Sunday/Monday as more boxing from the PBC on FS1 with an interesting Lamont Peterson-Sergey Lipinets main event on tap, the Arizona Hotshots in the battle for sole possession of second place against the San Diego Fleet (1st place San Antonio held serve there with a Saturday victory) and maybe Ohio State in the field of 32 against the Houston Cougars.
I didn't write about the Buckeyes first-round upset over Iowa State because I didn't get to see very much of it due to work, although I did see the last few minutes.
As far as Buckeye coverage, it will really come down to how I feel after a long day of lunch with the lovely Cherie after work and then even more sports.
I mean, really how much gas can one have?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Minor League Fantasy Draft- Round Three- Deivi Garcia

The fantasy draft steamed into round three and I needed a pitcher or two to keep the system even in numbers.

The choice was Deivi Garcia, a right-handed pitcher from the New York Yankees system and I was pretty pleased to select Garcia among a small group of pitchers that I was looking at for this pick and later in the draft.

The right-hander from the Dominican Republic made fifteen starts last season at three levels, Low A Charleston, High A Tampa, and AA Trenton.
Garcia made just one start in Trenton, but pitched five innings without allowing a hit and striking out seven.

Garcia turns 20 in May and since he made only six starts at Tampa, I'd normally think that he would start the season there, but his six starts in Florida saw Garcia strike out 35 in 28 innings and finish with an ERA of 1.27, so there is the possibility that the Yankees may decide to start Garcia at AA with the Thunder.

Garcia is noted to throw in the mid 90's, but he is more than just a fireballer as his curveball is just as good at this time.
Garcia also has the motion that brings to mind the exaggerated windup's of Luis Tiant or Johnny Cueto that creates deception for the hitter and there is one point to add and it's a huge one for possible future success- Garcia throws strikes.
Sounds simple, but for a 19-year-old at three levels to strike out 105 and walk only twenty in seventy plus innings that shows the type of maturity that you don't always see from a young pitcher.

There is one concern, which is a slight frame at 5'10 and only 163 (pretty specific there) pounds.
Smallish pitchers don't always seem to have the length of career that larger pitchers have, but they often are dominant during their peak.
Deivi Garcia's size does give me a little pause, but the scouting reports are glowing and even though there is a risk, it's possible that Garcia could have the highest potential of any pitcher in this draft.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge isn't loaded with glamorous matchups this weekend, but it does have one world title, one contender staying active before a championship attempt and an evenly matched fight between two former champions moving to a higher weight.

The fight that has the most steam behind it will be the last of the weekend as two former junior welterweight champions face off at welterweight with the winner being likely to be in line to be fed to one of the three welterweight champions promoted by the PBC from Oxon Hill, Maryland on FS1.
Lamont Peterson and Sergey Lipinets are at a crossroads in this bout and activity should not be a factor.
Peterson hasn't fought in 14 months since being stopped by Errol Spence and Lipinets has fought just once in the year since losing his championship to Mikey Garcia, so neither fighter should be handicapped by rust.
Lipinets looked strong as a prospect and in winning his title after it was vacated by Terence Crawford, but is 0-1 against top ten boxers, while Peterson is more proven, but has done so more against top ten competition than elite opponents and may be slowing down at 35.
Peterson's a solid technician, but not elite.
Lipinets is a good puncher, but not a huge one- this could be a strong fight that Peterson (from Washington DC) may bring the hometown aspect into play on the cards.

Lamont's younger brother, Anthony is the co-featured star as he takes on veteran Argenis Mendez.
Peterson's 37-1 record looks quite glossy until you look at his resume and see his only contest against a top 20 fighter was a loss to Brandon Rios-Seven and a half years ago!
Mendez has lost in his increases in competition, but in his last fight, Mendez upset then-undefeated Eddie Ramirez last May.
Should Peterson win, Mendez would be the best name on Peterson's history.

On Saturday, ESPN+ and Top Rank debuts a recent signing with heavyweight Kubrat Pulev in his American debut.
Pulev, who has only one loss which came against Wladimir Klitschko via 5th round knockout in 2014 in his only title challenge, has won six fights since and has worked his way into the mandatory spot for IBF champion Anthony Joshua.
Pulev has defeated Dereck Chisora, a faded Samuel Peter and Hughie Fury in his winning streak and looks to be in line for either Joshua or new Top Rank signee Tyson Fury in the future.
Pulev's opponent Bogdan Dinu suffered his first loss to Jarrell Miller in his last fight in what was his first test as a pro.
Unless Dinu brings more against the Bulgarian than he did against Miller, he looks like he's brought in to be a showcase opponent.

Former WBO junior featherweight champion Jessie Magdaleno returns to the ring for the first time since dropping the title to Isaac Dogboe last year via eleventh round KO as the ESPN co-feature.
Magdaleno was highly thought of before the upset loss and is being matched carefully against former champion Rico Ramos, who has won six in a row against soft competition in an attempt to revive his career.

Saturday afternoon, DAZN is live from London as WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards defends his title for the first time against Angel Moreno.
Edwards pulled off a major upset of Crisofer Rosales in December to win the title over Rosales, who looked dominating in his own upset title victory of Daigo Higa and defense against Ireland's Paddy Barnes.
Moreno has just six knockouts in his nineteen wins, so this one should go the distance.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 61-56.

WBC Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Charlie Edwards vs Angel Moreno
Both: Edwards Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Kubrat Pulev vs Bogdan Dinu
R.L: Pulev Unanimous Decision
TRS: Pulev KO 6

Featherweights. 10 Rds
Jessie Magdaleno vs Rico Ramos
R.L: Magdaleno KO 5
TRS: Magdaleno KO 8

Welterweights.12 Rds
Lamont Peterson vs Sergei Lipinets
Both: Peterson Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Anthony Peterson vs Argenis Mendez
Both: Peterson Unanimous Decision

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Minor League Fantasy Draft- Round Two- O'Neil Cruz

The fantasy draft moved into the second round and there were two players available that I had a great deal of interest with just one team in front of me.

I had one slightly favored over the other on my board, but I would be fine landing either of the pair.
The team in front of me did select the player that I had rated slightly higher as Cincinnati third baseman Jonathan India was snagged.
India was the first round pick by the Reds in 2019 and I was a little surprised that he had dropped that far.
As I've written before, I generally start each round with a few names written down as players I'd be interested in landing with my next pick or even two and at the end of the first two rounds, the names that started the draft had been trimmed to one,so it took very little time to select that player.

Shortstop O'Neil Cruz was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline of 2017 along with Angel German when the Pirates sent reliever Tony Watson to Los Angeles.
At the time of the swap, Cruz was an 18-year old that was having his share of struggles with the Dodgers low A affiliate as a Great Lakes Loon.
Cruz was hitting just .240 in 89 games and had hit eight homers, but had struck out 110 times in 342 at-bats.
A high amount of strikeouts and one that makes you wonder about Cruz making enough contact to become anything more than a toolsy prospect.
Cruz didn't do any better after the trade at the same level at the Pirates then-affiliate West Virginia, hitting only .218 in 55 at-bats with 22 more strikeouts, although Cruz did connect for two more homers.
Cruz finished the season at a combined .237 with ten homers and 132 strikeouts in 397 at-bats and even though he was young for the level, only the ten homers made you give Cruz a second glance.

Entering 2018 as a 19-year-old, the Pirates made a decision to ease Cruz's transition and returned him to his original position of shortstop after playing third base in 2017 at both locations.
At 6'6, it was logical to assume that Cruz wouldn't be able to stay at shortstop and that still could be the case long term, but for now, Cruz will stay at shortstop as his 35 errors at short equaled his error number at third base the previous season.
Cruz improved his fielding percentage at shortstop and he covers a large amount of ground, so I think there is a chance he can be a shortstop at higher levels.

However, it was with the bat that brings Cruz to prospect attention.
Pittsburgh returned Cruz to the SAL last season and he responded with an excellent line of .286/14/59 with an OPS over .800 with eleven steals.
Cruz also cut his strikeouts down to an even 100 in 402 at-bats in an encouraging sign.

Some have compared Cruz's offensive potential to that of Nolan Arenado of the Rockies ( a previous minor draft pick of mine) and if Cruz can approach that level, we have a sure winner.
Still, for all of Cruz's high upside, Cruz still is a bit raw, but from what I saw last season both in person and on the stat sheet, I don't see a red flag other than strikeouts and he took strides in that column last season.

Cruz will start at High A Bradenton in 2019 and will once again be a little young for the level at age 20, but if the Pirates are patient, Cruz has the potential to be an impact player in their lineup in the next two to three years.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox- Passings

Sadly, there has been plenty of recent passings to note.
So many in fact that I had to divide them into sports and non-sports to keep this from being a post with double-digit notations.

Goodbye to Hal Blaine at the age of 90.
Blaine's drumming was a key part of the "Wrecking Crew" the studio band that is heard on about every hit that you can name in the 60s.
Blaine was in high demand through the 70s, but as technology advanced in the 80s, actual drumming wasn't needed as much and at one time was working as a security guard after a divorce and rarely working in the music business.

Goodbye to another star from the music world as Ryan sends word of the passing of Dick Dale at the age of 81.
The king of the surf guitar suffered for years from various medical issues, that Dale claimed that forced him to tour until the end of his life.
Dale almost lost a leg after a swimming injury and a pollution-related infection followed up to cause damage along with future problems with diabetes, renal failure, and spinal damage.
Dale's peak rose and fell with the surf age of the 1960s, but never had problems finding work.
Dale was also known for his work with the Fender company on improving amplifiers with guitars to improve sound and durability.
Dale might be best remembered by Ryan for the spoof film "Back to the Beach" from 1987, which Ryan always seemed to get a kick out of when he was small.
The film starred Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello (Go figure) and the recently in the news Lori Loughlin.

Goodbye to Jan-Michael Vincent at the age of 73 with Lefty Koch getting the assist.
Vincent, who acted in many films and shows, but was best known for his starring role in "Airwolf" on CBS for three seasons.
Even more, than anything that Vincent did in his profession, he was known for his wild behavior in private with arrests for drug use, drunk driving, assault, and several automobile accidents.
Of all of those notes, what do I remember best about Vincent?
His role in the Disney film- "World's Greatest Athlete" that my mom took me to when I was five at one of the three theatres in town (two defunct, the other has transitioned away from films) Henry's Theatre.
Vincent's role as "Nanu", who was discovered in the jungle along with pet tiger Harry and trained to be a decathlete by the inspiring coaching tandem of John Amos and Tim Conway.
I was a kid that attended a lot of those Disney films at the time (I remember seeing the various Kurt Russell vehicles at Henry's as well), so that might have been more memorable to me than anything else that Vincent worked on, even though I might not have seen it more than once since that day!

Goodbye to Marshall Brodien at the age of 84.
Brodien played "Wizzo the Wizard" on the WGN version of "The Bozo Show" from 1968-94, which covered both my time as a child and Ryan's.
Hagerstown was never a WGN town, but I did watch "Bozo" a lot as a kid in my Ohio time and Ryan always made a point of watching it when we would visit Ohio.
However, I don't have memories of Brodien as Wizzo, my recollections are of his magic commercials as himself as he owned a company that sold various magic kits and tricks to kids.

Goodbye to Jed Allan at the age of 84.
Best known for his soap opera work, especially as "C.C. Capwell" the head of the family that the NBC soap "Santa Barbara" revolved around. That soap was a favorite of the lovely Cherie, so when we were dating, I watched more than my share of Santa Barbara!
Allan had been a versatile character actor (three years on Lassie) and an even longer run than "Santa Barbara" on another NBC soap "Days of Our Lives", but I remembered Allan even before most of those (Lassie was before my time) for one special role- Host of "Celebrity Bowling" which ran in syndication from 1971-78.
Celebrity Bowling was this strange show that matched two teams of two players, which usually starred celebrities of various fame battling each other in ten frames of competition.
I always found stuff like this entertaining and campy, but where else could you see William Shatner in a long sleeve printed silk shirt attempting to convert a spare?

Finally, Goodbye to Birch Bayh at the age of 91.
Bayh, a three-term Senator from Indiana, is best remembered for his work as the "Father of Title IX", the act that bars gender discrimination from any institution that takes federal funding.
Title IX is still spoken of to this day as it still affects how college athletic programs allocate their funds and even what sports stay and go in an attempt to keep the legal level playing field.
Bayh ran for President in 1976 and finished 3rd in both Iowa and New Hampshire before a 7th in Massachusetts that ended his campaign.
Bayh was then defeated in a bid for a fourth term by Dan Quayle in 1980 as part of the "Reagan Wave" that crushed several long-time Democratic members of the Senate.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox

The inbox is a bit stuffed, so the time has come to relieve its swelling a bit and we start with an article on
"Mr.Falcon" Tommy Nobis, the first overall pick in the 1966 draft and the player that is most credited for forcing the eventual NFL/AFL merger after the immense for the time bidding war for his service between the expansion Atlanta Falcons and the Texas Longhorn linebacker's home state resident Houston Oilers.
The five-time Pro Bowler is a borderline Hall of Famer and another from the age of the '60s and '70s that have seen their candidacy fall between the cracks that deserves further consideration for Canton.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes of Nobis, who passed in December, and his family with their troubles for dealing with the daily problems of Nobis after football.
Nobis was found to have the highest levels of "CTE", a degenerative brain disease brought on by repeated blows to the head found most often in military veterans and athletes in his post-death autopsy. but the article talks about the man behind Mr.Falcon and just how difficult life can be with someone suffering from brain trauma.
It's a tremendous article to read and another log on the pile when you wonder where the game of football is eventually headed.

Another athlete with a degenerative brain disease announced his diagnosis, but not from football where this happens so often, but from baseball where Hall of Famer Tom Seaver will no longer be involved in public life due to his suffering from Dementia.
Seaver, who mainly pitched for the Mets and Reds over his long career. won 311 games, the 1967 Rookie of the Year award and three Cy Young's, but might be remembered by most for his starring role for the 1969 World Champion "Miracle Mets".
Those Mets are being honored this season by the team, but Seaver will be unable to attend.
Seaver spent some of his post-baseball career in broadcasting, but recent years had been involved in winemaking in California.

Emily Waldon of the Athletic writes a tremendous article that professional baseball doesn't want you to read.
The scam that major league baseball has in paying its minor league players is one in which once you know about what goes on in the minors, it might make you understand why these players have resentment and have no problems at all in turning the screws on the "poor" franchises when free agency arrives for them.
When you see what the game pays its players and treats them, you may find yourself feeling differently about player salaries.

The Athletic returns with an article on former Browns defensive back Freddie Summers (who was mentioned in our last passings piece) and his effect on the life of Roger Harris.
Summers, who played quarterback at Wake Forest and the CFL, was a major influence on Harris, who can be seen in the Ken Burns PBS mini-series on the Vietnam War. and the story tells the story of both men.
Summers, who passed in 1994, suffered a broken neck in the CFL in an attempt to return to the quarterback position after being the first black quarterback in the ACC with the Demon Deacons.

Newsweek writes of the connection between the Bosa brothers and Al Capone.
Now I wondered how they were connected, but the Bosa's great grandfather turned out to be Tony Accardo, Capone's bodyguard and eventual leader of the organization that was left behind.
What I found really interesting was in the 80s when Accardo's grandson former Ohio State linebacker Eric Kumerow (The Bosa's Uncle) was drafted in the first round by Miami, the NFL and some teams were reportedly worried that Accardo could get involved with the outcome of games.
FBI agent Williams Roehmer reassured the league about those concerns, reported that Accardo would never embarrass Kumerow and there were no such problems.

Finally, Battlin' Bob sends me this note about the discovery of a WCW wrestling game that was unreleased for the original Nintendo.
This game appears to be the prototype for the eventual 'World Championship Wrestling" game and has eight wrestlers in it including three that would not make the cut for the actual game that was released- Jimmy Garvin and sadly the Midnight Express, who to my knowledge were never part of an official game.
I've never been a huge wrestling game for the same reason that I always struggle with boxing games.
They look great and I'm just not fast enough with my thumbs to play them well, leading to frustration and defeat!

Monday, March 18, 2019

And then there were none-Hotshots take the O out of Apollos

In a game that wasn't decided until the final whistle, the Arizona Hotshots and the Orlando Apollos battled in what might have been the best all-around game in the first season of the AAF, and in the end, it was the Hotshots holding off the desperate rally of Orlando for a 22-17 win and the first loss of the season for Steve Spurrier's Apollos.
The Hotshots were led by Jhurell Pressley's two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving) with John Wolford throwing for a touchdown and running for a two-point conversion in the win.
The badly needed win moved the Hotshots to 3-3 and are tied there with San Diego, one game behind San Antonio for first place.
The Hotshots will host the San Diego Fleet next Sunday in a game that will open the logjam in the division a bit.

Hot off the Grill

1) Steven Johnson had missed some time at linebacker and his presence was huge in this game as he finished with eight tackles, a key interception, and several hits on Orlando quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
The interception was one that showed a great deal of athletic ability
From what I've seen this season, Johnson will be in some teams camp come July in the NFL.

2) The Hotshot defense did what no other team had pulled off against Orlando-Shut them down within reason.
The Orlando 17 point output was a season-low.

3) The game ended just in time for the Hotshots though as Orlando was deep in Arizona territory what would have been the game-winning touchdown.
However, the clock rolling and six seconds remaining, the Apollos scrambled for a time stopping spike, but they did not have all of their linemen set into position and were called for a false start.
Since Orlando had no timeouts remaining and there was a ten-second runoff for the penalty and with under ten seconds remaining- ended the game.

4) Nick Novak showed that his leg is still big enough to play in the NFL as he drilled first-half field goals of 55 and 53 yards.
Novak would not be a surprise if he was kicking for someone next season.

5) The key was the Hotshot defense, which didn't give Garrett Gilbert a ton of time to throw and intercepted Gilbert for the first time this season.
Arizona sacked Gilbert twice but the pass rush was consistently in the backfield harassing Gilbert and making him throw the back before he really wanted to.

6) Give Rashad Ross credit for toughing things out through an injured wrist and finishing with five catches for fifty-one yards.
You could visibly see Ross wincing with each play and yet he played through the pain-  Gotta love the heart of Ross.

7) Turnovers-Arizona didn't turn the ball over and forced two, both coming at huge points in the game.
The Hotshot defense was thought to be the leagues best entering the season and they haven't always shown that in every contest.
They did live up to their potential Saturday night.

8) Former Buckeye Jalin Marshall led all receivers with 98 yards and a score and Marshall and teammate Charles Johnson (former Brown) of Orlando are the best tandem in the league so far.
I always thought Marshall did himself a disservice coming out a year (he would be undrafted before making the Jets) early and I think he still can play in the NFL.

9) John Wolford threw for less than 200 yards and one touchdown, but Wolford played exactly the game that was needed to defeat the better offensive team- he didn't turn the ball over, made the throws when needed, and didn't become stressed in the pocket.

10) The Hotshots lost to Atlanta at home for the Legends only win and then hit the road to give the Apollos their only loss on the road.
They are 3-3, which is less than hoped for, but about what you would expect from an inconsistent.
Tied for second with four games to go, their next game and their last game are against San Diego with games at San Antonio (4-2) and home against Birmingham (4-2) in between, so their remaining schedule isn't the easiest, but they hold their fate in their hands. 

Indians sign Carlos Gonzalez

I've been critical of the Cleveland Indians outfield situation and their apparent tolerance of an outfield that lacked power and much of a track record.

The Indians attempted to address the outfield with the signing of Carlos Gonzalez, formerly of Colorado to a one year contract valued at two million dollars and some incentives and should add some needed skills to an Indian outfield in need of them.

The 33-year-old Gonzalez batted .276 with 16 homers and 64 RBI for the Rockies in 2018 and plays one of the better defensive games as a right fielder as well.
Gonzalez carries little risk at the price that the Indians are paying and considering their need at this point, Gonzalez seems like a potential bargain.

Before we get too excited, keep in mind that Gonzalez is 33, his numbers have dropped over the last two seasons and his split stats have always been heavily slanted towards being a player that has consistently hit better at Coors Field than on the road.
The lefthanded swinging Gonzalez doesn't hit lefthanders well and the Indians needed a righthanded power bat far more than a lefthanded one, but as Terry Francona noted- the Indians need hitters period.

The Indians outfield of Tyler Naquin, Leonys Martin, Greg Allen, Jake Bauers and now Gonzalez are all lefthanded batters and I've never been a believer in Bradley Zimmer, so putting a lot of hopes into his return from shoulder surgery later this season seems to be hopes that are doomed to disappoint, so look for Oscar Mercado, who looks headed to AAA Columbus to be back in Cleveland quickly in the event of injuries or team need.
Mercado was acquired from St.Louis last season at the trade deadline, has impressed at spring training and hits from the right side of the plate, which as noted is a desperate need for the Wahoos.

The Indians are desperate for outfield power.
Carlos Gonzalez comes fairly inexpensively for a player of his background so I can see the signing making sense for Cleveland.
Still, he is a player that seems to be slipping, has never been a player that thrived outside Denver and hasn't hit lefthanded pitching well, so all of those are concerns, but in the end, Cleveland had to take the risk because desperate teams are forced to.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Spence Dominates Garcia

(Frank Micelotta/Fox Sports)
Many observers talked themselves into Mikey Garcia's chances of pulling an upset over Errol Spence after watching Garcia's training and demeanor entering the fight.

What many people weren't looking at was just how disgusted Errol Spence appeared to be with Mikey Garcia and that was exactly how it played out in the ring as Spence dominated Garcia in a performance that was more cat vs dying mouse than cat vs mouse in a unanimous decision win that saw Spence win every round on every judge's card (120-108) to keep his IBF welterweight title.
I gave Garcia the second round by a hair and he wasn't remotely close to adding another as Spence landed to the head and body without exception and his left seemed to be almost magnetized to Garcia, who simply couldn't avoid it or the right for that matter.
There were no knockdowns scored and some of that can be noted to the chin of Garcia, who showed an excellent one in taking the booming blows from the larger man, but perhaps even more could be credited to Spence, who reminded me of Muhammad Ali in his famous "What's my name" bout against Ernie Terrell or Dwight Muhammad Qawi (then Braxton) in his title-winning battle over Matthew Saad Muhammad in just wanting to batter Garcia for as long as he could and wasn't interested in shortening his punishment time.
For Spence, it looks like it could be Manny Pacquiao next in a fight that might be very similar to what we saw against Garcia- a very skilled bigger man pounding a very skilled smaller man, although a title unifying fight against WBC champion Shawn Porter was discussed as well.
Either of those two opponents would be the most likely foe to face Spence next, although the fight that everyone, other than those associated with Al Haymon's PBC, wants to see is against WBO champion Terence Crawford, which is extremely unlikely to happen for a while if ever.
As for Garcia, the opponent was too much regardless of the size involved and even if Garcia, who still holds the WBC lightweight title, moves back down for the fight that most wanted to see him involved with against WBA/WBO 135 pound champion Vasyl Lomachenko, which has its own issues in getting signed, mainly Garcia's refusal to do business with former promoter Top Rank, one wonders what fighter would be returning to the division.
The beating that Garcia took over the twelve rounds against Spence was the type that fighters often aren't the same fighter after returning to their more natural weight as Chad Dawson and Kell Brook have shown in recent years.

Sometimes boxing politics produces math that doesn't add up.
Two fights that everyone wanted to see didn't happen to make one fight that few wanted to see beforehand and even fewer wished that they had seen after.
Only in boxing.

I only have seen the main event and the co-main as of this writing, but the first pay per view from Fox was almost universally panned on Twitter.
I've stated in the past that the Fox crew is the worst in the game currently (and they garnered plenty of gripes), but the undercard looked weak going into the evening and produced even less.
David Benavidez made his return from drug problems and blasted out J'Leon Love in two rounds in what passed as the semi-main event.
Love, who was entering after losing a decision to Peter Quillin and in typical PBC fashion received the bout instead of the winner and was rewarded with being dominated in impressive manner by Benavidez, who was stripped of his WBC title at 168 pounds, named "Champion in recess" and will be given an immediate title shot should he go through his mandated recovery hoops.
Benavidez may be given the next shot for new champion Anthony Dirrell, although the WBC will rule soon on Dirrell giving a rematch to Avni Yildirim after their controversial fight last month.
It's possible it could be Dirrell-Yildirim II next and then Benavidez, but knowing the WBC I lean towards Dirrell-Benavidez next with the winner mandated to face Yildirim in their next bout.

Former WBC bantamweight champion Luis Nery has always had more problems out of the ring instead of in it.
Nery, who is undefeated, has had fights be invalidated for PED use and missed weight by three pounds in losing his title on the scales, but when he is on weight- Nery shows top ten pound for pound ability.
Nery appeared her against the usually durable McJoe Arroyo, who rose in weight for this fight in what appeared to be a questionable decision beforehand against the powerful Nery,
Nery bounced Arroyo off the matt four times in four rounds before the corner of Arroyo wisely ended the mismatch after the fourth round.
If you are guaranteeing me that Nery will show up clean and on weight- Nery against Naoya Inoue ranks with the fights that I would most like to see in the game.

I wrote in the challenge preview that the best fight of the weekend was in Japan and it didn't disappoint as Kosei Tanaka defeated Ryoichi Taguchi via a unanimous decision to retain his WBO flyweight title
Tanaka was defending the title that he won from Sho Kimura last year in the TRS fight of the year and even though this fight wasn't quite to that level, it was still the fight of the weekend.
Taguchi, a former light flyweight champion, showed lots of grit, but the nine years younger Tanaka wore down the veteran and took the well-deserved nod.
I'd love to see a Tanaka-Kimura rematch, but the likely target for Tanaka may be at junior bantam where former flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka will be fighting for the vacant WBO title at that weight.
An Ioka victory and the WBO policy where champions that vacate a title and rise in weight zoom to the front of the line as the mandatory contender would create a huge fight in Japan between the pair.
Should that fight go the way of Tanaka, the biggest fight in Japanese history could be in reach at bantamweight-with Tanaka vs Naoya Inoue in a fight that could fill up the Tokyo Dome.

In the boxing challenge, I won seven points in Saturday to three for Ramon Malpica to stretch my lead to 61-56.
I scored two points each from the wins by Tanaka, Nery, and Benavidez with one point from Errol Spence.
Ramon won one each from the victories by Spence, Nery, and Benavidez.

My intent is to watch the ESPN+ card today (no challenge bouts) and watch the DVR of the Arizona Hotshots ending the undefeated run of the Orlando Apollos for a game review if time permits.
I still have plenty of passings and an inbox cleaning so watch for them early next week.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Boxing Challenge:Farmer holds off Carroll

Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia might be getting the majority of the publicity for this boxing weekend and that is more than justified, but Matchroom Boxing and DAZN put together two fights that were filled with punches, action, and drama on the night before boxing's big evening that could possibly give the winners of those bouts a chance to step forward in the near future.

In the main event from Philadelphia, hometown star Tevin Farmer rallied strongly late to win a unanimous decision over Ireland's Jono Carroll and retain his IBF junior lightweight championship.
The wide scorecards did a disservice to the surprisingly stern challenge of Carroll, who wore down Farmer with a devoted body attack and fought through two facial cuts as he fought Farmer evenly through ten rounds.
Farmer dug down to win the final two rounds and the fight on my card 115-113 (7-5) after badly hurting Carroll in the final minute of the eleventh to the point of almost finishing the fight then and there.
Carroll managed to bravely stand tall against the Farmer attack and stay on his feet, but the effects would follow in the final round, which Farmer won to clinch the fight.
Farmer continues to crow and ask for a fight against WBA champion Gervonta Davis, which DAZN claimed during this event that Matchroom was offering Davis five million for such a fight.
IF (huge if) that is a five million dollar/one fight offer without options, I suppose the time for reckoning will have arrived for Davis promoter Floyd Mayweather and the PBC.
Can an organization that claims their fighters are treated so well, turn down an offer that is more than five times a fighter's highest purse for one fight elsewhere?
Especially when you consider that Davis would be a strong favorite in such a bout?
Those decisions alone are going to be fascinating to watch.
As for Tevin Farmer, he's a solid fighter that likes to stay active and he's evolved into more of an attacker than a dancer over his last few outings that's much more fun to watch, but I just don't see Farmer on the same level as Gervonta Davis.

The middleweight co-feature was scheduled to identify the next challenger for WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade in June.
Maciej Sulecki will be that challenger after a unanimous decision that saw Sulecki dominate warhorse Gabriel Rosado for eight rounds and knock Rosado down in the first and eighth rounds.
The latter knockdown had the DAZN commentators wondering if Rosado's corner, the referee or the doctor might be best suited to end Rosado's suffering.
After all, for eight rounds Rosado had shown zero capabilities of reaching Sulecki with the type of shot that would win this fight by knockout and that's what it would take to do so.
Considering all of that, of course, the best story would be Rosado coming out of nowhere to turn the fight around and he did just that with two knockdowns that would have almost certainly ended the fight had the bell not clanged after Sulecki rose from the second knockdown.
Rosado continued to abuse Sulecki in the tenth round, but Sulecki stayed on his feet to hang on for the win, which was far closer on the scorecards than it appeared to me.
I scored Sulecki a 96-90 winner, 8-2 in rounds with Sulecki losing a 10-7 ninth round and Rosado losing two points for his earlier knockdowns.
Sulecki has now been dropped late in the two biggest fights (Rosado and Daniel Jacobs) of his career and that will be something to look for as he enters his title challenge of Andrade.
As for Rosado, his late rally is going to be just enough to encourage him and his team to continue fighting and despite that rally, I'm afraid we've seen the best of a brave warrior.

Ramon Malpica and I each received four points for the evening, allowing me to retain my lead of 54-53.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge starts with a world title fight on a Friday and then one of the biggest fights in boxing, yet one with several questions involved before the match and not all of those questions involve the actual contest.

Errol Spence vs Mikey Garcia is one of those bouts that is highly anticipated, but has the feel of someone wanting a steak, but settling for seafood, they may have gotten something top-notch, but they really wanted something else.
For Garcia, it is Vasyl Lomachenko and Spence, it is Terence Crawford (although Keith Thurman or Shawn Porter would have been acceptable) and even if this event is successful, I still think that is how it will be looked at.

Spence looks to be far too big for Garcia, jumping two divisions for the bout, but the skilled Garcia has been more active (two fights to Spence's one round) and brings a competition faced advantage as well.
For the deserved kudos and hype for Errol Spence, Spence has only faced two top ten fighters and only one at the elite level (Kell Brook), so if this comes down to experience, Garcia has a huge edge.
I'm not sure why this fight had to happen, but it's interesting enough, I suppose although Spence has little to gain in his PPV debut.
I just believe that both could have done better.

The undercard is less than thrilling, but two fights on the challenge slate.
Former WBC super middleweight champ David Benavidez returns from a failed drug test and title stripping to face J'Leon Love, who dropped a decision to Peter Quillin in his last fight and at his best can help me fall asleep.
Former WBC bantamweight champion Luis Nery, who lost his title on the scales, faces McJoe Arroyo in a fight that is a little more exciting than the above fight since Arroyo is a game fighter, but still, Nery is a clear step above.
For a pay per view, the undercard seems very FS1 level to me.

In Japan, the Japanese have a bit of a super fight with three division champion Kosei Tanaka defending his WBO flyweight title, which he won last time out from Sho Kimura in our fight of the year, against former unified light flyweight champion Ryo Taguchi, who also is one of only two men to last the distance with Naoya "The Monster" Inoue.
The exciting Tanaka against the veteran Taguchi is a very intriguing fight and might be the best of the weekend.

The boxing weekend starts tonight in Philadelphia with a world title fight as the very active Tevin Farmer attempts to retain his IBF junior lightweight title against Ireland's Jono Carroll.
The buildup for this fight has been very entertaining and if the fight is half as good, it'll be a fun watch.
The undercard adds an interesting middleweight battle between bruising Gabriel Rosado and talented Maciej Sulecki.
Once-beaten Sulecki would have received a draw on my card last year against Daniel Jacobs if not for a final round knockdown in his only loss, while Rosado is entering this one off an entertaining draw vs Luis Arias, where Rosado attempted to box a bit in the early rounds to avoid being cut.
That part of the gameplan worked well as Rosado was able to stay cut-free, but he gave away some early rounds in doing so.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 50-49.

IBF Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Tevin Farmer vs Jono Carroll
Both: Farmer Unanimous Decision

Middleweights. 10 Rds
Maciej Sulecki vs Gabriel Rosado
Both: Sulecki Unanimous Decision

IBF Welterweight Title, 12 Rds
Errol Spence vs Mikey Garcia
R.L; Spence KO 8
TRS: Spence KO 10

Super Middleweights. 10 Rds
David Benavidez vs J'Leon Love
R.L: Benavidez Unanimous Decision
TRS: Benavidez KO 5

Bantamweights. 10 Rds
Luis Nery vs McJoe Arroyo
R.L: Nery Unanimous Decision
TRS: Nery KO 8

WBO Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Kosei Tanaka vs Ryo Taguchi
R.L: Taguchi Unanimous Decision
TRS: Tanaka Unanimous Decision

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Rouge White and Blue Podcast

I was fortunate enough to be asked to appear with my old friend Joe Pritchard on the Rouge White and Blue podcast where I talked CFL, my background as well as some television talk, USFL and a little more.
If you listen, give them a review and tell them Thoughts Of RS sent you.

Browns make Giants trade official, add depth

On the day that trades and signings could be officially announced, the Cleveland Browns did so with the New York Giants and combined the two agreed upon deals into one along with another wrinkle that was added as well.

The official word saw the Browns acquiring Odell Beckham and Olivier Vernon from the Giants and sending Kevin Zeitler, Jabrill Peppers, the Browns first-round draft pick and the third rounder obtained from the Patriots for Danny Shelton.
There was one minor change from the two announced trades between the teams as the previously announced flip flop of the Browns fifth rounder for the Giants fourth-rounder was annulled and each team will keep their original selections.

The Browns now possess eight picks in the 2019 draft- their own picks in rounds two through six, two extra picks in the fifth round (Jaguars and Patriots) and the Jaguars pick in the seventh and final round.

The Browns did sign two additional players that had not been announced, neither are expected to start but should provide depth at their respective positions,
On the offensive side of the football, Cleveland signed tight end Demetrius Harris to a two-year contract for undisclosed terms.
Harris had spent his entire career for the Chiefs and grabbed 12 passes for 164 yards with three of those for touchdowns.
The 6'7 former basketball player at Wisconsin-Milwaukee will replace the recently waived Darren Fells as the backup blocking tight end and should be a valuable end zone target.

Cleveland also signed a linebacker as the Browns added Adarius Taylor, who spent last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Taylor started ten games last season for Tampa, finishing with sixty solo tackles and a sack in his first time as a starter in five years in the league with Carolina and Tampa Bay.
New Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and linebackers coach Al Holcomb coached Taylor with the Panthers, so I'm sure the two coaches had some positive input on Taylor.
I would think that Taylor is not the full-time linebacker that the team needs, but Taylor has been a valuable special teams player in the league and should be a help there along with being able to step in at linebacker, if needed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Browns reel in Odell Beckham

John Dorsey sure knows how to fire up his base and the seemingly endless field of Democratic Presidential candidates could learn a few things from the engineer of the rebuild of the Cleveland Browns.

Dorsey allowed the first day of free agency (commitments, not official signings, those cannot start until today) to quietly go slide by and Browns fans wondered about Dorsey's plans when linebacker C.J, Mosley, a player desired by most Browns fans, signed with the New York Jets, not the Browns.

Dorsey apparently planned on a more spectacular day two as it would be the Cleveland Browns that would be the talk of the football world at the end of this night.
Earlier in the day, the Browns had made their first transaction in signing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in a move that had Browns fans and football scribes giving the team plenty of credit for improving a defensive line's pass rush and sending a front four of the caliber that the Browns have not seen in years.
Dorsey then followed up with a one-year contract with Breshad Perriman, the former Baltimore first-round wideout that revived his career in Cleveland.
Perriman was expected to perhaps exceed that number in salary and the Browns seemed to have retained their base receiving corps at a fair price for the 2019 season.

The Browns looked now to be adding to the back seven with needs to be addressed in the secondary and at linebacker in free agency and the draft with many of the available upgrades taken out of the free agency pool, but John Dorsey not only wasn't finished, he was able to rock more than the football universe, but the sports universe as well.

Trades involving Odell Beckham had been rumored for months and not only with the Browns.
It was tough to see why the Giants signed Beckham to a five-year/ninety million dollar contract, paid him a sizable upfront bonus and they would shop him as available, but available he seemed to be, but the Browns had to wonder about the price that they would pay.
After all, one of the other top wideouts in the game was going to be traded in Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, and using Brown to gauge the market for Beckham, who is younger, made sense.
However, after the Steelers seemed to trade Brown for nowhere near his value (3rd and 5th round pick in April's draft), the Giants appeared to have made the decision to swap Beckham now for the best that they could reel in.
That return was better than Pittsburgh's, but far from what was expected as the Browns traded their first-round pick (17th overall), the third-round pick that the Browns obtained from New England for Danny Shelton (the last pick in the third round before compensation picks) and safety Jabrill Peppers to add Odell Beckham to their roster to solidify the Browns as a contender in 2019.
Beckham caught 77 passes for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns last season over 12 games, for a Giants team that was often criticized for Eli Manning's lack of arm strength to throw the ball downfield and a propensity to check down and dump the ball off to rookie running back Saquon Barkley, who finished the season with 91 catches to show often Manning did just that.

Considering the skills of Beckham, the Browns got away with theft should Beckham perform as expected.
The Browns haven't picked as low as 17 with their own pick in the first round in years and the third is one acquired from New England, so they still have a 3rd rounder.
As for Jabrill Peppers, his play did improve last year at safety, but he never seemed to show the playmaking skills that he was supposed to have (other than a terrific game against Denver last season) and he was very disappointing in the return game.
Some were calling Peppers a bust last night in the euphoria after the trade and even though I've never been a fan of his, calling him a bust is unfair.
Peppers may develop further as a Giant, but including him in the trade didn't exactly make me wince as safety was a position of need with him, showing that losing him wouldn't be a huge hit to the roster.

Odell Beckham's not perfect.
Beckham missed four games last season and twelve in 2017, had issues with the Giants, although he was very popular in the locker room, so he wasn't a clubhouse cancer there, but wasn't afraid to criticize the offense, play-calling, and the eroding skills of quarterback Eli Manning.
That's the downside, other than Beckham's agent already making a little noise about contract modifications similar to those of Antonio Brown, but the Browns have enough space to accommodate those fairly easily.

Now for what the Browns are bringing to Lake Erie.
Odell Beckham is easily in the upper tier of receivers in the game with all the names you would think of as such, has deep speed, excellent hands, and generally hasn't been criticized for a lack of effort.
Beckham's in his prime (turns 27 during the season) and should have his Cleveland transition eased with his good friend and college teammate Jarvis Landry and Adam Henry was his position coach with both LSU and the Giants on the roster/coaching staff.
Spare the trading of a number one, when you consider where that first-rounder resides, this isn't trading that pick for Antonio Brown (31, Beckham's contract will almost be over before he reaches that age), you are getting an elite player in his prime for a middle of the first-round draft pick.
I value draft picks even more than most, but you can't value them that high considering that this trade involves a young superstar and just one first-rounder is involved.
My opinion might have changed if the cost was as rumored earlier in the day (2019 and 2020 first-rounder and backup defensive Emmanuel Ogbah for Beckham and the Giants 2020 second-rounder), but I'm more than fine with this cost.

The Browns still need some help.
They released tight end Darren Fells (a 2018 FA signee) over the weekend and some help for the enigmatic David Njoku couldn't hurt.
The linebackers need help with at least one and maybe even two, depending on where they want to play Olivier Vernon (Likely prefer DE, but can play linebacker) and the status of Emmanuel Ogbah (could they get a 2020 pick at the draft?) and safety was a position that could have used help before trading Jabrill Peppers and now is a spot that John Dorsey must address (Pro Bowler Earl Thomas is rumored to be currently considering the Browns after trading for Beckham).

On paper, this is a team that seems to be at least the division co-favorite and all things considered maybe the favorite in the AFC North.
I'm not sure that they are better than New England or Kansas City yet, but they are going to put lots of points on the scoreboard and they are going to pound some opposing passers.
With a rookie head coach and a second-year quarterback that occasionally shows (on-field) maturity problems, there may be a grace period needed before everyone is on the same page, but finally, the Browns are contenders again.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Browns to sign Sheldon Richardson

The Cleveland Browns might have been "in" on a few players on free agency day one and players that they were rumored to be interested in decided to go elsewhere, but on the morning of day two, John Dorsey struck hard with a major upgrade to the defense that could tip his hand on what position that the Browns may need to address in the draft.

Cleveland has entered an agreement on a three-year contract with Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson that is reportedly valued at 39 million dollars with 21.5 of those dollars guaranteed.

The Browns will be Richardson's fourth team in three years after the Jets traded him in mid-season 2017 to Seattle and signing a one year deal with Minnesota last season.
Richardson was the first round selection by the New York Jets out of Missouri in 2013 and finished last season for Minnesota with 26 solo tackles, six of those for losses and four and a half sacks from his interior line position.
Richardson is one of the better pass rushing defensive tackles in the game, is far more suited to a 4-3 defense, which the Browns and Vikings both run and will force teams to pay attention to Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi inside and not give double team help against both Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon on the outside.

The addition of Sheldon Richardson gives the Browns a front four pass rush that the fans haven't seen in years without a weak spot all across the Garrett, Richardson, Ogunjobi and Vernon line and opposing quarterbacks should be extremely concerned.
However, it does raise questions about Emmanuel Ogbah. Will Ogbah return for the final year of his rookie contract or does John Dorsey attempt to get something for him now or does he keep him as a pretty strong backup defensive end?
I'm doubtful that the Browns will pick up their fifth-year option on Ogbah, so if the Browns want to receive anything for him, they will have to move him soon, although it wouldn't have to come at draft time, but it's also possible that Ogbah still sees plenty of time or even retains his job as a starter, if the Browns aren't able to upgrade at the linebacker position, Cleveland could play Olivier Vernon there if that is the best way to improve the linebackers.
I like Vernon better off the edge as an end, but he's proven solid at linebacker as well.
Ogbah sprained his ankle in the opener against Pittsburgh last season and even though he missed two games, he never seemed to catch up and finished the season with only three sacks after Ogbah and Myles Garrett had made the case before the 2018 draft that Ogbah was worth passing over eventual defensive rookie of the year Bradley Chubb.
The Browns would pass over Chubb and did very well with their selection of cornerback Denzel Ward, but Ogbah's proclamations far from worked out.

The Browns also retained wide receiver Breshad Perriman, when the wide receiver signed a one year contract for four million dollars.
The 25-year-old Perriman, a former 2016 first rounder by the Ravens was released in camp by Baltimore and later in the year by Washington without playing in a game for them, caught 16 passes in ten games, but late in the season was able to establish himself as a deep threat for Baker Mayfield in averaging twenty-one yards per grab.
Cleveland wanted to re-sign Perriman before the beginning of free agency, but Perriman decided to test the market before quickly returning to the Browns.
This is a deal that works for both the player and the team as Perriman can try free agency again with a strong season with the Browns not paying a lot and if Perriman's finish proves to be a mirage, Cleveland can walk away after the conclusion of the year.

Editor's Note: Right after I wrote this, the Browns acquired Odell Beckham and Perriman asked to be relieved of his commitment.
The Browns agreed to do so and Perriman signed a one year deal for the same money with Tampa Bay.
Classy move by the Browns and it will help spread the word as a place where the players are treated fairly and will want to spend their career there.