Friday, November 29, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge doesn't have the huge fights that last week had and the next two weeks will, but there are still five interesting fights that will see two former champions at featherweight attempt to qualify for title shots in their new division, a bantamweight title with the winner possibly in line for Naoya Inoue, a minor title at welterweight being fought over with two untested fighters in their first true increase in opposition and two big-hitting prospects fighting for a vacant world belt.

Most of the action will appear on ESPN+ on Saturday night with three of the matches from Las Vegas.
Former WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez and former WBA/IBF junior featherweight and WBA featherweight champion Carl Frampton return to the ring after absences for tuneup fights in their new division at 130 pounds.
Valdez faces veteran Andres Gutierrez, who lost to his best two opponents in Abner Mares and Cristian Mijares, but lasted with both of them while Frampton will fight undefeated Tyler McCreary, who is entering the fight after his best win, an eight-round split decision over Jessie Cris Rosales in July.
With victories, Valdez will tackle the division's top fighter in WBC champion Miguel Berchelt next time while Frampton would challenge WBO boss Jamel Herring.
The winners of those bouts could possibly unify against each other later in 2020 if mandatory challengers do not get into the way.

Late note; Andres Gutierrez missed weight for his fight against Oscar Valdez by a stunning ELEVEN pounds!
Gutierrez shouldn't be licensed to fight for at least one year after this stunt.
Valdez will still fight against once-beaten Adam Lopez, who was scheduled to fight on the undercard.

The other fight could be a fun and explosive fight for the vacant WBO junior middleweight title that was recently given up by Jaime Munguia as undefeated Carlos Adames of the Dominican Republic meets once-beaten Patrick Teixeira of Brazil.
Adames has beaten his best two opponents in his most recent fights with a decision over the late Patrick Day and a fourth-round knockout of veteran Frank Galarza. while Teixeira has won his last four including a decision win over Nathaniel Gallimore since his only loss, a second-round loss to veteran bomber Curtis Stevens.

ESPN+ will be streaming a card from London Saturday afternoon that will include one fight in the challenge that isn't the main event on the card as WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete will defend against John Reil Casimero of the Phillippines.
Tete decisioned Mikail Aloyan to defend his title in the first round of the World Boxing Super Series, but suffered an injury before his semi-final/unification fight against then-WBA champion Nonito Donaire and was replaced in the tournament.
It was a tough break for Tete, who style-wise might have been a very difficult fight for Donaire.
Tete has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Naoya Inoue by Inoue's new promoter Top Rank, so this is more than just a title defense for the South African champion.
Casimero was once the IBF flyweight champion and looked very impressive in winning the WBO interim title to be defended while Tete was injured, against Ricardo Espinoza with a final round knockout in an extremely close fight.

DAZN's main event from Monte Carlo will feature two undefeated Russian fighters that aren't promoted by Matchroom Boxing for a minor WBA title that was placed up for purse bid when the two promoters couldn't agree on a contract.
It's a stepping stone towards a big fight down the road with Alexander Besputin against Radzhab Butaev to basically have a minor belt and with luck maybe consideration for main WBA champion Manny Pacquiao eventually.
Both are mostly untested, although Besputin owns a unanimous decision win over fringe contender Juan Carlos Abreu as the best win of the pair.

I lead the boxing challenge over Ramon Malpica 278-246.

Junior Lightweights. 10 Rds
Oscar Valdez vs Adam Lopez
R.L: Valdez KO 4
TRS: Valdez KO 7

Junior Lightweights, 10 Rds
Carl Frampton vs Tyler McCreary
Both: Frampton Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBO Junior Middleweight Title 12 Rds
Carlos Adames vs Patrick Teixeira
R.L: Adames Unanimous Decision
TRS: Adames KO 4

WBO Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Zolani Tete vs John Riel Casimero
R.L: Tete Unanimous Decision
TRS; Casimero KO 11

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Alexander Besputin vs Radzhab Butaev
R.L: Butaev Unanimous Decision
TRS: Besputin Unanimous Decision

I tell ya' Herbie

I tell ya' Herbie returns on the final week before the championship weekend and instead of notes from last weekend, since I have to do this early with so many Friday games, I am going to concentrate on teams that could be looking for new coaches by the end of the weekend.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                           The Rutgers job has already been open for half the season, but the word on the dropped ball (like the Scarlet Knights don't do that enough on the field already.) on the missed hiring of Greg Schiano isn't looking for the well, scarlet-haired stepchild of the Big Ten,
The refusal of Rutgers to give Schiano what he "demanded", which seems to be what almost all of the Big Ten teams have for facilities and recruiting, has cost them the one guy that was able to win there (although it was the Big East) and wanted the job.
If this is the best that Rutgers is going to do, the Big Ten has been royally grifted and Rutgers will roll in the cash as a conference member and give nothing in return,

I tell ya, Herbie:
                          Another Northeastern school that might be cutting their coach loose could be Boston College and Steve Addazio.
Addazio's Eagles are 5-6 and finishing their season at Pittsburgh on Saturday, the Eagles need a win to be bowl eligible.
Addazio has been only 42-42 in his time at Boston College and even though the Eagles expectations aren't high, they expect a little more than .500.
In the ridiculous category, Addazio is now being mentioned as a contender at Rutgers, which means a coach that could have a record of under .500 in the ACC at a mid-level football school is now being considered for the worst job in a better conference.
That alone should tell you all you need to know about what's going on at Rutgers.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                           While things can change once the chairs start moving, the Rutgers job could be the only Big Ten opening, unless Michigan State and Mark Dantonio part ways, and should Boston College open up, they will join Florida State as ACC possibilities.
The Big 12 would remain intact unless a team somewhere writes a giant check to either or both of Baylor's Matt Ruhle or Iowa State's Matt Campbell and the SEC should retain their coaching lineup other than the opening at Arkansas as Vanderbilt has apparently decided to retain Derek Mason.
If you want a vacancy that might open up as a mild surprise- watch for Missouri and Barry Odom.
The Tigers are fighting with the NCAA and are 5-6, should Arkansas stun Missouri for what would be their first SEC win of the season, the door could open for Odom to leave Columbia.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          The Pac 12 has the position that is most heralded with USC, but the West Coast gang could be in the middle of those moving tectonic plates with Washington State's Mike Leach rumored to be looking around and Arizona's Kevin Sumlin's job security dwindling away by the day.
Leach could be a candidate at several spots and Sumlin's two-year stint in Tucson could end if Arizona State can put a beating on the Wildcats in the finale' for both teams.
Arizona has lost six in a row since a 4-1 start, none of the losses by fewer than ten points, and will be an underdog to the Sun Devils in Tempe.
Neither Washington State or Arizona should be perennial powers in the league, but Washington State would struggle to replace Leach and Arizona might have to bargain shop should they move out Sumlin as he will come with a large buyout.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          Wrapping up the "Hot Seat" edition with here are a few names to watch in 2020 in the power five that might need to see improvement or be in a tenuous situation around this time next year.
Some of these teams had an offseason and can't afford to make it two, others look to be on a slide downward, others improved this season, but will need to continue that improvement and still others are being paid well financially for acceptable results at some schools but unacceptable records at their current location.
Contracts are not a factor in this list and I listed the above hot seat coaches as well in case they receive a reprieve.
In an upcoming "Herbie", I'll look at the group of five with coaches that could be moving up and jobs that could be open for various reasons.

Steve Addazio Boston College, Dave Doeren N.C. State, Dino Babers Syracuse, Manny Diaz Miami

Big 10
Mark Dantonio Michigan State,

Big 12
Tom Herman Texas

Pac 12
Clay Helton USC, David Shaw Stanford, Kevin Sumlin Arizona,

Derek Mason Vanderbilt, Will Muschamp South Carolina, Barry Odom Missouri, Jeremy Pruitt Tennessee


Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Thanksgiving Bonus

Thanksgiving brings many names and memories to mind.
It's part of a holiday that at its best is built around family and friends and other than the odd early-season college basketball tournament from an exotic location, the sports landscape is pretty spartan other than football.

For all of the great players that have played in the NFL's two (and now three) Thanksgiving games through the years, there is one name that I always think about on Thanksgiving Day above the rest- and that player was hardly a star.

On Thanksgiving Day 1974, your author was a first grader of six years of age and in those six years, had rooted for two different teams in football.
It's funny looking back as in almost all other sports, my teams have mostly stayed intact, but the NFL has changed my loyalties a few times.
As a pre-schooler, I rooted for Dallas as they were on television often, but soon after I began to root for the Redskins as my dad has always been a fan of the Washington teams that he grew up with-the Senators and Redskins.
Even then, I wanted something to share with my dad and I was a Redskins fan (in the NFC) through my home years.
Redskin football and especially Maryland basketball were the two things that my dad and I shared and connected over in my youth.
I've never been an outdoors person, preferring to read my books, play my sports board games and watch television.
My dad isn't like that (other than television) so I had to have subconsciously been looking for something to talk to him about.

When you grew up in the "country" in 1974, there was one event that would bring people that you rarely saw such as friends of my grandfather, neighboring folks, and other family members- "Butchering".
This would mean preparing a cow or pig and by preparing, I'm pretty sure you are following my meaning of what is going on!
Thanksgiving Day back then meant no Black Friday, no people working and no stories open, so it was an event that brought rural communities together because there wasn't any worry about coordinating schedules.
Everyone needed to prepare for the upcoming winter and butchering always needs to be practiced in a narrow window- too hot and you take the risk of meat spoiling during the all-day event, too cold and it can difficult to stay outside in order complete the task at hand, so Thanksgiving weather with a nip in the air, yet not crazy cold, generally falls perfect in its place on the calendar.
From start to finish, this can run from in the morning before the sun rises to place kettles, tables and other work stations to well into the evening when you are wrapping, labeling (I bet my parents had packages labeled "Tenderloin 78" for years in their freezer!) and organizing the massive freezer for the meat to be placed after all the work was completed.
I was hoping that everything would be finished before the Redskins game in Dallas with my dad, a Redskins fan and my uncle, an avowed Cowboys fan ( he's also a Yankees fan. Have you ever noticed how many people that are both Yankees and Cowboys fans) hoping to watch the game as well.

This sets the scene for the late game and in the seventies, there was no divisional rivalry that had the cachet' of Tom Landry's Cowboys and George Allen's Redskins.
There were divisional rivalries, but only the Cowboys and Redskins had the added advantage of both teams being involved in the playoff race every year in the time that would accept only one wild card.
Pittsburgh-Oakland had a big rivalry, but they weren't in the same division,  and the Vikings and Rams had the type of rivalry that was alive during the time because they usually matched up in the postseason.
Minnesota and Los Angeles were placed into weak divisions and they almost always won their divisions in a romp.
For reference, Minnesota won the NFC Central every year but one in the 70s (Green Bay 1972), and after San Francisco won the first three NFC West titles in the decade, it was the Rams winning every championship thereafter.
From 1973-1977, when the NFL moved to the sixteen games and two wild card format, other than the Cardinals, who replaced Dallas in 1974 and Washington in 1975, the NFC playoff teams were the same four- Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles, and Minnesota.
Only the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry could claim that both teams would play each other at home and that often those games decided the division championship and playoff berth.

The 1974 season saw a change for the Dallas Cowboys, who were starting the transition from the Bob Lilly era to the Randy White (White would be drafted in 1975) era on defense and were moving to the passing game on offense as Tom Landry resurrected the shotgun formation to make up for an injured and soon to be WFL bound Calvin Hill and an aging Walt Garrison at running back.
The Cowboys started the season 1-4 but entered Thanksgiving at 6-5 as only a 28-21 loss in Washington blemished their record and after a week six trade of veteran quarterback Craig Morton (a Forgotten Superstars alum) to the Giants for a 1975 first-rounder (That would be used on Randy White), the Cowboys were rising, even if their rally would prove to be too late to save a playoff streak that dated back to 1965.

Washington entered the game 8-3 and one game behind the surprising St.Louis Cardinals in the NFC East.
That one game lead was really a two-game margin as two of the Redskins three losses were to St.Louis, so in the event of a tie, the Cardinals held the tie-breaker.
Washington was trying to get by with a running back by committee approach as only two years after Larry Brown had won the NFC MVP,  the high workload of Brown had worn him out and he would average a tiny 2.6 yards per carry in 1974.

The first half saw four field goals as all of the scoring would be credited to the kickers- three of those by Washington's Mark Moseley and the other by Dallas kicker Efren Herrera for a 9-3 halftime lead.
After the half, Washington moved to a 16-3 lead after a name from Cowboy past (and another Forgotten Superstar from the past) Duane Thomas grabbed a Billy Kilmer screen pass and scored from nine yards out.
Dallas would then lose Roger Staubach to a concussion as Diron Talbert drove Staubach out of the game as Talbert had predicted that he would do in the week before the game and the only backup passer available was rookie Clint Longley after the trade of Craig Morton to the Giants.

Longley had entered the supplemental draft before the 1974 season, was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals before being traded to Dallas for a fifth-rounder in the 1975 draft, so his entry into the game was the first of Longley's career.
Longley quickly led a five-play drive that was finished by a 35-yard pass to tight end Billy Joe Dupree for the first Dallas touchdown of the day and trimmed the score to 16-10.
The Cowboys held Washington and on the next Cowboys possession, Dallas moved seventy yards and took a 17-14 lead into the final quarter on a one-yard Walt Garrison dive.

In the fourth quarter, it was the Redskins that rallied to take the lead on another Duane Thomas touchdown, this one a nineteen yard scamper into the corner of the end zone and on the next Dallas drive, a fumble gave Washington possession in Dallas territory with a chance to move their lead to two possessions, but Ed "Too Tall" Jones deflected Mark Moseley's field goal try to maintain the Washington lead at 23-17.

Longley again began to move Dallas down the field for the winning score, but after Longley completed a pass to Drew Pearson to the Washington 25, Pearson would fumble and the Redskins could clinch the game with a first down.
The "Doomsday" defense wouldn't allow that as after three plays. three Dallas timeouts and a Washington punt left the Cowboys without a timeout and 1;45 to remaining.
After a fourth-down conversion, Dallas held the ball at midfield with 35 seconds to go, Longley threw a bomb down the middle of the field, splitting the Redskins secondary and Drew Pearson grabbed it for the game-winner for the Cowboys, 24-23.

That game was the high point for Clint Longley, who would only throw a handful of passes for Dallas in 1975 and another cameo for the Chargers in 1976 after Longley was traded to San Diego.
Longley was traded to the Chargers after losing a fight to Roger Staubach in training camp and following that up by giving Staubach a black eye as Staubach had his arms raised as he put his shoulder pads on.
Longley ran to his car after popping Staubach and was suspended before the trade to the Chargers.

How did things finish?
Dallas would split their final two games to finish 8-6 and out of the playoffs.
Washington would win their two remaining games to finish 10-4, which would finish them in a tie for first with the Cardinals, who lost two of their final three to complete the season with the same record, but those two Cardinals victories would cost Washington the division via the tiebreaker.
Had the Redskins survived and won the "Longley game". they would have won the division and hosted the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs.
Instead, the wild card Redskins would go on the road and lose in Los Angeles to the Rams 19-10.

How does all of this relate to Thanksgiving and me?
Well, we moved a small portable black and white set to the basement corner with its rabbit ears pointed toward Washington to follow the game as all the work from the day continued around it.
I likely wasn't doing a lot of work, other than occasionally perhaps writing something on the package, and the most valuable thing I was doing was likely keeping my dad and uncle informed on the game.
I remember that basement as being so large at the time to a six-year-old and yet the same basement today seems so snug that I have a hard time believing that seven adults and a six-year-old could function and work there.

With all of that going on, I still remember my uncle cheering for Clint Longley, whom he had likely never heard of two hours before, and my dad groaning as he continued to pack meat in that small and cold basement.
It's funny how we remember things and connect them with friends and family forever through time, even if not every recollection may not be 100 percent perfect
Yet, every Thanksgiving that rolls around and when I think of football, that day with my family is what comes to mind when they show the highlight of that Clint Longley bomb...

Happy Thanksgiving

Since today is Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to take a few minutes to thank those of you that take the time to read whatever interests you of what I write here.

Anytime that a writer chooses to write about different things on a site rather than concentrate on one topic, there are going to be items that people are interested in and items that don't grab readers as much.

Lord knows that I have been told that enough over the last twelve years and even as recently as last week as a person involved in advertising asked me if I was interested in "monetizing".
While I am certainly not against making money, I have never wanted to lose control of what I write about unless it's life-changing money.
It wasn't and right off the bat, the suggestions began to stick to boxing or baseball or write less about me immediately, so it was a non-starter.

I'm thankful for the twelve years here and for those of you that have read regularly at whatever time that you joined this small project, your time spent here means the world to me.
I have a wonderful wife, two terrific children, and my friends that range from people that I speak with every day/ hear from every day on social media to those I don't hear from as often- I am very grateful for all of you.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because no matter what you believe spiritually we all can be thankful for the good things in our lives.
Thanks for reading and stopping by- I appreciate everyone for doing so.


It's that time of year for the PPM as we enter the biggest of all rivalry weeks and even without rivalries, trips to bowl games and conference title games are on the line over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Last Week: 9-5
Overall: 115-50

Ohio State over Michigan 31-21
Texas over Texas Tech 37-33
Buffalo over Bowling Green 33-10
Boise State over Colorado State 36-21
Washington over Washington State 30-25
Western Kentucky over Middle Tennessee State 28-24
Georgia Southern over Georgia State 28-27
LSU over Texas A&M 45-30
Navy over Houston 26-18
North Carolina over N.C. State 31-21

Games of the Week
Wisconsin over Minnesota 24-14
Alabama over Auburn 28-21

Rotten Game of the Week
Rice over UTEP 16-13

Saints over Falcons 34-24
Browns over Steelers 20-17

Game of the Week
Seahawks over Vikings 27-17

Monday, November 25, 2019

Browns complete homestand sweep-dump Dolphins 41-24

The Cleveland Browns completed the triple crown of offense on Sunday with a 300-yard passer (Baker Mayfield, a 100-yard rusher (Nick Chubb) and a 100-yard receiver (Jarvis Landry) and more importantly, 41 points as the Browns won their third game in a row with a 41-24 win over the visiting Miami Dolphins.

Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes, two of them to Jarvis Landry with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt each ran for a touchdown as well with the Browns scored their high point total of the season in the victory.
Joe Schobert led the defense with two interceptions and four passes defended.

The Browns improved to 5-6 with the win and with the Raiders loss to the Jets are now just one game behind four teams at 6-5 (Raiders, Steelers, Titans, and Colts) for the final wild-card spot.

Brownie Bits

1) Ok, it's the Dolphins, which is similar to the 2015/16 Browns, but it still showed the growth of the offense after some struggles.
It still seems like they leave points on the table too often and I think Freddie Kitchens still doesn't want to realize that this team plays better when the offense flows through the running of Nick Chubb and now Kareem Hunt, but they did what they needed to step forward- win three winnable games at home.

2) I didn't think it was a groundbreaking thought when I thought Jarvis Landry would have a huge game against his former team and it was accurate as Landry caught ten passes for 148 yards with two touchdowns.
Landry never accepted the way that the Dolphins moved away from him after his production in Miami and would be ready to play against a porous Dolphin secondary.

3) Joe Schobert continues his excellent play of late with two interceptions and four passes defended along with his usual amount of tackles.
Schobert has often been lumped in by me with various Browns linebackers through the years as tackle accumulators, but not players that make plays and are difference makers.
Schobert is quickly changing those thoughts.

4) Austin Seibert missed another field goal at the Dawg Pound end of the stadium in his only attempt.
Siebert hit on all five of his extra points and hit his other two field goals at the other end of the stadium, but I have to say that I'm not without concern if Seibert has a big kick at the Dawg Pound end.

5) With the absence of Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi, the Browns defensive line was going to be looked at carefully in this game to see just how badly those losses weakened the unit.
Garrett won't be walking through that door, but Ogunjobi's loss was only for the Miami game and someone was going to have to step up.
The player that did that was Sheldon Richardson, who sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick twice and stuffed the run as well.
Richardson gave the Browns the type of game that they'll need with Ogunobi's return next week but especially needed it against Miami without him.

6) Baker Mayfield made better decisions in his 327 yards passing with three touchdowns game and Mayfield's only interception bounced off Odell Beckham, so there were plenty of positives.
However, he's still missing receivers and one throw caused tight end Demetrius Harris to take a huge hit, so there is work to be done.

7) Baker Mayfield was also sacked only once in the game and the offensive line was very effective in the running game, so there is hope that the offensive line is coming together. Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard aren't hearing their names discussed, so things aren't so bad.

8) The Browns punted once in this game.
Once. How many times has that happened since the Browns return?

9) Now after a dominant victory over the Dolphins, the rematch looms with Pittsburgh.
I wouldn't go as far as saying it's a playoff game, but since the field for the playoffs has receded back to the Steelers and Browns a bit, it certainly is a game with serious implications for both teams.
Cleveland needs a win a bit more as they are one game behind, but Pittsburgh needs it as well.
Should the Browns win Sunday's game, they would have the same record as Pittsburgh and would have the tiebreaker over them as well if needed, so it's huge for both teams,

10) I hope the game doesn't get out of control and it could when you consider all that happened during their first meeting.
Mason Rudolph was benched as the Steelers barely squeaked by winless Cincinnati yesterday and the Steelers might consider starting Duck Hodges, a rookie that threw for the only Steelers touchdown of the day.
While Hodges would be an untested rookie, Rudolph hasn't played well of late and with the events of the last game in Cleveland, Mike Tomlin might be boxed in at quarterback.
Even with all that, the Steelers are to be respected and they will have a riled-up crowd for support on Sunday.
It should be a very interesting game in the Steel City.

Boxing Challenge: Wilder crunches Ortiz, Callum Smith creaks by Ryder

For almost seven complete rounds, Luis Ortiz was trying to complete his rematch with Deontay Wilder such as a jockey that is attempting to hold the lead at a very slow pace to lessen the chances of a stronger closer coming off the pace for a victory.

However, when you have the fastest gun in the game on your side it only takes one shot to end a fight.
And it only takes one mistake even as Ortiz was landing well be on his way to winning another round when Wilder fired one right hand.
That right hand landed flush and when the smoke cleared, it was only Wilder standing and keeping the WBC heavyweight title via seventh-round knockout in Las Vegas.
I had Ortiz ahead 59-55 after six rounds and would have likely given him the seventh, had the round ended.
The fight wasn't filled with activity and could have been called dull as both fighters respected the power of the other and rarely engaged.
I'm not really sure what this fight answered that we didn't already know- Deontay Wilder can erase a lot of effective boxing with one shot and Deontay Wilder can look pretty ordinary against good fighters while he waits for one shot.
Wilder moves onto the rematch with Tyson Fury in what appears to be February in another intriguing
Tyson Fury is the one fighter that took Wilder's best shot and got up, and Deontay Wilder is the one fighter that proved that he can hurt Tyson Fury when he lands, so the rematch is certainly very interesting.
Now, if we can just talk PBC and Top Rank into a cross-promotional fight or two on the undercard.

The undercard looked promising and then crumbled before the fight.
My favorite fight between two of the top five bantamweights in the world was canceled when Luis Nery missed weight by a pound and Emmanuel Rodriguez refused to accept compensation to fight an overweight Nery, so the fight was sadly canceled.
I think I'm with Rodriguez here.
Rodriguez is coming off his first career loss, is fighting a very talented former champion that has a PED history and has a history of missing weight.
When you consider all of those facts, should you risk another second loss against a fighter that is stronger for not hitting the weight mark for a couple thousand dollars?
I completely understand Rodriguez not proceeding and since this fight was a WBC title eliminator, the fair thing is to declare Rodriguez the top contender and refuse to rank Nery at 118 pounds.
Considering it's the WBC, the likely decision is likely to make this the fault of Rodriguez and give Nery the mandatory position.
Sarcasm mildly intended.

And if you thought Luis Nery was unprofessional, please allow me to introduce Julio Ceja!
Ceja, a former WBC junior featherweight champion, entered his fight with minor Titleist Brandon Figueroa after a terrific try against Guillermo Rigondeaux that saw him on the wrong side of an early stoppage while leading on the scorecards.
Ceja's effort against Rigondeaux was the best ever against the Cuban ( other than his ill-advised attempt against Vasyl Lomachenko), so Ceja had some goodwill in the bank that went awry when
Ceja missed weight by a stunning FOUR and a quarter pounds!
To put that in perspective, Ceja would have been overweight for a featherweight title fight and this was scheduled for the 122-pound junior featherweight division.
Figueroa decided to accept the fight when he was both compensated financially and assured by the sanctioning body that he would not lose his minor title, should he lose.
And here is why the argument made by Emmanuel Rodriguez for not accepting the extra money against an overweight opponent made sense because Figueroa's normally a very good puncher and he just couldn't hurt the larger Ceja in an excellent fight.
Figueroa-Ceja ended in a draw and it was fun to watch, but Ceja had such an artificial edge with the weight advantage that you wondered just how much that played into the fight.
Ceja has been knocked out three times in his career, yet Figueroa, a very good puncher, couldn't move him at all.
I scored Ceja a 115-113 winner in a fight that was very close and felt bad for Figueroa in the situation.

The co-feature was another gift for Leo Santa Cruz, who seems to thrive on winning vacant titles against questionable competition and then sitting on them until he rises in weight.
Santa Cruz won his fourth world title (from three different organizations.) with a unanimous decision over Miguel Flores to add the WBA junior lightweight title to his trophy case and won few fans in doing so.
Santa Cruz fights usually follow the same pattern, landing lots of punches, with not a lot of power, and his overmatched opponents are defeated on the scorecards, but generally unhurt.
This fight followed that template as I gave Flores the first round and no others, so the scorecard isn't the issue for me.
My issue with Santa Cruz is this- he's talented and has won four "titles". but is only 1-1 against top-notch fighters, splitting a series with Carl Frampton and his two wins over Abner Mares after Mares had slipped past his best are his only other notable wins.
I'm not sure what the issues are with Santa Cruz, is it that he doesn't want to fight top opponents and is satisfied with belts and money?
Or is it that his promoters choose not to roll the dice and gamble Santa Cruz against someone that could beat him?
I wonder about the PBC sometimes in these situations with fighters that haven't fought good competition and how it happens with examples such as Santa Cruz, Gary Russell, and Gervonta Davis.
My guesses are as follows:
Gervonta Davis is a fighter that is "on the wrong side of the street" (I'm really beginning to hate that phrase) promotionally in his division and has a chance to win against the best in the game.
Davis has that kind of ability but needs a breakout win that PBC seems unwilling or unable to provide.
Russell has tons of talent but seems content to fight once a year, keep a title, cash a nice check, and not challenge himself.
Santa Cruz isn't as talented as the above two and has been protected from fighters such as Russell (both are featherweight champions with PBC and could easily fight) and either his management or promotion realizes this and is protecting him for as long as possible.

We move to DAZN with cards from Matchroom and Golden Boy and a very interesting result that has been overshadowed by the Wilder-Ortiz fight.

Matchroom's main event from Liverpool, England looked to be a stay busy fight as Callum Smith, who is looked at by most as the top super middleweight in the world, defended his WBA title against countryman John Ryder, who entered the fight on a four-fight upset streak with all four wins over undefeated or one-loss fighters.
However, the biggest name on Ryder's record was Rocky Fielding in a loss, so Smith was a prohibitive favorite to defend his title.
Watching the clips of the weigh-in, Smith looked to be a full division larger than Ryder, and with six inches in height and reach over Ryder, this seemed to be a mismatch.
AND that's why we fight the fights and why everyone makes mistakes.

In honesty, I watched this fight twice.
The first time that I watched it, I scored it 115-113 for Callum Smith with Smith holding off the late charge of Ryder, who won the final three rounds on my card.
After that, I went to bed having stayed up to watch Ohio State-Penn State, then Smith-Ryder and needing sleep before work.
When I got up, something was nagging at me about it, but I had to watch the other DAZN card, Wilder-Ortiz, etc and I put it aside.
Still, I talked to Fred Landucci and he asked me about my thoughts which made my earlier questions return.
In short, I rewatched it and my score changed to 115-113 for Ryder, who attacked throughout, took advantage of a seemingly overconfident and underprepared Smith and my rewatched card could be slightly kind to Smith.
Ryder was the stronger fighter, worked Smith over to the ropes and ripped away on the inside to the body of the bigger man.
I also thought that Ryder did much better than expected in the center of the ring where you would think Smith would not only want to be but where he would control the action.

I had the edge of rewatching to get things right which judges in live-action do not, but what seems to happen in fights where the huge favorite wins an unpopular decision is this- In those early rounds when fights are just starting to settle in, judges fall into a trap and score those early rounds for the fighter that's expected to win- because they think that's what should be happening rather than what is.
By the time that you realize that the fight isn't happening the way it "should", it's too late and there is how you get a bad call.
I would imagine a rematch is in order, but I have a feeling that John Ryder may have already fought the fight of his life once, and should a rematch be forced, Callum Smith is going to be ready.
Callum Smith is the better fighter, but John Ryder deserved the duke on this night.
A belated Hamburglar for this one.

The evening card for DAZN was a Golden Boy card with two of those wonderful minor belts from the WBA and saw an upset in the main event as Rene Alvarado tore apart Andrew Cancio like Gale Sayers through an overmatched defense.
Cancio had knocked out Alvarado in their first fight in 2015 and after two wins over highly regarded Alberto Machado, was thought to be a rising fighter with a great story.
Alvarado used his longer reach and surprising aggressiveness from the start to cur Cancio around both eyes and bloodied his nose to the point of Alvarado's white trunks appearing to be a light pink from Cancio's blood.
Cancio fought as bravely as he could, but he couldn't figure out how to avoid Alvarado's incessant offense in order to get inside to do his best work.
I had Alvarado ahead 69-64 (6-1) when the fight was mercifully ended in Cancio's corner at the end of the seventh round.
Cancio was becoming quite a story, but it is very possible that Cancio is a solid fighter that simply had the number of Alberto Machado.
We'll see if Rene Alvarado, also a solid fighter, can perform well against fighters other than Andrew Cancio.

In the other fight, China's Xu Can continues to impress in his move up the featherweight ladder with his unanimous decision win over Manny Robles.
Can reminds me a bit of Josh Warrington in that he throws a lot of punches and attempts to overwhelm his opponents with volume.
Funny that I should mention Warrington, who was the champion called out in the post-fight interview by Can and that would be a very exciting fight to see.
Neither fighter has world-class sting on their punches but in a fight between those two the ringside people counting the punches had better be ready to work overtime!
I scored Can the winner 118-110 over Robles, who took his first loss but had won his previous two fights by close split decisions and the bloom seems to be fading off a once-promising prospect.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica seven to five (the Wilder KO making the difference) to move my overall lead to 278-246.

I'm going to try to be back later with the Browns romp over Miami and looking forward to a rematch in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Buckeyes win East, punt Penn State 28-17

The Ohio State Buckeyes hadn't been challenged for four quarters all season and the Penn State Nittany Lions did test the Buckeyes as they had not been previously tested and although the Buckeyes helped keep Penn State in the game with three fumbles at inopportune times, Ohio State righted the ship after a stormy third quarter to defeat Penn State 28-17 in Columbus.

J.K Dobbins ripped through the Nittany Lions run defense for 157 yards and two touchdowns while Justin Fields threw for two touchdowns, including the 28-yard strike to a leaping Chris Olave that put the victory away for a Buckeye team that held Penn State to only 227 yards of total offense.
Chase Young finished with three more sacks to set the Ohio State record for sacks in a single season after his two-game absence from his NCAA suspension.

The victory clinched the Big Ten East division title as the Buckeyes improved to 11-0 (8-0 Big Ten) and stamped their ticket to Indianapolis in two weeks for the Big Ten championship against the winner of next Saturday's Wisconsin-Minnesota game in Minneapolis.
Ohio State will travel to Ann Arbor next Saturday for The Game against the resurgent Wolverines with a perfect regular season on the line.

Olentangy Offerings

1) While I'm happy for the success that former Buckeye Joe Burrow is having for the LSU Tigers and I think that Burrow is likely going to win the Heisman Trophy.
None of that changes the fact- Chase Young is the best football player in this country.
Young finished with three sacks, nine tackles with four of those for losses, against a top ten team and is the type of disruptive presence that can swing games against even the best teams.
I hope the suspension doesn't cost Young votes, Young wouldn't have played more than a half against either Rutgers or Maryland and it shouldn't cost him consideration.

2) Give Penn State plenty of credit for making this game close.
Penn State hit hard and when Ohio State scored quickly to start the second half at 21-0, Penn State could have folded their tent but instead drove for a touchdown in their only long drive of the day.
I wasn't seriously concerned even when Penn State closed to within four points in the third quarter, but James Franklin's bunch made a game out of what easily could have been a blowout.

3) Take all of that into consideration, but this game was close because of what the Buckeyes didn't do rather than what Penn State did to control the Ohio State offense.
What they didn't do was hold onto the football and turning the football over kept Penn State in the game.
Justin Fields first-quarter fumble just before he crossed the goal line cost seven points right there and while J.K. Dobbins' fumble in the third could have been credited to the second half rain and the third-quarter fumble by Justin Fields might not have been (Fields knee looked to be down, but I understood why the call wasn't overturned, it was close and calls that close usually stay with the original whistle)
a fumble, Ohio State gave Penn State two possessions on a short field and ten points.
That's on them and as the games gain in importance, the ball security will need to improve.

4) It was clear that Penn State's one offensive skill player that could have made a difference wasn't near full speed.
K.J. Hamler was a game-time decision to play at all and the Buckeyes were able to keep the hampered Hamler under control with only four catches for forty-five yards.
Hamler's targets were shorter than usual and his injury might have caused him to be more cautious in the return game as he might have gambled on a kickoff return in better health rather than down the ball in the end zone.

5) Another play that swung things for Penn State was the third quarter hit that drove Penn State's starting quarterback Sean Clifford from the game.
George Allen once said that one of the worst things that can happen to a team defensively is knocking a quarterback out of the game because your preparation isn't for the backup quarterback.
In this game, Allen's idiom came true as redshirt freshman Will Levis entered the game and completed the first scoring drive of the day for Penn State, would take advantage of turnovers for two more scoring drives and Levis finished the game as Penn State's more effective quarterback.

6) What Will Levis did well was blast up the middle for chunks of yardage in what could best be described as a Tim Tebowesque offense.
Levis may have finished with only thirty-four yards rushing, but that number is because in college football sack yardage is taken off the rushing total of the quarterback.
Ohio State did make some adjustments to stop Levis and the final few drives controlled the Levis running plays, but one thing is for sure the Michigan Wolverines will notice that success and Ohio State will need to be prepared for Michigan to try some similar calls next Saturday.

7) Justin Fields did fumble on two runs, but without losses (as noted above with Levis) would have finished with 103 yards rushing (actual final number 68).
I still hold my breath with each run with the lack of depth at quarterback, but it's the time of year that you do what you need to win.

8) Considering that, I'm not sure why Justin Fields was taking a hit on a fourth down late in the game that saw Fields checked out after the play.
I understood with an eleven-point lead why Ryan Day didn't want to risk a blocked punt, but considering the depth issue at quarterback, Ohio State might have run the ball instead of passing as Fields was sacked on the play) and risking injury.

9) The Buckeye linebackers played well in not allowing the Penn State short passing game to gain yards after the catch.
Pete Warner finished with eight solo tackles and knocked down two passes and Baron Browning finished with four solo tackles, two and a half of those for loss and a sack and a half.
Penn State's longest completion of the day was the twenty-two yarder to K.J. Hamler and even though tight end Pat Freiermuth caught six passes as the dependable checkdown outlet, Friermuth finished with only forty yards.

10) Another linebacker was the feel-good story when linebacker Justin Hilliard intercepted a Will Levis throw at the Buckeye 20 to snuff out what looked to be the Penn State answer to the Chris Olave touchdown catch.
Hilliard has been plagued with injuries during his career in Columbus, so much so that he has applied for the sixth year of eligibility as a medical redshirt and it was good to see the former five star recruit make a big play.

11) Loved Chris Olave leaping over a Nittany Lion for the fourth-quarter touchdown that gave Ohio State some insurance.
Olave had dropped what looked to be a catchable long ball that would have been a touchdown on a drive that would not produce points near the end of the first half.
Olave has been the main deep threat this season and making a key catch such as that one should keep the confidence high.

12) Now the season gets interesting.
The home schedule, senior day and the division title are completed and the game against Michigan is here.
Before the season, the media selected Michigan as the winners of the Big Ten East with the Buckeyes second with many stating that with a freshman quarterback and first-year head coach that Ohio  State was ripe for the picking.
That turned out to be false for the division title, but Michigan has played well in their last three games and appears to have their offense running as well as it has under Jim Harbaugh.
Michigan can ruin this season, put themselves back on the map in the rivalry, and jeopardize Ohio State's national title hopes with one visit to Ann Arbor.
That said, there is pressure on Michigan too as a loss means a third loss this year, potential frustration with Jim Harbaugh and would be their eighth loss in a row to Ohio State.
If you take away the Luke Fickell year ( a 2011 40-34 win over a 6-6 OSU team), Ohio State hasn't lost to Michigan since 2003, so Michigan has the weight of past failures as well.

The Junior Varsity "rivals" have been dispatched per usual (Penn State has one non-Fickell win over OSU since 2009 and Michigan State has two non-Fickell wins, but what wins they were! since 2000) and with Michigan, the Big 10 title against Wisconsin or Minnesota and then with some luck, the playoffs.
In many ways, the season starts Saturday in Ann Arbor and as Jim Ross used to scream in Mid-South Wrestling- Business is about to pick up.

I'll be back later with Browns-Dolphins or the Wilder-Ortiz battle with the other going up tomorrow.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge continues with seven fights on three platforms and a heavyweight championship on the line in a rematch of a fight that might not have been great from start to finish but had two of the most memorable rounds of 2018.

From Las Vegas, PBC brings the biggest fight of the week as Deontay Wilder defends his WBC heavyweight title in a rematch against Luis Ortiz, of a fight that saw Ortiz badly hurt Wilder and was within seconds of lifting Wilder's crown before Wilder survived and stopped Ortiz in the tenth round.
Their first fight might have been the final stand for Ortiz, who is listed at forty but could be closer to fifty, and he has looked less than sharp in his wins against lesser competition, so you have to favor Wilder with the first fight win and the best one-punch power in the game.
However, Ortiz isn't overmatched against the often-wild and wide open Wilder and should Wilder decide that he wants an early KO, Ortiz is more than capable of testing the still-questioned chin of Wilder.
Everything in this points to Wilder, but if Ortiz has anything left at all, he is more than capable of jeopardizing Wilder's rematch with Tyson Fury.

The undercard is a strong one from PBC with two world title fights and a match between two of the top five bantamweights in the world.
The co-feature matches Leo Santa Cruz fighting for the vacant WBA junior lightweight title in yet another "title" essentially handed to the Haymon-backed Santa Cruz, this time against Miguel Flores.
Santa Cruz, who has beaten one top fighter that was in their prime (Carl Frampton, who split two fights against Santa Cruz) and after you add Santa Cruz's two wins over Abner Mares, who was still a good fighter, but past his best days when he was matched against Santa Cruz you have reached the end of his world-class opponents.
The fact that this is for the WBA title is a joke as Flores is 2-2 since February 2017 with stoppage losses to Dat Nguyen and Chris Avalos (neither of whom are even in the top 25) with the wins over one fighter with an 11-7 record and the other with a record of 21-14.
I'll never understand how and why Leo Santa Cruz has gotten so many breaks in boxing and a free pass essentially from many of the boxing press, but he's clearly comfortable being protected by the blanket provided by Mr. Al Haymon.

The other two fights on the pay per view carry the undercard, which they better considering another lousy Leo Santa Cruz fight, and have interesting fights that have a favorite, yet in both the underdog has a chance of winning.
Brandon Figueroa defends his minor junior featherweight title against former WBC champion Julio Ceja.
Figueroa punches well and would match pretty well against any of the three champions (Daniel Roman holds the WBA and IBF titles) in the division
Ceja has lost two in a row but is coming off a somewhat controversial loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux in the eighth round when leading on my scorecard, Ceja was dropped, rose and referee Russell Mora stopped the fight with one second remaining in the round.
Should Ceja enter this one with the same type of performance, he'll be the first serious test of Figueroa's career.

The opener could be the fight that steals the show as two former bantamweight champions faceoff in a WBC eliminator to become the mandatory challenger for their champion Nordine Oubaali.
Luis Nery is rated by some to be in the top ten pound for pound in the boxing and never lost his WBC title in the ring after twice defeating long-time champion Shinsuke Yamanaka to win that title.
The undefeated Nery was stripped for failing a PED test (same drug as Canelo Alvarez) and has been battling back from that ever since.
Nery's opponent is former IBF champion, Emmanuel Rodriguez, who lost his first fight in May when he was knocked out in two rounds by Naoya Inoue in the semi-finals of the WBSS after fighting well for the first round.
I lean towards Nery, but Rodriguez could give Nery all that he wants.
When you consider that Naoya Inoue has now signed with Top Rank and with Nery part of the PBC,
Inoue-Nery might be the next great fight that boxing fans miss out on with the boxing cold war in the dead of winter.

DAZN streams the other three fights during Saturday from different times and locations.
Saturday afternoon's fight will be live from Liverpool England as WBA super-middleweight champion Callum Smith defends his title against mandatory contender John Ryder in an all-British title fight.
Smith, who is regarded as the best in the 168-pound division, has been rumored as a possible opponent for Canelo Alvarez and is a prohibitive favorite against Ryder, who lost his biggest fight to Rocky Fielding, who failed so miserably last year against Alvarez.

Later in the evening, Golden Boy takes over with two of the lower WBA titles from Indio, California.
Andrew Cancio, who should be the "real" WBA champion that traces back to the ridiculous decision to take the real title away from Alberto Machado (who Cancio dethroned) to give to Gervonta Davis, who despite being the superior fighter, shouldn't have been handed the title. faces Rene Alvarado in a rematch of their 2015 fight.
Cancio stopped Alvarado in eight rounds then and Cancio has improved since then, so he is the clear favorite.

The other minor title fight takes place in the featherweight division as Xu Can defends against Manny Robles.
Can pulled a surprise with his unanimous decision over Jesus Rojas in January and then defeated Shun Kubo by a sixth-round stoppage in his home country of China in May.
The undefeated Robles takes a step up in competition in this one but impressed me when I watched his split decision win over Rigoberto Hermosillo in May.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 271-241

WBC Heavyweight Title.12 Rds
Deontay Wilder vs Luis Ortiz
R.L: Ortiz KO 7
TRS: Wilder KO 8

Vacant WBA Junior Lightweight Title.12 Rds
Leo Santa Cruz vs Miguel Flores
Both: Santa Cruz Unanimous Decision

Junior Featherweights,12 Rds
Brandon Figueroa vs Julio Ceja
R.L: Figueroa Unanimous Decision
TRS: Figueroa KO 10

Featherweights 12 Rds
Luis Nery vs Emmanuel Rodriguez
R.L: Nery KO 9
TRS: Nery KO 7

WBA Super Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Callum Smith vs John Ryder
R.L: Smith KO 8
TRS: Smith KO 5

Junior Lightweights 12 Rds
Andrew Cancio vs Rene Alvarado
R.L: Cancio Unanimous Decision
TRS: Cancio KO 8

Featherweights 12 Rds
Xu Can vs Manny Robles
Both: Can Unanimous Decision


The PPM returns for another weekend of action on the gridiron and of course my picks!

Last Week: 13-2
Overall: 106-45

Ohio State over Penn State 38-24
Ohio over Bowling Green 43-13
N.C. State over Georgia Tech 20-14
Middle Tennessee State over Old Dominion 20-17
LSU over Arkansas 45-7
Texas Tech over Kansas State 35-34
Houston over Tulsa 28-25
Washington over Colorado 30-21
Boise State over Utah State 27-21

Game of the Week
SMU over Navy 38-26

Rotten Game of the Week
Vanderbilt over East Tennessee State 31-16

Browns over Dolphins 24-14
Saints over Panthers 35-21

Game of the Week
Packers over 49ers 30-24

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Case for Meldrick Taylor

Last year as the ballots for the boxing hall of fame was announced, I wrote about two fighters that deserved induction and had not received their just due.

I was happy to see former welterweight champion Donald Curry's entrance into the HOF at Canastota last year after writing about his candidacy, but sadly a change in ballot eligibility has led to loaded class this year and likely the following year or two, which is likely to cost the other of our two "cases" from last year- former WBA flyweight champion Santos Laciar any chance of induction soon.

Since I have a soft spot for the deserving, yet underdog in just about every sport and I wanted to continue to make a case for a fighter that has an argument to be enshrined in the boxing hall, yet has fallen between the cracks a bit.
The new rules for the hall, where fighters become eligible after three years of retirement, rather than the previous five years, have created a loaded class in which there are several possible inductees under a new rule- each class for boxers inducts three fighters and if another fighter would reach eighty-five percent of the vote, the class can exceed the normal three.
The class has two automatics in Bernard Hopkins and Juan Manuel Marquez and likely a third without the PED cloud in Shane Mosley, while others that could eventually receive support in Carl Froch, Tim Bradley, Israel Vazquez, and Sergio Martinez.
That's a class that has plenty of depth, especially compared to last year's class that inducted Donald Curry (deserving) and two borderline candidates in Julian Jackson and Buddy McGirt, all three of which would have still been struggling to gather votes against the next few classes of eligible voters.

My choice may not be as deserving as the recently added class, but I thought he was shortchanged going against last year's class where he stacked up very well.
In fact, Meldrick Taylor defeated Buddy McGirt convincingly and while McGirt is Taylor's only Hall of Fame victory, Taylor defeated several names in the junior welterweight and welterweight divisions that were contenders and even though he just missed grabbing the largest trophy of all in arguably the most controversial referee decision in boxing history, Meldrick Taylor put together a career that is worthy of discussion.

After winning the gold medal in the featherweight division at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, Taylor turned pro with Main Events and hired family patriarch Lou Duva as his trainer along with Olympic teammates Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Tyrell Biggs, and Mark Breland as Main Events instantly became a huge promotional player in the industry in one swoop.

Taylor wasn't matched softly as he decisioned former number one lightweight contender Robin Blake in his tenth pro fight and two fights later decisioned former title challenger Harold Brazier.
Taylor's next fight was a heralded one as Taylor faced veteran Howard Davis in what would be the only fight between members of the 1976 and 1984 Olympic teams.
In a close fight, most seemed to think Taylor had won, but the judges scored a draw in what proved to be the last strong performance from Davis before his decline out of the sport.
Still, the disappointing result was a small setback and Taylor's next three fights were against club fighters and journeymen such as Roque Montoya and Primo Ramos before attempting another leap forward.
Taylor would not have an easy touch in former title challenger Cubanito Perez, who had lost only twice to champions Hector Camacho and Jimmy Paul with the title challenge to Paul a year earlier coming by a narrow majority decision.
Perez would not fare as well against the flashy fists of Taylor as Taylor would lose a combined two rounds from the judges in establishing himself as a title contender.

Taylor's next three fights over the next year saw an impressive fifth-round knockout of undefeated Ivan Gonzalez sandwiched between wins over journeymen Martin Quiroz and Richard Fowler and would set the stage for Taylor's first attempt at a world title in September of 1988.
The title challenge of recently honored Hall of Famer Buddy McGirt in Atlantic City was thought to be very close with McGirt being a very slight favorite.
McGirt was entering the fight after two terrific efforts, a 12th round knockout of Frankie Warren to win the vacant title that avenged his only loss and added a first-round knockout of Howard Davis in his first title defense.
The knockout of Davis, who had drawn with Taylor, was the difference in McGirt being the listed favorite by the oddsmakers in one of the first IBF 12 round title fights as the organization had joined the other two sanctioning bodies in reducing the distance as McGirt's wins over Warren and Davis were scheduled for the former distance of 15 rounds.

The stoppage in the final round over McGirt was the best win of Taylor's career as he was faster and stronger than McGirt as he built a large lead on the scorecards entering the final round.
Taylor pounded McGirt around the ring, not satisfied with a decision victory and trainer Al Certo entering the ring with roughly a minute to go to save his man from further shots.
Taylor's punching power was good, but not great and had he worked on his technique a bit more, he could have stopped McGirt earlier in a dominant win.
The knockout loss was the first stoppage loss ever for McGirt, who would win a welterweight title later in his career and only near the end of his career, would McGirt suffer another knockout loss to Andrew Council.

Taylor would make his first defense in January 1989 against John Meekins, who had an interesting 1988 with wins over undefeated prospect Mike Mungin and former champion Saoul Mamby along with a third-round KO over Mohammad Kawoya with a highlight still seen to this day as the referee jumped in to stop the fight and as he was moving in, Kawoya launched a crushing right hand that knocked Meekins cold and gave the unusual highlight of the loser jumping for joy as the winner laid prone on the canvas out of sorts.
Taylor would stop Meekins when Meekins could not answer the bell for the eighth round after Taylor had dominated the fight.

Next up was his mandatory title defense against undefeated Courtney Hooper from Detroit's Kronk boxing team.
Hooper took Taylor the distance and was more competitive than Meekins, but Taylor still won a wide unanimous decision despite Hooper landing several punches south of the beltline.
After two non-title wins (fighters used to fight non-title fights to stay sharp for their defenses, imagine that-actually fighting!), the most anticipated fight in boxing was signed for March 1990 as Taylor and his IBF title would face WBC champion Julio Cesar Chavez in a title unification match between undefeated champions with the winner making a case as the best fighter in the game as well.

The Taylor-Chavez fight was voted not only the fight of the year but the fight of the decade with the fight carrying violence and action that to this day, for all the great wins and fights that Julio Cesar Chavez fought in his career, it is this fight and the name Meldrick Taylor that he is linked with first.
The fight was a masterpiece as Taylor dazzled the slower Chavez with his unmatched hand speed to zoom to a large scorecard advantage.
Even still. Chavez never stopped walking forward and was dishing out more than his share of punishment as he worked the body to the point that Taylor suffered kidney damage after the fight, and gave Taylor severe swelling around both eyes caused by facial fractures.
Entering the final round, if Taylor didn't get knocked out, he wins the fight, but the question was could he do so?
Taylor's corner didn't help matters as they sent him out with orders that said he needed to win the last round when actually he did not.
Taylor's punches had little behind them, even though he was still landing while every punch that Chavez landed shook Taylor.
Finally, with seconds remaining, Chavez landed his hail mary with a right hand that collapsed Taylor near a corner.
As HBO's Larry Merchant spoke "If Taylor gets up, he wins the fight", Taylor rose at six, but referee Richard Steele stopped the fight with two seconds remaining.
With only two seconds to go, Chavez couldn't have hurt Taylor further and the ending still ranks as arguably the most controversial ending in boxing history.
In my opinion, Taylor deserved those two seconds and deserved the victory for both what he dished out and what he took.

Often in boxing fighters leave a piece of themselves in the ring in a fight.
It's irretrievable and it doesn't return and both Chavez and Taylor left a chunk of their abilities in the Las Vegas Hilton that night.
Chavez won twenty one more fights before he would suffer that first loss and he would win against some really good fighters, but the boxer/puncher machine was never quite the same after facing Meldrick Taylor and even though years went by before losing, the greatness that Chavez once had was gone and even if replaced differently, that great fighter was not going to return.
It was worse for Taylor, who didn't have the power in his gloves that Chavez held and the beating slowed him down just enough to not be elite, to be unable to stand in the pocket and keep an attackers fighter off with his brilliant speed anymore.
Taylor's decline wasn't apparent right away as Taylor defeated Primo Ramos for the second time in a comeback bout and signed to face Aaron "Superman" Davis for the WBA welterweight title that Davis had recently stripped from Taylor's stablemate Mark Breland via spectacular knockout.

Taylor looked good in taking the title from Davis via unanimous decision but didn't look sharp in his first defense against little known Luis Garcia as Taylor escaped with his title with a split decision victory.
Taylor won a non-title fight before retaining the championship via unanimous decision against Glenwood "The Real Beast" Brown in Taylor's only championship fight in his hometown of Philadelphia, but the cracks in the armor were beginning to show as Taylor was knocked down twice in the bout by Brown.
Taylor had called for a rematch with Chavez at welterweight immediately after their first fight, but Chavez was more interested in staying at junior welterweight for a proposed battle with Pernell Whitaker.
Taylor's mistake that essentially ended his career as a world-class fighter rose from his frustrations with not getting the Chavez rematch and rose in weight to challenge Terry Norris for his WBC junior middleweight belt.

Taylor wasn't a natural welterweight and moving up to 154 against the physically bigger Norris was a huge mistake.
Besides the size advantage, Norris was a huge puncher at the weight, while Taylor was an average hitter at best at welterweight and that took away the one weakness of Norris- a notoriously soft chin.
Norris dropped Taylor twice in the fourth round and referee Mills Lane saved the always courageous Taylor from himself before the end of the fourth.

Taylor took only a few months off to heal after losing to Norris and returned to welterweight for a title defense in England to face Crisanto Espana.
The undefeated Espana was leading on all three cards when he finished off Taylor for good in the eighth round to take away Taylor's championship and the verdict seemed to be in- Taylor was through.

However, there was still one more fight that Taylor and fans wanted to see- the rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez and now Chavez was interested, should Taylor make the fight worth making.
Carefully matched, Taylor won three fights over less than great opponents, including undefeated Chad Broussard and when Taylor knocked out Broussard in two rounds, the rematch was signed for another drop in weight to fight for Chavez's WBC junior welterweight belt.
Taylor fought far better than expected and the fight would have been far closer had Taylor not been penalized two points for low blows, but Chavez knocked Taylor down in the eighth and finished him shortly after the knockdown.

Meldrick Taylor never fought in a major fight again after the Chavez loss and although he fought an additional ten times against low-level opponents, Taylor won only six of those including a decision loss to Quirino Garcia, who entered their fight with a record of 21-19.

Is Meldrick Taylor a Hall of Famer?
I don't think he has the same claim as Donald Curry or Santos Laciar, but you could make a point that without Richard Steele and those two seconds, Taylor is the first to defeat Julio Cesar Chavez with his case for the hall would have been immediately strengthened.
Taylor won titles in two divisions, beat Buddy McGirt decisively, and his resume' is comparable to that of McGirt, who may have gotten a few votes based on his training success to put him over the top in a soft year of eligible boxers.
I suppose my argument comes down to this- Do you believe that Buddy McGirt's resume is superior to Meldrick Taylor's?
I don't believe that it is and Taylor has the head to head victory as well.
That doesn't mean that I would be anti-Buddy McGirt being inducted, but if McGirt's career is the bar for induction Meldrick Taylor measures up.

The next few classes with the change in voting will see a stacked ballot for some time, but I think Meldrick Taylor is deserving under the right circumstances and should receive more consideration in the future.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

I tell ya' Herbie

Our weekly notebook on college football starts with a complaint and an excellent group of five game this week in the AAC.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco suggests there is a double standard against his league on two levels.
The first is his league is underrated against the power five and the other is that his league is held to a higher standard than the other group of five schools.
Aresco might have a mild case in the former, but still, the AAC's small disrespect isn't enough to make a difference in the big picture as even if they were as respected as possible, it wouldn't make enough of a difference to reach the final four.
Aresco's complaint in the group of five rankings is that his teams sometimes are underrated vs the other four conferences weaker schools as he doesn't feel that his third-place SMU Mustangs with one loss deserve to be behind one-loss teams such as the Mountain West's Boise State and especially the Sun Belt's Appalachian State.
Aresco points to his conference's tougher schedule as why his teams are better and he may have a point, but it's always going to be tough in the G-5 for one conference to have the top three teams.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          Aresco's other complaint could come with his league with the deepest amount of quality schools out of the group of five, looking out at another conference earning the group of five bid to the New Years Bowls.
How so?
His two division leaders (Cincinnati and Memphis) playing each other this Saturday and could play each other again in the AAC title game.
Cincinnati holds a two-game lead in their division, but Memphis is tied with SMU and Navy in their division (SMU and Navy play each other Saturday) and should Cincinnati win along with the SMU-Navy winner winning their final game, it would be a bit different, but should Memphis win this game and then Cincinnati win the rematch, the AAC champion would have two losses and likely not receive the bid as the rules stipulate the G-5 bid go to a conference champion.
On this, I can understand Aresco's problem.
Cincinnati vs Memphis could be the game of the day on a day that will see Ohio State host Penn State and several rivalry games.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          I'm torn on Tom Herman's Texas Longhorns.
On one hand, Herman's Horns are just 6-4 after a season with big expectations.
On the other, Texas has three of those losses to ranked teams (LSU, Oklahoma, and Iowa State) by 7,7, and 2 points and a ten-point loss at occasionally explosive TCU.
Junior QB Sam Ehrlinger has thrown for almost three thousand yards, 27 TD"s and only eight interceptions, but his offensive line has already allowed 26 sacks with two games to go.
After a Sugar Bowl year, Texas has to be considered a disappointment, but in 2020 Texas has to be all-in as the team will be completely Herman recruited and if Ehrlinger returns, Texas will not have any excuse for anything less than a double-digit amount of victories.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          I don't understand how anyone other than the most fervent Alabama homer can boost the Crimson Tide for the playoff after their loss to LSU and the following week's injury to Tua Tagovailoa in their game against Mississippi State.
Bama's best wins would be over Texas A&M (currently 7-3, but the Aggies final games are road games against 4th ranked Georgia and top-ranked LSU, so likely to finish 7-5) and assuming they defeat currently 15th rated Auburn, an 8-4 Tigers team.
Add the weak schedule to the season-ending injury to Heisman contender Tagovailoa and unless several things occur such as Baylor defeating Oklahoma in their Big 12 title game, either Oregon or Utah losing a game before the end of the season and then the other wins their Pac 12 title matchup, Clemson losing a game before the end of the season and perhaps even a non-Ohio State Big Ten champion, Alabama would deserve to be on the outside of the final four.
I give teams breaks on non-conference schedules if they try to play at least one tough team when the contract was signed as often times teams that are strong when you schedule them but aren't but the time in between scheduling and the actual games, but Bama doesn't even have that luxury as no one can defend Duke being the best team on a non-conference schedule.
Had Bama scheduled someone such as Florida State, which would have been a power when scheduled, but aren't currently, I would give them far more leeway than I am willing to do now.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          Remember last week when I wrote that Minnesota was sitting on a loss against Iowa coming off a program-defining win over Penn State?
Well, now it's the Hawkeyes with the target on them as suddenly surging Illinois arrives on a four-game winning streak that not only has made the Illini bowl-eligible but may have saved Lovie Smith's job.
This has possible upset all over it and the only thing that keeps me from picking Illinois as the winner with certainty is that the Hawkeyes will be at home at Kinnick Stadium.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          I've been asked two questions about this column, so I'll answer briefly.
One is why I don't mention Ohio State often here.
I figure I write about the Buckeyes enough in other posts, so I try to keep OSU out of "Herbie" unless something is really interesting and yet doesn't fit in game recaps.
The other is why does the top five for the power five, group of five and the Heisman only appear on occasion?
Answer; I'm an idiot and forget them sometimes!
Still, these will change from week to week, such as Tua Tagovailoa rated fourth in the Heisman rating now, but will fall as the season moves on and Alabama rated fourth currently, but will likely be passed as other teams win bigger games and conference championships.

Top Five's

Power Five
1) LSU
2) Ohio State
3) Clemson
4) Alabama
5) Oklahoma

Group of Five
1) Cincinnati
2) Memphis
3) Boise State
4) SMU
5) Appalachian State

1) Joe Burrow QB LSU
2) Chase Young DE Ohio State
3) Jalen Hurts QB Oklahoma
4) Tua Tagovailoa QB Alabama
5) Jonathan Taylor RB Wisconsin

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox

The cleaning of the inbox continues with a few notes from the sports world and outside of it as well.

Voyager 2 has sent its first interstellar space message to Earth after crossing the heliosphere as the second man-made object to do after its twin craft Voyager 1 did so in 2013.
Voyager 2 is sending far more detailed reports than Voyager 1 since some of the instruments used to measure particle charges on Voyager 1 had broken way back in 1980.
The Voyagers are expected to operate until the mid-2020s when they run out of power and will thereafter float through space.

WUSA sends word of the departure of "Bei Bei", a four-year-old panda from the National Zoo and will be returning to China.
Part of the National Zoo's agreement with the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Agency that allows panda bears to stay at the zoo stipulates that any baby pandas born at the zoo (in captivity) will be returned to China at the age of four, which "Bei Bei" has now reached.

The Athletic takes a trip to a small town in Nebraska to check out a college football prospect that is waiting for a potential offer from the Cornhuskers.
Ty Hahn hails from the small town of Johnson with a population of 300 and with a high school so small, Johnson plays eight-man football rather than the conventional eleven.
Hahn currently holds a scholarship offer from neighboring Wyoming but has not been offered by the home state Huskers, although Nebraska has not ruled out offering Hahn before the signing deadline.
The article is just as much about small-town Nebraska life than it is about Hahn, so it's not just a football story.

And from Golf Channel, here is one story that has to make you feel good.
Brandon Matthews is playing in the third hole of extra play for the Argentina Open championship.
Now, that's fine, but the real prize is an automatic entry for the champion into next year's British Open.
Matthews' opponent in the playoff has just drilled a thirty-foot putt for a birdie which forced Matthews to make an eight-footer for a birdie and continue to a fourth playoff hole.
Matthews draws his putter back and as he does, someone screamed in the background, which caused Matthews to clutch a bit and miss the putt.
Matthews loses the tournament and automatic trip to the British Open, but the story doesn't end there as Matthews hits the locker room and is told what happens.
I won't spoil it for you, but if Brandon Matthews ever makes the major tours, he'll be an easy player to root for...

Wrapping up with a passing that is the only thing remaining for now in the inbox, as Bernard Slade passed away at the age of 89.
Slade was a screenwriter and playwright that created television shows The Flying Nun, The Partridge Family, and Bridget Loves Bernie, which to this day is the only program to be rated in the top five in the Nielsen ratings and not be renewed for the following season.
Slade also wrote Same Time Next Year, which won both Tony Awards (for Broadway) and Academy Award (for the film adaptation) for Slade's writing.
The film, which starred Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn (who also starred on the Broadway version) is still occasionally shown on television.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Devils waive Cory Schneider

The New Jersey Devils waived Cory Schneider yesterday in the official changing of the guard as the teams' number one goaltender.

Mackenzie Blackwood has performed so well and Schneider so poorly in the first month and a half of the season that not only is this decision the correct one, the argument can be made that it was a bit over overdue.

Schneider's five starts this season ended without a victory (0-4-1 with a 4.59 GAA and .852 as his save percentage in those starts) and although Blackwood's numbers are a little higher than in his rookie season, Blackwood has rounded into form over his last four starts and the Devils were finally comfortable enough to make this move.
The thirty-three-year-old Schneider is unlikely to be claimed by any team at his salary (six million dollars each for this year and the next two), so he'll be assigned to the Devils AHL affiliate in Binghamton, where the Devils will hope to see his play improve.
In the perfect scenario, Schneider would play well for the B-Devils and some team would be interested in acquiring him and although under those circumstances, New Jersey would still be picking up the lion's share of Schneider's remaining contract, whatever could be saved under the salary cap could be better allocated.

Cory Schneider was often a polarizing figure to many Devils fans.
Schneider was acquired from Vancouver as the future successor to Martin Brodeur for the Devils first-round pick in the 2013 draft, which Vancouver used on their current captain Bo Horvat.
Schneider wasn't interested in being groomed behind the aging Brodeur as he was leaving a situation with the Canucks that had seen him sit behind another veteran in Roberto Luongo.
Because of the cost paid for Schneider and the respective ages of both goalies, Schneider was going to be the player that was staying in the organization and after a tension-filled first season, Brodeur was forced out with Schneider signing the seven-year contract that the Devils are paying for to this day.

In many ways, it was that first year with Brodeur that set the stage for Cory Schneider to never truly be accepted by Devils fans and Schneider played very well in the first two seasons of his extension.
In those first two seasons, Schneider's play ranked with the best in the game and even those frustrated with how Martin Brodeur was treated had to concede that Schneider's play was top-notch.
In 2016-17, Schneider's numbers worsened a bit, but he appeared to be bouncing back early in the Devils playoff season of 2017-18 before a groin injury sidelined for much of the remainder of the season.
A hip surgery before the start of last season appears to be the dividing line for Schneider as his performance after that surgery has never approached his previous level,

I don't see where the Devils had a choice in this situation.
Cory Schneider has never been a player that was able to handle not being the top goaltender whether to an all-time great in Martin Brodeur or to a younger player such as Mackenzie Blackwood and as time moved on, I could foresee a difficult situation for the two netminders and the organization.
If Blackwood is the eventual number one goalie and with Schneider playing so poorly in his starts, the team simply didn't need the tension.

It appears that Cory Schneider might be remembered by Devils fans with mixed memories, but he did perform well for the first two seasons and it may turn out that the hip injury that Schneider has never seemed to have recovered from cost the Devils value on their seven-year contract and Schneider arguably what could have been the best days of his career.

I'm planning on covering tonight's game with Boston as long as I am available to watch.