Friday, January 31, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Andrade breezes, Diaz and Akhmadaliev win titles.

A rare Thursday boxing challenge from Miami on Super Bowl weekend saw three world championship fights with two of those matches resulting in new champions.

In the main event, WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade stopped Luke Keeler in the ninth round of yet another uncompetitive Andrade title defense.
Andrade knocked Keeler down in the first and second rounds, but then gradually broke Keeler down under a steady assault before a badly hurt Keeler was saved by the referee with seconds remaining in the ninth.
Andrade won every round and rarely was even touched by Keeler in the lopsided tilt.
Andrade, who is the ultimate high-risk/low reward fighter in the game today, is in desperate need of someone that can test him and thus far in his title reign hasn't been pushed at all, spoke of moving to super-middleweight to fight WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders in a fight that was scheduled for 2018 for the title that Andrade currently possesses, but was then owned by Saunders.
That fight was canceled when Saunders tested positive for a banned substance and the two have sparred on social media since.
Saunders would be the toughest test for Andrade in his career, but I'd rather see Andrade against WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, who reportedly turned down seven million dollars for a one fight agreement to face Andrade.

The middle fight was a little more competitive but wasn't close on my scorecard as Joseph Diaz won the IBF junior lightweight title from Tevin Farmer via unanimous decision in a mild upset.
Diaz gritted through an extremely bad gash over his left eye after the two collided heads in the second round and took advantage of a heavy-legged Farmer to land to the body often.
I thought Diaz controlled the bout easily, but my 118-110 card was a bit larger than those of the judges.
Diaz simply refused to back up and Farmer neither had the legs to box Diaz with movement nor the strength to win the inside battles.
The surprising win for Diaz will have to be repeated as there is a rematch clause in the contract.

The best fight of the night was the opener as M.J. (he wants to be known as M.J for his love of Michael Jackson) Akhmadaliev squeaked out a split decision over Daniel Roman to lift Roman's WBA and IBF junior featherweight titles.
Akhmadaliev won the majority of the early rounds with Roman rallying later as the best action rounds were the final three rounds with both fighters landing hard blows, but Roman earning a small edge.
The scorecards were close and fair as all three judges scored the fight 115-113 (7-5 rounds) with two for Akhmadaliev and the dissenting board for Roman.
The styles meshed well with Akhmadaliev as a more athletic and slick southpaw with Roman fighting in a more traditional manner.
I scored the fight even at 114-114 and I would love to see a rematch, which is likely considering the other two champions in the division (WBC champ Rey Vargas is now with PBC and WBO champ Emmanuel Navarrete is a Top Rank/ESPN fighter) fight elsewhere and a rematch is the likely biggest fight that either can find at this time.

One final note: While Daniel Roman should be applauded for fighting his mandatory in a tough fight, Chris Mannix of DAZN, who I like, stated on the broadcast, as he had on his podcast, earlier in the week that he couldn't understand why Roman accepted the challenge of Akhmadaliev and that he should have vacated one of the two titles (In this case the WBA) to avoid Akhmadaliev and stay undefeated.

In boxing, we claim so often that a loss shouldn't ruin a fighter and that we want to see the best fight the best, but then when a champion does just that and dares to be the best, some wonder why they didn't take the easy way out.

Mannix is dead wrong on this and more fighters should bet on themselves as Daniel Roman did- Roman may have lost his titles, but he gained in the eyes of the intelligent observer because he was everything that fans wish champions to be.
Good for him.

In the Boxing Challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica three to two and pulled into an overall tie for the season lead at 12-12.
The difference was the Akhmadaliev win over Roman.  

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge starts early with three title fights on DAZN on Thursday and an untelevised title bout on Friday.

The main event is likely to be the least competitive as Demetrius Andrade defends his WBO middleweight title against unheralded Luke Keeler of Ireland.
Andrade, who might be the most talented middleweight, but doesn't always make the most exciting fights, is a huge favorite over Keeler, who hasn't fought great opposition in his 17-2 record, but grabbed an upset victory in his last fight over former world title challenger Luis Arias.
Keeler's win over Arias gives the underdog hope, but Andrade is a level or two above Arias and with Keeler only knocking out five of his seventeen victims, the question appears to be this- does Andrade knock Keeler out or does he settle for a wide decision nod?

Tevin Farmer defends his IBF junior lightweight title against former featherweight title challenger Joseph Diaz in a grudge match that has been building for close to a year.
Farmer has notched four title defenses since winning the title in October 2018, but Diaz is the best opponent that Farmer has defended against.
Farmer's the smoother boxer and Diaz may be the bigger puncher, but he's not the larger fighter and I have a feeling that the career of Diaz might wind up ending as a top ten fighter that is good enough to fight for world titles, but not good enough to win them.

The first of the three title fights might be the best of the bunch as Danny Roman defends his WBA and IBF junior featherweight titles against mandatory challenger Murodjon Akhmadaliev in a fight that was postponed when Roman suffered a shoulder injury in training.
Akhmadaliev won a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics and I have a feeling that he very well could be sitting on a huge performance.
I do like Roman and Roman's more than capable of winning this one, but this is a very tough ask considering that Roman is entering the fight off the shoulder surgery.
This one should be very good.

The other fight before the weekend doesn't have American television as the WBC cruiserweight title that was vacated by Oleksandr Usyk almost a year ago, will finally be filled in Kinshasa in the Republic of Congo with Ilunga Makabu facing Michal Cieslak for the title.
Makabu has fought the better competition with wins over Thabiso Mchunu, Dmitry Kudryashov, and an over the hill Glen Johnson, but Cieslak is undefeated and both are capable of knocking the other out.
This could be short and explosive...

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica leads me 10-9.

WBO Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Demetrius Andrade vs Luke Keeler
R.L: Andrade KO 8
TRS: Andrade KO 10

IBF Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Tevin Farmer vs Joseph Diaz
Both: Farmer Unanimous Decision

WBA and IBF Junior Featherweight Titles. 12 Rds
Danny Roman vs Murodjon Akhmadaliev
R.L;  Roman Unanimous Decision
TRS: Akhmadaliev Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBC Cruiserweight Title 12 Rds
Ilunga Makabu vs Michal Cieslak
R.L:  Makabu KO 8
TRS: Makabu KO 6

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox- Non-Sports Passings

Recent passings from the non-sports world have filled the inbox, so we will tidy things up a bit today.

Goodbye to Jim Lehrer at the age of 85.
The long-time anchor of The NewsHour on PBS, Lehrer was also known for the several Presidental debates that he moderated through the years.
Lehrer co-hosted the NewsHour (then known as the MacNeill-Lehrer NewsHour) with Robert MacNeill from 1975 to 1995 and then anchored the program on his own from 1995 to 2011.
Lehrer would serve as a moderator for discussions on the program from 2011 to 2019 and be involved with the show's production company after leaving as the anchor.
Lehrer would moderate twelve Presidental debates and he was known as a moderator that would run a looser debate and allow candidates to speak more and engage than one that would strictly enforce the time limits and rules.
Lehrer also wrote twenty novels, three memoirs, as well as stage plays and screenplays.
I met Jim Lehrer once as I was watching a Suns game, Lehrer came into the grandstand with his grandchild (I suppose) and sat near enough to me that I knew who it was, but far enough away that I wasn't next to him.
I looked over and mouthed his name and he smiled and waved, but I didn't go over to him.
It seemed like no one else knew he was there and I didn't want to break his cover ...

Goodbye to Buck Henry at the age of 89.
The versatile Henry has one of the most eclectic resumes' of his time having written the screenplay for "The Graduate", directed "Heaven Can Wait" earning Academy Award nominations for both and winning for Best Screenplay, acting as a regular on the "Steve Allen Show", hosting Saturday Night Live ten times, and as a creator as he co-created "Get Smart" with Mel Brooks.
The bespectacled Henry often made cameo appearances in roles that required a dry, droll delivery and was the traditional guest host of SNL for the final episode of the season during the first run of the show.
Henry was injured in a famous incident on SNL when John Belushi's "Samurai" character nicked Henry with a sword during a sketch and Henry would complete the episode with a bandage on his head.

Goodbye to Egil "Bud" Krogh at the age of 80.
Krogh served as the head of the "Special Investigations Unit" in the Nixon White House, which would be better known to the public during the Watergate scandal as the "Plumbers", the unit created to stop leaks from the White House.
It was Krogh that signed off on the plan that would see the break-in to the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, who was the person behind the Pentagon papers.
Krogh would also have two small nuggets in pop culture.
The first was managing and planning the famous visit of Elvis Presley to meet Richard Nixon in the White House in 1970.
Krogh would later write a book about the Presley/Nixon meeting entitled "When Elvis met Nixon", which I believe the 1997 Showtime movie was based on as Krogh appeared in the film briefly.
The other?
Krogh was the inspiration behind the name of the Calvert DeForest portrayed character on the NBC version of Late Night with David Letterman- Larry "Bud" Melman.
Letterman has been quoted as stating that the Melman character was named after Krogh as during the Watergate scandal on TV, Krogh was consistently referred to as Egil "Bud" Krogh and Letterman found this amusing.

Goodbye to Jack Burns at the age of 86.
Burns was a long-time comedian and writer with several interesting notations.
It was Burns, who started the career of George Carlin as the pair partnered as a comedy team with both of them working for the same radio station in Fort Worth, Texas.
Burns would eventually split with Carlson and team with Avery Schreiber as a duo that would eventually star in their own series on ABC "The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour".
Burns would be most famous for three roles- the voicing over as one of the test dummies "Vince and Larry" in public service announcements for seat belts from 1985-1998 and as a cast member on the ABC answer to Saturday Night Live "Fridays", where Burns was on stage with Michael Richards for the live television incident with Andy Kaufman that saw Kaufman break character and cause ABC to cut their live feed.
The other role that is remembered for Burns?
His portrayal of "Warren Ferguson" in the final year of the Andy Griffith Show as the new deputy to Griffith's "Andy Taylor".
The character was the show's only attempt to replace Don Knotts and it wasn't a successful one as the character was disliked and dropped in mid-season after eleven appearances.

Goodbye to Bob Shane at the age of 85.
Shane was one of the founding members of the folk group "The Kingston Trio" in the late 1950s and was with the group throughout its run from the charts until its breakup in 1967.
Shane would attempt to keep the band together with a different lineup on two occasions, but his smartest move would come in 1976 when Shane would purchase the name "Kingston Trio" and would be able to use the name for marketing purposes just at the time that the 60s nostalgia boom would begin.
Shane would tour with the new group with the old name until a heart attack in 2004 that caused him to retire from performing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Devils drop Senators in Shootout 4-3

Kyle Palmieri tied the game with under four minutes to go (17) to force overtime and the Devils first two shooters in overtime closed the show as the New Jersey Devils took a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa.
Nikita Gusev and Jack Hughes each scored against Ottawa goalie Marcus Hogberg in the shootout and Mackenzie Blackwood held up the defensive end by stopping both Senator shots in the shootout to secure the victory.
The Devils also received goals from Damon Severson (6 power play ) and Kevin Rooney (2) in the win.
The Devils will travel to Nashville on Thursday for their first meeting with former coach John Hynes and the Predators.

Hell Raisers

1) Mackenzie Blackwood returned for the first time in ten days and looked pretty good in goal.
The Devils gave up two shorthanded goals on breakaways in the third period thirty-five seconds apart and neither could be placed on Blackwood.
Blackwood made his return a strong one, imagine what he could be if this team could ever put a defense in front of him?

2) About that defense, how in the world can a team make the same mistake twice in thirty-five seconds on the same power play with the game in the balance?
Hanging your goalie out to dry, no one getting back and almost allowing a game to get away.
The Devils will again need to address the defense in the off-season as they tried to do last time with P.K. Subban.

3) P.K. Subban jostled a bit with Brady Tkachuk at the end of the first period but didn't seem anxious to try Tkachuk out in sparring.
Tkachuk started on Subban in the middle period and didn't give Subban much choice other than dropping the gloves and it wasn't much of a match as Tkachuk won on my card easily.
Still, give Subban credit for hanging in there and giving it his best effort.

4) Brady Tkachuk is the type of player that you hate to see playing against you, but you love to have on your side.
The 4th overall pick in the 2018 draft scored 22 goals last season as a rookie and has 15 thus far this season.
Tkachuk is tough, physical and has a deft scoring touch, very much like his dad former NHL star Keith and I'm not sure I wouldn't trade any Devil other than Jack Hughes or maybe (maybe) Nico Hischier for Tkachuk tomorrow if he was offered in trade.

5) The goal by Damon Severson in the first period was a fortunate one as the puck bounced around through the crease, it nicked off the back of the skate of Marcus Hogberg and into the net.
Sometimes, you just need a break.

6) You don't expect smooth offensive moves from the fourth line and even fewer expectations from Kevin Rooney, but he looked very slick with taking the puck around the net and slipping the puck by Hogberg.
Fourth liners don't score a lot of goals and even fewer are scored like that one.

7) The Devils put 53 shots on the net against the Senators, which can happen when two bad teams  (After the game, the Devils and Senators each have 43 points) play each other.
53 shots will win a fair amount of games against a bad team.

Kobe Bryant and the Power of Refusal

Waking up from a nap as Ryan visited us and hearing that Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and others had perished in a helicopter accident brought a few things to mind.

The first was doubting the authenticity, as earlier this week the internet reported a favorite actor had passed away and it turned out to be a hoax, but shortly thereafter the reports were confirmed and it began to sink a bit in different ways.

Bryant certainly was a tremendous talent on the floor and was arguably basketball's top offensive force in the years after Michael Jordan and if you rate LeBron James above him (I'd rate James above Bryant as a player, but Bryant would have the edge as an offensive dynamo)  as an overall player, Bryant would certainly be right behind James.
Where you have Bryant on the all-time player list, likely depends on your age and how much basketball that you have watched, Bryant could arguably be rated as a top-five player in the history of basketball and while I'd rank him in the top ten, if you thought Bryant was a top-five overall player, I wouldn't call that ridiculous by any means.

Bryant's off-court image was mixed between his 2003's sexual assault charges and his life since where Bryant had kept a clean image, was constantly seen with his family and even if you believed in his guilt in the mentioned case (Bryant was not charged in criminal court, but he did admit a sexual encounter and settled with the victim out of civil court), Bryant hadn't been in trouble since.
Bryant was often seen in public with his daughter Gianna at various sporting events, developing a film entitled "Dear Basketball" and I often heard about his kindness to others, especially in the last year when he and Gianna were discussed on the Ball and Chain podcast (hosted by writer Steve Rushin and his wife, former WNBA player Rebecca Lobo) about Bryant's kindness to their children.

The legacy of Kobe Bryant will be a mixed one and just as one can be lionized after death, one can be misunderstood in life.
I'll deal with the basketball end of Bryant's career on another day, but I'd like to transition a bit into what I'd call- "the power of refusal".
Reading of the death of Bryant on social media, many well-meaning folks are posting notes (I'll be paraphrasing) such as "telling people that you care about them" "don't carry friction forward because you could lose them at any time" and one person on Twitter wrote, " being right isn't important- making things right is".

While all of those thoughts are admirable and it would be wonderful to have such things work out, I'm going to debate the opposition argument tonight- The power of refusal can be a very freeing experience.
The refusal to participate can allow one to move on far quicker than one pining for what used to be.
Imagine the refusal to continue to allow negativity in your life, imagine the freedom and strength that you build in your life when you refuse to continue to deal with problems involving others that have plagued you for years.
Imagine the relief when you simply refuse to engage or acknowledge people when the only reason that you can come up with is that they are "blood".
"Blood" is the most overrated reason to retain people in your life that consistently hurt you and the people that you care about.
Everyone in this world has "blood" relatives that hurt you to various degrees and almost everyone has people in your radius that care about you as a person and doesn't have a biological reason to do so- should they be less important than someone that causes problems in your life just because they aren't a biological relative?

The power of refusal to engage with people that bring nothing to your life but difficulties isn't always easy but in the end, it's far better than continuing to play with fire.
Some circumstances are worth revisiting and sentimentality can come into play in almost all cases for people and days that have gone by, but if you have tried in the past with a particular person-think carefully before trying again.
I get it- there is often outside pressure, especially when dealing with family.
Just draw that line and decide when the line for no return is crossed.
There is nothing wrong with clearing the air and when a sudden tragedy such as Kobe Bryant occurs, it does make you consider making amends and trying to clear the slate.
Just be careful and remember- when you clean the slate you often wind up with chalk all over yourself.

Pirates send Starling Marte to Arizona

The Pittsburgh Pirates finally achieved a goal under new general manager Ben Cherington- they managed to trade Starling Marte, but I'm not sure how the trade will go over with a fanbase that is already furious with Pirate ownership and now management of the team.

Starling Marte goes back to some of the earlier days of the blog when I covered the Pirates far closer than I do currently, but I don't understand the hurry in moving the 31-year-old outfielder.
Marte hit. 295 with 23 homers and 25 steals last season, is under contract (11.5 Million) for the 2020 season and a team option for 2021 (12.5 Million) and by trading Marte, the Pirates are now in need of signing a centerfielder to replace Marte for a team that had only a few recognizable stars.
Bryan Reynolds had an excellent rookie season for Pittsburgh and could move to center, but it appears that the Pirates are more likely to keep Reynolds in left and sign a veteran free agent to install in centerfield.
Kevin Pillar and Cameron Maybin are two veteran free agents that are coming off decent years at the plate and can play above-average defense and could be targeted for Pittsburgh.
I suppose it depends on the price that would be paid for a veteran flychaser to consider Marte as a better bargain.
If you can get a Millar-type for five million, maybe I can see it, but should you have to sign someone to an eight million deal, keeping Marte would be a preferable option.

Pittsburgh obtained two young prospects, who will likely start at Low A Greensboro.
Shortstop Liover Peguero and righthanded pitcher Brennan Malone are both nineteen and were considered in the top twenty in the Arizona system.

Peguero turned nineteen on New Year's Eve and lit up the rookie Pioneer League as a member of the Missoula Osprey in hitting .364 with five homers in 36 games.
Peguero was promoted to the short-season Hillsboro Hops, who made the Northwest League playoffs, and hit.262 in 22 games without a homer in Hillsboro.
The Diamondback system is deep at shortstop and Peguero will have fewer hurdles to climb through the Pittsburgh system.
Peguero was rated by as Arizona's 18th rated prospect.

Brennan Malone struggled in his short debut (eight innings and an ERA of 4.50) after being drafted with a sandwich pick, 33rd overall, in the 2019 draft.
Malone sits in the mid-90s and can touch the high 90s, but needs to develop a secondary breaking pitch to go with the heater.
At 6'4 and 205 pounds, Malone has the type of body that projects to fill out and depending on the outcome of his eventual off-speed stuff, could be a middle of the rotation starter.
Malone was listed as the ninth-best prospect in the Diamondbacks system.

I'm going to finish with the Cleveland Indians, who are a team screaming for an outfielder (preferably two) with a strong bat and Starling Marte not only would have fit the bill, he would have done so at a very affordable price for his production.
The Indians farm system could have parted with a similar prospect return and likely even accommodating a return of players closer to the majors than the offer that the Pirates accepted.
It's possible that the Indians made a good offer and Pittsburgh selected an offer that they preferred if so that's OK.
And it would be very acceptable if the Indians like another available outfielder more than Marte or see another option as close to Marte at a cheaper price, but if the Indians again pass on a chance to improve with a closing window of contention to save cash for Paul Dolan, it would be yet another log on the fire for a team that doesn't seem to want to commit to winning championships.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Browns hire Andrew Berry as GM

The Cleveland Browns unveiled the worst kept secret in the NFL as the team announced the hiring of Andrew Berry to a five-year contract.

Berry had previously worked in the Browns front office before moving to the Philadelphia Eagles last season as their vice president of football operations and was regarded as the prohibitive favorite to grab the general manager position as soon as the Paul DePodesta faction moved John Dorsey aside and re-established power in the Cleveland front office.

The 32-year-old Berry was a favorite of Jimmy Haslam when Berry was hired by the Browns as part of the Sashi Brown/Paul DePodesta front office takeover before the 2016 season and is well-liked in league circles, even by those that disagree with his football operational theories.
The Browns interviewed two other candidates and Minnesota's George Paton appeared to have a chance due to his relationship with Kevin Stefanski, but Paton apparently could see either (or both) of these issues occurring as either Berry had the job locked up or Paton could see the dysfunction of the Browns scheme and figured he was going to have a difficult time succeeding.

I do wonder about this and I don't have an answer, but is it possible that the "alignment" that Jimmy Haslam is searching for already off-kilter?
George Paton likely wouldn't have even considered the Browns had Kevin Stefanski not been hired as head coach and could Stefanski have pushed for Paton, lost out to DePodesta's choice in Berry causing alignment problems before the car has been driven off the lot?
I don't have the answer, but considering that just as in the case of hiring Kevin Stefanski as the coach, the hire of Andrew Berry was seemingly decided from the start, so why did Stefanski push for Paton to be interviewed?

I'm not thrilled with this hire, but it didn't take a lot of foresight to see the result of yet another Browns "extensive search" ending with Andrew Berry.
I'm not saying Berry is inept, but he was a key part of 1-31 and even though Berry cannot be blamed entirely for the questionable drafts during his previous tenure, he certainly was involved with some of the worst drafts in the team's history and that covers a lot of ground!
Only five of the twenty-four players drafted in those drafts were on the 2019 Browns and I have a problem handing the keys to the car to people that drafted so poorly.
Boosters of Paul DePodesta state that "DePodesta won't be involved in evaluating personnel", which I'm not sure that I believe, but hiring Andrew Berry with his accomplishments reading " was part of the evaluation team that passed over several franchise quarterbacks, was part of the team that thought Kenny Britt was an elite receiver, drafted Corey Coleman over Michael Thomas, drafted three starters out of twenty-four draft picks, and won one of thirty-two games" seems like yet another Jimmy Haslam/Cleveland Browns need to show that they are the smartest guys in the room when the results to date indicate arguably the inverse.

If you are a reader of history and look back to the American involvement in Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson believed so heavily in the Kennedy cabinet holdovers that were telling him to stay involved, escalate and that victory was around the corner if he just stayed the course.
Those people were called by Johnson as "My Harvard's" and because they had Ivy League educations with Johnson's degree coming from Southwest Texas State Teachers College and Johnson always felt an inferiority complex towards them.
Johnson thought because they were better educated that they knew what they were talking about and were suited for their job and because of that feeling of inferiority, Johnson listened to and retained people that were giving him the wrong advice.
I have a feeling that Jimmy Haslam thinks similarly towards Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry (and formerly Sashi Brown) because, in his eyes, their education makes them smarter and worth listening to.
One's education doesn't always make one suited for a particular vocation and perhaps the above theory is the most plausible one for why the gentlemen involved in 1-31 are about to get the ball back for a second try.
Hopefully, the Browns will find more success the second time around.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Not much of a Show (time)

Photo Credit: Showtime Sports
The Saturday night card from Showtime and PBC from the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn wasn't one that was going to excite many fans going into the evening and it didn't even live up to those standards in three bouts that were about as stimulating as a meal at Bob Evans.

In the main event, Danny Garcia cruised to a unanimous decision over Ivan Redkach in a twelve rounder that was an overpriced sparring session.
Garcia won the first ten rounds on my card before wrapping the final two rounds for Redkach in the boxing version of the garbage (known here as the Phillip Rivers) touchdown for a 118-110 win.
Garcia was never even bothered by the much smaller Redkach, which I suppose was the entire idea of Redkach's selection as an opponent, but other than cutting Redkach over his left eye in round seven Garcia didn't seem interested in pushing the pace and attempting to take Redkach out and putting watchers out of their misery.
The most exciting part of the match was at the end of the eighth round when Redkach bit Garcia on the side of the neck which was far more effective than anything else Redkach landed.
Garcia will likely battle either Errol Spence or Manny Pacquiao sometime over the summer in yet another case of boxing giving you something you didn't ask for and expect you to do an endzone dance over it.
Garcia is a solid fighter and certainly world-class, but at welterweight, he lacks that little extra that the elite fighters have and it showed in his close losses to current WBC champ Shawn Porter and former WBA/WBC champion Keith Thurman, who both are also more on the level of Garcia than that of Spence, Pacquiao or Terence Crawford.
Keep in mind, Garcia has been at this weight since August 2015 and Garcia still does not own a win over a top ten welterweight with his best wins over smaller and not quite top 10 welterweights Robert Guerrero and Brandon Rios.
Garcia will put up a good fight in his next fight, but I don't see him having much of a chance against Spence or Pacquiao.

Before the Garcia-Redkach main event, former WBA and IBF junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd returned to the ring for the first time since his upset loss to Julian Williams and much like Garcia, disappointed to a degree in winning a unanimous decision over Francisco Santana.
Santana had never fought about welterweight and had lost three of his last four entering the fight, so this seemed to be a match made to make Hurd look strong in his return,
Hurd won easily (99-90) on my card, but as in the case of Danny Garcia, he didn't seem interested in winning by a knockout until dropping Santana with seconds remaining in the final round.
Santana rose and the fight ended, but the fight seemed more like gym work than a fight on a premium network.
Other than getting a ten-round win and removing the loss to Williams as the last thing on his resume',
I'm not sure what this win really did for Hurd.
I still have him placed solidly in the mix in the junior middleweight division and he wouldn't be more than a mild underdog against anyone in the division, but Hurd will have to raise his level in his next bout against a top fighter in the division.

In the opener, Stephen Fulton won a unanimous decision over Arnold Khegai over twelve rounds in an eliminator to earn the mandatory slot for WBO junior featherweight champion Emmanuel Navarrete.
Fulton's jab and speed managed to build a big lead on the cards and held off the late charge of Khegai, who was aggressive throughout the contest, but simply gave away too many rounds on my card (116-112 Fulton) to make it close
Fulton's a smooth boxer that might not have enough power to sting Navarrete, but his speed makes him a dark horse to pull an upset.

A side note on the Fulton-Khegai fight.
The PBC had made it clear that they didn't recognize the WBO as a major sanctioning body and used it as a reason to not mention Terence Crawford as a welterweight champion.
Much of their problems are likely because many PBC fighters aren't in the WBO top ten contenders to the point of silliness, so while I don't agree with their stance I can see their aggravation, but this was an official eliminator and brings a few questions.
Is this the beginning of a thaw between the WBO and PBC?
Which of the two might have stepped forward, if so?
Which one needs it more?
Likely the WBO as sanctioning fees doesn't grow on trees.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored four points on the evening as Ramon maintained his lead in the overall standings at 10-9.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The Boxing Challenge will be easy to follow with one three-fight card from Showtime from the PBC home base in Brooklyn New York.

The main event will pit former junior welterweight and WBC welterweight champion Danny Garcia in another stay busy fight against veteran Ivan Redkach.
Garcia knocked out tough, but undersized Adrian Granados last April and will be fighting a similar fighter in both size and style in Redkach.
Redkach has been known to deliver exciting fights in both wins and losses as he is coming into this fight after his career-best win over former junior welterweight champion Devon Alexander via sixth-round knockout and his Dec. 2018 loss in four rounds to John Molina was a war to be seen, but he isn't a natural welterweight and he's likely to march forward to be pounded by Garcia's counters.
There could be worse matches for Garcia to make than Redkach, but for a fighter that moved to welterweight four and a half years ago and has yet to defeat a top ten fighter in the weight class, it once again makes an observer wonder if the strategy is to keep Garcia viable enough to place him against a Manny Pacquiao or Errol Spence to cash in their chips.

The co-feature will see the return of former WBA and IBF junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd in his first fight since losing those titles to the since dethroned Julian Williams in what was a 2019 fight of the year contender.
Hurd looked to be headed for elite status after exciting wins over Tony Harrison, Austin Trout, and Erislandy Lara as he entered the Williams fight and despite Hurd's efforts, Williams was the better fighter on that evening.
Hurd turned down his contractually-obligated rematch with Williams and hasn't fought since, but Hurd is being placed very light against journeyman Francisco Santana, who has lost three of his last four and has never fought above welterweight, so one would believe that things are set perfectly for an impressive return for Hurd.

The opener on the evening should be the most competitive pairing as two undefeated junior featherweights hook it up as Stephen Fulton faces Arnold Khegai.
Fulton knocked out previously undefeated Issac Avelar in six rounds in his most recent appearance and holds a win over Adam Lopez, who recently gave Oscar Valdez all sorts of problems, while Khegai has been mainly based in Russia before a unanimous decision win over Vladimir Tikhonov on a ShoBox card in Oklahoma.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica leads me six to five in the early stages of the season.

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Danny Garcia vs Ivan Redkach
R.L: Garcia KO 5
TRS: Garcia KO 4

Junior Middleweights. 10 Rds
Jarrett Hurd vs Francisco Santana
R.L: Hurd KO 9
TRS: Hurd KO 7

Junior Featherweights. 12 Rds
Stephen Fulton vs Arnold Khegai
Both: Fulton Unanimous Decision

Cleaning out the inbox- Wrestling Edition

The inbox has enough passings from the wrestling world to have its own post with four grapplers from the past recently passing away.

Goodbye to Rocky Johnson at the age of 75.
Johnson, who was arguably the best African-American wrestler of the 1970s, is best known today as the father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson,  but his career was far more than journeyman status.
Johnson challenged the various NWA champions of his time and teamed with Tony Atlas as the first black WWF tag team champions in 1983 with a win over the Wild Samoans.
Johnson held many titles in several territories, including the Florida and Georgia territories when those two ranked at the top of the most prestigious titles in the nation, but his final run came with the WWF when Johnson was used as a stalking horse for Jimmy Snuka with major feuds against Magnificent Muraco and Roddy Piper that built both heels for an even larger feud for each vs Snuka.
Johnson's best work was before my time and access, but his WWF work was pretty good with his matches with Muraco, who ranked at the elite level at the time, was excellent.
The Piper series that was started in Piper's Pit with the photo above, had plenty of "heat" from the fans, but the actual matches weren't quite as strong as the Muraco series for two reasons- mainly for all of the skills of Roddy Piper, he was never at the level of in-ring wrestler of Don Muraco and the other reason was that the audience badly wanted Muraco to lose the Inter-Continental title and a Johnson title win would have made him the first black champion in the territory as the Muraco series took place before the Johnson and Atlas team won the tag team titles.

Goodbye to Charlie Cook- Age not listed.
I cannot seem to find an age for Cook, who was the proverbial "One Year Wonder" as Cook was pushed to the moon in the Florida territory in 1981.
A journeyman grappler that usually was based in the southeastern part of the country that was described as a former NFL player, although I've never been able to find any proof of such unless Cook played under a different name.
Cook was a below-average performer in the ring, but suddenly in 1981, Cook began to become a top star in winning the Florida title twice, initially over former NWA champion Dory Funk Jr., which was instant credibility in the storyline.
1981 was as good as it would get for Cook, who began to move down the cards the following year and other than a brief title victory in the WWC (Puerto Rico), Cook was essentially finished in wrestling by 1984.

Goodbye to Pampero Firpo at the age of 89.
Firpo was a grappler far before my wrestling fandom as his career started in 1953 and ended in 1981.
Firpo's "gimmick" was portraying himself as a wild and untamed character similar to the Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher.
Firpo was named by former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, who would occasionally participate in wrestling as an enforcer referee, after Luis Firpo "The Wild Bull of the Pampas", who famously knocked Dempsey out of the ring in Firpo's unsuccessful title challenge
Firpo's main territory was the Detroit territory where he had several battles through the years against their two top stars in the Sheik and Bobo Brazil but did have a brief run in the then-WWWF against champion Pedro Morales in 1972.
Firpo had recently returned to the news as part of the beginning theme to the popular podcast "Jim Cornette's Drive-Thru" with the line "Who still remembers Pampero Firpo"?

Goodbye to Hercules Ayala at the age of 69.
Ayala, a barrel-chested grappler, spent almost his entire career in the Stampede territory based in Calgary, Canada and the WWC in Puerto Rico.
Ayala was a star in both places, but his biggest run might have been late in his career after being turned heel against Carlos Colon in one of the final big-money runs for Puerto Rico from 1985 to 1987 that matched the two in many various matches with different rules and stipulations before Ayala lost a Loser Leaves Town match to Colon.
The Ayala-Colon matches were noted for their excessive blood and violence in a territory already known for their violence and even involved Ayala attacking and beating Colon's wife.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Washington dumps Cavaliers 124-112

Watching the Cavaliers 124-112 loss against the Washington "Bullets" nee Wizards tonight may not have been the most scintillating basketball contest, but for the flaws of the game, it did something else for me anyway.

It made me think of various times, events and matchups between these two teams that you wouldn't really think of as rivals, yet have consistently offered memories for me, and there are enough to revisit this "rivalry" that really wasn't to write in a future post.
The piece will cover the Miracle of Richfield from 1976 and the following season's mini-series along with the three meetings in a row during LeBron James' first stint in Cleveland.
It will also look at the players from both teams and memories throughout the years.

However, this one is about tonight's game, which was a mildly sloppy affair between two teams that are well under the .500 level.
And with that-


1) We start with this.
I don't have the NBA League Pass as in the past, mainly because Rachel prefers the Devils and the NHL, so my Cavaliers watching is very pre-internet-when they play Washington and their occasional cable network appearance.
I've written in the past of my frustrations when the Devils play Washington and how hard it is for me to deal with their announcers, but I'm not sure that I have ever written about how much I enjoyed the Washington telecast for the Bullets/Wizards when I watch their games.
When the expanded television offerings began to give me options other than the Washington or bust for the NBA, I didn't watch as many of their telecasts, but Steve Buckhantz ranked at the top of my favorite play by play men in basketball.
I was surprised to see the Wizards move away from Buckhantz and his excellent work.
And for me, it was different watching a Washington game without hearing his voice.
It just wasn't the same without the voice that I have always connected with the NBA in Washington and going back farther, with Georgetown on the then-WTTG in Washington.
Last night without "Buck" was a "Dagger" indeed.

2) The "Bullets" have always had strong announcers on their telecasts as before Buckhantz, the Bullets voice was Mel Proctor, another excellent play by play man and before Proctor in the ancient age with the UHF Channel 20 holding a Bullets road game package, the team used Jim Karvellas, a veteran New York announcer, who returned to Gotham with the New York Knicks.
The business of broadcasting isn't any different than the business of sports, veterans move on in favor of cheaper and younger talent and perhaps that's a sign of my age, but I would think that there should be room somewhere for the Steve Buckhantz's and Mel Proctor's of the world.
Perhaps, they don't wish to travel and they deserve to skip the travel if they choose, but it's too bad to lose hearing them when there are plenty of shots left in their game.

3) I know it's a lot of announcer talk here, but I'd be remiss in not mentioning the Cavaliers without Fred McLeod.
The veteran that brought so many Cavalier games into my home over the last decade-plus passed away in the off-season (as noted here) and was a strong and steady voice during the LeBron James eras with Austin Carr at the table.
McLeod always brought professionalism to Cleveland games and even though Joe Tait will always be the "Voice of the Cavaliers" to those that were there from the early years, the championship years will always be associated with Fred McLeod.
McLeod will be missed.

4) Finally to the game on the floor and the loss to the also-struggling Wizards.
Bradley Beal finished with 36 points to lead all scorers and I thought of the 2012 draft where I wanted Beal very badly (link comes complete with a Dusty Springfield album cover. Can any post with Dusty Springfield be all bad?) for the Cavaliers with the fourth pick in the first round, but Washington plucked him with the third pick leaving Cleveland to make a questionable selection during the Chris Grant years in Dion Waiters.
The pick of Waiters over Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Drummond looks bad in hindsight, but least Waiters still plays for someone as one pick later, Sacramento passed over all three of these players as well in favor of Thomas Robinson.
With the absence of John Wall since the Nixon administration from Washington, Beal has been the star of the team, averaging almost twenty-eight points a night and I wonder how things might have been different had Cleveland found a way to add Bradley Beal in that draft.

5) How bad was this loss for Cleveland?
Washington was playing the second part of back to back games, arrived in Cleveland from Miami (not exactly next door) at four in the morning and had all of the excuses in the world to come up short.
Yet, it was Cleveland that looked like the tired team against the Wizards.
In this situation when the teams are reasonably equal talent-wise, the home team should win over eighty percent of the time and Cleveland's play was pretty dreary.
No excuses.

6) However, I exclude Larry Nance Jr from that critique as Nance was all over the floor with a reported career-high 22 points ( I was surprised to see that was a career-high) to pair with twelve rebounds and two three-pointers.
Nance Jr. isn't the type of player that you can plug in as a starter and expect numbers approaching those, but he's terrific at coming off the bench, doing the hustle things that that you expect from your reserve big man and delivering a dunk or two that can electrify a crowd to raise your team up a notch.

7) Kevin Love scored a quiet 21 points, but Wizards announcer Drew Gooden stated that he thought the Cavaliers wouldn't be able to trade Love because of the backloaded contract that the Cavaliers signed with Love (and maybe kisses too.)
I looked up the Cavaliers on Cap Space (located to the right in the links page) for Love's contractual status and Gooden is somewhat right.
Love is receiving 28.9 million this year,  31.2 million for the following two seasons before the final year of 28.9 million kicks in.
At that cost, Gooden could be onto something-Cleveland might not have the market that they hope for in a trade.
I wonder what type of offers would be coming and what would be worth moving Love off a bad team?

8) Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 29 points (10 of 15 shooting) as Sexton continues a run of 25 or more points in four of his last five games.
However, the Cavaliers lost all five games and for all his talents, Sexton might settle in as a player that good teams don't have as their top or second option overall.
I'm not saying that Sexton reminds me of Monta Ellis, but he does make me recall the rule that I named after Monta Ellis- If Monta Ellis (or a facsimile thereof) is one of your top two or preferably top three players, you are going to be hard-pressed to win 40 games.
That type of player will put up very solid numbers on lesser teams but are players that aren't going to lift a bad team to below average or a below-average squad to a borderline playoff team.
That shouldn't be considered a knock on Sexton, it's more of an indicator of just how far the Cavaliers have to go in their rebuild.

9) The most recent Cleveland first-rounder Darius Garland continued to struggle offensively as he made only four of seventeen shots (three of those from beyond the arc) to finish with thirteen points.
There is always talk of the "Rookie Wall" around the 30-40 game mark of the season for players used to a college season, but Garland played in only five games in his one season at Vanderbilt, so his wall has to be well-worn at this point.
Garland is the only member of the three Cavaliers first-round selections that are currently healthy as Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. currently out with injuries.
The injury to Porter was especially bad timing as his game was just starting to flourish a bit, although that could help Porter later in the season in dealing with that dreaded wall.

10) Wrapping up with uniform talk.
While I really like Washington's uniforms, which give the retro nod to the Bullets of the Capital Centre days and Cleveland's regular unis are basic, but fine, I really dislike the NBA series that forces these nicknames on them.
Cleveland didn't wear their "The Land" jerseys, but Washington wore "The District" and it just feels so gimmicky.
I'm usually in favor of throwback jerseys although the Cavaliers are using those horribly awful 90s versions, but between the "Land", this seasons throwback, and the ugly one with only the C sword logo, it seems that the uniform options continue to grow and not for the better.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Dealin' with the cheatin'

With the recent suspensions of various members of the Houston Astros organization and resulting firing of Houston's manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow along with two figures involved in the sign-stealing scandal that was employed by other teams losing their jobs as well as Boston manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran losing their positions.

While the Red Sox and their 2018 title run are still under investigation, the penalty given to Houston for their wacky hi-jinks isn't very much or it could be seen as a lot.
Five million dollars is pocket change to an owner in Major League Baseball, but to Jeff Luhnow, that amount or less was 'crippling' to have to pay to minor league baseball players and was part of the "Houston Plan" to crush minor league baseball.
And to the Astros lost first and second-round draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, that's not much of a penalty as Mr.Luhnow believes that the minors have too many players already, so I'm sure that the Astros will get by without them as they have all the answers in player development.
That's pretty much all that got slammed- five million from Astros owner Jim Crane, which is about the same as asking me to pay fifty cents as a punishment for a felony and some draft picks from an organization that thinks player development is overrated.

After all, let's quickly recap Jim Crane and his former employees Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch, Brandon Taubman and I'm sure more have done in recent years!

Placing the idea into the head of Rob Manfred that would be key in cutting baseball from 42 minor league cities.
Lopping off opportunities for players to play professional baseball.
Hiring domestic abusers while they are under suspension for abuse.
Screaming at female reporters that had the temerity to criticize that player and the team that employed him after the player did his on-field job.
AND executing a sign-stealing scandal that tipped the scales electronically and enabled them to have an edge in winning the franchise's only world championship.
That is what comes to mind quickly, I'm sure that I could come up with others, but that's enough to suit the narrative for now.

So when you consider that people lost their jobs, but other than a few draft picks and loose change, what did the Astros lose?
After all, Rob Manfred said he couldn't strip the Astros (or eventually the Red Sox) of their title and quoted a baseball precedent that decisions aren't retroactively changed.
However, most of the baseball world are howling that the punishment was far lighter than it should have been.
What is a reasonable punishment?
Let's work on it and remember I'm not completely knowledgeable about what may or may not be allowed under the labor agreement.

I do know that the fine of five million dollars is the maximum fine allowed, so I'll have to leave that in place.
When you own a major league baseball team, an owner would have to be fined fifty million to even begin to feel a small pinch, so the five million is hardly an issue.

Since Rob Manfred won't take the title out of the record books, let's do the next best thing.
All banners, signs that refer to the 2017 champions must come down.
The World Series trophy may be kept, but it has to stay in the team offices without public display.
No team merchandise can be sold with the 2017 World Series logo or anything that states champions on the item.
The championship can be mentioned in the team media guide, but only if it is accompanied by a note that mentions the scandal as well.
Any items that are remaining in the Astros possessions from that year for souvenirs will be either given away or disposed of- the Astros will make no further money from anything related to that season.

It's been mentioned that almost every player was in on this scheme and assuming that's the case, the Astros will be mandated to suspend every player on their roster that was on the 2017 team.
Naturally, the suspensions will not be all of the same lengths as a September callup would not have the same punishment as Jose Altuve and we cannot give them all at the same time, but let's handicap the Astros with this- their main stars will serve their penalty concurrently at the beginning of the season.
Whatever the penalty is, the Astros will watch Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa will serve their suspensions at the same time.
When they return, the other players involved will take their suspensions.
By suspending the team in that manner, the Astros will more than likely fall far behind in the standings and would be unlikely to make up the type of ground that they would lose without their stars.

The persons involved such as Jeff Luhnow, A.J.Hinch etc are suspended for a year, but the punishment will be harsher as after the suspension is completed, any team wishing to hire them will have to show "Cause" for hiring them.
The NCAA uses this when coaches cause schools to be placed on probation, but either quit or are fired and any coach under those conditions that another school would wish to hire must go in front of the NCAA with the coach and show "cause" for why this person needs to be hired and what would be different this time.
Many teams, at least for a while, just will not want to deal with the hassle and baggage for these men and leave them without a job.

This punishment will never happen, but I'll punish anyway.
Jeff Luhnow can eliminate the just cause penalty if he spends one season as a general manager for one of the 42 teams that he wants to eliminate.
Let's see Luhnow see the people and towns that he wants to take baseball away from and work with them for a season.
Perhaps Mr.Luhnow might learn that baseball is about more than numbers and even wins and losses if he served some time outside the luxury suites of the majors.

And one final punishment for Astros owner Jim Crane.
Since Crane created this free-wheeling environment that allowed for this type of rulebreaking, Crane may not participate in league matters for two seasons.
Crane can go to the team offices, but he may not do anything but review items.
Crane can attend five games a year, but he will not be allowed to use luxury suites or lower bowl seating.

Using these punishments would serve as a much larger deterrent from teams believing that chicanery is worth the punishment for the inevitable next time.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Rosario shocks Williams!

Photo; Corey Perrine-Getty Images
The boxing weekend saw a shocking upset in Philadelphia as their hometown champion Julian Williams lost his WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles by fifth-round knockout to Jeison Rosario in Williams' first title defense since his upset win over Jarrett Hurd.

I was struck immediately by how much larger Rosario seemed than Williams at the start of the fight, but I still figured Williams would handle Rosario.
In hindsight, I should have remembered the other fight that Williams looked so much smaller than his opponent- His KO loss to Jermall Charlo.
Williams started well, but Rosario rebounded in the second round where his right hands began to puff Williams up around his left eye and what proved to be more important, cut Williams over the same eye.
This would impair the vision of Williams as he would spend the rest of the fight, occasionally swiping at the cut in an attempt to clear his vision and it would only make sense that the champion was having problems picking up the incoming right hands from Rosario.
Rosario won the third, but Williams rebounded to grab the fourth on my scorecard to even the fight entering the fifth.
The right hand was the most damaging punch throughout the fight for Rosario, but it was the left that started the road to the championship as a left sent Williams stumbling to the ropes in distress.
Rosario began to land further, but Williams hit the deck in an attempt to hold onto Rosario and was barely able to rise from the stumble.
Williams was in such despair that I wouldn't have argued if Benji Estevez stopped the fight then, but Williams was given the chance to survive.
He wouldn't as a swarming Rosario sent Williams careening off the ropes with a right uppercut that left Estevez no choice but to end the fight.

Once again, my theory that the PBC may have a lot of talented depth in the 154-pound division, but lacks a standout, proves true with Rosario's upset of Williams.
Adding Rosario to the mix improves that depth, but I doubt that Rosario is a star either.
PBC has several fighters that can make excellent fights against one another, but the winner of these fights depends on the style and whom they are matched against.
Jarrett Hurd beats Tony Harrison, Tony Harrison beats Jermell Charlo, the elder Charlo beats Julian Williams, Williams beats Hurd, who beat Erislandy Lara, add Jeison Rosario and the beat goes on.
Williams is contractually obligated to a rematch with Rosario, just as Williams was obligated to one vs Jarrett Hurd after Williams upset win (see what I mean?), but Rosario could take Williams' place in what was scheduled to be a three title unification fight with Jermell Charlo instead.
It would make sense to have Rosario-Charlo with Hurd-Williams II as the co-feature and natural next fight for the unified winner and I bet that would be a fun card for viewers.
PBC should make Rosario-Charlo quickly and not hesitate as knowing the three sanctioning bodies, they will start shoving mandatories at both fighters soon, which could cause delays for close to a year.

The co-feature was nothing to mention as promising junior lightweight Chris Colbert won a minor title with a unanimous decision over former WBA champion Jezreel Corrales.
Colbert knocked Corrales down in the tenth round, but Corrales wasn't seriously stunned.
I scored Colbert a 117-110 winner, but the most impressive thing about this fight was the deep purple shade that Colbert dyed his hair.
I think Colbert is a very good prospect, but I wouldn't rank him as the top prospect in the game as commentator Dan Goossen stated.
I'll go with Golden Boy welterweight Vergil Ortiz for that honor.

Over on ESPN with Top Rank, their fights weren't very stimulating, but they did deliver one exciting ending as former WBO light heavyweight champion Eleider Alvarez knocked out Michael Seals with one comet-like right hand in the seventh round.
Up to that crunching right, Alvarez had won every round on my card (60-54) but wasn't thrilling in doing so as he clearly paid plenty of respect for the big punching Seals, who tried to fire his own booming right but seemed a hair off in launching it.
Both fighters attempted to fire rights at the same time in round seven and as happened throughout the bout, it was Alvarez that threw the faster and straighter punch and Seals was falling forward after the punch landed, but as Seals fell, his head smacked into the shoulder of Alvarez as he followed through.
The collision changed the trajectory of Seals and instead of falling forward, he was driven backward and smacked his head against the bottom rope in an ugly scene.
Referee Danny ( Don't call me Tony) Schiavone quickly stopped the fight and fortunately, Seals was fine upon getting to his corner.
Alvarez will next face Joe Smith on an ESPN card this spring in what should be an entertaining fight as both guys can punch well (Smith has the edge) and both men take a punch well (Alvarez might have a small advantage there) so the styles should mesh well.
The winner of that fight might be in line for either WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev or WBA titleholder Dmitri Bivol.
Beterbiev-Alvarez would be very intriguing to me as Beterbiev stops everyone, Alvarez has the best chin in the division and with both fighters establishing a home in Montreal, I would think pairing them for a title defense in the Bell Centre would draw an excellent crowd.

In the co-feature, the once-touted Felix Verdejo continued to slog along the comeback trail with a unanimous decision over Manuel Rey Rojas in a lightweight ten rounder.
Verdejo dominated the fight (98-92 on my card), but never stepped the pace up in an attempt to take the journeyman Rojas out.
Verdejo is now being trained by Ismael Salas and there is always a process of development, so I wouldn't give up hope of a career rebound yet, but it could very well be that the promise that Verdejo once showed could have been left on the side of the road where he had his motorcycle accident in 2016.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica outscored me five to four to take the early season lead at six to five.
The point difference was the Eleider Alvarez knockout, which Ramon predicted with my prediction having Alvarez a decision victor.


The college season is complete and with only three games to be played in the NFL season, the PPM winds down as well!

Last Week: 5-1
Overall: 174-78

AFC Title
Chiefs 27 Titans 20

NFC Title
Packers 23 49ers 21

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge is brought to fans from two platforms as the PBC will televise their show from Philadelphia, while ESPN counters with a card from Verona, New York.

The more important fight is from PBC as Julian Williams defends his WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles for the first time since his surprise victory over Jarrett Hurd against Jeison Rosario.
Williams had won all of his fights since his knockout loss to Jermall Charlo in 2016 but wasn't overly impressive in working his way back to contention before his fight with Hurd, who had been stellar in his wins over Erislandy Lara, Tony Harrison, and Austin Trout in the same period.
Rosario has won his most recent fights against decent, but not world-class opposition, but suffered his only loss against Nathaniel Gallimore, who knocked Rosario down three times in stopping him in six rounds.
Williams owns a victory over Gallimore and should Williams win as expected, Williams will face Jermell Charlo in a fight that would unify three of the four titles at 154 pounds.

The co-feature is in the junior lightweight division as flashy prospect Chris Colbert battles former WBA champion, Jezreel Corrales, for a minor title.
Colbert knocked out veteran Miguel Beltran in the first round in his last fight and takes another leap forward against Corrales, who lost his last fight to Ladarious Miller at lightweight via split decision, which should have been a draw had the referee not made a ludicrous decision to take a point away from Corrales with 40 seconds remaining in the fight for holding.

ESPN's card from Verona will showcase the light heavyweights for the second week in a row with former WBO champion Eleider Alvarez against Michael Seals.
Seals has recently returned to fringe contention with a few devastating knockouts over weaker opposition and Alvarez is a major obstacle in his path.
Alvarez will be fighting for the first time in almost a year after losing his title back to Sergey Kovalev in a rematch last February, but seems to be a clear cut above Seals.
The winner is expected to face Joe Smith on a Top Rank card later this year after Smith defeated Jesse Hart last week.

The co-feature will see the comeback of the once super-prospect Felix Verdejo in a lightweight fight.
Verdejo has fought only twice in the twenty-two months since his shocking final round loss to Antonio Torres.
Verdejo's opponent, Manuel Rey Rojas, isn't likely to test Verdejo as he has fought only twice in 18 months, both wins over fighters with losing records.

In the Boxing Challenge, Ramon Malpica and I are tied at one point.

WBA and IBF Junior Middleweight Titles. 12 Rds
Julian Williams vs Jeison Rosario
R.L:  Williams KO 7
TRS: Williams KO 8

Junior Lightweights. 12 Rds
Jezreel Corrales vs Chris Colbert
Both:  Colbert Unanimous Decision

Light Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Eleider Alvarez vs Michael Seals
R.L:  Alvarez KO 9
TRS: Alvarez Unanimous Decision

Lightweights 10 Rds
Felix Verdejo vs Manuel Rey Rojas
R.L:  Verdejo KO 6
TRS: Verdejo KO 4

Friday, January 17, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox

We clean out another inbox with an all football edition, so if the pigskin is not your plate of choice, hang in there there are some fun reads in here anyway!

We start with an excellent piece from ESPN as the "Worldwide Leader" looks back at one of those sports stories that not only is a fascinating "What If" tale but one of the rare stories that the story has not been told from the participant or one of their confidants.
Twenty years ago, Bill Belichick resigned as head coach of the New York Jets after holding the position for all of one day after Bill Parcells "retired" for the third time ( there would still be one more for Parcells and Belichick was promoted to head coach via a contractual obligation that was signed when Belichick joined the Jets as defensive coordinator under Parcells.
Various people commented that were with the Jets at the time and quotes are taken from a book that was written by Parcells about the 1999 Jets season, but not Belichick or anyone close to him.
It's an interesting read and you'll wonder what could have occurred had Belichick stayed as "the HC of the NYJ" rather than leave for the Patriots, but the true reasons and story might have to wait until Belichick's retirement.

Another 20th anniversary was recently marked and ESPN was there again as the Music City Miracle was remembered.
The Miracle talks to the players and coaches involved with "Home Run Throwback", which saw two laterals for the Tennessee Titans result in a touchdown with only seconds remaining to eliminate the Buffalo Bills in the AFC playoffs.
The article talks about the play, how it was drawn up, and why certain players were selected to be involved with the play.
It also talks with the players about the play, how it affected them thereafter and what they are doing currently.

One final ESPN story writes about the effect that the 2019 season had on the LSU Tigers with the National Championship won last Monday with a win over Clemson.
The article writes about the historic offense and Joe Burrow's SIXTY touchdowns passes, but it also looks back at Tiger history, which was interesting to me with the portion that I did not know about the influence of  Huey P. Long on the importance of building LSU as a football power.
Long's antics included telling coaches to run particular plays, giving halftime speeches in the locker room, promising players jobs if LSU rallied to win a particular game, and moved players into the locker room!
Imagine the NCAA fun with that happening today!
I enjoyed reading about the Tigers tradition but considering that LSU had won national titles in 2003 and 2007 (that one over Ohio State), I'm not sure I'll buy that their fan base has suffered that much in the last twenty years.

The Athletic takes over with an article on the Cleveland Browns and the people that they referred to as the "Sons of 1-31".
The Browns have only five players remaining from the 2016 and 17 Browns that combined for one win in thirty-two games and of those five players, most could be former Browns by next season.
Joel Bitonio is locked up under a long-term contract and long snapper Charley Hughlett will likely remain, but Christian Kirksey has missed a lot of time for an expensive player, Joe Schobert could sign elsewhere if the analytics group decides that his value isn't what their numbers say that it is and I would have thought that Rashard Higgins would have been on his way out after being buried by Freddie Kitchens, but it is possible that Higgins may stay, especially if Andrew Berry is the choice as general manager that I think he will be as Berry was part of the team that drafted Higgins.
The article talks to each of the five about 1-31, the disappointment of the 2019 campaign, and what and where their future could go.

The Athletic is again with a Browns draft pick, but it's the story of a Browns player that never played a game in Cleveland.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was the top-ranked cornerback for the 2015 NFL Draft, but a devastating knee injury in a practice for Oregon's Rose Bowl saw Ekpre-Olomu fall to the bottom of the seventh round to be drafted by Cleveland.
Ekpre-Olomu would spend the 2015 season rehabilitating the knee but was released before the 2016 season by the incoming regime (this one was the Sashi Brown version).
The Dolphins claimed him off waivers, but another knee injury in Miami ended his career without playing in even an exhibition game.
The article also discusses his background from Nigeria and what he's up to today as he is about to start a job with Nike as an athletic trainer.

We wrap with a football goodbye as George Perles passed away at the age of 85.
Perles was an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers for all four Super Bowl championships that the "Steel Curtain" won in the 70s, serving as the defensive line coach for all four teams and the defensive coordinator for the final two champions in 1978 and 79.
Perles would later become the head coach at Michigan State for twelve seasons and his 1987 team that won the Rose Bowl is the final Michigan State team to win an outright regular-season Big Ten title before the conference championship game era.
Perles left the Steelers to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL in 1983, but before training camp opened for the Stars, Michigan State fired their head coach, Muddy Waters, and with Michigan State as the alma mater of Perles, Perles asked to be relieved of his obligation to the Stars, who reluctantly allowed Perles to leave and hired the then-unknown head coach Jim Mora.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Forgotten Superstars: Randy Gradishar

It's time for a return of what some of you reading have told me is your favorite regular segment- the Forgotten Superstars and today's version is a timely one with the recent announcement of the "Centennial Edition" inductees of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Once again, Randy Gradishar has been denied deserved induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Gradishar already has been inducted in the College Football version as he made that grade in 1998 from his days at Ohio State where he was a two-time All-American and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting for 1973 in a year that saw Ohio State place John Hicks (2nd), Archie Griffin (5th) and Gradishar in the top six and essentially hand the award to Penn State's John Cappelletti with three players splitting the Midwest vote.
Gradishar would be the first-round selection of the Denver Broncos in 1974, was a key cog in the rise of the Denver franchise and in his ten-year career, Gradishar would make seven Pro Bowls, named All-Pro six times and would win the AFC defensive player of the year in 1978.
Combine that with a strong case that the AFC defensive player of the year for 1977 could have been given to him and that he was still in his prime when he retired after the 1983 season in which he was named All-Pro, the case for induction is an easy one to make.

I looked back a little at Randy Gradishar in 2016 and I've always thought that he has been kept out of the Hall for a few different reasons.
The biggest reason is that the peak of Gradishar's career coincided with the beginning of the 3-4 defense that Gradishar's Denver Broncos used as their defensive system.
As effective as the 3-4 was and still is, at that time the 3-4 hadn't truly let loose outside linebackers as pass rushers and with two inside backers rather than a middle linebacker in a 4-3, Gradishar had more responsibilities in pass coverage than a middle linebacker of the time and as an inside linebacker rarely rushed the passer to roll up the type of statistics that voters of today value most from a linebacker-sacks.
Even still, Gradishar finished with only 4.5 sacks officially for his career, that is only because of sacks becoming an official statistic for the final two seasons of his career.
Gradishar also intercepted twenty passes in his career, three of those for touchdowns.

When you add those facts to an unprovable one, Randy Gradishar likely finished the 1970s with more tackles than anyone in the decade and has been mentioned as finishing with over two thousand tackles when he retired after the 1983 season, which would be the highest in NFL history to that point.
I believe that is likely to be correct, but it's unprovable because tackles did not become an official NFL stat until 1994.
Taking those two unofficial statistics together, the statistics that would prove Gradishar's worth either worked against his role on the defense that he played for or weren't an official statistic during his career.

Of the great defenses of the 1970s, Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain (5), Dallas's Doomsday (4), Minnesota's Purple People Eaters (3) and even Miami's No-Name defense has Nick Buoniconti, yet the "Orange Crush" of Denver is yet to be represented.
Randy Gradishar should have been a slam dunk, Louie Wright is another player that has been overlooked by voters and Lyle Alzado might have had a chance if not for the steroid admission and controversy from the end of his career.
Check the numbers out of Louis Wright (perhaps a future forgotten superstar?) and compare them to Donnie Shell and Cliff Harris, both inducted in this class and then consider which is harder to find- an elite cornerback or an elite safety (I'd argue that both Shell and Harris were very good players surrounded by great ones) before the easy take of "Super Bowl Rings".
Minnesota has three guys in (all deserving) and they didn't win one, so that standard shouldn't wash.

I've written in the past of my Bronco fandom in childhood and I spent several years with my Bronco jersey with Gradishar's 53 on it from Sears.
Back then, if you wanted jerseys or clothing from teams other than in your area, you had to order from Sears and each team would only have one player available.
It says a lot that the Broncos best player and selection was a defensive player in a day of almost all offensive glamour positions.
As shown in the picture to the right, only one team of the-then 28 teams in the
NFL was represented by a defensive player- Randy Gradishar of the Denver Broncos.

Randy Gradishar may not have received his deserved bust in Canton, but he is now part of the Forgotten Superstars universe, which may not be nearly as prestigious but apparently is better at evaluating deserving members.

Randy Gradishar clips start at around the thirty-minute mark and are preceded by those of Louis Wright.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Fantasy Minor Recap- Pitchers

The second look at the 2019 season from the fantasy baseball aspect and my minor league systems focuses on the eight pitchers in my system.

There were some big seasons with players moving up the prospect charts and others dealt with injury problems as young pitchers often do, but on the overall, "the Ducks" pitching prospects are looking fairly bright for a team that chose only two pitchers in the 2019 minor league draft.

We'll start with those two draftees, who both soared up the prospect ratings and both pitchers did their work at levels that were usually above players of their age.

Luis Patino  RHP San Diego
High A Lake Elsinore: 87 IP 6-8 2.69 ERA 113 SO 34 BB
AA Amarillo: 7.2 IP 0-0 1.17 ERA 10 SO 4 BB

In almost any organization in the game, Luis Patino would be considered their top pitching prospect, but San Diego has another top pitcher in Mackenzie Gore, so Patino has to settle for the top righthanded thrower for the Padres.
Still, Patino pitched the entire 2019 season at 19 years of age, cruised through the High A California League which is a noted hitters league and finished the season with an over three strikeouts to one walk ratio.
Patino held opponents to an average under .200 and according to the Padres added a strong changeup to a top-notch fastball and curve.
Patino will again be challenged at the age of 20 with an assignment to AA Amarillo and it's possible with a repeat season, Patino could be in San Diego late in the 2020 season.

Deivi Garcia RHP New York Yankees
High A Tampa: 17.2 IP 0-2 3.06 ERA 33 SO 8 BB
AA Trenton: 53.2 IP 4-4 3.86 ERA 87 SO 26 BB
AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre: 40 IP 1-3 5.40 ERA 45 SO 20 BB

Garcia turned 20 in May, so he was pushed far ahead of his level for his age.
At High A, 33 strikeouts in under 18 innings? That's just short of two an inning and it's no wonder that Garcia was moved quickly to AA Trenton.
The whiffs didn't slack off there and despite the average ERA, Garcia only allowed opposing hitters to bat .213 against him at AA.
Garcia didn't fare as well at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, but that was a big step for a 20-year-old and he still averaged over a strikeout an inning.
Garcia has been compared by some to Pedro Martinez and the pitches are there to be dominant, but he's listed at 5'9 and seeing him in person I thought 5'9 was being very generous.
The small size does bring up questions for long-term durability, but Garcia's arm is the real deal.
Garcia should start the season at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre and could see New York by season's end.

Jesus Luzardo LHP Oakland
High A Stockton: 10 IP 1-0 0.90 ERA 18 SO 0 BB
AAA Las Vegas: 31 IP 1-1 3.19 ERA 34 SO 8 BB
Oakland :   12 IP 0-0 1.50 ERA 16 SO 3 BB

Luzardo missed part of the 2019 season with a shoulder strain, but it wasn't serious and he pitched well at AAA Las Vegas after a few rehab innings in High A.
Luzardo was called up late in the season to Oakland, where he pitched very well out of the bullpen for the Athletics, but his three plus pitches and excellent control gives the 22-year-old Luzardo an excellent chance to be part of the Oakland rotation to start the season.
Luzardo could start at AAA Las Vegas if the Athletics want to hedge their bets against arbitration down the road, but at worst will be in Oakland by midseason.

Justus Sheffield LHP Seattle
AA Arkansas: 78 IP 5-3 2.19 ERA 85 SO 18 BB
AAA Tacoma: 55 IP 2-6 6.87 ERA 48 SO 41 BB
Seattle: 36 IP 0-1 5.50 ERA 37 SO 18 BB

Sheffield, the top pick of Cleveland in 2014 and was sent to the Yankees in a deadline deal before moving to the Mariners last winter, started 2019 at AAA Tacoma.
After 55 innings that saw Sheffield walk almost as many as he struck out (41 BB to 48 SO) and an ERA that only missed an extra point to be considered a touchdown ERA, the desperate Mariners dropped Sheffield to AA Arkansas to try to salvage Sheffield's confidence.
Sheffield was able to recover at AA but was hit hard in seven starts with the big league club late in the season.
Sheffield is expected to be either the 4th or 5th starter for the Mariners entering training camp.

Adrian Morejon LHP San Diego
AA Amarillo 36 IP 0-4 4.25 ERA 44 SO 15 BB
San Diego 8 IP 0-0 10.13 ERA 9 SO 3 BB

An April injury made the Padres very cautious with the 20 year old Cuban and after Morejon missed three weeks, the Padres continued to start Morejon, but he usually pitched only one or two innings, only throwing three innings on one occasion.
It was the limited use that caused the bad win-loss record, but the K-BB ratio was almost three to one and hitters hit only .215 in the Texas League against him.
A late July call-up didn't go well from the bullpen and Morejon was shut down in August with a shoulder injury.
The shoulder injury wasn't serious and Morejon pitched in the Arizona Fall League.
Morejon could contend for a rotation spot, but I think he'll start in the Padres AAA affiliate in San Antonio's rotation.

Triston McKenzie RHP Cleveland
Did Not Pitch

A nagging back injury cost McKenzie his 2019 season and for all McKenzie's impressive numbers for his career, he has yet to complete a full season.
McKenzie is reported to be ready to go for spring training and the Indians could assign him to AAA Columbus to start, but he might spend April with AA Akron after the year away.

Corbin Martin RHP Arizona
AAA Round Rock 37.1 IP 2-1 3.13 ERA 45 SO 18 BB
Houston 19.1 IP 1-1 5.59 ERA 19 SO 12 BB

Martin seemed to be on the fast track to the majors after an impressive start at AAA Round Rock and a May call to Houston.
Martin had one solid start, but was rocked in his other four and was returned to AAA.
Martin would make three June starts and he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Martin is now the property of the Diamondbacks as even with the injury, Martin was included in the trade that saw Zack Greinke move to the Astros.

Logan Allen RHP Cleveland
AAA El Paso 57.2 IP 4-3 5.15 ERA 63 SO 22 BB
AAA Columbus 22.1 IP 1-1 7.66 ERA 18 SO 12 BB
San Diego 25.1 IP 2-3 6.75 ERA 14 SO 13 BB
Cleveland 2.1 IP 0-0 0.00 ERA 3 SO 1 BB

Allen seemed to struggle at AAA El Paso and for some reason, the Padres called him up for 8 appearances with four of those starts.
San Diego sent Allen to Cleveland with Franmil Reyes as part of the three-team deal with the Reds and after being assigned to AAA Columbus, Allen struggled in his first four starts before a good final outing of the season.
Allen made a late-season cameo from the Indians bullpen.
I'm not sure what to expect from Allen, but his ceiling isn't as high as others on this list.

Corbin Martin and Logan Allen weren't drafted by me, but since I added them off waivers in their big league time, I am allowed to send them down to my minors when they were returned to AAA.

I'm going to protect Patino, Luzardo, Garcia, McKenzie, Morejon.
I'm leaning towards protecting Sheffield.
I will be releasing Martin and Allen.