Monday, August 31, 2020

The teardown begins- Indians send Clevinger to San Diego

The beginning of the program for the Cleveland Indians that was expected to begin in the offseason started a bit early as the Indians made an early trade on the final day before the trade deadline.

Cleveland sent pitcher Mike Clevinger, spare outfielder Greg Allen, and the notable PTBNL to the San Diego Padres for three players off the Padre major league roster and three more from the deep San Diego minor league system as Cleveland will be exploring one of three directions for the 2021 season.

Cleveland obtained pitcher Cal Quantrill, first baseman/outfielder Josh Naylor, and catcher Austin Hedges from the Padres major league roster with shortstop Gabriel Arias, second baseman Owen Miller, and pitcher Joey Cantillo from the San Diego system.
I'll be writing about the Indians' newest arrivals tomorrow, but in this post, I want to write about the players leaving Cleveland.

The Indians had been rumored to have been shopping Clevinger after he and fellow pitcher Zach Plesac had violated the league's Covid-19 policy and then attempted to conceal that fact to the team and his teammates.
Clevinger (and Plesac) were assigned to the Indians minor-league center in Eastlake (Lake County) and the end result had Clevinger not making a start for twenty-one days before his start last Wednesday against the Twins, allowing two runs over six innings in a no-decision for the righthander.
Clevinger was 1-1 with twenty-one strikeouts and an ERA of 3.18 in four starts this season after winning thirteen games in each of the two previous seasons.
Clevinger is arbitration-eligible and the Padres will have two years of control over him, which helped in the Indians receiving the amount of talent that they did in the trade as he will not be a rental for the Padres.
Clevinger turns thirty after the season, so he would hit free agency at thirty-two, which is a little old for a player to hit the market for the first time and even more so for a pitcher.
Plus there is some reason to think that Clevinger could eventually break down with a high effort delivery and mechanics that are always going to be on the verge of going off-kilter.
Between all of that and Clevinger's history of nagging injuries that have caused him to miss time (although none of those injuries were to his shoulder or elbow), I can see why the time was right to strike if the Indians really liked this six-pack from San Diego.

Greg Allen was the other player heading from Cleveland to the West Coast.
The speedy Allen was hitting .160 with a homer for the Indians in twenty-five at-bats this season and hit .229 with four homers last season in splitting his season between Cleveland and AAA Columbus,
At 27 years of age, Allen profiles as a fifth outfielder that will fit the role of a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-runner, and should the Padres reach the postseason, Allen could be used in a similar manner as Kansas City used Terrance Gore in their playoff runs a few years ago.
Allen isn't quite as fast as Gore, but he can "pick them up and put them down" as they used to say and could be helpful in that spot for the Padres.

There is a player to be named and while it could be a low-level minor leaguer as a lottery ticket, please allow me to take a long shot at trying to figure out who the PTBNL could be.
Could it be Bradley Zimmer?
Zimmer's injury resume' has been vast and his bat has been anemic throughout his Cleveland tenure, never hitting above .241.
Given a chance earlier in this cameo of a season. Zimmer hit one homer in fifty plate appearances with five other singles for a batting average of .162.
Sometimes, players need a fresh start and with several outfielders of similar production on the roster currently, the Indians could be ready to cut bait with the Padres willing to risk next to nothing for Zimmer, who with his excellent defensive skills, should be a defensive upgrade for a backup outfielder in the vast expanse of Petco Park.

That's my take on what the Indians have given up, but what about the newcomers from San Diego?
I'll be writing about the new Indians in our next post.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Ramirez evades Postol, Dubois destroys.

The boxing world anticipated Jose Ramirez defending his WBC and WBO junior welterweight titles against difficult veteran Viktor Postol from the Las Vegas bubble for several reasons.
Getting the fight in at all after two postponements, Ramirez dealing with a difficult style from a more experienced and taller fighter, and would Ramirez be looking forward to a unification bout against WBA and IBF champion Josh Taylor at the expense of looking past Postol?

The answers to those questions vary, but Ramirez will be marching on to face Josh Taylor after a difficult majority decision over Postol, winning 116-112 and 115-113 on two cards with the other scoring it a draw at 114-114.
The fight swung back and forth between the two, as I had Ramirez winning the first few rounds, Postol taking command for the next handful, Ramirez then appeared to be coming on to put the fight in his column, but Postol rallied to put the seed of doubt in the minds of many before the cards were announced.
Ramirez was the aggressor throughout, but he did have his struggles against the jab and straight right of Postol and it does make you wonder about his chances against Taylor, who isn't as tall as Postol, but can box well and punches harder.
I'm willing to give Ramirez the benefit of the doubt between a thirteen-month layoff and three training camps for the fight for a good, not great victory, but he'll have to improve before a fight against Taylor.
As for Postol, at 37, he proved that he is still at a championship-caliber level and he should be in the mix for one of the titles that the winner of Ramirez-Taylor will be sure to vacate after their unification in 2021.

The co-feature saw undefeated junior welterweight Arnold Barboza win every round on all three scorecards (and mine) and only a late-round point deduction cost Barboza a perfect score of 100-90 in a unanimous decision over Tony Luis.
Barboza didn't step up the pace looking for a KO, but he was content with a lopsided domination and should be tested more in a possible next outing against former title challenger Alex Saucedo in what I think would be a very interesting crossroads fight.

Earlier in the day, ESPN+ streamed the best heavyweight prospect in the world as Daniel Dubois blasted out the sadly out of his league Ricardo Snijders in two rounds.
Dubois knocked Snijders down three times in the first round with the third knockdown occurring late enough in the round for Snijders to survive, but within seconds of round two Snijders was on the floor for the fight's conclusion.
Dubois looks the part as a future star, but his competition has not been stellar and who knows what happens when he gets hit.
Some answers will come in Dubois's next fight against undefeated former Olympic silver medalist Joe Joyce, who is very slow but hurts what he hits.
Dubois vs Joyce is another upcoming bout that I'm very interested in seeing.

And then there's Maude. errr PBC on Fox with another main event of dreadfully mismatched fighters.
Erislandy Lara had been given praise by many. including myself, for engaging more often and delivering more exciting fights in a split decision loss to Jarrett Hurd and a draw against Brian Castano and the "new" Lara was expected to cruise to victory against New England clubfighter Greg Vendetti.
Lara did cruise to victory, although the scores of 116-112 and 117-111 times two were closer than I saw the fight at 119-111,  but he didn't excite anyone doing so and he certainly didn't pick up the pace in winning.
In other words, the "old" Erislandy Lara arrived when the new one would have saved himself and the viewers a long twelve rounds.
Lara looks to fight Canelo Alvarez next (fat chance) or the winner of the three title unification fight between Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario, which is more likely with Lara and the winner promoted by PBC but may not be the immediate focus.

The co-feature saw plenty of punches landed in an entertaining fight at a lower level as late replacement Vladimir Hernandez won a unanimous decision over Alfredo Angulo in a super middleweight fight that was initially scheduled as an IBF eliminator for a shot at Caleb Plant.
Both fighters landed plenty of punches, but either fighter would have had issues with an opponent of average speed, and Hernandez at 12-4 isn't going to beat very many contenders, but the story is Angulo, who is at the stage of his career that he needs to consider retirement.
Angulo, who upset Peter Quillin in his last fight, takes punishment in every fight and unless he's matched carefully as against Quillin, he will take more and more abuse.
The three judges scored the fight 98-92 for Hernandez, while I scored it for Hernandez a bit closer at 96-94.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored seven points over the weekend.
The total moves to 101-94.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The major title fight of boxing's return leads the boxing weekend with ESPN+ featuring Jose Ramirez defending his WBC and WBO junior welterweight titles against former WBC champion Viktor Postol as this fight takes its third try at getting into the ring.

Ramirez will be making his mandatory title defense in a rare Top Rank (Ramirez) versus PBC (Postol) pairing and should Ramirez defend successfully, it is expected that he will unify all four titles in the division early next year against WBA and IBF champion Josh Taylor of Great Britain.
Postol will not be an easy out, even at 36, as he has the height and reach advantage and Postol does best against aggressive fighters that move forward and it was Postol that busted up Lucas Matthysse in winning by upset knockout in 2015.
In college football, this is known as a "trap game", a game that a good team overlooks a bit because a bigger game is coming up the following week.
Ramirez will try to break Postol down in the same manner as Josh Taylor did ( and Terence Crawford) and something tells me that if Postol is at the top of his game, Ramirez is going to have a difficult time, but Ramirez will answer this question- Is he potentially a special fighter or just a very good one?
Special fighters dominate in trap fights, I'm very intrigued by this one.

The co-feature pits undefeated junior welterweight Arnold Barboza against veteran Canadian Tony Luis.
Barboza was very impressive in his last fight in stopping William Silva in five rounds in Las Vegas and in Luis, Barboza faces a durable journeyman that is on a twelve fight winning streak.
Barboza looks to be a cut above Luis and if he isn't, then this might be a better fight than I suspect it may be.

In the afternoon, ESPN+ will stream another young prospect and perhaps the future of the heavyweight division as Daniel Dubois returns in his prep for his showdown with fellow undefeated Briton Joe Joyce.
Ricardo Snijders is the latest fighter with a decent record against bad opposition (Dubois' last four opponents entered with a combined record of 70-2)  to face Dubois and I'm not sure he'll last any longer than his last two opponents, who were finished in rounds one and two.
It's good for Dubois to have a little action before his big fight with Joe Joyce (Joyce had his prep last month), but I'd have my snacks ready before the fight begins.

And then there's the latest "card" from PBC on Fox filled with mismatches and past their prime boxers.
The main event looks like an incredible mismatch as Erislandy Lara defends his minor title against clubfighter Greg Vendetti.
Lara, who has become a more exciting fighter as he has aged, is more than worthy of fighting the best in the division, but he's not receiving that in Vendetti, who does own a decision win over Yoshihiro Kamegai (Kamegai retired after the fight) but was knocked out in two rounds by Michel Soro in 2018 and even putting the worthless "title" aside, Vendetti is unworthy of a nationally televised main event against someone as skilled as Lara.

The co-feature is an IBF super middleweight eliminator between former IBF champion Caleb Truax and Alfredo Angulo.
Truax, a journeyman that caught lightning on one night against an almost washed-up James DeGale to win his world championship and would lose the rematch, faces Angulo, who once was one of the most exciting fighters in the world, but five losses in seven fights before his last fight vs the equally shopworn Peter Quillin had Angulo's career firmly in the opponent category.
Angulo's exciting split decision win over Quillin allowed him this chance against Truax and should Truax stand in front of  Angulo this could be a fun fight to watch.
However, neither of these two is world title material at this stage of their career and no matter the victor, it appears that IBF champion Caleb Plant will have yet another unqualified challenger in a career filled with them.

Editors Note: Caleb Truax pulled out of his fight with Alfredo Angulo due to "effects from dehydration" attempting to make the 168-pound limit.
Vladimir Hernandez will be taking his place against Angulo.
Hernandez is 11-4 and upset 16-2 Aaron Coley in his last fight in July.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica has been chopping into my lead of late and has cut it to 94-87.

WBC/WBO Junior Welterweight Titles, 12 Rds
Jose Ramirez vs Viktor Postol
R.L: Ramirez KO 10
TRS: Ramirez Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights 10 Rds
Arnold Barboza vs Tony Luis
Both: Barboza Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Daniel Dubois vs Ricardo Snijders
R.L: Dubois KO 5
TRS: Dubois KO 2

Junior Middleweights 12 Rds
Erislandy Lara vs Greg Vendetti
R.L: Lara Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lara KO 6

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
Alfredo Angulo vs Vladimir Hernandez
R.L: Angulo KO 8
TRS: Angulo KO 7

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Browns making moves

The Cleveland Browns continue to move chess pieces around the board as they prepare their roster for a season without exhibition games.

The Browns have made two waiver claims and one of which was made with a clear eye to the future.

The Browns claimed Curtis Weaver off waivers from the Miami Dolphins, and I find this to be a claim that is very intriguing.
Weaver holds the Mountain West career record for sacks and was the conference defensive player of the year in 2019
I've watched a lot of Boise State games, so I've seen Curtis Weaver play often, and almost all of the draft observers had Weaver rated in the 2nd to 3rd round range with a few experts pegging Weaver as a possibility going late in the first round.

Instead, Weaver slid to the fifth round where he was selected by the Miami Dolphins and much like the Browns catching a break with Mack Wilson in the 2019 draft, Miami looked to have gotten lucky when a day one or day two player is available where their talents should not have placed them.
Weaver's motor is unquestioned as I've seen his attitude and hustle chase down runners on plays that would be easy to quit on.
The knock on Weaver by some is that he's a tweener that at 6'3, 265, he's too small for defensive end and not fast enough as a standup linebacker.
The Browns run a 4-3, so that does rule Weaver out as a linebacker, so they must be looking at him as a defensive end.

Weaver suffered a foot injury in Miami and the Dolphins attempted to slide him through waivers with an injury designation, figuring that no one would claim Weaver and he would clear waivers and spend the year on the injured reserve.
Cleveland surprised the Dolphins by claiming Weaver and essentially adding an extra draft pick from the 2020 session.
Miami traded up in the fifth round (they traded their fifth and seventh-round picks) to tab Weaver, so they had to have been surprised and disappointed to lose him.
The Browns will use a roster spot on Weaver until rosters are set and then place Weaver on their IR fo the season
The claim may prove to turn out to be just another claim, but it's possible the Browns may have added a productive player- They'll just have to wait a year to find out.

The Browns added another waived player that unlike Curtis Weaver, the team will be able to see right away in training camp as Cleveland claimed wide receiver Damion Willis from the Bengals off the waiver wire.
Willis was an undrafted free agent last season that made the team from Troy and caught nine passes
for eighty-two yards in ten games for Cincinnati.
Willis is more of a pure slot receiver than on the outside and will have to fight for the final wide receiver spot as the Browns are expected to keep Rashard Higgins, rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge and JoJo Natson with Hodge being a key part of special teams and Natson expected to be the top return man.
That leaves one spot and possibly two between Willis, Damion Ratley, Taywon Taylor, and D.J. Montgomery to fight over.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Tszyu stops Horn

Australia's superfight turned out to be competitive for one round and that first round was pretty close.

After that round, Tim Tszyu took command, knocked Jeff Horn twice in the third round, and delivered a beating that should send Horn into retirement after his corner ended the one-sided drubbing at the end of the eighth round.

The first round was evenly fought and could have been scored for either fighter.
I scored it for Horn, but there would not be another round that Horn could stake a claim for his own and the speed of Tszyu was too much for the veteran, who couldn't start anything on offense other than an occasional right hand that Tszyu was able to walk through.
Tszyu controlled the exchanges and surprisingly was able to outmuscle the larger and expected to be the stronger of the two fighters.

Tszyu, the son of the former unified junior welterweight champion, showed speed and power in his first fight against world-class competition, although it remains to be determined if this version of Jeff Horn was still at that level.
Tyszu will likely move up in the rankings after this win after entering 6th in the IBF and 9th in the WBO with Horn being ranked ahead of him in the WBO ratings and I could see an interesting match with WBO champion Patrick Teixeria as a possibility soon.
Should the money (and international travel allowed) be available, I would guess that Teixeria would be willing to travel to Australia for a sizable purse increase.
I'd rate Tszyu as a slight favorite over Teixeria and as a solid underdog against either of the participants in the unification fight next month for the other three titles between Jermell Charlo (WBC) and Jeison Rosario (WBA and IBF), but I wouldn't rate him as having no chance at all against either champion.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica added one point and cut into my lead at 94-87.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Boxing Challenge

An early morning (or late night depending on perspective) match from Australia as former WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn meets undefeated Tim Tszyu in a junior middleweight fight.

Horn, who upset Manny Pacquiao via a controversial unanimous decision in 2017, but has lost by stoppage to Terence Crawford and middleweight Michael Zerafa since then.
Horn avenged his loss to Zerafa in his last fight and drops from middleweight to junior middleweight for a shot at Tszyu, who is undefeated, but has't fought anyone at the level of Horn.
The son of Kostya Tszyu, the former undisputed junior welterweight titleist, may have an advantage with Horn having fought his last three fights at 160 and having to make weight.
This is a very difficult fight to call.
Tszyu's competition has been weak and who knows what happens when someone punches back, but Horn's loss and even his win against Michael Zerafa, a journeyman middleweight, makes me wonder if Horn is well past his prime.
Any result from this fight would not be a surprise to me.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 94-86.

Junior Middleweights. 10 Rds
Tim Tszyu vs Jeff Horn
R.L: Tszyu Unanimous Decision
TRS: Horn Split Decision

Browns lose Grant Delpit

A team that didn't need more bad news received just that as second-round draft pick Grant Delpit suffered an Achilles injury in warmups and will miss the upcoming season.

Delpit won the Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back in the nation for LSU and was considered by most, myself included, as a steal in round two with the playmaking potential to be the type of ball-hawking safety that Cleveland had not seen in years.

Delpit had not been named the starter at free safety, but was expected to see plenty of playing time and was expected to have taken control at the position by the end of the season.
Browns fans, let's hope we see this player next season!

Cleveland signed former Viking Andrew Sendejo as the veteran mentor/possible early-season starter in the off-season and returned second-year man Sheldrick Redwine at the position, but I'm not thrilled with either as the starter for the season.
Andrew Berry does have some interesting veteran options to consider at the position and though it would be against the usual Browns manner to sign a veteran name in these cases, there are some to choose from.

Earl Thomas has been one of the better safeties in the game, is similar to Delpit in his style of play, and played well for Baltimore last season although he did show some signs of decline when he was beaten deep on occasion.
Thomas did have an off the field incident in the off-season and the Ravens just waived him after a practice fight with teammate Chuck Clark.
Thomas could be a troubled player right now and the Browns may pass on Thomas for that reason alone.

Eric Reid has played well for Carolina in his two seasons after leaving San Francisco and I'm a big fan of his game.
However, he's more of a tackler (97 solos last year) than a playmaker ( four interceptions in his last five seasons) and  I think the Browns are hoping for more of the latter in what they are looking for.

Tony Jefferson is a player that the Browns front office in the Sashi Brown era with Andrew Berry in tow, went after very aggressively in 2017 but lost to Baltimore.
The Ravens used him more as a strong safety, but he can play free safety as well.
Jefferson is coming off a torn ACL and between that and his salary caused Baltimore to let him go.

Kurt Coleman is more of a strong safety at this point in his career but has played free safety.
Coleman isn't what he once was, but he can still hit, would be good in the locker room, and the former Buckeye in the worst case, won't be worse than what they have.

Eric Berry didn't play in 2019 and I'm not sure if he wants to play in 2020, but he's never announced his retirement and the time off (he only played seven games including playoffs in 2018) might have helped his body heal a bit.
Berry might be a risk at his age and status, but in his seven games in 2018, Berry showed he can still play at a high level.
The questions are will he hold up long enough over the course of a season and does he want to play and if so, where?

One final possibility for the spot is from in-house.
Tampa Bay released M.J. Stewart because they thought he was a step slow and short for a cornerback (Why they did not figure this out before drafting him in 2018 is another question).
However, they had considered trying him at safety where his size wouldn't be such a detriment and his football smarts would be an advantage.
Perhaps the answer to this problem could be giving Stewart, who has impressed observers in camp, a shot at the position?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Browns sign Malcolm Smith

With the recent injury to linebacker Mack Wilson, the Cleveland Browns were positioned to add a linebacker and preferably a veteran that could step into the fray as quickly as possible.

While the news on Wilson has been better than expected as a source close to the team told Mary Kay Cabot of that the team is hopeful that Wilson might not miss the entire year as originally feared, Wilson is still going to miss a substantial amount of time and the mentioned need above for a linebacker was still in place.

The Browns made their move Sunday in announcing the addition of veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith split last season between Jacksonville and Dallas but played for San Francisco in 2018 under Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods, so Smith should have some knowledge of the system to step in quickly and compete for playing time.
Smith is remembered by most for his Super Bowl MVP performance for the 2013 champion Seattle Seahawks in Seattle's 43-8 crushing of Denver when Smith grabbed a Peyton Manning pass and ran sixty-nine yards for a touchdown, recovered a fumble and finished with nine tackles on the evening.

The ten-year veteran has played for four teams since leaving Seattle following the 2014 season to sign with the then-Oakland Raiders, where he started thirty of the Raiders thirty-two games in his two seasons with them.
Since then, Smith has missed a season, started five of twelve games for San Francisco, and played two games each last season for Dallas and Jacksonville, starting one for the Cowboys.

Honestly, I'm non-plussed by this signing because I think there are superior free agents available such as Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron with another having upside if not established play in Darron Lee.
All of these players are better players of late, the Browns linebackers are filled with question marks as it is and the Browns could have made a better argument in signing another linebacker AND still signing Malcolm Smith.
It's a depth move that is needed, but not one that immediately improves the team.

The Browns also may be looking for a safety after second-round draft pick Grant Delpit was carted off the practice field after suffering what has been reported to be an Achilles injury.
Achilles injuries are rarely short-term injuries and I would think that the chances are better than average that the Browns may have seen the last of Grant Delpit this season.
More on that as the news develops.

Boxing Challenge: Povetkin Pulverizes! Smith Shocks! PBC ZZZZZZ

Two surprises on a big boxing Saturday, one surprise was the winner and how it happened and the other occurred with the dominance of the victory during a bout that was expected to be even entering the fight.

We start outside London at the palatial home of Mr.Eddie Hearn with a minor heavyweight title on the line, but more importantly, the top heavyweight in the world, not named Fury or Joshua, facing a top-level opponent and his chance to face Fury at risk.

Dillian Whyte had been admired for his willingness to face any top opponent during his rise to the near-top of the division and for four rounds against former WBA champion and long-time contender Alexander Povetkin, Whyte looked every bit the part of a dangerous threat to either WBC champion Tyson Fury or the holder of all three of the other titles and the last person to defeat Whyte in Anthony Joshua.
Whyte knocked Povetkin down twice in the fourth round and looked to have Povetkin stung in the fifth round before he dropped his hands slightly as they exchanged punches at close quarters and Povetkin uncorked a short left uppercut that dropped Whyte onto his back along the ropes with the referee immediately signaling an end to the fight.
Whyte exercised his rematch clause after the fight, so the two will square off in the fall or winter 2021 and I'd suspect that Whyte will be favored after dominating all but one second in the first fight, but Povetkin has the puncher's chance to repeat.
Povetkin's career has shown that he has been unable to defeat the "super heavyweights" losing to Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko but defeating everyone else that is closer to his size.
And while this win at 40 years old won't help him against the much larger Joshua and Tyson Fury, it will enable him to continue to get fights for quite some time and Povetkin will always have a chance to pull a win from the flames.

Top Rank and ESPN+ took over in the evening with a card from their Las Vegas "bubble" with the main event that looked very even with former WBO light heavyweight champion Eleider Alvarez matched against Joe Smith in a semi-final to crown a new WBO champion after Canelo Alvarez vacated that championship.
It looked to be a very tight fight with Alvarez expected to box against the rock-fisted Smith, who hasn't always thrown enough punches in his defeats to Sullivan Barrera and Dmitry Bivol.
Instead, Smith threw lots of punches, won every round on my card by refusing to allow Alvarez to keep away from his attack, and then ended the fight with an impressive right and left that sent Alvarez to the apron and despite a nice effort to reach his feet, Alvarez was counted out.
For Smith, the win showed a new dimension for the second-hardest puncher in the light heavyweight division (after Artur Beterbiev) and he'll be a strong favorite in the finals against the winner of the Maxim Vlasov-Umar Salamov semi in the finals.
As for Alvarez, "The Storm" may have found his level as a top ten fighter, but below the top five and after two losses in a row, Alvarez might be a fighter in decline.

Rob Brant dominated Vitaly Kopylenko, imposed an impressive mouse under the left eye of Kopylenko, and forced Kopylenko to inform referee Jay Nady that his vision was handicapped and that he would not be able to continue after the end of the fifth round.
For Brant, it was an impressive win, but considering Kopylenko's limited skills and style, Brant's speed overwhelmed him in the victory but did little to prove that anything would be different in the contracted third fight against Japan's Ryota Murata.
Brant upset Murata by decision in their first fight in October 2018 but lost the rematch by second-round knockout in July 2019.

And then there's PBC- I always imagine Bea Arthur opening the door with "Then there's Maude" when I write that phrase as it seems I do often when writing about PBC, with another weak card, this one from Los Angeles as former welterweight champion Shawn Porter won every round over Germany's Sebastian Formella on every card in winning a unanimous decision and winning a minor title as well as the mandatory spot for Errol Spence's WBC title.
One couldn't quibble with Porter's performance other than maybe not scoring a knockout over an opponent that was easily below his level, but Porter never became lazy or clownish as he continued to move forward all night.
Give some credit to Formella, who was trying all evening and didn't fight merely to survive, but he was out of his league and should not have been in a title eliminator, against a fighter of the caliber of Shawn Porter, and in the main event on national network television.
Just think both Fox cards coming up have similar main events as well.

The co-feature saw the world's tallest junior middleweight in 6'6  Sebastian Fundora, who stopped veteran Nathaniel Gallimore in six rounds.
Gallimore, who owns a victory over WBA and IBF champion Jeison Rosario, has basically been a gatekeeper type for the PBC-dominated division and usually shows a good chin along with making a decent fight, but against the lanky Fundora, he was unable to get any offense going at all.
Fundora, who can look heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in the eye, is going to give junior middleweights a unique look that no other fighter can prepare for, but he isn't a typical jab and dance man from the outside.
Fundora might be best served to do that from the outside against the best of the division, but against fighters such as Gallimore, Fundora has been able to stand on the inside and attack effectively.
I had Fundora ahead after five rounds, 49-45, and I would be interested to see Fundora's next step up in competition.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica gained some ground on me with five points to my three with Ramon scoring an extra point for Rob Brant and Sebastian Fundora's stoppage wins.
The total is currently 94-86.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Martinez returns with KO win.

Friday night from Spain, one of the quietest comebacks that you'll ever hear from began as former middleweight champion Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez returned to the ring in a ten rounder against Spaniard Jose Miguel Fandino.

Martinez retired after losing his WBC middleweight championship to Miguel Cotto in 2014 after taking punishment throughout the fight with his corner stopping the bout in the corner after the ninth round.
Cotto knocked Martinez down three times in the first round and Martinez couldn't use his natural athleticism to avoid Cotto's punches due to his knee problems, which required knee braces during the fight.
When fighters such as Martinez lose their slickness and speed, the fall from prominence is usually a quick one and it seemed like Martinez at the age of 40 after the loss would be a candidate to decline speedily.
I wasn't disappointed to hear of Martinez's retirement and figured it might save him a few pounding as his career began to taper off, but I was surprised when I heard about his planned return.
Martinez didn't strike me as a fighter that would find the need to come back and his opponent in Jose Miguel Fandino wasn't a soft touch even if not a world-class contender.

The comeback was a successful one as Martinez stopped Fandino in seven rounds, scoring knockdowns in the sixth and seventh and final rounds.
Martinez looked pretty good considering the layoff and the body shot that finished Fandino off would have stopped many a middleweight even today.
Martinez was not quite as elusive, but more willing to trade and he made me think of the transition that Erislandy Lara has made in the latter stages of his career- more exciting, slightly less effective and definitely taking punches more often.
From what I saw, Martinez might be able to have some success in his comeback- should he be matched properly.
The concern for me is that the "New" Martinez might get hurt if and when he would face big punchers when he stands in the pocket and his rumored opponent in minor champion Ryota Murata is a strong, if not an overwhelming hitter, so that could be interesting as we see if Martinez can hold up to a top ten middleweight.

Martinez would be an underdog to Murata, particularly if the fight is held in Japan as Murata would draw a huge house there, but Murata is more of a plodder and I could see a less rusty Martinez giving Murata some issues if there is gas in the tank remaining.

Ramon Malpica each scored two points in the boxing challenge to move the season total to 91-81.

Two times Five-Cavaliers lose in lottery

For the second consecutive year. the Cleveland Cavaliers along with two other teams had the best chance of winning the NBA draft lottery.
For the second consecutive year, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell in the lottery to the fifth overall selection.
Minnesota and Golden State, the two teams that held equal odds to Cleveland for the first pick, finished with the top picks with Charlotte and Chicago leapfrogging over the Cavaliers for the third and fourth picks.

The likely first three selections in no particular order should be guards Anthony Edwards of Georgia and LaMelo Ball, who has played in Australia and center James Wiseman of Memphis with several players of interest available on the second tier for Cleveland.

I suspect that the player taken from this tier will be Israeli forward Deni Avdija, but if Avdija is available he is my choice here.
That leaves USC power forward Onyeka Okongwu, Dayton power forward Obi Toppin, Auburn
small forward/shooting guard Issac Okoro, and perhaps Florida State small forward Devin Vassell to choose from.
Toppin's offensive game would fit well with an ability to score near and away from the basket and Okongwu's ability to score in the post and he is developing into a shot-blocking threat would be attractive, Okoro is a top defender with the ability to defend against four positions and is an excellent passer while Vassell has excellent athleticism and might be the best of all of this group as far as raw talent.

Each of those players has questions- Okoro's outside shot, Vassell's ballhandling, Toppin's defense, and Okongwu possibly being a tweener stuck between playing the four or the five, but the Cavaliers may have caught one break in falling to the fifth spot.
The top three players in this draft might not be great fits for Cleveland as Wiseman has Andre Drummond ahead of him (for this year at least) and after spending their last two first-round picks on guards ( Collin Sexton and Darius Garland), Koby Altman doesn't need to be tempted into taking another guard.
I'm usually in favor of the best player available, but this year Cleveland might be better suited to take someone that can play the wing at least and small forward preferably.
Between Sexton and Garland at guard and a clog at the 4 and 5 with Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr, and the rumored possible return of Tristan Thompson, a player that can play along the wing and small forward would have an advantage on being selected.

I'm still deciding what player I'm hoping for, but the Cavaliers have to be disappointed with a player outside the top three yet inside the top ten for the third year in a row.
They can add a piece to the puzzle, but they would have to get lucky in order to find a real impact player, although stranger things have happened.
I'm still puzzled with many of the moves that Koby Altman has made and I'm definitely unsure of Altman being able to be the architect of a successful rebuild, but I can hope for the best at least.
I don't see anyone in this draft (including the top three) that will make an immediate impact for the Cavaliers or anyone else, but the Cavaliers haven't seemed to have even a mild pinch of luck since a certain "23" left town.
At this rate, they are going to need far more than a mild pinch to turn this plan into winning basketball any time soon.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Brownie Berea Bits

There are always questions and news nuggets of note in every team's training camp. but usually, there aren't enough for a post by themselves.

The biggest news from Berea is the potential loss of starting linebacker Mack Wilson to a knee injury.
The Browns linebacking crew was looked at as one of the weaker units on the team and Wilson was the top linebacker of the bunch, so the knee injury that will at minimum cost Wilson a chunk of the season and possibly end his year entirely is a huge loss to the Browns.
Mack Wilson's loss will force the Browns to make a move of some type to add a veteran linebacker and there are a few available that I'd be interested in.
All of them have flaws, but if they were perfect they wouldn't be available in training camp, would they?

Former Ram and Giants Alec Ogletree is a strong tackler, but not great in pass coverage, Mark Barron spent last season in Pittsburgh but was solid with the Rams after moving from safety to linebacker and he plays Wilson's position on the weakside as does well-traveled veteran Malcolm Smith, who was the MVP in Seattle's Super Bowl win in 2014.
Clay Matthews is a popular choice because of his dad's time in Cleveland, but he's a pass rusher off the edge and isn't really a fit for what Wilson's responsibilities are.
I'd like to see former Buckeye Darron Lee get a shot, Lee's got more than enough speed and it would be interesting to see what he could do with the new defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

Kevin Johnson had been impressive in camp, according to observers, but Johnson is going to miss time with a lacerated liver and I'm sure that is as painful as it sounds, so Johnson's time out of the lineup could be substantial.
The loss of Johnson could be offset by an interesting waiver claim just before camp started when Cleveland claimed cornerback M.J. Stewart off waivers from Tampa Bay.
Stewart was the second-round pick by Tampa in 2018 out of North Carolina and turns 25 in September.
It seems a bit early to give up on a second-rounder, but Tampa Bay likely needs to keep some cap space open after signing, so that could have been a factor.
Stewart started five games in his two seasons with the Buccaneers and can play some slot corner, so it was a small risk to take and the Jets are reported to have made a claim for Stewart, so other teams were thinking the same about Stewart.

One final note on the concussion suffered by Nick Chubb from a horsecollar tackle from Mack Wilson on the day before Wilson's knee injury.
Kevin Stefanski wasn't happy, and he shouldn't have been, but before the next day's practice, Stefanski announced that Wilson had been demoted to the second team behind Tay Davis.
While this may have been a good thing for the "culture change" that every coach seems to talk about these days, it could have cost them Mack Wilson for the season.
I'm not quite sure about this, but Wilson was now playing with the second-team defense and theoretically had Stefanski not demoted Wilson, he wouldn't have been on the field when he was injured.
That's a stretch to a degree because when a ligament is ready to give, it's going to give eventually, but if Wilson's injury occurred with a cleat sticking or another player rolling into him (and I haven't seen the play, so I don't know that), Stefanski's demotion didn't cause the injury, but it did place him on the field in order for it to happen...

Back later with the Cavaliers in the lottery and the return to the ring of Sergio Martinez.

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend will feature matches from each of the major servers with perhaps the biggest bout since boxing's return.

However, we start with a match without American television (to my knowledge) and the quietest comeback of a great champion that I've ever seen.
Former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez returns to the ring at the age of 45 in Spain against Jose Fandino, a fighter of the European class level that has mostly fought in Spain during his career.
Martinez was last in the ring in 2014 when he was battered into defeat by Miguel Cotto and suffered the last in a series of knee injuries.
At his peak, Martinez was a skillful fighter that used beautiful movements and athletic ability to create a unique boxing style that teetered between graceful and awkward to bewilder his opponents, but as his knee problems began after his win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and he barely squeaked by perennial challenger Martin Murray before the loss to Cotto in ten rounds of a painful pounding.
Martinez relied on his skill and guile often in his career and he'll need all of that for this comeback to have any success at the world-class level.

Saturday afternoon, DAZN and Matchroom take center stage with a heavyweight tilt between Dillian Whyte and former WBA champion Alexander Povetkin.
Whyte, the WBC's long-time number one contender for first Deontay Wilder and now Tyson Fury, has been "assured" that should he defeat Povetkin he will finally receive his title shot against the winner of Fury-Wilder III.
Most are dubious of this proclamation as should Fury win that fight, he is expected to be named the WBC's "Franchise" champion in order to give the WBC an out for not forcing Fury to face Whyte before a unification fight against Anthony Joshua.
Whyte should have a test against the aging, but dangerous Povetkin, who drew with Michael Hunter and decisioned Hughie Fury in his two bouts since being stopped by Anthony Joshua.
This should have both fighters in front of the other, throwing power punches without a lot of moving around the ring and I wouldn't be surprised if a spectacular knockout occurs.

ESPN Plus will offer a very interesting fight with two strong punchers as former WBO light heavyweight champion faces Joe Smith in the WBO semi-final to crown their light heavyweight title as Canelo Alvarez vacated his title after his win over Sergey Kovalev.
Smith is remembered as knocking Bernard Hopkins into retirement and enters this fight after an exciting decision win over Jesse Hart, but both of his losses have been to lanky boxers in Sullivan Barrera and Dmitry Bivol.
Alvarez isn't quite similar to Barrera and Bivol, but he can box a bit from distance and attempting to use some of those tactics might be his best avenue to victory.
Should Alvarez decide to trade with Smith, he can punch well as he showed in January in his first fight since losing his rematch to Sergey Kovalev, with a spectacular knockout of Michael Seals.
How exciting this fight turns out is up to Alvarez.

The co-feature will see the return of Rob Brant in a middleweight fight against Vitaly Kopylenko.
Brant, who upset Ryota Murata for a minor title in 2018 and was bombed out in two rounds in their July 2019 rematch, will face veteran Vitaly Kopylenko in his first fight since the Murata loss.
Should Brant win, he is contractually obligated to a third fight against Murata.
Kopylenko is solid, but not exceptional as both of his losses were to fighters on that level in decision losses to former world title challengers Willie Monroe Jr. and Steven Butler.
Kopylenko's split decision loss to Butler last July was his last fight, so he won't have an edge in activity over Brant.

And then there's PBC and Fox.
The network announced its three fall cards during their last show (an excellent fight between Jamal James and Thomas Dulorme) to the groans and winces around the boxing world with this one being the first of the trio with what should be an American boxing record with fighters named Sebastian in both the main event and the co-main event.

Shawn Porter makes his return after losing his WBC welterweight title in a terrific fight to Errol Spence in a WBC eliminator against Sebastian Formella of Germany.
I wrote about the WBC, WBA, and PBC as the promoter dropping the ball in not having Porter face Yordenis Ugas in a rematch of their 2019 fight that saw Porter win a controversial split decision.
Instead, we get Porter against the overmatched Formella on this PBC/Fox card and Ugas in a WBA eliminator on another Fox card as a heavy favorite over Abel Ramos and two yawn-worthy main events.
Formella is undefeated but has fought every fight but one in Germany (the other was in Sweden, which for boxing is even weaker in competition), and against no one that you have remotely heard of.
Unless Formella has something in store that no one expects, Porter should cruise to an easy victory here.

The co-feature is another ho-hum affair with undefeated junior middleweight Sebastian Fundora against veteran Nathaniel Gallimore in a ten rounder.
Fundora, he of the 6'5 height, is taking his next step up the ladder and give his team credit, they have been trying to upgrade the opposition as his last four opponents were a combined 47-1 entering their fights with Fundora with only Jamontay Clark managing a draw against him.
Gallimore is a durable veteran, who took hard-punching Erickson Lubin the twelve round distance in his last fight, has beaten WBA/IBF champion Jeison Rosario and has lost to former champion Julian Williams, and WBO champion Patrick Teixeira, so I have doubts that Fundora is able to take Gallimore out, but it doesn't seem that this will be the most exciting fight either.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 89-79.

Middleweights. 10 Rds
Sergio Martinez vs Jose Fandino
R.L: Martinez KO 5
TRS: Martinez KO 3

Heavyweights 12 Rds
Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin
R.L: Whyte Split Decision
TRS: Whyte Unanimous Decision

Light Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Eleider Alvarez vs Joe Smith
Both: Alvarez Unanimous Decision

Middleweights. 10 Rds
Rob Brant vs Vitaly Kopylenko
R.L: Brant KO 8
TRS: Brant Unanimous Decision

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Shawn Porter vs Sebastian Formella
R.L: Porter KO 6
TRS: Porter KO 9

Junior Middleweights. 10 Rds
Sebastian Fundora vs Nathaniel Gallimore
R.L: Fundora KO 4
TRS: Fundora Unanimous Decision

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

The passings tributes never stop here at the world headquarters and sadly this update filled up quicker than usual...

Goodbye to Trini Lopez at the age of 83.
Lopez was both a singer and actor with successes in both fields in the 1960s.
Lopez had several hits from 1963 through 1968 with his cover version of "If I had a Hammer" in 1963 reaching two on the charts.
The version by Lopez was the higher charting of the two versions (Peter, Paul, and Mary) in the early 60s and is generally thought of as the signature recording.
Lopez also acted in films and television shows, most notably a co-starring role as one of the "Dirty Dozen" in 1967.

Goodbye to "Kamala" at the age of 70.
James Harris was a journeyman wrestler on some of the smaller wrestling circuits in the South when Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler (Co-owners of the Memphis territory) offered him a job with a new character-Kamala "The Ugandan Giant".
Kamala was positioned as a savage brought from the jungle in introductory vignettes (which were actually filmed on Jerry Jarrett's property" and was an immediate star against Lawler at the top of the card.
Kamala would headline in the Mid-South territory, usually against the Junkyard Dog, the World Class territory in Texas against the Von Erich family, and in the WWF against Andre the Giant and received a few title shots against champion Hulk Hogan.
Kamala wrestled many times vs Andre the Giant in Mid-South and World Class along with a feud in the WWF with a famous cage match that saw Andre slam Kamala and finish him off with two "seat drops".
The Kamala gimmick turned out to be one of the best remembered one of the era as the early version was a feared warrior by the fans and the later WWF model was equally a comedic character.

Goodbye to Dick Coury at the age of 91.
Coury was a long-time assistant coach for nine different NFL teams, but his only head coaching opportunities were in renegade leagues as Coury would coach the Portland Storm for both seasons of the World Football League and the Boston/New Orleans/Portland Breakers in the three seasons of the USFL.
None of Coury's teams made the playoffs in those leagues, but his work with the 1983 Boston Breakers was a tremendous job in leading one of the least talented teams in the league to a winning record at 11-7 and had the playoffs been expanded to two wild cards, the Breakers would have made the playoffs.
Coury had the New Orleans Breakers in contention the following season before a series of injuries caused a second-half collapse that would end in a missed post-season.
Coury was loved by his players as shown in the biggest win in Breakers' history, on a last-second tipped pass that defeated the Philadelphia Stars.

Goodbye to Bill Yeoman at the age of 92.
Yeoman built the Houston Cougars football program into a power as their head coach from 1962 to 1986 and is the school's winningest all-time coach with 160 wins.
Yeoman is also the innovator of the Veer offense, which is another form of the triple option and was by the Cougars as an independent and after they joined the Southwest Conference in 1976.
Houston won the SWC in their first season and would win the league title three times in their first four seasons, but only once in the final six seasons of Yeoman's tenure and following a 1986 season filled with NCAA investigations and a 1-10 record, Yeoman was forced to resign and he would never return to coaching.

Goodbye to Wilbert McClure at the age of 81.
McClure won the middleweight gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics for the United States on the same Olympic team as the then-Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and was expected to have a successful pro career.
Instead, McClure was a disappointing pro, losing eight fights, and losing to all of his notable opponents- twice to former welterweight champion Luis Rodriguez, future light heavyweight champion Jose Torres, a loss and a draw against Rubin "Hurricane" Carter", and losing in his final career bout against future light heavyweight champion Billy "Dynamite"  Douglas, the father of James "Buster" Douglas.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox:

A long-overdue cleaning of the inbox with two items having languished near the bottom for almost six weeks!

We start with the Athletic with the first of a few links from their site and their story about the home of the Buffalo Bisons, which is being used by the Toronto Blue Jays for this season.

Sahlen Field was built for Buffalo's attempt to be one of the teams chosen when baseball expanded in 1993 (the selected teams were the Rockies and Marlins) and even today, Sahlen Field is the largest stadium in AAA and even though it is now 32 years old, it is the only stadium in the minors that could be expanded to meet major league standards.
The article discusses the stadium's past and the present as the Blue Jays attempt to retrofit Sahlen Field to the needs of television and the spacing needed for the reasons of the pandemic.

I'm fortunate enough to have the two teams that I pull for in the National League play in the best two parks in baseball.
Unless you are a ridiculously biased homer, your rankings for the best park in baseball must have Pittsburgh's PNC Park and San Francisco's Oracle Park at either 1-2 or 2-1.
If you don't, well you are wrong.

The Athletic writes of the rejected designs for PNC Park that might have ruined such a terrific stadium and takes a glance at the past to the stadium hat was so awful that Oracle Park was needed in order to keep the Giants in San Francisco.
A few of the designs for PNC Park that didn't make the cut included using red brick as the material, trying to give the exterior an appearance of a neighborhood with rowhouses painted around the stadium, and another bought fully into the Pirate motif with a huge pirate ship in the right-field concourse.
In San Francisco, the article searches for the point in time that the city and the Giants discovered that building Candlestick Park in the location that was decided led to disastrous conditions such as constant heavy wind conditions.
Candlestick was also baffled with several issues in building the stadium as the architect and contractor couldn't get along, a heating system that was planned turned out to be a flop, and did I mention the wind??

The final Athletic note discusses the fall of pro basketball in Pittsburgh after the ABA Pipers and Condors ended their run in the Steel City with pro basketball never to return.
Quite a few stories about the ABA and a theory on how the final blow was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who never played in Pittsburgh.
My favorite is the oft-told story of the Condors giving away 1,000 cupcakes to a fan and when the fan was asked about the cupcakes, he responded that he was diabetic and the few members of the crowd predictably booed.

Sports Illustrated remembers the 1984-85 Cavaliers as the NBA playoffs begin.
Those Cavaliers were coming off the Ted Stepien years that endangered the franchise on the court with terrible teams and off the court with threats from Stepien that he would move the team to Toronto or a bizarre idea that would change the name to the Ohio Cavaliers and split home games between Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Toronto- the final two not residing in Ohio (And skipping the largest Ohio city in Columbus).
With rookie coach George Karl running an offense that didn't accentuate the positive of the team's best scorer, World B. Free, the Cavaliers stumbled to a 2-19 start before finishing 34-25 to earn the final spot in the Eastern Conference and giving top-seeded Boston all they wanted in losing three games to one.
The three Boston wins were by a combined seven points which shows how close to beating Boston the Cavaliers were to what would have been the biggest upset in NBA playoff history.

The New York Post finishes with an article on former 1980 American hockey star Mark Pavelich and his recent troubles.
Pavelich was part of the Miracle on Ice team that stunned the world with their gold medal run and his NHL seven-year career was solid, spent mostly with the Rangers.
Pavelich scored over thirty goals twice with his career-high 37 goals in 1982-83, but had a few tragedies in his post-NHL career and may have brain issues from concussions suffered during career.
Pavelich has spent the last year in a psychiatric facility after beating a neighbor with a pipe but was recently moved from a high-security facility to a lower-level facility for his continued treatment.

Monday, August 17, 2020

We get letters

Well, we actually didn't get letters, although should enough of you want to send them, I'm sure that we could accommodate a post filled with them.

However, I do have some various thoughts to fill a column that's different from a Cleaning out the Inbox and might be enough to fill out a post.

I know that I've been critical of the President and I'll choose not to waste your time with my opinion on what he is trying to accomplish with this war on the USPS, but allow me to ask this- If the USPS goes out of business, how do you propose you receive your everyday mail and if you don't have the time or ability to get to a mailbox somewhere, do you really believe that your service will improve by the elimination of USPS?
For all the flaws and issues with USPS and there are plenty of those, it is a free service that brings mail and packages to your home six days a week.
Enjoy paying 25-30 bucks a month for a service to bring your mail to your house a few times a week.
The crowd that screams about waste (and isn't it funny, how many of that bunch has gone silent over the last three and a half years?) will be begging for the USPS once they realize the alternative is to start paying to receive their mail as well as send it...

I'm not a fan of Kamala Harris.
She comes off as insincere and she wouldn't have been in my top few Vice Presidental candidates, considering Joe Biden's commitment to a woman on the ticket.
However, the President's tired act of claiming that an opponent isn't a "Real American" isn't just stale, it's ridiculous.
Harris was born in Oakland, she's qualified legally to be on the ticket and any statements otherwise only makes the person stating the false claim look desperate.

For all of the chat about sports being back among the return to "normal", remember this- Basketball and Hockey will start much later with their new seasons, closer to winter than fall and with college football off the table, we aren't anywhere near being "normal".
I have a funny feeling come October, we'll be fortunate to have the NFL on Sundays and maybe the niche' sports such as boxing, UFC, golf, etc.
You think the public handled this poorly the first time?
Wait until they go through with colder weather and nothing to do outside!

The behavior of Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac in ignoring the MLB protocol and leaving the restricted area earlier in the week was irresponsible and endangered the season.
I know the life of a player in the baseball world right now is very dull and I might prefer the bubble of other sports if it was my choice.
However, Plesac's firing back at the local media for reporting on his violations are a very bad look and strikes me as immature.
Clevinger's screw-up though was even worse as he avoided the public relations mistakes, but he covered up his role, attended team meetings, and flew back to Cleveland with the team- all of which could have blown up the team and put the Indians in the same spot as the Cardinals in missing games, falling behind in the standings with games that will never be made back up completely.
The point isn't what they did, which by all accounts seems tame, it's that they left at all and betrayed teammates at a time when trust is everything.
Both Clevinger and Plesac were demoted to the minor camp in Eastlake and it'll be interesting to see if a team attempts to buy low on Clevinger after all this.
Clevinger won't be a free agent until after 2022, so he'll have value should the Indians decide to listen to offers.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Boxing Challenge: The Hamburglar Returns! Favorites win

The boxing weekend from ESPN+ and Showtime would have been pretty mundane with the favorites all winning their fights, and none of the fights being exciting or memorable, but then the Hamburglar stuck his head out and made his return.
Now, boxing is truly back.

Starting in the afternoon in London, former junior featherweight and featherweight champion Carl Frampton returned as a junior lightweight and dominated Darren Traynor throughout the fight before dropping him with a body punch in the seventh round that left Traynor quickly offering his surrender.
Traynor was a late replacement and he was fairly effective at times from long range early in the fight, but as Frampton picked up the pace it was clear that the talent difference between the two was going to be too large to overcome for Traynor.
Frampton put Traynor on the floor with a body blow late in the sixth round and Traynor barely continued to the end of the round as the stage for the completion of the fight was set.
Frampton is expected to fight the winner of the WBO championship fight between Jamel Herring and Jonathan Oquendo later this fall.

Michael Conlan lost two points due to low blows, but he won just about everything else in his fight with Sofiane Takoucht and stopped Takoucht in the tenth and final round.
Conlan, who announced his decision to drop in weight from 126 pounds to 122, dominated Takoucht throughout and it didn't take long for the storyline to become this- could Conlan stop Takoucht before the low blows took him out of the fight?
Conlan will likely face the winner of the mandated WBO junior featherweight title defense of newly crowned Angelo Leo against Stephen Fulton in a bout that was delayed by Fulton's positive test for Covid-19
Leo,  an aggressive fighter without a lot of power, might be perfect for Conlan as Leo walks forward into Conlan's power punches.
Fulton may be a different case as the flashy Philadelphian might keep Conlan a step behind throughout that test as Conlan might have trouble with Fulton's speed.
Either would be an interesting and possibly entertaining fight, so be on the lookout for that one early in 2021.

Showtime's evening card from their enclosed environment would have been a card that would have easily been forgotten, if not for one of those pesky Hamburglar appearances in the middle of the three matches.

In the main event, a very nice sparring session was held as David Benavidez battered Roamer Alexis Angulo around the ring for ten rounds before the corner of Angulo decided that their fighter had enough for one day.
Benavidez missed weight and the WBC super-middleweight title will be vacated.
Benavidez landed what he wished, was able to get away with dropping his hands throughout without being concerned by any punches from Angulo, and offered ten rounds of a high-level sparring session.
Benavidez has the body frame of a light heavyweight and would be best suited to move up, but while PBC has plenty of options at super middleweight, it is Top Rank that controls most of the top light heavyweights, so Benavidez may decide to stay at 168 and hope that this missed weight was an aberration that can be excused by the downtime caused by the pandemic.
Still, Benavidez has now lost the same title twice without losing in the ring ( a failed drug test caused his first title stripping) and you have to wonder how responsible the still-only 23-year-old is going to be about making weight.
No word on who will fill the vacant title other than one will likely be mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim and knowing the WBC, do not be surprised to see David Benavidez in the other corner.

The co-feature looked to have the potential to create a new star in power-punching lightweight Rolando Romero from Floyd Mayweather's money team and I stated in the preview that Romero could be the star of the evening.
Instead, undefeated and virtually unknown Columbian Jackson Marinez outboxed Romero and appeared to have won one of those "valuable" WBA minor titles that are often given away like promotional bobbleheads at baseball games, back when they played those in front of real customers.
The fight was far from thrilling, as it boiled down to Marinez landing loads of jabs and enough right hands to keep Romero honest and Romero swinging and missing like Aaron Judge in attempts for a knockout, but the verdict seemed pretty clear-cut to everyone watching.

And (cue the Ray Stevens music) then. AND THEN Along came the Hamburglar with a unanimous decision win for Romero with scores of 115-113 (maybe a passable scorecard, IF you give every close round to Romero), 116-112 (Awful), and a jaw-dropping 118-110, which ranks with one of the worst cards in quite a while.
I scored the fight 116-112 for Marinez and that may have been mildly generous on my part.

The decision and especially the 118-110 scorecard was so awful that PBC and Money Team guys were tweeting how bad it was and busting Romero's gloves about the ridiculous decision.
Boxing people often blame a crowd for bad decisions when the cheering can influence judges, but I can't offer one reasonable explanation for this.
The WBA has stated that they will order a rematch, but from what I saw Saturday night Rollie Romero has a big punch but needs many rounds to sand his rough edges away, and having a "title" to defend and fighting twelve round fights is way beyond what he is prepared for right now.
Romero has talent, but he might be pushed far too quickly in a loaded lightweight division.

As for Marinez, he deserved a win but didn't show anything special, so he could return to obscurity should a rematch not be arranged.
That's too bad and yet another reason that boxing can suck.

The opener was about what I expected as Otto Wallin won all four rounds against Travis Kauffman, and then won by fifth-round stoppage when a shoulder injury to Kauffman caused the fight to be stopped.
Kauffman had surgery on the shoulder after his 2018 loss to Luis Ortiz and re-injured it in round one.
Kauffman announced his retirement after the fight, while Wallin's win is the biggest of his career.
Wallin's competition had been very weak before his credible loss to Tyson Fury, so this win over the veteran journeyman is the biggest of his career.
Wallin's a solid heavyweight that may not be championship timber, but he can slot in the lower half of the top fifteen consistently and won't embarrass himself against the elite of the division.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored eight points on the day to move our totals to 89-79.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend covers two networks and continents as ESPN+ televises from London and Showtime from Connecticut without both cards without fans as usual.

Showtime's card is in the evening and took a small blow when David Benavidez missed weight by over two pounds and forfeited his WBC super-middleweight title on the scales.
Benavidez has now lost the same championship twice without losing a fight after previously being stripped for failing a drug test.
The fight against Roamer Angulo will go out as scheduled with Angulo being eligible to win the title with a victory and should Benavidez win, as expected, the title will be vacant.
Benavidez remains a prohibitive favorite over the veteran Angulo, but this is a really bad look for a fighter that has already had out of the ring issues.
Benavidez says that he wants to stay at super middleweight but for a fighter his size to have problems with the scale, it might be a better idea to move to 175 pounds.
However, light heavyweight is a division that is dominated by Top Rank for now, so Benavidez may give staying in the division a try.

I'm interested in the lightweight fight on this card as I've been really impressed with Floyd Mayweather protege, Rolando Romero, and Romero faces another undefeated and untested boxer in Jackson Marinez.
Romero is another talented young fighter in the division and could be the show-stealer on this evening.

Heavyweight Otto Wallin returns for the first time since he severely tested Tyson Fury last September.
Wallin cut Fury badly and in a normal fight, may have succeeded in winning via stoppage.
Travis Kauffman hasn't fought since December 2018 in a KO loss to Luis Ortiz and will be a test for Wallin, whose competition has been very weak other than the Fury fight.

ESPN+ and Top Rank's afternoon slate from London features a former champion on his way back and an undefeated contender that continues to prepare for his first true challenge that has yet to arrive.
Former junior featherweight champion Carl Frampton prepares for a potential title opportunity against WBO junior lightweight titleholder Jamel Herring as he takes on late replacement Darren Traynor.
Traynor seems to be the perfect fighter for Frampton to shine against in his junior lightweight debut and Frampton is set to look very strong here.

Michael Conlan continues his march to a featherweight title shot without facing a top twenty level challenge as he faces Sofiane Takoucht of France.
Takoucht was knocked out in two by IBF champion Josh Warrington in two rounds in his last fight and while that seems to be nothing to hold against Takoucht, Warrington had scored only six KOs in twenty-nine wins going into their fight so a loss by stoppage is a detriment.
Conlan is expected to challenge the winner of the Emanuel Navarrete-Jessie Magdaleno fight for the vacant WBO title next year.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 81-71.

Super Middleweights 12 Rds
David Benavidez vs Roamer Angulo
R.L: Benavidez KO 5
TRS: Benavidez KO 3

Lightweights. 12 Rds
Rolando Romero vs Jackson Marinez
R.L: Romero KO 6
TRS: Romero KO 2

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Otto Wallin vs Travis Kaufman
Both: Wallin Unanimous Decision

Junior Lightweights. 10 Rds
Carl Frampton vs Darren Traynor
R.L: Frampton KO 8
TRS: Frampton KO 4

Featherweights 10 Rds
Michael Conlan vs Sofiane Takoucht
R.L: Conlan KO 7
TRS: Conlan KO 5

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Big Ten postpones 2020 Season

The announcement of the Big Ten's decision to postpone the 2020 football season to the spring has rocked the sports world, and there is a very small (minuscule) chance that the decision could result in a major conference shakeup that could result in with the long-rumored "super conference" arriving.

I have no idea what to really believe as some have reported a 12-2 vote with Nebraska and Iowa voting to play the season and others noting that Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan with the other two have looked into playing the season elsewhere.
I wouldn't think that the fifty million dollars and being removed from the conference would make a departure for any school likely, but one never knows in these matters.
If someone is smelling weakness in new Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and think that the money that makes the Big Ten the top money-making conference (per team) is going to be reduced, perhaps someone would test the waters in an unlikely scenario.

Should that team exist, I would think that it would be the Cornhuskers of Nebraska.
Nebraska seemed to be a fit for the Big Ten athletically and geographically when they were admitted to the league, but it's never seemed to click for the Huskers, who haven't competed as well as expected on the gridiron and for the league, who didn't pay for the market of Omaha as their reason for adding Nebraska.
This could be something that could shake up the alignment of college football eventually, although not right away.
Nebraska wouldn't be a huge loss, but imagine if Ohio State and Penn State walked away?
And imagine the effects on recruiting as the playing conferences use this against the Big Ten that "doesn't value" football?
All of these are long shots, but long shots do occasionally connect.

I'm doubtful that spring football accounts to much, perhaps a few glorified scrimmages.
In the big scheme, the need is for a full and normal season in the fall of 2021, and should something happen in the spring, it could take its toll on the players during the fall season.

I'm not sure what to think about all of this.
If the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 all play their season without incident, the schools that postponed are going to look very bad.
It would be a better choice to buy a month or so and then see what happens, but I suppose the Big Ten and Pac 12 have their reasons for throwing in the towel a little early.
If the eventual end to this season is the three conferences that are trying to play eventually cancel, the Big Ten will be looked at as forward-thinking and ahead of the curve.
However, the prudent choice might have been waiting with the rest and the decision made on Tuesday may be one that is long regretted by many involved.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Moving Plans?

No, I'm not moving, but a recent article that I read on the NHL and their 30 something teams made me think a bit.
The article could be one that I tackle sometime as it imagined a revamp of the league where you were forced to keep the number of teams that currently are in the league, but can place them where you think would be best.

The article sent me in a different direction as I thought of this- how many of my teams would I continue to root for in the event that they would move?

I've been through this once with the Browns and the Devils were very close to moving in the mid-nineties, so I have some experience in this area.
I've had teams move, very narrowly missing a move, and teams that float rumors to see what they can pull from a city with the threat of leaving.

I'm sure that through the years of writing this small piece of work that I've told the stories of how I've come to root for certain teams, but I'm sure that I haven't written an article of who I would follow and who would be cast aside for a new team as a price for their deception.

I'm so disgusted with baseball right now that I'm not sure that I wouldn't just say to hell with it, should the Indians (or soon to be whomever's) leave Cleveland.
The Indians lease at their stadium expires after the 2022 season and should a city step up to the plate and build a new stadium, I wouldn't put it past the team leaving Cleveland.
Fortunately, that's unlikely because there aren't any cities that are suitable and ready to go.
The fan apathy has been rising towards the team of late as the refusal of the Dolan family to spend money on a player or two to allow the team to support Francisco Lindor before he leaves for free agency and with the team asking for more money for renovations at a time of national emergency, I think that there will be more and more whispers about the future of the team in Cleveland.
Had the pandemic not occurred, I think the team would be in far more danger than they will turn out to be in the end.
There aren't any standout cities that have the size and stadium ready to go to attract a team and I'm doubtful that a city will step with baseball in the flux that it currently finds itself.
But could it happen? Sure.
Would I follow? Doubtful, but maybe depending on where they would land.

The Giants and Pirates?
Both have beautiful ballparks that make watching home games a treat, but I don't have a connection to either city and both have problems with relocation.
The Giants would be unlikely to bring their announcing crew along with all three of their television crew living in the Bay Area, and the Pirates would likely pursue a name change.
Without the broadcasting crew that brought in as a fan, the Giants might become just another team and without the memories, the Pirates would be the same.
The Pirates lease ends after the 2030 season, while the Giants lease runs through at least 2038.
So for baseball, I might move with the National League teams, but the chances are equal that I wouldn't either.
The Indians, I could consider depending on where they would go, but it's unlikely that would happen.

In football, I wouldn't follow the Browns.
I had the chance to do that once and it took me about a half-second to make that decision.
Perhaps much of that was the selection of Baltimore as the destination, but Art Modell's treachery was never going to be rewarded by me.
I cannot see a scenario short of a move in-state that I would consider leaving them for.
The Browns lease expires in 2029, so some sort of renovation or even a new stadium talk will begin in the next few years.

In the NBA, I would likely not follow the Cavaliers in such a scenario.
That's not going to happen after the recent renovation to the Gund/Q/Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor Arena/Fieldhouse which locked the Cavaliers to Cleveland through at least 2034 and through two options as long as 2044.
The Cavaliers are the team that I have rooted for the longest, and I'd be doubtful to go with them to a new city, especially if they dropped the nickname.

Moving to the NHL, the New Jersey Devils are in a unique situation as the owners own the lease to the building, but not necessarily the building itself.
The owners aren't likely to leave an arena that they have a business interest in, but the Devils are part of a market that is one team too large and with the Islanders building a new arena, I wouldn't feel safe in the long run.
I've read two conflicting pieces that listed the end of the Devils lease at Prudential Center as 2027 or 2032, so there is time to see what the future would bring.
The Devils are the only number one team on my list that I don't have a personal reason to follow, my fandom doesn't have an attachment to New Jersey, and the transient history of the team (Kansas City and Colorado before New Jersey) would make the Devils the one team on this list that I would be likely to consider following.
Other factors could change that, such as the team moving far west where I couldn't see as many games or changing the nickname to something like the Kraken, but the team could be possible to stay as my favorite NHL team.

That's how I'd feel about if my teams moved, but stay tuned as later this week, I'll be continuing the possible scenarios with this- If I didn't follow my teams, what teams would be in the running to take their place?