Sunday, May 9, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Canelo breaks down BJS

    For almost eight rounds, the super middleweight title unification fight was close (unless you were one of two judges) between Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders and seemed to be ramping up towards a dramatic ending in Arlington, Texas.

Alvarez ended all of that drama late in the eighth round when a crunching right undercut damaged the right eye of Saunders and as the round ended, Saunders' eye was inflating by the second.

Within the minute between rounds, Saunders's corner determined that the damage was too much for their fighter to continue and stopped the fight, which handed Alvarez the WBO title to add to the WBA and WBC championships that Alvarez held entering the fight.

Saunders was quite slippery and had some success against Canelo with my scorecard showing the battle even at 76 after eight rounds, but the eighth was Alvarez's best of the fight and with a damaged eye Saunders was clearly going to need a miracle as the scorecards had him trailing by two, four, and four points after eight.

Give Saunders credit for only stumbling a bit after taking a tremendous shot from Canelo and he was never even in mild trouble during the fight, but he didn't throw enough punches and going against a fighter like Canelo Alvarez when you aren't a big puncher you will need to win a decision and to win such a decision you may have to win 9-3 or 10-2 in rounds to win a 7-5 decision.

Saunders's eye socket is suspected to be broken and you have to wonder how Saunders will recover physically as after Kell Brook broke his eye socket against Gennady Golovkin, he broke it again against Errol Spence and was never the same fighter.

Canelo Alvarez called for the only champion that is left to defeat next in IBF champion Caleb Plant.

Plant fights for PBC and while you would think that Plant cannot make anything close to what he'd make to face Alvarez, PBC head Al Haymon has ways that make his fighters decide to work against their financial interest in the past, most notably, Jermall Charlo turning down seven million (twice his career-high at the time) to fight Demetrius Andrade on DAZN and Peter Quillin vacating his WBO middleweight title rather than fight Matt Korobov for a career-high 1.4 million (over three times his career-high purse at the time) for Roc Nation after the now-defunct company won a purse bid.

I could also see Haymon thinking that the missing title is what makes Plant valuable (he's right on that considering Plant's resume'), have Plant score another dominant victory over a non-entity (Plant has fought one fighter of top ten quality in Jose Uzcategui) in an attempt to increase Plant's value before he cashes in with a fight that he is likely to lose.

In other words, don't be surprised at all if Caleb Plant, the guy noted as "What else does he have to do" by Eddie Hearn, actually finds someone else to fight.

The co-feature saw WBO light flyweight champion Elwin Soto defeat former minimumweight champion, Katsunari Takayama, by ninth-round stoppage when our "favorite" referee Laurence Cole stopped the fight a bit early in my opinion.

I had Soto had ahead 76-75 (5-3 in rounds, with Soto losing a point in the first round for hitting after the bell) and Takayama was rallying on my card, winning three of the four previous to the ninth.

Soto could have a unification match with WBA champion Hiroto Kyoguchi soon as both fighters recently fought for the first time with Matchroom and what should be an almost guaranteed action battle.

Friday in Russia, Magomed Kurbanov won a unanimous decision over former WBO junior middleweight champion Liam Smith in a fight that could have been scored for either combatant.

I scored Kurbanov a 115-113 winner, which was the same as two judges with the third a ridiculous 117-111 card, but the fight was extremely close and I wouldn't even offer a word should someone score Smith a close winner.

Smith landed plenty but didn't seem to hurt Kurbanov and these two are the type of solid back end of the top ten/twelve contenders that could fight five times and deliver five tight affairs.

Ramon Malpica outscored me four to three in the boxing challenge and cut my lead to 62-60.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Cleaning out the inbox: Passings

   The tributes never stop in our world and we return with a few notable folks that have recently passed on.

Goodbye to Michael Collins at the age of 90.

Collins was the command module pilot on Apollo 11, the first flight to land on the moon, and while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, it was Collins floating in orbit alone as any human has ever been.

Collins also was the first person to have performed more than one spacewalk and had the opportunity to return to the moon as commander of what proved to be the last moon visit in Apollo 17.

Collins turned down the offer with his reasoning being that his goal was to help the dream of John F.Kennedy to reach the moon before the end of the 60s and since that goal was accomplished, Collins didn't feel the personal need to return to space.

Collins also was a key player in the building of the National Air and Space Museum as its director from 1972-78 and getting the museum opened on time as the museum was hoped to be opened by July 4. 1976 for the nation's bicentennial.

The museum made the goal by three days.

Goodbye to Johnny Crawford at the age of 75.

One of the original Mouseketeers, Crawford was one of the twelve that was released following the first year of the Mickey Mouse Club when Disney decided twenty-four was far too many to have on one program.

Crawford would reach his biggest fame in 1959 when he landed the role of "Mark McCain", the son of former Cubs and Dodgers first baseman Chuck Connors on "The Rifleman", which was one of the first shows to feature a single parent and perhaps the first with a single father.

Set in the 1880s, the Rifleman centered around Connors with his parenting of Crawford a key part of the show.

Crawford would continue to act after the Rifleman finished its run, including a guest appearance on "Branded", another vehicle that starred Connors and would sing as a teen idol of the age with four songs that reached the top forty, including "Cindy's Birthday" that reached eight on the charts in 1962.

Goodbye to Lloyd Price at the age of 88.

Price, known as "Mr.Personality" after his hit "Personality", which he is remembered most for, scattered several minor hits through 1963 before moving to a post-performing career that included owning record companies, construction companies, helping Don King with King's boxing promotions, and managing Global Icon Foods, a company that features southern-style foods.

Personality may be the song that most people connect with Price, but his only number one hit was 1959's "Stagger Lee", which is remembered by me for what other reason than professional wrestling?!

I'll try to remember to add that story to the next cleaning of the inbox that doesn't feature tributes.

Goodbye to Mike Davis at the age of 65.

Davis won two Super Bowls with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders in an eleven-year career after being drafted in the second round by Oakland in the 1977 draft but is remembered by many for one play.

And it's a play reviled in Cleveland to this day with the Browns trailing the visiting Oakland Raiders 14-12 with under a minute to play from the Raiders fourteen-yard line, the play call was "Red Right 88" with quarterback Brian Sipe instructed to throw the ball away if he didn't have a receiver open.

Sipe threw the ball to his checkdown receiver tight end Ozzie Newsome, who was briefly open before Davis cut in front of Newsome to intercept the pass and end the "Kardiac Kids" season.

Goodbye to Jim Bertelsen at the age of 71.

Bertelsen was the top ground gainer for the Texas Longhorns 1969 national champions and would have won the 1970 national title, had Texas not lost in the Cotton Bowl to Notre Dame 24-11.

Bertelsen along with backfield mates Steve Worster and Ted Koy behind quarterback James Street revolutionized the ground game as part of the first "Wishbone" offense and would finish his Texas career with over 2,500 rushing yards.

Bertelsen would be selected in the second round by the Los Angeles Rams in 1972 and would make the Pro Bowl in 1973 when he rushed for a career-high 853 yards.

Bertelsen would retire after the 1976 season after his playing time had been reduced by the Rams drafting of Penn State running back, and 1973 Heisman winner John Cappelletti.

Goodbye to Del Crandall at the age of 91.

Crandall, an eight-time All-Star as a key part of the Milwaukee Braves of the 1950s that won the 1957 World Series and were the 1958 National League champions, won four Gold Gloves as arguably the National League's best defensive catcher of the 50s.

Crandall wasn't known as a hitter, but he did hit double-digit homers for the Braves in each season from 1953 through 1960, with a high of 26 long-balls in 1955 for Milwaukee.

Crandall would manage the Brewers from 1972 to 1975, managing a teenaged Robin Yount, and would manage the Mariners in 1983 and 1984, but would never finish a season with a winning record.

Crandall was the final surviving player to play for the Boston Braves, who moved to Milwaukee in 1953.

Crandall played two partial seasons for the Boston Braves in 1949 and 1950 at the ages of 19 and 20 and was the runner-up to Brooklyn pitcher Don Newcombe for the 1949 National League Rookie of the Year before missing the Braves final two seasons in Boston due to military service.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Boxing Challenge

It's not a huge weekend for boxing as far as quantity, but as quality, it doesn't come a lot larger than a Canelo Alvarez title unification fight.

But first, ESPN+ has a card from Russia with a title eliminator in the junior middleweight divisions with former WBO (and Canelo victim) Liam Smith facing Magomed Kurbanov.

Kurbanov is an undefeated and talented fighter but has been out of the ring for twenty-five months, while Smith hasn't fought for almost seventeen.

Smith has won three straight since his 2018 loss to Jaime Munguia and has fought better competition than Kurbanov, but this is a 50-50 fight and it might be tough for Smith to win a decision on the road.

Of course, the big news is Canelo Alvarez placing his WBA and WBC super-middleweight titles against the WBO version held by Billy Joe Saunders with the winner holding three of the four championships in the division from Arlington, Texas.

Saunders has been attempting to get inside the head of Alvarez with complaints about the size of the ring, remarks to Mexican reporters, and general mind games that bring to mind the tactics of Saunders' cousin Tyson Fury.

However, this is a chance to show how much Canelo has progressed since the last time that he faced a slick boxing southpaw as the last time he faced one similar to Saunders, he received yet another generous decision in a 2014 split decision win over Erislandy Lara.

Canelo has improved since that win and Saunders doesn't always impress in victory, but I have a feeling that like Tyson Fury, Saunders fights best when challenged, and I just cannot get past his brilliant win over David Lemieux.

I think Saunders has a real chance to pull this upset, but the Texas judges, the aura of Canelo, and his own style with its tendency to bore may all work against Saunders.

The co-feature pits Elwin Soto against Katsunari Takayama for Soto's WBO light flyweight title.

Soto will be fighting for the first time since signing with Matchroom Boxing and will be defending his title for the third time against the veteran Takayama, who held the minimumweight title on three occasions between 2007 and 2015.

Takayama won a six-round decision in December in the first fight of his comeback but will have plenty to overcome against Soto, including ring rust, age, and fighting on the road.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 59-56.

Junior Middleweights. 12 Rds
Liam Smith vs Magomed Kurbanov
Both: Kurbanov Unanimous Decision

Unification WBA/WBC-WBO Super Middleweight Titles. 12 Rds
Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders
R.L: Alvarez Split Winner
TRS: Saunders Split Winner

WBO Light Flyweight Title. 12 rds
Elwin Soto vs Katsunari Takayama
Both: Soto Unanimous Decision 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Parker, Ruiz survive Heavyweight tests.

    Two former heavyweight champions survived stern tests from veterans attempting to stay relevant on Saturday with both winning entertaining affairs and both having to get off the floor to notch victories.

In Manchester, England, former WBO champion Joseph Parker was knocked down in the opening seconds and fell far behind on the scorecards against Dereck Chisora before rallying in the second half of the fight to grab a split decision.

Chisora was more aggressive and banked most of the first half of the fight, but tired badly as the bout continued with visible gasps for air in the corner between rounds.

Parker turned the tide against the weary Chisora in the second half of the fight, but on my card, it was decided by the knockdown in the opening round, 114-113 for Chisora.

Two judges scored it 115-113 for each fighter, which was very fair, and then the decisive score of 117-111 for Parker was ridiculous.

Parker is rated in the top six by the WBC, IBF, and WBO, so he'll likely have an eliminator soon, but the opponent is unknown as the fighters above him are with other promoters except for Oleksandr Usyk, who would be unlikely to take such a fight.

As for Dereck Chisora, it was yet another close fight that didn't quite go his way, but a strong effort that will earn him another paycheck against another contender.

On the other heavyweight fight, I wasn't surprised that Andy Ruiz and Chris Arreola put on an excellent fight, I was surprised that it went the twelve-round distance with Ruiz winning a unanimous decision.

Arreola knocked Ruiz down in the second round and won some early rounds, but Ruiz kept grinding and when Arreola courageously battled through a shoulder injury, he was meat on the platter for Ruiz, who swept the final rounds for the victory.

I scored Ruiz a 116-111 winner and though Arreola had his moments in an entertaining battle, Ruiz was the clear winner.

Ruiz is ranked in the top five by three of the four organizations and even though his PBC affiliation hinders him from title chances against Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury, there are interesting fights for him against Deontay Wilder or Luis Ortiz at the top of the food chain or Adam Kownacki or Robert Helenius below him.

Any of those names would make entertaining brawls against Ruiz and a win over a Wilder or Ortiz would zoom him to the top of the contender list.

On the Parker-Chisora undercard, WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol won an unimpressive unanimous decision over a surprising Craig "Spider" Richards.

Richards had fought no one of Bivol's caliber, but tried throughout and landed occasional right hands which is more than I expected of him, but Bivol never tried to step up the pace and was content to take a closer than expected decision with two scores of 115-114 and 115-113, which were too close in my opinion.

I scored Bivol a 117-111 winner with Richards winning the final three rounds while Bivol was on cruise control, but Bivol, who was once thought of as a possible future superstar, continues to be content to win less than thrilling decisions that drive away fans.

Bivol is expected to face former WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez next in a fight that Bivol will need to perform far better than he has of late.

On the Ruiz-Arreola card from Carson California, former WBC lightweight champion Omar Figueroa was beaten up for six rounds by fringe contender Abel Ramos and then had the fight stopped in the corner in what has been reported as an uncompetitive fight.

I haven't seen this yet, but it sounds like the once-promising Figueroa may be headed for retirement.

On the Fox version of the undercard, Erislandy Lara knocked out undeserving Thomas LaManna with one punch in the first round to win one of the WBA's gumball machine belts, this one in the middleweight division.

I rambled about the wretched WBA in previewing this bout, so I'll save my breath now rather than ranting further about a mismatch that was clear before the contract was signed.

In the boxing challenge, I scored five points to Ramon Malpica's four and lead the challenge 59-56.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Browns sign Marvin Wilson

    I thought I was finished with the Cleveland Browns draft picks after their selection of UCLA running back Demetric Felton in the sixth round.

The keywords were draft picks because as I followed the draft while watching the Joseph Parker-Dereck Chisora fight, and the name that I continued to look for was Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson.

I mentioned Wilson as one of my "Persons of Interest" for the Browns at defensive tackle and his 2019 season for the Seminoles was outstanding.

Wilson would have been at least a second or third-rounder in the 2020 draft after his 2019 campaign, but he didn't play as well in the shortened 2020 season after new coach Mike Norvell installed a different scheme at Florida State and Wilson fell down the draft boards.

Still, I figured Wilson would go somewhere on day three and even to the Browns, but the drafting of Ohio State defensive tackle Tommy Togiai in the fourth round made me believe that the Browns wouldn't select Wilson after Togiai.

The Browns dealt their seventh-round pick to Detroit in an earlier trade that landed Cleveland the Lions fifth and Detroit's 2022 fourth, so the Browns were finished after the sixth round, but like me, the Browns were keeping their eye on Wilson and when the draft ended, Andrew Berry acted swiftly to get the Browns involved in what was described as a "bidding war" for Wilson by Brad Ward for USA Today.

Cleveland would win that war by giving Wilson a $162,000 contract guarantee and a $ 30,000 signing bonus to add the 6'5 300-pound defensive tackle to their rotation.

Wilson may wind up making more money than sixth-round selection Demetric Felton, as the Browns had to pay up and quickly to land Wilson.

Wilson won financially by not being drafted as the Browns would have likely picked him had they retained a seventh-round choice.

Wilson is strong, difficult to stand up, good against the run, and is a solid pass rusher for a defensive tackle, but the bonus that comes with Wilson is his kick blocking ability.

Wilson blocked three last season and having a lineman with that skill is a rarely found bonus.

Remember the Browns claiming Vincent Taylor off waivers last season after the final cutdown with his kick blocking prowess as one of the reasons and Taylor did block an extra point last season.

Taylor signed with the Houston Texans in the off-season, so Wilson may have a leg up as he competes for a job in a tackle rotation with veterans Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings, 2020 third-rounder Jordan Elliott, and Tommy Togiai.

I didn't plan on another post on a Browns rookie, but I also didn't expect them to land a player such as Marvin Wilson after the draft had completed! 

Browns select Demetric Felton

  The Cleveland Browns completed their draft with their sixth-round selection of running back Demetric Felton from UCLA.

Felton averaged 111 rushing yards in his six games in 2020 for the Bruins, including a 206-yard explosion against Arizona.

Felton can catch the ball out of the backfield, catching 22 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns, but he can also catch the ball on the outside as he played wide receiver at the Senior Bowl.

Felton was rated by most as a wide receiver entering the draft, but the Browns announced the pick with Felton as a running back, so Cleveland must be planning on trying him there or maybe as a jack of all trades type that sees Felton possibly used at either position depending on the situation.

Felton also returns kicks which add to his chances of making the roster.

Felton will likely have to beat out D'Earnest Johnson at running back or it's also possible he could take JoJo Natson's spot as kick returner, slot receiver, gadget play guy as well.

Felton is a smallish (5'8) receiver that wasn't changed to running back until the arrival of Chip Kelly at Westwood and could be an eventual fit in the slot.

Dane Brugler was impressed by Felton's play at the Senior Bowl, considering his lack of reps at receiver, but Cleveland must have different plans for the former Bruin.

I'll have a review of the draft over the next day or two and later tonight, I'll have the boxing challenge from the road office. 

Browns select Richard LeCounte

 Sometimes in the draft, there are productive college players that for one reason or another are downgraded by draft analysts and slip through the cracks of the draft.

Driving to the road office last night, I was listening to the draft and one of the NFL radio guys mentioned one of these players in safety Richard LeCounte of Georgia.

Georgia defensive backs were taken in the first round (Eric Stokes to Green Bay) and the second (Tyson Campbell to Jacksonville), but LeCounte was mentioned as a player that was just as productive for the Bulldogs, yet wasn't as highly rated.

The Browns took LeCounte and added him to their safety room and the 5'10 three-year starter at Georgia may have been added for his special team skills, which have been noted by several sources.

LeCounte is noted for his aggressiveness that can be sometimes a detriment in making the tackle, and his 40 time wasn't great and likely cost him in the draft.

But LeCounte plays faster than his time in the forty and he's been highly recommended by the Georgia program as the type of leader that draws players to him.

LeCounte is a very interesting selection for the fifth round and I would not surprised to see him make the Browns ahead of Sheldrick Redwine for one.

I'll be adding more on the Browns sixth-round pick tonight from the road office.

Browns select Tony Fields

 The Cleveland Browns used the first of their two fifth-rounders on a very interesting player in Tony Fields, a linebacker from West Virginia.

Fields started his career at Arizona and finished with a final year at West Virginia as a graduate transfer.

Fields racked up strong tackle numbers as a linebacker that runs to the ballcarrier and has been compared to the Browns second-round pick Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in his style of play.

Fields is 6'2, but only 222 pounds with more of a rangy build than a prototype linebacker.

Dane Brugler rated Fields as a 4th or 5th rounder that will need to play in space due to his size as larger blockers can push him away from the play.

Fields speed should help him play on coverage teams and this could be a pick that puts pressure on Mack Wilson to make the roster.

I just don't see the Browns keeping seven linebackers with Anthony Walker from free agency, Jacob Phillips, Malcolm Smith, and Sione Takitaki returning, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Fields drafted, and then Wilson.

I'm a Mack Wilson fan, but I may like him more than the front office does.

It'll be interesting to see how the linebacker situation plays out in Berea.

Browns select Tommy Togiai

    Ohio State defensive tackle Tommy Togiai was a player that I was hoping the Browns could land coming into the draft and especially entering day three.

I was a little disappointed that the Browns didn't take Togiai with their first pick in the fourth round, not that I was bothered by the selection of James Hudson, but the Browns could use more depth at defensive tackle.

But Togiai's improvement last season at Ohio State and his coming out a year made me think that someone was going to pick up a bargain.

That someone was still the Cleveland Browns, who selected Togiai with their own pick in the fourth round.

The 6'1 294 pounder might have been a day one or early day two pick in 2022, had Togiai returned to Columbus, but his decision to enter the draft may have cost him a few dollars with the upside of coming to a team that needed depth up the middle.

Togiai finished 2020 with three sacks and eight tackles for loss in his only season as a starter and at only 21, Togiai has plenty of room to develop.

Togiai is a powerhouse in the weight room and is a player that never takes a play off.

Togiai does need some work on his pass rush, but I agree with Dane Brugler's evaluation that at worst, Togiai is going to be a high effort run stopper, and with work and luck on his pass rush could develop to an upper-echelon defensive tackle.

A real bargain at this point in the draft.

Browns select James Hudson

   The Cleveland Browns had two picks in the early portion of the fourth round and it was assumed that unless no one wanted to trade up that the Browns would not use them both.

That's exactly what happened as after the Browns used the fourth-rounder acquired from the Eagles last season (110) on Cincinnati tackle James Hudson, the Browns swapped the pick added from Carolina last night (112) to the Detroit Lions.

Cleveland received the Lions fifth-round pick at 153 and the Lions fourth-rounder in 2022 for the aforementioned pick and the Browns seventh-rounder at 257, two picks before the final pick of the draft.

This places the Browns with their own pick in round four, two picks in round five ( from the Rams and Lions), and their own pick in the sixth round.

I'm still thinking that Andrew Berry isn't finished and may not use the remaining fourth and the two fifth-rounders.

Moving to James Hudson, a 6'4, 303-pound tackle that played for the Cincinnati Bearcats after transferring from Michigan earlier in his career.

Hudson was recruited as a defensive lineman and after a redshirt season was moved to tackle, but after a few games decided to transfer to Cincinnati.

You may remember the dustup over Hudson's eligibility between Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Cincinnati's Luke Fickell over Michigan's lack of help in getting Hudson a waiver to be immediately eligible with the Bearcats.

Hudson claimed depression issues and the move to tackle, but the waiver was denied by the NCAA.

Hudson must have come around as he played tackle for Cincinnati making all-AAC in 2020.

Hudson is a bit unrefined as he has played only fourteen games at offensive line, but Dane Brugler likes his feet and strength, although he has shorter arms than most tackles which can be a liability.

Hudson had a third-round grade from Brugler, so early fourth isn't extremely far off and the Browns build their depth in the event Chris Hubbard isn't fully recovered from his late-season injury, so this selection makes a lot of sense.

I've worked all night and other than a short nap, I'm pushing myself to get through the draft.

As long as I'm up, I'll be writing about the newest Browns.

Boxing Challenge

The boxing Saturday covers two continents, two important heavyweight fights, a world championship fight, and two others of interest including the latest ridiculous news from the always ridiculous WBA.

Matchroom and DAZN start in the afternoon from Manchester, England with a heavyweight contest that could be very entertaining.

Former WBO champion Joseph Parker continues on his comeback trail against veteran gatekeeper Dereck Chisora in what is essentially an eliminator without being sanctioned as one.

Chisora usually makes entertaining fights, and when he loses, he can often lose spectacularly and while Parker's fights are seldom entertaining, his decision loss to Dillian Whyte was a great fight because Whyte forced Parker to stand and fight.

Who had two excellent fights with Dillian Whyte? Dereck Chisora.

I have a feeling this could be a very big action fight with the winner moving on to another contender in the division.

The co-feature sees the return to the ring of WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol against journeyman Craig Richards.

Bivol hasn't fought since October 2019 with a less than exciting win over Gilbert Castillo, and this is hoped to be a tune-up fight for Bivol, who may fight former super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez in his next fight.

Richards is 16-1, but hasn't fought anyone near the top ten and isn't expected to give Bivol much of a test, although Bivol's power is starting to be questioned after four decision wins in a row, so the tag for this fight could be about Bivol's power.

In the evening, Fox will have a preliminary card before a pay-per-view that really shouldn't be one.

The PPV could have an entertaining brawl between Mexican heavyweights Andy Ruiz and Chris Arreola.

Ruiz fights for the first time since dropping his three titles back to Anthony Joshua and is supposedly in shape after joining trainer Eddy Reynoso.

You hear that often through the careers of fighters that are out of shape, so I'm dubious but Reynoso isn't known as a coddling trainer so perhaps Ruiz is ready to go.

If Ruiz is ready, his fight with 40-year-old Chris Arreola could be fun to watch with punches exchanged often.

Arreola was often described in similar manners to Ruiz during his prime, but he has been in better shape in recent years and he set a record for punches thrown by a heavyweight in his last fight- a 2019 decision loss to Adam Kownacki, so this could be a good fight- for as long as it lasts.

The undercard on the PPV isn't much, but former WBC lightweight champion Omar Figueroa faces Abel Ramos in what could be the last run for Figueroa, who once showed so promise as a future star but for various reasons never fulfilled his potential.

Figueroa lost for the first time in 2019 to current WBA welterweight champion Yordenis Ugas in a fight that he barely won a round and looks to be far too small against the best welterweights, but unable or unwilling to cut to 135 or 140 which would be the best weight for him.

Ramos lost a split decision to Ugas in his last fight, but the scorecard for Ramos was one of the worst in recent years and his only big win was the final round stoppage of Bryant Perrella with only seconds remaining.

The win over Perrella looks better after Perrella's recent draw against Tony Harrison, which I thought Perrella won close, and this again could be an action fight if Figueroa is in shape.

The final challenge fight isn't from the PPV, it is from the Fox preview show with former WBA junior middleweight champion Erislandy Lara moving up to middleweight for one of the WBA's ridiculous minor titles.

It's not only that Lara is in a "title" fight in his first fight at the weight, or that he looked disinterested in his last win over Greg Vendetti, it's his opponent Thomas LaManna.

LaManna like Vendetti isn't a fighter of this level and the only question in this one is-  Will Lara care enough to stop his opponent or like against Vendetti, be more than happy to drag fans through twelve rounds of "action".

LaManna has lost to both fighters that he's faced that are even fringe contenders (Dusty Hernandez-Harrison and Jorge Cota) and is undeserving of facing Lara period-let alone for a 'title' as worthless as that title.

Keep in mind that his five-round knockout loss to Jorge Cota was against a fighter used to build other fighters at the contender level, hence Cota's early KO losses to Jermell Charlo (in 3) and Erickson Lubin (in 4) and Cota being fed to promising Sebastian Fundora on this PPV card in a bout that I didn't even place on the challenge.

Yet Cota stopped LaManna, LaManna has lost two of his last four and has never fought at middleweight, yet he is on national television for a "title" from a sanctioning body.

LaManna's last two wins are over fighters with 30-26 and 22-14 records and even against a 38-year-old and aging Lara, he seems sadly out of his league- PBC and the WBA should be ashamed.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 54-52.

Heavyweights. 12 Rds 
Joseph Parker vs Dereck Chisora
Both: Parker Unanimous Decision

WBA Light Heavyweight Title. 12 Rds
Dmitry Bivol vs Craig Richards
R.L: Bivol KO 7
TRS: Bivol KO 5

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Andy Ruiz vs Chris Arreola
R.L: Ruiz KO 10
TRS: Ruiz KO 6

Welterweights 12 Rds
Omar Figueroa vs Abel Ramos
Both: Figueroa Unanimous Decision

Middleweights 12 Rds
Erislandy Lara vs Thomas LaManna
R.L: Lara Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lara KO 9

Browns select Anthony Schwartz

   The Cleveland Browns offense hasn't been in question entering the 2021 draft, but the one hole in the offense was that the Browns lacked a fast receiver that could get deep or be used in different ways with the ball in his hands.

The Browns attempted to solve that in the third round with the pick acquired from New Orleans at number 91 in Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz.

Schwartz brings speed and not the type of speed that is usually thought of as fast.

Schwartz is a player with Olympic sprinter type of speed and has been clocked as fast as 4.26 in the 40-yard dash, which gives him the fastest number of all players in the draft.

Schwartz caught 54 passes in 2020 for 636 yards and three touchdowns, one of those a school-record 91-yard touchdown reception.

Schwartz also rushed for over 300 yards in three years at Auburn and seven touchdowns, which shows that Gonzalez can be used on jet sweeps, swing passes (that can count as running plays depending on where the ball was caught).

Schwartz isn't as refined of a receiver as Ole Miss's Elijah Moore or Purdue's Rondale Moore, the two players that I wanted for the Browns (both players were off the board before the Browns second-round pick), but he brings even better speed and can be involved in a similar manner in the offense.

Schwartz was mentioned as having to actually have to slow down into his routes because he was going through things too fast!

Dane Brugler had Schwartz as a fourth-rounder, which isn't so bad considering the third-rounder was one late in the round, says he has the speed to make an impact but has a frame that may not make him a high volume receiver.

For you, fantasy players out there, think of two or three catches for 70 yards and maybe a touchdown type and you'll know how Schwartz projects.

Schwartz could be a player involved in gadget plays in his first year or so and then breaks into the offense, should things go well for him.

Schwartz appears to be a boom or bust pick, but I cannot blame Andrew Berry for attempting to add a home run hitter to the offense.

The Browns now have three fourth-round picks, two of them early in the round, with pick 110 from the Eagles coming fifth in the round, the pick obtained from Carolina on day two at 113, and the Browns own pick at 132.

I would be surprised if the Browns used all of these picks and they might be looking to move one of the early picks for a third-rounder next season.

Cleveland owns picks in rounds five, six, and seven.

Round five is from the Rams at 169 from the Austin Corbett trade.

Round six is their own pick at 211 and Round seven is the pick from the Bills at 257, two picks away from Mr.Irrelevant.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Browns select Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

   I hoped that with some luck one of the four players that I thought would be great fits for the Cleveland Browns in the second round would fall to them, but I didn't think that it was possible.

Wide Receivers Elijah Moore of Ole Miss and Rondale Moore of Purdue were off the board as the Browns pick at 59 began to be in sight, but two linebackers that I really (REALLY) liked were still available in Jabril Cox from LSU and my favorite Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah out of Notre Dame.

As a side note, I was looking up my persons of interest and discovered to my horror that the linebacker section was missing!

I'll be trying to find that and if so, add it to that post with an editor's note.

Andrew Berry decided enough was enough and for the front office that has been rumored as undervaluing linebackers, the Browns decided to strike and trade up from 59 to 52 with the Carolina Panthers to select Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

The cost was reasonable, sending Carolina their third-round pick (89) and getting Carolina's fourth-rounder (113) in return and at the press conference discussing the pick, Paul DePodesta stated that Owusu-Koramoah was heavily considered in the first round when the Browns tabbed cornerback Greg Newsome.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is the type of player that is part of a new wave of defender- hitting hard enough to knockdown backs like a linebacker, yet fast enough to cover receivers out of the slot or tight ends.

At 6'1 and 225 pounds, Owusu-Koramoah brings the type of versatility that will give Cleveland defensive coordinator Joe Woods many options in how he chooses to line him up and choices in execution.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah brings me thoughts of last year's draft when the player that I wanted most was Isaiah Simmons of Clemson, whom the Cardinals selected before Cleveland was on the clock as a player that can do almost anything that you need in today's game.

Dane Brugler had Owusu-Koramoah rated only behind Micah Parsons of Penn State at linebacker, ahead of two players that were picked in the first round (Zaven Collins and Jamin Davis), and rated him as the 15th best player overall in the entire draft.

That is a steal to draft a player that has no injury or character questions at the cost of a third-rounder for a fourth-rounder.

A final note on Owusu-Koramoah (I'll have more in the draft recap), this could be the Browns' answer to Lamar Jackson's running ability out of the pocket.

This is the type of player and athlete that can be used as Jackson's spy and has the speed to run Jackson down and if Owusu-Koramoah can do that- in this division that could mean a division title.

Love the pick, love the aggressive nature of going to get the player that you want, and love the value as well!

The Browns still have a third-rounder at 91, which was a pick obtained from New Orleans during last year's draft, so I will have a report on that player later tonight. 

Boxing Challenge: Edwards upsets Mthalane

 Great Britain's Sunny Edwards pulled a Friday night special in London, as Edwards surprised long-time IBF flyweight champion Mortui Mthalane of South Africa in winning a unanimous decision to take his title.

Edwards, the brother of former WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards,  won the early rounds with a classic boxing style, didn't allow the veteran champion to get into a rhythm, and built a lead large enough to easily offset a mild late-round rally by Mthalane.

Mthalane looked every bit his age for most of this fight, but take no credit away from Edwards who executed his plan perfectly and when Mthalane made his charge Edwards was savvy enough to keep things under his control.

I saw Edwards a 117-111 winner which was closer than two judges (118-112 and 120-108), but not as close as the other (115-113).

The Edwards win shakes up the flyweight division a bit and it could help break a logjam in the division as few wanted to face Mthalane, who brought little money or attention, but Edwards may attract a bigger paycheck, should any of the champions be willing to fight in England.

Ramon Malpica grabbed two boxing challenge points and cut my lead to 54-52.

Apologies for being shorter than usual, but the NFL Draft has started...

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend will see two former world heavyweight champions continue a road to a possible title chance down the road, a world title fight at flyweight, and another joke from the WBA.

There is a Friday fight from London from ESPN+ as underrated IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane for the fourth time in his second reign with that championship against England's Sunny Edwards.

Edwards. the brother of former WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards will be putting his undefeated record on the line against the 38-year-old champion, who would notch his eighth defense over his two reigns with a victory.

Mthalane would be a terrific addition to a flyweight unification series that will never happen with WBC champion Julio Cesar Martinez, WBA king Artem Dalakian, and WBO titleholder Junto Nakatani.

IBF Flyweight Title. 12 Rds

Moruti Mthalane  vs Sunny Edwards

R.L.: Edwards Unanimous Decision

TRS: Mthalane Unanimous Decision

Browns select Greg Newsome

  Sometimes in the NFL Draft, the best things do come to those who wait and the Cleveland Browns stayed at their spot at 26 in round one and selected a terrific player at their glaring position of need in Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome.

The 6'1 Newsome wasn't thrown at very often in 2020 by opponents of the Wildcats, but when quarterbacks tried him, Newsome was excellent in breaking up passes as he led the Big Ten in passes defended (nine break-up attempts and one interception) and allowed only one touchdown in his final two seasons in Evanston.

Newsome is a man-to-man cover corner that is known as a good tackler and has good ball skills other than the lack of interceptions (his one in 2020 was his only career interception), there isn't a knock on his game on the field.

This leads us to the one legitimate knock that is fair against Newsome.

Newsome missed three games in each of his three seasons in the Big Ten and there is the only concern with Newsome- Can he stay on the field consistently?

Denzel Ward hasn't played a full season yet and Greedy Williams missed an entire season, so the Browns already have talented young cornerbacks that have durability concerns and Newsome will now be bringing his own injury background.

Newsome will be challenging Williams for a starting position and at worst, Newsome will see plenty of playing time.

Cleveland currently holds three picks on tonight's day two of the draft- their own second (59th overall) and third-rounders (89th overall) and the New Orleans Saints third-rounder (91) obtained during last year's draft. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest: Defensive Front Seven

 The Cleveland Browns defense still needs more help on the front seven even after signing Jadeveon Clowney at defensive end, Malik Jackson at defensive tackle, and Anthony Walker at linebacker.

The Browns will likely select a defensive lineman in either the first or second round, but the question is which position will they address?

Defensive end seemed to be the clear choice before the signing of Jadeveon Clowney, but between adding Clowney and then releasing Sheldon Richardson to make cap room for the draftees (and Clowney) defensive tackle could also make a lot of sense.

After Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, the Browns only have free agency addition Takk Mckinley, who comes with injury questions, and returning depth players Porter Gustin and Joe Jackson to round out the unit.

The defensive ends come with questions, but Dane Brugler has first-round possible grades on five players at the position.

Georgia's Azeez Ojulari has the speed and athletic ability but isn't as big as you'd like to see and the two pass rushers from the Big Ten in Michigan's Kwity Paye and Penn State's Jayson Oweh are supposed to be pass rushers that didn't sack many quarterbacks in their college career.

Oweh didn't register a sack at all in Penn State's seven games and Paye would finish with only two, although Michigan only played four games.

Paye has terrific athletic ability but needs lots of refinement on his pass rush.

Miami's Jaelan Phillips has first-round ability but has had concussion problems that once forced him to medically retire.

Combine that with an admitted passion for music (remember another Miami bust that loved music more than football in 2018 3rd rounder Chad Thomas?) and despite the upside of Phillips, I would stay away from him unless he would fall to day three, which is unlikely.

I like Washington's Joe Tryon's (pictured) size and speed, but he only started for one season with Washington, sat out 2020, and Dane Brugler's comment of a "work in progress" seems dead-on.

Tryon is rated as one of the draft's biggest "Boom or Bust" questions, but physically he looks the part.

As does, Miami's Gregory Rousseau, who may have been a top fifteen pick had he entered the 2020 draft after finishing with 15.5 sacks in 2019 in his first year as a starter for the Hurricanes.

Like Tryon, Rousseau sat 2020 out and like Tryon (also 6'5) comes with all the physical tools that an end rusher needs, but has some developmental processes to go through to reach his potential.

Should the Browns go for a depth pick on the final day of the draft, I like Iowa's Chauncey Golston, who doesn't pass the looks test and then goes onto the field and produces.

If you want a true player to develop from a day three pick, Florida State's Joshua Kaindoh has the size to eventually start for someone (6'5 260) but will need lots after a somewhat disappointing Seminole career.

This is an especially weak defensive tackle class with Brugler rating only one player with a full first-round grade and only one other with a first/second-round grade.

The Browns will have new starters at defensive tackle after allowing Larry Ogunjobi to leave via free agency to the Bengals and releasing Sheldon Richardson.

Cleveland will be relying heavily on 2020 third-rounder Jordan Elliott, Andrew Billings, who sat out 2020, and free-agent signee Malik Jackson.

If this was a better class, the Browns could go defensive tackle.

But it's not with Alabama's Christian Barmore the best available at the position.

At 6'4 and over 300 pounds, Barmore can be rotated around the line according to situations, but he only started one year at Alabama, so he has not taken as many snaps as you may think.

Barmore will likely go earlier than he should due to the down year at the position,.

Levi Onwuzunke of Washington is the other highly rated DT and yet another sit-out for the 2020 season.

At his best Onwuzunke is an active and athletic tackle that can run down backs, but he needs to add strength and is taller than most defensive tackles used as run-pluggers.

Should the Browns wait until day three, there are two players that I'd be interested in taking.

Florida State's Marvin Wilson played better as a sophomore and junior than as a senior.

Wilson is a natural stopper in the running game, blocked three kicks in 2020 so he could help there and Wilson played for three coaches in four years which likely didn't help his development very much.

Wilson has the tools to be an excellent player but comes with risk if taken earlier than day three.

Tommy Togiai was just starting to come into his own at the end of 2020 for Ohio State and might have been better suited to return to Ohio State.

Still, Togiai at worst will be a rotational player against the run and could evolve into a pass-rushing threat up the middle with work.

Togiai may go in the third round, so Cleveland may have to move to get him then should they want him.

I'll be around tonight to look at the Browns selection in the first round or any potential trades up or even out of the first round. 

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest: The Secondary

  The Cleveland Browns addressed safety in free agency with the signing of John Johnson from the Rams, but there is still work to be done, especially at cornerback.

The Browns have a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback in Denzel Ward, but the other cornerback has been a problem in finding someone to pair with Ward.

2019 second-rounder Greedy Williams missed all of 2020 due to nerve damage to his shoulder and even though the Browns signed Josh Hill in free agency, Hill is more of a slot corner than an outside cornerback.

IF Greedy Williams is at one hundred percent, the Browns could get away without using one of their first two picks on a corner, but they cannot feel comfortable that Williams is going to be able to take the grind of a now seventeen game season.

So Cleveland will almost certainly take a corner in either round one or round two, but what corner will that be?

Alabama's Patrick Surtain Jr and South Carolina's Jaycee Horn are the top two corners and will almost certainly be unavailable for the Browns.

I was really hoping for Greg Newsome of Northwestern as a corner that was not only talented but could be there at the Browns' 26th pick.

However, Newsome did very well at his pro day and is one of the players that has seen his stock improve as draft day neared, so Newsome may not be available for the Browns.

Newsome is a rugged cover corner that breaks up passes (25 in 21 games) and is a strong tackler that has improved every year at Northwestern.

Newsome's biggest issue is durability as he has missed three games in each of his three seasons and at a time when the NFL is extending their season, durability is a concern.

Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley has all the physical tools to be a top cornerback in the league, but missed 2020 as a Covid-19 opt-out and has had back problems.

Without those injuries, Farley is pushing Surtain as the top corner in this class, but the question that needs to be answered is this-IF Farley starts falling, is that the giveaway that his back problems are worse than expected?

And if Farley falls to them, can the Browns afford to take the risk on another talented, but possibly fragile cornerback?

I like Asante Samuel Jr. of Florida State, who isn't quite as big as the above four mentioned, but is in their class in coverage and could play inside or outside depending on the need.

Washington's Alex Molden's Dad ( Alex Sr) was a first-rounder of the Saints in 1996 and like Samuel is a little undersized, but would be an interesting possibility should the Browns wait until the second round to select their cornerback.

I also love the tools of Georgia's Tyson Campbell, who looks like a day two pick that may be available in the third round.

Maybe it's because I saw him play every week, but so many have gotten down on Ohio State's Shaun Wade after his struggles on the outside corner in 2020 that he could be a day three steal.

Wade has the physical tools to play safety and he might be a player that can be moved around the secondary to suit the situation.

I am also intrigued by Bryan Mills of North Carolina Central, who sat out in 2020 and played just one year at NCC, but his size and speed make me like him as a day three project.

The Browns addressed their safety situation when they signed John Johnson and will have 2020 second rounder Grant Delpit returning to the field after missing last season to go with Ronnie Harrison, who played well after being acquired from Jacksonville.

It's a good thing that the Browns don't need a safety because this isn't a great year to be looking for one as Dane Brugler doesn't think one will go in the first round.

If the Browns decided to take a safety on the third day, I really liked Cincinnati's James Wiggins when I watched the Bearcats.

Wiggins is an aggressive player that could eventually work his way into the lineup and at worst help on special teams.

It's late from the road office and running short on time, but I'm hoping to have time for some persons of interest for the front seven before the draft starts.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest: Offensive Players

For the first time that I can remember, the Cleveland Browns do not have glaring needs on one side of the ball and would literally be selecting for depth or for players that aren't an immediate need but could fill a need as soon as the 2022 season.

The two players that I could see the Browns considering on day two of the draft and would suit my hopes for a smaller, quick playmaker at wide receiver.

I really like Purdue's Rondale Moore as a playmaking slot receiver that has the ability to run jet sweeps, shovel passes, and the type of catch-and-go pass catcher that the Browns currently lack.

Moore is only 5'9, but it's not a scrawny 5'9 that makes you wonder how long he'll hold up under NFL pounding as he is a physical player that won't be pushed around.

Moore can also return kicks as well

I also like Ole Miss's Elijah Moore, who is also 5'9, but not quite as strong as his previously mentioned namesake.

Elijah Moore is remembered for the ridiculous "urinating dog" celebration that cost Ole Miss (and coach Matt Luke his job) a win over rival Mississippi State but matured a bit in 2020.

Elijah Moore may be able to play outside or the slot and has the type of versatility that the Browns don't have enough of and with the possibility of either or both Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham not on the roster for 2022, the Browns could take a receiver on day two to learn from Landry before taking a starting spot in 2022...

Should the Browns decide to tab a receiver on the third day of the draft, a few that I like for selections similar to last draft's gamble on Donovan Peoples-Jones are  Trevon Grimes of Florida, who at 6'4 could develop into a possession receiver with red-zone skills, Sage Surratt of Wake Forest, a bigger slot target than either Moore and late in the draft Brennan Eagles of Texas.

Cleveland doesn't appear to need a tight end with Austin Hooper, 2020 draftee Harrison Bryant, and David Njoku on the roster with Stephen Carlson, but Njoku is a free agent after 2021 so Cleveland could prepare for life without him or even if they trade him before the season.

This isn't a top class, but I like athletic Brevin Jordan of Miami, Florida although he is a likely day two pick and durable Hunter Long of Boston College, who Dane Brugler compares to Austin Hooper.

The Browns (like most NFL teams) are always looking for depth along the offensive line.

The Browns took Nick Harris in the fifth round in 2020 and look at him as the long-term replacement for J.C. Tretter, so it's unlikely that they take a center in this draft.

Should the Browns look for one on day three, I like Michal Menet of Penn State or Drew Dalman of Stanford as possibilities.

Cleveland likely wouldn't need a guard with Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller in the lineup, but depth is always looked for on the offensive line.

The two guards I really like aren't likely to be available in the fourth round, but I've seen stranger things happen than players falling to round four, and Wyatt Davis of Ohio State or Jackson Carman of Clemson (especially Carman) might be available early in round four.

The Browns are solid at tackle with Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin, but Chris Hubbard is the top backup and he suffered a knee injury late in the season, so a depth addition for the line is most likely at tackle.

6'8 Tommy Doyle of Miami, Ohio has the type of size and strength to develop into a starter, but his raw ability can be given time to be molded with starters ahead of him of the level of Wills and Conklin.

Marshall's Josh Ball has the size (6'7 308)  and ability to be a day one selection, but Ball was forced to leave Florida State after domestic violence accusations in 2017.

Ball would be risky, but worth considering if his background shows that he learned from his mistake.

The Browns are unlikely to take a running back with Nick Chubb's likely contract extension and Kareem Hunt, who is signed under a very reasonable cap number.

I love Clemson's Travis Etienne, who the Browns don't need at his spot in the draft, and Ohio State's Trey Sermon dazzled in the late-season, but still is unlikely to last deep into day three.

Oklahoma State's Chiba Hubbard was a productive college runner that could be the "best player available" should he fall into the sixth or seventh round.

I also like 5'6 Jaret Patterson of Buffalo, who doesn't look the part but could be a solid situational back.

I always have promoted taking a quarterback every other year to develop or even to trade down the road if everything fell into place for a backup.

When quarterbacks are available on day three, they have questions or flaws that placed them in the third day's selections.

If I'm taking one late, I really like Sam Ehlinger of Texas, who is lauded for his leadership and toughness.

Ehlinger's arm is decent enough, but he hasn't always been the most accurate.

Still, I'd take him in round six or seven and bet he's a guy that will at least be a backup in the league for years.

If I was gambling on physical tools, Felipe Franks of Arkansas is worth considering.

At 6'5, Franks has the tools but will need to show that he can play in offenses that aren't the Briles scheme.

If the Browns don't draft either quarterback, I'd consider either as priority free agents.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Navarrete stops Diaz in 12, Berlanga streak snapped

 Emanuel Navarrete retained his WBO featherweight title when he stopped a brave Christopher Diaz in the final seconds of round twelve.

Navarrete scored knockdowns in the fourth round, two more in the eighth, and again in the final round with Diaz's trainer Nelson Rodriguez signaling surrender for his man shortly after a battered Diaz rose from the floor.

Diaz was deducted a point in round seven for kidney punches and trailed on my card 107-98 going into the final round.

Give Diaz full credit for toughness and he landed his share of punches against Navarrete, but Navarrete was far too strong and sharp with his shots against Diaz.

This was one of those bouts that was dominated by one fighter, yet the loser made the fight entertaining and just competitive enough to enjoy watching.

If Diaz hasn't had a lot taken out of him by such a brutal defeat, he's likely made himself some fans due to his heart in the loss.

As for Navarrete, he's in a bit of a pickle at 126.

Navarrete's best fights appear to be difficult to make with WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz (who for some reason still holds their title despite not fighting in the division for 26 months and counting) and WBC champion Gary Russell ( who fights exactly once a year against his mandatory and then returns to his hole to hibernate like a cicada) both fighting for PBC.

Minor champion Xu Can might be the best and easiest fight to make with both guys throwing lots of punches and unafraid to take them either.

Can was scheduled to fight Josh Warrington in a unification fight of sorts with Warrington vacating his IBF title to face Can rather than fight a rematch against mandatory contender Kid Galahad, whom he defeated in 2019, but Warrington was knocked out by Mauricio Lara, so Can could be in search of an opponent.

Navarrete may decide to move up to 130 pounds where Top Rank is far better situated with WBC champion Oscar Valdez, WBO champion Jamel Herring, and Shakur Stevenson and could easily make any of those contests.

In the co-feature, the first-round knockout streak of undefeated Edgar Berlanga ended and his knockout string ended period as veteran Demond Nicholson took Berlanga the eight round distance.

Still, Berlanga was far from disappointing as he knocked Nicholson down four times and almost finished him in the final round with a knockdown with seconds remaining.

I scored Berlanga an 80-68 winner on my card.

A solid performance and one that Berlanga will learn from the experience from a tough journeyman such as Nicholson, who I would imagine will receive more fights after his determined effort against the big-banging Berlanga.

Berlanga is far from a refined product though and it's ridiculous that the even more ridiculous WBA has him ranked fifth in the world at this time, but the talent is there for a future star.

A word on the ESPN crew, which had a bad night in my opinion.

The best part of the end of the knockout streak for the promising Berlanga is that I no longer have to listen to Joe Tessitore breathlessly count down the seconds before the end of the round.

Tessitore's work seems to get worse by the card, and the fawning over Andre Ward, who always seems like the smug guy at work that you'd like to see water poured on, is especially sickening.

Case in point, Tessitore volunteers that Ward would come out of retirement for a fight with Canelo Alvarez, which I couldn't blame Ward for, and rambles about what an exciting fight it would be.

One can say many things about the undefeated career of Andre Ward and I have (most notably here)-

Exciting is not one of them.

I like Tim Bradley's energy, but he often seems to be in the "Hey Spike" role to Ward and that's too bad.

I think Bradley could be very good with a good play by play person to play to his strengths, but until he isn't forced to spend most of a card with "That's right, 'Dre", he isn't going to get there.

ESPN's production is very strong, but their announcing lags behind in a sport not filled with great commentating teams....

In Osaka, Japan, Kenshiro Teraji (Known as Ken Shiro) defended his WBC junior flyweight title via unanimous decision over countryman and mandatory challenger Tetsuya Hisada via unanimous decision.

I've only watched the first two rounds of the fight and will edit this later once I have finished watching.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored four points to move our totals to 54-50 for the year to date.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing challenge is limited with two fights from ESPN and Top Rank with another championship fight from the land of the rising sun for the weekend.

Emanuel Navarrete defends his WBO featherweight title for the first time in Kissimmee, Florida against Christopher Diaz.

Navarrete defended the WBO junior featherweight title five times in less than a year before moving up to featherweight to win a unanimous decision over slick Ruben Villa to win the title vacated by Shakur Stevenson.

I thought Navarrete didn't look quite as sharp at 126 pounds, but Villa is an opponent that can be difficult to look good against, so I'm willing to look at that win as one that Navarrete will take a move forward from.

Christopher Diaz won his first twenty-three fights and had many watchers believing that he was certain to become an eventual world champion at junior lightweight, but he lost as the heavy favorite against Masayuki Ito in a fight for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title in 2018 and less than a year later after dropping to featherweight, Diaz was dominated by Shakur Stevenson.

Diaz has won his two most recent fights since losing to Stevenson, including a unanimous decision win over former world title challenger Jason Sanchez and he should be motivated as this could be his last title opportunity.

The co-feature is attracting a lot of attention as undefeated super middleweight Edgar Berlanga attempts to move his first-round knockout streak against veteran Demond Nicholson.

Berlanga has stopped all sixteen of his foes in the first round and will be fighting his best opponent yet in Nicholson, who has a draw with fringe contender Immanuel Aleem on his record but has been stopped in two of his three losses including a seventh-round stoppage loss to Jesse Hart.

Should Berlanga get Nicholson out in a round, he may be at a level where Top Rank may have to toss him into the deep waters of top twenty-level contenders.

The other fight is from Japan and not televised in the U.S. as the exciting Kenshiro Teraji (known as Ken Shiro) defends his WBC junior flyweight title against countryman Tetsuya Hisada.

"Shiro" hasn't fought since December 2019 due to Covid-19 and a few problems outside the ring, but is heavily favored against the veteran Hisada.

Still, Hisada should be a benchmark as in his last fight, Hisada took WBA light flyweight champion  Hiroto Kyoguchi all twelve rounds and a Shiro-Kyoguchi unification fight would be a massive fight in Japan.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 50-46.

WBO Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Emanuel Navarrete vs Christopher Diaz
Both: Navarrete Unanimous Decision

Super Middleweights. 8 Rds
Edgar Berlanga vs Demond Nicholson
R.L: Berlanga KO 1
TRS: Berlanga KO 2

WBC Light Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Kenshiro Teraji vs Tetsuya Hisada
Both: Teraji Unanimous Decision 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Cleaning out the Inbox-Passings

 The news is slow, so I'll use today to clean the inbox of the recent passings and hopefully be caught up for a while.

Goodbye to James Hampton at the age of 84.

The veteran actor had three different career runs during three different decades that fans could remember him best for any of the three.

In the 1960s, Hampton was best known for his supporting role on the tv comedy "F Troop" as Pvt. Hannibal Dobbs, where he was trained by Leonard Nimoy as an actor before landing the role.

In the 70s, Hampton was a character actor seen on many game shows, television shows, and films with his biggest role as "Caretaker" with Burt Reynolds in the original "Longest Yard".

Hampton also was part of the ensemble cast of the "Mary" Tyler Moore failed variety show that included David Letterman and Michael Keaton in 1978.

Hampton's big part in the 80s was as Michael J.Fox's father in "Teen Wolf" and he would reprise the role of "Harold Howard" in the sequel that did not include Fox.

Goodbye to George Segal at the age of 87.

Segal's long career saw him succeed in film in the 60s and 70s and in television in the 90s up to the current day as the grandfather on The Goldbergs.

Segal was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best-supporting actor in 1966 for his role in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff" and released albums in the decade that included Segal's singing and banjo playing, which led to a guest spot on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where the brothers and Segal sang Phil Ochs's "Draft Dodger Rag".

Segal won two Golden Globes, the first in 1965 for Most Promising Male Newcomer for "The New Interns" and would win the other in 1974 for Best Actor in "Touch of Class".

Segal starred as the lead in many films in the 1970s to various degrees of success, but my most vivid Segal memory was as the star in "Carbon Copy" in 1981 which was the first film for Denzel Washington.

Segal would co-star in "Just Shoot Me" on NBC from 1997-2003 and on The Goldbergs from 2013-21.

Goodbye to Gloria Henry at the age of 98.

Henry's major role was as "Alice Mitchell" of the mother of "Dennis" on the "Dennis The Menace" sitcom from 1959-63.

Henry's career slowed after "Dennis" as she stated she was typecast for roles as a mother and wouldn't return to acting until the early 1980s.

Henry would never again have a regular role on a series but did do guest appearances and bit-parts with one as recently as 2012 on "Parks and Recreation".

Goodbye to Fred Arbanas at the age of 82.

The All-Time AFL Tight End, Arbanas won three AFL titles with the Dallas Texans in 1962 and 1966 and 1970 with the Kansas City Chiefs with the 1970 Chiefs winning Super Bowl IV.

Arbanas caught 97 passes with 20 catches for touchdowns during his first three years in the AFL, but after a 1964 mugging that cost him the sight in his right eye, Arbanas was never the same threat as a pass-catcher as Arbanas would catch 93 passes for the final six seasons of his career.

Arbanas made the All-AFL team six times and would play in five AFL All-Star games, missing the sixth due to injuries from the mugging. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Leroy Keyes and the Resource Center

     Recently former Philadelphia Eagle Leroy Keyes passed away at the age of 74 and while Keyes was notable enough for a cleaning out the inbox for his tremendous college career at Purdue, Keyes's disappointing pro career meant that I only saw him play on Purdue and Eagles highlight films.

Keyes was a dynamic two-way player for Purdue as a running back and cornerback, making the All-American team in both 1967 and 1968, finishing third in the 1967 Heisman voting (to Gary Beban and O.J. Simpson) and second in 1968 to O.J. Simpson.

Keyes (in the time of three varsity seasons) would finish his Purdue career with over 2,000 yards rushing and 1,200 receiving with twenty-nine touchdowns scored.

You could make a serious and logical case for Leroy Keyes as the best player in the history of Purdue football.

Leroy Keyes was the third overall draft pick by the Eagles in the 1969 draft and the Eagles chose Keyes over Joe Greene, so that's disappointing to Philadelphia fans.

Keyes was drafted as a running back but became a full-time defensive back after his rookie season.

Keyes rushed for less than 400 yards and scored only three touchdowns in his rookie year, but for some reason, the Eagles gave up on Keyes as a running back in 1970 with Keyes carrying the ball twice all year.

Desperate to get anything out of Keyes, Philadelphia moved him to safety for his third season and in 1971, Keyes finished with six interceptions and recovered three fumbles to earn his first Topps card in the 1972 set (pictured).

Keyes had maybe the weirdest collection of four mainstream collectibles- the 1972 Topps with his knit cap on, 1973 Topps where he looks 20 years older than he actually was, a Sunoco Gas Station stamp, and a 7-11 Slurpee cup from 1973 with the Eagles when he actually played for the Chiefs by the release date.

Keyes started all 14 games in 1972 for the Eagles with two interceptions but was traded to Kansas City for 1973, where he retired after the season at the young age of 25.

After football, Keyes worked in Philadelphia for their school district before returning to Purdue in 1995 in various positions which included running backs coach and administrative assistant along with fundraising.

So how does this relate to me?

Well, when you live in a rural area that the nearest library/bookstore was eight to ten miles away and you are a voracious reader, your options are limited.

This means that you are constantly checking books out of the school library or as the term used in the 1970s speak- The Resource Center.

The term moved out of vogue as quickly as it started as in middle school and high school, it was always called the library, and looking back the choices were limited as you'd expect from a rural elementary school, but what I loved about it was the strange selection of books that wound up there and the stories that they would tell in their travels there.

I remember constantly signing out and re-reading books over and over again such as my first exposure to Ball Four, Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer by Johnny Sample and Foul by Connie Hawkins, all of which in hindsight were more adult reading than elementary school, but somehow flew under the radar to end up in the resource center.

However, there were also books that were a bit more to the childhood demographic with books watered down for the age group, yet really old for the time.

An example was the "Richie Ashburn Story", which I would later purchase at a book sale, recently found in my dad's attic, and now resides in the Ryan Heimberger Library ( Trademark Pending).

Richie Ashburn retired after the 1962 season, was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1960 season, and if I remember correctly the book was printed well before then.

I might have been the only kid that read books about players that no one my age had heard about, but that added to (or even started) my love of sports history.

Here is where Leroy Keyes comes in.

Other than the unusual football card shown above, I didn't know about Keyes, but I did know O.J. Simpson.

The 1973 football season was Keyes's last season, but also my first year in school, and the 2,003-yard season (in 14 games) for Simpson, so O.J. Simpson was very well known at that time.

Deep in the section of the library for books that no one else cared about was a book that never had a dust jacket (Google doesn't have an image, but this article says the Juice was on the cover) with the title "Black Champions of the Gridiron- O.J. Simpson and Leroy Keyes).

The book is written for children, and the main focus is the college careers and the Heisman races of 1967-68 where Simpson and Keyes finished 2-3 (to winner Gary Beban) and 1-2.

That book and the missing dust jacket always reminded me of childhood and why Leroy Keyes, always stayed in my memory.

My memories for some things amaze me, and for others fail me consistently, but it always is a nice memory when I relate a great player of the past to something personal- even if it is a book that I haven't seen for over forty years...

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Andrade decisions Williams

    The boxing weekend didn't see any huge upsets, but it did see some interesting fights with possible reverberations down the road.  

Saturday afternoon from Matchroom/DAZN saw Hollywood, Florida as the site for Demetrius Andrade's successful defense of his WBO middleweight title.

Andrade won a clear unanimous decision and knocked Williams down in the second round with a straight left, but Williams did have his moments and the fight was more exciting than the usual lopsided Andrade fight.

I scored Andrade a 117-109 winner (9-3 with the knockdown).

Andrade was hit occasionally by Williams and showed enough vulnerability that you would think any of the other three champions (WBC Jermall Charlo, WBA Ryota Murata, and IBF Gennady Golovkin) would be interested in a unification fight more than perhaps in the past.

I doubt it, but perhaps.

Andrade now has his mandatory out of the way for the year, but I (and Andrade with promoter Eddie Hearn) have next to no idea on Andrade's next defense unless the unlikely event that the three mentioned champions decides Andrade is suddenly worth the risk.

In the co-feature, undefeated super middleweight Carlos Gongora dominated Christopher Pearson and won every round through seven and finished Pearson off in the eighth.

Pearson appeared as if he could have risen, but took the ten count as he had clearly had enough of Gongora for the evening.

I'd like to see Gongora against a better challenger and he would make a very interesting fight for quite a few of the contenders in the division.

In the main event on Fox, former WBC junior middleweight champion Tony Harrison was rocked early by Bryant Perrella and outworked over most of the twelve-round fight by Perrella, who moved up in weight for this fight.

Harrison seemed a bit listless in his first fight since losing to Jermell Charlo and didn't move his hands enough, which likely cost him the fight as when Harrison picked up the pace he was effective against Perrella.

Harrison was fortunate to escape with a draw in a difficult bout to score.

I thought Perrella shaded it 115-113, but the Perrella judge scored 117-111 ( too wide), the Harrison judge scored 116-112 ( too wide), and the final judge scored 114-114, which seemed fair.

And then there was Twiller.

Peter Kahn (Twiller's chief boxing officer) has been all over the boxing podcast circuit with several respected members of the boxing media over the last two weeks talking about what Twiller is going to bring to boxing.

While I'm all for more attention and more exposure to the sport, I'm not sure that attention and exposure of a positive nature are coming anytime soon for what was essentially a freak show last night from Atlanta.

I'll be writing more later in the week about a pay per view card that seemed to be straight from a carnival that included YouTube star Jake Paul vs MMA fighter Ben Askren, former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir boxing against former IBF cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham, lots of musicians and comedians, Ric Flair officiating a "Slap Fight" with Saturday Night Live's Pete Davidson, about ten people commentating on the matches that ranged from a bemused Al Bernstein to a clearly inebriated (TONS of Marijuana references and use on this show) Oscar De La Hoya and Snoop Dog, and all of this looked like it was filmed in an abandoned warehouse with lousy lighting.

With all of that said, they may do strong numbers and I am anxious to see how well they do in PPV buys.

If they are successful, full credit to them because they are finding an audience that boxing clearly isn't getting without them.

However, is it sustainable and how many times can you play the card of gimmick shows before people tune out?

I don't have the answer to that question.

In the only real boxing match that mattered, former WBA junior welterweight Regis Prograis won the first five rounds in controlling veteran Ivan Redkach before round six when Redkach was hit with what was ruled a low blow, sold the injury like he was Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, and was unable to continue.

The reaction on Twitter was mixed with most people stating that Redkach wasn't even hit with a punch at all or if so it was a glancing shot.

Others thought that Redkach had been smashed in the kidneys and the result was believable.

In any case, Redkach was carried out on a stretcher, while I waited for a wrestler to come out of nowhere and overturn the stretcher as happened so often in pro wrestling of days past, and the fight moved to the scorecards with Prograis winning the justified unanimous decision.

What a trainwreck.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored five points on the day, which moves the total to 50-46 on the year.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Browns release Sheldon Richardson

   I asked the question when the Browns announced the signing of Jadeveon Clowney that if signing Clowney cost the Browns Sheldon Richardson, was it worth it?

Now we will find out as the Browns released Richardson to save twelve of his thirteen and a half million dollar salary against their cap.

Another part of the question that I asked was this- Which would you choose between an injury-prone defensive end and a durable defensive tackle?

When both players are healthy, both are Pro Bowl level talents, but Clowney has had his problems staying on the field, while Richardson has reliably stuck in the lineup.

Richardson finished 2020 with 35 solo tackles and four and a half sacks, and he was the best Brown lineman other than Myles Garrett, but Cleveland would paying a sizable amount of dollars for a player that while very good isn't quite dominant.

I get the savings under the cap, understand that part, and even give the benefit of the doubt that the Browns and Richardson attempted to come to terms on a different deal that could have kept him in Cleveland.

However, besides the durability issue, there is another question that will need to be answered- Have the Browns traded concerns in hopefully solving defensive end across from Myles Garrett in exchange for weakening the interior defensive line?

With both starters from 2020 having departed at defensive tackle (Larry Ogunjobi left via free agency), the Browns are left with 2020 free agent signing/Covid-19 sit-out Andrew Billings, 2020 third-rounder Jordan Elliott, free-agent addition Malik Jackson, and developmental signee Sheldon Day at the position.

Should the Browns have the Malik Jackson that starred as a Jacksonville Jaguar, then my concern about the loss of Sheldon Richardson goes away, but that's asking a lot for a player that is now 31 and wasn't that player for the last two years as a Philadelphia Eagle.

Who knows what Andrew Billings will have for training camp because there are questions about any player that missed all of last season via voluntary withdrawal.

What kind of shape did they keep themselves in? 

Which will prove to be a plus? 

Taking a year off without an injury rehabilitation to recover from the pounding that an NFL player takes?

Or will the lack of contact make a player more vulnerable to injury or sacrifice sharpness?

That's going to vary from player to player and it's interesting to keep tabs on, but it is a question with Billings.

Jordan Elliott showed promise, but is he a player that is a rotation piece or a major stalwart of the interior line?

What this could mean is that the Browns may be looking for a defensive tackle in the draft rather than a defensive end.

It's not a great crop of defensive tackles in the draft as Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranks only one defensive tackle as a first-rounder(( Alabama's Christian Barmore) and only one other as a second-rounder ( Washington's Levi Onwuzurike), so for a sure-fire starter this isn't the best year to do so.

I don't have an issue with Jadeveon Clowney's signing, but I'm not thrilled about losing Sheldon Richardson and we will see if this is a case of solving one issue to create another.