Sunday, February 28, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Canelo Crunches Yildirim

  The boxing challenge was reduced to only three fights for the weekend, but all three would be important ones in their divisions.

The biggest star in boxing took care of an obligation as Canelo Alvarez retained his WBA and WBC super-middleweight titles with a ridiculously easy stoppage of Avni Yildirim after three rounds when Yildirim's corner ended the fight.

Alvarez was barely touched in the three rounds (Yildirim landed four power punches) and the only drama in the WBC-mandated bout (Yildirim had been promised the fight for two years after a controversial loss to Anthony Dirrell)  was this- could Canelo escape without getting cut on a headbutt or a stray elbow?

Alvarez knocked Yildirim down with a straight right in the third and went on the attack and even though Yildirim didn't seem to be in extreme danger, one could see that the end was near.

However, the spectacular ending would be lacking as just as Yildirim's trainer Joel Diaz told him he was going to give him one more round, a member of the corner could be seen motioning for his surrender.

With the promised defense out of the way, Alvarez moves on and will take another step toward the goal of a unified super-middleweight title with an announced May fight against WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders.

The winner of that event will own three of the four titles in the division.

Saunders may not make an exciting fight or even a winning one, but I have a feeling that Saunders will fight better than many expect against Alvarez.

Much like his cousin, Tyson Fury, Saunders is one of those fighters that fights best when he is motivated by strong competition, and against the brightest star in boxing, he better be motivated.

Earlier in the day, the fight of the century in New Zealand had more than only national impact as amateur heavyweight rivals Joseph Parker and Junior Fa squared off with the winner staying in the title picture.

Fa landed the bigger punches and wobbled Parker in the first and seventh, but Parker threw more and was the rougher fighter in close and won a unanimous decision.

My 115-113 card for Parker matched one judge with the other two were more than a bit too wide at 117-111 and a hideous 119-108.

The fight picked up in the late rounds and I wouldn't be surprised to see a rematch eventually, but for now, it seems Parker will face Dereck Chisora next with the winner likely to see the Oleksandr Usyk-Joe Joyce winner as a possible 2022 title challenger or positioned for the also likely vacating of the WBO title by the Anthony Joshua-Tyson Fury winner.

The PBC/Fox main event between super middleweights Anthony Dirrell and Kyrone Davis ended in a draw, but I haven't watched it as of this writing.

Editor's Note: I thought Dirrell pulled this out close (115-113), but considering Davis had never fought at the weight and lacked experience against top ten competition, Dirrell looked a bit shopworn.

Dirrell will move on and could fight a rematch against David Benavidez, who dominated him in their first battle, but I expect the fight to be one-sided and it's one that I don't need to see.

Dirrell's problem is that he isn't going to beat champions or contenders, but fighting fights such as this one isn't going to add much to the bank account.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored four points to move the overall total to 20-19.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Vaccine

    I've been away for a few days and despite my intentions to write about victories by the Cavaliers (over Houston), and the Devils (over Buffalo), I was feeling ill.

On Wednesday, I received my second dose of the Covid vaccine (Moderna version) as my job provided it for their employees, which I applaud them for.

I didn't feel bad at all after the first dose and other than some mild pain in my arm, I wouldn't have thought anything extra would have happened had I not thought about it!

The second dose has reported possible side effects for a day or two following the injection and I can confirm that they do exist.

The worst part was the pain in my arm, which was much much worse than after the first dose.

The first day after the shot, my arm hurt very badly to the point of not being able to lie on or lean against anything.

I also had some stomach sickness and some weakness, but nothing that couldn't be gotten past and I did struggle through the workday, but the second day was much improved and it was just about gone except for the arm pain, which still hurts a bit but not nearly as much as on the first day.

Other than that, I feel no different and if you are a person that wonders about getting the vaccine when the time arises that you have an opportunity, I would hope that you would consider it.

I've never gotten a flu shot in my life and I'm not sure that I'll go and get a Covid shot every year, but the process was smooth, the side effects brief, and considering the need to get our country back to normal, I didn't have a problem going and knocking this out.

It seems like every day another expert shows up on television or online and declares that things are close to breaking and normal life could resume by the late summer or says that we are close to hitting another "surge" with variants evolving and problems continuing into the future.

Since we just don't know which extreme to believe, it's hard to lock in on what to think (Which is some of the problems that we have politically currently) about the vaccine and the confusion around us all is certainly enough to make all but the concrete partisan think a bit.

I understand why anything right now could make anyone take pause, but think about it.

It's not so bad...




Friday, February 26, 2021

Boxing Challenge

 Starting the boxing challenge early with one of the matches scheduled for 1:30 AM on Saturday morning.

The biggest fight of the weekend is the brightest star in boxing in action with Canelo Alvarez defending his WBA and WBC super-middleweight championships against mandatory contender Avni Yildirim of Turkey.

Yildirim was installed as the mandatory challenger by the WBC after a controversial split decision loss to Anthony Dirrell for the then-vacant title and was promised a return match under the circumstances.

It was a fair decision as it appeared that Yildirim was beginning to break Dirrell down in the late rounds, but Dirrell took advantage of the WBC's open scoring and surrendered due to a cut to force the bout to the scorecards.

It's far from a headline fight, but it's the type of defense that is more than acceptable for champions that are fighting more than twice a year as Alvarez wants to do this year.

Both Canelo and Yildirim are evidence of how bad decisions are forgotten over time and people just see the W on the records.

For all that Canelo has done in the sport, it's sometimes forgotten that his two fights with Gennady Golovkin should have been one win each in the series and as time (and strong Canelo wins) have shown all but the casual observer refer to his razor-close second win to proof of his superiority and best fighter in the world.

And what's even more forgotten is how Canelo relentlessly dodged Golovkin with refusals, weight demands, and basically waited him out until his prime had slightly passed by.

As for Yildirim, it's forgotten that the Dirrell loss was a split decision that he was rallying through the late rounds.

Most that are bagging this fight look at the Dirrell fight as a loss rather than a possible win, if not for a bad decision over several factors.

People forget the how, they only remember what is on the record.

Julio Cesar Martinez was scheduled to defend his WBC flyweight title against veteran McWilliams Arroyo, but at the press conference, Martinez suddenly claimed a hand injury and pulled out of the fight.

The WBC could do worse than demand some evidence of this injury and make sure it is legitimate as it seems fishy to me.

Early Saturday morning from New Zealand, the two best heavyweights in the nation face off as former WBO champion Joseph Parker meets prospect Junior Fa in the biggest fight in New Zealand in years.

Parker and Fa have an amateur background against each other (splitting four fights) and this fight sells itself in Auckland.

Parker is ranked in the top seven by three of the four sanctioning bodies (Surprisingly the WBA does not) after three lower-level wins following a close and exciting loss to Dillian Whyte in 2018.

Fa is ranked by the IBF and WBO and despite his best win ( over journeyman Devin Vargas) not of world-class quality, Fa is well thought of with his amateur background.

This should be an interesting fight and the winner could be in a position for a title eliminator in their next outing.

PBC returns on Fox with yet another underwhelming card with the aforementioned Anthony Dirrell in a WBC eliminator at super middleweight against Kyrone Davis. 

Dirrell took a beating in losing his title to David Benavidez in 2019 and other than the close win over Avni Yildirim, hasn't beaten a top ten fighter since Sakio Bika in 2014!

Kyrone Davis lost to the late Patrick Day in 2018 and since defeated two fighters with records of 6-3 and 7-2.

There is no reason for Davis to be in a world title eliminator and on paper the two are on different levels, but the X factor is how much Dirrell's pounding against Yildirim and Benavidez have taken out of him.

If Dirrell has anything left, he's the superior boxer, but Dirrell could be a sitting duck with Davis being lucky enough to pick up what's left.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 16-15.

WBA and WBC Super Middleweight Titles.12 Rds
Canelo Alvarez vs Avni Yildirim
R.L: Alvarez KO 6
TRS: Alvarez KO 5

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Joseph Parker vs Junior Fa
Both: Parker Unanimous Decision

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
Anthony Dirrell vs Kyrone Davis
Both: Dirrell Unanimous Decision






Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Media Guides and Programs

 A quick note on my latest project on YouTube where I go through the newly purchased parts of my collection of media guides and programs with comments and video along the way.

I started the project to learn video editing and that's coming along, but the videos are jumpier than I'd like, but it is difficult to hold the camera and turn pages at the same time!

Please give it a look sometime and subscribe for updates when new videos are released.

I'd appreciate it!

Click here for the list of the videos finished to date.






Stevens Slam ends Ten Game skid!

  Undrafted rookie Lamar Stevens took a pass from Collin Sexton and drove an open late for a two-fisted slam with four seconds to remaining to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a 112-111 win at home over the Atlanta Hawks.

With the Cavaliers down by one with twelve seconds to go, Stevens grabbed a missed Trae Young shot and pitched it to Collin Sexton, who began to work his way up court as Cleveland eschewed a set play off a timeout.

Sexton shoveled the ball to Stevems with Sexton's path blocked by an Atlanta double-team with Stevens cruising by a either indifferent or surprised Trae Young to reach the basket for the jam.

Atlanta did not have a timeout remaining and with the Cavaliers closely guarding Young, Young had little to but to pass the ball and the Hawks were unable to get the shot off before the buzzer.

The win snaps a ten game Cleveland losing streak and gives the Cavaliers a chance for two home wins in a row against struggling Houston tonight in Clevelamd.

Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 29 points, Darius Garland had 17, and Dylan Windler played well off the bench with fifteen points off five made three-pointers.

Swashbucklings

1) The Cavaliers almost lost this game on the possession before the Lamar Stevens dunk.

Down by one, Darius Garland tried to go one on one against Atlanta's Kevin Huerter, who didn't fall for the fake and took the ball away with ease.

Had Trae Young's floater fallen after that, Atlanta likely wins the game.

2) The Cavaliers are struggling up front at power forward with Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr out with injuries and a banged up Taurean Prince, so Lamar Stevens and Dean Wade are receiving extra time.

Stevens finished with eight points and four rebounds in sixteen minutes, while Wade had five and two in twenty one minutes after starting.

3) Collin Sexton didn't make the All-Star game and neither did Atlanta's Trae Young and both came out blazing to show their worth.

Both players are playing well, but the Eastern Conference is stacked in the backcourt and despite being the pair being deserving, they were up against strong competition that was very deep.

4) Atlanta caught a bad break when John Collins, their second best scorer, suffered a concussion after playing only thirteen minutes.

Collins had scored thirteen points at that point on five of six shooting, so the Cavaliers were fortunate to see Collins leave the floor.

Shorter than usual as I am off for my second dose of the Covid Vaccine- Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Valdez Bewilders Berchelt

   Oscar Valdez was a solid underdog against Miguel Berchelt in their WBC junior lightweight title fight in Las Vegas.

The fight was anticipated, but most preferred Berchelt for one reason- despite Valdez's undefeated record and former WBO featherweight title reign, Valdez hadn't looked like the same fighter since breaking his jaw in a victory over Scott Quigg.

All of which meant that Valdez would give the performance of his career, knock Berchelt into the ropes to score a knockdown in the fourth round, and sent him to the canvas in the ninth as Berchelt had been starting a rally by winning the recent three rounds on my card.

As Berchelt's corner sent the champion out for the tenth round with the knowledge that he had to take Valdez out to retain the title, Berchelt aggressively stalked Valdez to try for the only chance that he had to win for most of the round and in the waning seconds, ran into a Valdez left hook that dropped him face down on the mat and the conclusion of the fight.

I had Valdez well ahead at 87-82 (6-3 with two knockdowns) at the time of the stoppage.

Valdez has several options, the biggest would seem to be against Shakur Stevenson for Top Rank, although that wouldn't unify any titles, the winner would have a clear claim as the best junior lightweight in the world, although WBA champion Gervonta Davis would have a claim for that position as well.

Berchelt has now been knocked out in both of his two defeats and I would guess that he will be moving to lightweight, although with far less hoopla than had he defeated Valdez and with renewed questions about how his chin will hold up against the bigger men.

In the co-feature, undefeated junior lightweight Gabe Flores looked spectacular in his first test against veteran Jayson Velez as Flores dropped Velez twice in the sixth round and forced the referee to stop the fight after the second knockdown.

I had Flores ahead 50-45 after five rounds.

Flores had not scored a stoppage in his last six fights and the stoppage of his best opponent to date shows that Flores has some punching power.

As for the once-sturdy Velez, who had never been stopped before his previous fight in the final round against Oscar Valdez, it may be time for the former title challenger to consider calling it a career.


Earlier in the day from London, and DAZN/Matchroom, veteran David Avanesyan pulled a mild upset over undefeated former Olympian Josh Kelly with a sixth-round knockout.

Kelly started fast and hurt Avanesyan in the second round, but by the end of the round, Avanesyan had turned the fight by opening a ghastly cut on the left side of Kelly's face (it was hard to tell where the exact cut was as the blood was all over the place) and began to take control.

In the sixth, Avanesyan's punches bent Kelly forward with Kelly's gloves touching the floor for a knockdown and just as Kelly hit the floor for a second time, Kelly's corner tossed in the towel.

I had Kelly slightly ahead (48-47) after five rounds, but it was clear that Avanesyan was breaking Kelly down.

For Kelly, it was his second disappointment in three fights in attempts to defeat better fighters after a draw with Ray Robinson on the undercard of Joshua-Ruiz I.

While it's back to the drawing board for Kelly, Avanesyan may have earned himself a title try after the biggest win of his career since sending Shane Mosley into retirement in 2016.

I would think with Top Rank and Terence Crawford always looking for opponents that Avanesyan would make sense as Crawford's next foil since Errol Spence seems to be disinterested in the fight that everyone wants to see.


And from the PBC compound in Connecticut, the latest waste of time in the Adrian Broner roadshow continued on Showtime as Broner escaped with a unanimous decision over undefeated and unknown Jovanie Santiago that was arguable at best and ridiculous (the scorecards with Broner winning by three, five, and seven points) at worst.

I had Santiago winning 114-113 after Santiago lost a point following the fourth round for punching Broner after the bell, and I don't have a problem with Broner winning by a point or so, but despite Broner winning many of the later rounds and his punches landed cleaner, Santiago out-landed Broner for the fight and threw many more as well.

After the fight, Broner dropped several F-Bombs at several people including veteran scribe Steve Farhood, who had Santiago winning, and the "haters" on Twitter, talked about his sex life, and generally made everyone that wasn't watching from an adult bookstore's skin crawl.

I don't know what you do with Broner at this point.

His skills have deteriorated that he is struggling to win against a fighter that is unknown and likely not in anyone's top thirty before the fight, he claimed after the fight that he still intends to make 140 pounds (I don't see how), even if he does the best in the division fight for Top Rank, and even if a fight could be made with the winner of Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez with the reach of Broner making the weight, is there anyone that believes that Broner is competitive with those two?

I'm starting to feel for Showtime, who is my pick for the best overall production in the game with the total event broadcast, as they look like they are stuck with whatever Broner does next complete with trashing their long-time employees (Broner made a similar rant on Al Bernstein in the past) and their network.

Showtime deserves better than Adrien Broner.

The co-feature saw heavyweight Otto Wallin dominate Dominic Breazeale over twelve rounds and cruise to an easy unanimous decision.

My scorecard agreed with the widest scorecard of the officials at 118-110 (10-2) and it was far from exciting as Wallin outboxed Breazeale and partially closed his left eye.

Wallin may not be a top contender quite yet, but he is a solid back half of the top ten level contender and again I don't know what I do with him if I am PBC.

Wallin isn't going to wow anyone with action, but he has skills and I would hesitate to put the promotion's top two heavyweights (Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz) against him because Wallin just may beat either one.

Former IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter controlled Ryan Martin to win a unanimous decision by six, eight, and eight points in a junior welterweight opener.

Easter snapped the jab out, Martin couldn't miss it and that's about the way every round played out.

Easter is another less than thrilling, but effective fighter that doesn't seem to have a PBC opponent that could make an interesting fight against him.

Adrien Broner trains with Easter and that might be twelve rounds of Easter landing jab after jab off Broner's head and the top PBC fighter in the division- former WBA champion Regis Prograis, who lost to Josh Taylor via close decision, is likely too strong for Easter.

Anything beats Easter-Rances Barthelemy II though!

Damn, I wish some of these promoters could work together once in a while.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica outscored me, seven to six on the weekend, and cut my lead to one point overall at 16-15.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing weekend is a good one with one of the most anticipated fights in the sport as Top Rank and ESPN's main event should not only be an excellent action battle, but the winner should move up as one of the stars in boxing.

The final use of the Top Rank "bubble" in Las Vegas (so Bob Arum says anyway) with Miguel Berchelt defending his WBC junior lightweight title against former WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez should be a back and forth battle in an all-Mexican skirmish that has fans and media comparing this to the great Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales fights of the past.

The two fighters styles look like they will mesh very well and should have many action exchanges, but the unbeaten Valdez, who vacated his WBO featherweight title to move up, hasn't seemed to be the same fighter since breaking his jaw in a unanimous decision win over Scott Quigg in March 2018.

I give Berchelt the edge as he is the naturally larger fighter and the bigger puncher, but keep in mind that Berchelt's only loss in March 2014, Berchelt was knocked out in ninety-nine seconds by Luis Florez, and that adds an extra element to a very intriguing fight.

The co-main event will see Top Rank's touted prospect Gabe Flores step up in competition against former world title challenger Jayson Velez in a ten-round junior lightweight fight.

The 19-0 Flores has dazzled his opponents but has stopped only six and the durable Velez lasted ten rounds before being stopped in the final round last summer against Oscar Valdez, so Flores will need to show more pop than he has shown recently if he wants to post an impressive win.


Showtime and the PBC will televise a three bout slate at the same time as the ESPN card (Thanks again, guys) that is interesting for various reasons, not all for competitive boxing.

The main event is, Ahem, the return of Adrien Broner from a two-year absence after a lopsided loss to Manny Pacquiao that he really didn't deserve then.

Broner, who showed sublime skills as a lightweight, good skills in the junior lightweight division, and average talents against the best welterweights, promised to be in shape and make the contracted 140-pound junior welterweight limit.

In a less than shocking development. the fight became a welterweight bout against enhancement opponent Jovanie Santiago a week before the matchup when Broner couldn't make the junior welterweight limit.

The unheralded Santiago has never fought outside Puerto Rico or his native Dominican Republic or defeated anyone of note, although he did knock out unbeaten Juan Zegarra in December in one round.

Broner, who has the same tired story in all of these "comebacks" to the point of having me consider changing the name of the "Zabbies" for fighters that I'm tired of seeing and hearing the same story (Zab Judah would at least occasionally show brilliance over his career) to the "Bronies", seems to have little future against strong opponents other than as an occasional sidehow.

Keep in mind, Broner hasn't won a fight in four years (and that was a split decision over Adrian Granados that could have gone to either fighter), hasn't won impressively in close to five years (stopping aging Ashley Theophane in April 2016), and doesn't have a win over a top fighter in his prime going all the way back to his lightweight days over Antonio DeMarco in 2012!

That's what you are buying with Adrien Broner.

The undercard is where the value is with heavyweights Otto Wallin facing Dominic Breazeale in a crossroads fight that could see the winner muscle their way into a fight against the two notable PBC heavyweights in former champions Deontay Wilder or Andy Ruiz.

Wallin showed the potential to be a top ten level contender in his test against Tyson Fury when he gave Fury that he wanted and looked strong in his return fight against fringe contender Travis Kauffman, but in a career filled with lesser opponents, Breazeale will be the second best opponent for Wallin.

Breazeale, who has been stopped in both of his title challenges to Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, hasn't fought in close to two years in his spectacular one round loss to Wilder and has shown a soft chin, but against competition below the top level has shown guts and heart.

The questions here are what does Breazelae have left and how good is Wallin?

The opener is former IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter in a junior welterweight fight against Ryan Martin in another intriguing crossroads pairing.

Easter decisioned Adrian Granados in his last fight after a dreadful draw against Rances Barthelelmy in his first fight in the 140 pound division while Martin was once a bright prospect, but was pushed into the World Boxing Super Series before he was ready and was dispatched in seven rounds by Josh Taylor.

Both fighters have questions to answer and while I'm not sure the styles will mesh well for a action fight, the winner will move up the rankings in the division and should the Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez winner vacate all four of the titles, the winner could be in position to pick up one of those championships.

Matchroom and DAZN will have an oft-canceled welterweight fight that will finally take place after being postponed about twelve times between David Avanesyan and Josh "Machine Gun" Kelly from London Saturday afternoon.

Kelly was a touted former Olympian, who looked spectacular in his first nine fights, but struggled to a majority decision draw against Ray Robinson in 2019 in what was expected to be his American coming out party at Madison Square Garden and didn't look spectacular in a decision win in his last fight against Wiston Campos in December 2019.

Avanesyan is best remembered for defeating Shane Mosley in what proved to be Mosley's final fight and holding one of those WBA minor titles, but other than the Mosley win has lost in both of his fights against world class fighters- losing a decision to Lamont Peterson and being stopped in six by Egid Kavaliakauskas.

An impressive Kelly win and Kelly could start popping up in rankings for potential title eliminators.

An Avanesyan win could get him moving up the rankings as well, and into a position as an optional title challenger at some point.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 10-8.

Welterweights. 12 Rds 
David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly
R.L: Avanesyan Unanimous Decision
TRS: Kelly Unanimous Decision

WBC Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Miguel Berchelt vs Oscar Valdez
R.L: Berchelt KO 10
TRS: Berchelt KO 8

Junior Lightweights. 10 Rds
Gabriel Flores vs Jayson Velez
R.L: Flores KO 5
TRS: Flores Unanimous Decision

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Adrien Broner vs Jovanie Santiago
R.L: Broner Unanimous Decision
TRS: Broner KO 9

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Otto Wallin vs Dominic Breazeale
R.L: Breazeale Unanimous Decision
TRS: Wallin Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights. 10 Rds
Robert Easter vs Ryan Martin
Both: Easter Unanimous Decision




Murray Singes Cavaliers for 50

   The Cleveland Cavaliers needed to step their defensive game up after being blown out by the Denver Nuggets in their meeting last week.

Instead, they allowed Denver's Jamal Murray to do something that had never been accomplished in NBA history, which I'm sure wasn't what J.B. Bickerstaff had in mind for his team in a 120-103 loss to the visiting Nuggets.

Collin Sexton's 23 points led the Cavaliers with Jarrett Allen scoring 20 with ten rebounds.

Cleveland lost their ninth game in a row and fell to 10-20 on the season.

The Cavaliers will host the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night in Cleveland.

Swashbucklings

1) Jamal Murray did something against the Cleveland defenders that had never previously accomplished in NBA history.

2)  Murray's achievement? Never before had a player scored fifty or more points in a game and did it without one trip to the foul line.

3) Cleveland tried every defender against Murray except Moondog and C.C the Cavalier against Murray and the shots kept falling for Murray, who hit 21 of 25 shots and eight of ten from the beyond the three-point line.

4) The more I see Michael Porter play, the more that I wish that the Cavaliers had taken the risk in the
2018 draft
and selected him.

I spent that day tweeting for the Cavaliers to take him and the injury gamble that came with Porter, who had missed almost all of his only year at Missouri.

I'm far from disappointed in Collin Sexton, but Porter may be very special.

5) Issac Okoro scored a career-high 14 points with a career-high three three-pointers.

6) Denver wore their conventional road uniforms rather than their "City" uniforms that the Nuggets wore when the teams first played in Denver.

Those uniforms are a sunset orange version of their 80s "Skyline" uniforms and although they are a little loud, I liked them a lot!



Digging out the Devils

    I haven't written much about the New Jersey Devils recently.

Not playing a game for a few weeks due to a Covid-19 breakout for the team doesn't help with material, but give the team credit in their return with two impressive wins.

While the return (5-2) victory over the struggling New York Rangers gave the team an always appreciated win over a rival, it was the win over the Boston Bruins that is the win that can make an observer optimistic.

The Bruins are playing well, are in first place in the division, and hadn't lost a game at home in their first four games, so considering all of those facts, and the Devils are in their second game since their return, you can see why the Bruins were expected to put another notch on their lipstick case- if you keep track of wins on a lipstick case as Pat Benatar used to.

So, it only made sense for the Devils to score three goals in the second period and score a 3-2 upset win.

I'll try to get back into game coverage for the next game against Buffalo (no promises on a boxing Saturday), but it was nice to see Kyle Palmieri wake up with his first two goals of the season, Mackenzie Blackwood return from his Covid battles that sidelined him even before the team closing the doors with his standard stellar play, and the sudden development of Pavel Zacha as a scoring threat (I'm being slightly snarky, but Zacha scored in both games).

However, what I'll write about today is culture.

There will be more bumps on the horizon and I still am far from writing them in for the playoffs as they will be playing so often ( usually two games in three days for the rest of the seasons), but these are the type of wins that make you think that something is on the right track.

The Devils had every reason to lose these two games and yet they pulled out wins.

This does make me think that there is some hope for the future and considering that the successes thus far have come without Nico Hischier, there is a chance to continue to improve.

This season is about progress and seeing who the players are and who can be the foundation for a hoped-for extended run of playoff seasons.

Honestly, I don't think the worst thing in the world would be to show progress, and yet remain to be in a position to add one more top five-ten level player in the draft to build the system.

I wouldn't be sad with a postseason spot either as that would mean progress had been made and the players were playing hard and buying in.

That's what I'm looking at as the season moves forward- rebuilding a damaged culture, the young players making steps to the next level, and do the Devils have the right leaders at coach and general manager.

Thus far, I'm encouraged but I'm not ready to declare things a success-Yet...

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Catching up with Cavaliers

   I haven't been writing about the Cavaliers much of late, although I watched each of their losses on the West Coast swing, and other than the loss to Phoenix in the first game of the trip, the defeats weren't close and most of the team wasn't playing well.

But, the worst part was the lack of fight shown in these games, minus the loss to the Suns.

I didn't write about these games about there wasn't much to write about poor play and large defeats, but while the Cavaliers losing streak hasn't eliminated them from playoff contention (only three games behind the eighth seed) despite their eight-game losing streak, they appear to be a team that may have already seen the highlights of their season.

The team isn't playing the type of defense that they played earlier in the season and some of playing defense come down to the "want to" and a team that doesn't have many pure shooters is beginning to have problems shooting the ball.

And after J.B. Bickerstaff had to speak with Andre Drummond about his effort and recent dull performances, the team announced that in a joint decision between the team and Drummond that Drummond would not play until a trade could be made.

While this will undoubtedly drive down any type of return from an interested buyer for Drummond, the team is in a position of having Drummond's attitude infect the young players that could be part of the program.

It's more than fair to see the difference in Drummond's performance since the arrival of Jarrett Allen and he hasn't exactly been overly active.

Some have surmised that Drummond's stats are soft stats as his movement for rebounds rather than gather them through positioning and allowing others to pick up some rebounds that Drummond would otherwise grab, can be a detriment to a team's total rebounds.

They could be right, but I didn't see Drummond's effort decrease until the arrival of Allen.

While I can understand Drummond not being thrilled with his replacement arriving before the end of the season, he had to know that the team was going to do something before his free agency, and it was unreasonable to allow that to affect his play.

The Cavaliers front office didn't spend much to acquire Andre Drummond and it doesn't appear that they are going to get very much in return, if anything, for him either.

However, chances such as those like the trade for Andre Drummond need to be taken to by teams like Cleveland and I can't blame them much for trying.

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

 The inbox is getting smaller, but we do have two wrestling tributes that have been delayed for various reasons, so today will catch up on those.

Goodbye to Pat Patterson at the age of 79.

Patterson was one of the best wrestlers in the world in the 1960s and 70s, but he's remembered by most for the very end of his career when he had lost a step but was able to show that he was better than most even at the close of his time in the ring.

Patterson spent most of his prime in the San Francisco territory, both as a single and as half of the legendary "Blond Bombers" with Ray Stevens, who was ranked as the best tag team in the world for several years.

Patterson would hold the promotion's singles title on five occasions and the tag titles eleven different times with eight various partners with Stevens for most of the time frame.

Patterson would wrestle around the world, while still being based in San Francisco, and would have a huge drawing run with Stevens becoming a fan favorite against Patterson as the heel.

Patterson would reunite with Stevens in the AWA, but his 1979-80 run in the WWF is very well remembered with Patterson bringing in the promotion's first secondary title in the North American title, which was scrapped quickly when Vince McMahon Sr. discovered that Mid-South Wrestling used a North American title and was replaced with the Inter-Continental championship with Patterson as the first champion.

Patterson would lose the title to Ken Patera in April 1980, but before that Patterson was the first and only title challenger to receive four title chances against WWF champion Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden.

Patterson would turn before the Patera loss when he was attacked after being angry with his contract being sold to Captain Lou Albano, and Albano's tag team, the Samoans, attacking Patterson.

After losing the championship to Patera, Patterson transitioned into the color commentator role, which enabled him to stay in the fans' eye and occasionally step back into the ring when a heel would have a confrontation with Patterson.

Patterson would have these confrontations that would lead into programs at the house shows with Ivan Koloff, Angelo "King Kong" Mosca, and most notably Sgt. Slaughter.

Patterson's "Boot Camp" Match with Slaughter is recalled as a classic bloody brawl and would win the Match of the Year award for 1981 from the Wrestling Observer.

As the WWF expanded nationally, Patterson's role moved behind the scenes as he was heavily involved in the creative process, although he was the referee for the main event at the first Wrestlemania and was the color commentator during Hulk Hogan's title win over the Iron Sheik.

Goodbye to Danny Hodge at the age of 88.     


The 1956 Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, Hodge was spoken of in reverent terms for his toughness and ability by almost all that knew him.

Hodge's defeat in the Olympics was attributed to a Soviet bloc official, who counted Hodge down when his shoulders brushed the mat while controlling his opponent and is noted for being one of the worst calls in Olympic wrestling history.

Hodge won three NCAA titles at the University of Oklahoma and is the only amateur wrestler to this day to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1957.

The top collegiate wrestler in the nation each year receives the Dan Hodge Trophy, wrestling's version of the Heisman.

Hodge also attempted his hand at professional boxing but finished at 7-2 and never reached contention in the light heavyweight division.

Hodge was the perennial NWA junior heavyweight champion working out of the Oklahoma territory as his home base and would hold that championship on eight occasions over a ten-year span.

Known for his grip, which he attributed to having double tendons in both hands, Hodge could crush apples in his hands and break pliers, which sounds like your typical pro wrestling hyperbole until you hear of respected people outside of the wrestling industry attest to this power.

Hodge's career ended early with another legendary feat of toughness in 1976.

Hodge fell asleep at the wheel and drove his vehicle into a creek, breaking his neck.

With Hodge holding his neck with one hand, he used the other hand to break a window, pull himself out and make his way to the surface- all while holding his broken neck in place.

It's one of those stories that sounds incredible and that's because it is!

I cannot imagine anyone pulling that stunt off successfully with the struggle and pain involved, but that was Danny Hodge- toughness personified.  

That catches up with the two recent passings from pro wrestling.

The inbox is beginning to dwindle, but I plan on a Cavalier post with why I haven't written much about their west coast swing and the Devils finally return tonight after the team's battle with Covid-19.



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Castano wins WBO Title, Diaz draws.

    In the most meaningful fight of the boxing weekend (Josh Warrington's surprising loss to Mauricio Lara may have closed the gap, but it wasn't expected to be important entering the weekend), Brian Castano dominated Patrick Teixeira and easily won a unanimous decision in Indio, California to take the WBO junior middleweight title.

I scored Castano an easy 119-110 winner and the tough but overmatched Teixeira barely survived the final round as Castano attempted to score the stoppage.

Castano's pressure suffocated the taller and longer champion, didn't allow him to use his extremely long reach, and left the Brazilian with nothing but heart by the end of the fight.

Castano is likely to take his newly won title into a four title unification against fellow PBC champion Jermell Charlo later this year in what should be a very intriguing battle.

Charlo was on social media before the fight pushing for a Castano win, which is fine considering that that's an easy fight to make promotionally, but his hashtag "Imtryintoavoidpolitics" makes me think this- I get why you want Castano to win, but you are only trying to avoid politics because the promotion you fight for is the least likely to work with anyone.

Charlo's brother Jermall is in the opposite position in the middleweight division where he needs to cross over to make big fights- Is he trying to avoid politics too?

In the main event, the IBF junior lightweight title will be vacant after champion Joseph Diaz missed weight, and with the title only available for challenger Shavkat Rakhimov, Diaz managed a late rally to pull out a majority decision draw.

Rakhimov built a large lead on the scorecards, but Diaz won the final four rounds on my card to salvage a 114-114 tally.

Two of the judges agreed with me with the other calling Diaz a slim victor at 115-113.

My guess is with the majority draw on the road and against a fighter that didn't hurt himself trying to make weight, the IBF will pit Rakhimov against the highest available contender to fill the championship.

As for Diaz, although the decision was just, his behavior since defeating Tevin Farmer to win the IBF title has been less than professional.

Refusing to fight the contractually obligated rematch for the agreed-upon rate, getting into social media battles with Farmer, and then missing weight for the Rakhimov fight makes me wonder how many people in boxing other than his long-time promoter in Golden Boy would have very much faith in Diaz's word.

Ronny Rios looked very strong in overpowering Oscar Negrete in a ten-round junior featherweight crossroads fight.

Negrete tried his best, but the naturally larger Rios ground Negrete down with his aggression and Rios looked as good as he has in years and could be nearing a possible title eliminator.

I scored Rios a 99-91 winner and for Negrete, he might be better served to return to the bantamweight division where he seems better-suited size-wise.


On ESPN, former IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey entered the ring for the first time since losing his title to Teofimo Lopez and looked to return to his old form in stopping Jackson Marinez in six rounds.

Commey took apart Marinez, who outboxed the raw prospect Rolando Romero in his previous fight but was robbed on the scorecards, and didn't allow Marinez to move around the ring.

Commey knocked Marinez down in the sixth and an argument could be made the fight could have been ended there, but Commey would not allow Marinez to benefit from the chance as he landed a punishing right hand that bounced Marinez off the ropes and on the floor for the immediate stoppage.

Commey can still be a championship contender, but a Lopez rematch is very unlikely and I doubt that Devon Haney, Gervonta Davis, or Ryan Garcia will risk a low-reward fight against someone with another promotion.

In the boxing challenge, I scored four points to Ramon Malpica's three over the weekend to move the total to 10-8.



Saturday, February 13, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Lara wipes out Warrington!

   Professional boxing at its heart is a business and while as fans, media, observers, etc. we always want to think of it as a sport where fighters want to make the best fights but we often wince when fighters instead do what's best for business.

Perhaps we should remember the business part and be more understanding on occasion because a loss for doing the "right thing" for boxing can be devastating for the business of dollars in the wallet.

Josh Warrington vacated his IBF featherweight title rather than fight a rematch that no one wanted to see other than the IBF against fellow Briton Kid Galahad and pursue bigger fights with WBC champion Gary Russell and minor beltholder Xu Can.

Therefore, Warrington's scheduled title defense against unheralded Mauricio Lara moved forward as planned, only without a championship to fight for and as a showcase for Warrington as he returned to action and back on the minds of fight fans.

Warrington did the 'right thing' for boxing rather than fight a rematch and he did the "right thing" by trying to stay active along with allowing Lara to keep the largest payday of his career.

And it all turned out "wrong" as Lara pounded Warrington, knocked him down in the fourth round, and had him hurt badly enough that the fight should have been stopped at that point, but the dead game Warrington gave all he had to continue, even using referee Howard Carson as a pinball bumper to bounce his way back to his corner.

Warrington had his share of punches landed as the right side of Lara's face can attest, but his legs never recovered and Lara was well ahead on my scorecard (78-73) entering the ninth.

It didn't take long for Lara to end the fight in the ninth as he worked over Warrington to the body and then knocked him cold with a left hook.

Mike Coppinger of the Athletic reports there is a rematch clause, but I'm not sure Warrington can change the result- Warrington is a pressure fighter without a lot of power and when he faces a fighter that he can't back down and can hit him with power as he attempts to pressure, it's going to be a tough evening.

Lara's win was a stunning upset because he was an unknown quantity- he won't be for a rematch.

Boxing Challenge

   After a slow January, boxing is back in swing with some interesting fights Saturday night.

DAZN and Golden Boy has the best card with two world championship battles that will have repercussions in their divisions from Indio California in

In the main event, Joseph Diaz will defend his IBF junior lightweight championship against mandatory challenger Shavkat Rakhimov.

Diaz is making the first defense of his title after defeating Tevin Farmer last January and battled through a bad cut suffered in the second round to take the title away from the slick-boxing Farmer.

Rakhimov is a live underdog but hasn't been matched against tough competition other than stopping the usually rugged Robinson Castellanos in two rounds in 2018.

Editors Note: Diaz missed weight by multiple pounds and has been forced to vacate his title. 
The fight will go on as scheduled with Rakhimov eligible to win the title with a victory.
If Diaz wins, the title will be vacant.

The co-feature is the fight that I am most looking forward to with WBO junior middleweight champion Patrick Teixeira defending his title for the first time against Brian Castano in an inter-promotional match.

Teixeira won the vacant title in a surprising upset over then-undefeated Carlos Adames on an ESPN card in November 2019 in a terrific fight but will again be an underdog against mandatory challenger, Castano, who moves over from PBC to take this opportunity.

Castano has a draw against Erislandy Lara on his record and PBC would love to have Castano bring the only title in the division that is not held by Jermell Charlo back to their promotion to set up a potential championship to unify all four titles.

I lean toward Castano slightly, but this may be the best fight of the weekend as well as the most important.

Golden Boy has made this card even deeper with a solid third fight that pits two former junior featherweight title challengers in a crossroads bout with Ronny Rios taking on Oscar Negrete.

Both men lost decisions to Rey Vargas in those challenges, but Negrete has fought minor champion, Joshua Franco, three times, drawing twice and losing a split decision that was extremely close.

That might be just enough for a small edge over Rios, who has won three in a row since a loss to Azat Hovhannisyan including a sixth-round knockout of then-undefeated Diego De La Hoya.


Earlier in the day, DAZN will stream a Matchroom card from the U.K. with former IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington making his return against Mauricio Lara.

Warrington was ordered by the IBF to defend against Kid Galahad, who Warrington defeated in 2019, and preferring to fight WBA minor champion Xu Can, Warrington vacated the title.

Lara is moving up in competition and seems to be the foil for Warrington's return without a record against world-class opponents.

The day looked to be even better for boxing with Top Rank and ESPN's card that would have finally filled the WBO light heavyweight title after being vacant for over a year, but Maxim Vlasov tested positive for Covid-19 and his fight with Joe Smith has been postponed.

I wish someone had thought to perhaps put two qualified contenders on the undercard that could have been used to replace Vlasov and have the title filled.

Instead, the title remains vacant, Joe Smith will have to wait for that fight and push an eventual three title unification with WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev even farther down the road.

The co-feature is still a good one as former IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey is back for the first time since being knocked out in two rounds and losing his title to Teofimo Lopez.

Commey is favored, but his opponent isn't an easy mark in Jackson Marinez.

Marinez clearly defeated Rolando Romero for one of those garbage WBA titles, but lost in one of the worst decisions of 2020, so if Commey has lost anything after losing to Lopez, Marinez is capable of taking advantage.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 6-5 in the early stages of the year.

Featherweights. 10 Rds
Josh Warrington vs Mauricio Lara
Both: Warrington Unanimous Decision

Junior Lightweights. 12 Rds
Joseph Diaz vs  Shavkat Rakhimov.
Both: Diaz Unanimous Decision

WBO Junior Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Patrick Teixeria vs Brian Castano
R.L: Teixeria KO 7
TRS: Castano Unanimous Decision

Junior Featherweights. 12 Rds
Ronny Rios vs Oscar Negrete
R.L: Rios Unanimous Decision
TRS: Negrete Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Richard Commey vs Jackson Marinez
R.L: Commey KO 8
TRS: Commey Unanimous Decision








Friday, February 12, 2021

Cleaning out the Inbox-Passings

   Catching up with some recent passings of note and giving them their deserved tributes.

Goodbye to Marty Schottenheimer at the age of 77.

Schottenheimer played for six years with the Bills and Patriots before moving into coaching, where he won 200 games with four teams (Browns, Chiefs, Chargers, and then-Redskins).


Schottenheimer will be better remembered by many for the games that he lost rather than the games that he won, losing all three AFC championship games and losing three times to inferior teams after his team had the best record in their conference.

Schottenheimer-led teams lost in devastating fashion with the Browns (The Drive and The Fumble), the Chiefs ( losing to the Colts 10-7 with kicker Lin Elliott missing three field goals and 14-10 to the Broncos), and with the Chargers (24-21 to the Patriots), but players mostly seemed to love Marty and his ground-based offense.

Schottenheimer's 200 wins rank him eighth in all-time coaching wins and are the most for a coach that never reached a Super Bowl.

I'm mixed on Marty for the Hall though.

Championships are more important for coaching inductions than even for players and Marv Levy and Bud Grant are both enshrined without a title, but each of those men made four Super Bowls with the argument against Marty being that he never reached one.

Hopefully, Marty is now finding that famous "Gleam" somewhere.

Goodbye to Jon Arnett at the age of 85.

The second overall pick in a loaded 1957 draft ( four members of the Hall were taken in the first-round with Paul Hornung, Jim Brown, Jim Parker, and Len Dawson with arguable members in John Brodie and Del Shofner) by the Rams, Arnett made the Pro Bowl in each of the first five seasons of his NFL career.

The Jaguar never rushed for more than 700 yards or finished with 500 or more receiving yards in a season, but he was ahead of his time as a scatback used as a change of pace back and pass catcher.

Think of Arnett as a Darren Sproles for the 50s and 60s and Arnett still holds the Rams team record for the longest kickoff return at 105 yards.

Goodbye to Harthorne Wingo at the age of 73.

A bit player on the last New York Knicks team to win a championship in 1973, Wingo's name and awkward jumper made him a cult favorite with Knicks fans in his four years in New York.

Wingo averaged four points and three rebounds a game for the Knicks before playing in Europe for the remainder of his career.

Goodbye to Davey Armstrong at the age of 64.

Just days after Leon Spinks passed away, the 1976 United States Olympic boxing team lost another member when Armstrong passed.

The 1975 Pan American Games gold medalist, Armstrong was considered a medal favorite at featherweight in 1976 in Montreal and was the only boxer to return to the team from the 1972 Munich games when Armstrong failed to medal as a light flyweight.

However, in the quarter-finals, the two favorites found themselves meeting each other (Olympic brackets were drawn at random rather than seeded) with Armstrong paired with Cuba's Angel Herrera.

Herrera would win a 3-2 (five judges) decision that could have gone either way and Herrera would win the gold with two easy wins after defeating Armstrong.

Armstrong would turn pro in 1980 with Emanuel Steward's Kronk boxing team, but never developed into a contender and finished with a 24-3 record.

Goodbye to Marshall Cassidy at the age of 75.

Cassidy was the voice of the New York Racing Association in the 1980s at a time when New York was still the capital of the horse racing world.

Known for his relaxed call that increased in excitement as a race neared the wire and for his final statement for each race that named the winner followed by a clipped "In Front".

Cassidy worked for the various networks that covered horse racing in the day and working for NYRA ensured Cassidy called the Belmont Stakes and its national stage each June.

                                                                                                                                      

                                  

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Cleaning out the Inbox: Baseball Passings

     It's been a while since a cleaning of the inbox with recent passings.

As a result, there is enough to devote an entire post to recent passings from the baseball world.

Goodbye to Don Sutton at the age of 75.

As yet another baseball Hall of Famer passes on, Sutton is remembered by the modern baseball fan as well for his many years with the Atlanta Braves with their television broadcasts, which were carried nationally by WTBS for much of Sutton's term.

Sutton pitched for 23 years in the big leaguers and won 324 games in a career spent mostly with the Dodgers, but also pitched for division winners in Milwaukee and California later in his career. 
Sutton never won a Cy Young and won twenty games only once (1976 Dodgers) in his career, but his consistency was remarkable as only twice in those twenty-three seasons did Sutton win less than eleven games.

Goodbye to Grant Jackson at the age of 78.

The left-hander pitched for eighteen seasons but thrived as a reliever after Earl Weaver and the Orioles moved him to the bullpen after acquiring him from the Phillies after the 1970 season.
Jackson would play for one American League champion (1971 Orioles) and three division winners (1973, 74 Orioles, 1976 Yankees), but wouldn't play for a world champion until 1979 with the Pirates when Jackson was the main lefty with a career-high fourteen saves.

Goodbye to Wayne Terwilliger at the age of 95.

A utilityman from 1949-1960 with five teams, Terwilliger played regularly only twice in his career- for the Cubs in 1950 (hitting ten homers) and the Senators in 1953.
Terwilliger might be better remembered as a coach as he worked as a manager or coach from 1962-2010 in the majors, minors, and independent baseball.
Terwilliger also coached third base for the final season of the Washington Senators (1971) and the initial season for the Texas Rangers (1972) on the coaching staff of Ted Williams.
Terwilliger was the oldest living New York Giant at the date of his passing.
There are now only eleven living players that played for the New York Giants.

Goodbye to Flavio Alfaro at the age of 59.

"Lefty" Koch brings word of the passing of Alfaro, who was a key member of the 1984 Olympic baseball team, which was the first Olympics to feature baseball in Los Angeles.
Alfaro was the starting second baseball for the United States team that won the silver medal and starred for the San Diego State Aztecs, but played only one season of professional baseball with the Durham Bulls (which meant he played in Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium), but struggled in hitting below .200 in 1985.
Alfaro would be involved in a trade with Milwaukee following the season, but never played for the Brewers organization as he couldn't agree on the position that he wanted to play and where the Brewers wanted him to play and retired.

Goodbye to Billy Conigliaro at the age of 73.

The younger brother of the late Tony Conigliaro, Billy C. was the first-round selection of Boston in 1965, which made him the first draft pick ever for the Red Sox.
Conigliaro lacked the power of his older brother but hit eighteen homers in 1970 for Boston before being part of the huge trade between the Red Sox and Brewers before the 1972 season.
Conigliaro was unhappy to be traded, was especially unhappy to go to Milwaukee, and retired after 52 games with the Brewers.
Conigliaro returned in 1973 with the World Champion Athletics for 48 games, but hit only .200 and retired for good after the season at the age of 25.



Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Forgotten Superstars: Lane Smith

    Today we return to the Forgotten Superstars universe with an addition from the acting field and like a previous inductee, Charles Napier, Lane Smith was an actor that appeared in many films or television shows, but many might not recognize the name- but they would easily remember him once they saw his face.

Lane Smith never was able to land the leading role that established him as a star, but his supporting actor roles were memorable and showed the skills that could have made him a star if the right break came along.

The earliest role that I remember seeing Smith in was 1977's "Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" in which as a police officer, Smith finds the Bears team without a chaperone all in a single hotel room. 
Smith's character forces "Kelly Leak " to find the chaperone that he knows isn't there and when Kelly returns with "Mike Leak" played by noted gold shill William DeVane, Smith allows everything to stand and is offered tickets to the game by DeVane.

The other memorable portion of that role for Smith is never explained in the film as Smith is shown several times in the stands with both arms around a beautiful woman.
I'm willing to wager the explanation to that wound up on the cutting room floor.

Smith's starring role as Richard Nixon in the 1989 television movie "The Final Days" was well regarded by critics and I wonder why he didn't receive other opportunities as in a starring role.

Smith worked often in films and television through the 80s, most notably to me as the Russian collaborator mayor in Red Dawn, but Smith's real peak came in the 90s when he gained the role of "Perry White" the crusty editor of the Daily Planet on the Superman vehicle "Lois and Clark".
I didn't watch that very often, but Smith landed five terrific supporting roles in films in the downtime from "Lois and Clark" which ran from 1993-1997.

In 1992-94, those five supporting roles showed the abilities of Lane Smith and wear well if you see them today.
1992 saw Smith as the district attorney in the Deep South opposing Joe Pesci in "My Cousin Vinny", corrupt congressman "Dick Dodge" in Eddie Murphy's "The Distinguished Gentleman" (An underrated film that few mention today), and what might be his most famous role- "Coach Jack Reilly" in the original "Mighty Ducks".

Lane Smith completely nailed the role of the successful youth sports coach ( Smith as Reilly reminded me of one person that I knew during my little league years, even though I never coached against him- the similarities are striking) because everyone that has been involved in youth sports knows "That Guy".

Smith's pride in his program's success, yet arrogant attitude made his character the bad guy in Ducks, but I don't see it completely that way.
"Jack Reilly" may have been a little overzealous "It's not worth winning if you can't win big!", but his seriousness of coaching games and developing players is something that is derided at times in society.
Still, Smith made Reilly relatable to the person watching the film and in my opinion, quietly steals the film to the adult viewer.

Teaching his kids to "Go for the W", Smith teaches his team to strive for the best and to do it through the team system and hard work.
In this clip below, Smith looks at a second-place banner caused by "Gordon Bombay's" missed penalty shot with pain from remembering.
I get it- because I have similar memories.
I coached in a playoff mini-series, best of three, down one game to none in game two and a player (I'm not naming him) that was catching for our team had struggled with pop-ups all season because he wouldn't listen on how to secure them no matter how many times I showed him what to do.

With a slim lead in the final inning, an easy foul should have retired one of the opponent's best hitters, but the catcher loaded out of his crouch and tried to squeeze the ball with the mitt instead of covering up with two hands.
Catchers mitt can be hard to squeeze with one hand and it's easy to have the baseball pop out of them, so covering with the other hand for insurance can go a long way in securing the ball.

Of course, the ball is dropped and a few batters later, the lead, the game, and the series were lost.
I've seen the player a few times in the ensuing twenty years and every time I see him, I can't help but remember that pop-up.
Some of it is the loss of course, but some of it is that I just never was able to get my point through with the player and that's the worst part of all.

Smith added two other memorable roles in 1993 and 1994, first performing as the angry and disappointed father in law in Pauly Shore's "Son in Law".
I can feel his pain there, who would want Pauly Shore for a son in law?!
Smith also was cast as the New York Yankees general manager in the Albert Brooks film "The Scout" and had several scenes with noted thespian George Steinbrenner.

Smith continued to work through the nineties with one notable role as "Emmitt Seaborn", a fictional newsman in the Tom Hanks/HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon".
That ranks at the top of my favorite limited series and Seaborn was composited from various anchormen/reporters that covered the Apollo era, so Smith was seen in most episodes.

Smith continued acting on television including some voice work on "King of the Hill" as "Charlie Fortner", the president of the Texas Propane Association.

Lane Smith was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in 2004 and passed away the following year at the age of 69.

An underrated character actor and the one responsible for one of my all-time favorite characters, we welcome Lane Smith to the Forgotten Superstars universe, where he'll always be remembered. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Late swoon costs Cavaliers in Phoenix

   The Cleveland Cavaliers played the Phoenix Suns to a draw for most of their matchup Monday night in Phoenix, but when the game hit the time that determines victors and the defeated, it was the Phoenix Suns that made the big shots in a 119-113 Phoenix win.

Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 23 points for the now 10-15 Cavaliers.

Cleveland's next stop will be in Denver for a Wednesday showdown with the Nuggets.

Swashbucklings

1) J.B. Bickerstaff mixed up the starting lineup in Phoenix by starting Andre Drummond and Jarrett Allen in a big man heavy lineup.

Drummond finished with 15 and 14 while Allen contributed a line of 14 and 5.

2) I'm not sure that is a lineup that will be used often, but it does make some sense to get your best players on the floor together as much as possible.

Allen seems more suited to play power forward than Drummond does, but both are better suited as rim-protecting five's.

3) Collin Sexton apparently was headed to the line for a three-point play attempt after drawing a foul on Cam Johnson.

Hitting on that free throw would have given the Cavaliers the lead with less than a minute remaining.

Then, an official overruled the closer official's call, charged Sexton with the foul, erased the bucket, and gave Phoenix the ball back up two.

It was a bad call from an official out of position. 

Had it been a no call, I wouldn't have complained, but to make that call at that point of the game was a game-turning decision.

4) Cedi Osman's time was reduced in this one as Osman played only fifteen minutes and scored just two points.

Osman was the odd man apparently in the lineup maneuverings.

5) Phoenix didn't play Chris Paul in this game and that likely didn't hurt the Cavaliers' competitiveness in the loss.

They did still have Devin Booker though and Booker made the difference with 36 points and 8 assists.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Butch Reed

     Butch Reed was a wrestler that never seemed to catch the biggest break at the right time but in two territories, the "Hacksaw" proved that he could go with the best of the business as either a "babyface" or a "heel" and with better timing, Butch Reed could have been the first African-American world champion.

Butch Reed's passing at 66 made me think of how good he was and like so many athletes, questions of what might have been.

Reed started his career using his given name Bruce Reed after a college football career at Division II Central Missouri and a training camp spent with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1976.

Reed had parallels to Tony Atlas with the press slams and dropkicks, but Reed's ringwork was much more solid than Atlas as Reed's shoulder block off the ropes or off a turnbuckle seemed more realistic than Atlas's more cartooney moves.

Reed wrestled in the low-end Central States territory before I first saw him on Georgia Championship Wrestling on one of those yearly chances to watch the show (I've written about this in the past) as Bruce Reed, but it was his next stop that stamped Reed as a star.

The Florida promotion put Reed on top of the card with several challenges of Ric Flair for the NWA world championship, feuding with Big John Studd with the obligatory bodyslam of the quasi-giant, and matches with former NWA champion Dory Funk and his protege, in the only heel run of his career, David Von Erich.

Reed's matches with Flair were excellent and had the time been right and the NWA remained in the same shape it had been before the WWF national expansion, Reed being in line (with others) as a possible future NWA champion would not have been out of the question.

Florida may have been the foundation of "Hacksaw" Butch Reed's rise to stardom, but Reed's best work came in the Mid-South area where he arrived as a fan favorite but shortly thereafter turned on the Junkyard Dog.

Reed would hold the company's biggest title, the North American title, on three occasions and his feud with the Junkyard Dog was the main feud of the company for over a year, but just as the pair was about to hit the high point, the Dog left for the WWF.

After the first of what would be several attempts to replace the Dog with another African-American wrestling in George "Master G" Wells failed, the next attempt would be the one that would come closest with Reed turning on his heel comrade Buddy Landell and Devastation Inc.

Reed would hold the North American title again and meet up with Ric Flair again for title matches that often ended in time limit draws.

Reed never reached the heights of JYD in Mid-South, but he was easily the best of the rest until he left Mid-South for a brief stint in a return to the Central States before moving to the WWF along with his Central States manager Slick.

Dubbed "The Natural" with dyed blond hair, Reed never seemed to really click in the WWF although he wrestled at Wrestlemania's III and IV defeating Koko B.Ware in the former and losing to Randy Savage in the first round of the WWF title tournament in the latter.

The "Natural" gimmick patterned after the Sweet Daddy Siki version of the 60s and 70s didn't seem to infuriate fans even when Reed "ended" the career of Superstar Graham and few were upset when Reed returned to the NWA as a single for what proved to be a tepid run in the middle of the card.

Reed would team with Ron Simmons under masks as Doom in the worst secret in the history of wrestling managed by "Woman" before losing the masks, moving to new manager Teddy Long and holding the company's tag team titles.

Reed and Simmons would split up and then feud with Simmons gaining the upper hand after winning a steel cage match at Superbrawl I.

That was the end of Reed's career in either of the major promotions, although he would return to WCW briefly in 1992.


Either in the ring or on the microphone, Butch Reed has been almost forgotten through the years and the only reason that I can think of is that his best work wasn't on national television.

Butch Reed was an underrated wrestler and only watching him in Mid-South or Florida can one truly appreciate how good he really was.

Most will remember Butch Reed as the Natural or as one half of Doom, but I'll remember him best from the territorial days and for what might have been.

If his timing had been a little better...





Sunday, February 7, 2021

Leon Spinks

   As exciting as writing about another Cavalier loss to Milwaukee could be, I wanted to write about either of two passings this week instead.

 I may write about the other later in the week, but former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks passing at the age of 67 makes me remember how fame can be fleeting and even though the boxing world never forgot Leon Spinks, many may have forgotten that Leon Spinks was, for a short time, a person that everyone in the United States knew by face and fell just as quickly.

Almost universally loved in the boxing community, Leon Spinks and his brother Michael each came to the forefront from the 1976 Montreal Olympics as part of a boxing team that won five gold medals, a silver, and a bronze.

Five members would eventually win world championships (Both Spinks brothers, Ray Leonard, Leo Randolph) and a sixth (Howard Davis) would fight for the championship and while there were better boxers for their career than Leon Spinks, I don't think even Ray Leonard had the type of fame that Leon Spinks held for six months in 1978.

Many of the Olympians would fight their early career fights on network television and the Spinks brothers fought often on CBS.

After Spinks battled to a draw with veteran Scott LeDoux in October 1977 in his sixth pro fight, rumors of a Spinks challenge of Muhammad Ali began to surface. 

Muhammad Ali, for all of his tremendous challengers through his reigns, would also fight his share of "showcase" fights with these often on network television against the likes of Jean-Pierre Coopman, Richard Dunn, Chuck Wepner, Alfredo Evangelista, etc.

Note to today's fighters- No one complains about showcase fights when the champion fights at least three or four times a year.

Spinks with his name and Olympic background seemed to fit the bill for an Ali fight- he was well-known, but inexperienced and didn't figure to have the power to hurt Ali.

The fight was easy to make, except Spinks wasn't rated by the WBA or WBC to qualify for a title shot.

Then as now, the sanctioning bodies are known for getting things done when so motivated, so Spinks was quickly matched with Italian heavyweight Alfio Righetti, who was ranked only because he was the European champion.

Spinks won a unanimous decision over Righetti, found himself in the ratings, and suddenly eligible to fight for the world championship with a record of 6-0-1.

The fight was televised on CBS and the co-trainers for Spinks ( former middleweight contender George Benton and Sam Solomon) devised a fight plan that would see Spinks pound on the arms of Ali and by the later round make it difficult for Ali to use his jab.

Spinks swarmed Ali, didn't allow the champion to extend his arms to keep Spinks at range, and when the fight hit the championship rounds (then 11-15), Ali didn't have the strength to do any significant damage.

The only real surprise was that someone thought Ali won as Spinks won a split decision and the WBA and WBC titles with it.

Sanctioning bodies giveth and they taketh away as the WBC insisted Spinks fight Ken Norton rather than the more lucrative rematch with Ali and Spinks was stripped of the WBC title.

The six months that Spinks was champion was filled with partying, car escapades, and times that his team didn't even know where he was- all of which was quite scandalous for 1978 and saw Spinks as a regular topic for comedians and talk show hosts.

An unprepared Spinks and more importantly, a prepared Ali fought their rematch on ABC in September with Ali winning a clear unanimous decision.

It would not get any better for Spinks, who was knocked out in one round by Gerrie Coetzee in the first round of the tournament to crown the WBA champion after Ali vacated the title after defeating Spinks.

Spinks did stop Bernardo Mercado in the ninth round on the Ali-Larry Holmes undercard and since Mercado was the WBC's top contender at that time, Spinks was given a title shot at Holmes in 1981 in Detroit.

Many people thought Spinks had an excellent chance of dethroning Holmes but was taken out in three rounds on ABC.

Spinks was a small heavyweight and the cruiserweight division had recently been created, so Spinks was thought to have had the ability to do well in the division but was stopped after six rounds by Carlos DeLeon (DeLeon would hold the cruiserweight crown three times) and after a five-fight winning streak against weak competition, Spinks would receive one final title shot against Dwight Muhammad Qawi for the WBA cruiserweight title.

Spinks was overpowered by the "Camden Buzzsaw", who was motivated by his decision loss to brother Michael three years before and took a pounding that resulted in Spinks never again fighting a top fighter again.

Instead, Spinks hit the circuit of small towns and club fights, losing as often as he won and would also hit the world of pro wrestling as Spinks lost to Antonio Inoki in Japan and briefly held the Frontier Martial-Arts title (a pro-wrestling group) in Japan among other efforts that were more carnival than sport.

Leon Spinks was missing his two front teeth and kids for years after his prime was often called "Leon" by even non-boxing fans as his prominent gap-tooth look was so memorable during those six months in 1978 when he ruled the world...  

Saturday, February 6, 2021

2020 Boxing Awards

  Since there are no fights this weekend in boxing until the stove starts boiling next week and the month of January was as slow for boxing as it usually is, I thought now would be a good time before it gets too far into 2021 for the TRS boxing awards.

Unlike the TRS boxing ratings, these are done completely by me, so if the reader is unhappy- it is all my fault.




Fighter of the Year: Teofimo Lopez

In a year that has been stained by the Covid-19 pandemic, our two top choices each fought only on one occasion.

While Tyson Fury's conclusive win over Deontay Wilder was important, it's hard to not select Teofimo Lopez, who did what most thought unthinkable- he outboxed Vasyl Lomachenko, who was thought by many to be the best boxer in the world.

Rough Lomachenko up and maybe slide by as Orlando Salido did? Perhaps, but never outbox him.

Lopez did and in a year short of big fights, that's enough for me.

Silver: Tyson Fury. A win over one of the top three heavyweights and winning his title is enough for second.

Bronze: Joe Smith. A solid split decision win over Jesse Hart (The card for Hart was one of the worst scorecards I've seen) and a highlight reel KO of former WBO champion Eleider Alvarez gives Smith a solid case under the top two.


Fight of the Year: Jose Zepeda KO 5 Ivan Baranchyk.

Eight knockdowns, with a ninth called a slip by the referee, multiple swings in momentum, and a final round that saw both fighters on the floor with an ending that was a serious contender for KO of the year.

If you don't like this one, boxing is not for you!

Silver: Juan Francisco Estrada KO 11 Carlos Cuadras

Fast paced action, and the favored champion knocked down in the third before Estrada rallied to score two knockdowns and pounding Cuadras until the fight was forced to end.

Bronze: Masayoshi Nakatani KO 9 Felix Verdejo

Nakatani takes and takes for most of the first seven rounds and then lands a right that hurts Verdejo to the point that the fight is a race to ten- If Verdejo makes it through, he wins.- He doesn't.


Knockout of the Year: Alexander Povetkin KO 5 Dillian Whyte

Any one of the three contestants could have won this category, but I'll give a hairline edge to the compact left uppercut that Povetkin knocked Whtye cold in the fifth that scrambled the heavyweight division's title contenders after Whyte knocked Povetkin twice down in the fourth.

Silver: Gervonta Davis KO 6 Leo Santa Cruz

Davis's own uppercut that wiped out Santa Cruz was just as impressive as Povetkin's, but I gave a small edge to Povetkin coming from behind for the difference.

Bronze: Jose Zepeda KO 5 Ivan Baranchyk.

Zepeda's right hand counter followed by a left hook that folded Baranchyk's leg under him to end the fight seconds after Zepeda was on the floor, might have this awards in many years.


Upset of the Year

Teofimo Lopez-Vasyl Lomachenko

As talented as Lopez is, any time that the perceived top fighter in the world is defeated a case can be made that fight could be the upset of the year.

Silver: Jeison Rosario KO 5 Julian Williams

Williams lost two junior middleweight titles in this shocker that cost him a unification match with Jermell Charlo.

Bronze: Robert Helenius KO 4 Adam Kownacki

Kownacki controlled the first three rounds before Helenius upset Kownacki's apple cart with a stunning knockout.

Kownacki was in line for a title shot with a win.


Round of the Year

Jose Zepeda-Ivan Baranchyk Round Five

Both fighters on the canvas and a conclusive knockout in the fight of the year.

Silver: Jose Zepeda-Ivan Baranchyk Round Two

Both fighters on the canvas and three minutes of punching in the fight of the year, only missing the KO.

Bronze: Juan Francisco Estrada-Carlos Cuadrad Round Five

Estrada began to turn the tide after Cuadras won the early rounds of their fight.

 

Prospect of the Year- It's sometimes hard to divide where a prospect ends and a contender to be begins.

Bektemir Melikuziev

The former Olympic Silver Medalist is going to be a force at either 168 or 175.

Silver: Edgar Berlanga

Sixteen fights, sixteen first round knockouts. What happens when the middle rounds arrive?

Bronze: Tie- Charles Conwell/Elvis Rodriguez

Conwell doesn't do anything spectacular, but he does everything well.  
Rodriguez is a big puncher that like Berlanga will have to past the chin test.