Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Tim Tszyu defeats Hogan

  Australian junior middleweigtht Tim Tszyu continues to clean out the competition in the Southern Hemisphere with an impressive stoppage of veteran  Dennis Hogan in the fifth round in Newcastle, Australia.

Hogan was entering this fight off a fifteen-month layoff but had received title chances in his previous two fights, losing by seventh-round knockout as an undersized middleweight against Jermall Charlo for Charlo's WBC title and losing a majority decision to Jaime Munguia for the WBO junior middleweight championship that many (including me) thought that he deserved.

Tszyu had battered former WBO welterweight champion, Jeff Horn, into submission in eight rounds and then a first-round knockout of countryman Bowyn Morgan in December and entered his toughest test against Hogan as the possible next WBO mandatory challenger with a victory.

For two rounds, Hogan did well in exchanges and I gave Hogan those rounds on my card and it appeared that after a second-round headbutt cut Tsyzu on his left eyebrow that the youngster was going to receive his first taste of adversity.

However, Tszyu stayed composed and began to win the exchanges in the third and fourth rounds to even the fight entering the fifth round.

Tszyu dominated the fifth, punishing Hogan to the body, and causing him to begin to protect himself there, which naturally left him open to a huge uppercut that sent Hogan and nearly ended the fight.

Hogan did rise courageously, but Tszyu leaped on his opponent and with Hogan on the run from Tszyu's punches, the towel sailed in from the older fighter's corner as the sign of surrender.

Tim Tszyu faced his toughest opponent and did well and should he survive one more inter-country battle later in the year against Michael Zerafa, Tsyzu should be in the line for the winner of the four title unification match between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano in 2021.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored one point to move the overall totals to 36-34.  


Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

     Time for a few more tributes from recent days for people who have recently passed away.

Goodbye to Ed Armbrister at the age of 72.

Armbrister would have been just another backup outfielder, if not for one famous at-bat in the 1975 World Series.

In the bottom of the tenth in game three, Armbrister's attempt at a sacrifice bunt saw Armbrister slow out of the batter's box and stand in front of Boston catcher Carlton Fisk.

The collision threw Fisk off-balance in his attempt to throw out Cesar Geronimo at second and the ball flew into center field with Geronimo moving to third and eventually scoring the winning run for Cincinnati.

Despite the protests of Fisk and Boston manager Darrell Johnson, umpire Larry Barnett ruled that Armbrister hadn't interfered, the play stood as called and remains one of the most controversial plays in World Series history.

Goodbye to Bobby Brown at the age of 96.

Brown, who isn't Bobby Brown the singer, the member of Cobra Kai, or even the Yankee outfielder of the early 1980s, but was a Yankee third baseman who won four World Series in five years in Gotham between 1947 and 1951.

Brown never hit more than six homers in a season as part of a third-base platoon for Casey Stengel's Yankees, but hit .300 twice and was a solid gloveman.

Brown missed most of the 1952 season and all of the 1953 season due to serving in the Korean War and Brown would play less than twenty-five games for the 1954 Yankees before retiring at the age of 28 to attend medical school to become a cardiologist.

Brown would later serve as the President of the American League from 1984-94.

Goodbye to Joe Cunningham at the age of 89.

Cunningham was a .291 career hitter that peaked for the St.Louis Cardinals in the 50s, making the 1959 All-Star game, and hit .345 in 1959 that was good enough for second to Hank Aaron in the race for the batting title.

Cunningham had never hit lower than .280 up to the 1963 season when he broke his collarbone in a freak accident while playing first base for the White Sox.

After the injury, Cunningham would never hit higher than .250 and was out of baseball by 1966.

Goodbye to Rusty Tillman at the age of 75.

Tillman spent his entire eight-year career with the then-Washington Redskins as a special teams player and was the captain of the unit for the final four seasons of his career.

Tillman would be an assistant coach for 22 seasons in the NFL, 16 of those in Seattle with the Seahawks, but could be best remembered for his stint in the original XFL as the head coach of the New York/New Jersey Hitmen.

Tillman was involved in what was attempted to be a controversy with "analyst" Jesse "The Body" Ventura during his coaching tenure as Ventura criticized Tillman constantly in a wrestling-style manner in an attempt to create attention in the league that was desperate for it at that time.

Ventura tabbed Tillman as "Gutless Rusty" and at the conclusion of one Hitmen defeat, Ventura came down to the field to "interview" Tillman, who ignored Ventura and walked to the locker room. 


Monday, March 29, 2021

Happy 14th Anniversary

   Today's the 14th anniversary of the day that this blog began and except for my family and my job, it's the longest that I have ever stuck with anything in my life.

I wish I had a clip of Larry Zbyszko crowing about his "14 Glorious years"
to play here in this spot!

It's hard to believe that I still do this after all these years and you'd think that I would be close to running out of things to write about from the past and even with sports, which isn't exactly making things easy to be excited about of late.

I also find that I've become politically jaded.

While I think much of the mess politically is due to the corruption of the previous President, the larger issue is the division and climate that allowed his election in the first place.

I have become almost news-averse politically because I just don't have the stomach for the rhetoric used and the absolute lack of any type of compromise or working together from either political party.

So I've faded out of writing about politics and policy, I just don't have the stomach for it, and that is a definitive change from fourteen years ago.

I've also become disenchanted with baseball as Rob Manfred has single-handedly led a demolition on about every level of the game that made me consider not buying the MLB.TV package this year.

I reluctantly decided to do so but mainly due to Manfred's blow-up of the minors leaves me with the closest team 90 minutes away and working overnights, many of those nights are not feasible with work.

I'll have more time to watch major league baseball, so I may be writing more, but who really knows.

Before I finish, I'd like to thank my family and friends (you all know who you are) for your support and words of encouragement with this venture.

I always find it hard to believe that anyone reads this, so I will admit that it makes me feel good when someone mentions something that I wrote about.

Thanks also to any of you out there that doesn't know me yet reads this occasionally.

It's also rewarding when people that don't know you like what you write about enough to look around.

Thanks again to all of you!

This should be an interesting year for me and TRS.

Lack of minor league baseball nearby for the first time in almost forty years, the (hopefully) beginning of a return to normal behavior with Covid-19 giving some hopes that we might be beating it finally, and who knows what I'll be getting into and where.

Bear with me and whatever the results are, I'll be here writing about it...

Here's to another great year...

Cleaning out the Inbox:Basketball Passings

    It's a sad and rare time for a tributes post to be entirely basketball-related, but since I've not exactly been lighting things up here of late, things have built up in the inbox.

Goodbye to Elgin Baylor at the age of 86.

Modern basketball fans may remember Baylor best as the often-inept general manager of the awful Los Angeles Clippers from 1986-2008, but Baylor was far more than that on the court.

As a player, Baylor won almost every accolade that a player can achieve with the exception of a world championship.

Baylor was the first selection by the then-Minneapolis Lakers, Baylor was named to the All-NBA first team on ten occasions and eleven times played in the All-Star game.

It was Baylor's 71 points that held the league record before Wilt Chamberlain's famous 100 point output and Baylor's 61 in game five of the 1962 finals that holds the record to this day for points in a finals game.

Considered the NBA's first "modern" player, it all traces back to Elgin Baylor as the beginning of the modern player that combined athleticism with elite skills of the game with averages over his career of twenty-seven points and thirteen rebounds per game and those numbers dipped due to the final two injury-plagued seasons of his career.

Only Baylor's eight losses in the NBA finals leave any sort of black mark on a Hall of Fame playing career, but there is a definite blight from a coaching career with the New Orleans Jazz that left his record forty-nine games under .500 and leading the Clippers to the playoffs only once in twenty-two years.

Baylor's reign did have bad luck as it seemed the Clippers best players had habits of tearing up knee ligaments such as Danny Manning and Ron Harper, but there were plenty of bad decisions such as winning the 1998 lottery and selecting Michael Olowokandi over players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Antawn Jamison, and Mike Bibby.


Goodbye to Stan Albeck at the age of 89.

Albeck was the head coach for four NBA teams (Cavaliers, Spurs, Nets, and Bulls) and the Bradley Braves in college, but also coached in the ABA as an assistant, notably with the San Diego Conquistadors where Albeck unofficially ran the team with Wilt Chamberlain as the figurehead coach.

Albeck's teams made the playoffs in six of his seven seasons as an NBA head coach and he twice took San Antonio to the conference finals during his tenure in Texas.

Albeck's Spur teams won the Midwest Division in each of his three seasons in San Antonio and in his first season with the New Jersey Nets, Albeck took them to the conference semi-finals, which to this writing is the second-best playoff performance in the Nets history.


Goodbye to Benny Dees at the age of 86.

Dees was the head coach at four schools, but most notably at New Orleans and Wyoming, where he took both teams to the NCAA tournament.

At New Orleans, Dees landed future NBA player Ledell Eackles as the nation's top junior college player in recruiting and took the Privateers to their first NCAA tournament, while he would make the NCAA's tournament with Wyoming as well with future pros Fennis Dembo and Eric Leckner.

Dees was the first head coach ever at Virginia Commonwealth in 1968 as the school started its program from scratch.


Goodbye to Granville Waiters at the age of 60.

The 6'11 center for the Ohio State Buckeyes looked about twenty years older than he was with a badly receding hairline and a face that looked like an NBA veteran rather than a college player.

Waiters averaged ten points and seven rebounds as a senior of Ohio State and he was drafted in the second round of the 1983 draft by Portland before being traded to Indiana on draft night.

Waiters would play five seasons in the NBA as garbage time big man off the bench with Indiana, Chicago, and Houston with a career average of 2.4 points per game. 




Sunday, March 28, 2021

Burned by Barnes at Buzzer-Cavaliers crowned by Kings

    The Cleveland Cavaliers were undermanned and playing without a true pivotman, but yet played the type of ugly game that appeared to be a winning one after Collin Sexton's layup was ruled a goaltend on Sacramento's Richard Holmes to give Cleveland a one-point lead with 1.6 seconds to play.

So, of course, that's not how the game ended as De'Aaron Fox fired the ball from the far baseline to Harrison Barnes, who turned and fired a three-pointer that beat the buzzer and lifted Sacramento to a 100-98 victory.

Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 26 points in his return after missing the previous two games with a sore hamstring with Darius Garland scoring 18 points with Larry Nance Jr adding 17 to lead Cleveland, who played only eight players in a strangely bizarre game.

The Cavaliers will visit the Utah Jazz on Monday in the final contest of their four-game road trip.

Swashbucklings

1) Wow.

Where do I start?

The final play brings questions from me.

The first is why did the Cavaliers put no one on the passer at the baseline to make De'Aaron Fox work to throw the ball over a defender, perhaps forcing the pass to have a little more arc from the ball or cost some accuracy?

Instead, Fox got a good look at where he needed to go and put the ball on the money.

2) Then with Fox lined up on his right, the closest player to him for a player to have a legitimate shot is Harrison Barnes, who's being guarded by Dean Wade?

Collin Sexton does rush over to try to help, but you see Sexton shy away from Barnes to keep the referee from calling a foul, but that essentially means that Barnes isn't dealing with a double team and Wade barely gets off the floor to contest the shot.

Lots of blame to spread around here.

3) The loss takes the shine off an effort that surprised on the second end of a back to back set and played without Jarrett Allen, who missed the game after Dusty Rhodes hit him with a bionic elbow against the Lakers (OK, it wasn't quite that bad) and with newcomer Isaiah Hartenstein arriving too late to go through a walk-through, Cleveland would play Larry Nance Jr as the only player that could post up inside or protect the rim defensively.

4) J.B. Bickerstaff played only eight players and Cedi Osman and Dylan Windler did not play with the box score notating as "Coaches Decision".

No word on why neither would appear in the game.

5) Those decisions placed recently signed rookie Broderic Thomas from Division II Truman State into the starting lineup for the first time in his short NBA career.

Thomas would score seven points in thirty-one minutes, shooting two of eight from the field.

6) Sacramento wore their "City" Uniforms in the win.

I surprisingly liked the black with light blue lettering, but I really don't like the player name on the back of the jersey below the number.

That's how the old Kansas City Kings placed player names on their jerseys and I didn't care for it then.

7) I watched the game on the Sacramento feed as I did when the Kings visited Cleveland last week after hearing that the Kings feed was going to give the male announcers the evening off.

I found the "all-female" concept interesting, I really liked the work of Kayte Hunter in the studio from the first game, and with Hunter, a former WNBA player, moving into the analyst role for the evening I decided to give the ladies a try.

I thought Hunter was a standout and Krista Blunk was good on play-by-play as well.

Blunk works for the Pac 12 network and has called WNBA games at times in the past.

Because of the NBA League Pass decision to show loud highlights from the league at halftime rather than keep the viewer with the game network, I didn't have the opportunity to watch the other broadcasters during the game other than an occasional few seconds during a game break.

Had the network not drummed it constantly that it was a special night, the quality was good enough that I might not have known that it was a theme evening- and that shows the commentators were quite good on the evening.

Photo by Kelley L Cox - USA TODAY Sports



 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Whyte pays back Povetkin

     Dillian Whyte answered a question, but perhaps not others as he wobbled Alexander Povetkin from the opening bell and finished him off in the fourth round- the same round that he dropped Povetkin twice in their first fight before being stopped himself in the following inning.

Povetkin's legs were not going to be compared to the Rock of Gibraltar (site of the fight) and seemed to be sapped from the start as Whyte's punches showed their effects from the start and several times was sent wobbling into the ropes or stumbling around the ring.

One could question if Povetkin's problems absorbing Whyte's punches was due to his short-term recovery from Covid-19 or if it's as simple as the forty-one-year-old Russian is only world-class in punching power at this stage of his career.

Even in this one that Whyte controlled, Povetkin landed a few big shots that didn't floor Whyte but made me look back and consider that perhaps with Povetkin's legs under him could that have made a difference?

Still, Dillian Whyte is the type of heavyweight that is going to make fun and entertaining brawls and he's had them with top heavyweights win or lose against Anthony Joshua, Povetkin, Dereck Chisora, and even Joseph Parker, who doesn't have entertaining bouts with anyone else!

Whyte has the capability of taking anyone out and can be hurt himself, so all of his fights are going to be worth watching, but seeing Povetkin land the occasional counterpunch and even though Whyte didn't find himself severely hurt, I'm still not convinced that Whyte has completely recovered.

While I'd love to see Whyte-Deontay Wilder happen, I have my doubts about that for several reasons (all of them Wilder and PBC) and the same problems occur with an Andy Ruiz matchup.

If the upcoming arbitration between Tyson Fury and Wilder forces a third fight between them, the WBO could (and maybe should) force Anthony Joshua to defend against their top contender in Oleksandr Usyk, which would free up Joe Joyce from his upcoming fight with Usyk and could leave an opening for Whyte vs Joyce in what could make the winner the top contender when the music stops.

For Povetkin, unless his showing can be conclusively shown to have been hampered by his Covid-19 illness, I'd be fine to see him retire from the game.

The former champion would leave now with only three losses and his chin, which was once one of the best in the division, has visibly weakened in recent outings, so it might be time to see him exit stage left before he becomes damaged goods.

Eddie Hearn stated that he'd like to see Whyte fight in the summer and that's a good idea to keep him busy with exposure in the United State not hurting any either.

The heavyweight division is one with many moving parts, the problem is that with so many (Fury, Joshua, Wilder, Ruiz, and Usyk) the moving parts are outside the ring rather than inside it...

Boxing Challenge

    The boxing challenge may have only one fight, but it's a very important fight in the heavyweight division and one that should have a background that I feel pretty safe in saying that most boxing fans have never seen at a fight before.

The rematch between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin was postponed when Povetkin tested positive for Covid-19 and when the United Kingdom saw a spike in Covid cases, promoter Eddie Hearn could not take another chance on a delay, so he had to fight somewhere to place his event.

I've never heard of a mainstream fight from Gibraltar, the less than three square mile nation that is usually known as "The Rock" of Gibraltar, but there is a first time for everything in boxing and when the nation of less than forty thousand offered their site for the rematch, it didn't take Eddie Hearn long to accept.

The rematch from their August fight in which Whyte knocked Povetkin down twice in the fourth round, saw Povetkin barely survive to return to his corner and with Whyte moving in for the kill in the fifth, seeming to rock Povetkin, Povetkin uncorked a left uppercut that dropped Whyte on his back for a one-punch knockout.

The knockout cost Whyte his long-awaited mandatory challenge of WBC champion Tyson Fury and placed him behind other heavyweights, even with a rematch win today which has the WBC minor belt on the table that Povetkin took from Whyte.

The biggest unknown about this fight is how much has the knockout affected Dillian Whyte's ability to take a shot and can Alexander Povetkin, who only loses to the elite of the division ( at age 41, Povetkin's only two losses are to Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua) manage to either land that perfect punch again or fight better than he did in his first go at Whyte?

Whyte was also spectacularly knocked out in his other career defeat by Anthony Joshua and it's not unreasonable to wonder how much his resistance has been sapped by another huge knockout.

Still, Whyte is closer to his prime than Povetkin is his, and as the first fight showed, Whyte is able to outbox the aging Russian and throw (And land) many more punches as well.

Povetkin still has the equalizer though and he's hurt every fighter that he has faced- including Klitschko and Joshua, so if Whyte has been affected by the knockout, Povetkin is very capable of repeating his triumph.

I'm very intrigued by the fight as I can see Whyte dominating, avoiding the big mistake, and taking an easy win, but I cannot rule out the possibility of Povetkin knocking out a damaged Whyte with one of his thunderous bombs.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 34-31.

Heavyweights.12 Rds 
Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin
R.L:  Whyte KO 7
TRS: Whyte Unanimous Decision 

Joe Tait

     The recent passing of Joe Tait at the age of 83 made me recall lots of memories of Cavaliers past, but the passing of the legendary play by play announcer also made me look forward to the future and a future that, as it usually does, is looking less and less like the past.

I wrote about Joe back in 2011, when Joe retired from calling the Cavaliers games, and those feelings hold up ten years later.

Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer was a long-time friend of Tait and co-wrote his autobiography in 2011.

Pluto wrote a recent article on a visit to Tait's home and his recent struggles with his health that I still have in the inbox for the next cleaning.

I knew that Tait was in ill health, but I didn't expect his passing to come so soon.

Joe Tait called every Cavalier season of their start in 1970 through his 2011 retirement with the exception of one season in Chicago and one season with New Jersey in the Ted Stepien years in the early 80s and while Austin Carr may be named "Mr.Cavalier", up until the Cavaliers drafted LeBron James in 2003, Joe Tait was the true star of the franchise.

More than just "the Voice of the Cavs", Tait also announced Indians games in the 70s and 80s among other sports, but it always came back to Cleveland to Richfield and then back to Cleveland again with the Cavaliers.

When Joe Tait started with the Cavaliers, the NBA in Cleveland was a radio game and evidence of that is in the Miracle of Richfield season of 1975-76.

The seven-game series win over the Washington Bullets that still stirs in the hearts of those over fifty did not have one game televised in Cleveland and the two surviving videos of that series were from the Coliseum and televised back to the Washington audience.

Therefore, Cavalier fans were either slammed into the Richfield Coliseum or they listened on the radio and the domain of Joe Tait.

And it was Joe Tait that helped me become a Cavalier fan.
Fast Forward to April 1976 and Game Two of the series against the Bullets.

My parents and I usually visited my relatives in Ohio once a year and we would leave on a Friday night after my dad returned home from his job.

On the way out, we were listening to that game on the radio.
I was mostly a college fan then and a casual NBA fan (I liked the ABA Kentucky Colonels), so at the beginning of the game, I was leaning towards the Bullets as the team I knew.
But as the game continued on the radio, I remember being overwhelmed by the excitement from the Cavaliers announcer.

It was legitimate excitement, not the manufactured kind that so many spout from the booth today (COUGH Gus Johnson COUGH) and when Bingo Smith hit a game-winning jumper to win game two, I was hooked on the Cleveland Cavaliers and much of that credit goes to Joe Tait.

I spent lots of time as a kid listening to Joe on the radio, but even more in the car driving around in the pre-internet days listening to Cavalier games after dark, when the AM signal from Cleveland would come in clearly.

In those days, that was about the only connection that someone in Maryland could have with a team I'm Cleveland- particularly a bad team such as the Cavaliers after Richfield until the late 80s.
Joe Tait still made rooting for bad teams fun.

His catchphrases still ring with me in everyday life.
Slamming garbage into the trash can brings a "WHAM! With the right hand!".
Shooting for the hamper, recycling bin, etc- "Three Ball-GOT IT!"
Tuning something in makes me think of "Cavaliers moving right to left on your radio dial"

The best radio basketball one-man show that I can remember listening to since he didn't use a color analyst, Joe Tait made basketball a radio sport and is the main reason that the Cavaliers connected with their fan base at a time when the NBA was lukewarm with fans.

I've missed Joe's work at the mic since his retirement and that's not a knock at all on the Cleveland radio announcers at all.

It's very similar to the New Jersey Devils situation on television with Steve Cangelosi replacing Mike "Doc" Emrick- fans get spoiled having the very best in the business calling their team's games and in any profession, it's very difficult to follow the best.

I don't think fans will ever have the connection with radio announcers that my generation has ever again.
The world has changed too much with far more options than strictly listening to games on the radio constantly, but to fans over fifty, it'll always be Joe Tait as the Voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Rest Well.



Friday, March 26, 2021

Cavaliers trade JaVale McGee to Denver, Drummond to be bought out

  The Cleveland Cavaliers attempted to make several deals as the trade deadline approached, did manage to make one trade happen, but failed in their effort to assemble the one trade that they wanted to happen most.

Andre Drummond wasn't moved as the Cavaliers had hoped and the team has started to talk buyout with the veteran center, which is why teams that were interested, didn't trade for him (although there were teams rumored to be interested that couldn't match up under the salary cap) and will leave the Cavaliers allowing Drummond to walk without a return.

The Andre Drummond experiment didn't work out in the end after acquiring him at last year's deadline from the Pistons for a second-round pick, Brandon Knight, and John Henson, but it didn't really harm much other than Dan Gilbert's wallet- that was hit to a pro-rated tune of close to thirty million for Drummond's 2020-21 time in Cleveland.

Drummond didn't play badly, and although some may disagree with me, I didn't see the attitude problems on the court that others did.

Drummond was productive (17.5 PPG, 13.5 RBG), but watching the offense it's easy to see how Drummond's stats can be considered soft ones as he cannot score away from the post, and defensively, his hunger for rebounds can cause him to chase the ball and leaves the rim wide open

Drummond was redundant from the moment that the Cavaliers were able to involve themselves in the trade between the Rockets and Nets that ended with James Harden in Brooklyn.

When Koby Altman was able to add Jarrett Allen for Dante Exum and two draft picks (both acquired from other teams, not the Cavaliers' own selections), any interest in keeping Andre Drummond floated away.

Drummond is reported to be headed to the Lakers, although the Nets have also been mentioned among a few other teams with interest.

Cleveland had to be pleased with JaVale McGee's play this season.

McGee didn't sulk, always hustled, and had they decided to keep McGee with an attempt to re-sign him at the end of the season (McGee will be a UFA at the end of the season), I wouldn't have complained.

McGee averaged eight points and five rebounds and turned himself into an asset that a contender (such as Denver) would be interested in trading for.

Cleveland received center Isaiah Hartenstein and two future second-rounders in return for McGee.

I know I could be considered "old-school", but I always wonder why these second-rounders are considered so valuable although I can answer my question as they help make trades with the needed minutia under the salary cap.

I do get frustrated with how those choices are eventually used as so many teams select players from outside the United States and a large chunk of the time never even come to a camp as their rights are more valuable to be shuttled from team to team in trades.

The second-rounders are one "protected" although the protections haven't been released to my knowledge, in 2023 and an unprotected in 2027.

Cleveland did acquire one player and in what is a mild surprise in these types of trades, the player is one that the Cavaliers are going to keep around and see how he fits in the overall picture.

Isaiah Hartenstein is a seven-footer that will be given a chance to see what he can contribute as a backup center to Jarrett Allen.

Hartenstein is from Germany and was taken by the Rockets in the second round of the 2017 draft, but did not arrive in the NBA until the following season at the age of 20.

The now 23-year-old center played two seasons with Houston before being released in the off-season and signed with Denver.

In thirty games for the Nuggets, he averaged just over three points and just under three rebounds a game.

In Hartenstein's three seasons in the league, he has played in only eighty-one games, so he's one game away from playing an entire season but took almost three to get there.

Hartenstein isn't a three-point shooter as he has made exactly one three-pointer in his entire career and for this season, he is shooting thirty-eight percent from longer than three FEET!

Hartenstein doesn't look like a standout or someone to build around, but at 23 and the Cavaliers needing a backup big man to replace McGee, he's worth a look for the rest of the season, but I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't around next season for Cleveland.

Hoping to finish my tribute to Joe Tait today, we have a tribute post coming soon and a preview of the one fight for the boxing challenge this Saturday.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Undermanned Cavaliers top Bulls 103-94

     The Cleveland Cavaliers lost leading scorer Collin Sexton before the game due to a gimpy hamstring, so it could be expected for the Cavaliers to struggle on Trade Deadline Eve in Chicago against the Bulls.

Instead, the Cavaliers received excellent games from the other three top players on the team and surprised the Bulls 103-94.

Darius Garland finished with a near double-double with 22 points and nine assists, Jarrett Allen also barely missed the same feat with 19 points and nine rebounds, and Larry Nance Jr. did manage to pull off a double-double by scoring fourteen points and plucking fourteen rebounds.

Cleveland improved to 17-27 with the win as they deal with the trade deadline tomorrow, the next three games in the west against Los Angeles (Lakers), Sacramento, and Utah and six of the next seven games are on the road.

Swashbucklings

1) Just as the Cavaliers started a seven road games of the next eight-game swing is not the best time to lose your highest scorer, but it was nice to see players stepping up to try to make up the difference.

However, the next three games are all against better teams than the Bulls, and should Collin Sexton miss those games, it's going to take efforts such as these to have even a chance of winning.

2) I haven't been writing as much about the Cavaliers, but I've been watching.

Larry Nance Jr might be the player that if Cleveland placed every player on an available to acquire list that most teams would want first.

Nance has improved his shot and passing and while he may not be the best player on a team, he would be the one player that can help any team.

3) I also wonder about Darius Garland.

On nights like tonight, I think Garland could be a fine player, but he lacks consistency and there are still plenty of questions on a Garland/Sexton backcourt over the long term.

4) If you had to trade either Garland or Sexton, which would you choose?

Sexton's the better player by conventional numbers, but he might be one of those players that scores a lot of points on bad teams and he still hasn't proven that he can settle into a system without the ball.

Garland's shooting has improved, but you still wonder if he isn't a tweener that doesn't shoot well enough to play the two-guard and yet isn't a true point.

5) I doubt the Cavaliers will do very much by the trade deadline.

I think JaVale McGee is the most likely to go, although far from a sure thing and there has been some talk around Cedi Osman.

I'm sure they will try to get anything for Andre Drummond and if anyone had any type of interest in what's left of Kevin Love, the Cavaliers would likely pay them!

6) What I found most interesting came from Sam Amico at FortyEightMinutes.com, but speaking to another general manager (nameless) about which of the Cavaliers young players that he would be interested in acquiring.

https://twitter.com/AmicoHoops/status/1373698856458850304

That makes me wonder about just what Koby Altman's plans for the team are and could the team decide that Altman's plan isn't working and clean house? 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Ortiz hammers Hooker!

   Welterweight prospect Vergil Ortiz had faced experienced former contenders before and passed with flying colors, but entering his fight with former WBO junior welterweight champion Maurice Hooker, Ortiz had not faced one in their prime.

Ortiz passed the test with a seventh-round knockout in a surprisingly strong fight filled with punches landed from both combatants and the question now is this- Is Ortiz ready for a championship opportunity?

Ortiz seems to be ready, but the impediment before him is the quality of WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence and WBO titlist Terence Crawford and although WBA champion (recently promoted from "regular" champion) Yordenis Ugas would be an underdog to Ortiz, Ugas is being steered towards fellow PBC member Spence to unify three of the four titles.

Hooker was the reason that this fight was so entertaining and it also took away his best chance of winning.

Hooker landed plenty of punches as the face of Ortiz will attest, but the decision to spend the fight in front of Ortiz and exchanging punches with the larger and stronger man likely eliminated any chance that he had of winning.

It didn't take a boxing savant to see from round one that Hooker was very unlikely to swap punches with Ortiz and make it through twelve rounds.

Hooker acquitted himself well -in the fight as he rose from a sixth-round knockdown before dropping to the mat after taking a glancing punch from Ortiz in the seventh when he would surrender due to a hand injury that he reported hearing a "pop" in his hand that forced his withdrawal.

I had Ortiz leading 58-55 entering the seventh round, four rounds to two with a knockdown.

It was after the fight that Hooker didn't come off well as he flipped off the crowd with "Double Birds" and abruptly ended his post-fight interview with Chris Mannix as he quickly fled the ring.

For Ortiz, he's in a tough spot.

I'm not sure he's ready for Terence Crawford, but it's the WBO that rates Ortiz the highest currently (2nd), and promotionally other than Mikey Garcia the welterweights that are on his level are all affiliated with PBC, who likely won't have a lot of interest in helping Ortiz or his promoters-Golden Boy Promotions.

It is possible that the winner of Spence-Ugas could be forced to fight Ortiz, who does hold one of those silly WBA belts, but that is unlikely anytime soon, if at all.

As for Hooker, he's now been stopped in two of his last three fights (losing his title to Jose Ramirez in 2019), and he won't have problems finding fights as Hooker has become an entertaining fighter.

But Hooker's chin doesn't appear to be able to hold up over the course of a fight against the top of the division and if I managed a young talented prospect (as Ortiz was) such as Jaron "Boots" Ennis (who fights Sergey Lipinets next month), I would try to line Hooker up for your fighter.


In the afternoon from London, the WBO finally crowned a cruiserweight champion after not having a cruiser champion (or light heavyweight for that matter) since the Nixon administration as undefeated Lawrence Okolie impressively demolished former champion Krzysztof Glowacki in six rounds to claim that championship.

Okolie won the first five rounds, kept Glowacki on the outside, and completely took him out of that before landing a titanic right hand that dropped Glowacki back first to the mat.

Glowacki barely beat the count, but when he wobbled to a neutral corner, the referee stopped the fight rather than allow Glowacki to face further punishment.

Okolie called out the best fighter in the division in IBF champion and winner of the World Boxing Super Series Mairis Breidis, which would be the best fight that you can make in the division.

At 6'5 and an 82 and a half inch reach, Okolie has the physical dimensions to move to heavyweight, which I believe is an eventual end game, so a Breidis fight would make a lot of sense for both guys, but it's one that needs to be made quickly and within the next eighteen months before Okolie outgrows the division..

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each earned four points for these two fights.

I lead the challenge 34-31 on the year. 



Saturday, March 20, 2021

Boxing Challenge; Beterbiev disposes of Deines

 
Artur Beterbiev won every round, knocked Adam Deines down twice, and never was threatened in his tenth-round stoppage victory to defend his WBC and IBF light heavyweight titles in his native Russia.

But why did it seem so disappointing?

Likely it was due to the seventeen months away from the ring and the high expectations after his dazzling win over Olekansdr Gvoszdyk and combined with yet another weak sister IBF mandatory challenger in Adam Deines, but Beterbiev was expected to blast Deines out quickly and wait for the winner of the Joe Smith-Maxim Vlasov fight in April for the long-vacant WBO title.

That didn't happen and give a little credit to Deines for being tougher than expected, but more likely it was Beterbiev getting the viscosity rolling through the system after the layoff and getting some rounds in to prepare for larger challenges.

Beterbiev knocked Deines down in the first and it briefly appeared that the evening would be a short one, but the knockdown occurred late in the round and was more of a flash knockdown rather than a crushing blow that ends fights.

The next eight rounds were repeated over and over with Beterbiev grinding Deines down, but not pressing the attack to try to finish the evening until the tenth when after Deines rose from a knockdown his corner waved the towel for an honorable surrender.

For Deines, it's back to the European tour and while Beterbiev didn't look tremendous- he did win every round and looking at his career, Beterbiev fights best when he feels he's being tested and he may have felt that Deines was simply not of his caliber.

A Beterbiev-Joe Smith fight for three of the four titles would be an action battle between the two hardest punchers in the light heavyweight division, while a Beterbiev-Maxim Vlasov pairing would not be as attractive to fans, should Vlasov pull the upset he would certainly deserving of a test against Beterbiev.

Ramon Malpica and I each added two points in the boxing challenge to move the overall total to 30-27.


Browns sign Anthony Walker, Malik Jackson

  The Cleveland Browns continued to revamp their defense for 2021 with two signings, both of which will bolster points that had not been addressed previously in free agency.

The Browns need help at linebacker now and they needed it all last season as well.

The Browns front office seems to look at linebacker as the least important position on the defense and are choosing to skimp on that position to spend more on others.

Since you simply cannot afford to go all out at every position group due to the salary cap, corners have to be cut and the Browns have chosen linebacker to try to cut those corners as their game plan appears to try to sign a solid veteran every year or two to a one or two (at the most) year contract through free agency at reasonable prices and rotate them in and out.

Cleveland signed B.J. Goodson last year to a one-year contract and they are allowing him to test free agency as an example of this plan, so if you allow someone to walk, a replacement is needed.

I think the Browns have signed a good one in Anthony Walker, who played for the Colts since 2017 when Indianapolis drafted him in the fifth round from Northwestern.

Walker was a player that his Colts teammates badly wanted to retain as several Colts, including star linebacker Darius Leonard, appeared to be very upset and generous with their tributes to Walker after the announcement of his signing with the Browns became public.

Walker started all sixteen games for the Colts last season at inside linebacker, started all but two games over the last three seasons since entering the starting lineup, and will likely be the Browns starter in the middle in Cleveland.

Walker is more of a reliable player rather than a big playmaker and will likely have Jacob Phillips and Mack Wilson starting with him, although the Browns will often play two linebackers with an extra defensive back in their place.

Walker finished last season with 65 solo tackles and one interception for Indianapolis and is known for accumulating tackles.

I think the signing of Walker is an improvement over B.J. Goodson and I think that it's possible (possible) that Walker plays well enough to earn another contract from the Browns, even if it would be another one-year commitment.

However, Pro Football Focus doesn't think highly of Walker and the Browns have been known to rely heavily on their evaluations, so signing Walker despite PFF's concerns is a mild surprise.

Walker will turn 26 before the season and his one-year deal will pay him three and a half million dollars.


Cleveland also needed to add some help along the interior of the defensive line as the Browns only returned three defensive tackles and only two that played last season when you consider that Andrew Billings sat 2020 out after signing a one-year contract due to Covid-19 concerns.

Sheldon Richardson played well last season and Jordan Elliott is back after a rookie season, but the Browns still need more bodies and they added a very interesting one in veteran Malik Jackson.

The 31-year-old Jackson played for Philadelphia over the last two seasons and for the Eagles last season, Jackson finished with fifteen solo tackles and two and a half sacks after playing only one game in 2019.

Jackson was drafted by Denver in the fifth round of the 2012 draft after playing his college football at Tennessee, but his best seasons came as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars where he made a Pro Bowl in 2017 when he finished with a career-high eight and a half sacks.

Jackson signed a large contract with the Eagles and disappointed the team with a foot injury in 2019 and failing to make an impact last season despite a hefty salary.

Jackson was scheduled to make ten and a half million for the Eagles in 2021 and considering his lack of production, Jackson was an easy choice for Philadelphia to release and take a lesser cap hit rather than pay an exorbitant price.

Jackson is showing some mileage, but perhaps the Browns can stretch some production by playing him more often on passing downs to keep his snap down and he should be motivated to play well in order to earn one more large contract somewhere for 2022.

Jackson still has value as an interior pass rusher as Pro Football Focus (take this as you will) rated Jackson as a pass rusher in a tie for 22nd among 128 qualifying defensive tackles.

Contract terms are undisclosed at this time.



Boxing Challenge

   The weekend in boxing may not be filled with important fights, but all three fights in the boxing challenge have either world titles at stake or in one case could show if a talented young fighter is ready for a world title fight of his own.

ESPN will have the return of the Russian Destroyer Artur Beterbiev from Moscow as Beterbiev defends his WBC and IBF light heavyweight titles against IBF mandatory Adam Deines on Saturday afternoon.

Beterbiev has knocked out all fifteen of his opponents and looked incredibly impressive with his unification victory over Oleksandr Gvozdyk in October 2019.

Beterbiev hasn't fought since with fights being postponed for Covid-19 (for Beterbiev and his scheduled opponent) and training injuries but is the prohibitive favorite against Germany's Deines, who appears to be one of those awful IBF mandatory challengers with no wins over a remotely qualified contender and lost his only fight against someone that you have heard of in a unanimous decision to China's Meng Fanlong.

Fanlong's win over Deines earned him the shot against Beterbiev, but travel and visa issues caused Fanlong to give the shot up due to his problems entering Russia.

Only in boxing can you lose an elimination fight and get the shot over the winner.

Not that Fanlong is deserving either of a title opportunity, but at least he defeated Deines!

This one could be very short.

DAZN also has a Saturday afternoon card with their bout from London with the WBO finally filling their cruiserweight title after lawsuits and postponements have left their title vacant for an astonishing twenty-one months!

The controversy started then when then-WBO champion Krzystof Glowacki lost his title to Mairis Bredis and stopped him in three rounds in arguably the worst refereed fight in years by Robert Byrd.

The WBO mandated a rematch, but the Breidis-Glowacki match was also a semi-final in the World Boxing Super Series, and Breidis decided to vacate the title to fight in the finals for a much larger purse.

After several delays, it's Glowacki fighting for his old championship against Lawrence Okolie, a promising and undefeated Briton.

Okolie has won 12 of his 15 wins by knockout, but none against top-ten opponents.

This is a pick 'em fight and I wouldn't be surprised if either fighter grabbed the WBO title.

DAZN returns in the evening from Dallas, Texas with a crosstown welterweight showdown with the best young prospect in the game stepping up against a former world champion with the winner possibly leaping into title contention.

Vergil Ortiz faces his toughest opponent in former WBO junior welterweight champion Maurice Hooker and with a win, Ortiz could receive a title shot against WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who will be in the building as a Hooker stablemate.

Ortiz has faced former title challenger Mauricio Herrera, former contender Antonio Orozco, and slick veteran Brad Solomon, but none of those fighters were in their prime as Hooker, who has fought just once since losing his junior welterweight title in a unification affair against Jose Ramirez.

Still, Hooker was stopped by Jose Ramirez and Ramirez is smaller and doesn't punch nearly as hard as Ortiz.

I think that is what this comes down to- How well does Hooker absorb Ortiz's punches?

My guess is that eventually, Hooker won't absorb them and Ortiz will take a step forward to the top of the division.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 28-25.

WBC and IBF Light Heavyweight Titles. 12 Rds 
Artur Beterbiev vs Adam Deines
R.L: Beterbiev KO 5
TRS: Beterbiev KO 2

Vacant WBO Cruiserweight Title 12 Rds
Lawrence Okolie vs Krzystof Glowacki
R.L: Okolie KO 9
TRS: Okolie KO 7

Welterweights.12 Rds
Vergil Ortiz vs Maurice Hooker
R.L: Ortiz KO 8
TRS: Ortiz KO 6 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Browns sign Troy Hill, retain Hollywood Higgins

   The Cleveland Browns continued to attempt to shore up a defense in need of repairs and with the signing of Troy Hill to a four-year contract valued at twenty-four million dollars. to man the slot corner on day three of free agency, the Browns may have delivered their secondary a sizable upgrade.

Hill will replace Kevin Johnson at the slot corner and after Hill's excellent season with Los Angeles last season that is a definite upgrade.

Hill was thrown at often last season with Jalen Ramsey manning a corner for the Rams, and Hill rated highly by Pro Football Focus (that means more to some than others) against a high number of attempts tossed his way.

Hill entered the league as an undrafted free agent from Oregon in 2015, signed with the Bengals, and spent time with Cincinnati and New England that season before being claimed off waivers by the then-St. Louis Rams to finish the season.

Hill has been with the Rams ever since, has started for much of the previous three seasons and will join Los Angeles teammate John Johnson in the Cleveland secondary as free agent acquisitions for the 2021 campaign.

The 30-year-old intercepted three passes last season and returned two of those for touchdowns with his 119 yards in returns leading the league in that category.

Brad Ward from the All Eyes On Cleveland has been wishing for the Browns to land Hill for this season during his free agency preview and I think he's on the money here.

Kevin Johnson wasn't terrible in his one season in Cleveland, but it seems that Hill will make the secondary stronger for 2021.

The Browns have addressed their secondary needs and in their remaining shopping may focus on the linebackers, perhaps another end rusher to hedge their bets on the signing of Takk McKinley, and maybe an interior defensive lineman to add to the rotation to replace Larry Ogunjobi, who departed in free agency and signed with division rival Cincinnati.


Cleveland signed a former Brown for offensive line depth in Greg Senat.

The 6'6 305 pound Senat was on the Browns practice squad last season but was signed off by Dallas to play the remainder of the season.

Senat originally was drafted in the sixth round in the 2018 draft from Wagner.

Senat will be in the mix to replace Kendall Lamm as the third tackle this season after Lamm signed with Tennessee as a free agent.


However, the signing that made most Browns fans happy was the re-signing of Rashard "Hollywood" Higgins to a
one year contract to return as the third wide receiver.

Higgins will be paid 2.38 million by the Browns and will return to his role as Baker Mayfield's most trusted pass-catcher.

Higgins caught 37 passes in 2020 for 599 yards and four touchdowns, but his numbers were very good after replacing Odell Beckham in the lineup after Beckham injured his knee.

Higgins should return to the third spot, assuming Odell Beckham is ready to start the season and gives the Browns their top five returning receivers, if Khadarel Hodge returns.

Hodge was given the lowest free agent tender level, so should Hodge sign elsewhere as a restricted free agent, the Browns would be given the right to match any offer but would be given no compensation from the signing team.

The Higgins return not only retains a popular fan favorite that enjoys playing in Cleveland but is the one receiver that seems to have natural chemistry with Baker Mayfield, which can never be understated when running an offense.

Cleveland is still expected to select a receiver at some point in the draft, but the need isn't quite as large with keeping Higgins.

Back later this evening with the boxing challenge for the weekend.


Marvelous Marvin Hagler

    The boxing world lost an all-time great in world middleweight champion last week in Marvelous Marvin Hagler at the age of 66.

Hagler stopped Alan Minter in Minter's home country of England in three rounds in 1981 to win the WBA and WBC titles and would hold the titles through 1987 when he lost a still-controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard in Las Vegas.

Hagler would never fight again after the defeat to Leonard, but his twelve title defenses and his seventy-eight percent knockout percentage are the highest of all-time for a unified middleweight champion.

Hagler was one of the last of the old school champions that came up the hard way-through untelevised fights, winning and losing against tough opponents to build character and learn his craft through ring action, not through his talk on social media.

The Marvelous One wasn't afraid to go on the road with his legendary battles against Philadelphia's best middleweights in their backyard against Bad Bennie Briscoe (arguably the best middleweight never to win the title), Willie "The Worm" Monroe, slick-boxing Bobby "Boogaloo" Watts, and huge puncher Cyclone Hart (Father of super middleweight contender Jesse Hart) and he wasn't afraid to climb back on the ladder after losses either (Hagler was robbed against Watts, but he was clearly defeated by Willie Monroe).

And Hagler knew the worst side of the boxing game, battling through bad decisions before his title win (the aforementioned loss to Bobby Watts), attempting for the title (an awful draw against then-champion Vito Antuofermo), and losing his championship (the final fight of his career to Sugar Ray Leonard), but Hagler persevered and after the uproar from his draw with Antuofermo and three victories, Hagler was given his shot against Minter (who defeated and then defended against Antuofermo).

The title win wasn't exactly made for cinema as after Hagler chopped Minter up in three rounds, the crowd in the U.K. threw bottles into the ring, sending Hagler and his trainers racing to the locker room for their own safety rather than celebrating their championship victory.

Hagler began to rack up the title defenses with impressive victories over mandatory contenders that were both deserving (Mustafa Hamsho twice, Tony Sibson, and Wilford Scypion) and undeserving (Fulgencio Obelmejias twice) with a style that repelled the aggressive fighters (Hamsho and Antuofermo) with slicing counterpunches that slowed them down as a picador slowed a bull, and chopped down the boxer-punchers (Obelmejias and Scypion).

However, even as Hagler was becoming a mainstream star and among fighters with a claim as the best sport ( what an era with fighters such as Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Michael Spinks, Larry Holmes, Salvador Sanchez, Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello, etc, all with arguable claims for the top spot pound for pound), he lacked the type of formidable opponent to truly show his greatness.

Much as later middleweight champions Bernard Hopkins and Gennady Golovkin, Hagler looked to be in a position of merely cleaning out his division and perhaps never getting a mega-fight.

Enter Roberto Duran, who stunned undefeated WBA junior middleweight champion Davey Moore and suddenly appeared as a willing and name opponent for Hagler.

While Hagler pulled away late to win a unanimous decision over fifteen rounds, Hagler didn't look like the destroyer against the smaller Duran, and at times fought almost timidly against the charismatic Panamanian.

Things didn't look much better for Hagler against mandatory challenger Juan Roldan, who scored the only knockdown of Hagler's career with what was ruled a knockdown, but was more of a cuff and throwdown.

Roldan had some success against Hagler and although Hagler controlled the fight, closed Roldan's eye and stopped him in the tenth and even though Hagler rolled through Mustafa Hamsho, who had returned to the top contender spot, in three rounds, it wasn't that hard to see that perhaps Hagler was losing a step and when Thomas Hearns brutally stopped Roberto Duran in two rounds, doing what Hagler failed to do in fifteen, the natural fight to make was Hagler-Hearns.

Not many people remember that Hagler and Hearns were supposed to fight a few years before after Hearns had lost to Sugar Ray Leonard and with Hearns struggling to make 147 pounds, he moved to middleweight and won his debut over veteran Ernie Singletary as the co-feature on the Muhammad Ali-Trevor Berbick card in 1981, which was the final fight of Ali's career.

Hearns then stopped Marcos Geraldo in one (Geraldo had taken Hagler ten rounds just before Hagler defeated Alan Minter for the championship) and a stoppage over Jeff McCracken before signing for a fight against Hagler.

Hearns would suffer an injured finger in training and the fight was canceled with Hearns deciding to chase the junior middleweight title held by Wilfred Benitez rather than tangle with Hagler.

The fight was promoted as "WAR" and that's exactly what was received as the two put on arguably the best round ever in round one, and their three rounds of hell rank among the best fights of the all-time.

The Hearns fight has been written about often and deservedly so, so I'll skip on writing too much on such a great fight, but my brevity should not take away from such a phenomenal affair.

It might have been the best way for Hagler to leave the sport for him to retire after the Hearns fight, but there was a possibility of a rematch and with both men on the same card for their next fight against undefeated young contenders, it appeared very likely if both fighters looked impressive.

Hearns made his case with a first-round knockout over undefeated former Olympian James Shuler, but Hagler showed some signs of aging against the huge puncher John "The Beast" Mugabi.

Hagler's legendary chin didn't let him down on a night where almost anyone in the world could have been knocked out by Mugabi, but he was hit far more than usual and the fight was far closer than expected before Hagler wore Mugabi down before stopping him in round eleven.

The Hearns rematch would never happen as Sugar Ray Leonard decided to return from yet another retirement to challenge Hagler.

Leonard, like Hearns, had almost challenged Hagler years earlier, but after retina surgery, Leonard decided to retire for the first time and a Hagler fight was a dream matchup, although many questioned Leonard's decision to fight Hagler without a tune-up fight.

The Leonard-Hagler fight remains controversial to this day with many feeling Hagler was the clear winner and was robbed (I had Hagler a 116-112 winner), but Hagler allowed Leonard to land the flashier punches and his slow start made one think that his best days had passed.

Surprisingly, Hagler decided to retire when Leonard dragged his feet and wanted to call the shots for a rematch ( Not so surprisingly).

Some things in boxing never change with stars making demands, but Hagler's retirement stuck, even two years later when Leonard offered Hagler the rematch.

Hagler would spend much of his retirement living in Italy, where he starred in Italian films and rarely made appearances in the United States other than at the annual induction at the Boxing Hall of Fame.

For all that "Marvelous" succeeded in the ring, I respected him most for the refusal to fight that second fight with Ray Leonard.

Hagler wasn't going to give the younger fighter the satisfaction of a conclusive victory in the rematch or bow to his demands contractually as well.

Those principles meant more to Hagler than the millions of dollars for the fight.

Money Hagler had already, principle is far harder to buy.

The current trend in all sports is to refer to the term "GOAT" (Greatest Of All-Time) every time a great athlete retires or passes away.

It's a cute acronym, but one that already is extremely well-worn.

After all, there can be only one GOAT in a boxing division, all-time running back, starting pitcher, etc, and I've seen too many GOATs in the yard already.

I've been asked where I rank Hagler in middleweight history and I try to break history into two eras- before 1970 and 1970-present.

I rate him a solid second behind Carlos Monzon in the after-1970 era, and it's possible that had Monzon not retired in 1977 that he could have eventually defended the title against Hagler.

Monzon's final fight in a great one against Rodrigo Valdez was in July 1977 and one month later, Hagler avenged his loss to Willie Monroe.

One year later, Hagler defeated Bennie Briscoe, and in 1979 was Hagler's draw with Vito Antofuermo, so it's not out of the question that had Monzon carried on, the fight could have happened.

I lean Monzon for two reasons.

One, Monzon had two inches in height and an inch in reach on Hagler, so I can see Monzon using his strong jab to keep Hagler on the outside and not allowing Hagler to press forward.

Two, for the common image of Hagler as a destroyer, Hagler was far more calculating than attacking against opponents that he respected (other than against Hearns, where there was personal animosity entering the fight).

Hagler spent several rounds against Roberto Duran fighting in almost a timid style and I think he would fight Monzon in the same way.

The fight would almost certainly go the distance unless it was stopped on cuts, which Hagler was prone to developing at times, but Monzon has the edge.

I do give Hagler the advantage over the following great middleweights after his era.

Over Bernard Hopkins in what would be a foul-filled affair that would remind you of the early days of boxing.

Over Roy Jones, mainly because Jones didn't fight very long at middleweight and Hagler would have found a way over Jones, who spent most of his career at 168 and 175 pounds.

Over James Toney, I would have loved to have seen this one as each fighter pulls every trick out of their bag, but as in the case of Roy Jones, Toney's best years were at higher weights and Hagler uses his experience to grab a win.

Over Sergio Martinez, who might give Hagler issues for a few rounds, but Hagler's superior strength would wear Martinez down later in the bout.

Over Gennady Golovkin, in what would come down to this- Can Golovkin force Hagler to back up?

If he can, GGG wins, but I think Hagler does just enough to squeak out a close and maybe controversial decision.

Over Canelo Alvarez- Since I didn't think Alvarez beat Golovkin in either of their fights at middleweight, I cannot pick Canelo over the Marvelous One.

Marvin Hagler wasn't my favorite fighter in his age, but I respected him immensely and he was the type of fighter and person that put principle first.

Marvelous Marvin's class will be missed in a sport that often is in desperate need of class.

This took longer than I expected and I have another tribute that will take a while to write with the recent loss of the voice of the Cavaliers, Joe Tait.

Look for that sometime next week. 




Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Browns sign Takk McKinley

   The Cleveland Browns were looking to upgrade their pass rush opposite Myles Garrett and the Browns attempted to do that even if it wasn't one of the flashier players available in free agency.

The Browns signed Takk McKinley to a one-year contract, which could motivate a talented player to play up to his capabilities.

McKinley was the Atlanta Falcons first-round selection from UCLA in 2017 and finished with 16.5 sacks over his first three seasons in Atlanta before injuries and problems with management resulted in McKinley playing in only four games with one sack before the Falcons released McKinley.

Las Vegas claimed McKinley off waivers, but McKinley would not play in a game for the Raiders.

The Browns were rumored to have made a claim on McKinley, but the Raiders (and the Bengals and 49ers, who McKinley failed physicals for) were ahead of the Browns on the wire.

At 6'2 and 265 pounds, McKinley is a pure end rusher that could line up as the defensive end in a 4-3 alignment and would be a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4 package.

McKinley seems to be a good fit talent-wise and at four million for the one-year deal, the risk is relatively low for a twenty-five-year-old with plenty to prove.

I'm hoping that the Browns consider signing someone else or draft someone in the first few rounds to hedge their bet on McKinley, but I believe the cost and talent are worth the one-year flier.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Browns sign John Johnson

    The Cleveland Browns addressed one of several holes on a defense that needed upgrading and the signing of the best safety available in free agency has upgraded the Browns immediately.

John Johnson likely would have remained with the Los Angeles Rams, had the Rams not been trapped in salary cap prison, but with remaining in Los Angeles off the board, Johnson was the main target for the Browns.

Johnson has been noted as calling the coverages for the Rams and Johnson is still only 25 years old.

Johnson was selected by the Rams in 2017 with their third-round pick out of Boston College.

Johnson started eleven games as a rookie and has played full seasons in three of his four seasons in the league, playing the first six games in 2019 before his season ended due to a shoulder injury.

Johnson finished 2020 with 73 solo tackles and one interception and he is a strong safety, so he fits into a potential three safety alignment with Ronnie Harrison and Grant Delpit.

The Browns were often beaten deep for big chunks of yardage over the middle last season (cough Andrew Sendejo.) and the addition of John Johnson will address that problem immediately.

It'll be Johnson that will be the roving "centerfielder" that the Browns lacked last season and it'll be Johnson that will be the captain of the defense.

Johnson's agent said that he turned down an offer from another unnamed team for much more money than the Browns offered and he preferred to sign with Cleveland for three years and 33.7 million, which seems to be a steal considering that Johnson was the best safety available and thought of by many as a top ten strong safety in the league.

Chalk another smart signing up for Andrew Berry for selecting his top priority and landing him seemingly at a discount compared to other offers.

What really makes me feel good about the signing of John Johnson isn't only an excellent player signing with the Browns- it is that the Browns have begun to bring players into Cleveland that want to be there and they want to be there because players have started to feel that they can win games with the Cleveland Browns.

That's the feeling in Cleveland and that's a feeling that hasn't been around for a long time.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Benavidez Bullies Ellis

   Showtime and the PBC had a very difficult task as they counter-programmed DAZN and Matchroom's card with Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez at the top and even though their slate wasn't able to match the card in quality or importance, PBC got the one result that they needed most.

David Benavidez lost the first round to Ronald Ellis and would lose no others until the referee was forced to end the fight in the eleventh round to save Ellis from further punishment.

Give Ellis credit for giving his all throughout the fight, but he was out of his element against the larger and more powerful boxer.

Other than Benavidez not knocking Ellis down, no one could have asked for more from the talented Benavidez, who is establishing himself as the fighter that boxing pundits and fans would want to be paired with Canelo Alvarez.

Alvarez has business in May against WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders in his attempt to add that title to the WBA and WBC championships that he already owns., but Benavidez has placed his name in the conversation for a fall match if Alvarez defeats Saunders as he is expected to do.

The question could come down to this- Would Alvarez face Benavidez in the fall, in what would be a fight of huge interest in Mexico (Benavidez's father was born in Mexico) or would he select IBF champion Caleb Plant in a fight that would give Alvarez the final title to complete unification?

Benavidez would be the more exciting fight in the ring, he is a bigger (Plant is the same height, but Benavidez has a longer reach) fighter, and with both fighters being of Mexican heritage, the fight is the more likely of the two to receive larger media attention.

The argument for fighting Plant is straight-forward- he would have the final piece of the championship puzzle and Benavidez could be available for the fight following Plant.

I would tend to believe that Plant would be the choice, but Benavidez did everything that he needed to stake his claim as the natural opponent and could be the possible opponent.

In the co-feature, Isaac Cruz defeated Jose Matias Romero via unanimous decision in a WBA lightweight eliminator.

I scored Cruz a 115-112 winner with Cruz losing a point during the fight.

The junior middleweight opener saw veteran Terrell Gausha score his biggest win in a while when he caught JaMontay Clark with a counter right in the second round that knocked Clark down and when a dazed Clark rose and tried to hold off Gausha, Gausha muscled Clark into a corner and fired away to force a stoppage.

The win likely will move Gausha into a fight somewhere up the ladder in the mostly-PBC controlled division in the future.

In the boxing challenge, I scored five points to Ramon Malpica's three with the Isaac Cruz win making the difference.

I increased my overall lead to 28-25.

Boxing Challenge: Estrada escapes Chocolatito

  Occasionally, boxing gets it right.

They put the best two fighters in a division in the ring and they deliver all that a fan could want- skills, action, and drama all come together, and even though it seems that many are disappointed in the judging, there can be no doubt that Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez put forth a classic for the ages with Estrada keeping his WBC junior bantamweight title and adding the WBA title held by Gonzalez to his collection.

There is a bit of controversy, as it seems that the majority feel that the split decision that was given to Estrada should have been owned by Gonzalez and there are even a few that are using the term "robbery".

I scored the fight even at 114-114, so I didn't have a problem with 115-113 for either fighter as two judges saw the fight, but the 117-111 tally for Estrada was extremely bad and has taken a little shine off a tremendous fight among boxing's followers.

I've written before when I score fights as a draw that sometimes the scorecards wind up even, but you have a "feel" that one fighter has the edge ( one example was Oleksandr Usyk vs Mairis Briedis) despite the scorecard.

In the case of this fight, it had the feel of Gonzalez nosing Estrada out and the Compubox stats did have Gonzalez throwing more and landing more in a give-and-take battle.

I haven't examined the official cards round by round, but often when you see a scorecard that is out of whack as the one offending judge scored, it happens because they either already have it in their mind what is going to happen or they simply really like one style or the other and that fighter is given the benefit of the doubt in every close round.

Still, I hate the calls of robbery.

I think the 9-3 Gonzalez cards around the internet are just as bad as the official 9-3 Estrada card and while some will say a close fight can be a robbery, I usually disagree with one exception.

Occasionally, you will see a 7-5 fight that didn't have any close rounds and each fighter clearly won their rounds.

In that case, I can see that, but this fight wasn't that way.

Estrada controlled the fight when he was able to move Gonzalez backward, when Gonzalez came forward or stood evenly with Estrada, Chocolatito took command.

Estrada wasn't always willing to commit to this tactic and while it didn't hurt on the scorecards, it did cause fans to give Gonzalez more benefits of the doubt in the close rounds.

Estrada will be facing the third member of this 115-pound triangle in Srisaket Sor Rungvisai next in a mandatory fight.

Rungvisai stepped aside to allow the unification fight to take place and the Thai has split two fights against Estrada winning the first and losing the second with his WBC title with it.

As for Gonzalez, one idea put forth by Carlos Toro (@carlostoromedia) on Twitter sounds great to me with Gonzalez facing Japan's Kazuto Ioka, who is coming off a big win over Kosei Tanaka on New Year's Eve, for Ioka's WBO title on the same card as Estrada-Rungvisai with the winners then meeting in the following fight for three of the four titles in the division.

That would be a terrific plan and would offer three intriguing matchups and perhaps the losers could be enticed to square off as well.

No matter your thoughts on the rightful winner, it's rare to have an elite fight with all the trimmings in boxing and even more rare to have both fighters behave so classy following the fight as well.

I'm all for doing this one again in the future.

The main undercard bout saw Hiroto Kyoguchi retain his WBA light flyweight title after challenger Axel Vega suffered a hand injury in the fifth round and was unable to continue.

The unheralded Vega was doing better than expected against Kyoguchi through four rounds by aggressively pushing the heavily favored champion backward, but after landing a right hand in the fifth round to the top of Kyoguchi's head, Vera crumpled in pain to the ropes and the referee quickly stopped the bout.

The match was surprisingly competitive, but I was a little disappointed in the performance of Kyoguchi, who I was excited to see in his American debut.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored three points on the DAZN/Matchroom card to move the total points to 23-22.

I'll be back later with the Showtime results and over the next few days, I'll be doing a rewatch of Estrada-Gonzalez, and planned posts on the losses of Marvin Hagler and Joe Tait in recent days... 



Saturday, March 13, 2021

Boxing Challenge

     As I settle back in from time away (that I will be writing about sometime next week), the boxing challenge renews with a match that ranks with the best that can be made considering the styles and skills of both combatants.

The unification of the WBA and WBC junior bantamweight titles is just a sidebar to a rematch from 2012 between Juan Francisco Estrada (WBC) and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez (WBA) to be seen on DAZN Saturday evening.

At the time, Gonzalez held a flyweight title and Estrada was a promising, but mostly unknown fighter and with Gonzalez known as the best smaller fighter in the world, stopping every fighter he faced, Estrada's effort in making a close fight and going the distance was noted as an admirable effort and someone to watch.

Over eight years later, it is Estrada that is the slight favorite against a revitalized Gonzalez, Saturday night in Dallas should feature two of the elite fighters in the game exchanging punches that could belie their skills.

With the duo and mandatory contender Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (who has wins over both fighters and will face the victor), a troika has been created with exciting fights and the winner of this one has a chance to tab themselves as the best of the three- It should be a great one in Dallas that I am very excited about.

An exciting fighter makes his American debut as WBA junior flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi of Japan will defend his title against Mexico's Axel Vega in a showcase affair on the undercard.

Vega appears overmatched against Kyoguchi, who could likely make huge money back in Japan for a unification match against WBC champion Ken Shiro but could return to the United States for future fights.

Showtime has their card on Saturday night and while it lacks the intrigue of the Estrada-Gonzalez, it does feature the potential star power of boxing's only two-time holder of the same title that never lost the title in the ring on either occasion in David Benavidez.

Benavidez, who of all the fighters at 168 pounds, is the fighter that most would like to see face Canelo Alvarez in the super middleweight division and he has a chance to make his case in the main event against Ronald Ellis.

Benavidez dominated Roamer Alexis Angulo, stopping him in ten in his last fight, but lost his WBC title on the scales before the fight in the last of problems for the talented younger fighter.

Benavidez may get his fight against Canelo Alvarez if he delivers a dazzling performance against Ronald Ellis.

Ellis has won three in a row since suffering his only loss to DeAndre Ware, but he lost the first four rounds (on my card) last time out against Matt Korobov, who had to retire after badly injuring his ankle in round four.

Ellis is a solid fighter, Benavidez could be an elite one and this is set for Benavidez to shine bright.

The co-feature could be an action matchup with lightweights Isaac Cruz and Jose Matias Romero.

Cruz brutally knocked out Diego Magdaleno in under one minute in his last fight and looks to move up the ladder against Argentina's undefeated Romero.

Romero will be facing his toughest test in Cruz and with only eight knockouts in his twenty-four wins, he'll have to outbox the onrushing Cruz and hope for the best in keeping Cruz off of him.

The opener is one of those fights that would be better suited as the main event on FS1 rather than on Showtime as junior middleweights Terrell Gausha and Jamonta Clark are paired in a crossroads fight.

Gausha lost his last fight to Erickson Lubin, drew with Austin Trout before that and his other career loss was to Erislandy Lara, so Gausha has failed on each occasion that he has tried to advance to the championship level.

Jamontay Clark's loss to former WBA and IBF champion Jeison Rosario (before Rosario's upset of Julian Williams) and his draw against undefeated Sebastian Fundora are also against the best fighters that he has faced, but he does have wins over the "ShoBox" level fighters Domonique Dolton and Ivan Golub, so Clark has ability, but doesn't have a win over a Gausha-level boxer.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 20-19.

Unification WBA and WBC Jr. Bantamweight Titles. 12 Rds 
Roman Gonzalez vs Juan Francisco Estrada
R.L; Estrada KO 9
TRS: Estrada Unanimous Decision

WBA Junior Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Hiroto Kyoguchi vs Axel Vega
R.L: Kyoguchi KO 8
TRS: Kyoguchi KO 4

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
David Benavidez vs Ronald Ellis
R.L: Benavidez KO 7
TRS: Benavidez KO 10

Lightweights 12 Rds
Isaac Cruz vs Jose Matias Romero
R.L: Montero Unanimous Decision
TRS: Cruz Unanimous Decision

Junior Middleweights 12 Rds
Terrell Gausha vs JaMontay Clark
Both: Gausha Unanimous Decision


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Cleaning out the Inbox: Non-Sports Passings

   Sadly, only one day after working on tributes to recent sports passings, the passing of Michael Stanley has made it the right time for tributes from the non-sports world.

Goodbye to Michael Stanley at the age of 72.

Michael Stanley may never have hit the highest heights of rock stardom, but in Northern Ohio, there was no one larger.

Stanley's biggest national hit came in 1980 with "He Can't Love You", which was a staple of very early MTV and hit 33 on the charts and 1983's "My Town" slid into the top 40 three years later, but Stanley was biggest of all in Cleveland.

Stanley was bigger than any act that you can name and his popularity continued even as the Michael Stanley Band transitioned to spots in other bands, Stanley maintained his regional star by hosting Cleveland's version of PM Magazine from 1987-90 and then moving to radio from 1990 until last February when his health issues were too large to continue to talk four hours every day.

While Stanley had bigger hits and songs that he was better known for, there is only one Michael Stanley song that defines him and his music to me.

Stanley cut a recording for the Cleveland Cavaliers entitled "Tonight's the Night" and the Cavaliers would play that at the end of each home game during the Richfield Coliseum era when the Mark Price/Brad Daughtery teams were making playoff runs and I remember so vividly that song blaring after the Cavaliers won game seven of the 1992 Eastern Conference semi-finals over Boston.

That was the final game of Larry Bird's career, which also was the end of the Celtics run of great teams and I associate that game with the Michael Stanley Band with the memories of those teams in Richfield.

Holly Gleason's tribute to Stanley covers far more ground than this at Variety. 



Goodbye to Mary Wilson at the age of 76.

A founding member of the Supremes, Wilson was part of the Supremes both with and without Diana Ross and had hits in the same time frame with the group.
The Supremes with Wilson finished with twelve number one singles and were part of the initial class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Wilson performing as both a lead and backup singer at different times and songs during the group's heyday.

Wilson was also involved with the creation of the Music Moderniztion Act in 2018, which cleared up royalties and copyrights for music from before 1972 for streaming and other technologies which were not even thought of when the music was created.

Goodbye to Bruce Kirby at the age of 95.

The veteran character actor may be best remembered for his many appearances on the 70s NBC detective drama Columbo, but his appearances in television and film are too many to recall.
Kirby also was the store owner in "Stand by Me" and was the father of the late actor Bruno Kirby, who appeared in several films including "Good Morning Vietnam" before his death in 2006.

Goodbye to Rennie Davis at the age of 80.

The Vietnam-era activist was a leader in the anti-war movement and involved in the leadership of the SDS in the 60s.
Davis was part of the "Chicago Seven" which pops up every few years in pop culture when a film (it seems like there have been several made ranging from documentary to docudrama to cartoon) is created covering the 1968 Chicago riots at the Democratic Convention and the ensuing trial a year later.

Davis became a follower of the Divine Light Mission and would become a venture capitalist and lecturer on meditation among other holistic topics.