Friday, April 30, 2021

Browns select Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boxing Challenge: Edwards upsets Mthalane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boxing Challenge

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

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

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

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

IBF Flyweight Title. 12 Rds

Moruti Mthalane  vs Sunny Edwards

R.L.: Edwards Unanimous Decision

TRS: Mthalane Unanimous Decision

Browns select Greg Newsome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest: Defensive Front Seven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest: The Secondary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest: Offensive Players

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

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

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

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

Moore can also return kicks as well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 25, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exciting is not one of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 23, 2021

Boxing Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Cleaning out the Inbox-Passings

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

Goodbye to James Hampton at the age of 84.

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye to George Segal at the age of 87.

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye to Gloria Henry at the age of 98.

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

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

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

Goodbye to Fred Arbanas at the age of 82.

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Leroy Keyes and the Resource Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does this relate to me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is where Leroy Keyes comes in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Andrade decisions Williams

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

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

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

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

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

I doubt it, but perhaps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there was Twiller.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don't have the answer to that question.

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

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

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

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

What a trainwreck.

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Browns release Sheldon Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of shape did they keep themselves in? 

Which will prove to be a plus? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boxing Challenge

 The boxing weekend showcases arguably the most avoided champion in the sport, a former champion making his first start since losing his title, and another former champion attempting to place himself in line for the winner of an upcoming unified title affair.

Saturday afternoon, WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade defends his title against mandatory challenger Liam Williams of Wales.

Andrade is avoided by every big name around his weight class, but he lacks even the solid level of challengers other than perhaps Maciej Sulecki on his resume.

Andrade's lack of aggression doesn't appeal to fans any more than it has to the bigger names and in hindsight, Andrade made a huge error against Sulecki when he knocked him down in the first round and seemed to be on his way to an impressive early win before his trainer and father told him in the corner to box more and take no chances.

Andrade won every round, but the fight went the distance and not an overly exciting distance fight either.

Williams is better than Andrade's past challengers, but even Williams has lost to his best opponent (Both losses at 154 pounds to Liam Smith) and his road to the title hasn't been strewn with top ten victims.

Williams may be the biggest threat to Andrade yet, but I still think he is a class (or two) under the champion.

The co-feature is interesting as undefeated super middleweight Carlos Gongura faces Christopher Pearson in what could be an explosive ending.

Gongura, who rallied from behind to stop unbeaten Ali Akhmedov in the final round of an excellent fight, is a former Olympian with excellent power and against Pearson, who was blown out in two rounds by Justin DeLoach, that power could come into play.

The main event on Fox pits former WBC junior middleweight champion, Tony Harrison, returning to the ring for the first time since his loss to Jermell Charlo against Bryant Perrella.

Harrison was fighting on even terms with Charlo before being stopped in the eleventh round of the rematch and has been a contender for years, so he's easily the favorite against Perrella, who was on his way to a win over Abel Ramos before stopped with one second to go in the final round in his last outing.

Harrison has been stopped in the late rounds of all three of his losses, but Perrella's not a huge puncher and isn't at his natural weight, so Perrella would have to change his usual tactics to take advantage of that weakness of Harrison.

Harrison's the proven fighter against championship-level competition and Perrella is moving up from welterweight, so while this isn't a squash match I'd be surprised if this one didn't go to Harrison.

All of the publicity for the Twiller pay per view is going towards the gimmick fights and while I support anything that can add attention and money to the sport, that doesn't mean that I have to care, so here at the boxing challenge/TRS we'll have Jake Paul in the boxing challenge when he fights a legitimate boxer.

Still, there is one fight that does deserve to be in the challenge as former WBA junior welterweight champion Regis Prograis staying active against veteran Ivan Redkach.

Prograis has only one loss, a narrow majority decision to WBA and IBF champion Josh Taylor, and could be in line for the Taylor-Jose Ramirez winner, should the victor decide to stay in the 140-pound division.

Redkach has made some great action fights such as his memorable four-round war with John Molina and occasionally pulls an upset as when he sent former champion Devon Alexander into retirement after knocking him out in six rounds.

Redkach also is recalled for his biting of Danny Garcia in a unanimous decision loss.

This appears to up to Redkach in how the fight ends.

Should he attack Prograis, he likely get stopped but it will be a fun firefight, if he fights more conservatively, Prograis wins a lopsided decision or stops him late.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 45-41.

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

Super Middleweights.12 Rds
Carlos Gongora vs Christopher Pearson
R.L: Gongora KO 6
TRS: Gongora KO 4

Junior Middleweights. 12 Rds
Tony Harrison vs Bryant Perrella
R.L: Harrison KO 9
TRS: Harrison Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights. 10 Rds
Regis Prograis vs Ivan Redkach
R.L: Prograis KO 5
TRS: Prograis KO 3

Friday, April 16, 2021

Cleaning out the Inbox

 Time to clean out the inbox with a few stories from around the world that I've found interesting.

Mental Floss looks at what they call the "tragic" story of RC Cola and while the story of a cola company that still churns out product to this day isn't exactly a story that I would describe as tragic, it's still an interesting story of a cola that has been a bigger deal here locally than it has been nationwide.

RC or Royal Crown Cola isn't one that I would say that I favor or that I have even had one in many years, but it is an interesting story of how RC wound up where they are and how they could have been a larger player with a few breaks.

Mental Floss also tackles a not-so-important question that I have always wondered about- What is the difference between Brown Eggs and White Eggs and is it worth the difference in price that one pays for the former?

There is an answer and it's given in the article, but I still wonder if the price difference is worth it.

ESPN's article on John Madden, as the former coach and commentator recently celebrated his 85th birthday, is quite long but it's well worth the read.

While Madden's career in coaching and broadcasting along with his participation in the biggest video game line in history is well-known, many of the items in this article show just how much influence John Madden has had in several innovations that football viewers and fans now take for granted.

The first down line, the start of the Madden video game, and other Madden stories are all there as part of a very interesting article.

We wrap with the Athletic and their look at the chaotic status of the Philadelphia Eagles front office, where only three seasons after winning the franchise's first Super Bowl, things appear to be spinning out of control with owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman at the center of the storm.

Lurie has been criticized since buying the team in 1994 for his constant involvement in personnel issues and particularly with the NFL draft.

I won't hammer Lurie for that, hell if I owned an NFL team I would want to be involved as well- It's why I'd want to own a franchise, but you can wonder about his overall involvement as well as the antics of Howie Roseman and think how did it get this bad in only three years?
The article covers the 2020 draft and how Jalen Hurts moved from a late-round consideration as a developmental quarterback to their second-round pick and then as their starter in one season, along with the Carson Wentz saga, dealings with former coach Doug Pederson, and how paranoia grips the organization.

It covers everything important that you can think of except for the eternal question- How did a team
with such great helmets and uniforms (the kelly green from 1986-94) change to their ugly ones, they use currently and why haven't they gone back to the kelly green? 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Browns sign Jadeveon Clowney

   Andrew Berry finally got his man after two off-seasons of trying as the Cleveland Browns signed defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year contract worth eight million dollars for 2021.

Clowney may make an extra two million dollars, should he hit certain unannounced incentives during the 2021 season.

The top overall pick in 2014 by Houston. Clowney was traded to Seattle during the 2019 season and then signed with Tennessee before last season.

Clowney played in only eight games for the Titans, due to injury, and did not record a sack, but is entering a situation in Cleveland that is similar to his situation in Houston where he lined up opposite a dominant pass rusher (J.J. Watt to Myles Garrett) that was being double-teamed on every play.

Clowney thrived as the secondary rushing threat, finished with nine sacks twice, and made the Pro Bowl from 2016-18 with the Texans.

Clowney was drafted as and still holds a reputation as an elite pass rusher, but at 28 years of age Clowney has never finished with more than nine and a half sacks in a season.

What Clowney does bring besides the reputation is the ability to rush the passer into getting rid of the ball quicker or an unofficial "hurry".

Causing "hurries" can often be just as important as a sack as a desperate passer throws the ball to get the ball out and oftentimes results in an errant pass that can be incomplete or even better-intercepted.

Clowney is also underrated against the run and he may be more of a sure thing as a run defender than a pass rusher at this stage of his career.

In fact, if it wasn't for the concerns in keeping Clowney healthy, he could be a three-down end and not hurt you at all

The signing of Clowney also may change how the Browns use their first-round pick as it was possible that Cleveland would have been looking for defensive end help.

Now, I think the Browns are more likely to look for a cornerback unless someone falls to 26 that is unforeseen,

While Jadeveon Clowney has the big name and comes at a reasonable price (even if Clowney hits every incentive, he'll make less than the Browns paid Olivier Vernon last season), it could have one other consequence- the possible loss of Sheldon Richardson.

Richardson is scheduled to make over thirteen million this season and the signing of Clowney may force the Browns to either restructure Richardson's contract or possibly even release him.

Frankly, considering Richardson's level of play for the Browns and given the choice between an injury-plagued defensive end and a durable defensive tackle, I might choose Richardson.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cleaning out the inbox: Passings

   The tributes never stop as the chain of life rolls along without some notable people who recently left us.

Goodbye to Bob "Slick" Leonard at the age of 88.

Slick Leonard might be the "Mr. Basketball" for the hoops-crazy state of Indiana as he was part of the sport there for almost seventy years.

Leonard was a two-time All-American for Indiana and hit the game-winning free throw to give the Hoosiers the 1952 National Championship before a seven-year playing career with the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers.

Leonard then took over as head coach of the Indiana Pacers in the ABA, early in the league's second season (1968-69). kept that job for the remainder of the league's life and for the franchise's first four seasons in the NBA after the league's merger with the ABA.

Leonard coached the Pacers to the best record in the ABA's history, won three ABA titles (1969-70, 71-72, and 72-73),  and lost in two other finals on his way to the basketball hall of fame.

Leonard rejoined the Pacers in 1985 and until recent health issues were the long-time color commentator for Pacers broadcasts.

Goodbye to Ken Reitz at the age of 69.

Reitz played for four teams but spent most of his career with the St.Louis Cardinals, who thought so highly of his defensive prowess that after they traded him to the Giants before the 1976 season, traded for him to return him to St.Louis before the 1977 season.

Nicknamed the Zamboni for his abilities on artificial turf, Reitz had the misfortune to be the best National League defensive third baseman during the career of Mike Schmidt.

Reitz did manage to win one Gold Glove for the Cardinals in 1975, but in a league without Schmidt Reitz would have likely won a few others.

Goodbye to Gerald Irons at the age of 73.

A hard-nosed linebacker that split his career between the Oakland Raiders (six seasons) and Cleveland Browns (four seasons) from 1970-79, Irons was the Raiders third-round pick in the 1970 draft from Maryland-Eastern Shore and was unlucky in his career as Oakland traded him to Cleveland in the off-season before the Raiders 1976 Super Bowl championship team and would retire the season before the Kardiac Kids in 1980 for the Browns.

Irons played in the days before official tackle numbers but did intercept 13 passes in his ten-year career.

Irons's son Grant would play for the Raiders, and his son Jarrett was a two-time All-Big Ten performer for Michigan.

Goodbye to Mike Sensibaugh at the age of 72.

Sensibaugh was an All-American for Ohio State in 1970 and played for the Buckeyes 1968 National Championship team.

Sensibaugh's 22 interceptions over his three seasons in Columbus remains the program's all-time record holder for interceptions in a career.

Sensibaugh punted for Ohio State as well before being chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs in the eighth round of the 1971 draft.

Sensibaugh played for five seasons in Kansas City before traveling across Missouri to finish his career with three seasons with the St.Louis Cardinals, finishing his NFL career with 27 career interceptions.

Sensibaugh's eight interceptions in 1972 as a Chief led the AFC and trailed only Philadelphia's Bill Bradley's nine in all of pro football.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Devils trade Kulikov at deadline

  Tom Fitzgerald didn't stop after his previous trades before the deadline as the New Jersey Devils made one final trade on deadline as the team traded veteran defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to the Edmonton Oilers.

New Jersey will receive Edmonton's fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft, but should the Oilers win their first-round playoff series, the Devils pick will be upgraded to a third-rounder in the same draft.

The 30-year-old Kulikov had signed with New Jersey for 1.1 million on a one-year deal before the season and played well in his stint in Newark as a solid, defense-first blueliner that didn't score a goal in his thirty-eight games and finished with two assists.

Kulikov isn't a playmaker type, but I thought his solid season and a cheap contract would attract a team that could slot him in as the type of defenseman that can play on your second or third pairing.

I thought that Kulikov's play might fetch as high as a second-rounder, but trade-deadline seasons can vary and as All About the Jersey stated, it's all about what someone is willing to pay and we are in a time where Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac brought a larger return than Taylor Hall did for Buffalo, so you take what you can get.

I mentioned yesterday that the Devils had placed Sami Vatanen on waivers and perhaps his assist in last night's loss to Pittsburgh gave the Dallas Stars some hope with the veteran, as Dallas claimed Vatanen off waivers and will have the veteran for their next game.

Vatanen finishes his second tour as a Devil with two goals and four assists in thirty games.  

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Devils acquire Siegenthaler, waive Gusev

   I'm not sure what I'm watching tonight with the New Jersey Devils hosting Pittsburgh and the Cleveland Cavaliers in New Orleans to face the Pelicans and both games starting at the same time.

And even so, it is Masters Sunday, so the Masters could play a part in what I decide to watch, but the Devils have made another trade as they traded the third-round draft pick that they obtained from Arizona in the Taylor Hall trade last season to Washington for defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.

The trade seems to fit both teams' needs for the upcoming expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken.

Washington had too many defensemen of quality and couldn't protect them all, while New Jersey needed a defenseman worth keeping along with Damon Severson with Ty Smith's lack of experience keeping the team from being forced to use a spot on him.

Adding Siegenthaler allows New Jersey to expose either Will Butcher or P.K. Subban to the Kraken and hope that Seattle selects either the out of favor Butcher or the overpaid Subban to loosen even more salary for a team that is in good shape already as far as cap space.

As for Jonas Siegenthaler, he has been scratched in 30 of Washington's most recent 31 games, but as mentioned, Washington is very deep on their defensive roster.

Siegenthaler didn't score a point in the seven games that he did play this season and in the 2019-20 season, Siegenthaler scored two goals with seven assists in 64 games for Washington.

Siegenthaler is reported to be a good skater and a defense-first blueliner that could develop into a solid second-pairing defenseman.

The 2015 second-round pick hails from Switzerland and is a former national teammate of Nico Hischier on the Swiss junior world team, so there is some familiarity there.

Siegenthaler is only 23 and will be a restricted free agent after the season, but New Jersey didn't trade for him to allow him to walk away...

Meanwhile, I missed this note from earlier in the week as the Devils waived/terminated winger Nikita Gusev and allowed him to search for a new team, which Gusev found in the Florida Panthers.

Gusev arrived in New Jersey with a large amount of fanfare after dominating the KHL and the Devils traded a second-round pick to Las Vegas to gain his rights with the team signing him shortly thereafter.

At times in 2019-20, Gusev looked like a player capable of spectacular things and finished with 13 goals and 31 assists in 66 games, but never seemed to connect with Lindy Ruff and his style of play and was only active for twenty games this season, finishing with two goals and three assists.

In the end, a player with Gusev's defensive deficiencies had better be able to finish around the net and he simply didn't do that enough to be worth his playing time.

Gusev may succeed in Florida, as it seemed to me to be more of a fit within the Lindy Ruff system than a lack of talent or even hustle.

New Jersey also waived Sami Vatanen today after making their trade with Washington.

Vatanen was re-signed by the Devils as a free agent, but arrived late due to Covid-19 passport problems and played in only 29 games, scoring two goals with three assists.

Boxing Challenge: Ennis erases Lipinets, Smith shades Vlasov

 The Saturday boxing evening shifted to ESPN and Showtime and while the results ended in wins for the expected "Chalk", but in only one case did the winner walk out of the ring with the kudos that were expected as well.

Let's start with the three-fight Showtime card from Uncasville, Connecticut, and their main event with the highly touted Jaron "Boots" Ennis taking his next step forward against former IBF junior welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets.

Much as in last week's fight between Jamel Herring and Carl Frampton, the size difference between these two was glaring and Ennis dominated the once-beaten Lipinets in every round, including a 10-8 round after a fourth-round knockdown.

With Ennis leading 50-44 going to the sixth, there wouldn't be a seventh as Ennis finished with a right hook followed by a left hand to send Lipinets crashing to the floor with the fight ended without a count.

Al Bernstein made a great point on the telecast when he stated that Ennis is unusual for a fighter that can switch easily from lefty to righthander in that he can do so without losing power in either hand.

Ennis is bad news already for anyone in the division, not named Spence or Crawford, and his talents might be just as even against them although he could need a little seasoning against a fighter better than Lipinets against a Shawn Porter or Keith Thurman before a fight with the champions.

Ennis may not receive that title shot for a while as he is the definition of high risk-low reward for Spence, Crawford, or newly crowned WBA champion Yordenis Ugas and may have to be the mandatory challenger, but unless one of the inept "Four Donkeys" of boxing decides to radically elevate Ennis after his win over Lipinets, Ennis may have to fight an eliminator or not.

Ennis is currently ranked 7th by the WBO, 9th in the IBF (although this could be his biggest leap as Lipinets was rated 3rd there), 12th by the WBC, and unranked by the putrid WBA, who finds a way to rate fighters such as Gabriel Maestre, Alberto Palmetta, Abel Ramos, Cody Crowley, and Conor Benn without Ennis.

Truly awful...

The undercard pitting two of those WBA welterweights rated ahead of Ennis in an eliminator between Eimantas Stanionis and Thomas Dulorme.

Dulorme is a solid, but not quite top ten 147 pounder and he was thought to give the undefeated Stanionis his toughest fight as a pro and he did so in a close unanimous decision victory,

Stanionis won the final four rounds on my card to win 115-113 over Dulorme, who likely earned himself another paycheck against an undefeated prospect/contender with a strong effort.

I don't think Stanionis has a prayer against Jaron Ennis, but he looks like an eventual top ten welterweight.

The opener was expected to be a dull battle and instead was a terrific fight as Jerwin Ancajas retained his IBF junior bantamweight championship with a unanimous decision over Jonathan Rodriguez.

Lots of action in this one and Ancajas scoring an eighth-round knockdown that won him the fight on my card 114-113, although it seemed that many were unhappy with the official scores that saw Ancajas win by wider margins of three, five, and seven points.

If you really stretch things, you may see Ancajas by three points but the five and seven are ridiculous cards.

Ancajas kept his title for the ninth time and I'd like to see him in a unification fight against WBO champion Kazuto Ioka, which would create a natural opponent for the survivor of the triangle between Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and a great attempt for the unknown Rodriguez, who I would like to see again in a big fight.

Over on ESPN, heavily favored Joe Smith rallied to win the final two rounds and slide by Maxim Vlasov by a majority decision in Tulsa Oklahoma to grab the vacant WBO light heavyweight title.

The scorecards were even at 114-114 and the two cards for Smith were 115-113 and 115-112.

The latter score didn't cost Vlasov the fight, but Smith hit Vlasov in the back of the head in the eleventh round and the fight was shortly delayed so Vlasov could recover, but the 115-112 judge still scored the round 10-8 stating that he thought it was a knockdown.

That's great and all, but your ruling isn't suppose to overrule the referee's decision- Be grateful that point didn't cost Vlasov all that much.

Vlasov used an awkward volume punching style that puzzled Smith for most of the fight and I thought Vlasov did enough to pull the upset 115-113 on my scorecard.

But per usual, the underdog on the road rarely gets the close call and Vlasov certainly didn't help his cause by giving Smith the final two rounds which were enough to give Smith the win.

Smith will likely unify his newly won title with those of WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev in what should be a great fight between two straight ahead bombers with the best punching power in the division.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica seven-five on the weekend (including the previously written Conor Benn win) with the win by Jerwin Ancajas allowing for the two-point difference.

I lead the boxing challenge 45-41.

Boxing Challenge: Benn stops Vargas in one, but Bridges hangs the star

  The boxing challenge opened Saturday afternoon with British welterweight prospect Conor Benn facing his toughest opponent in veteran trialhorse Samuel Vargas.

Vargas has never been a top welterweight and failed against the top fighters that he has faced such as Errol Spence, Amir Khan and in his latest fight, Vergil Ortiz, but he was still the toughest test that Benn had faced,

Still, the less I say about this one the better as a few combinations knocked Vargas into the ropes (which could have been ruled a knockdown), a few punches landed before a strong uppercut and the referee ended the fight after less than a minute and a half.

It's an impressive win for Benn, the son of former super middleweight champion Nigel Benn, but the early stoppage does take a bit of the shine off the win.

Ramon Malpica and I each earned one point in the boxing challenge for the Benn victory, but the bigger story for me was the undercard and a women's division fight that not only had interesting buildup, but backed it up in the ring.

I haven't been interested in women's boxing.

Not because I dislike women's sports really, I just haven't had a reason to care.

The fighters haven't had personalities that grabbed you in a way that wanted to make you root for them or for them to be defeated, and the biggest problem has been the lack of explosive punchers that give fans such excitement.

The best in the sport haven't done either- as the top two pound for pound fighters have stopped few opponents (Katie Taylor 6 of 17 and Claressa Shields 2 of 11) and other than Amanda Serrano ( 29 of 40), none of the other top fighters have many stoppage wins either.

The personality issue has been an issue that is just as difficult to tackle as other than an occasional Shields twitter rant, the sport has been more Bob Backlund than Hulk Hogan in promotion and it has shown in interest.

And then two fighters grabbed my attention and made me want to watch.

DAZN places about every possible event to an upcoming card of theirs on their service and they began dropping a few videos on a fight between England's Shannon Courtenay and late replacement Ebanie Bridges of Australia.

Many of the media, far more knowledgable than I on female boxing, criticized Bridges qualifications (5-0, but against very limited competition) for a title fight (the vacant WBA bantamweight title) and dismissed her as a pretty face that was doomed for failure against the better-known Courtenay.

Since I had never heard of Bridges, it was easy to push another fight to not watch on a day scheduled to be boxing loaded aside.

However, then the press conference and the DAZN faceoff (think of how HBO used to put two fighters together across a table and let them go) really made me interested in the pairing.

Bridges was charming, yet with a wink that showed she's in on the gag of boxing promotion and with the ability to not take herself seriously, the 34 year old math teacher had the looks and mouth to sell a fight, but what would happen in the ring?

After all, it's one thing to hook someone into watching, it's another to keep them there with the skills in the ring, so I wasn't really sure what to expect from Bridges (or Courtenay for that matter) and whether this would be a real fight or something similar to the Mia St.John sideshows years ago.

And when the bell rang?

We got a great fight, the best fight of the day, and while Jaron Ennis's knockout of Sergey Lipinets (Post later today) was the performance of the day, it was Ebanie Bridges that stole this Saturday for me.

Bridges moved, threw punches that were meant to hurt rather than only score points, never stopped chugging forward, and survived a ninth round that would have finished many fighters (male or female) and battled through a swollen shut left eye that I've seen more heralded fighters with far stronger resumes surrender through a lesser eye injury through ten rounds.

I scored the fight 5-5 and a draw, so Courtenay winning a close decision wouldn't have been a robbery had the judges scored it 6-4 as one judge did.

But in typical boxing fashion, the other two judges had ridiculous 8-2 scorecards and showed again that a fighter on the road better dominate or they aren't getting the nod.

In the end, this fight wasn't about one of a thousand title belts or even another questionable scorecard that boxing never seems to deal with.

After all, bad scorecards are howled about for the evening or even the week, and then we move onto the next week and the next awful judging exhibition.

Peel back the easy superficial take with Ebanie Bridges and look deeper than the looks and image, she has the heart that champions possess- watch rounds nine and ten with her left eye that reminded me of the famous photo of Carmen Basilio's eye after his second fight with Sugar Ray Robinson, and tell me that she doesn't have it.

Shannon Courtenay may have won the fight and title, but champions come and go with the wind.

True fighters and their efforts of the heart last far longer in the heart and minds of boxing fans and historians and Ebanie Bridges showed that she belongs in the company of the most courageous.

I'll be watching her again. She's made a fan.

And that's something that I wouldn't have thought I'd type at this time yesterday. 

Back later with a look at the Smith-Vlasov and Ennis-Lipinets fights from Saturday night.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Boxing Challenge

    The boxing challenge will be on three networks with the most important two events dueling with the wonderful counter-programming that make following boxing so "wonderful".

ESPN leads us off with the filling of the long-vacant WBO light heavyweight title with Joe Smith facing Maxim Vlasov for the title vacated shortly after Canelo Alvarez gave it up after defeating Sergey Kovalev in December 2019!

Various cancellations, delays, and the WBO insisting on a four-man tournament have resulted in a championship without a champion for well over a year.

Smith knocked former champion Elieder Alvarez through the ropes and out in nine rounds to enter the finals and with a then-surprising win over Jesse Hart before that, Smith was one of the few to have a good 2021.

Vlasov dropped down to light heavyweight after a loss to Krysztof Glowacki and has won three straight and when his semi-final opponent had health issues, was sent straight to the finals against Smith.

Vlasov has split two fights with former contender Issac Chilemba but has lost both of his other notable fights losing almost every round to Gilberto Ramirez and to Glowacki.

The winner (expected to be Smith) will likely unify their newly won title with the WBC and IBF titles held by Artur Beterbiev later this year.

Showtime's evening version features three fights with the best of the three looming as the stepping-out party for super welterweight prospect Jaron "Boots" Ennis.

Ennis faces former IBF junior welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets, who is best remembered for his losing effort against Mikey Garcia and his stoppage over Lamont Peterson, but struggled to a draw last time out against little-known Custino Clayton.

Lipinets is the best opponent that Ennis has faced, but I have a feeling that he is going to be tailor-made for Ennis to look spectacular against.

It is very possible that the best fight to be made in the welterweight division may not be Errol Spence vs Terence Crawford- it could be Jaron Ennis vs Vergil Ortiz.

Another welterweight fight is the co-feature as undefeated Eimantas Stanionis faces gatekeeper Thomas Dulorme.

Stanionis looked strong in his last fight against Janer Gonzalez in December, but Dulorme is a step up in competition from his previous victims.

Dulorme is a gatekeeper that loses to the top fighters (Terence Crawford, Yordenis Ugas, and Jamal James), but was good enough to draw with Jessie Vargas and if you aren't top ten level, Dulorme can beat you.

I wouldn't be surprised a bit to see the winner of this against the winner of Ennis-Lipinets.

The opener is the return of IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas in a delayed mandatory defense against Jonathan Rodriguez.

Ancajas was the odd man out in the 115-pound division when he was with Top Rank and he may be in the same situation with PBC, but perhaps a unification fight against WBO champion Kazuto Ioka could be in the works with a victory over Rodriguez, who may be yet another of a recent parade of bad IBF mandatory challengers.

In the afternoon, DAZN offers undefeated welterweight Conor Benn against trialhorse Samuel Vargas from London.

Benn, the son of former super middleweight champion Nigel Benn, won his last fight with an easy unanimous decision win over Sebastian Formella and Vargas has lost to former champions Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, and Errol Spence with a loss in his last fight to Vergil Ortiz, so a win over Vargas would likely move Benn to bigger things in the division.

Considering Ortiz took seven rounds to stop Vargas, an impressive win could move Benn to the verge of the top ten in the division.

In the Boxing Challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 38-36.

Vacant WBO Light Heavyweight Title. 12 Rds
Joe Smith vs Maxim Vlasov
R.L: Smith KO 9
TRS: Smith KO 6

Welterweights 12 Rds
Jaron Ennis vs Sergey Lipinets
Both: Ennis Unanimous Decision

Welterweights.12 Rds
Eimantas Stanionis vs Thomas Dulorme
Both: Stanionis Unanimous Decision

IBF Junior Bantamweight Title.12 Rds
Jerwin Ancajas vs Jonathan Rodriguez
R.L.: Rodriguez Split Decision
TRS: Ancajas Unanimous Decision

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Conor Benn vs Samuel Vargas
Both: Benn Unanimous Decision