Monday, February 28, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Showtime Upsets in Vegas!

    The Showtime card Saturday night was a surprisingly strong one with a world championship changing hands, a prospect moving into contender status, and a late replacement dominating a fighter that had been heavily pushed by the promoter (PBC ) and the network itself.

In the main event, Hector Garcia grabbed an opportunity after WBA junior lightweight champion Roger Gutierrez had to drop out of his title defense against mandatory contender Chris Colbert after testing positive for Covid-19 and turned it into the night of his boxing career as Garcia dominated, bullied, knocked Colbert down for the first time in his career, and turned the highly touted Colbert into someone running for his life in the last third of the fight as Garcia won an easy unanimous decision in Las Vegas.

Garcia was a former Olympian but had not fought anyone near the level of Colbert before this fight and the first four round were fought evenly before Garcia began to hammer Colbert to the body to slow down a fighter that used his legs to control all of his previous fights.

Garcia threw lots of punches that surprised Colbert when he could not grab and hold as a tactic accumulating points and not allowing Colbert to fire many counterpunches.

In the seventh, Garcia dropped Colbert and almost finished the fight then and there with a badly hurt Colbert showing heart in surviving the round but Colbert shifted into permanent "Camacho" mode for the remainder of the fight with more interest in surviving than attempting to fire a miracle bomb.

I scored Garcia an easy 118-109 (10-2 with a knockdown in rounds) victor, which was near the three official scores.

For Garcia, the win is the stepping forward to the world stage and it will be Garcia that faces the healed Gutierrez for the WBA title.

As for Colbert, this is a devastating defeat that not only cost him a championship attempt but Colbert also took a beating that some boxers never recover from and at a minimum this loss provided future opponents a game plan to follow in future bouts.

The co-feature was the fight I was most looking forward to and even though it was far from a stinker, it was the least impactful of the three fights on the card as junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell scored his sixteenth stoppage in as many wins and won his first fight over a world-class fighter in stopping former WBC champion Viktor Postol with seconds remaining in the fight.

Don't get too excited about stopping Postol as the stoppage was a poor one considering Postol may have been mildly dazed but far from hurt before the fight was stopped.

Still, Russell fought very well and would have been the deserved winner on the scorecards.

I had Russell ahead 87-84 entering the final round and he clearly was going to add the final round over the game but distracted Postol, a native of Ukraine, who fought well but was outfought by Russell.

Postol's three losses were all decision losses to champions Terence Crawford, Josh Taylor, and Jose Ramirez, so PBC will likely give that stat an unjustified push but Russell looked solid in his first try against top ten fighters and I'd think Russell will be in the mix for one of those four titles in the division that Josh Taylor may be planning to vacate.

In another surprise involving a former Olympian, Argentina's Fernando Martinez overpowered and outslugged Jerwin Ancajas via unanimous decision and took away the IBF junior bantamweight title held by Ancajas.

Ancajas had made nine defenses of the title since 2016 and was scheduled to unify his title with the WBO version held by Kazuto Ioka in his next fight after their first fight was canceled due to Covid-19 in December, so unless Martinez would like to jump in and take the Ioka fight, the unification in the division is off the board for now as Ancajas does have a rematch clause.

The fight itself was an action-filled affair that saw each fighter throw and land often but Martinez held a large edge in both as I scored Martinez an easy 117-111 winner.

Sunday from London, Lawrence Okolie retained his WBO Cruiserweight title over Michal Cieslak via unanimous decision in a sloppy fight that saw the larger Okolie control Cieslak and scored the fight's only knockdown in the fifth round.

IBF champion Mairis Briedis was in attendance dressed as Super Mario and what could be a good sign that Briedis vs Okolie for the best fighter in a weak division could be coming soon, should Bredis dispose of his mandatory against Jai Opetaia in his next outing.

Boxing Challenge-This Week's Pts in parentheses

Vince Samano 28 Pts (4)

TRS 26 Pts (2)

Ramon Malpica 23 Pts (2)

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Taylor gets Home Cooking vs Catterall

    The boxing weekend started in Glasgow, Scotland, and didn't end there but the talk of the boxing world is still focused on the results there as Josh Taylor slid through a hole the size of a mouse to defend all four of his junior welterweight titles via split decision over a surprisingly strong Jack Catterall.

Catterall scored the fight's only knockdown in the eighth round with a short left hand and won almost of all of the early rounds but did allow Taylor to take many of the late rounds to make the fight close enough to cause controversy in the scoring and even give some viewers validation for Taylor squeaking out a close win.

Much of the controversy (and strangely numbered scorecards) centered around referee Marcus McDonnell, who took a point from Catterall for holding, although both fighters had been holding throughout the fight and neither deserved a point deduction that appeared to have canceled Catterall's eighth-round knockdown on the scorecards.

That lasted only five minutes or so when McDonnell cost Taylor a point for tapping Catterall after the bell that ended round eleven that hurt Catterall so badly that he ignored it and walked to his corner.

The scoring would have been even more ridiculous without the moronic point deduction as the one judge that scored for Catterall did so 113-112 (six-six in rounds with Catterall losing the tenth round point and Taylor losing two points for his deduction and a knockdown), so had the point not been taken away, the result would have been a majority decision for Taylor instead of a split decision.

Taylor won one card by the same 113-112 score, which meant that judge thought Taylor won seven rounds, which is hard to believe, and the worst card saw Taylor given a 114-111 nod that saw Taylor win an incredible eight rounds.

My card was 114-111 Catterall (seven-five in rounds with each fighter losing their points) and it was one of those fights that didn't have many swing rounds, so 6-6 in rounds is difficult for me to get to, let alone 7-5 or 8-4 for Taylor.

A cut and bruised Taylor stated that he has no interest in a prospective rematch after his train-dodge and he is expected to move to welterweight, which would vacate all four titles.

Off of this outing, Taylor may not fare as well as expected at the higher weight, although it could be a case of Taylor taking Catterall lightly as well as having issues making the 140-pound limit.

I would have to think after this performance that Jack Catterall will likely be in line for a fight for one of those vacated titles and unless this was the performance of his life that would be unlikely to be repeated, Catterall is likely to win one of those titles.

Sadly, I've seen worse decisions but this still was a wrong one in my opinion.

I have seen some reliable observers believe that Taylor squeaked the decision out but I respectfully disagree.

Jack Catterall controlled the fight with his boxing ability, outlanded Taylor 120-73, and scored the fight's only knockdown, so I have a hard time justifying a Taylor win.

I'll be back later after the results of the Sunday card from London with the Saturday night Showtime card with two major upsets...

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Boxing Challenge

       The boxing weekend's biggest star kicks the weekend off on Saturday as the world junior welterweight champion defends all four championships against a mandatory challenger that shouldn't be overlooked.

Josh Taylor will make his first defense of all four championships against countryman Jack Catterall in Glasgow, Scotland on ESPN+.

Catterall has been the top contender in the WBO for over a year but has taken step-aside money twice to allow title unification fights to happen.

Catterall is a solid boxer and unbeaten but he'll be facing a different warrior in Taylor, who has defeated Regis Prograis and Jose Ramirez in two of his last three fights and can arguably say he has cleaned out the division of top challengers.

Taylor should win but Catterall is not a mandatory contender that is likely to crumble at first touch.

Showtime controls the evening with a three-bout card and the main event that lost luster when WBA junior lightweight champion Roger Gutierrez pulled out after a positive test for Covid-19.

Gutierrez was scheduled to face talented Chris Colbert before his illness in what would have been an excellent fight.

Colbert will be facing unbeaten late replacement Hector Luis Garcia, who did look very good in December against the solid Issac Avelar but Colbert will be a huge leap in competition for Garcia and the speedy Colbert is a heavy favorite to deal Garcia his first loss.

The co-feature is the fight that I am most excited about in a ten-round junior welterweight fight with former WBC champion Viktor Postol battling top prospect Gary Antuanne Russell.

The classy boxing Postol has only lost to the very best of the division (Terence Crawford, Josh Taylor, and Jose Ramirez) and if you aren't an elite performer, you don't defeat Postol to date.

Postol lost a very close majority decision to then-WBC champion Jose Ramirez in his last fight and should be a severe test for Russell, who has knocked out all fourteen of his opponents but in what seems to be a Russell family tradition, has fought just once in two years.

The X factor here could be Postol, who lives in Ukraine and his family remains in the Russian-attacked country.

Will the veteran be understandably distracted by the events in his homeland and concerned for the safety of his family or could it motivate him into an effort of a lifetime?

The opener has been the forgotten man of the junior bantamweight division as IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas defends his title against Fernando Martinez.

Ancajas was scheduled for a unification match against WBO champion Kazuto Ioka in December before the Covid-related shutdown in Japan forced the fight to be delayed.

Martinez is an undefeated former Olympian from Argentina but is making his first attempt against world-class opposition.

On a Sunday card from London, one of the two best cruiserweights in the world will make his second title defense as WBO champion Lawrence Okolie faces veteran Michal Cieslak on DAZN.

Okolie is likely only to be challenged by IBF champion Mairis Breidis as the best in a division that has been sapped of talent of late but Cieslak's only loss was a decision loss for the then-vacant WBC title against Ilunga Makubu in 2020, so he is far from a soft touch.

Boxing Challenge

World Junior Welterweight Title. 12 Rds 
Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall
R.L: Taylor KO 6
TRS: Taylor KO 10
V.S: Taylor KO 9

Junior Lightweights. 12 Rds
Chris Colbert vs Hector Luis Garcia
All: Colbert Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights. 10 Rds
Viktor Postol vs Gary Antuanne Russell
R.L and TRS: Postol Unanimous Decision
V.S.: Russell Unanimous Decision

IBF Junior Bantamweight Title, 12 Rds
Jerwin Ancajas vs Fernando Martinez
R.L: Ancajas KO 8
TRS and V.S: Ancajas Unanimous Decision

WBO Cruiserweight Title .12 Rds
Lawrence Okolie vs Michal Cieslak
R.L: Okolie KO 5
TRS: Okolie KO 8
V.S: Okolie Unanimous Decision 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Cavaliers sputter vs Pistons

    The Cleveland Cavaliers stumbled out of the post-All-Star game gate as they lost for the second time this season to the lowly Detroit Pistons in Detroit, this time by a 106-103 score.

Lauri Markkanen led Cleveland with 22 points in his return to the lineup with Brandon Goodwin the secondary scorer with 15 points.

Cleveland will go home Saturday to play Washington in the first of a three-game homestand.


Swashbucklings

1) Lauri Markkanen played well in his return to the lineup for yet another shorthanded Cavalier club after missing eleven games and kept the Cavaliers in the game in the fourth quarter as Markkanen scored eleven of his twenty-two points in the period.

2) Cleveland played the game without Darius Garland and Caris LeVert, leaving them shorthanded in the backcourt.

Garland's absence is part of the team's plan to manage Garland through his back issues but LeVert suffered a foot injury in practice and Cleveland is going to have to either add more production from their frontcourt or hope that someone from the second team is able to take advantage of their increased minutes.

3) The one problem that I wondered about when the Cavaliers added Caris LeVert instead of Buddy Hield was LeVert's tendency to get injured.

Sometimes players just find a way to have fluke injuries happen to them.

It's not deliberate but some guys do find odd manners of getting injured.

4) Cleveland can't really complain about the production of Brandon Goodwin (15 pts 5 assists) and Rajon Rondo (12 pts 9 assists) in the place of Darius Garland but it isn't realistic to expect both of those players to play that well every night.

If they could, you have replaced Garland's numbers if not his presence but that is asking a lot from a player that was playing in the G League earlier this year and a thirty-six-year-old fading veteran.

5) The Cavaliers slipped to fifth in the Eastern Conference with the defeat and while they almost seem assured of a postseason berth, that entry isn't guaranteed to be out of the play-in portion.

Only the top six avoid the play-in portion and currently, only two games separate the fifth place Cavaliers and the seventh-place Toronto Raptors.

That's the difference in playing those extra games and adding more mileage to players' legs after a long season and getting a break to prepare as those playoff games are taking place.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

      I'm going to finish the passing post that I planned on writing before I was carried away by writing by Bill Fitch.

Goodbye to Charley Taylor at the age of 80.

The 1964 Rookie of the Year after Washington selected him with the third overall pick in the 1964 draft as a running back but after two Pro Bowl seasons, Taylor would be shifted to wide receiver in 1966 by then-Washington coach Otto Graham.

Taylor became a standout once he was moved outside and would make eight Pro Bowls along with six All-Pro appearances before he would retire as the league's all-time reception leader (649) after the 1977 season, a record which he would hold until he was passed in 1984 by another Charlie- Joiner.

Taylor caught two touchdown passes in Washington's 26-3 victory over Dallas in the 1972 NFC Championship which was likely the franchise's biggest win until their Super Bowl win in 1982.

As a Washington fan as a kid in the George Allen years, Charley Taylor was my favorite player on the team and what I loved most was his touchdown celebration.

It was celebratory yet understated and almost every kid in pickup football games would imitate the Taylor version in which he would hold the ball in one hand and take both arms and reach for the sky before handing the ball to the referee.

Celebrating it in a classy manner never goes out of style.


Goodbye to Gene Clines at the age of 75.

Clines played for four teams in his ten-year career but spent most of his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a part of their four divisional titles in five years (1970-74) run and was on the 1971 World Champion Pirate team during that term.

Clines was best known for his speed and defense (Clines hit only five homers in his career) and hit .334 with six triples for the 1972 Pirates, which many Pirates fans and media still believe was a better team than the previous season's World Champions.

Clines would serve as a hitting coach for five different teams before working as a minor league instructor for the Dodgers and Giants.

Goodbye to Alphabet Soup at the age of 31.

Alphabet Soup won the 1996 Breeders Cup Classic at the age of five for his only Grade I win but did win three Grade II's and a Grade III over the course of his twenty-four race career.

Alphabet Soup's 1996 Classic win at Woodbine, Canada was one of the most dramatic victories in the history of the race as Alphabet Soup outdueled all-time great Cigar and Preakness winner Louis Quatorze at the wire, paying forty-one dollars to win on a two-dollar wager.

Goodbye to Buck's Boy at the age of 29.

The 1998 American Male Turf champion, Buck's Boy stunned the heavy favorite in Europe's Royal Anthem in the Breeders Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park in Florida when he won the mile and a half race from the lead, wire to wire.

Known for his front running speed, Buck's Boy won graded stakes in four different years before the gelding was retired after the 2000 racing season as a seven-year-old.


Goodbye to Julio Cruz at the age of 67.

The speedy light-hitting second baseman spent most of his career with the Seattle Mariners but his 1983 trade to the Chicago White Sox helped spark the White Sox to the 1983 American League West Division title.

Cruz was an original Mariner as he was selected in the 1977 expansion draft by Seattle from the California Angels and played for the Mariners for the second half of their first season.

Cruz was only a . 237 hitter for his career but his 290 steals with the Mariners was the franchise standard until Ichiro Suzuki took away Cruz's team record in 2008.

Cruz was a Spanish language commentator on Mariner games since the 2003 season.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Bill Fitch

   I intended this to be a cleaning of the inbox but I wrote so much about Bill Fitch that I decided to make this a solo piece.

Goodbye to Bill Fitch at the age of 89.

Fitch won an NBA title with the Celtics in 1981, took the Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1986, coached the Nets and Clippers to the playoffs as well and won NBA coach of the year twice. (Cleveland 1976 and Boston 1980)

Fitch was referred to by Larry Bird as the best coach that he ever had and when Fitch was inducted into the basketball hall of fame in 2019, it was Bird that gave the introduction speech for Fitch.

It was also Fitch that gave Cleveland their forever voice of the Cavaliers in Joe Tait, as it was Fitch that knew Tait from their days in small college basketball (Fitch started at the then-called small college level at Coe) and recommended Tait to Cavaliers owner Nick Mileti as the voice of the Cavaliers.

And before Fitch coached basketball at Coe, Fitch coached baseball at Creighton where he would coach a hard-throwing righthander named Bob Gibson.

To me,  I'll always remember Bill Fitch as the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and it was Fitch in those awful leisure suits of the day, that led the Cavaliers to their first playoff spot and division title in 1975-76 in the famous "Miracle of Richfield" season.

Fitch coached in Cleveland for nine seasons, the first nine seasons of the franchise's existence and was also the general manager of the team, so it was Fitch that not only coached those Cavalier teams, he built them as well.

Fitch took the Cavaliers job after only three seasons of Division I college coaching, one at Bowling Green and two at Minnesota, and famously used assistant coach Jimmy Lessig's son's Topps basketball card collection to help plan the Cavaliers strategy for the expansion draft where Cleveland would select center Walt Wesley from the Bulls with their first pick.

Fitch was known for his humor and quips during those expansion years in Cleveland where the team and arena (Cleveland Arena) were so awful that some thought the Cavaliers wouldn't make in Cleveland and that's before anyone knew the name, Ted Stepien!

If you really need to select one person that allowed a franchise to survive the rough initial years where franchise loyalty begins and where apathy can set in if the wrong decisions are made and apply it to the Cleveland Cavaliers, You could do far worse than picking Bill Fitch.

A few years ago, I sent Fitch a few basketball cards and in my letter, I noted that I was a Cavaliers fan and how I wished I had a Cavaliers card of his to sign (Topps didn't make coaches cards when they had the NBA license).

Fitch sent me a nice note and said that he dug this up for me- It was his business card from his Cavaliers days and Fitch signed it. 

I can't imagine that he had plenty of business cards from a team that he left thirty-five years ago at a location that had long disappeared lying around and I thought it was a very kind gesture to a fan.

I'll be catching up with more later.




Monday, February 21, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox: Non-Sports Edition

    The inbox needs a bit of cleaning up and I'll start the work on that with this version- a non-sports version.

San Francisco Gate reports on the famous Waikiki Beach in Hawaii and the possibility that the beach could be on the verge of disappearing by the end of the century.

The projected rise of the sea level by three feet by that time will likely swallow up Waikiki but erosion is already eating away the beach as damage to coral reefs are not allowing the beach to replenish itself with needed sand.

A temporary solution is "beach nourishment" in which sand is brought in from other places, added to the beach, and should widen the beach, which proponents say should buy Waikiki thirty years but is not going to reverse the problem permanently.

Maclean's writes of a meteorite that literally landed beside a British Columbia woman in her bed and besides nearly killing her (had it hit her in the head),  the meteorite could be almost five hundred million years old.

The article states that space rocks hit the earth an average of forty-one times a month but the chances of one coming through the roof of the house as in this case are one in one hundred billion but more importantly the "catcher" could sell the meteorite (or pieces of it)  and make up to a few hundred thousand dollars.

Vulture.com writes of "The Undoing" of Joss Whedon, who has had his reputation sullied by recent allegations of his behavior going back to his days of running "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and up to some of his more recent projects.

Whedon had once been "an icon of Hollywood Feminism" and now is an outcast among the same demographic that placed him on a pedestal.

As a fan of "Buffy" and a later show "Firefly", I liked Whedon's work on those shows but didn't dig into the "Whedonverse" consisting of people that praised him beyond belief.

I'll let you decide whether you believe Whedon or his accusers...

Gabrielle Drolet writes this opinion piece in the Toronto Globe and Mail on adult care of ADHD in Canada.

While there are a few differences between the American and Canadian official treatments/requirements for adult ADHD, I thought the piece itself was provoking on how adults are treated and how ADHD is diagnosed to be quite interesting.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Brook gets his wish

    One of the biggest grudge matches in years ended in a one-sided drubbing in Manchester, England as Kell Brook dominated Amir Khan from the first round, staggering him several times throughout the fight, and never allowing Khan to settle in and use his speed until the referee decided to end the battering in the sixth round with Khan having had more than enough.

Brook walked Khan down from the start of the fight and established himself as the stronger fighter and easily stormed past the counterpunches of Khan.

An argument could have been for the fight being stopped even earlier as Khan was hurt in the fifth and Brook himself could have ended the fight earlier, had he used the jab more as he bullied his way into punching range as it seemed to me that every time that Brook smacked Khan with his jab, a right hand would land soon after.

My scorecard gave each of the first five rounds to Brook.

There is a rematch clause in the contract that was only activated with a Brook victory (Had Khan won there would have been no such option) that will be up to Khan and another sizable payday for both fighters would be received by the fighters but I don't think that it's a good idea for Khan because I don't see the result of this fight changing any and other than the extra cash for the two thirty-five-year-olds, I don't see either getting anything from a rematch.

For Khan, it's time to retire unless he absolutely has to take one more shot at Brook because a weak chin that has always plagued him isn't going to improve over time.

As for Brook, he looked impressive in victory but despite hurting Khan several times, Brook never knocked Khan down and it's fair to consider that Brook may have looked so good because Khan looked so bad.

Brook still should be matched carefully in his next fight (should Khan decide not to activate the rematch clause) because we still don't know how much Brook has left against championship-caliber competition.

Earlier in the day from Russia, a very good fight was ruined for American audiences on ESPN+ as Zaur Abdullaev knocked out former champion Jorge Linares in the final round in a WBC lightweight eliminator that might mean the end of Linares as a legitimate title contender.

Abdullaev knocked Linares down twice in the final round before the fight was stopped with only thirty-two seconds remaining of an action affair.

I had Abdullaev slightly ahead entering the final round 105-104 and the knockdowns would have put the fight away for Abdullaev even with the possible survival of Linares, so give Abdullaev credit for taking matters into his own hands and not allowing a close fight to reach the scorecards.

With the win, Abdullaev will place himself in the line for a rematch with Devin Haney for the WBC lightweight title in what would be a rematch with the fighter that handed Abdullaev his only loss via fourth-round knockout in 2019.

How could such an exciting fight be ruined?

How about by NOT SHOWING THE ENDING!

On a broadcast filled with the undercard often joining fights in mid-round, showing the same four awful commercials constantly, portions not having sound, skipping two decision announcements, and having maybe the worst commentator that I've ever heard (and not for his English either), the show was already one that wasn't very pleasing.

And then it got worse as the start of round twelve of a closely contested fight, the dreaded technical difficulties graphic arrived and no one saw Abdullaev's thrilling final round stoppage.

Just an absolutely awful broadcast and while I know it was only a purchase of another feed by ESPN and wasn't produced by them, with the problems that came with the show it was almost not worth seeing.

Almost.

In the evening from Tijuana Mexico, middleweight contender Jaime Munguia notched another semi-meaningless victory in a homecoming performance with a third round knockout of D'Mitrus Ballard.

Ballard entered the fight unbeaten but had never faced anyone of the level of Munguia and it showed as the first time Munguia hurt Ballard, he finished him off.

Ballard fought reasonably well in the first two rounds and I gave him both rounds, although the second could have been given to either man, Munguia landed a left hook in the third that stunned Ballard, and his following shots sent Ballard to the canvas face first.

Ballard showed heart in getting up but Munguia quickly jumped on Ballard to force the stoppage.

The less said about this one the better as Munguia has now fought five times at middleweight since giving up his WBO junior middleweight title and has yet to face a top ten contender with the past their primes Tureano Johnson and Gabriel Rosado standing as his best opponents.

In the co-feature, powerhitting lightweight William Zepeda easily, if sloppily, finished off veteran Luis Viedas in the third round in a fight that was more memorable for strange occurrences than the actual KO.

Viedas slipped on what appeared to be a small lake in a corner in the first round and injured his knee and was knocked down in the second round before a shove on Zepeda was scored a knockdown.

An infuriated Zepeda then shoved down Viedas and was deducted a point for his misdeed.

Zepeda knocked down Viedas twice in the third with Viedas being counted out on the second knockdown.

Zepeda could use a challenge in his next fight as Golden Boy hasn't done a great job of upgrading the competition for their prospects and contenders of late.

Boxing Challenge Total Points with this weeks points in parenthesies.

TRS: 24 Pts (7)
V.S: 24 Pts (3)
R.L.: 21 Pts (3)

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing weekend features four fights and two title eliminators but the biggest of the four is for nothing but pride and bragging rights and goes to show that if the matchup is right- the interest is there and it doesn't matter if the fighters are in their prime or not.

The British grudge match that has taken years to make and with each fighter far past their best will finally take place as former WBA and IBF junior welterweight champion Amir Khan will duel with former IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook in a fight that an entire nation has wanted to see for years.

The faded former champions have talked about this fight for years but only now with both near the end of their career has a deal been signed.

Khan is the faster and smoother boxer while Brook is the stronger fighter, bigger puncher, and has the better chin.

Khan has been stopped in four of his five losses, often in spectacular manner (Bredis Prescott and Canelo Alvarez), while Brook has been stopped in his last three losses but all were later round stoppages where Brook was just worn down (Terence Crawford) or couldn't continue through injury to his orbital bone (Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence).

If this is a boxing match, Khan likely wins pretty easily, if Brook makes it a firefight I like Brook's chances to notch a spectacular knockout.

The winner might be able to grab another payday against Britain's current welterweight star Conor Benn and the loser will have an excellent chance of announcing his retirement.

DAZN will offer two fights from Tijuana, Mexico with the main event pitting undefeated former WBO junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia in the latest of unsatisfying matchups since his move to middleweights against undefeated and untested against world class opponents, D'Mitrus Ballard.

Ballard is undefeated, as mentioned, but has fought no one close to the quality of Munguia and doesn't hold a victory over even top thirty level competition, so unless Ballard is going to have a coming out party in Mexico, this seems to be a very one-sided affair in the making.

The co-feature is one to watch with undefeated lightweight banger William Zepeda in action.

Zepeda has notched 22 knockouts in his 24 wins and his win last July over undefeated and highly-touted Hector Tanajara was as an impressive win from a prospect that I watched last year.

Zepeda faces journeyman Luis Viedas in a stay busy fight for Zepeda, who may be the lightweight version of Jaron "Boots" Ennis for lightweight champions and contenders.

Speaking of lightweights, ESPN+ will have the streaming rights to a WBC eliminator between former three-division champion Jorge Linares and Zaur Abdullaev from Russia.

Linares lost a decision in his last fight against Devin Haney, but wobbled Haney badly in the tenth round in an attempt to win the WBC title.

Abdullaev's only defeat was to Haney via a lopsided decision but Abdullaev is entering this fight after his biggest career victory- a unanimous decision over former WBC champion Dejan Zlaticanin.

Boxing Challenge

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Amir Khan vs Kell Brook
R.L; Khan KO 9
TRS: Brook KO 6
V.S: Khan Unanimous Decision

Middleweights 12 Rds
Jaime Munguia vs D'Mitrus Ballard
R.L: Munguia KO 5
TRS: Munguia KO 8
V.S: Ballard Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 10 Rds
William Zepeda vs Luis Viedas
R.L: Zepeda Unanimous Decision
TRS: Zepeda KO 5
V.S:  Zepeda KO 3

Lightweights. 12 Rds
Jorge Linares vs Zaur Abdullaev
All: Linares Unanimous Decision





Friday, February 18, 2022

Boxing History Hot Take: Hearns-Hagler rematch

    I wish I had a better title than Boxing History Hot Take but it'll do for now as we start the first of an occasional series of posts that deal with a take that might not always be in step with the average observation.

I'm going to start with this hot take- If there had ever been a rematch between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns- Hearns would have won.

The rematch was supposed to happen, should each man win their fights on s closed circuit/PPV card that saw Hagler defend his middleweight titles against undefeated knockout artist John "The Beast" Mugabi with Hearns in the co-feature facing unbeaten 1980 Olympian James Shuler.

Hearns stopped Shuler in the first round to win the then-important NABF title (the NABF and USBA were valued in their day as the top steppingstone championships) and seemed to be in position for a rematch that almost everyone wanted to see.

However, after watching Hagler have his problems in a very good fight against Mugabi before winning via eleventh round stoppage, Sugar Ray Leonard announced his plans to return from retirement to face Hagler.

Seeing the even larger dollars for a thought to be easier fight against the inactive Leonard (Leonard had fought only once in the five years leading up to the Hagler fight and that fight was just short of three years before fighting Hagler), Hagler decided to take the more lucrative Leonard fight as he expected to win and then could have the natural return match with Hearns for another large payday.

Of course, Leonard would win a controversial split decision over Hagler, who would stomp into retirement, and never return to the ring- depriving Hearns of his rematch.

Why do I think Hearns would have won the rematch?

Let's start with this- Hearns would have learned his lesson and boxed more against Hagler.

Hagler wore down the powerful Mugabi but he was hit often by the oft-wide open Ugandan and Hearns could be a very skilled boxer when he chose to.

The Hagler-Leonard fight was two years after the Hagler-Hearns affair and the punches that Leonard landed are punches that Hearns likely would have landed as well- punches that the slowing Hagler didn't get hit with in the past.

If Hearns is able to resist the temptation to slug with Hagler, Hearns is more than likely to win a pretty lopsided decision as Hagler's best chance is for a toe to toe war despite the punching power of the "Hit Man".

However, it's not out of the question that Hearns knocks Hagler out in the rematch.

I know it seems unlikely, but remember that Pipino Cuevas and Roberto Duran were fighters with chins of granite and Hearns dispatched both with spectacular knockouts.

And watch the first round of fury between Hagler and Hearns and watch the right hand that Hearns lands on Hagler as you can see Hagler's knees visibly dip.

That is likely the punch that broke the feared right hand of Hearns, handicapping him during the rest of the famous battle- If Hearns's right hand holds up and the circumstances are favorable, Hearns might score a knockout in a second encounter, although a decision is more likely.

Hearns also might have scored a stoppage on cuts.

Hearns badly cut Hagler in their fight and had the fight continued for another few rounds, it may have been stopped and Hagler did have a history of being cut in other bouts, so I could see Hearns cutting Hagler, standing on the outside with his long jab and slicing Hagler apart.

I can see a scenario of Hagler stopping Hearns again as the "Hit Man's" chin was never his strong suit as Hearns was stopped by the limited Iran Barkley one year after Hagler-Leonard and it could be that (like Barkley) Hagler may have the perfect style to defeat Hearns.

However, Hearns still had plenty left in the tank as even after losing to Barkley the first time (Barkley would win a split decision in their 1992 second bout ), Hearns would draw with Sugar Ray Leonard in a fight that even Leonard admits Hearns won, Hall of Famer Virgil Hill at light heavyweight and wins over solid contenders such as Michael Olijide and James Kinchen as well as a late-career win over veteran cruiserweight contender Nate Miller, and while I cannot conclusively say Hagler was closer to the end of the line than Hearns, it seems like it to me.

Thomas Hearns would have beaten Marvin Hagler in their rematch and that's my boxing history hot take.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Ryder upsets Jacobs

    In the only boxing challenge bout of the weekend, Great Britain's John Ryder rallied through the late rounds to win a somewhat controversial split decision over former IBF middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs in a WBA title eliminator that will place Ryder in position for a fight against Canelo Alvarez or at worst one of the fighters for the vacant WBA title, should Alvarez decide to vacate his four 168 pound division championships.

Some have thought that Ryder's win was a hometown (the fight was held in London) decision, but the British judge scored the fight for Jacobs 115-113 (my score) with the American and neutral (Monaco) judge giving Ryder the edge at 115-113.

The first six rounds were terribly boring and reminded me a lot of Jacobs's dreadfully dull split decision win over Gabriel Rosado in his last fight but Ryder began to pick up the pace late in the sixth round and with Ryder working harder, the fight had its moments of fistic exchange over the second half of the fight.

Jacobs clearly wasn't in top shape as he was badly sucking wind in the final four rounds and Ryder dominated most of the rounds but I did score the eleventh round for Jacobs, which was enough to give him the close edge on my scorecard at seven rounds to five.

Even as the fight was winding down, I had a feeling that the fight was going to be decided by one fact- did any of the judges give any of the first half of the fight to Ryder?

If they did, Ryder was going to be in good shape.

If not, it was more likely to go the way of Daniel Jacobs.

And on my card, I gave Jacobs the first six rounds but wouldn't have argued giving Ryder the sixth when he started his late fight run.

Judge Mike Fitzgerald gave Ryder the third, fourth, and sixth but gave Jacobs rounds nine and twelve, and not the eleventh- the one round that I thought Jacobs won.

Still, Fitzgerald's final scorecard was reasonable, even if he didn't go about it in the correct fashion.

Judge Jean Robert Laine's card for Ryder was closer to mine except he gave the third, fifth, and sixth (three and six were the closest swing rounds) to Ryder to give him the win.

I didn't think the right fighter won but the fight and the decision were close enough not to howl about without an off-the-wall scorecard involved.

The bigger story to me is the second consecutive listless performance from Daniel Jacobs, who has now struggled with limited pressure fighters in Gabriel Rosado and Ryder that he once would have shined against.

Daniel Jacobs has never been a fighter that I've been impressed with and his record shows that as he has two good wins ( his first-round blitz of Peter Quillin and his split decision over Sergey Dereyvanchenko) and his best accomplishment might be lasting twelve rounds against Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez in fights that some saw far closer than I.

If Jacobs is going nip and tuck with fighters such as Rosado and Ryder then he is easily on the downside of his career and could be on the verge of becoming a name opponent.

As for Ryder, he'll be in the mix for the WBA title picture, and should Canelo Alvarez want to go to England to fight for the first time, Ryder would be a natural opponent for Canelo.

Should things drag in the always-running derby, the WBA could force Ryder to face David Morrell, who holds one of the organization's minor titles at 168 pounds.

Boxing Challenge

Vince Samano 21 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica 18 Pts (0)
TRS 17 Pts (0)



Saturday, February 12, 2022

Cavaliers dominate late, storm past Pacers

  The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't start slow in Indianapolis against the Pacers-

The Pacers were simply white-hot as Indiana scored a franchise-record 47 points in the first quarter and it looked like one of those nights that you run into the wrong team on the wrong night.

However, shooting like that is unsustainable on even the best evening, and this Cavaliers team began to chip away from a nineteen point deficit after the first quarter,

Still late in the third, Indiana led by as much as eighteen points, and then Cleveland turned on the gas to catch the Pacers and blow by them to take a 120-113 win.

Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen each scored 22 points to lead a balanced Cleveland offense that saw seven Cavaliers finish with double-figure scoring.

Cleveland's win moved them to 35-21 overall and moved into a tie with Chicago for second place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind Miami, and a tie for the Central Division lead with those same Bulls.

Cleveland travels to Philadelphia tonight for their final game before the All-Star break against the 76ers and their new arrival James Harden.

Swashbucklings

1) Cleveland played again without Darius Garland and I'm not sure if he will play tonight against Philadelphia as my guess is that the team wishes to keep Garland's back from pounding on back-to-back nights.

And with the All-Star game in Cleveland, it's possible that the Cavaliers want to be very cautious as I'm sure the first-time All-Star will badly want to play in that game at home.

2) Caris LeVert made his first start as a Cavalier and made the most of it with his high total.

Levert hit ten of nineteen shots and drove to the hoop with strength against his former teammates.

LeVert only shot two three-pointers, hitting one, and I wonder if the reason that he didn't shoot as many was his inside knowledge of the people attempting to defend against him?

3) Still, the Cavalier of the night, in my opinion, was the veteran Rajon Rondo, who hit six of seven shots, two from three-point distance, and with his play in the third quarter helped keep Cleveland in sight of Indiana for a potential comeback.

Rondo finished the night with seventeen points, seven rebounds. and six assists as Rondo continues to duel with Brandon Goodwin for the first point guard off the bench behind Darius Garland, which is a role that is even more important on evenings that Garland doesn't play.

Goodwin was a coach's decision DNP on the evening.

4) Kevin Love continues to buy into his sixth man role and he is doing it in ways other than only scoring.

Love seems to be all over the bench encouraging teammates in good times and bad and looks like he is having more fun even than in the championship days with LeBron James.,

5) Love is also drawing charges at a very high rate.

John Michael (Cavalier play by play man) mentioned during the telecast that Love had around fifteen charges with the second-highest number at only three.

Charges are always an effort play anyway as it takes a lot to see a two hundred-plus pound man flying at you and knowing you have to set your feet and take the hit, so Love accumulating so many of these makes you believe that he has truly bought into his role in the program.

6) Indiana made a big trade with Sacramento after the Pacers peddled Caris LeVert to Cleveland and I think it was a good one for the Pacers as they added Tyrese Halliburton as part of a six-player swap with the Kings.

While I like Domantas Sabonis (the main player heading west) a lot as a player, Halliburton had impressed me a lot in his year and a half with Sacramento after being drafted 12th in the 2020 draft from Iowa State.

In fact, I had Halliburton pegged as the future face of the Kings and their foundational building block in yet another Sacramento rebuild, so I was shocked to see him traded to Indiana.

The game was the debut in Indiana for Halliburton (as well as Buddy Hield and former Cavalier Tristan Thompson) and Halliburton (and Hield) would play forty minutes in the defeat.

Halliburton would finish with twenty-three points and six assists and I have a feeling that we might be seeing some classic showdowns between Halliburton and Darius Garland over the next few seasons in divisional matchups. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing weekend (and challenge) is limited this weekend with only one pairing for the challenge as former IBF middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs crosses the Atlantic to face England's John Ryder in a WBA super middleweight eliminator.

I've never seen what the fascination has been about Daniel Jacobs, who has proven more in two losses (Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez) that some thought were far closer than I did than in any win in a career that his best wins were over Peter Quillin and Sergey Dereyvanchenko.

Jacobs looked horrible in his last fight in November 2020 in a split decision win over Gabriel Rosado that was painful to watch and is better remembered for the announcement botching by ring announcer Jeremiah Gallegos than anything either fighter did in the fight!

At 35, Jacobs cannot afford a loss as he attempts to become a mandatory challenger for a Canelo Alvarez rematch or settle into position for a vacant title if Canelo leaves the 168-pound division for good.

John Ryder was a solid European-level super middleweight that seemed to have reached his ceiling in winning a minor WBA title before getting a shot at WBSS winner and WBA/WBC champion Callum Smith as a heavy underdog.

Ryder surprisingly gave Smith all he could handle in a close unanimous decision loss, that I scored for Ryder and has won two fights since in stay-busy fights.

Ryder is an awkward fighter to face as a southpaw that comes forward and while Jacobs hasn't looked good of late, Jacobs should be able to land often against a charging Ryder-in theory.

Callum Smith was expected to do the same against Ryder as the same type of fighter- tall, lanky with good power, and Smith had problems keeping Ryder off of him.

It might not be a great fight but it is an interesting one to ponder..

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
Daniel Jacobs vs John Ryder
R.L: Jacobs KO 9
TRS: Jacobs Split Decision
V.S: Ryder Split Decision  

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Cavaliers slap Spurs 105-92

    The Cleveland Cavaliers received twenty-seven points from Darius Garland in his return from his back problems and added the almost-routine double-doubles from Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to lead the Cavaliers to a 105-92 win over the San Antonio Spurs in Cleveland.

Caris LeVert scored eleven points off the bench in his Cavaliers debut as Cleveland improved to 34-21 on the season.

Cleveland goes on the road to Indiana on Friday and to Philadelphia on Saturday in their final games before the All-Star break.

Swashbucklings

1)  The Darius Garland return was more than successful as Garland hit twelve of fifteen shots on the floor and did it without one trip to the free-throw line.

2) That stat alone is impressive but it does make me think that the back injury is still bothering Garland as he didn't take the ball to the goal as often in what might have been an attempt to avoid contact to keep the back from further injury.

It is something to look for in the games against the Pacers and 76ers.

3) Caris LeVert scored eleven points on four for eleven shooting in his twenty-minute Cavalier debut.

Levert hit one three-pointer but he will take some time to fit in as I counted three times that LeVert drove to the basket in isolation and didn't keep the ball moving as the Cavaliers do so well.

4) Isaac Okoro had a nice game with fourteen points and hit both of his three-pointers but the most memorable was his flying across the lane slam dunk to posterize a poor Spur. 

The Mayfield Conundrum-Part II

   The question that I hear most when I discuss Baker Mayfield is this- "Who are you going to bring in that is an improvement?" 

Now I definitely think that the Browns will be looking for an upgrade, the question is are the players available that would be an upgrade and if so would the cost be oppressive?

I would imagine the Browns would talk to Green Bay about Aaron Rodgers and to Seattle about Russell Wilson but talk is likely about all as the cost is likely to be massive and while I'm not sure about the contract of Rodgers, I know Wilson does have to approve a trade should there be any deal for him.

I would consider a big buy-in for DeShaun Watson under normal conditions but with his status still unknown for 2022, missing an entire season, and the price that Houston would want is still large enough that a Watson swap would be a huge swing that could be a home run or a strikeout that could affect the Browns for a decade.

The Browns could draft a quarterback but this isn't a strong quarterback draft and I'd think that they would be more likely to spend a third or fourth-round pick on a sliding quarterback that perhaps they could go in that direction more than use their first or second-rounder on a "quarterback of the future".

So it's most likely that the Browns (should they do anything at all) to trade for a veteran or sign one as a free agent.

If the Browns decided to make a trade, it is likely that they are trading for a replacement for Mayfield, and should they sign someone, Cleveland will likely go with Mayfield with the idea of the signee backing Mayfield up but could push for the starting job in camp.

In the free-agent market, there aren't many options that you would say are clearly better than Baker Mayfield but there are a few interesting players that may be cheap options to at least challenge Mayfield.

Mayfield constantly rambles about how he lives on challenges etc, so perhaps a challenger may get the best of him in a training camp battle.

The options aren't guaranteed upgrades but they wouldn't cost any capital either.

It depends on if you want to try to get a year or two from an aging veteran, gamble on a bounce-back from an injury, or give a once-highly thought of player a second (or even third ) chance.

The stop-gap veteran pool isn't very deep with Ryan Fitzpatrick (39) having played only one game before a season-ending injury with Washington in 2021, Andy Dalton (34), and Cam Newton (32) having struggled in their playing time last season, and everyone's favorite stop-gap that never seems to make through a season in Tyrod Taylor (32) rounding out that bunch.

Should Andrew Berry decide to try the once-highly touted but disappointing that could use a second chance division, there are some interesting players but none that would take the job from Mayfield before the ink was dry on an agreement to Cleveland.

The most interesting to me is Jameis Winston, who is still only 28 and has the type of big arm that I believe is needed to play well in the often inclement conditions in Cleveland.

Winston has shown signs of turning the corner and spending two seasons around Sean Payton (and one around Drew Brees) certainly helps his case for a turnaround.

Still, I wonder if Winston fits Kevin Stefanski's system and even in the best of times, Winston will throw interceptions.

Mitch Trubisky (27) will always be thought of as the guy that the Bears picked over Patrick Mahomes but Trubisky did take the Bears to the playoffs twice and I have wondered if his career might have been different in Chicago had the Bears won the wild card game against Philadelphia that they lost on the famous Cody Parkey "Double Doink".

The Bills raved about Trubisky in his one season as Josh Allen's backup and he would be motivated to return to his home area so he could be worth a flyer.

Well-traveled Teddy Bridgewater is still only 29 and he does seem to be the Stefanski type but I'm not sure he is an upgrade over Mayfield and I wonder about Marcus Mariota who won a playoff game with Tennessee before losing his job to Ryan Tannehill and then backing up Derek Carr for two seasons with the Raiders.

I see similarities with Mariota to Mayfield in style (Mariota is much larger physically) and there are questions about Mayfield with Kevin Stefanski as a pairing, so it's fair to say there would be questions about Mariota as a fit in Cleveland.

The best chance for the Browns to upgrade over Baker Mayfield would come through trade but this could be costly and there isn't a guarantee that even these passers (short of Rodgers, Wilson, or Watson) would be big enough to make the Browns true Super Bowl contenders.

I would say four quarterbacks may be available (some are more available than others) that would be an upgrade over Baker Mayfield but would they be a big enough upgrade to merit trading some resources.

Derek Carr might have been available from Las Vegas but I bet Josh McDaniels will want to keep Carr and should the Raiders decide to deal Carr, my guess is that he could be offered to McDaniels old stomping grounds in New England so unless the Raiders are thinking first-round quarterback or the Browns are willing to outbid someone., I doubt the Browns would see Carr on the market.

Kirk Cousins is an easy guess with Cousins background with Kevin Stefanski with the Vikings and the Vikings did hire Kwesi Adofo-Mensah from the Brown to be the new Minnesota general manager so Andrew Berry should be able to get a deal done in theory.

Still, while I think Cousins would be an upgrade over Mayfield, you will have to give something up for Cousins, he is only under contract for 2022, and you'll pay him thirty-five million dollars.

If you can't move Mayfield-that's fifty-three million in two quarterbacks and both could walk at the end of the season.

I wouldn't complain about trading for Kirk Cousins but there are lots of things to wonder about such a trade- especially this thought-Even if Kirk Cousins is better than Baker Mayfield is he good enough to lift the Browns past the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, etc?

Jimmy Garropolo will definitely be available after the 49ers moved up to take Trey Lance in last year's draft and for a player that has taken his team to a Super Bowl and conference title game, one would think there would be a line of teams for him.

But many think Garropolo is a product of the Shanahan system, he's not a deep thrower, and he's been very prone to interceptions at the wrong time.

Still, this is a thirty-year-old quarterback in his prime available for trade and I would think he would fit well with Kevin Stefanski's offense but the questions are the same as Kirk Cousins- Is Garropolo a large enough improvement over Baker Mayfield to justify what you will have to pay for him?

Garropolo will make just under twenty-five million dollars next season and like Cousins will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Matt Ryan would be intriguing but there are arguments against him.

Ryan turns 37 before the season starts and although I still think has some juice left, Ryan has two years on a contract that would cost the Browns forty-nine million over those two years, and he's never played outdoors for an entire season.

Still, Ryan finished with twenty touchdowns and only twelve interceptions for a team that traded Julio Jones and watched Calvin Ridley pull a Shawn Michaels in search of his smile, leaving Ryan with a receiving group led by Russell Gage.

Ryan and Garropolo have taken teams to the Super Bowl and both under the Kyle Shanahan system, which does have some things in common with how Kevin Stefanski runs his offense.

Carr might be the one of the four that is at his peak performance and Cousins has the relationship with Kevin Stefanski.

Now, would I prefer these quarterbacks to Baker Mayfield?

Straight up-yes, but these wouldn't be straight-up trades so it would all be cost depending.

I doubt any of these teams would be pounding the table for Baker Mayfield in return, although New England was reputed to have loved Mayfield coming out of Oklahoma so I suppose it's possible Josh McDaniels could be interested.

Should the Browns happen to be fortunate enough to have a suitor for Mayfield, the price for a veteran would decrease but I just don't see that happening.

In the end, I'm dubious of a Baker Mayfield season in 2002 that allows the Browns to compete with the other great quarterbacks in the conference, although I certainly think that he will be better than 2021 because I'm not sure he could be any worse.

At the same time, unless the Browns are able to trade for one of the veteran quarterbacks mentioned for a reasonable cost (The Browns have extra picks in the third and fourth round) and I doubt that will happen, Baker Mayfield will likely be back as the starter even as Andrew Berry shops for a better quarterback.

Hopefully, Mayfield and his "Baker Bros" are correct and his lousy 2021 was all due to his shoulder injury.

Because if that isn't the case and Mayfield is bad without an excuse, Baker Mayfield will be gone for 2023 and he might just take Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski with him. 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Cavaliers acquire Caris LeVert from Indiana

 Before tonight's game against the Indiana Pacers, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired guard Caris LeVert from the Pacers in exchange for the expiring contract of Ricky Rubio, the Cavaliers 2022 first-rounder that is lottery-protected in the unlikely event that the Cavaliers don't make the postseason, Houston's 2022 second-round pick and Utah's second-round pick in 2027.

Along with LeVert, Cleveland also obtained Miami's second-rounder in the 2022 draft.

The twenty-seven-year-old LeVert is averaging just under nineteen points for Indiana, shooting forty-four percent from the floor and thirty-two percent from three-point range.

Indiana acquired LeVert last season as their part of the four-team trade that landed James Harden with Brooklyn and Jarrett Allen with the Cavaliers.

LeVert at 6'6 can play small forward and shooting guard but will likely spend more time with Cleveland at the two-guard, although he could play some at the three until the return of Lauri Markkaken to the lineup from his ankle injury.

LeVert was at the top of a small list of shooting guards that were linked to the Cavaliers at the trade deadline and will be under contract through next season at 18.7 million.

As far as the cost goes, the first-rounder is lottery protected as a safeguard and the Cavaliers may have tried to move that pick had they kept it to stay under the cap and its various stipulations,

The second-rounders are a non-factor although the Houston second-rounder that was sent to the Pacers is likely to be a very early pick in that round.

Ricky Rubio's expiring contract opens up space for Indiana and I know the knee injury could be difficult for Rubio to return from but I wouldn't be surprised if the Cavaliers attempted to bring Rubio back as a free agent under an incentive-based contract.

You have to like this deal for the Cavaliers.

I would have wondered about the first-round pick being traded away had the deal been brokered before the season but considering the development of the team this season, I'm not as concerned about that currently.

The contract of Rubio was a sunk cost after his injury and LeVert fits into the salary slot that Rubio filled so that's not going to be an issue even against a potential luxury cap penalty for next season.

There is nothing not to like about this deal except I always hate dealing first-round picks and this time it makes sense to do so.

Boxing Challenge: Rodriguez crowned, Thurman wins return

    The boxing challenge saw the return of a former unified world champion, a return from a world champion that never defends his title, a grudge match between the best two middleweights in Great Britain, and what may be the biggest news of all, a young prospect making a huge leap in competition winning a vacant world title to establish himself as a future star in boxing.

We start with that young star as Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez won a unanimous decision over former WBC junior bantamweight champion Carlos Cuadras to win the vacant WBC junior bantamweight title that was vacated by Juan Francisco Estrada as the organization decided to "promote" Estrada to their ridiculous "Franchise" champion after Estrada unified the WBC title with the WBA with his split decision win over Roman Gonzalez last year.

Forget about another potential self-created mess by the WBC with Estrada and Rodriguez down the road (similar to the current self-created WBC mess at lightweight between George Kambosos and Devin Haley), and concentrate on the talented Rodriguez, who jumped from junior flyweight over the flyweight division to take a title fight at 115 pounds against Cuadras, who was a top-six fighter in the division entering the fight, and had never fought longer than eight rounds.

Room must be made for Rodriguez now after a performance that saw him control the veteran Cuadras for the first two-thirds of the fight before Cuadras rallied late to make the bout closer on the scorecards.

Rodriguez knocked Cuadras down with a short uppercut in the third round for the fight's only knockdown although Cuadras wasn't seriously in danger of the fight being stopped.

Rodriguez spoke before the fight about vacating the title after he won it to return to the flyweight or junior flyweight division won the decision by scores of 117-110 (x 2) and 115-112 which was how I scored the fight.

Cardiff, Wales was the site for a UK-middleweight grudge match between Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Williams which lived up to the grudge portion as Eubank Jr scored four knockdowns (in the first, second, fourth, and eleventh rounds) and won a unanimous decision.

Eubank's knockdown never really dazed Williams and the knockdown in the eleventh was clearly a shove instead of a punch to drop Wiliams to the mat.

The fight was filled with dirty tactics and foul play from both fighters but the biggest and more fluid Eubank controlled the distance of the fight and the knockdowns caused him to win easily on the scorecards.

I had it closer than most with Eubank winning on my card 115-108.

The PBC pay per view's main event saw the return of former WBA and WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman, who cruised to an easy unanimous decision over Mario Barrios in Las Vegas.

Thurman looked good in his first fight since losing for the first time against Manny Pacquiao over two years ago.

Still, Thurman didn't seriously hurt a fighter that was knocked out by Gervonta Davis in his last fight and I'm still not positive that Thurman is a threat to either Errol Spence or Terence Crawford.

I gave Barrios one round as my scorecard had Thurman an easy 119-109 victor.

In challenge fights that I have not watched as of this writing-

Leo Santa Cruz Unanimous Decision over Keegan Carbajal

Luis Nery Split Decision over Carlos Castro

Lucas Santamaria Unanimous Decision over Abel Ramos

Boxing Challenge Standings
Vince Samano 19 Pts (7)
Ramon Malpica 18 Pts (7)
TRS 17 Pts (7)  

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Love saves Cavaliers, Hornets stung 102-101

    Kevin Love nailed two free throws with 1.2 seconds that allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to win 102-101 over the Charlotte Hornets in a game that will be remembered for quite a while for one of the worst calls that basketball has ever seen.

Jarrett Allen led Cleveland with career highs in points (29) and rebounds (22) the day after the center wasn't selected for the All-Star game in Cleveland.

Kevin Love finished with 25 points and Brandon Goodwin added 12 points as the only Cavaliers to join Allen in double-figures for the evening.

Cleveland improved to 32-21 with the win and will host the Indiana Pacers Sunday night in Cleveland.

Swashbucklings

1) I've never seen a call like the one in the fourth quarter and I've been watching basketball for a while.

Ed Davis, who didn't play in the game, swatted at Charlotte's Terry Rozier as Rozier fired a three-pointer, thinking the play was dead after Cleveland's Dean Wade had stepped out of bounds.

Davis was called for a technical foul for interference, which was fair but Rozier's shot occurred well after the whistle blew, and therefore so did Davis's interference.

Amazingly, the referees counted the three-pointer and even more amazingly the play stood after review.

What the hell is replay for if it doesn't correct mistakes?

2) Charlotte then connected on their next three shots, all from three-point range, and suddenly the Hornets would lead until the Kevin Love free throws- all due to the momentum from a blown call.

Davis clearly wasn't trying to interfere, he was thinking that he was goofing around with a player during a dead ball but the interference did occur but there is no way Charlotte should have been awarded three points-which the NBA agreed with after the game.

3) Cleveland once again played without Darius Garland and it is clear how badly this team needs him.

Rajon Rondo and Brandon Goodwin simply don't shoot the ball well enough to be threats from the outside and I could definitely see the Cavaliers going after someone to cover Garland's absence in the future.

4) Darius Garland was named to the All-Star team but Jarrett Allen was not.

Allen took out his anger on the Hornets as his points and rebounds were career highs and he fouled out Charlotte's Mason Plumlee as Plumlee vainly attempted to stop Allen.

Allen shot twelve of twenty from the floor and split his twenty-two rebounds evenly between offensive and defensive.

With Kevin Durant unable to play, there is an open spot on the Eastern roster and Allen could receive that spot, especially with the East looking short at big men for the game.

5) Charlotte seemed to see some controversy on the foul on the final play that sent Kevin Love to the line.

I didn't see it that, Love was clearly fouled and there was still time left on the clock- no controversy in my opinion.

6) Kevin Love did more than just hit those pressure free throws, Love scored twenty-two of his twenty-five points in the second half and along with Allen, kept Cleveland in the game.

Love has a strong chance of winning the Sixth Man of the year and I would have given him next to no chance of winning that award before the season.

Boxing Challenge

  The boxing weekend involved three different platforms with three very interesting main events.

Fox and PBC present yet another pay per view that really isn't deserving of such, especially at seventy-five dollars but does offer an interesting main event as former WBA and WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman returns to the ring for the first time since his 2019 loss to Manny Pacquiao against Mario Barrios, who rises to the welterweight division after his first loss last year being knocked out in the eleventh round by Gervonta Davis.

Barrios was a sterner test than many expected against Davis but he is rising in weight to face Thurman and Barrios's record only contains one victory over a fighter of world-class quality- a decision win over Batyr Akhmedov in what was considered by many as one of the worst decisions of 2019.

Meanwhile, Keith Thurman's career has been noted by inactivity, close decisions that have gone his way (Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, and Josesito Lopez all lost hairline decisions to Thurman) , a fighting style that belies his chosen nickname (One Time), and some of the most mind-numbering interviewers one can dream of (constantly referring to himself in the third person and sounding like a cross between a candidate for Senate and a morality teacher) but Thurman is a quality fighter and when active is a fighter deserving as one at the top of the division, although I don't think even a peak Thurman would defeat Errol Spence or Terence Crawford.

The undercard is uninspiring with WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz in a non-title fight against Keenan Carbajal, who has a glossy record (23-2-1) against journeyman level competition as a co-feature.

Former WBC bantamweight and junior featherweight champion Luis Nery attempts to rebound from his first career loss to Brandon Figueroa against undefeated Carlos Castro, who knocked out former contender Oscar Escandon in his last fight.

Nery-Castro could be the best fight of the evening.

Originally, the biggest action fight of the night would have been a welterweight rumble between veterans Josesito Lopez against Abel Ramos.

However, Lopez fell out of the bout and was replaced by Lucas Santamaria, who upset former champion, Devon Alexander, in his last fight.

The main event from Phoenix from Matchroom and DAZN looks like a barnburner as former WBC junior bantamweight champion Carlos Cuadras will attempt to regain that title against mega-prospect Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez to claim the title vacated by Juan Francisco Estrada when Estrada was "promoted" to the WBC's ridiculous "Franchise" champion.

Cuadras was originally slated to face another former champion Srisket Sor Rungvisai but Rnngvisai fell out last week after testing positive for Covid-19.

Rodriguez was scheduled to fight in the co-feature but jumped two divisions to take the fight when it was offered him to replace Rungvisai.

It's a huge leap in competition for Rodriguez and rising in weight to do it will not help him against Cuadras but Rodriguez has the talent to win this fight.

From England, a middleweight grudge match has been filled with lots of pre-fight trash talk and ill-will between two top-ten middleweights as Chris Eubank Jr battles Liam Williams in a fight that will determine Great Britain's top 160 pounder but could move the winner into a title fight later this week.

Eubank hasn't notched a big win legitimate win since 2019's dominant win that sent former super-middleweight champion James DeGale into retirement.

I wrote legitimate as Eubank's TKO win over Matt Korobov came after Korobov suffered a shoulder injury in the second round and could not continue.

Williams acquitted himself well in his last fight, a unanimous decision loss to Demetrius Andrade for Andrade's WBO middleweight title, but Eubank is the bigger man and is the bigger puncher.

Boxing Challenge

Welterweights 12 Rds 
Keith Thurman vs Mario Barrios
R.L; Barrios Unanimous Decision
TRS and V.S: Thurman Unanimous Decision

Featherweights. 10 Rds
Leo Santa Cruz vs Keenan Carbajal
R.L and V.S;  Santa Cruz Unanimous Decision
TRS: Santa Cruz KO 8

Junior Featherweights. 10 Rds
Luis Nery vs Carlos Castro
R.L and TRS: Nery Unanimous Decision
V.S: Castro Unanimous Decision

Welterweights 10 Rds
Abel Ramos vs Lucas Santamaria
All; Ramos Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBC Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Carlos Cuadras vs Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez
R.L:  Rodriguez Unanimous Decision
TRS and V.S: Rodriguez Split Decision

Middleweights.12 Rds
Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Wiliams
All: Eubank Unanimous Decision

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Cavaliers fail liftoff- lose to Rockets 115-104

  The Cleveland Cavaliers made a cardinal mistake when playing a talented but very young team Wednesday night in Houston as the Cavaliers allowed the Rockets to gain confidence early in the game and never looked back as the Rockets surprised the Cavaliers 115-104 in Houston.

Evan Mobley set his season/career-high in the defeat with twenty-nine points to go with twelve rebounds to lead Cleveland in defeat with Kevin Love finishing with twenty-one points and thirteen boards to aid Mobley.

Darius Garland missed his second game with back spasms in the defeat.

Cleveland finishes the back half of a two-game road trip in Charlotte on Friday night against the Hornets.

Swashbucklings

1)  The Rockets have a bunch of good young players that can get up and down the floor but are still developing as professionals and the worst thing that you can do against a talented team is to allow them to get into a rhythm and gain confidence.

That's what happened in this one as the Rockets young player started hitting shots, gained confidence, and outscored the Cavaliers by ten in the second quarter.

2) This was indicated by Houston's three young building blocks (Christian Wood, Jalen Green, and former Cavalier Kevin Porter Jr.) each hitting three three-pointers in the game-many of them deep.

When young players start making the type of shots that you love to see them take from a defensive standpoint, that is a great sign that it may not be your night.

3) I was planning on mentioning soon that the Cavaliers may want to watch Evan Mobley's minutes if they want him to have legs remaining for the postseason.

After all, Mobley played just one year at USC and the fifty-two games that the Cavaliers have played thus far are roughly the same as Mobley's senior year of high school and his USC campaign combined.

4) SO... Naturally, Mobley goes out and notches a career-high twenty points to go with double-digit rebounds.

Still, I do wonder when Mobley will hit the proverbial wall.

5) Mobley also showed a seldom-seen physical side of his game sitting on the block against Rockets rookie Alperen Sengun.

Mobley wasn't afraid to back Sengun down low and put the ball on the floor to drive by his fellow rookie as he bullied him aside.

6) The Rockets are a bad, albeit young and talented team but they had a few things going for them besides the home-court advantage.

Jalen Green, who the Rockets took before Evan Mobley in the draft and has been a disappointment, had to be fired up to face Mobley's team with the publicity around Mobley's rookie season.

And for as long as Kevin Porter Jr is in the league, Porter is going to have a special motivation every time that he faces Cleveland.

Green finished with 21 points and Porter with 16 and each hit three bombs from behind the arc.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Goodwin saves the day- Cavaliers flop past Pelicans

     In a game that was often painful to watch, the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied past the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 93-90 at Rocket City Field House in Cleveland.

Brandon Goodwin led Cleveland off the bench with 21 points on an evening with the offense hampered by the loss of Darius Garland due to back spasms that cost Garland some time in the Cavaliers' loss to Detroit the night before.

Jarrett Allen scored sixteen with Kevin Love tossing in fifteen to aid Goodwin in the win.

Cleveland improved to 31-20 with the win and will travel to Houston for a Wednesday meeting against the Rockets.

Swashbucklings

1) Darius Garland was a late scratch with back spasms after having this issue in mid-game against Detroit.

While things don't appear to be serious, I have to admit some long-term concerns as back injuries aren't easily overcome-especially with such a young player.

2) Games like these can be painful to watch but good teams manage to overcome these nights.

When you play a bad team like New Orleans at home, good teams get past last-minute injuries and bad shooting nights and still survive with a win.

It's a cliche but all wins count the same in the standings.

3) Brandon Goodwin was the only hot shooting hand in this one for the Cavaliers as the third-string point guard was the player on the court in crunch time as Goodwin's 21 points included three three-pointers on eight for eleven shooting.

One certainly can not count on that type of game happening all the time or even often but it's nice to see a G-League player have a night in the sun.

4) The Cavaliers were beaten on the boards by New Orleans and it brought to mind the loss of Lauri Markkanen ending the three big man lineup that had been so effective.

Perhaps the three big man lineup wasn't an innovation as much as it was a move of desperation for a team that needed everyone possible to hit the glass?

5) Lamar Stevens continues his transition into a solid role player as Stevens hit some key mid-range shots in the fourth quarter in finishing with eleven points on five for six shooting.

If Stevens can consistently make that shot, he can play a dozen years in this league.

6) Evan Mobley struggled in the win as the rookie finished with only four points and hit only one basket in seven shots.

Mobley may have been in less than top form as he played only twenty-three minutes and not many of them in the final period.