Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Forgotten Superstars: Bob Lanier

  The recent passing of perhaps the most underrated NBA star of the 1970s at 73 years of age made me think that Bob Lanier is a perfect selection for our Forgotten Superstars series.

Bob Lanier never played on an NBA title-winner but he always ranked among the elite centers in basketball during his time in the league with Detroit and Milwaukee and for some fans, Lanier is more remembered for his size 22 shoe (which fans can compare their shoe against Lanier's at the basketball hall of fame.) than his career, which saw his college program (St.Bonaventure) and both of his NBA teams retire his jersey number.

Much like Nate Thurmond, a half-generation ahead of Lanier, Lanier was a Hall of Fame center that sometimes didn't get the attention that he deserved because he was the third-best pivotman of his day.

In the case of Thurmond, Thurmond's peak saw him trail Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain and then Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar before ironically being passed by Lanier for that position.

Lanier's name usually ranked behind Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar at first, then after Chamberlain's retirement behind Bill Walton (when Walton was healthy), maybe Artis Gilmore when Gilmore first arrived from the ABA, and later a young Moses Malone but make no mistake about it, Bob Lanier ranked with the best centers of all-time.

It was Lanier's name along with Walton that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar famously references in the film "Airplane" telling a young fan "Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for forty-eight minutes".
Lanier also had a cameo role as an opposing player in the 1979 Julius Erving film "The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh".

I'm not sure which I would select between Lanier and Artis Gilmore in a hypothetical draft but fans narrowly missed seeing the two talented big men hook it up in the 1970 Final Four but late in Lanier-led St.Bonaventure's East Regional title victory, Lanier injured his knee in a collision with future Detroit teammate Chris Ford and would miss the national semi-final in which the Bonnies would lose to Jacksonville and Artis Gilmore.

If you know anything about college basketball and the size of schools, you'll know just what an achievement it was for a school like St.Bonaventure to make the Final Four, and fans in northwest New York still vow that had Lanier not been injured that the Bonnies would have snapped the UCLA national title string in 1970, not in 1974 by N.C. State.

Their point is well-taken as that Bruins team was the most vulnerable of the seven straight champions as the 1970 team was post-Alcindor/Abdul Jabbar yet before the arrival of Bill Walton with the best players on those teams listing Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, and Henry Bibby as their stars.
If a team such as St. Bonaventure was going to defeat one of the seven consecutive championship teams - 1970 was the one team that could have been vulnerable.

Lanier would be selected as the first pick in the 1971 draft by the Pistons and in his ten seasons with Detroit, Lanier would average a double-double with a scoring average of 22.7 and a rebounding average of 11.8 per outing, despite battling through debilitating knee injuries but Lanier's Pistons never even reached the conference finals as at that time the Pistons were in the Western Conference which was the more balanced of the two conferences.

Lanier played in eight All-Star games and won the game's MVP in the 1974 edition but the Pistons of the late seventies were rebuilding (and desperate to the point of hiring Dick Vitale as their head coach)  and with Lanier's knee continuing to weaken, Detroit traded Lanier to the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that won their division often but couldn't get by Seattle or Portland (Milwaukee also was in the Western Conference) to reach the finals.

Lanier helped to maintain the Bucks at that level but lost to Seattle in his first season and the Bucks last year in the West and couldn't get past Boston or Philadelphia after being moved to the Eastern Conference.

Lanier wasn't the scoring presence as a Buck that he was a Piston (averaging thirteen points a game in five seasons with Milwaukee) but his knees forced him to average ten fewer minutes a game and became a more stationary figure that slowed down any running game that the Bucks would try to use.

Lanier's hook shot wasn't the weapon on the level of Kareem's skyhook but his shorter more rounded hook shot was almost as deadly and Lanier was far from a finesse player on the block with a reputation as an enforcer that ranked him among the elite of the NBA's enforcers as his knockout of Atlanta's Bob Christian and his one-punch left hook that left Detroit's Bill Laimbeer prone on the floor left players smiling long after Lanier's retirement that Laimbeer frustrated throughout Laimbeer's career.

Lanier would serve as an assistant to his Bucks head coach, Don Nelson, with the Warriors and finished the 1994-95 season as Golden State's head coach when Nelson resigned mid-season.

Lanier finished the season winning twelve of thirty-seven games and didn't coach thereafter.

In my opinion, the two most glaring omissions on the NBA's recent 75th-anniversary team roster were Lanier and Bernard King and I have to think that it was held against both players that they never reached an NBA Finals.

It's sad that Bob Lanier never seemed to receive the break that he needed to receive the credit that he truly deserved going back to the knee injury at St. Bonaventure through his early years with the Pistons and his later years with the Bucks playing with teams that were very good but not quite good enough to win a championship.

I certainly think Lanier had a legitimate argument as the most underrated big man of his time and arguably ever and deserves to be remembered as the terrific player that was as we welcome "The Dobber" to the Forgotten Superstars universe.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

   The tributes never stop, they only occasionally slow down from time to time.

Goodbye to Daryle Lamonica at the age of 80.

"The Mad Bomber" spent four seasons as a backup to Jack Kemp with the Buffalo Bills before a trade to the Oakland Raiders turned his career around with Lamonica winning two AFL MVPs with the Raiders and taking the team to Super Bowl II.

Lamonica threw six touchdown passes in the first half of a 1969 game against Buffalo, a feat that has only been equaled once before or since (Aaron Rodgers in 2014).

Lamonica's career finished with an excellent 66-16-6 record as a starter.

It was Lamonica that started the "Immaculate Reception" playoff game for Oakland against Pittsburgh in 1972 but was ineffective and the team's only touchdown was scored behind Ken Stabler, who would replace Stabler as the starter the following season, leaving Lamonica as a backup for two seasons before finishing his career with the WFL's Southern California Sun in 1975, when the league went under midway through the season.

Goodbye to Kenny Moore at the age of 78.

Moore ran in the Olympic Marathon in 1968 and 1972, narrowly missing a medal when he finished fourth in Munich in 1972.

Moore may be better remembered as a long-time writer for Sports Illustrated after retiring from track and field.

My favorite work is his article promoting the release from prison of Ethiopian Olympic champion (1968 Gold, 1972 Bronze) Mamo Wolde, who held off Moore down the stretch in Munich.

Moore not only writes of Wolde, he writes of his own frustration during the race and his feelings late in the race knowing that his years of training would fall short of a medal.

Moore would also write a book on legendary Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman and served as a co-writer on the film Personal Best on the life of Steve Prefontaine, who was a close friend and Olympic teammate in 1972.

Goodbye to Gino Cappelletti at the age of 88.

Cappelletti won the AFL MVP award for the then-Boston Patriots in 1964 as a kicker and wide receiver and was one of only three players to play every game for the same team in the history of the AFL.

Cappelletti was named to the AFL all-star team five times, led the league in scoring five times, and holds the distinction of being the only player to run for a two-point conversion, throw for a two-point conversion, catch a pass, intercept a pass, return a punt, and return a kickoff in the same season.

Cappelletti finished his AFL career as the league's leading all-time scorer and in the top ten in receptions and receiving yards before spending twenty-eight as the color commentator on the Patriots radio network.

Goodbye to Jurgen Blin at the age of 79.

The one-time European heavyweight champion, Blin fought Muhammad Ali in Zurich, Switzerland in 1971 as Ali fought three times in that year following his loss to Joe Frazier.

Ali stopped Blin in seven rounds in their affair and Blin never threatened "The Greatest" in a fight that allowed Switzerland a chance to see Ali live.

Blin failed in his various attempts to defeat top ten fighters with two losses to Joe Bugner, the loss against Ali, and was stopped by contender Ron Lyle in two rounds in 1973 in what would be the final fight of the German's career.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Davis Whacks Romero

    For most of the first six rounds at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Rolando Romero had not only fought a surprisingly technically sound fight against heavily favored Gervonta Davis, but he was also fighting well against Davis.

That ended late in the sixth round when Davis smashed a left hand that sent Romero sailing to the floor and ended the fight as Romero beat the count but was judged unable to continue by referee David Fields.

Romero was leading on one card 58-57, as did I, with the other two judges giving Davis the nod by the same score entering what would be the final round but Davis had his best round of the fight in the fifth and appeared to be taking control of the fight.

Romero didn't charge from the gate throwing the wild power punches that he had been known for in his fights against lesser opponents but he did throw enough that Davis was surprisingly reserved in his offense in return, waiting to set Romero up for exactly the counter that would win "Tank" the fight.

For Davis, we now wait to see if he re-signs with Floyd Mayweather promotions, takes the side step to Al Haymon's PBC where he could stay with his longtime broadcaster Showtime or take his wares to the open market in an attempt to land a big fight that his resume' lacks.

Davis is certainly a live and pay-per-view attraction but the question still remains what happens when better fighters are able to handle Davis's power and can answer back.

Ryan Garcia was in attendance for the card and both fighters called the other out but I'm not sure that fight takes place in the event that Davis would stay with PBC and/or Mayweather Promotions as PBC and Golden Boy almost never do business together.

Physically, Garcia's build, punching power, and style seem to give him an edge against Davis but Davis is more experienced and I might give Davis a small edge in power.

I'd like to see the match and I think it would do heavy purchases on PPV and at the arena but color me skeptical on getting this one off the drawing board and into the ring.

While Davis vs Romero didn't prove to be the mismatch that most predicted, that couldn't be said for the co-feature which was the exact lopsided fight that almost all expected as Erislandy Lara knocked out Spike O'Sullivan in the eighth round.

The less said about this the better with Lara winning every round, knocking O'Sullivan down in the fourth and out in the eighth and both fighters simply repeating their history with Lara dominating in these types of showcase fights and O'Sullivan getting knocked out in now his fourth attempt to defeat a world-class boxer.

Lara's win over O'Sullivan was his fourth in a row over an overmatched opponent (Ramon Alvarez, Greg Vendetti, Thomas "Cornflake" LaManna, and now O'Sullivan) to retain his worthless WBA trinket against fighters that aren't even top twenty material.

Lara hasn't fought anyone of note since his 2018 split decision loss to Jarrett Hurd and his 2019 draw with Brian Castano, so Lara has not notched a noticeable victory since his October 2017 decision win over Terrell Gausha, who is solid but not a divisional elite.

At thirty-nine, Lara either is happy to rack up "title defenses" against opponents that no one wants to see or is hoping to wait out the WBA and hope they eventually get around to addressing the middleweight division as they reduce their belt situation.

I have no need to see any more of these B.S. squash matches presented as world title fights from Lara and PBC but I have a feeling that we will see one next year when Lara makes his yearly "defense" against the latest no-hoper.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 93 Pts (5)
Vince Samano: 77 (3)
Ramon Malpica: 77 (3) 

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Browns extend David Njoku

   The Cleveland Browns continued to attempt to lock up their core players as the team extended the contract of tight end David Njoku with a four-year contract worth over fifty-six million dollars.

Njoku was the final of the Browns three first-rounders in the 2017 draft and even after five seasons in Cleveland, Njoku is still only twenty-five years old.

Njoku caught thirty-six passes for four hundred and seventy-five yards and four touchdowns for the Browns in 2021, playing in sixteen of seventeen games.

I have to admit that I'm straddling the fence on this signing.

I love Njoku's talent and downfield ability, he does seem to be coming into his own as a player after some admittedly erratic season, and DeShaun Watson has been noted for using his tight ends often during his time in Houston.

However, I still wonder if Njoku has proven enough to be counted on as much as this contract will count on the former Miami Hurricane, and has he truly matured enough as a player that the spectacular catches remain and the routine catches become routine?

Njoku will be the fifth highest-paid tight end in the league and while this doesn't seem to make sense when you look at pure production, the Browns have leaned on the analytical notation of paying for projected future performance rather than past performance.

While that is sound reasoning, it also can be a far riskier gambit than relying on a player to repeat what they have placed on the stat sheet in the past.

My issue isn't with the payout as the contract is structured that should Njoku disappoint that the Browns could walk away from the deal after the 2023 season and should Njoku play to expectations, Cleveland's agreement with him could prove to be if not a bargain, certainly of excellent value.

In the end, this is all about projection as David Njoku isn't deserving of a contract of this size for what he has done on the field.

However, Njoku has shown just enough tantalizing glimpses of elite talent to make him at least worth considering a contract of this amount and I suppose Njoku couldn't be any worse than Austin Hooper for yards after the catch, so despite the risk, I can see why the Browns decided to make this commitment.

Boxing Challenge

 The boxing slate is a thin one this weekend but it does feature one of the bigger stars in the game in what could be his final fight with his current promoter in a matchup that is very likely to produce an exciting conclusion from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Gervonta Davis won't be muting the criticism concerning the quality of his recent competition against Rolando Romero but he should return to the sports world's highlight reel with what seems to be fated to be a spectacular knockout.

Davis did have his struggles in winning a close decision over Isaac Cruz in his last fight but Romero's competition makes the Davis foes look like Murderer's Row and Romero is very crude and wild with his offense resembling the wild swipes of Ricardo Mayorga which should leave him wide open for the big power bombs from Davis.

Davis's contract with Floyd Mayweather's promotional company expires after this fight and the boxing world is somewhat abuzz with where Davis could be headed.

Davis seems to be most likely headed away from Mayweather but headed to affiliated Al Haymon and the PBC.

The problem with that would be that PBC isn't strong at lightweight or junior welterweight and could place Davis in the same spot that he resides with Mayweather- a lack of elite opponents.

Top Rank holds a lock at 135 and 140 pounds as they either promote or co-promote almost all of the best at those fights (Devin Haney, Vasyl Lomachenko, Josh Taylor, Teofimo Lopez, etc) with working agreements with George Kambosos and only Ryan Garcia with Golden Boy (who has an even worse relationship with Al Haymon than Top Rank) isn't promoted by Bob Arum's bunch.

Davis's decision could come down to this- Is he interested in facing the best and creating a legacy or is he more concerned with making the maximum amount of money?

Romero has predicted a first-round knockout and Davis doesn't have a history of being an extremely quick starter, so it will be interesting to see how Davis adjusts if Romero blasts out of the corner as he is promising.

Romero has basically done two things to earn this fight against Davis- fight for Mayweather Promotions for an easy in-house fight and talk a huge game.

Romero's best wins are over journeymen Anthony Yigit and Avery Sparrow and two fights ago, almost everyone thought he received a gift decision over Jackson Marinez, who isn't a top ten lightweight.

The fight should be fun while it lasts and if Romero can fight even close to the level of his smack talk, then we could see an even better battle.

The co-feature looks like another squash match as Erislandy Lara defends his minor middleweight trinket against Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan.

Lara can punch, should he choose to engage like he did in his last fight against dreadfully outgained Thomas "Cornflake" Lamanna.

Cornflake was crunched in only one round but Lara's previous fight saw him content to dance in a twelve-round win over another opponent not of his caliber in Greg Vendetti as it appears to be decided by Lara's mood on the day of the fight.

Spike O'Sullivan is a solid European level boxer but in each of his three attempts against world-class fighters, O'Sullivan has beaten defeated soundly by David Lemieux in one, Jaime Munguia in eleven, and Chris Eubank Jr in seven, so this one seems to be up to the enigmatic Lara in how this fight ends.

Boxing Challenge

Lightweights. 12 Rds
Gervonta Davis vs Rolando Romero
R.L; Davis KO 2
TRS: Davis KO 4
V.S; Davis KO 3

Middleweights. 12 Rds
Erislandy Lara vs Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan
R.L.and V.S: Lara Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lara KO 8

Friday, May 27, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox- Passings Non-Sports Edition

 The non-sports passings are equally important as those from the sports world and sadly they fill up just as quickly.

Goodbye to Bobby Rydell at the age of 79.

One of the original Philadelphia "Teen Idols" of the early to mid-1960s, Rydell placed thirty-four hits in the Billboard Top 100 including his biggest hit "Wild One" which reached second on the charts, and a cover of "Volare".

Rydell would star on Broadway as "Conrad Birdie" in the original adaptation of "Bye Bye Birdie and would have a cameo role in the 1978 film "Grease"

Rydell is also credited as the inspiration for John Lennon and Paul McCartney writing the Beatles hit "She Loves You" as both said that a Rydell song was playing on the radio as the duo penned the song,

Rydell's biggest claim to fame here was in the 1990s when the 1960s NBC program Hullaballoo was released on VHS and DVD and an episode with Rydell singing the song below in such an over-the-top manner is one that Ryan and I still laugh about to this day.

Goodbye to Liz Sheridan at the age of 93.

Sheridan is best known for portraying Jerry Seinfeld's mother in "Seinfeld" but to me, Sheridan will be forever "Raquel Ochomanek" the nosy busy-body next-door neighbor on "ALF" that was constantly trying to figure out what was really going on at the Tanner residence.

A long-time character actress in film and television, Sheridan was a singer and dancer in the 1950s in the New York nightclubs and was the first person in show business to have a relationship with the young James Dean.

Goodbye to Neal Adams at the age of 80.

Adams, a long-time artist, and writer in comics, made his biggest mark with DC Comics where Adams created such characters as Ras Al Ghul, Man-Bat, and John Stewart as Green Lantern as well as doing classic work for years with Batman.

It was Adams that brought the Batman into his dark brooding figure and away from the campy version popularized by the television show starring Adam West, revitalized the Joker into his homicidal maniac from his clownish version during the same period, and brought Two-Face back into the Batman rogues gallery after a long absence from the comic.

But it will be Adams and Denny O'Neil's run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow that is most remembered. GL/GA is so fondly recalled that many are surprised to hear that the title only lasted a surprisingly short time of only two years and was canceled for low sales.

The title dealt with controversial social issues (for its time) of the day and the most remembered issues dealt with Green Arrow's ward and former sidekick Speedy in secret identity Roy Harper admitting an addiction to heroin.

Adams would later be heavily involved with artists' and creators' rights with their work being returned to them after the comics had been printed.

Goodbye to David Birney at the age of 83.

Birney may be best remembered as a husband to Meredith Baxter, who Birney married after their television show, "Bridget Loves Bernie", but had a career that saw him star in his own drama "Serpico", was part of the first season of "St. Elsewhere", and starred in many guest roles on television as well as stage work.

Birney was lambasted by the former Baxter Birney in her 2011 autobiography as being physically and emotionally abusive during their marriage, charges that Birney denied.

Sidebar: "Bridget Loves Bernie" remains to this day- the only program in television history to have finished in the top ten in the ratings in its first season and would not be renewed for a second season.

Sidebar part two: Meredith Baxter during the run of this show ranks high (as in highest level) on the TRS beauty scale...

Goodbye to Mike Hagerty at the age of 67.

The longtime character actor never had the opportunity to star in a breakout role but spent years in both film and television usually playing regular, working man type roles.

Hagerty would only receive one shot as a regular on a series, which was during the only season of "The George Carlin Show" in 1994-85.

My favorite supporting role that Hagerty performed was as "Bad Billy Platt" the best friend of Kurt Russell in the 1987 film "Overboard" starring Russell and Goldie Hawn.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Browns re-sign Jadeveon Clowney

   The Cleveland Browns had been rumored to have a contract agreed in principle for a while with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney that would enable his return to Cleveland but this is professional sports and until a deal is finished and announced, one never places it in the accomplished pile (Carlos Boozer, anyone?) 

Finally, the Browns and Clowney were able to place minds at ease with the announcement of Clowney signing a one-year agreement that is worth up to eleven million dollars with incentives.

The 6'5 260 pound Clowney will resume his place as a starting defensive end opposite Myles Garrett in an arrangement that both players profited from last season, Clowney's first as a Brown.

Clowney finished the 2021 season with nine sacks and did so as a plus run defender that kept him on the field as a three-down lineman rather than a specialist or a rotational piece.

Clowney also managed to stay healthier than in the recent past, playing in fourteen games, which was the highest total for the former South Carolina Gamecock since 2018.

On their own, Clowney's numbers aren't eye-popping but Clowney's presence has real benefits for Myles Garrett on the pass rush and can make up for any deficiencies up the middle from a defensive tackle rotation that lacks a proven interior pass rusher.

Adding Clowney may have been expected to occur and allows the Browns not to have to reach out for a veteran that may have questions entering the free agent market to start opposite Garrett but they still have needs along the defensive line- particularly at defensive tackle.

The Browns have been rumored to possibly preparing an offer for former Brown Larry Ogunjobi, who had an excellent season last season for Cincinnati with seven sacks,and signed a lucrative contract with the Bears before failing the physical due to a foot injury that Ogunjobi suffered in the playoffs with the Bengals.

Cleveland has also been mentioned in connection to Ndamukong Suh as an addition to their defensive tackle rotation.

At almost 35, Ndamukong Suh isn't the interior force that he was in his prime but still by reducing his snap count, Tampa Bay received six sacks and seven tackles for loss from the five-time Pro Bowler.

Cleveland has been linked to Akeem Hicks, who had three and a half sacks in nine games for Chicago last season.

Hicks is more of a rotational player that can get the interior pass rush going than a full-time tackle but depending on the price, could be a helpful player for the Browns.

The Browns still need a defensive tackle and a veteran wide receiver in the worst way but keeping Jadeveon Clowney around addressed one of the Browns' three largest needs following the draft and to do so at a fair price is an added bonus for a team that still needs a few players to complete their shopping list

Boxing Challenge: Boom Boom! Out Go MY Lights?

   A fun day of boxing was in the middle of the Showtime main event and as David Benavidez pounded David Lemieux along the ropes in the second round of their super-middleweight fight and seemed poised to finish the veteran former IBF middleweight champion in spectacular fashion, suddenly a flash of white and a booming sound would knock my power out at the road office for the final eight and a half hours of my shift and delay my recap!

Apologies for that but sitting in the dark was far from fun and I would have no time for a review on Sunday for reasons that you will see later in the week!

As I return to the David's (Benavidez and Lemieux), the bigger and younger Benavidez would finish off the very courageous and just as overmatched Lemieux in the third round.

Lemieux tried to fire his once-powerful right hand. Still, Benavidez was far too strong and almost ended the fight in the first round when a left hook snapped Lemieux's head back, trapping him in a corner and with another thirty seconds may have finished the bout in one.

Benavidez busted Lemieux's nose early in the second and knocked him through the ropes early in the second (this is where I lost the telecast) with again Lemieux being very fortunate to reach the end of the round.

Lemieux tried to hold Benavidez off in the third as he attempted to step his punch output up but Benavidez quickly ended the attempt and resumed his pummelling of the Canadian to force Lemieux's corner to end the fight.

A spectacular win for Benavidez, who would love to fight Canelo Alvarez, who seems occupied for the near future but his PBC options appear limited to the always-reluctant Caleb Plant or hoping for a rise in weight for WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo for the time being.

The co-feature saw Cuban prospect Yoelvis Gomez forced to fight for the ten-round distance for the first time against veteran journeymen Jorge Cota but notched shutouts (100-90, I scored Gomez a 99-91 victor) on all three cards to earn a unanimous decision in a junior middleweight pairing.

Gomez is very aggressive but somewhat wild in delivering his shots and although I'm very high on his future, he needs a few more fights before his next attempt at improved competition.

Meanwhile, over in Las Vegas, Janibek Alimkhanuly won a minor title that could be promoted to the full WBO title depending on the eventual decision of WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade after a two-round destruction of England's unbeaten but overmatched Danny Dignum on a Top Rank/ESPN card.

Alimkhanuly was far too strong for the outclassed Dignum, who was game but his punches against
Alimkhanuly was like a child throwing Nerds candy into a whirring fan before succumbing to a huge left uppercut that concluded the evening.

Alimkhanuly now awaits the decision of Demetrius Andrade, who will either vacate the WBO title to move to 168 pounds, which would give Alimkhanuly full title status, or in the event of Andrade staying at 160, he will be forced to face Alimkhanuly in what would be a very intriguing fight.

Unbeaten Jamaine Ortiz took control down the stretch over his lightweight ten rounder against former WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring and won a unanimous decision that would result in Herring announcing his retirement after the decision.

Ortiz was too quick in winning the final four rounds on my card to win 97-93 (which agreed with two judges, the other scored 96-94) and surprisingly announced in his post-fight interview that he was likely to try junior welterweight in his next fight.

Herring has always been a class act and I am sorry to see him leave the stage but the time appears to be right as he has clearly lost a few steps and I'd hate to see Herring move to steppingstone status.

The day started with an evenly fought light heavyweight duo slugging each other for twelve rounds as Joshua Butasi survived a late run by Craig Richards to snare a close unanimous decision from London.

The Matchroom-DAZN event was a WBA eliminator but more importantly, was for the unofficial title of best British 175 pounder with Butasi setting the pace and Richards countering well.

The best action came in the later rounds when Richards began to rally on the scorecards but his late run came too late as Butasi won by 115-113 twice (my scorecard) and 116-112.

Buatasi is a potential opponent for WBA champion Dmitry Bivol, should Canelo Alvarez not activate his option for a rematch but I would wager that it would be Gilberto Ramirez getting the nod for a Bivol assignment under that scenario.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 88 Pts (7)
Vince Samano: 74 Pts (5)
Ramon Malpica: 74 Pts (7)  

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Pascal Upsets Meng Fanlong

   Meng Fanlong entered Friday night's light heavyweight fight as the number one contender in the ratings of the IBF, which means as long as he kept winning or as many fighters do, not fight at all,  Fanlong was destined to fight for the championship against the winner of June's Artur Beterbiev-Joe Smith battle.

Fanlong didn't heed history, however, which states that those that write off Jean Pascal do so at their own peril, and at the end of twelve close and interesting rounds, it was the veteran Pascal bouncing back from a PED suspension that had kept him idle for over two years and winning a unanimous decision in Plant City, Florida.

Meng was the more aggressive fighter for much of the match and badly hurt Pascal with a straight left late in the second round that had Pascal grasping for clinches to make it to the bell.

Pascal began to rally in the middle of the match as his counters (especially his looping right) began to land on Fanlong as the China native continued to walk forward behind his jab but at the end of eight rounds, I had Fanlong ahead on my scorecard.

Pascal scored a knockdown in the ninth round connecting with a right hand to the side of the head that stunned Fanlong but didn't seriously hurt him.

That was not the case in the final round with the fight in the balance on my card, Pascal landed a right that spun Fanlong into the ropes with Pascal following up with a barrage of blows as the final bell clanged.

Pascal's winning scores were 116-111, 115-112, and 114-113, while I agreed with the final score of 114-113 with Pascal sweeping the final four rounds and the knockdown to squeeze out the win.

Many people that I've seen on Twitter had Fanlong the winner and it was indeed a close fight and a strong performance from the now-former number one contender.

As for Jean Pascal, every time that people write him off, he seems to return with an effort that keeps him in the light heavyweight picture.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 81 Pts (2)

Vince Samano: 69 Pts (0)

Ramon Malpica: 67 Pts (0)

Boxing Challenge

    Boxing may lack a title bout this weekend but it will have a few top contenders in action with the chance for a bigger fight later in the year.

The top fight is with PBC and Showtime as undefeated former WBC super-middleweight champion David Benavidez faces former IBF middleweight champion, David Lemieux from Glendale, Arizona.

Benavidez, who many would have selected as the most dangerous opponent for unified 168-pound champion Canelo Alvarez before Alvarez's defeat to Dmitry Bivol, is fighting for one of those WBC "interim" titles that essentially makes you the number one contender but comes with a belt, is expected to take care of Lemieux, who has a big punch and lots of heart but hasn't beaten a top twenty opponent since a 2017 knockout of Curtis Stevens.

Lemieux does bring a big name to add to the Benavidez resume and he does have the home run punch in his pocket but in the end, Benavidez is the naturally bigger man, the more versatile fighter, and the fight is in his home area, all of which makes it very difficult to pick against him.

The co-feature pits Yoelvis Gomez against PBC veteran Jorge Cota in a ten rounder at junior middleweight. 

The Cuban bomber, Gomez, has stopped all five of his opponents and has fought only seven rounds in his brief career but I have been so impressed by his wins over lesser competition with Gomez that I picked him as my breakout fighter of the year for 2022.

Gomez crushed journeyman Clay Collard in just one round and while Collard is just a limited veteran, it was how easily Gomez disposed of him that made the win so impressive.

Cota is often used by PBC as a gatekeeper for young fighters (losses to Sebastian Fundora) and Jeison Rosario) and as a safe opponent for their better fighters to stay busy against when such a fight is needed as in his losses to Jermell Charlo (in-between his loss and win against Tony Harrison) and Erickson Lubin.

Cota is a much better opponent than Gomez has faced thus far but Cota was stopped in four or fewer rounds in three of his four losses and if Gomez is as good as I think he could be, he'll take Cota out in less than six.

At the same time as the Showtime card, Top Rank and ESPN will televise two top fighters in their divisions, one fighting for yet another silly "interim" "title" and a former champion returning to the ring after a lopsided drubbing that cost him his championship.

In the main event, the WBO has a mess with their middleweight title when Demetrius Andrade didn't want to face his mandatory contender, Janibek Alimkhanuly, for low money and a fighter that is thought to be a coming star.

Andrade then moved to 168 for an interim title fight of his own against England's Zack Parker before suffering a training injury to postpone the fight.

In the interim (get it?), the WBO announced that since Canelo Alvarez's loss to Dmitry Bivol that Alvarez had decided that his next few fights would be in the division, and an interim title at super-middleweight wasn't needed but Andrade would be given time to either agree to fight Alimkhanuly or vacate his title at 160, which then created an interim title at 160 for Alimkhanuly to fight England's Danny Dignum to battle for.

(Takes a deep breath).

Alimkhanuly was very impressive in 2021 in mowing down two former WBA minor belt holders (Hassan N'Dam and Rob Brant) both in eight rounds and has been compared by some to Gennady Golovkin.

The undefeated Dignum from the UK has a draw against his best opponent in Andrey Sirotkin and doesn't have an abundance of power, so it appears that Dignum will have to far exceed expectations to pull what would be a huge upset off against Alimkhanuly.

The co-feature will offer the return of former WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring in a fairly tough test in his lightweight comeback fight against Jamaine Ortiz.

Herring was dominated last October in losing his championship to Shakur Stevenson as Stevenson stopped Herring in ten rounds but Stevenson is going to control many champions in that matter before his career is over, so such a loss is certainly no shame but at 36, it certainly isn't unfair to wonder how much Herring has remaining in his gas tank and he will be tested by the 15-0-1 Ortiz.

Ortiz battled back from two knockdowns against then-undefeated Joseph Adorno to salvage a draw before defeating talented Nahir Albright by unanimous decision in February, so this isn't a soft touch for Herring as he begins to campaign at lightweight.

The day begins from London with Matchroom/DAZN as their main event is a WBA light heavyweight eliminator between countrymen Joshua Butasi and Craig Richards.

I don't see the need for the WBA to hold another eliminator in the division considering that they held one last week when Gilberto Ramirez finished Dominic Boesel in four rounds but this fight is a solid one on its own merits.

The undefeated Buatsi will face his toughest foe in Richards, who gave Dmitry Bivol a surprisingly tough fight last year as an unheralded opponent.

Richards lost a unanimous decision but on two of the cards, lost by only one and two points to Bivol.

Boxing Challenge

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds 
David Benavidez vs David Lemieux
R.L: Benvavidez KO 10
TRS: Benavidez KO 7
V.S: Benavidez KO 8

Junior Middleweights.10 Rds
Yoelvis Gomez vs Jorge Cota
R.L: Gomez KO 8
TRS: Gomez KO 3
V.S: Gomez Unanimous Decision

Middleweights. 12 Rds
Janibek Alimkhanuly vs Danny Dignum
R.L: Alimkhanuly Unanimous Decision
TRS: Alimkhanuly KO 5
V.S: Dignum Split Decision 

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Jamel Herring vs Jamaine Ortiz
R.L: Ortiz Unanimous Decision
TRS: Herring Split Decision
V.S: Herring Unanimous Decision

Light Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Joshua Butasi vs Craig Richards
R.L: Butasi KO 7
TRS: Butasi Unanimous Decision
V.S: Butasi KO 8 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Boxing Challenge

  The boxing challenge starts early on a Friday night on a new platform as ProBoxTV presents an interesting light heavyweight fight between a former champion attempting to redeem himself and a number one contender that never received his title shot.

Former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal appeared to have revitalized his career in 2019 after upset wins over Marcus Browne and Badou Jack but before his scheduled rematch with Jack, Pascal failed a test for PEDs and has not fought since.

Pascal hasn't fought in the two and a half years since his victory over Jack and coming off such a layoff, Pascal is taking quite a chance against the undefeated if untested Meng Fanlong.

A former Olympian, Fanlong had risen to the number one contender spot in the IBF rankings and twice had scheduled fights against Artur Beterbiev for that title canceled during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fanlong is still the top contender in the IBF rankings but with Beterbiev unifying with WBO champion Joe Smith next month and the winner perhaps facing WBA king Dmitry Bivol in the fall, Fanlong could still be in quite a wait before his title shot.

The southpaw from China is undefeated against soft competition and he has only fought once since 2019, so he hasn't been a lot more active than Pascal.

Pascal at 39 and hopefully past his PED use is an even larger question with what he has remaining for this fight.

I'm not really sure what ProBoxTv is because every time I click a link to check it out, I am getting a message that I cannot access the site.

It is an interesting main event and former top featherweight contender Xu Can is on the card as well, so it is worth the watch tonight-IF I can find it.

Light Heavyweights, 12 Rds
Jean Pascal vs Meng Fanlong
R.L and V.S: Fanlong Unanimous Decision
TRS: Pascal Unanimous Decision

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox

  Time to clean the inbox with various interesting works around the web!

BBC Sky at Night Magazine discusses the importance of returning to the two outer "Giant Planets".

Uranus and Neptune have only been visited by one probe, both as objects that Voyager 2 flew by on its mission- Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989.

The article makes the case for a return to one or the other and notes that with the current propulsion for probes an orbital swing past Jupiter is needed to assist the probe towards the planet of choice.

However, the alignment of the planets needed to allow only occurs every 12-13 years and the next window is in the early 2030s, so if this is to happen it will need to be decided soon to start the project.

A wooden knife that is sharper than steel?

Some scientists say so and others are skeptical as wood will degrade over time where steel would not.

There also are questions about which knife is more environmentally friendly with cases to be made for each knife.

Dan Greenfield at 13th Dimension writes of the recent death of Neal Adams and how Adams along with Adam West with the TV series and the Batman Mego action figure all combined together to make him a Batman fan for life.

It's a really cool article that people of my age and are fans of all three can relate to very well.

Researchers seem to have finally found the first biomarker for babies that may be more vulnerable to dying from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

There are many biomarkers still to find before SIDS can be considered eliminated, so the cause is still unknown but this is an interesting study to reach that end.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Road Trip: Fredericksburg

   It's been a long time since a road trip to a new baseball stadium for me.

Three years in fact but finally a return to a new baseball stadium as I traveled to Fredericksburg Virginia and the home of the creatively named Fredericksburg Nationals.

The "FredNats" as they are often referred to, played in their new stadium for the first time in 2021 and they are the franchise that traces back to the final version of the Hagerstown Suns (The Carolina League version traces to the Frederick Keys and currently the Aberdeen Ironbirds, while the AA Suns heritage leads to the now Bowie Baysox).

However, the morning started with another trip to the demolition of Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium and the work is moving along quickly as the grandstand stands no more and neither do either of the general admission stands.

One dugout was still remaining yesterday but it won't be long before that is removed as well and that
would eliminate the buildings around the field.

I did grab (I asked first) two side pieces that my seats were missing and grabbed a brick from the grandstand for my "sister" Denise that she had been hoping to get for herself before heading to see the old Suns in their new home.

Long time readers may remember when the Suns were threatened with relocation by then-charlatan owner Bruce Quinn to Fredericksburg before things went awry and the town built a stadium for another colorful owner in Art Silber's then-high A Potomac Nationals from Woodbridge Virginia.

The MLB takeover of minor league baseball and the missed pandemic season would result in Silber's team dropping to the Low A level and therefore lies the connection to the heritage of the Hagerstown Suns.

Arriving near the ballpark, you drive through a seemingly endless area of strip malls, eateries, and stores which makes you feel like suburbia has truly begun to swallow itself.

The main entrance is on the right-field side and is where the ticket office is located, it's not difficult to find as there are two large crossed bats with the team logo in front of the gates.

Entering those gates, you look down on the field as the stadium was built above the playing field and around like a boardwalk.

It reminded me a lot of Aberdeen from the outside with hotels and condos around the stadium and on the inside, Fredericksburg reminded me a little of Lake County and a little of Charleston, West Virginia with the layout of the field.

There are decks in left and right fields where one can watch the game and hang out in areas designed for the casual person to have a good time around the game yet isn't worried about seeing every pitch.

You can see the game from most vantage points except for the concourse behind home plate, which is what reminded me of Charleston, and it's not a bad place to see a game.

However, I didn't see anything overly special about it either and it had that sterile feel that some newer parks with a retro design have.

I wouldn't go out of my way to go to Fredericksburg again but it's a nice place to see a game.

Just remember that the traffic is terrible and there really isn't a way to get there that you can avoid that.

Then came the main event, we traveled to two local establishments that are iconic places in the city in Allman's BBQ and Carl's frozen custard.

The first stop after leaving the game was Allman's and walking into Allman's made one think that they had been transported to the 1940s. 

In a small building with an original neon sign that still works on the roof, taking a step inside is to take a step decades back into time.

Allman's retains many of the original signs inside and even has the original "wire" to slap an order ticket and roll it back to the kitchen.

I was going to order a pulled pork sandwich but decided to order what they described as a "deep-fried" hamburger with an order of french fries with a recommended side of macaroni and cheese after I asked, "what kind".

I know many may be wondering what the difference is but I really prefer the softer, cheesier style more than the crustier, harder version that is baked in an oven.

I enjoyed everything, including the burger which I would compare to a thinner well-done style such as one served at Steak N Shake.

I was given a pork sandwich to eat later and it was delicious, especially with what I would consider the real star of the show- their homemade sauce with a VERY strong vinegar base and that is right up my alley!

If I ever return to Allman's or know that someone is going, I am going to buy a container of that to take home!

Then we made a short side trip to Carl's a frozen custard stand a few miles away.

Carl's keeps it simple and it's all carryout and cash orders but their servers wear the old school style paper hats from the 1950s and I was told that the line goes around the block on summer nights.

I ordered a small strawberry custard with a little hot fudge since I wasn't really hungry but I hate passing up opportunities for places such as these to visit and my trips aren't often as in pre-pandemic.

Things that I once took for granted now make me at least think about safety, such as closer contact in a concourse for exposure and I hate feeling that way.

I'm far from a risk taker but I'm not someone that is over the top with safety either and it's sad that this thing has done such damage to the world and put it in our thoughts.

It doesn't stop me from going out and having a good time when I wish to but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being a little uncomfortable in tight quarters.

Of course, I've always hated that and this just made it worse!

All and all, a good day, good food, and perhaps the only new stadium added to the list this year.

My work schedule is stuffed this year as of now and with gas at insane prices, I'm not sure if I will do many trips, although two are in the plans with others, and neither involve baseball at this time.

The closest stadiums that I would need to add aren't really day trip material as they are Fayetteville and Kannapolis North Carolina to the south,  Dayton Ohio to the west, and Somerset New Jersey to the north.

The problem for me now is with MLB taking over, they have eliminated games on Monday (one of my two off-days) and greatly reduced the number of weekday games that start in the morning or at noon.

Adding those factors to the obvious ones of no local baseball and I'll be lucky if I go to seven or eight games this year.

I don't really miss the games or the baseball or even autographing but I do miss hanging out with my friends and talking about whatever comes to mind.

That's what I miss the most and I wasn't sure what I would miss most.

Jim Bouton finished his book Ball Four with the quote " You spend most of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out it was gripping you all the time"

For the time being, I am starting to believe neither myself nor the baseball has much of a grip on either of us at all.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Ramirez stops Boesel, Kovalev returns.

   The remainder of the boxing weekend also was hosted in the state of California (as was the Charlo-Castano rematch) with DAZN and Golden Boy with a card from Ontario California and Triller returning with a PPV from the Inglewood Forum.

Golden Boy's main event was a squash match masquerading as a WBA title eliminator at light heavyweight as former WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez continued his wait for a shot at WBA champion Dmitry Bivol with a lopsided pounding of Germany's Dominic Boesel in a fourth-round stoppage that ended with Boesel down in a corner as the referee waved the fight to its conclusion.

Not much else to be said about this as Ramirez had Boesel retreating from the initial bell and it was clear that this fight would last as long as it took Ramirez to finish Boesel.

This was another WBA eliminator, which doesn't seem that bad on the surface- until you realize that this weekend's Joshua Buatasi-Craig Richards main event on DAZN is also a WBA eliminator in the division.

Ramirez is more than qualified to face Bivol now and hopefully unless Canelo Alvarez picks up his option for his rematch with Bivol, Ramirez will receive his shot next rather than get stuck against the Buatasi-Richards winner, which I have a funny feeling might be where Ramirez might be forced to make his next fight.

The co-feature was an action affair as lightweight prospect William Zepeda survived a stern test from veteran Rene Alvarado in a tight battle.

Give the credit to this one to Alvarado, who lost his fourth fight in a row but loses no credibility for losing this one and made a gallant stand against the younger and power-punching Zepeda as he matched him blow for blow for most of the fight.

Zepeda won the final three rounds on my scorecards as the older and naturally smaller Alvarado began to wilt just enough too to allow Zepeda to slide by with a 96-94 win on my card.

One judge saw it the same as I did with the other two a wider 97-93 and too large 98-92 call.

A good victory for Zepeda and a strong effort from Alvarado, who showed in defeat that he still has a little left in his career.

Triller had been away from the fight game for a while but while their return may not have been pay-per-view worthy, there were two interesting fights headlining their show.

In the main event, former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev returned to the ring for the first time since his knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez in 2019 and won a unanimous decision in his debut at cruiserweight over previously undefeated Olympic bronze medalist Tervel Pulev.

The cruiserweight version of Kovalev doesn't fight like the feared bomber that ruled the light heavyweight division and should have received the decision against Andre Ward in their first fight but instead is a more mobile boxer that uses the jab to control the action, much as he did to some success in his loss to Canelo Alvarez.

Kovalev looked good against Pulev with his new style which should protect what has become a shaky chin in his latter years with three of his four losses coming by knockout (Ward in their rematch, Eleider Alvarez and Canelo Alvarez) and despite Pulev moving forward throughout the fight, the Kovalev jab kept Pulev at bay and off-balance.

I scored Kovalev a 97-93 winner, which was the same as one judge with the other two scoring Kovalev a 98-92 winner.

Kovalev instantly becomes the biggest name in a division that rarely possesses stars and when they do have them, they don't stay long.

Kovalev is going to be small for the division and I wonder how his power will fare against the top two fighters in the division in IBF champion Mairis Bredis or WBO champion Lawrence Okolie but should he receive a title shot in the future, it'll be arguably the most interesting fight in the division other than a Briedis-Okolie unification bout.

Former heavyweight title challenger Kubrat Pulev won a unanimous decision over journeyman Jerry Forrest in an occasionally fun fight with Pulev taking over after four rounds against a competitive but worn-out Forrest.

Forrest was entering this bout off a controversial loss to Michael Hunter that most thought he deserved the decision but Pulev is a solid top 10/15 fighter that is overmatched against the elite of the division but is a class above the Jerry Forrest types.

I scored Pulev the winner 98-92 which agreed with one judge as the other two saw Pulev as a 99-91 winner.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 79 Pts (7)
Vince Samano: 69 Pts  (5)
Ramon Malpica: 67 Pts (5) 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Charlo Unifies over Castano!

 In another action fight, Jermell Charlo suddenly ended his rematch with Brian Castano with a left hook in the tenth round and stopped him after a second knockdown to take Castano's WBO junior middleweight title and add it to the three (WBA, WBC, and IBF) championships to create the undisputed title in the division for the first time in the four championship era.

I had Charlo leading by one point (86-85) entering the tenth round, so it was another close and exciting fight on my card but Charlo was far ahead on the official judges' cards (by three, five, and seven points) and little did anyone know that at the start of the round, it was Castano that needed a knockout to win.

I thought all of the cards were ridiculous and anything more than a point or two in favor of either fighter was an awful scorecard.

Castano landed more punches and more power shots, yet Charlo led by seven points on one scorecard?

This fight was even better than their first and the styles mesh so well that should Castano win a fight or two on the comeback trail, I would have no issues with the two fighters hooking it up for the third time.

Charlo doesn't seem to have a lot of options for big money despite his status as the undisputed king of the division.

In the division, fights against promising, undefeated mandatory challengers Sebastian Fundora (WBC) and Tim Tszyu (WBO) would provide Charlo with interesting and action affairs with each having a solid chance to dethrone Charlo but neither will provide the champion with an excessively large paycheck either.

What would be a big money fight could be the winner of the Errol Spence-Terence Crawford fight as the unified welterweight champion challenging Charlo for all four of the junior middleweight titles but that likely only happens if Crawford wins as Spence is a Charlo buddy along with sharing a trainer to make a Charlo-Spence fight unlikely at best.

Charlo's brother, Jermall, is having trouble finding big fights at 160 as the WBC champion, so moving to middleweight for big paydays seems to be a long shot, although a title challenge of someone wouldn't be.

Now that I think about it, Charlo could force a challenge against WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade now that he holds their championship, Charlo could use the WBO's rule of a champion vacating their title to move up in weight could immediately become their number one contender at their new weight class.

While I am not always a fan of the Charlo brother's act outside the ring, give Jermell (and not Jermall) all the credit that he deserves- he earned those four titles by fighting everyone that he could and with no excuses.

Charlo may have been aided in his quest by his promotional company controlling all the stars in his division which made unification fights easier to make but the fighter still fought the fights and didn't back down- full credit to Jermell Charlo.

However, the star of the night once again was welterweight sensation Jaron "Boots" Ennis as Ennis became the IBF's mandatory challenger with a destructive second-round knockout of Canadian Custio Clayton with one right hand.

Ennis landed a shot behind the temple that floored Clayton and even though Clayton rose, his balance was severely impaired and the fight was stopped.

Ennis will now wait for the Errol Spence-Terence Crawford drama to play out and will eventually face the winner but will have to wait again for the fight to happen and what is more likely to happen is the titles are vacated after Spence-Crawford with Ennis fighting for one of those belts.

An idea for Ennis?

How about Ennis vs Jermell Charlo?

If the situation at welter drags out for a while and Charlo gets past whichever mandatory challenger is given first dibs between Sebastian Fundora and Tim Tszyu, tell me you wouldn't be all in for a Boots Ennis challenge of Jermell Charlo?

In 1980 lightweight contender Aaron Pryor was ducked by champions Ernesto Espana (WBA) and Jim Watt (WBC) and couldn't find anyone to fight him.

The Robin Hood of Boxing, Harold Smith, financed a title shot for Pryor at junior welterweight against legendary WBA champion Antonio Cervantes and four rounds later, Pryor was the champion and never saw lightweight again.

Ennis certainly has the frame and power for such a move and despite never fighting at the weight, I'd still pick Ennis over Charlo.

Unlikely to occur but fun to think about.

The reason that I didn't howl too loud about the bad scorecards for Charlo-Castano II was it seemed almost normal compared to the heist that was almost pulled in Paris, France as heavyweight Martin Bakole battered former Olympic gold medalist Tony Yoka around the ring for ten rounds, knocking him down twice, and yet would only win a majority decision.

Bakole knocked down Yoka in the first and almost finished him off in round one and would be given credit for a fifth-round knockdown that was really more of a shove.

Bakole, the younger brother of WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makubu, dominated Yoka, broke his nose early in the fight, and bullied him to the point of Yoka fighting for mere survival in the final round when Yoka needed a knockout to save his undefeated record.

But then the scorecards that had Bakole winning by scores of 96-92 (6-4 minus two knockdowns), 95-93 (5-5 and knockdowns), and a downright amazing 94-94 (6-4 for Yoka and knockdowns) were announced to the amazement to those watching.

I had Bakole winning 99-89 with Yoka only winning round seven and maybe if you were kind, one may have been able to give Yoka round six but nothing else was remotely close.

That would have easily been the worst decision that we have seen in a long time and I'd start counting on having to knock Yoka out if my fighter was going to fight him in France.

Boxing fans often talk of fighters being "exposed" as far as their weaknesses and flaws in particular fights and although that's an overused take, it seems to ring true for Yoka, who seemed to have no clue on how to fend off the aggression of Bakole and had little success doing anything more than a jab that Bakole usually walked through and an occasional right hand.

Yoka entered the fight rated fifth by the IBF, ninth by the WBC, and thirteenth in the WBA ratings, so Bakole's win should allow him to appear in the ratings and might see him leap into involvement in the eliminators held by the IBF to establish their mandatory challenger for the winner of the Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua rematch.

It's too bad that the judges will be remembered longer than the best effort of Bakole's career.

I'll be back later with the rest of the boxing weekend from DAZN and the return of Triller PPV.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 72 Pts (2)
Vince Samano: 64 Pts (5)
Ramon Malpica: 62 Pts (4) 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Boxing Challenge

 The boxing weekend is filled with interesting fights with the top fight from Carson, California from PBC, and Showtime with what should have been settled last summer- an undisputed junior middleweight champion.

Most people thought WBO champion Brian Castano had done enough to defeat WBA, WBC, and IBF champion Jermell Charlo at the end of twelve grueling rounds with the scorecards resulting in a draw.

Most observers this time again favor Charlo, believing that he is the more adaptable of the two and the one that is capable of improving on the first fight.

I disagree as Castano, an attacking fighter that throws lots of punches is capable of upping his output and if he does so, I think California judges will be more appreciative of Castano than the home-state Texas judges of Charlo were in the first fight.

This could go either way and I wouldn't be even mildly surprised to see Charlo notch a win and even a KO victory but I think for the second time that boxing people are sleeping on the chances of Brian Castano.

The co-feature brings back everyone's favorite young bomber in welterweight Jaron "Boots" Ennis and this time, Ennis can force Errol Spence (or Terence Crawford, should that fight come off) to fight him with a win as this one is an IBF eliminator and will establish Ennis as the mandatory challenger. 

Ennis has notched his two biggest wins in his last two fights in a sixth-round knockout of former junior welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets and last time out, a one-round punishment of division gatekeeper Thomas Dulorme.

Ennis will have to dispose of undefeated Canadain Custio Clayton, who has a draw against Lipinets, as his best resume' note, and even though Clayton doesn't appear to be a pushover for Ennis, he clearly appears to be outclassed.

DAZN and Golden Boy are also in California on Saturday night as former WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez attempts to solidify his sport as the mandatory challenger for WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.

The undefeated Ramirez has worn down and stopped aging former contenders in his last two fights in wins over Sullivan Barrera and Yunieski Gonzalez and is a prohibitive favorite against former minor titlist Dominic Boesel.

Boesel avenged an October 2020 third-round knockout loss to Robin Krasniqi with a split decision win last October but has been knocked out in both of his losses (Krasinqi and former title challenger Karo Murat) and could give Ramirez an excellent chance at another knockout nod.

The co-feature will pit undefeated lightweight prospect William Zepeda in his biggest test against former minor junior lightweight champion Rene Alvarado in what should be an action fight for as long as it lasts.

Zepeda posted a weird win over journeyman Luis Viedas in February while Alvarado has lost three in a row, all by decision, since winning his minor title over Andrew Cancio in losses to Lamont Roach and twice to current WBA champion Roger Gutierrez, and will be moving up in weight for the Zepeda fight.

This should be a good affair with the question to be answered as- How long can the smaller fighter in Alvarado take the punches of the younger, larger, and more powerful puncher and if he can survive into the middle to later rounds, how will Zepeda respond?

And a final California card, from Triller and for some reason on pay per view, headlined by former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev's return at cruiserweight after a two-and-a-half-year layoff following his knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez.

I had Kovalev leading after ten rounds (although he was trailing on the official cards) but at 39 and with problems away from the ring, it's easy to see that Kovalev is ripe for the picking by the next good fighter that he faces.

However, is that fighter Tervel Pulev of Bulgaria?

Pulev does have an amateur pedigree with a bronze medal at the London Olympics (his loss was to Oleksandr Usyk) but like Kovalev is 39 and in his undefeated career of sixteen fights hasn't beaten even a fringe contender.

This one is interesting to see which is closer to the truth- Does Kovalev's experience against better competition carry him by the untested Pulev? Or does the heavy mileage on Kovalev show its wear and tear to give Pulev the edge?

Pulev's brother, former heavyweight title challenger, Kubrat Pulev makes his return to the ring after his knockout loss to Anthony Joshua in 2020 against veteran workhorse Jerry Forrest.

Forrest usually gives rounds to his opponents and has taken fighters of Pulev's level to the edge with a draw to Zhilei Zhang and close losses to Carlos Takam and Michael Hunter, so he could do the same against Pulev.

The final fight in the challenge is the first of the day from Paris on ESPN+ as former Olympic heavyweight gold medalist Tony Yoka faces Martin Bakole.

This fight was postponed once and Yoka attempted to participate in an IBF eliminator that was disallowed due to agreeing to face Bakole.

Yoka has beaten some European level fighters of note (Christian Hammer and former title challenger Johan Duphaupas) but no one better while Bakole holds a decision over Sergey Kuzmin, his only loss is nothing to be ashamed of in a tenth round knockout loss to Michael Hunter, and a Yoka win would be the best of his career.

Boxing Challenge

Unification WBA/WBC/IBF- WBO Junior Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Jermell Charlo vs Brian Castano
R.L: Charlo KO 8
TRS: Castano Split Decision
V.S: Charlo KO 10

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Jaron Ennis vs Custio Clayton
R.L: Ennis KO 6
TRS: Ennis KO 3
V.S: Ennis KO 4

Light Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Gilberto Ramirez vs Dominic Boesel
R.L and V.S: Ramirez KO 10
TRS: Ramirez KO 6

Lightweights. 10 Rds
William Zepeda vs Rene Alvarado
R.L and V.S; Zepeda Unanimous Decision
TRS: Zepeda KO 7

Cruiserweights.10 Rds
Sergey Kovalev vs Tervel Pulev
R.L: Pulev KO 6
TRS: Kovalev Unanimous Decision
V.S: Pulev Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Kubrat Pulev vs Jerry Forrest
R.L: Pulev KO 9
TRS: Pulev Unanimous Decision
V.S: Pulev KO 6

Heavyweights.10 Rds
Tony Yoka vs Martin Bakole
R.L and V.S: Yoka KO 4
TRS: Yoka KO 8 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Devils move up in Lottery, choose second in draft

   After a season that seemed so bad that it was soul-sucking but still finished with only the fifth-worst record in the NHL as their 63 points were more than Montreal, Arizona, expansion Seattle, and Philadelphia, the New Jersey Devils were rumored to be floating rumors that the Devils could be persuaded to move their first-rounder in a move that would attempt to settle the worst goaltending situation in the league.

Instead, after yet another change to the process in how the NHL version of the lottery works, the Devils moved up from fifth to second in June's draft and will add another chance to draft an impact player.

Montreal with the league's worst record won the lottery and is expected to select Canadian center Shane Wright with the selection.

Entering the lottery, American center Logan Cooley was the slight choice for the second-rated player of the class with Slovakian winger Juraf Slafkovsky as the best wing in the draft but when you consider that the Devils already have two young centers locked down for the first two lines with long extensions that New Jersey and general manager Tom Fitzgerald could select Slafkovsky as a better fit on the organization's depth chart.

I'll have a bit more draft talk closer to the draft but to the few readers that wondered why I didn't cover the teams so much this year, besides my issues with time due to working so much, I wasn't able to watch as many full games but I tried to watch as many condensed games as I could and there were two other factors.

Rachel has gotten busier with her job and watching a terrible time has taken its toll on making the time from work to watch.

In addition for me personally, the absolutely awful goaltending situation just made some of these games hard to watch.

Normally, I can sit through bad teams and bad seasons, but there was something so putrid about watching a team with the heritage of goaltending and defense as the Devils have, struggle with such issues as this year's teams found it hard to watch.

I'm sure that I'll be watching more often in 2022-23.

Spence vs Crawford- Finally?!

   Errol Spence's recent tenth round TKO stoppage of Yordenis Ugas not only gave him three of the four welterweight titles in boxing, but it also gave him a chance to be a man of his word.

For the last few years, whenever Spence was asked about Terence Crawford and the biggest fight that could be made in a division under wherever Canelo Alvarez is fighting at a given time, Spence's reply would be that he wanted to only face PBC fighters (with the common "wrong side of the street" quote) and once he cleaned all of those fighters out, he would then be happy to face Terence Crawford.

Spence has now done so and he stated that he is now ready to face Crawford in one of the few bouts in boxing that you could legitimately have a solid opinion on why either fighter will emerge victoriously and yet remain a 50/50 fight.

While the fight between the best two welterweights in the world is long overdue, one can make an argument that it hasn't been quite overcooked to past its expiration date.

Crawford's knockout win over Shawn Porter last November was the biggest win of his career and Spence's win over Yordenis Ugas to add a third championship to his coffers may have been his biggest with Ugas coming off a win that retired Manny Pacquiao, although you could also say that Spence's wins over Porter or either Danny or Mikey Garcia will wear just as well after Spence's career is completed.

The time is right with interest at a record high from even some casual fans to make the welterweight division's biggest full unification fight with two undefeated champions since the 1985 pairing of Donald Curry and Milton McCrory (Remember that the unification between Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad did not have the WBA title involved as it was held by James Page at the time).

Assuming that a deal can be made and for the first time, both fighters, Spence's promoter (PBC) and Crawford without a promoter to add to the mix since his contract with Top Rank expired after the knockout of Shawn Porter, all parties seem to motivated for this fight to happen in the fall. 

If I was Crawford, I'd never agree to the fight taking place in Spence's native Texas, where the commission and judges are terrible and the commission head Dickie Cole will likely strongarm his son Lawrence into refereeing the bout and it's rare that a Lawrence Cole officiated affair doesn't have a degree of controversy.

Las Vegas or Los Angeles is likely the site with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn a dark horse contender but allow me to offer an idea that is unlikely to be accepted to hold the fight.

Wichita Kansas isn't known as a boxing hotbed but neither was Omaha, Nebraska until Crawford came along but it has two things that make sense for this fight.

Omaha has been known for its strong support of Terence Crawford and the converse is true for Errol Spence's fan base in Dallas, so I am sure that fans of both fighters would love to support their champion in the legacy-defining fight of their career.

Wichita has a nice facility in the 15,000-seat InTrust Bank Arena, has a population of close to 400,000, and most importantly- happens to be almost halfway between Dallas and Omaha (301 miles from Omaha, 364 from Dallas) and can be almost a straight shot from I-75 from both areas.

In other words, a neutral site that has a nice building, both fan bases can make the trip and it's a drivable trip, if you choose not to fly,

The perfect place for all involved and an atmosphere that could be worthy of such a great fight, but my guess is no one has thought about it, and even if so, the chances are still slim.

As for the fight in the ring?

It's a boxing cliche to use the term "50-50 fight" but for a prospective Errol Spence-Terence Crawford fight that adage is deadly accurate.

One can make a very good case for a Spence win or a Crawford victory and neither could be dismissed very easily by even the most devout fan of either champion.

Spence is thought to be the bigger puncher yet it is Crawford that is the better finisher.

Crawford is thought to be the better boxer yet it is Spence that has fought the twelve-round distance more often.

Neither fighter scores many early-round knockouts but are considered to have above-average power.

Both fighters have good chins but have been unofficially dropped in recent fights that were scored as non-knockdowns (Crawford vs Egid Kavaliauskas, Spence vs Yordenis Ugas).

Spence is the naturally bigger and stronger fighter but Crawford appears to be the more fluid and naturally athletic boxer.

I believe that Spence is underrated as a boxer and Crawford is underrated as a puncher.

How do I see the fight playing out?

Often what happens when two elite fighters at their peak get into the ring is that their styles often reverse and if that happens that's definitely to the advantage of Terence Crawford.

Errol Spence doesn't fight as well off his back foot and should he be forced to box more than usual, the edge definitely swings to Crawford.

Spence is the better fighter from close range and if Spence is able to make this an inside affair, Spence should be the fighter that receives the most benefits.

Neither fighter is a particularly fast starter, so I think a chance of an early knockout is unlikely.

I think that the most likely scenario for a Spence win would be Spence slowly wearing Crawford down, taking his legs away, and dominating the late rounds for a decision win.

The most likely path for Crawford's victory would be mixing boxing and punching over the first half of the fight before changing styles in the middle rounds and stalks Spence as he busts him up around the eyes and wins via a late-round TKO or perhaps a battered Spence barely survives until the final bell before a decision win for Crawford.

I think this is the best fight that boxing can make and I think the styles should mesh well for sustained action, which isn't always the case (De La Hoya-Trinidad wasn't a great action fight despite the anticipation) and it had better be an action fight after the time and lengths taken in order to finally get these two fighters in the ring against each other.

I've been back and forth already on which fighter I lean towards but I'll reserve that choice until the fight is ready to take place- besides it gives me plenty of time to change my mind...