Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox

 It has been a while since I worked on an inbox cleaning that doesn't have tributes to the recently passed, so the time feels right.

The photo to the left is from Pennsylvania and what resulted there from Hurricane Agnes in June 1972.

There was some similar flooding here in Washington Country, including some near my house (I remember seeing old home movies of the flooding that my dad filmed) but Pennsylvania was hit even harder with spots in Harrisburg ending the storm thirteen feet underwater.

Hurricane Agnes is THE storm that people remember most locally and it's hard to believe fifty years have gone by since the devastation that it brought to the Mid-Atlantic.

Newsweek reports a recent finding of forty-five eggs laid on a Texas beach by the Kemp-Ridley sea turtle, which is the smallest and rarest sea turtle among all sea turtles.

Apparently, some maintenance workers on the beach found a few of the eggs and helped twenty-five hatchlings reach the water, and later after the local agent was notified, even more turtles hatched and were assisted in making it to the water.

The Kemp-Ridley turtle is most often found in the Gulf of Mexico but has been found in the Atlantic Ocean in spots and is the only sea turtle that nests in the day rather than usual night for turtles.

Accuweather reports a record-breaking Burmese Python catch in the wilds of Florida that dwarfed the previous record high for weight.

This python weighed 215 pounds which obliterated the former record that was set in 2016 at 140 pounds and this could have been even worse as the python was a female, pregnant, and carrying one hundred and twenty-two eggs!

We have written before about invasive species and the issues that Florida has but that python (listed as the size of a large shipping container) would have been quite a problem on its own!

The Athletic looks back at the twenty-fifth anniversary of "Happy Gilmore"'s theatrical release and how Happy Gilmore became such an iconic film in the world of sports.

The author talks to star Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald who portrayed Gilmore's heel protagonist Shooter McGavin, director Dennis Dugan, who played the commissioner and is the father of former Phillies farmhand Kelly Dugan, who I once met at a Hagerstown Suns game as Kelly played for Lakewood, and co-writer Tim Herlihy for the ins and outs of the film and just how Bob Barker was selected to fight Gilmore and how that fight was planned.

I've written during basketball season about how impressed I was with WNBA player Chiney Ogwumike's work on ESPN's NBA Today and Forbes magazine, which isn't known for its sports coverage, writes about the importance of Ogwumike and her hectic schedule as an NBA broadcaster with playing with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.

Ogwumike hasn't quite reached her former level of play after struggling with injuries and has played in only fifteen games, averaging six points in sixteen minutes per game.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

 We return to offer tributes to a few recent notables that passed away within the last few weeks.

Goodbye to Lennie Rosenbluth at the age of 89.

Rosenbluth was the first dominant player in the first few seasons of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball and led North Carolina to an undefeated season in 1957 and the Tar Heels first national championship.

Rosenbluth averaged 27.9 points a game in 1957 and scored twenty points in the 1957 NCAA finals when North Carolina defeated Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in triple overtime.

Rosenbluth would be the first-round pick of the Philadelphia Warriors in 1958 but averaged only four points a game in two seasons before retiring.

Goodbye to Charles Siebert at the age of 84.

The long-time character actor in the seventies and eighties in both film and television is most remembered for his role as Dr. Stanley Riverside during the entire seven-season run of "Trapper John MD".

Siebert transitioned to directing more than acting after the end of Trapper John and did several episodes on various television shows most often for shows on syndication such as "Xena Warrior Princess" and "Hercules" or shows that often were USA Network original programming like "Silk Stalkings" and Pacific Blue.

Goodbye to Jim Seals at the age of 79.

Seals was the former of the duo "Seals and Crofts" which hit several times with their soft rock sound in the seventies with hits such as "Summer Breeze", "Diamond Girl" and "Get Closer", all of which made the top ten singles list.

Seals were also the brother of the late "England Dan" Seals, who also formed a formidable soft duo with John Ford Coley in the seventies but Seals and Crofts had another noteworthy link to a young Shawn as they were involved in all of the music/soundtrack of the 1977 film "One on One" which starred Robby Benson as a basketball phenom who struggles in the slimy world of big-time college basketball before his heroic finale in winning the big game.

As you likely know already, if it had a ball in a film it was likely that I saw it in the theatres...

Goodbye to Hugh McElhenny at the age of 93.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer was part of the famous San Francisco 49ers "Million Dollar Backfield" in the 1950s with three other Hall members, Y.A Tittle, John Henry Johnson, and Joe "The Jet" Perry.

The Million Dollar Backfield is the only full-house backfield in league history to have each of its members enshrined in Canton.

Voted fourth by NFL Network among the most elusive backs in league history, McElhenny averaged 4.7 yards per carry for his career and would have averaged five yards per carry had he not staggered with two final seasons with the Giants and Lions when he was pretty much finished as a back.

McElhenny made six Pro Bowls, was named to the First-Team All-Pro team five times, was named to the all-1950s team and had his number 39 retired by the 49ers.

Goodbye to Brig Owens at the age of 79.

Owens was drafted by Dallas in 1965 but spent his entire playing career with Washington from 1966-77 and played in every game for the then-Redskins until his final season in 1977.

The safety intercepted thirty-eight passes over his Washington career with eight of those in 1968 but Owens has a record that is unlikely to be broken as in Washington's 72-41 win over the Giants in 1966 (still the highest scoring game in NFL history), Owens scored on an interception return and a fumble recovery with both touchdowns coming from exactly sixty-two yards away.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Bam breaks out!

    Two title fights and a title eliminator saw three excellent performances but one stood highest of them all as Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez stamped himself as a star with a dominant eighth-round knockout of former champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to retain the WBC junior bantamweight title in Rodriguez's hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

Rungvisai entered the fight with three wins in Thailand since losing a decision to Juan Francisco Estrada in 2019 but owned a win over Estrada and two wins over Roman Gonzalez, so the question with Rungvisai was this- How close to his peak form was Rungvisai to that fighter and could he handle a highly skilled and talented young fighter?

The answer is still unclear on what Rungvisai has remaining in his career because Rodriguez was so good that he looked clearly out of Rungvisai's league as Rodriguez won arguably every round ( I gave Rungvisai the second round and that was a close round) with sharp counters and the type of speed that the veteran had no chance against.

Give Rungvisai credit- he kept coming forward but it was clear by the middle rounds that he was overmatched and when Rodriguez landed a left hand in the seventh that caused Rungvisai to stumble and with some assistance from shoes that troubled him all fight long, touched his gloves to the floor for a knockdown.

Rodriguez finished the fight in the eighth, landing several punches that drove Rungvisai into the ropes and pounded him until the referee had little choice but to step in to end the fight.

Rodriguez says he can return to fight at flyweight or he could fight either WBA champion Juan Francisco Estrada (who gave up the title that Rodriguez holds) or Roman Gonzalez in what would be highly anticipated fights.

No matter the path that Rodriguez and promoter Eddie Hearn choose, there is a star in the making in Bam Rodriguez and I think boxing fans could be watching this young man for a long time to come.

In the co-feature, Murodjon Akhmadaliev survived an injured hand to stop Ronny Rios in the final round to retain his WBA and IBF junior featherweight titles.

Akhmadaliev dominated the first six rounds before injuring his left hand and choosing to box almost one handed for the latter half of the fight before stepping up the pace with a two fisted attack that would knock Rios to the floor.

Rios would rise but the fight was ended there.

Akhmadaliev badly hurt Rios in the fifth round and almost ended the fight in that round and it's not impossible that he injured his left hand during his biggest round of the fight.

I had the champion well ahead after eleven rounds (109-100) but I loved the killer instinct that allowed him to go for the impressive finish of Rios rather than be satisfied with a wide decision win.

The fight to be made is the full unification against WBC and WBO champion Stephen Fulton and both fighters seem to want the bout but as always in boxing, network and promotional issues will need to be overcome.

Both champions appear to be versatile fighters that can use different styles to win their fights and I could see their fight as anywhere from a war to a bore, but it needs to be made soon.

An upset occurred in Mexicali, Mexico on ESPN+ as former WBA light flyweight champion Hekkie Budler traveled from South Africa to win a unanimous decision over former WBO champion Elwin Soto and earned a title shot against WBC light flyweight titleholder Ken Shiro (Teraji).

Soto won the first four rounds on my card but Budler's smoother boxing took over in round five and Soto was just the duller and less active fighter for the remainder of the fight.

Budler dropped an off-balance Soto early in the final round as Soto tried to rescue the fight as he did in his title-winning fight against Angel Acosta, and it appeared that the knockdown was the exclamation point on a solid win for Budler (116-11 on my card).

Then the scoring was announced with all three judges scoring it for Budler 114-113, which meant that had Budler not scored what seemed to be a superfluous knockdown the fight would have ended in a draw that saved the hometown combatant.

That would have been a travesty of justice for Budler, who gave a terrific performance considering his travel, age (34), and his fighting just once since losing his title to Hiroto Kyoguchi and should make an interesting matchup with Ken Shiro in his title fight.

As for Soto, it was his second defeat in a row (he lost his title to Jonathan Gonzalez by split decision) and he has become a fighter that just doesn't throw enough punches and has become reliant on his power to save him. Boxing Challenge

TRS: 115 Pts(4) 
Ramon Malpica: 99 Pts (3)
Vince Samano: 93 Pts (3) 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing weekend was weakened a little bit by a late pullout but there are still three very excellent fights in the lower weight divisions with two championship pairings and an eliminator that will see two of the top five fighters in their division squaring off.

DAZN will be showing both title fights with the main event pitting WBC junior bantamweight champion Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez defending against former champion Srisket Sor Rungvisai.

Rodriguez filled in for Rungvisai, who pulled out of the fight after contracting Covid-19, against veteran Carlos Cuadras for the vacant title and won a unanimous decision in a mild upset, not because of Rodriguez's talent, which isn't questioned but because Rodriguez was rising in weight and had never fought even a ten rounder, let alone a world title fight.

Rungvisai has two wins over Roman Gonzalez (the first a controversial decision win and the second a one-punch fourth-round knockout) and a win and a loss to Juan Francisco Estrada, which proves his quality.

Rodriguez is favored by most slightly as Rungvisai's three wins since losing to Estrada in 2019 haven't been overly impressive and at 35 could be past his best days.

However, if the peak Rungvisai shows up in San Antonio this could be a very exciting and close fight.

Julio Cesar Martinez was scheduled to face McWilliams Arroyo in a rematch for Martinez's WBC flyweight title that saw both men knocked down in two rounds in their first fight before a head clash forced a no-contest ending.

However, Martinez pulled out of the fight earlier this week (which has become a habit for Martinez in recent fights) so the fight was canceled.

Murodjon Akhmadaliev will defend his WBA and IBF junior featherweight titles against his WBA mandatory challenger Ronny Rios in another fight that has seen two postponements.

Akhmadaliev and WBC/WBO champion Stephen Fulton have each claimed to want a full unification but Akhmadaliev will have to win against Rios first for that fight to have a chance of happening.

Rios is a tough veteran but I think he is a cut below the champion so I favor Akhmadaliev to retain his titles.

Rios has been stopped in two of his three losses so Akhmadaliev could gain points with an impressive stoppage.

ESPN+'s main event is a good one from Mexicali Mexico as former WBO light flyweight champion Elwin Soto faces former WBA and IBF light flyweight kingpin Hekkie Budler in an eliminator that will see the winner become the mandatory challenger for WBC champion Ken Shiro.

Soto lost his title to Jonathan Gonzalez via split decision last October (Gonzalez successfully defended his title for the first time last night in Florida) and is making his return to the ring for the first time since the defeat.

Budler lost his WBA belt to the exciting Hiroto Kyoguchi by a tenth-round knockout in 2018 and has fought just once since, winning a unanimous decision over Jonathan Almacen in May 2021.

Soto is the bigger puncher, Budler the smoother boxer and this is also a hard fight to pick from but I slightly lean towards the younger and more active Soto.

Boxing Challenge

WBC Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds 
Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez vs Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
All: Rodriguez Unanimous Decision

WBA and IBF Junior Featherweight Titles. 12 Rds
Murodjon Akhmadaliev vs Ronny Rios
Ramon Malpica and Vince Samano: Akhmadaliev Unanimous Decision
TRS: Akhmadaliev KO 10

Light Flyweights. 12 Rds
Elwin Soto vs Hekkie Budler
All; Soto Unanimous Decision.

Cavaliers select Luke Travers

    The Cleveland Cavaliers had one final pick in the second round at number fifty-six and selected Luke Travers, a 6-7 guard from Australia.

Travers is twenty years old and instead of coming to the United States to play college basketball, Travers stayed home to turn pro in the Australian professional league, where he has played three seasons for the Perth Wildcats.

Travers has seen his playing time increase every season but playing against grown men and long-time professionals has been an adjustment.

Last season Travers averaged seven points, five rebounds, and two assists in twenty-two minutes per game for Perth but I've seen some websites list him as a forward, others as a guard and he shot only forty-one percent and just twenty-five percent from three-point distance, so Travers appears to be very raw and perhaps will turn out to be a tweener that isn't big enough to play power forward or a solid enough shooter to play a pure wing position.

Still, he's only twenty and could develop into an NBA player but I think the odds are against him at this point, Travers is most likely to wind up as a solid national player that may never reach the Cavaliers training camp but considering the roster situation and the point in the draft, Travers was acceptable as a pick to hold his rights and may be one of those names that see their rights move from team to team in order to make trades work.

Cavaliers select Isaiah Mobley

   The Cleveland Cavaliers took another familiar name with the forty-ninth pick (round two) that they purchased from the Sacramento Kings when they drafted Isaiah Mobley from USC.

The older brother of 2021 Cleveland first-rounder Evan Mobley, Isaiah Mobley is a 6'10 forward that averaged fourteen points and eight rebounds per game last season for the Trojans in making the All-Pac 12 first team.

Isaiah Mobley connected on thirty-six percent of his three-point attempts last season, so he can shoot from the perimeter, is noted as being a good defender, and is reported to have similar strengths to Evan as far as his offensive game and especially his passing.

However, the knock on the elder Mobley is that he tends to gain weight  (238 pounds) and has been known to have less than strong conditioning habits.

That can often be a red flag for players as they have to work harder to stay in shape as they age than when they are young, so weight issues for young players don't tend to vanish only because they are in the NBA.

Considering the positive aspects of Mobley's game, one would think that he could have been a middle to late first-rounder, so the questions about Mobley's weight, conditioning, and effort had to contribute to why Mobley was available in the middle of round two.

Mobley will play for the Cavaliers summer league team in Las Vegas next month and will likely sign a two-way contract to allow him to receive minutes with the G-League Cleveland Charge and still be used when needed by the Cavaliers if injuries require it.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Cavaliers select Khalifa Diop

 The Cleveland Cavaliers started draft day with two second-round picks, I would have been mildly surprised if they actually used both picks, so I would have been more surprised that they used all three picks after they acquired another selection from Sacramento for 1.75 million dollars.

The first of these picks was the 39th overall pick and the Cavaliers used it on an intriguing player that they will not have to place on the main roster with the selection of Senegal center Khalifa Diop.

Diop is twenty years old and played in Spain last season earning the award for the best player under twenty-two years of age in the EuroCup league, which is the European version of Triple-A baseball.

Diop is no relation to former first-round selection DeSagana Diop, who the Cavaliers picked eighth overall in 2001 and averaged a whopping two points per game in six hundred one games in the league.

Diop was chosen over several players that had very productive careers such as Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas, Joe Johnson, and Zach Randolph to name only a few, so to long-time Cleveland fans, the name Diop does bring a wince.

But that was then, and this Diop was taken thirty-ninth not eighth which makes a project a more palatable gamble to tab.

Diop isn't regarded as an overly athletic big man and is an inside scorer rather than someone that will force defenses to move out on him to guard against a jumper.

He is regarded as a very hard worker, willing to do the dirty work inside, and is reported to not only be very good at setting picks and screens but he enjoys the physical part of the game.

Cleveland will allow Diop to play in Europe again this season, which allows him to continue to develop his game and saves the team the worries of using a roster spot on a developmental big man that will rarely play.

From what I've seen, Khalifa Diop could turn out to be a serviceable second-unit big man as his ceiling if all goes well and in the second round, there are no guarantees of any players maxing out to their potential but it is a mild gamble on a raw talent.

Back later or tomorrow (boxing challenge to be written) with the other two second-round selections added by the Cavaliers.

Cavaliers select Ochai Agbaji

      The Cleveland Cavaliers were connected to several players at the fourteenth pick of the first round and the final pick of the "lottery teams".

The two players that were most often mentioned as realistic possibilities were both available with the Cavaliers selection with Kansas senior Ochai Agbaji and Ohio State freshman Malaki Branham there for the picking.

I don't watch nearly the amount of college basketball as I once did, so I relied on a few videos and the recommendations of others to form an opinion of who I was hoping to see Cleveland add and I could see reasons to add either of the two players.

Agbaji played four seasons for Kansas and was the Big 12 player of the year when he led the Jayhawks to the national title averaging 18.8 points per game, shooting 47.5 from the floor and forty percent from three-point range.

Branham averaged thirteen points a game, shot almost fifty percent, and was playing extremely well at the end of the season for Ohio State.

Agbaji is the better shooter, has the higher floor of the two players, and is expected to contribute faster, while Branham may have the chance to be the better player long-term, he may also have a higher chance of busting.

I would have been okay with either player but I also would have wondered a bit about either and after Cleveland selected Ochai Agbaji, I wondered even more.

The 6'5 Agbaji certainly has the shooting range and I think at worst, he will be a player that can knock down the open shot but I am not sure how he will do at creating his shot and not being the focus of the offense as he was at Kansas.

Agbaji improved in each of his four years at Kansas and that is another problem in today's NBA players that stay the full four years at college tend to be more mature and ready to play than younger players but they also don't make the improvements from year to year that younger players do.

In other words, the player that shows up as a rookie is pretty much what you will see for the rest of their career.

What I also found interesting were the comments by Koby Altman that the team sees Agbaji as a "2", not a "3" (shooting guard more than a small forward) and that's interesting because that's the position that the returning Collin Sexton, Caris LeVert, for a chunk of last season Isaac Okoro plays.

If Cleveland sees Agbaji as a 3, perhaps something more could be about to happen with the roster as I just don't see enough minutes for all four of those players to be pleased.

Collin Sexton is still a restricted free agent and I suppose the team could allow him to leave or work out a trade, LeVert has one season remaining on his contract, and Okoro has been inconsistent offensively, so there is some room for movement.

The Cavaliers biggest need was and is at wing/three/small forward and I'm not sure that Agbaji changes anything there other than adding some outside shooting, which they also need.

Still, I think Agabaji has a chance to be a nice player if not an impactful one and I still think that situation seems a bit crowded and could see a shakeup before the season.

Cleveland has been rumored to be one of the teams mentioned to be in talks with the San Antonio Spurs for Dejounte Murray, who would be a major addition of course but I'm not sure that the Cavaliers have what the Spurs are looking for in a package for Murray, especially if the Atlanta Hawks are offering John Collins as is also rumored.

Cleveland bought the Sacramento Kings second rounder before the draft for 1.75 million and the rights to Euro Sasha Venzenko, who will likely never play in the NBA, to give them three second-rounders, and to my surprise, the team actually used all of those choices and I'll be giving them a look tonight or over the weekend.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

  Sadly, it's time for a long-overdue tribute to some recent passings of persons of note.

Goodbye to Carlos Ortiz at the age of 85.

Ortiz held the lightweight title in the days of one champion on two occasions. Before that, Ortiz was the first junior welterweight champion when the division was re-introduced in 1959 after a thirteen-year hiatus.

Ortiz knocked out Kenny Lane in two rounds to win the junior welterweight title and defended it twice before losing a majority decision to Duillio Loi.

After losing to Loi by decision in their 1961 rematch, Ortiz decided to drop to lightweight and upset Joe Brown in 1962 via unanimous decision.

Ortiz would defend the title four times before losing to Ismael Laguna in April 1965 in Laguna's native Panama by majority decision but would regain the title seven months later from Laguna in Ortiz's homeland of Puerto Rico by unanimous decision.

Ortiz would defend the title five times, four times by knockout in his second reign, before losing to Carlos Cruz by split decision in 1968 and would never challenge for the championship again before retiring in 1972.

The Hall of Famer defeated four members of the Hall (Sugar Ramos, Ismael Laguna, Flash Elorde, and Joe Brown) and drew with another (Nicolino Rocche) over the course of his career.

Goodbye to Mike Pratt at the age of 73.

Pratt was a star at Kentucky in the final years of the Adolph Rupp era and would play two seasons for the ABA's Kentucky Colonels after graduating from Kentucky.

Pratt averaged six points a game for the Colonels and decided to enter coaching with the recently deceased Lee Rose at UNC-Charlotte as an assistant before becoming the head coach after UNC-Charlotte's 1977 Final Four run when Rose accepted the head coaching job at Purdue.

Pratt's record was 56-52 over four seasons and after being fired, Pratt became the long-time color commentator on Kentucky Wildcats radio broadcasts.

Goodbye to Don Perkins at the age of 84.

Perkins was the 1961 Rookie of the Year for the expansion Dallas Cowboys in 1961 and would be named All-Pro on three occasions with six selections for the Pro Bowl.

Perkins never rushed for fewer than six hundred yards in his eight seasons with Dallas and made the Pro Bowl in each of his final three seasons before retiring at the end of the 1968 season at the age of 30.

Had Perkins played at his same level for a few more years rather than retire, Don Perkins may have been given consideration for the Hall of Fame.

Goodbye to Marion Barber III at the age of 38.

Barber, the son of former Jets running back Marion Barber, was drafted in the fourth round by Dallas in 2005 after his college career at Minnesota. In his first five seasons with Dallas, he never rushed for less than five hundred yards or scored fewer than five touchdowns.

Barber rushed for over nine hundred yards twice in that stretch and twice scored double-digit touchdowns including fourteen trips to the end zone in 2006 before his production drastically dropped in 2010 leading the Cowboys to allow Barber to leave via free agency.

Barber would play one season with the Chicago Bears before retiring after the 2011 campaign.

Goodbye to Robert Alexander at the age of 64.

Alexander was the high school player of the year in 1976 and was recruited by all the major schools before deciding to stay home with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Alexander rushed for over 1,000 yards as a Mountaineer senior in 1980 and after he left Morgantown, Alexander was the second-highest rusher in WVU history and still resides in tenth currently.

Alexander was drafted in the tenth round by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1981 draft and played for two seasons with the Rams before playing briefly for the USFL's Los Angeles Express.

Goodbye to Dave Hebner at the age of 73.

One of the twin brothers that served as referees in professional wrestling, Dave spent most of his career working for the WWF/E and Vince McMahon and served as the arbiter in some of the business's best-known matches such as Randy Savage-Ricky Steamboat in Wrestlemania III and Savage vs Hulk Hogan in Wrestlemania V.

Hebner also was a key participant in the buildup to Wrestlemania IV when he was scheduled to referee Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant in a Wrestlemania III rematch.

Hebner was placed in the storyline as the WWF had hired Earl Hebner from Jim Crockett Promotions and under an evil twin storyline, Earl kidnapped Dave and took his place in the match, taking a bribe from Ted "Million Dollar Man" DiBiase, counted down Hogan's shoulders despite his shoulder being raised at the count of two to give Andre the championship, which he would "give" to DiBiase minutes after the match.

DiBiase was stripped of the title immediately, which set up a title tournament for Wrestlemania IV. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Beterviev Batters Smith

       The unification of three-quarters of the world light-heavyweight championships Saturday night in New York City was expected to be exciting and would end in a knockout, even an early one but still, few expected an absolute crushing by whichever fighter one supported.

However, Artur Beterbiev grabbed Joe Smith's WBO title and added it to the WBC and IBF belts that Beterbiev held entering the fight with a second-round knockout that left observers stunned by its speed and violence as Beterbiev did to Smith what had never been done before his career.

Now Smith had been beaten and even soundly in decision losses to Sullivan Barrera and later to WBA champion Dmitry Bivol but Barrera had broken Smith's jaw early in the bout and Smith still lasted to the final bell, and Bivol had been badly hurt by Smith late in their fight and never came close to hurting or knocking him down in a lopsided unanimous decision win.

And that is why this win was so impressive- not that Beterbiev knocked Smith out but how he accomplished the victory as every time that Beterbiev landed a power punch, Smith involuntarily moved and when fighters that had previously proven their chin as the sturdy Smith had done over his career have that type of difficulty taking punishment- it's an impressive win!

Smith tried to bang with Beterbiev and he was throwing big shots in the first round, so this wasn't an example of an intimidated fighter, Smith was trying to win, he simply couldn't compete with a fighter that takes Smith's best quality- power and comes back with even more power.

Beterbiev scored a knockdown late in the first round and early in the second that dazed Smith more than hurt him but it was a different story for the second knockdown when Beterbiev scored another knockdown when only the ropes held Smith up with the referee correctly counting that as a knockdown.

The fight was stopped shortly thereafter when Smith wobbled around the ring from every shot before being saved from more punishment.

Beterbiev walked through the punches of a strong puncher and took him out quickly- One cannot ask for more than that.

As for what's next for the man that Timothy Bradley dubbed "The Terminator" on the ESPN broadcast, most would love to see Beterbiev against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol for all four championships but that appears to be a 2023 fight at best.

Beterbiev will travel to the UK for a mandatory challenger in the WBO- England's Anthony Yarde in the fall, while Bivol could fight his mandatory in the WBA (and that is no easy task), former super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez or take a stay-busy fight as Bivol waits for his agreed-to rematch against Canelo Alvarez.

Anthony Yarde earned his second try at the WBO belt last December when he avenged his December 2020 split decision loss to countryman Lyndon Arthur with a fourth-round knockout to replace Arthur in that position.

Yarde's first challenge ended in the eleventh round in a 2019 challenge of then-champion Sergey Kovalev and while Yarde's twenty-one knockouts in his twenty-two wins look impressive, only his win over Lyndon Arthur was over a world-class opponent and while he accounted for himself well against Kovalev, he weakened badly before the stoppage.

As for Beterbiev-Bivol, it will be an interesting fight but Bivol was rocked badly in his win over Joe Smith and unless Bivol moves for twelve rounds and makes a dull affair, I would favor Beterbiev in that fight.

In the co-feature, former two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez stepped up his game with a one-punch knockout of previously undefeated Abraham Nova in the fifth round for the best win of his career in a featherweight ten-rounder.

Ramirez didn't stick and move and instead changed his usual tactics and decided to walk to Nova and overpower him in winning three of the first four rounds on my card before knocking Nova cold with one left hand in the fifth round.

It was the best win of his career for Ramirez, who looked like a fighter of his background rather than his lackluster early fights that even the most ardent Ramirez fan could understandably wonder where Ramirez could be headed in his career.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 111 Pts (4)

Ramon Malpica: 96 Pts (4)

Vince Samano: 90 Pts (4)

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Boxing Challenge

       The boxing weekend is small but consequential as three-quarters of the light heavyweight championship will reside with the winner of Saturday's Artur Beterbiev-Joe Smith encounter at Madison Square Garden.

The winner will not only take the WBC and IBF titles held by Beterbiev and the WBO championship owned by Smith but will place himself into what suddenly looks to be a lucrative fight later this year or early next year against WBA king Dmitry Bivol.

Bivol's upset over Canelo Alvarez has raised public interest in him and a fight involving Bivol against the victor of this fight will certainly have far more interest than it would have previous to Bivol's win over Alvarez.

Saturday's fight should be the closest thing that fight fans could receive to a guaranteed action matchup between the two biggest punchers in the division with Beterbiev (all seventeen of his outings have ended with a Beterbiev knockout) and Smith (twenty-two of his twenty-eight wins by stoppage) each possessing the type of pop that may end a bout with one shot.

Beterbiev has ground down accomplished fighters such as former WBC champion Oleksandr Gvoszdyk (who retired after losing to Beterbiev) and former Olympian Marcus Browne (who cut Beterbiev badly in his last fight but when Beterbiev was told that he may have only one round before the fight was stopped, the Russian brutally finished Browne in that round), while Smith has not only knocked out fighters like Bernard Hopkins (who retired after losing to Smith) and former WBO champion Eleider Alvarez, both fights ended with spectacular KO's that left both men outside the ring.

Neither fighter is an especially quick starter, although Smith did knock out the number one contender in the division at the time in Andrzej Fonfara in one round, and both have shown flaws on occasion.

Beterbiev has been knocked down early, most notably in the second round of a title defense against Briton Callum Johnson before knocking Johnson out in round four of a fight filled with power punches landed by both men.

Smith hasn't been dropped by anyone but in his losses to Sullivan Barrera and Bivol, he was hurt by both fighters, neither of which is a huge puncher so it's not out of the question that Smith wouldn't stand up to the bombs of Beterbiev.

This could be a fight for the ages that disappoints only if both fighters respect the other's punching ability so much that both men fight tentatively and take few chances.

The co-feature is a very interesting featherweight ten-rounder that reminds you of the type of fights that were made in the eighties on network television with two fighters moving to the next level with strong records and the winner stepping forward with a big victory.

Undefeated Abraham "Super" Nova is coming off his most impressive win in an eighth-round knockout of William Encarnacion in January and with a unique look combined with a mascot that resembles Nova brings a memorable prospect with all the glitz to a benchmark bout against Robiesy Ramirez, the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, who has bounced back from a stunning defeat in his debut as a professional to win nine in a row with his last two wins coming over opponents with a combined record of 31-1.

Ramirez is the flashier boxer with Nova as the more aggressive fighter and bigger puncher with fifteen knockouts in his twenty-one wins and I see this as a very even fight to choose a winner.

I can see Nova pressuring Ramirez and suffocating him on his way to an easy decision win but I can just easily project Ramirez's boxing skills keeping Nova at bay and winning easily as well.

Ramirez's vast international amateur experience could make the difference but I have a hunch that Ramirez may not have the best chin, even though I've seen no real reason to think that way.

This is a true 50/50 affair and I'm looking forward to seeing it Saturday night.

Boxing Challenge

Unification WBC/IBF-WBO Light Heavyweight Titles.12 Rds
Artur Beterbiev vs Joe Smith
Ramon Malpica and Vince Samano: Beterbiev KO 7
TRS: Beterbiev KO 10

Featherweights. 10 Rds
Robiesy Ramirez vs Abraham Nova
All: Ramirez Unanimous Decision 

Monday, June 13, 2022

2021-22 Cavaliers:Looking Back & Forward

     It is overdue but I did want to finish this before the NBA draft that discusses the Cleveland Cavaliers surprising yet disappointing 2021-22 that started with low expectations, raised hopes and then disappointed at the end with two disappointing play-in defeats.

I didn't expect much from the Cavaliers this season but some surprises allowed them to easily exceed my hopes.

Foremost was the continuing development of Darius Garland at the point.

Garland's outside shot continues to improve and I liked the late-season push with Garland putting his team on his shoulders when he was the best available scoring option to show that he does have the "alpha dog" mentality.

I am cautious with writing that because too much of that type of play can often be a negative when other scoring threats are on the court but in this case, I think it was not selfishness it was giving his team the best chance to win.

Garland also spent most of the season without a strong option besides him at scoring guard with Collin Sexton missing most of the season with a knee injury, Caris LeVert not fitting well after being acquired from Indiana at the trade deadline, and Isaac Okoro continuing to struggle with his offensive game.

All three could be back next season, although Sexton is a restricted free agent, and one of them is going to have to step forward.

Sexton has struggled in his backcourt pairing with Garland in the past, Okoro is looking more and more like an overdraft by the Cavaliers (picked fifth overall in 2020), and LeVert often looked lost on the floor after being acquired via trade.

I'm not saying that any of the three are beyond hope but each has questions to be answered.

Can Sexton play in the same backcourt with Garland with the defensive deficiencies that come with a small duo and can the Cavaliers afford to try considering the track record?

Can Okoro improve his outside shot and boost his defensive game, which has been decent but for a player drafted as a potential stopper has been a disappointment?

Which LeVert is the real player- the leading scorer for the Pacers or the inconsistent player that arrived in Cleveland after the trade?

Cleveland will also need a point guard to spell Garland and the lack of depth was glaring after the injury to Ricky Rubio.

Rubio's knee injury was a huge loss to the Cavaliers after he played extremely well after being acquired last off-season and his injury allowed Cleveland to place his salary in the deal that landed Caris LeVert.

Rubio is a free agent and even though he isn't expected to return to the lineup until mid-season, Rubio and the Cavaliers have been connected to a possible reunion.

Rajon Rondo will be a free agent and was unlikely to return even before his recent off-court problems.

Cedi Osman was streaky but played well enough that I would keep him around, and Osman can play guard or forward as can Dylan Windler, a former first-rounder that might be looking at a make or break season in 2022-23 after injury problems and going against his college reputation as a three-point shooter as he hit only thirty percent from long-range.

In the frontcourt, the Cavaliers used a three big man lineup when all were healthy and while that wasn't often as the season moved on, it was quite effective against the league's trend to move away from size.

The issue became lack of depth as the Cavaliers were pretty good until they lost one due to injury and as I wrote above that was often.

Evan Mobley had a strong case for rookie of the year and a late-season injury that had a lot to do with the late-season slump that cost the Cavaliers a playoff spot also likely lost Mobley the rookie of the year award after spending most of the year as the favorite.

Mobley's defense was better than expected and he is on his way to becoming along with Darius Garland, the franchise's foundation to build around.

Jarrett Allen also had a big year that saw him miss time late in the season and Cleveland will need more help behind Allen at center.

I liked what I saw from Moses Brown when he filled in when Allen was injured and I'd like to see him have a chance to be the backup in training camp.

Lauri Markkanen played better than I expected after the Cavaliers acquired him from Chicago but I still think the Cavaliers would receive more from Markannen as an offensive gun off the bench than relying on him as a starter.

Kevin Love was the surprise of the season with his acceptance of a new role with the second unit, his fit for the position and he was able to stay healthy for the first time in a while as well.

Love's contract ends at the end of next season and ironically his strong performance could make him viable as a trade piece should the Cavaliers find a return that would be to their liking.

I think Lamar Stevens has a good chance of sticking as a role player if he can continue to improve his shooting and Dean Wade can shoot the ball but needs to improve on the other end.

Good teams count on one player like Stevens and Wade, not two and it's very possible that these two players could be battling for one spot in the rotation,

Cleveland badly needs a wing and backup big man and I think between their first-rounder and free agency they should be able to address those two needs.

Yes, considering the Cavaliers start, the losses in the play-in game were disappointing after a playoff berth seemed so secure earlier in the season.

The lack of depth showed very badly as lineup cornerstones began to fall by the wayside and the lack of offense without the top guns in a lineup that at times didn't have any of their three best players was a glaring weakness.

Still, overall, had you asked me before the season would I take my chances with forty-four wins with the questions on the roster, I would have taken that as a major step forward for a rebuilding franchise.

The season may have ended in a disappointing way but I'm not disappointed with a season that showed promise and raised expectations for the future...

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Boxing Challenge: DuBois crushes Bryan, Munguia, Berlanga win

   The chalk held firm for the three fights in this weekend's boxing main events but some victors proved to be more impressive than others.

In the afternoon in Miami, Daniel DuBois punctured the laughing stock that was Trevor Bryan "champion" and may have finally sent Don King into retirement for good with a left hook that dropped Bryan face-first to the mat in the fourth round and knocked him out.

The win won DuBois the minor title that Bryan held but more importantly moved into the mandatory challenger slot for the WBA that will eventually earn him a championship opportunity against whoever is the champion.

DuBois shook the portly Bryan with every punch and it seemed to be only a matter of time from the start on when the final punch would land to conclude a strange evening that felt like it was Don King promoting a fight card in the 80s at your local Moose club.

I half-expected to see Tony Tubbs or Pinklon Thomas come out of the few hundred fans and challenge DuBois for his newly-won belt, which would have been the icing on the cake for this strange afternoon but at least Trevor Bryan will go away to the obscurity that he came from.

As for DuBois, the questions still exist- we know he can punch and we know he has an excellent offensive game but the only time he faced a quality puncher, he was knocked out so there are remaining questions.

Fortunately for DuBois, those answers will have to wait until he enters the ring for his inevitable title chance.

In Anaheim, California, for four rounds prohibitive underdog Jimmy Kelly appeared to be surprising Jaime Munguia as Munguia appeared slow and underprepared for a fight that few were happy to see occur, and even fewer than that thought Kelly had even a slim chance of winning.

Kelly boxed and gave Munguia just enough movement to keep him off balance and looking very slow which was enough to hold a lead on my scorecard (39-37) after four rounds.

That lasted as long as it took for Munguia to land a left hook that dropped Kelly but didn't seem to hurt him that badly.

The right uppercut that scored another knockdown shortly thereafter was a different story and when Munguia jumped on Kelly with several combinations that caused Kelly to collapse in a corner, the referee called a stop to the fight and gave Munguia the expected win but with a little more trouble than expected.

Munguia's finishing effort might have been impressive but the remainder was not, and Munguia's lack of speed chasing Kelly made me think that Munguia and promoter Oscar De La Hoya may have the right idea in avoiding Demetrius Andrade like the plague when a chance at Andrade's WBO title was available for the asking.

Munguia can punch with the best of the middleweight division but it seems like anyone in the top ten that can move is going to give him major problems and perhaps Team Munguia knew more than we thought all along.

The main event on ESPN saw another disappointing outing from prospect Edgar Berlanga, who won a wider than most thought unanimous decision over veteran Roamer Alexis Angulo in New York City.

The judges gave Berlanga the edge by scores of 99-91 x2 and 98-92, and while I thought Berlanga won the fight, I had it a closer 96-94 score.

Berlanga, who stopped each of his first sixteen opponents in the first round, went the distance for the fourth fight in a row, and never seriously hurt Angulo, who pressed the attack and kept Berlanga off his back foot and made him a jab and move fighter.

There's nothing wrong with Berlanga's style change as he is facing much tougher competition and not everyone is going to fall in the first round but at times he seems almost timid and far from the banger that his early reputation built him as.

Berlanga actually bit Angulo on the shoulder in the seventh round and should have lost a point or even two for that infraction.

In addition to not being penalized, Berlanga was very classless in the post-fight interview as he laughed about it when asked about the chomp.

Top Rank is usually the best company when it comes to knowing when the right time is to move a young prospect and how to make sure that he is ready for better opponents as they mature but it appears that they have errored badly with Edgar Berlanga, who might be best suited to take a half step back in opposition for his next fight or two in order to restore some shine to a prospect that despite an unbeaten record is becoming more suspect than prospect.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 107 Pts (6)
Ramon Malpica:92 Pts (6)
Vince Samano: 86 Pts (4)

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Boxing Challenge

     This weekend's bouts in the boxing challenge aren't exactly filled with compelling matchups but they could be important for a few contenders that will need to post victories.

On Pay Per View, Trevor Bryan defends his WBA minor heavyweight title against England's Daniel DuBois in Miami.

The minor title isn't important (the fight was ordered when DuBois's "interim" title was removed and Bryan was forced to face DuBois.) but what is important is that the winner of this fight will become the mandatory challenger in the WBA for the winner of the Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua rematch, which means a shot at the real championship eventually and the payday that comes with that opportunity.

Bryan, who is the poster child for the ridiculousness of the minor "world" titles, has struggled through defenses against a shot Bermane Stiverne (in what was an entertaining fight, if not for the title designation) and a split decision in his last fight against unknown Jonathan Guidry and is a solid underdog against DuBois, who was a highly-touted prospect after explosive knockouts over soft opposition in the UK before a tenth round knockout loss in a brutal battle against Joe Joyce (in a fight that placed Joyce in the rotation as the mandatory challenger for the WBO) that saw DuBois suffer a broken orbital bone.

DuBois has knocked out two more soft touches since the Joyce loss and unless his punch resistance has weakened from the war against Joe Joyce, is a favorite over Bryan based on the talent that he is thought to possess.

The DAZN-Golden Boy card from Anaheim is pretty blah and the main event is equally milquetoast at super middleweight division catchweight between undefeated middleweight Jaime Munguia and non-descript Brit Jimmy Kelly in the latest of the squash match tour that Munguia has traveled since vacating his WBO junior middleweight championship.

I'm not sure who to blame for whatever this is that Munguia is doing with his career, whether it's Munguia himself, his manager, promoter Oscar De La Hoya, or whomever but these fights cannot be helpful to the fighter and it definitely isn't helping him in anyone else's eyes either.

As for Kelly, he is coming off an upset win over 28-0 Kanat Islam in February but the only other fight of note was a decision defeat to Dennis Hogan in 2018, and he will need a career-best effort to trouble Munguia.

ESPN-Top Rank is in New York for the latest for super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga in a ten-rounder against veteran Roamer Alexis Angulo.

Berlanga stopped his first sixteen opponents in the first round but has been taken the distance in his last three fights including being knocked down two fights ago by Marcelo Cocares.

Berlanga looked a little better in his most recent appearance in a decision win over veteran Steve Rolls but also tired in the later rounds and allowed the Canadian to rally on the scorecards.

Berlanga needs an impressive performance against another durable veteran in Angulo, it will be interesting to see if Berlanga attempts to increase his aggression and tries to score a knockout against a boxer that lasted ten rounds before being stopped in a 2020 fight against David Benavidez and lasted until the final bell in a title challenge against then-WBO champion Gilberto Ramirez in his only two losses.

This is a step up for Berlanga and Angulo should provide a stern test.

Boxing Challenge

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Trevor Bryan vs Daniel DuBois
Ramon Malpica: DuBois KO 7
TRS: DuBois KO 2
Vince Samano: DuBois KO 3

Super Middleweights 12 Rds
Jaime Munguia vs Jimmy Kelly
R.L; Munguia KO 5
TRS: Munguia KO 7
V.S: Munguia KO 10

Super Middleweights. 10 Rds
Edgar Berlanga vs Roamer Alexis Angulo
R.L; Berlanga Split Decision
TRS: Berlanga Unanimous Decision
V.S: Angulo Unanimous Decision 

Boxing Challenge: Kyoguchi Bloodies Bermudez

    Hiroto Kyoguchi used an impressive offensive arsenal to batter and rip open the skin of Esteban Bermudez for eight rounds before various cuts on the brave Bermudez forced the fight to be stopped in the eighth round in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Kyoguchi retained his WBA light flyweight title in the main event of the  Matchroom/DAZN card that was his mandatory defense against Bermudez, who became the top contender and winner of a now-defunct minor title after an upset victory over Carlos Canizales last year.

Bermudez bled from the mouth and nose in the first round and would sustain a cut over his right eye from Kyoguchi's punches and a slice along his hairline from an early-round clash of heads and showed a tremendous amount of courage in fighting through what announcer Corey Erdman called a "Crimson Mask", which made me laugh as I remembered Gordon Solie using that term when someone was bleeding on the old "Georgia Championship Wrestling" show on WTBS.

Kyoguchi landed right uppercut after right uppercut that couldn't miss Bermudez and with much of the fight held at close range, the champion won almost every exchange despite the toughness of Bermudez but it was never easy work for Kyoguchi, who won almost every round despite losing a point in the sixth round for head clashes, which seemed like a poor decision by the referee as both fighters were charging into each other and another point lost in the seventh round.

The seventh-round cost Kyoguchi a knockdown as Bermudez was on his way to the floor when the champion landed two punches to the back of the head and after the deserved deduction, Kyoguchi had watched a 10-8 round turn into a 9-9 round on the scorecards.

Kyoguchi left his corner in a rage to start round eight and with a violent volley drove Bermudez back into the ropes and the referee determined the challenger unable to continue less than half a minute into the eighth round.

The best fight that can be made in the light flyweight division right now would be an all-Japanese unification fight with the talented WBC champion Ken Shiro in what would be a guaranteed all-action encounter.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 101 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica: 86 Pts (1)
Vince Samano: 82 Pts (0)

Friday, June 10, 2022

Boxing Challenge

    Tonight on DAZN,  the best fighter under 112 pounds defends his title against his mandatory challenger as the WBA continues to chip away at their multiple title mess one division at a time.

Hiroto Kyoguchi defends against Esteban Bermudez for Kygoguchi's WBA light flyweight championship, as Bermudez's minor title will be eliminated.

Bermudez knocked out heavily favored Carlos Canizales last May to win the minor belt and earn the resulting title shot for the title.

Kyoguchi is one of the most fun fighters in the world to watch and has the potential for two super fights in his home country against fellow citizens Ken Shiro, who holds the WBC light flyweight title in a unification fight or move up one division to flyweight against WBO champion Junto Nakatani in what would be an excellent action bout.

Kyoguchi is favored to retain his title but a knockout win would impress the American television audience watching for the first time.

Boxing Challenge

Ramon Malpica: Kyoguchi Unanimous Decision
TRS: Kyoguchi KO 9
Vince Samano: Bermudez Unanimous Decision

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Inoue Destroys Donaire in Two!

  The highly anticipated rematch of the 2019 fight of the year ended quickly in Saitama Japna as Naoya Inoue knocked Nonito Donaire down each in of the first two rounds and closed the show in round two to keep his WBA and IBF bantamweight titles and add the WBC version of the championship to his coffers with the knockout win.

Donaire had won both of his fights after losing a unanimous but very competitive decision to Inoue, winning the WBC title along with defending against his mandatory challenger and all the while chasing the Inoue rematch, while Inoue had defeated Jason Moloney and two lesser rated contenders in the interim.

Donaire landed the biggest shot early when he appeared to stun Inoue with a left hook but with seconds remaining in the opening round, Inoue landed a right hand that dropped Donaire to the canvas, and had there been even a few more seconds remaining in the round, Inoue may have finished his opponent in the initial round.

Donaire fought bravely in the second round and tried to fire counters against the charging "Monster" but again the right hand of Inoue landed and drove Donaire back into the ropes with Inoue chasing him and landed one final right that dropped Donaire to his back.

Donaire was too proud to be counted out and beat the count of the referee but was not fit to continue as
the referee ended the fight.

The 39-year-old deserves credit for that and I'm still not sure that he isn't the second-best bantamweight in the world even after this blitz from Inoue.

As for the Monster, he called for newly crowned WBO champion Paul Butler after the fight to fully unify the division, and while I understand why Inoue wants to fully unify for historical purposes and support him in doing so, I don't think anyone outside of Butler that thinks that Butler has a snowball's chance in the tropics of holding off the Monster for more than a few rounds.

After the expected annihilation of Butler, I don't see anyone in the bantamweight division that has a remote chance against Inoue other than maybe former WBO champion John Riel Casimero, who was stripped of the title before a scheduled fight with Butler and had a unification fight with Inoue canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inoue could either face one of the two future Hall of Famers that currently reside in the 115-pound division, WBA champion Juan Francisco Estrada or Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez but both would likely not have the strength to beat Inoue and would essentially be given a gold watch and one final large payday in such a fight.

WBC 115-pound champion Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez has the talent level but he just moved up to 115 pounds and doesn't have the needed experience yet to make another leap so quickly against Inoue.

Inoue could move up to junior featherweight and a fight against either WBC and WBO champion Stephen Fulton or WBA/ IBF champion MJ Akhmadaliev would have some appeal-especially if Fulton is able to get his wish for the full unification at 122 pounds against Akhmadaliev.

Fulton seems to match up well with Inoue but his fight against the similarly aggressive Brandon Figueroa was very close and Inoue is a different level of boxer than Figueroa.

A unified bantamweight champion against a unified junior featherweight king might be the biggest fight under featherweight in decades- IF promotional interests can work together to get a contract signed.

No matter what the future holds for Naoya Inoue, this victory over Nonito Donaire cements him at or near the top of the pound-for-pound list, and with several interesting fights in his future, the force that is known as the Monster should be around for quite some time.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 99 Pts (1) 
Ramon Malpica: 85 Pts (2)
Vince Samano: 82 Pts (1)

Monday, June 6, 2022

Boxing Challenge

     Early Tuesday morning, the two fighters responsible for the 2019 fight of the year will step into the same ring in Saitama, Japan for the second time against one another two and a half years later for the rarest of all bouts- a rematch that involves division unification with another championship at stake that was not in the first match yet the same titles are on the table from the first fight.

In the interim between their epic first fight, Nonito Donaire, who most thought had made his final career stand in a tremendous effort in losing via unanimous decision to Naoya Inoue, knocked out Nordine Oubaali in four rounds to win the WBC bantamweight title and defended in against countryman Reymart Gaballo with a fourth-round knockout and made a second fight a more attractive pairing by going out and earning it.

Naoya Inoye has defended his WBA and IBF titles three times but only once against a top challenger in a seventh-round knockout of Andrew Moloney, and even though Inoue has fought three times since to Donaire's two, Donaire's opponents were of better quality and maybe even more impressive outing than that of the "Monster".

And despite Inoue winning the first fight and scoring the fight's only knockdown, it can be argued that the younger fighter took the more severe beating as Inoue exited the fight with a broken orbital bone and a broken nose with Donaire- but with all of that going in Donaire's favor, the decision was unanimous and unquestioned.

Inoue is still in his prime at 29 and no matter how often the 39-year-old Donaire turns back the clock in an unexpected manner, sooner or later the clock catches all men.

So the question is can Donaire do anything different or improve on what worked in their first fight?

If he can, it could set up the left hook that finished Oubaali and Gaballo and pull an upset for the ages but you would have to be a sentimentalist to pick Donaire in this one.

However, some fighters are fated to fight well against others no matter when in their career the fights take place and Nonito Donaire seems to be in that niche with Naoya Inoue.

This should be another good one from Saitama Tuesday morning.

Boxing Challenge

Unification WBA/IBF- WBC Bantamweight Titles. 12 Rds 
Naoya Inoue vs Nonito Donaire
R.L: Inoue KO 9
TRS and V.S: Inoue Unanimous Decision

Boxing Challenge:Fulton Routs Roman, Cordina Crushes Ogawa

   Entering the PBC on Showtime card from Minneapolis on Saturday evening, two things seemed to be all but certain- Stephen Fulton's defense of his WBC and WBO junior featherweight titles against former WBA and IBF champion Danny Roman would be a close and exciting fight and David Morrell would look impressive in his super middleweight minor title defense against a seemingly overmatched Kalvin Henderson.

Morrell lived up to expectations but the Fulton-Roman pairing did not as Fulton outboxed and controlled Roman as no fighter had previously on his way to an easy unanimous decision to retain his two championships.

Fulton outboxed and outpunched Roman and never allowed the veteran to get into any type of rhythm by using a dominant jab and excellent counterpunches to smack Roman as he attempted fruitlessly to generate any offense with an inside attack.

Two judges saw a shutout for Fulton at 120-108 with the other arbiter giving Roman one round at 119-109.

I gave Roman two rounds for a 118-110 score for Fulton, who followed his majority decision win over Brandon Figueroa that many thought Figueroa won in a close fight with the best performance of his career against a former champion that only lost his titles by a borderline decision.

Fulton might begin to receive some consideration for entry in the pound for pound rankings after this impressive performance but Fulton is looking for bigger game- becoming an undisputed champion and called for WBA and IBF champion M.J Akhmadaliev, who defeated Roman to win those titles and has a scheduled defense in three weeks against mandatory challenger Ronny Rios.

That may be a difficult match to sign as Akhmadaliev is contracted to Matchroom and DAZN and Matchroom and PBC are seldom able to cross paths to make top fights but Eddie Hearn has been more willing to allow his fighters to fight elsewhere if the fight is important enough or could make the fighter more money, so there is a little hope.

A fight that would be easier to put together would be a rematch with Brandon Figueroa and most would love to see that considering the excellent action of the first fight, the closeness and that many gave Figueroa the edge.

If Fulton can't have Akhmadaliev, Figueroa would be an excellent consolation prize for boxing fans.

As for the co-feature, David Morrell bullied and bashed gritty but overmatched Kalvin Henderson on his way to a fourth-round knockout to retain his minor belt.

Morrell is now 7-0 with six knockouts but his competition hasn't been impressive although Morrell's performances certainly have been.

No knockdowns scored but Morrell trapped Henderson along the ropes and delivered punishment throughout with Henderson unable to do more than throw an occasional counter right to try to keep Morrell from swarming him.

Morrell certainly is talented and I'm very interested to see how he stacks up against better foes but fights against David Benavidez or against the winner of a rumored Caleb Plant-Anthony Dirrell fight would see the Cuban against a much-improved opponent and could prove to be more than he can handle unless he is a very special fighter.

One thing is certain though- Morrell is getting nothing but television exposure out of these glorified pummellings and if you are going to advertise your fighter as a 'champion', his "title defenses" can at least be against someone that can remotely give him a challenge.

Earlier in the day, a world title did change hands from Cardiff Wales as former Olympian Joe Cordina electrified his home crowd and Kenichi Ogawa with one overhand right that Ogawa never saw to take Ogawa's IBF junior lightweight championship via second-round knockout.

Ogawa hit the canvas very hard and was only able to move to all fours before the fight was rightfully concluded.

Cordina's victory may have been worth even more than winning the IBF title as he could parlay his win into a unification fight with WBC and WBO champion Shakur Stevenson, who has publically stated that he wishes to unify the division before an eventual move to 135 pounds.

Stevenson tweeted his congratulations and gave Cordina compliments from knowing him in the past with the interesting addendum that Stevenson would travel to Great Britain to face Cordina in a unification fight.

I believe Stevenson when he says this because he was willing to travel to the UK when he was at featherweight for a potential match with Josh Warrington which came very close to taking place, so I do believe Stevenson is serious about fighting on the road.

Joe Cordina may never have a better chance to become a star than in a unification fight with a star of Shakur Stevenson's status and to possibly have that fight in his home country, is almost too much to ask for and it all started with one overhand right.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 98 Pts (3)
Ramon Malpica: 83 Pts (5)
Vince Samano: 81 Pts (3)

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Boxing Challenge: Haney Handles Kambosos

    On a day that saw two young champions take a step toward stardom, Devin Haney and Stephen Fulton made the move upward with the best performances of their careers.

I'll be writing about the Showtime and DAZN cards in the next post in order to concentrate on Devin Haney's road victory over George Kambosos to unify all four championships in the lightweight division and hopefully stuff the WBC "franchise" championship into the trash for causing this mess to begin to with.

Haney's easy unanimous decision win by scores of 118-110 and 1160-112 (X2) (my score was 117-111 for Haney) may not have been the most aesthetically pleasing triumph in history for those watching and sitting through what has an excellent case for the worst pre-fight broadcast in boxing television history from ESPN but Haney's win was exactly what was needed to win against Kambosos and to do so by such control that the expected to be raucous Australian crowd was silenced for most of the bout.

Haney's offense was as basic as one could imagine but the Haney jab and one-two combination combined with just enough movement to avoid any punches were able to confound Kambosos, who rarely found his target and didn't resemble the tiger that invaded New York City to upset Teofimo Lopez last fall.

Kambosos wasn't nearly aggressive enough to trouble Haney as his wild right hand seldom hit the mark and even though Kambosos would land only one less power punch than Haney landed, the Haney jab was more than enough to carry the day and win a decision without dispute from even the most fervent Kambosos supporter.

Haney is contractually obligated to give Kambosos a rematch in the fall and again in Australia but few seem excited about a second bout considering this one wasn't either exciting or competitive.

Still, there is an obligation and Kambosos will almost surely activate that clause as he's unlikely to ever receive better terms down the road with another sizable paycheck and again fighting at home but he had both of those in this fight, and other than the paycheck those advantages didn't help him very much at all.

Haney established himself as a star with a great performance on the biggest stage of his career and should he defeat Kambosos in their rematch, Haney will hold the cards in the division with all four titles and with his move to Top Rank before the Kambosos match, Haney will have several big fights that would be relatively easy to make.

First on the list would have to be multiple division champion Vasyl Lomachenko, who would have been the person in the ring with Kambosos with both sides agreeing to a deal before Lomachenko stayed in his home country of Ukraine to defend against the recent invasion by Russia.

Assuming Lomachenko's issues in his native land will eventually be settled, Lomachenko would likely receive the first chance under the circumstances with the only question being whether or not Lomachenko would take a tuneup fight first or move straight to Haney.

The conqueror of Lomachenko and the surprising loser to Kambosos, Teofimo Lopez, has been rumored to be moving north to the junior welterweight division even before his win over Lomachenko and had he not lost to Kambosos, a pairing of the unified lightweight champion (disregarding the franchise issues) against the then unified junior welterweight kingpin Josh Taylor (Taylor has since been stripped of the WBA title for refusing to fight their mandatory challenger, the unbeaten, untested, and unknown Dominican Alberto Puello for a small purse after few were interested in bidding for the fight via purse bid) would have been very attractive before the luster was removed by Lopez's defeat.

Could Lopez be tempted to stay at lightweight for a full four title attempt against Haney, who Lopez had taunted via social media and tagged him with the term "Email champion" that only would go away after Haney's win this weekend?

The WBA still has a minor title in the division and despite the title meaning little, the fighter holding it certainly does with Gervonta Davis as the beltholder.

Davis has been criticized for his relatively weak competition and there are questions about when Davis's contract with Mayweather Promotions expires with some reports stating that it ended last week with Davis's knockout of Rolando Romero and yet others reporting that Davis has one year remaining on his contract.

Mayweather refuses to do business with Bob Arum and Top Rank, so a Haney-Davis fight would seem to be a long shot with the best hope coming from the WBA deciding that the time is right to end their lightweight mess and order Haney vs Davis and hope for the best- Don't hold your breath waiting for that to occur.

Ryan Garcia would be another big fight and his association with Golden Boy wouldn't be a hindrance to challenging Haney as Golden Boy has worked with Top Rank on several occasions.

And one other possibility with Top Rank eventually could be WBC and WBO junior lightweight champion Shakur Stevenson, should Haney hold off his challengers and Stevenson rises after his goal of unifying the junior lightweight division.

I'm not sure that I would pick Haney against all of those fighters but I'm not sure I'd wager against him either and after this win, Haney now owns the best resume' of the young stars in the division.

Devin Haney is the Email champ no more.

In the other two boxing challenge affairs from Melbourne, Jason Moloney stopped Aston Palicte in the third round of a ten rounder between two former world title challengers in a crossroads fight.

Moloney knocked Palicte down and quickly finished him off with seconds remaining in the round.

Moloney will likely hang around in the lower half of the top ten and likely appear in a title eliminator soon, while Palicte looked weaker in his new weight division and might be better suited to return to junior bantamweight.

Lucas Browne shocked Junior Fa with a first-round knockout in their ten rounder and juiced-up what appeared to be a fading career.

Browne had been stopped by Paul Gallen and David Allen in his previous four bouts and looked to be overmatched against Fa, who entered the fight with only one loss, a distance fight with former WBO champion Joseph Parker and had never shown signs of a weak chin.

Browne landed a huge right hand to drop Fa, who never was able to get his legs back under him after rising and Browne finished him off with a right hand that could have been close to being to the back of the head of Fa.

It wasn't an obvious foul but there may be enough evidence there to support a rematch that would likely give both fighters a solid purse perhaps on the Haney-Kambosos rematch card.

I'll be back with the review of the Showtime/PBC card and a world title explosively changing hands from Wales on DAZN.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 95 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica; 78 Pts (1)
Vince Samano: 78 Pts (1)