Thursday, March 23, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox

  The inbox is well overdue for a cleaning that doesn't involve tributes to recent passings, so here are some recent notes from the inbox.

The Athletic writes of the "ghost" of Jim Valvano that hangs over the Wolfpack basketball program thirty years after his passing and forty years after the NCAA championship won by Valvano's "Cardiac Pack".

The article digs deep into the N.C. State tradition, Valvano's successes and failures, the issues with each of his successors with the Wolfpack, and shows how hard it is for a once-proud program to rebound once you hit the depths of a conference.

N.C. State did reach the tournament this season under Kevin Keates, losing by nine points to Creighton in the first round.

SABR is reviewing the career of the late Nate Colbert, who recently passed away and they do it by looking through his various Topps baseball cards.

Colbert's rookie card is in the 1969 set and pictures him without a cap as so many in the 1969 set are shown.

Marvin Miller and the players union told the players in 1968 to not allow Topps photographers to take their pictures until the company would renegotiate their contract with the players for appearing on their cards.

This forced Topps to dig into their archives for pictures without hats of many players that had changed teams since the union-suggested refusal to pose for photographs.

This stance affected the 1969 set as most of the photos back then were taken during the previous season's spring training.

The Louisville Courier-Journal visits the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner, Silver Charm who won the Derby in 1997 and is now twenty-nine years old of age.

Silver Charm also won the Preakness and appeared to be on the verge of winning the Triple Crown but was overtaken deep in the stretch by Touch Gold, losing by three-quarters of a length.

Silver Charm would win the Dubai World Cup in 1998 and currently resides at Old Friends Farm in Kentucky, where he can be visited by the public.

The Athletic scores with an article on the Grimsby Town team that resides in English "soccer"'s league Two but surprised everyone with a run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, one of England's two yearly tournaments.

Grimsby Town's wins included a stunning victory over Southampton, who resides in the Premier League before losing to the Premier League's Brighton Albion & Hove in the quarter-finals.

If you watched the series "Welcome to Wrexham", you may remember that it was Grimsby Town that upset Wrexham and kept the series stars in the National League with Grimsby Town winning promotion to League Two.

We wrap with Smithsonian Magazine's article on Corned Beef and just how much of a connection that really exists with the Irish.

The article discusses why the Irish doesn't care for Corned Beef and just how the link between the two occurred to people outside Ireland.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Browns re-sign Anthony Walker

    Before the Cleveland Browns announced their addition of Elijah Moore from a trade with the New York Jets, the story of the day from Berea was the return of veteran linebacker Anthony Walker on a one-year agreement.

No terms disclosed as of now for the third one-year deal for the former Northwestern Wildcat's return to Cleveland as the likely starting middle/MIKE linebacker unless the Browns unexpectedly sign/draft someone that forces Walker to the bench.

Walker missed most of the season in 2022 when he suffered a season-ending torn quad in a week three win over Pittsburgh but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

Walker is beloved in the locker room and by fans for his high motor and character, so this is a popular return to Cleveland for Walker and it's tough to deny that the Browns run defense turned rancid after losing Walker for the year.

The run defense was affected by the loss of Walker as soon as the following week as the Browns were favored to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta and allowed two hundred and two yards to non-entities Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley, which would set the game plan for the remainder of the season for every Cleveland opponent.

In 2021, Walker's first season as a Brown, Walker finished with 69 solo tackles with 44 assisted in thirteen games, so he's steady but honestly, there are so many linebackers that come and go with the Browns that are tackle accumulators that fantasy owners love but they make those tackles downfield and generally lack impact, although it can be said that their impact is felt a bit more when they are missing from the field.

I wish the Browns had a playmaker at linebacker that could change a game at any time and maybe Jeremiah Owosu-Koramoah might be the guy eventually but guys like Walker are generally easy to find on any given free agent period.

I'm not against bringing back Walker, he's a solid player, a good mentor, well-liked, and isn't going to hurt you for the most part but while he will help against the run, he's a linebacker that will need the defensive tackles in front of him to occupy blockers for Walker to maximize his effectiveness as he's not a defender that runs around or sheds blocks.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Browns drafted a linebacker with one of their third or fourth-round picks with Walker's injury history and Jacob Phillips being a disappointment thus far in his Cleveland term, the Browns could be in the market for a young linebacker to get into the pipeline to learn from a veteran such as Anthony Walker and hopefully step in for him as early as 2024. 

Browns trade for Elijah Moore

 I was preparing to write about the Cleveland Browns re-signing of popular linebacker Anthony Walker (I'll try to write about that move later) when the news cut across the media that Andrew Berry had made his move to attempt to address the wide receiver position via trade and it's a very interesting move with plenty of upside with a question mark as well.

Berry traded the Browns second-round draft pick, number 42 overall, to the New York Jets in return for the Jets third-round choice, number 74 overall, and wide receiver Elijah Moore.

The trade takes the Browns out of the second round but gives them two selections in the third round at 74 and 98, which is a compensation pick near the end of the round.

Those two picks could be combined to move up into the late second round for a particular player or even earlier into the third round, although I would think both third-rounders would be more than the Browns would be willing to pay to move up only a few spots as the pick acquired from the Jets is the twelfth in the round.

The Browns now have eight picks in April's draft with two choices in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds along with their own sixth and seventh-round selections.

As for Elijah Moore, he appears to be exactly what the Browns needed most for their receivers- someone with burning speed (Moore ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the combine) that can get deep and has the ability to take a short pass and turn it into big plays.

Moore was the Jets second-round selection in 2021 from Mississippi and was a player that I liked a great deal as a potential Brown but the Browns selected Greg Newsome in the first round and Moore was tabbed by the Jets with the second pick of round two.

Moore's infamous "dog-leg" end zone celebration that caused Ole Miss a penalty and missed the extra point to cost the Rebels their rivalry game against Mississippi State among a few other knocks likely made the difference in Moore slipping out of the first-round, which cost him millions.

Moore missed the final five games of his rookie season with an injured quad muscle but in the five games before his injury, Moore caught 34 passes for 459 yards and five touchdowns for a Jets team that won a mere four games and big things were expected for Moore in 2022 with the drafting of Garrett Wilson to team with Moore as the starting wideouts.

However, Moore wasn't used as much in the offense, battled then-offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, and demanded to be traded in mid-season with the Jets ignoring his requests.

Moore finished last season with thirty-seven catches for 446 yards and one touchdown, all of those numbers fewer than in his rookie year when he played in only eleven games compared to sixteen in 2022.

The Jets current courting of Aaron Rodgers and their attempts to add the players that Rodgers wants along with already signing former Rodgers teammate Allen Lazard and signing another free agent in Mecole Hardman earlier today made Moore expendable.

This seems to be a trade that the Browns badly needed to make and gives DeShaun Watson the deep threat that the team lacked last season at an affordable price.

The Browns management has to know that their jobs are on the line this season and doesn't want to be forced to rely on immediate help from their second-round choice, so this trade makes sense as Elijah Moore has shown the ability to be an impact player, even if not on a consistent basis and for the remaining two seasons on his contract Moore will make under two million dollars per year, a very affordable price to pay for a starting wide receiver.

The addition of Moore will move Donovan Peoples-Jones to the third wide receiver, which is a role that he is better suited for and one in which Peoples-Jones should thrive.

There are risks though with Moore as he hasn't shown consistent play other than the five-game span as a rookie, he has shown immaturity at times, and was a bit of a malcontent last season with the Jets, although considering how crazy last season was for the Jets, I can give him a pass for that!

However, when you look at the big picture, the Browns are getting a player with two seasons of experience but still is only 22 and at an extremely team-friendly contract for two years at the cost of dropping thirty-two spots with their first pick in April's draft.

Approaching a season with so much at stake for so many people in the Browns organization, the Browns were going to have to gamble to a certain point on a wide receiver, no matter whether the risk was on maturity, age, injuries, etc, the Browns were going to take a plunge somehow.

Considering the cost, upside, and talent involved, spinning the wheel on Elijah Moore is as reasonable a risk as any other available receiver and could possibly turn out to be the best of them all.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Browns sign Joshua Dobbs

  The Cleveland Browns added a few players that shouldn't dent the starting lineup unless in case of catastrophe but in one of the cases is thought-provoking.

The team returned Joshua Dobbs to the team after the former Tennessee Volunteer spent time with both the Browns and Tennessee Titans in 2022.

Dobbs was the second-string QB behind Jacoby Brissett until the eleven-game suspension of DeShaun Watson concluded, and he was then released by the team.

Dobbs was signed by Tennessee and was forced into the Titan's starting lineup for the final two games of the season, losing both games to playoff teams Dallas and Jacksonville and throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions in the pair.

Dobbs was originally the fourth-round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 2017 and spent his first five seasons with the Steelers before moving to Cleveland last season.

Here's the thought-provoking portion of the show- Dobbs has been signed as the main backup for DeShaun Watson and I'm not sure how to think about that.

On one hand, I like that Dobbs has some similarities in style to Watson and I've always thought that it is smart when teams attempt to carry a backup passer with some of the characteristics of the starter.

I believe that it makes a smoother transition for the team in avoiding a drastic change in type and it helps the backup quarterback enter the lineup with an offense that has been tailored to the starter's strengths, which would be similar to the backup in this particular setup.

But I also wonder if Dobbs is of the caliber to take over a Browns team for an extended period of time and keep them in the hunt?

That doesn't mean that he can't, it means that he has yet to be asked and only time would tell how well he would do.

The Browns added two veterans that should help bulk up the special teams for new ST coach Bubba Ventrone in linebacker Matthew Adams and cornerback Mike Ford.

Adams arrives from Chicago, where he played last season after the first four seasons of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, while Ford spent last year in Atlanta after his first four years with Detroit and Denver.

Ford signed with the Lions in 2018 as an undrafted free agent from Southeast Missouri State and has started nine games in his five-year career.

Ford is brought in as a special teams standout and would be an additional depth piece in the secondary.

Adams was the Colts' seventh-rounder in 2018 from Houston and I remember him as a Cougar as a strong tackler on the college level as a middle linebacker.

Adams started three games last season for the Bears at linebacker but as in the case of Ford, appears to be counted on as a strong special teams performer in Cleveland.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised (depending on the other Browns additions at linebacker) to see Adams receive at least some snaps at linebacker.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

   The tributes continue this time with stars from outside the major four team sports.

Goodbye to Dick Fosbury at the age of 76.

The 1968 Olympic gold medalist at the Mexico City games in the high jump, Fosbury was far more influential in how he won the gold than he was with just a victory.

The "Fosbury Flop" was a radical departure from the technique that most high jumpers used the "straddle method", which saw the jumper leap facing the ground and then lifting each leg over the bar.

Fosbury couldn't master the straddle in high school and naturally began to use his own method, looking up with his upper body crossing the bar first, and then picking his feet last over the bar.

Fosbury progressed enough to finish second in the Oregon state track meet and attended Oregon State University where he was encouraged to return to the straddle method, which he did with little success before returning to his method, which broke the school record in his first meet as a sophomore.

Fosbury would win the NCAA title along with a victory in the Olympic trials before winning the gold in Mexico City with an Olympic record jump of seven feet, four and a quarter inches.

Fosbury would repeat his NCAA title the following year but Fosbury would not attempt a gold medal repeat in 1972 in Munich as after his college eligibility was completed, he would retire from competition.

The Fosbury Flop is recognized as the biggest advance in high jumping and perhaps in the history of track and field.

Goodbye to John Veitch at the age of 77.

The Hall of Fame horse trainer trained four Eclipse Award winners in his career, including Davona Dale, the champion three-year-old filly of 1978 after winning the Filly Triple Crown of the Kentucky Oaks, Black Eyed Susan, and Coaching Club American Oaks.

Veitch would win the second Breeders Cup Classic with Proud Truth but his greatest horse was Alydar, who is remembered for his second-place finishes to Affirmed in each of the 1978 Triple Crown races by smaller and smaller margins.

Alydar was unstoppable in 1978 other than by Affirmed with spectacular wins in the Whitney Handicap and Arlington Classic before winning the 1978 Travers Stakes over Affirmed but only by disqualification.

Veitch was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007

Goodbye to Jerry Jarrett at the age of 80.

Jarrett, the father of Jeff Jarrett, was the long-time owner and promoter of the Memphis wrestling territory and later the original owner of the TNA promotion which still operates today.

Jarrett's Memphis promotion starred about every big-name wrestler that you could name from the 70s and 80s for short or long-term stays but the biggest of the promotion was "The King" Jerry Lawler, who doubled as the part owner of the promotion with Jarrett.

Jarrett's television show that the promotion taped at the studios in Memphis drew phenomenal ratings on its live Saturday morning airing that couldn't even be approached today.

Goodbye to Afternoon Deelites at the age of 30.

A West Virginia-bred by composer Burt Bacharach, Afternoon Deelites was the early favorite for the 1995 Kentucky Derby after a blazing fast win in the final juvenile stakes of 1994, the Hollywood Futurity at a mile and a sixteenth and setting a stakes record that still stands currently.

Afternoon Deelites suffered his first loss in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in a photo finish and would finish eighth in the Kentucky Derby in his next race.

Afternoon Deelites would transition to sprinting and won one graded stakes (Grade III Commonwealth) before retiring to stud, where he would produce twenty-three graded stakes winners.

However, it was a claiming-level gelding named Popcorn Deelites that would be his most famous offspring as Popcorn Deelites would play the role of Seabiscuit in the portions of the film that needed Seabiscuit to be racing.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Browns sign Jordan Akins

      The Cleveland Browns signed their first offensive free agent for 2023 and I'm mildly surprised as the team signed tight end Jordan Akins from the Houston Texans to a two-year contract that could pay Akins as much as 5.2 million dollars.

The soon to be 31-year-old Akins was selected by the Texans in the third round of the 2018 draft from Central Florida and played four seasons for Houston before leaving in 2022 for the New York Giants.

Akins was released by the Giants before the season and returned to the Texans where he caught thirty-seven passes for 495 yards and five touchdowns (a career high) in fifteen games.

Akins came to football late as he signed with the Texas Rangers as their third-round pick in 2010 out of high school as an outfielder but never rose above low A Hickory in four seasons of baseball.

Akins is familiar with DeShaun Watson from their common time in Houston and it's not hard to see that Watson may have had a little bit of influence in pushing for Akins.

At 6'4 and 240 pounds, Akins will give Watson a big red zone target and will likely replace Harrison Bryant as the second tight end behind David Njoku, which makes me wonder about the future of Bryant with the Browns as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Baseball Passings

   I've been well behind on the various items that fill the inbox and as always there are tributes to some that have recently passed.

In this edition, I'm going to stick to the baseball world.

Goodbye to Joe Pepitone at the age of 82.

Once thought to be the next superstar in the New York Yankee dynasty, Joe Pepitone had a good career but was the face of the crumbling of the Yankees after their 1964 American League pennant.

Pepitone made three All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, and hit over twenty-six homers five times but is remembered more for his antics away from the diamond as the Yankees moved to the second division in the mid and late 60s.

Pepitone is prominently mentioned in Jim Bouton's book "Ball Four" with some of his wild affairs as well as his own memoir "Joe, You could have made us proud" with even more wild stories.

Pepitone would struggle after leaving New York through three seasons spent with the Astros, Cubs, and Braves before a cameo in Japan ended his career in 1973.

Goodbye to Tim McCarver at the age of 81,

Known by most for his long-time career as a commentator, McCarver was a solid catcher for over twenty years for mostly the Cardinals and Phillies.

McCarver made two All-Star teams and was the catcher for the 1964 and 1967 World Champion Cardinals and spent the latter half of the 1970s with his career thought to be close to finish, McCarver found new life in a second stint as a Phillie when former Cardinal teammate Steve Carlton insisted that the team not only keep McCarver as a backup but play when Carlton pitched rather than the normal starter Bob Boone.

McCarver would move into the television booth for both CBS and Fox nationally as well as calling local games for the Yankees and Mets.

Goodbye to Jesus Alou at the age of 80.

The youngest of the three Alou brothers, Jesus wasn't a power hitter in his career, which lasted from 1963-79 for four teams but was an excellent pinch hitter and the perfect fourth outfielder.

Jesus won two World Series rings with the 1973 and 74 Athletics and will always be a part of baseball history in his rookie season with the Giants as the first trio of brothers to bat in the same inning and later in the year, all three brothers playing in the same outfield.

Goodbye to Albie Pearson at the age of 88.

The 1958 American League Rookie of the Year as a Washington Senator, at 5'5 140 pounds, Pearson was the smallest player in baseball during his career.

Pearson won the ROY with Washington but his best seasons were as part of the expansion Los Angeles Angels, where he made his only All-Star team in 1963 when hitting. 303 for his only season batting over .300.

A back injury forced Pearson into retirement in 1966 and after his career, Pearson would become an ordained minister and would remain involved in ministries for the rest of his life.

Goodbye to Dave Nicholson at the age of 83.

Known for his booming home runs and his bushels of strikeouts, Nicholson was brought to the big leagues by the Orioles in 1960 but spent most of his career with the White Sox, who acquired him as part of the trade that sent Luis Aparicio to Baltimore.

Nicholson hit a career-high twenty-two homers in 1963 but struck out a league-leading 175 times as well.

In 1964, Nicholson blasted a ball that was found across the street from Comiskey Park that cleared the grandstand and was measured at 573 feet in a doubleheader against the Kansas City Athletics that would see Nicholson hit three of his thirteen homers for the season on one day.

Nicholson finished his career with Atlanta in 1967.

An excellent look at Nicholson by Mike Kaszuba on the SABR website can be found here.

Goodbye to John Adams at the age of 71.

Adams was the man that pounded the drum at Cleveland Indians games from 1973 through 2019.

It was Adams that would provide the thump that could be heard over many a broadcast from a seven-eighths empty Cleveland Municipal Stadium and continued up to the pandemic season of 2020, where Adams was invited by the team to drum but Adams didn't feel right until other fans could attend.

Health issues would keep Adams from the ballpark in the two seasons following the pandemic.

Forgotten Superstars: Conrad Dobler

      An all-time favorite of mine passed away recently at the age of 72 in Pueblo Colorado, the self-professed "Dirtiest Player in the Game" Conrad Dobler.

Dobler had struggled with his health in recent years and his family has donated his brain to Boston University for their studies on CTE, a condition that cannot be definitely diagnosed until after death and is often linked to football players and other athletes that deal with contact injuries.

Conrad Dobler was the player that you loved if he played for your team and hated if he didn't and while his tactics on the field with his "questionable tactics" that he often referred to as "exploring a gray area"

Watching Dobler's "highlights" on the occasional NFL Films feature shows him doing one thing- anything in and outside the rulebook to keep his man from getting to the quarterback.

For all of Dobler's behavior on the field. when I would see Dobler speak, I always thought of Dobler embracing the image but not as a pure bad guy.

Instead, Dobler seemed to play the role of a Burt Reynoldsish lovable rogue that left you thinking that this was a pretty good guy that was also a rugged football player.

Dobler was selected as an All-Pro three times and was once referred to by teammate Dan Dierdorf as one of the best pass-blocking guards in the history of the game.

Dobler's feud with Merlin Olsen continued past their playing days with Olsen placing Dobler's name on a tombstone when Olsen was filming his television program "Father Murphy" as an inside joke.

Dobler once said that he caused Olsen to worry more about Dobler than about playing the game, causing Olsen to lose his poise and that's what bothered Olsen the most.

Conrad Dobler's tactics may have been questionable but you cannot deny that he made every team he played for better.

The St.Louis Cardinals won their only two division championships in their twenty-eight years when Conrad Dobler was protecting Jim Hart, the New Orleans Saints had their only .500 season in their first twenty-one seasons with Dobler, and the Buffalo Bills won a division title with Dobler on the offensive line.

After football, Dobler wrote a book "They Call Me Dirty", appeared in several Miller Beer commercials that parodied his on-field image, and would make appearances on the memorabilia show circuit, including signing a helmet in the TRS collection.

Dobler's post-football life wasn't all easy though as he would deal with the brain issues that so many players face, nine knee REPLACEMENTS ( not surgeries-replacements!). When his wife, Joy, fell out of a hammock, she would become a paraplegic requiring round-the-clock care and their combined medical costs would wipe out all of their savings.

Conrad Dobler may have been a controversial figure in football in the 1970s but he certainly was a memorable figure as well.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Browns add DL Depth

  The Cleveland Browns added two defensive linemen to a constantly changing group that should have quite a battle in the summer to earn spots on the Cleveland roster.

Maurice Hurst missed last season with a torn bicep with San Francisco after playing two games for the 49ers in 2021.

Hurst was on the field more often for the Raiders after being selected by the then-Oakland franchise in the fifth round from Michigan in 2018, notching four sacks as a rookie and three and a half in 2019.

Hurst has struggled with injuries since leaving the Raiders, playing in only those two mentioned games, and must be regarded with skepticism regarding his durability. However, assuming that Hurst is able to stay healthy, he could be a valuable part of the rotation.

Trysten Hill split last season with the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys, finishing with a sack in thirteen games ( seven with Dallas, six with Arizona).

The sack is his only solo sack in his four-year career, which started as the Cowboys' second-round selection in 2019 from Central Florida.

Hill never played more than seven games in any of the first three seasons of his career and was released by Dallas mid-season as a disappointment for a high draftee.

Still, Hill has size (6'3 308), is only twenty-five, and wouldn't be the first talented lineman to take a few years to find his way in the league.

Neither Maurice Hurst nor Trysten Hill are the type of players to save a defense but they could prove to be valuable as depth pieces along the line, should either or both make the team.

Browns sign Juan Thornhill

The Cleveland Browns signed an expected starter for their defense for the third day in a row with this signing aimed at their secondary with Kansas City safety Juan Thornhill as the latest addition.

Thornhill has started for the Super Bowl champion since his second-round selection in 2019 from Virginia and finished last season with three interceptions, a sack, and forty-three solo tackles.

Thornhill will start as the free (or deep) safety and will be in the position to run to the ball with his partner Grant Delpit playing as the strong safety, which is more of a run-supporting position.

Thornhill started sixteen games for the Chiefs last season and other than a knee injury that cost him the postseason in 2019, has remained relatively healthy in his four-year career.

Thornhill will replace John Johnson as the Browns starting free safety and if you recall the reaction to the signing of Johnson, they were almost universally positive, and Johnson was a disappointment in his two seasons as a Brown.

Thornhill was signed to a three-year deal worth twenty-one million dollars ( fourteen million guaranteed) which should be around the amount that the Browns hoped to pay for John Johnson's replacement.

Jessie Bates proved to be out of their price range and once Bates was unavailable (signed with the Atlanta Falcons), Thornhill and Taylor Rapp were the two safeties that I hoped the Browns would pursue as I suspected Chauncey Taylor-Johnson would also end as too rich for Cleveland's blood considering that other needs still remained for the team.

Thornhill is thought to be the big-play safety that the Browns have been looking for years to obtain but while I think Thornhill is a fine player and good addition, I'm not sure that he is an elite safety either.

Juan Thornhill should prove to be a solid starter for the Browns, especially if you are able to temper your expectations before getting too excited about his arrival.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Browns sign Dalvin Tomlinson, keep Takitaki

     The Cleveland Browns continued their revamp of their defensive line with the signing of defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to be the bulwark of the interior line for this season.

Tomlinson was signed to a reported 57.5 million over four years with twenty-seven of that total to be guaranteed.

The twenty-nine-year-old Tomlinson played for the Minnesota Vikings in the last two years after spending his first four years in the NFL with the New York Giants, who selected him from Alabama in the second round of the 2017 draft.

Tomlinson finished last season with two and a half sacks with twenty solo tackles in thirteen games for Minnesota, which was the first time in Tomlinson's career that he didn't play every game in a season.

At 6'3 and 325 pounds, Tomlinson provides the ability to stop the run and his thirteen sacks over his career indicate an ability to at least pressure the opposing quarterback, if not take him down.

Tomlinson will be the top man in the Browns defensive tackle rotation and will definitely help what was the weakest position on the entire squad in 2022.

Still, Andrew Berry may not be finished adding to the defensive tackle room as the Browns still could use another tackle and the remainder of the corp could use another player that can step into the rotation immediately.

The Browns currently have returning starter Jordan Elliott, unproven second-year man Perrion Winfrey, disappointing third-year player Tommy Togiai, and mediocre veteran Taven Bryan to choose from as the starter beside Tomlinson and none of those options have to be appealing to Andrew Berry, although Winfrey finished the season strong to give Cleveland hope that he could be a contributor.

Berry will likely add another free agent, although not as expensive and proven as Tomlinson, and perhaps a draft pick to add some depth to the rotation.

Dalvin Tomlinson isn't the total cure to the Browns issues with the interior line but he's a strong start to working towards fixing what was clearly broken last season.

Cleveland also re-signed linebacker Sione Takitaki to a one-year contract worth two and a half million.

Takitaki was in the midst of his best season for the Browns after being moved to middle linebacker after the season-ending injury to Anthony Walker before suffering his own season-ending knee injury in December.

Takitaki will miss some of the early portion of the season but the Browns are hoping to have him back sometime in the middle of the season.

Cleveland may be shopping for a veteran middle linebacker with only former third-round pick Jacob Phillips on the roster with Anthony Walker and Deion Jones eligible for free agency with Walker, who the Browns are reported to be fond of, will miss some of the season as well.

Browns sign Ogbo Okoronkwo, re-sign Ethan Pocic

     The Cleveland Browns read the free agent market and decided to spend their biggest dollars on the defensive line with the signing of defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo from the Houston Texans to provide the pass rush from the opposite end from Myles Garrett.

The three-year contract will be worth twenty-two million dollars, twelve and half of that total guaranteed.

Okoronkwo was drafted by the Rams in 2018 in round five from Oklahoma and played for Los Angeles for four seasons before moving to Houston last season.

Houston started Okoronkwo in the final eight games of the season and Okoronkwo responded with five sacks and finished in the top three in the league in quarterback pressures (Myles Garrett finished fourth) which made him an appealing target to several teams as free agency approached.

Okoronkwo could be a player on the rise with his excellent end to the 2022 season and if the Browns are correct, they may have solved their problems with a pass rush that doesn't include Myles Garrett.

There is some risk involved as Okoronkwo never started a game for the Rams and it's fair to wonder if Okoronkwo is proven enough to feel secure about his production.

Okoronkwo isn't a traditional defensive end, as at 6'2 and 255 pounds his frame doesn't scream run defender and he is more of an edge rusher that the Browns could occasionally mix things up with some snaps as a stand-up outside linebacker.

Still, all things considered, the Browns seem to have done well in signing a possible player that could be improving at 28 at a reasonable cost to help a defensive line that was the largest issue with the defense last season.

The Browns also used some funds that were freed up from restructuring DeShaun Watson's contract to keep center Ethan Pocic in Cleveland with a three-year contract.
Pocic was signed by the Browns before last season to backup Nick Harris but Harris missed the season after suffering a training camp knee injury and Pocic delivered a Pro Bowl-level season.

Pocic was regarded as the best center in the free agent field and the Browns weren't sure they could afford what Pocic could receive elsewhere.

I do wonder what this means for some members of an offensive line that has been heavily invested in their future.

The Browns now have hefty and extensive contracts for four of their five starters with an option decision that will need to be made soon on Jedrick Wills.

Something tells me that one or even two of these five starters will be playing elsewhere in 2024.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Boxing Challenge

 The boxing Saturday was somewhat slim with all three challenge events in as many countries and two continents.

In the biggest bout of the day from Sydney Australia, junior middleweight contender Tim Tszyu dominated former WBC champion Tony Harrison before bludgeoning him with several right hands and uppercuts in round nine before the fight was mercifully stopped by the referee.

Harrison had some success with the jab against Tszyu but that was about all that the veteran could offer against Tszyu's aggression that backed Harrison up and often trapped him along the ropes for long stretches.

Tszyu was the quicker fighter and the harder puncher and other than the first round, it would have been tough to find a round to give to Harrison, as I did on my scorecard which had Tszyu ahead 79-74 after eight rounds.

The victory allows Tszyu to keep his mandatory position for a challenge later this year of unified champion Jermell Charlo, which was originally scheduled for January before it was canceled due to a broken hand suffered in training by Charlo.

Charlo-Tszyu looms as a very interesting fight and while Tszyu will be an underdog, I like his chances.

I thought Charlo lost his first fight with Brian Castano and the second fight was very close before Charlo stopped Castano in the late rounds.

I've never seen Charlo as a dominant fighter like most fully unified champions and still may turn out to be the best of a bunch of similarly talented fighters, so I can see Tsyzu winning the four titles should Charlo be at anything less than his best.

However, an argument can be made that Harrison has seen better days and didn't look impressive in his bouts since losing his title to Charlo, so while Tsyzu's win is the best of his career, it may look better now than it eventually may be.

Earlier in the day in Liverpool, England, super middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco smoothly navigated the toughest test of his career in stopping British veteran Jack Cullen in four rounds.

Cullen fought on even terms in the first two rounds but Pacheco stunned Cullen with a right hand in the third which set the scene for the fourth when Pacheco dumped Cullen to the floor and despite Cullen beating the count, his corner signaled an end for their man.

Pacheco looks to be a very promising prospect in a division that is in need of an exciting young potential star.

In Paris, former Olympic heavyweight gold medalist Tony Yoka suffered his second disappointing defeat in a row, this one a listless split decision loss to former title challenger turned aging journeyman Carlos Takam.

Yoka suffered a cut over his left eye and spent most of the fight on the outside, throwing out a soft jab, and fought very tentatively against Takam, who made the fight by moving forward but never seemed to seriously hurt Yoka, who retreated anyway.

The forty-year-old Takam had slipped to journeyman status in recent fights and his win will likely earn him a few extra paydays against fringe contenders and maybe a better fight against a contender, should one need a stay active fight.

Takam called out Martin Bakole after the fight, which makes a little sense I suppose since it was Bakole that handed Yoka his first loss in the fight before this one.

As for Yoka, this should end any hope of eventual contention as he has adopted a safety-first style to avoid being hit, without the boring effectiveness that can be positive in winning fights.

Instead, Yoka's just plain boring and his future seems very bleak at this time.

I scored Takam a winner at 98-92, which was larger than the official scores of 96-94 for Takam x2 and a terrible card of 96-94 for Yoka.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 33 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica 28 Pts (3)
Vince Samano 26 Pts (2) 


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Boxing Challenge

 Due to a lack of internet at work last night and tonight, the boxing challenge is Joe Friday- style only.

Junior Middleweights. 12 Rds 
Tim Tszyu vs Tony Harrison
Ramon Malpica and TRS: Tszyu Unanimous Decision
Vince Samano: Harrison Unanimous Decision.

Super Middleweights. 10 Rds
Diego Pacheco vs Jack Cullen
R.L: Pacheco KO 6
TRS: Pacheco Unanimous Decision
V.S: Pacheco KO 8

Heavyweights 10 Rds
Tony Yoka vs Carlos Takam
R.L: Yoka KO 4
TRS: Yoka Unanimous Decision
V.S: Yoka KO 3

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Cavaliers charge by Boston in OT

    The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to be on their way to a flat outing and defeat to the visiting Boston Celtics, trailing most of the game and often by double-digits before a run with under four minutes to go put them back in the game.

Cleveland held a brief lead but it was the Celtics with a chance to win with two free throws from Grant Williams and under a second to play.

Williams shoots over eighty percent from the free-throw line, so it seemed that the Cavaliers comeback would be for naught.

However, Williams missed both charity tosses and a Marcus Smart putback attempt failed and would force overtime that would see the shorthanded Celtics run out of energy and allow Cleveland a surprising 118-114 win.

Donovan Mitchell scored forty points and grabbed eleven rebounds with Evan Mobley providing the main support with twenty-five points and seventeen boards to lead the wine (err black) and gold to the win.

Cleveland will travel to Miami for an unusual two-game set against the Heat on Wednesday and Friday, which is followed by an even odder pair of games in Charlotte against the Hornets on Sunday and next Tuesday.


1) While this was a terrific ending for Cleveland in winning a game that they didn't really deserve to win, their play up until the final half of the fourth quarter was less than stellar.

The Cavaliers seemed disinterested at times and as talented as they are, I would hate to see them fall into a trap of thinking that they can turn their play off and on when they think they need it.

2) What makes the game even worse is Boston playing without Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and the Celtics reached town late and were exhausted from a double-overtime loss in New York to the Knicks the evening before.

Under those conditions, the Cavaliers should have never been in this situation.

3) Lamar Stevens didn't enter the game until the fourth quarter with the Cavaliers faltering but Stevens scored eight points and added eight rebounds in his seventeen minutes in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Stevens even hit a three-pointer, which doesn't happen often, and should he develop that shot more consistently, the high-energy forward could find himself as a key contributor off the bench,

4) The win for the Cavaliers was their first over a team with a winning record since February 10 and improved their record in overtime to 7-0.

5) Donovan Mitchell's forty points look even more impressive considering that Mitchell is playing through a finger sprain suffered in Cleveland's blowout win over Detroit last Saturday.

Mitchell hit fourteen of thirty-four shots and while I am certainly not knocking Mitchell by any means, it will be interesting to see how long the finger injury takes to heal and could it affect his shooting while he is playing through the injury,

Monday, March 6, 2023

Hischier hits Arizona in OT!

   The New Jersey Devils captain Nico Hischier fired a shot off the wing in overtime past Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram (27) to give the visiting Devils a 5-4 win over the Coyotes in the NHL's smallest arena.

The Devils led by two goals entering the final period but allowed two goals to Arizona with the game-tying goal with only two minutes remaining in regulation.

Timo Meier scored a goal in his first game as a Devil (32) to lead the New Jersey red-lighters which included two others from Jesper Boqvist (6 & 7) and the other from Damon Severson (5) on the power play.

New Jersey will host Toronto in New Jersey in what will be Timo Meier's home debut.

Hell Raisers

1) Timo Meier played mostly on a line with Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt, on the opposite wing than he played for San Jose.

Meier's goal started the scoring for New Jersey as he slid a backhanded puck off a Dougie Hamilton pass and even more than one goal is the importance of getting that first one so quickly.

2) In every sport, when a big name is acquired and should the player not start quickly, the media and fans start wondering about the player, causing the player stress, and the situation often only worsens.

At least Meier won't have to worry about that!

3) As much as I dislike the shootout, I love four on four overtime hockey!

The ice is wide open, with lots of room to pass, and if I had my way, there would be ten minutes of four-on-four before the shootout kicks in.

If they played ten minutes of four-on-four, there would be fewer shootouts and maybe it would feel a bit more exciting.

4) An example is the game-winner from Nico Hischier, twenty-three seconds into overtime

Hischier is on the wing with a two-on-one with Eric Houla and uses Houla as an option that the Arizona defender cannot afford to allow access to in case of a pass and with the open ice, Hischier can fire an almost uncontested wrister for the game-winner.

5) Dawson Mercer's goal streak ended at eight, which I don't totally mind as it keeps a former Rockie in the team record book and Mercer is added to the record as well,.

Mercer assisted on the Damon Severson power-play goal and had a few good chances for the record breaker but was unable to slam the puck home.

6) I'm not sure how much I like MSG networks not sending their announcers on the road.

Perhaps that was the limitation of the 5,000 seat Mullett Arena for broadcasts and with the different angles of the game that were common, that was the issue.

But if not, it seems that everything is a step behind the action, which isn't the fault of Bill Spaulding and Ken Daneyko, it's only natural for the delay to occur.

7) Writing all of that, I'll never figure out just what the love affair is between Gary Bettman/the league, and Arizona that they receive so many breaks that other cities do not receive.

While Mullett Arena is modern and not rundown, it's still a 5,000-seat arena and you have to wonder if something happened to arenas in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, what Bettman would tolerate from an arena site, if the Flyers asked to play in Hershey for three seasons...

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Figueroa oupoints Magsayo

    Brandon Figueroa outpunched and took advantage of two points deducted from his opponent, Mark Magsayo, for holding to win a unanimous decision in a WBC featherweight eliminator to decide the mandatory challenger for champion Rey Vargas.

Figueroa dominated the second half of the fight other than Magsayo's last attempt to pull the fight from the fire in the final round.

The numbers showed the fight fairly equal but Figueroa outworked Magsayo when the fight was on the line and frustrated him into committing the holding violations as Magsayo tired late.

I thought the fight was closer than the judges at 116-100 (official cards 117-109 x2 and 118-108) but Figueroa was the deserved victor.

Figueroa will now face Rey Vargas for Vargas's WBC title and I like Figueroa's chances of pressuring Vargas, who returns to the weight class after a loss for the vacant 130 pound title to O'Shaquie Foster and will have to drop weight, which for a taller, lankier boxer as Vargas could be a problem.

As for Magsayo, the loss is his second in a row after his upset win over Gary Russell and while he hasn't hurt his career very much with the two defeats, Magsayo might be well-suited to take a confidence builder in his next affair.

In the co-feature, former WBA and IBF junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd dropped his second fight after rising to the middleweight division and this time to the relatively unheralded Armando Resendiz when the fight was stopped before the start of the tenth and final round due to a deep laceration to Hurd's lip.

Hurd vowed before the fight that he was going to return to the aggressive style that won him two titles at 154 pounds and defeated the likes of Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout, and Tony Harrison, and he did that but he was overpowered by Resendiz, who isn't world-class currently and has a loss on his record to the average Marcos Hernandez.

I had Resendiz ahead on my card at 86-83 and I'm sure this win will get him more fights, while Hurd showed some signs of his former style, he might have to return to the junior middleweight division to make any advances.

The other challenge fight was in Newcastle, England in a WBA junior welterweight eliminator as Ohara Davies knocked out Lewis Ritson in the ninth round.

I haven't seen the fight yet but the reports are that Davies scored a spectacular KO.

Boxing Challenge 
TRS: 31 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica:  25 Pts (1)
Vince Samano: 24 Pts (5)

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Devils lose Shootout in Vegas

 The New Jersey Devils started fast and played well throughout regulation before dominating overtime and saw the Devils do everything but score against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

That led to a shootout defeat 4-3 and a disappointing end to another exciting game from a team waiting for their two newest players to arrive.

Devils goals to Jesper Bratt (25 Power Play), Dawson Mercer (21), and Miles Wood (11).

The Devils will finish their road trip Sunday night in Arizona for their first visit to Tempe and the 5,000-seat arena that the Coyotes share (snicker) with Arizona State.

Hell Raisers

1) Las Vegas can give almost all of the credit for their win to their netminder, Adin Hill.

Hill was amazing on this night and had he even been only above average, the Devils would have walked away with a relatively easy win.

2) Is it just me or are more and more hockey fans getting bored with the shootout?

Not just Devils fans because they lost this one but in general I've read more and more people complaining about the ending being decided by a skills competition and there was a vocal majority that liked it when they initially installed it as a decider.

3) Dawson Mercer's goal continued his goal-scoring streak and extended it to eight games, which tied the franchise record.

Quite the goal for the budding power forward and keeping the smile on Devils fans' faces that they were able to keep his services in Newark rather than include him in the Timo Meier trade.

4) Note above that I said franchise record, not team record for goals in consecutive games.

That is because the franchise record of eight games is held by Paul Gardner of the then-Colorado Rockies.

Gardner scored eighty-three goals for the Rockies in just under three seasons in Denver before he was traded in mid-season to Toronto in 1979.

Boxing Challenge

   It's a three-fight boxing weekend in the boxing challenge.

I mentioned Lewis Ritson and Ohara Davies fighting in a WBA eliminator in Newcastle against countryman Ohara Davies last week but the fight is actually this Saturday.

Ritson has won two straight since losing to Jeremias Ponce, including a win over former WBC lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin.

Davies has only two losses to Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall, so it's hard to blame him for those defeats.

However, Davies doesn't have any wins over top-level opponents and will be the road fighter in this bout.

Showtime's main event for a minor featherweight title looks to be the latest in a series of action fights over the last month as former WBC champion Mark Magsayo faces former WBC junior featherweight boss Brandon Figueroa in what should be an excellent fight.

Magsayo upset long-time champion Gary Russell last year to win the title but lost in his first defense to current champion Rey Vargas via a split decision.

Figueroa lost a debatable majority decision to Stephen Fulton in November 2021 and knocked out Carlos Castro last summer in six rounds in his featherweight debut.

Style-wise, this should be an excellent fight between two fighters that always move straight ahead.

The winner will be next in line for WBC champion Rey Vargas, who lost to O'Shaquie Foster for the WBC title at 130 pounds.

Had Vargas won that fight, this fight would have been for the full title at featherweight.

Former WBA and IBF junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd attempts a comeback at middleweight after a twenty-one-month layoff since his boring decision loss to Luis Arias.

Armando Resendiz is the opponent and his only loss came against Marcos Hernandez, so if Hurd comes back even close to what he was five years ago, Hurd should have few problems.

Boxing Challenge

Junior Welterweights. 12 Rds 
Lewis Ritson vs Ohara Davies
Ramon Malpica and Vince Samano: Davies Unanimous Decision
TRS: Ritson Unanimous Decision

Featherweights.12 Rds
Mark Magsayo vs Brandon Figueroa
R.L: Magsayo Unanimous Decision
TRS and V.S: Figueroa Unanimous Decision

Middleweights. 10 Rds
Jarrett Hurd vs Armando Resendiz
R.L: Hurd KO 8
TRS: Hurd Unanimous Decision
V.S: Resendiz KO 9

Devils add Curtis Lazar

  The New Jersey Devils made a minor swap on the final day of the NHL trading season as the team traded a 2024 fourth-round draft pick to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Curtis Lazar.

The twenty-eight-year-old Lazar has scored three goals with two assists with Vancouver this season after signing with the team in July.

Lazar is essentially a fourth-line player that builds depth for the stretch run and there is a reason that New Jersey will be the sixth team that he has played at a relatively young age.

Lazar can play on the wing or at center, so there is some versatility with him and he can be used as a penalty killer as well.

Lazar will be under contract to the Devils for two more seasons at an affordable one million per year, so he's not going to be a cap killer and he won't be a rental either, which means someone thinks that he can helpful for longer than the playoff run.

Lazar seems (for this season anyway) to be an attempt to replace some of what was lost when Fabian Zetterlund was sent to San Jose in the Timo Meier trade as a bottom-six-line member.

New Jersey continues to try and build a bench crew and at the cost and length, there really isn't a downside to this trade.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Devils overpower Avalanche 7-5

  I promised when the Devils added Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks that I would try to write more hockey and coming home from work from my only evening shift, I was planning on having to decide between the Cavaliers and Celtics in a big Eastern Conference showdown or the Devils in Denver against the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche.

I chose the Devils as I was leaving work at 9 PM when the Devils were just starting rather than the Cavaliers who tipped off ninety minutes earlier.

So when I arrived home thinking I would miss maybe the first eight to ten minutes of the game, I saw a replay of a New Jersey goal by Nathan Bastian and then discovered that I had missed another goal from the Devils for a 2-0 lead -less than eight minutes into the game!

It turned out as only the beginning as the two teams would produce as entertaining of a game as you'll see with the Devils grabbing a 7-5 road win over the Avalanche, the second game in a row that the Devils have scored seven goals.

Devils goals to Nico Hischier (26 empty net), Dawson Mercer (20), Dougie Hamilton (18), Tomas Tatar (14), Miles Wood (10 power play), Ondrej Palat (7), and Nathan Bastian (5).

Mercer's goal kept his goal-scoring streak alive at seven games.

New Jersey continues their road trip in Las Vegas Friday night.

I'm not going to add too much to this other than this- If anyone out there is still using the tired thirty-year-old refrain about boring Devils hockey needs to either watch this team play or knows nothing about the game.

I'm not saying the Devils don't have any flaws. However, I'm still not convinced Vitek Vanacek is the long-term answer despite an excellent season thus far (Vanacek was relieved in this game by Akira Schmid, after allowing five goals) in goal. I'm still wondering about the defensemen once you get past the top pairing or two.

However, this young and talented team is loads of fun to watch.

They'll score a lot and they'll give up some but this team's window is starting to open for a run of quality hockey that may not result in a run like the Lou Lamiorello years as far as Stanley Cups but could be the most offensively exciting team in franchise history.

And that is nothing to sneeze at.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Browns to release John Johnson

  At the NFL combine, Andrew Berry announced that the Cleveland Browns would be releasing starting safety John Johnson in order to give the Browns extra space with their salary cap situation.

Johnson was signed before the 2021 season with a large amount of fanfare from the Los Angeles Rams in what was thought at the time to be quite a coup for the Browns with Johnson being regarded as the top safety available in that free agent class.

With the release, the Browns will save 9.75 million on their cap, and for a team that needs defensive players of impact at several positions, an expensive player that hasn't made such an impact is a luxury that the Browns cannot currently afford.

Johnson intercepted one pass, recovered and forced two fumbles, and finished with a half-sack for the Browns in 2022, which aren't awful numbers but for a player that is earning over thirteen million dollars a year, Johnson's play didn't warrant that amount of pay.

Johnson's two seasons in Cleveland shouldn't be regarded as a bust but even a neutral observer would likely label Johnson's tenure as a bit disappointing.

Johnson often struggled with missed tackles and a player like Johnson isn't paid for making big plays- he's paid for making the average play.

All too often Johnson would have his tackles broken or caught in a missed deep coverage that burnt the Browns several times last season, although other players and defensive coordinator Joe Woods have just as much blame for the blown coverages.

Johnson never seemed comfortable with what Woods asked from him and I would have been interested in seeing how Jim Schwartz would have used Johnson in his system but I understand why Andrew Berry wasn't able to take the chance at the cost for next season entering what seems to be a make or break season for so many in the Browns organization.

Now a Cleveland Browns team that was in desperate need of help at one defensive end, both defensive tackles and linebackers have added another position that will need to be addressed in safety.

Grant Delpit returns at free safety but the only other safeties on the roster are inexperienced D'Anthony Bell and future contract signing Bubba Bolden as Ronnie Harrison is also a free agent that is unlikely to return.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the Browns have a strong interest in signing Jessie Bates of the Bengals, who, like Johnson in 2021, is rated as the best safety that may be available in free agency.

The Bengals would like to keep Bates and they are trying to do so but their cap constraints may keep them from keeping him in the fold.

The Browns would prefer to trade something to the Bengals for Bates (as they did last season with Dallas for Amari Cooper) to have an exclusive negotiating window for a player that will certainly have several suitors but the division rivals in Southern Ohio aren't very likely to do the Browns any favors that will help them improve.

One thing is for sure- the Cleveland Browns are going to be adding some safeties before training camp because they don't have the option not to add any.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Jack knocks out Makabu

  In an entertaining fight, former super middleweight champion Badou Jack added the WBC cruiserweight title to a career that also saw him win a minor title at light heavyweight with a final-round knockout of champion Illunga Makabu in the top supporting bout to the Jake Paul-Tommy Fury bout in Saudi Arabia.

Jack was ahead entering the final round and had knocked Makubu down (with a nifty almost somersault to boot) in the fourth and eleventh rounds,

Jack stunned Makabu in the final round and with a staggering champion behind on the scorecards, the referee decided to end the day with a deserved stoppage.

The thirty-nine-old Jack hadn't beaten a world-class opponent since his 2017 knockout at light heavyweight over Nathan Cleverly. 

His three fights following the victory saw a draw with Adonis Stevenson and losses to Jean Pascal and Marcus Browne and even though he had won his five contests since against lesser opponents, he didn't look good doing as he barely escaped his last fight winning a split decision over Richard Rivera.

Off those fights, it wasn't unreasonable to wonder how much Jack had left in his career but he was clearly the stronger and faster fighter against the younger (slightly) Makabu, who I thought lost his last bout to Thabiso Mchunu.

The title win was the best performance for Jack since his draw with Adonis Stevenson and against even the best in the division, he would be an interesting underdog against IBF champ Jai Opetaia, WBO king Lawrence Okolie, or Mairis Breidis.

As for Makabu, he looked very slow and although he attempted to fire back, he seems to be a fighter well past his best days.

Boxing Challenge (Includes the Showtime card)

TRS: 29 Pts (3)
Ramon Malpica: 24 Pts (0)
Vince Samano: 19 Pts ( 4)

Devils obtain Timo Meier!

    I'll be the first to admit that the one thing that I enjoy in life that has suffered the most due to the chaos in my work life over the last four months has been the New Jersey Devils.

I do see a decent amount of Cleveland Cavaliers games since I have league pass (IF I can avoid the final score), even if I don't have time to write about them here, boxing is generally easy to find as I can watch on delay if needed, and my latest addition in Newcastle United (very little coverage here because I just don't know enough about soccer/European football to add much of substance other than Howay Lads!") is easy to follow because usually they play once a week and if they do play twice, it's on a delightful weekday afternoon when I am begging for something to watch!

But it's been the Devils that have suffered the most from my lack of time.

It's not that I don't know what's going on, I read every recap and boxscore and see most highlights, it's just been hard to watch games, which is saddening considering how the team has played this season and is about to make the playoffs with a talented young team coming into its own at second in their division (three points behind Carolina) and fourth in the Eastern Conference.

All of that is down for posterity but I am super jacked for the Devils trade for Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks as the trade deadline nears!

Tom Fitzgerald didn't insist on a signed contract extension for Meier (although the team will be pursuing one) which kept the price for Meier down a bit but does increase the risk should Meier decide to test the free agent meat market as Meier is a restricted free agent following the year.

Meier does have a ten million dollar qualifying offer, so assuming the Devils have to, they will do so and at minimum, the Devils will have Meier for a year and a half.

San Jose will pay half of Meier's remaining salary for this season as well.

Meier was easily the best player available on the trade market and could slot in on either of the Devils top two lines, which are pretty interchangeable and aren't true one and two lines as much as one and one A due to chemistry.

Meier scored 31 goals (13 Power Play) and 21 assists (5 Power Play) in fifty-seven games for the Sharks this season after scoring 35 goals last season for San Jose and is a dominant player on the power play.

Meier averages four and a half shots on goal per game and is a winger that makes his linemates better as he can extend possessions and is known as a play driver.

At 27, he is just entering his prime and there is nothing to dislike about his game, contract, or anything else.

In other words, if you have an issue with Timo Meier, I'd have to wonder either how much you know about hockey or you have to have a bias against Meier or the Devils!

The Devils obtained a few pieces other than Meier in the trade in defensemen Scott Harrington ( one goal and six assists in 28 games for the Sharks) and Santeri Hatakka  (two assists in eight AHL games), left-wing Timur Ibragimov (11 goals and 21 assists for ECHL Wichita), goaltender Zach Emond ( three games for ECHL Wichita) and Colorado's fifth-round pick in the 2024 draft).

Harrington has played most of his career with Columbus but only once (2018-19) has played more than thirty-nine games.

Harrington's a decent skating defenseman and you can play him but his level is anywhere between a third-pairing blueliner to a seventh man that is not always active or stashed in the AHL as their veteran defenseman for needed depth that can be used in the event of injury.

I've read a report or two that think Hatakka could eventually see some NHL action although his ceiling is very similar to that of Scott Harrington's as a back-of-the-pack defenseman and it appears that Ibraginov and Emond were toss-ins to keep the Sharks under the organizational limit for contracts.

Harrington will more than likely join the parent club, Hatakka is likely to report to AHL Albany, and who knows where Ibragimov and Emond will wind up.

New Jersey avoided having to give up any of the players that would have been targeted by the Sharks (or any other team looking to trade) as the team retained Dawson Mercer, Alexander Holtz, Luke Hughes, and Simon Nemec, which makes this team a potential force for years to come, especially if Meier can be signed to an extension.

The Sharks' end of the trade includes former first-round defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin,  defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk, wingers Fabian Zetterlund and Andreas Johnsson, New Jersey's 2023 first-rounder (conditional on the pick not being in the top two choices, which is as likely as Green Arrow finishing out of the money in an archery contest), a 2024 second rounder, which can become a first under playoff conditions and Meier's playing time, and a seventh-round choice in 2024.

While you never want to trade first-rounders, those picks are almost certain to be near the bottom of the round, so I'm fine with that.

The biggest potential loss appears to be Shakir Mukhamadullin, who was thought to be a reach when New Jersey selected him with the final of their three 2020 first-rounders but has developed into a strong prospect in his time since in the KHL with Ufa Salavat Yulavev.

Mukhamadullin currently has six goals with nineteen assists in sixty-seven games with a solid plus sixteen plus-minus and he appears to me to be the player in this trade that the Devils might eventually regret losing, although as regarded as Mukhamadullin is, both Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec are graded as even better prospects.

Nikita Okhotyuk was New Jersey's second-rounder in 2021 and while he doesn't look like a potential top-pairing defenseman, he could be a solid second-pairing player eventually.

Okhotyuk scored a goal in ten games for the Devils this season and two goals with four assists in twenty games for AHL Utica.

Fabian Zetterlund has played well in his rookie season with the Devils, scoring six goals and fourteen assists in his rookie season, and is the player that is likely for Sharks fans to see in the teal and black immediately.

At 23, Zetterlund is a strong shooter and I could see him scoring thirty goals a time or two over his career down the road.

Andreas Johnsson once scored twenty goals in a season and was thought of as a steal when the Devils obtained him in 2020.

Johnsson would only score eighteen goals in two seasons with the Devils, and spent this season in Utica, scoring nine goals in twenty-eight games for the Comets.

Johnsson is still only 28, so I wouldn't be surprised if he could contribute in San Jose but considering his recent play, I wouldn't count on it.

It was fun writing about hockey again and I'm fired to watch more games now when I can!

I'm not sure how much coverage I'll have as much as the Cavaliers, I have to have time to both watch the game and write as well but I'll do the best I can!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Matias stops Ponce

 It might not have quite reached fight of the year level but Subriel Matias's stoppage of Jeremias Ponce to win the vacant IBF junior welterweight title was still a very entertaining five rounds with Ponce unable to answer the bell for the start of round six.

Ponce charged early and controlled the first round with a surprising early attack and the two squared off with bunches of punches landed on each other in rounds two-four, as the two set a tremendous pace and had the fight continued at that rate, we could have seen a fight that would be remembered for years.

As usually happens in these types of give-and-take battles, one of the participants eventually wilts and in this case, it was Ponce as he was knocked down hard late in the fifth round, and while he showed tons of grit in getting up and concluding the round, his corner decided to stop the fight before the start of round six.

I scored the fight even after five rounds at 57-57, giving Ponce three of the five rounds with Matias gaining a point for the knockdown and I think Matias would have had an excellent chance at closing the show had the fight continued into the sixth round.

I think both fighters have futures as action fighters but Matias now has 19 knockouts in as many wins and with his hard punching and sometimes wild style, Matias is likely to provide entertaining fights against almost anyone and Matias should see the best of PBC's fighters in the division and even lightweights moving up as the better fighters in the division are affiliated elsewhere. (Josh Taylor, Regis Prograis, Jack Catterall, and Jose Ramirez fight for others).

PBC does have the somewhat lightly-regarded WBA champion Alberto Puello in their stable and pitting Matias and Puello against each other would unify half the division's titles, so that fight would not only make sense, it would provide extra credibility in a talent-rich division.

The co-feature saw comebacking welterweight Jamal James win a unanimous decision over Alberto Palmetta in a fight that never really seemed to catch fire.

James started well and finished well with Palmetta doing his best work in between.

James had not fought for seventeen months and it showed a little but James will have other fights available against fighters of his level.

I scored James a 97-93 winner, a tad closer than the official cards at 98-92 X2 and 99-91.

In the opener, Elvis Rodriguez won a majority decision over Joseph Adorno with knockdowns in the seventh and tenth.

I haven't watched this one as of this writing but the official scores read 94-94, 96-92, and 97-91 for Rodriguez, who could be in the running for a chance at IBF champion Subriel Matias or WBA king Alberto Puello with the win.