Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Fusiachi Pegasus

  The death of the 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus at the age of 26 wouldn't ordinarily receive its own post, although "Fu Peg" would have certainly received a segment in the passings department of "Cleaning out the Inbox".

Pegasus was the most expensive yearling to be sold at auction at four million dollars in 1998, and after his racing career, Fusachi Pegasus was sold for stud duty for a still-record seventy million dollars to Coolmore Stud of Ireland, who stood him at their American stallion home, Ashford Stud in Kentucky, where he would stand for his entire North American career although he would be shuttled for service to various countries including Australia, Chile, and Uruguay.

Owner Fusao Sekiguchi's four million dollar purchase would never stand for a breeding season in Japan but at Japan's Northern Horse Park, a brilliant gold-plated full-sized statue of Fusiachi Pegasus stands in recognition of the 2000 Derby winner.

Trained by Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale and ridden by another Hall of Famer in Kent Desormeaux, Fusaichi Pegasus prepped for the Derby with two Grade II victories in the San Felipe Stakes at California's Santa Anita racetrack and followed up with another win in New York in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct before his win in Louisville as the first post-time favorite to win the Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979.

Fusiachi Pegasus defeated Aptitude by a length and a half in his Derby win and Pegasus's Derby winning time of 2:01.12 is currently the tenth fastest of all time in the Derby and he was a heavy favorite entering the Preakness but would finish second to Red Bullet by three and three-quarter lengths.

Without the Triple Crown to be won, Drysdale decided to skip the Belmont Stakes to order to concentrate on a fall campaign that would end in the Breeders Cup Classic and would win the Grade II Jerome Handicap in New York as his only prep for the Classic, where he would return to Louisville and finish sixth to Tiznow in his final race before retirement.

As a son of legendary sire Mr.Prospector from a Danzig mare (Angel Fever) Fusiachi Pegasus was expected to be a huge star at stud, considering the speed in his pedigree and showing ability to go the classic distance on the racetrack.

It didn't turn out that way as the Fusaichi Pegasus stud fee slowly declined from a starting point of $150,000 to end his stud career at $7,500.

Fusaichi Pegasus ran near the end of my intense following of thoroughbred racing, so I was a big fan of his but I also associate him with my late pal Teddy.


Well, I traveled to pick Teddy up on the morning of the 2000 Preakness as Pegasus was expected to win the second leg of the Triple Crown and it was mildly raining (which may have been a major reason that Red Bullet upset Pegasus on a Pimlico track rated as good not fast) as Ryan and I picked the little guy up.

It's hard to believe that it's been twenty-three years since that day and so much has changed both in and out of my life since my best buddy scrambled up those stairs for the first time.

I'll never forget that day or how much joy Teddy brought into my life and I'll always associate Fusaichi Pegasus and the 2000 Preakness with the dog that meant so much to me and always will.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Fantastic Featherweights!

   On a boxing Saturday that saw two world titles change hands, one belt stay with the champion, and two top contenders stay busy with victories, it's hard to say which win was the most impressive but no matter your choice, it had to be one of the two winners in the featherweight division.

In Belfast, Northern Ireland from ESPN+/Top Rank, Luis Alberto Lopez continued his string of road wins with a brutal fifth-round knockout of Ireland's Michael Conlan to retain his IBF featherweight title and raise questions about Conlan's future in the sport.

Conlan landed his share of punches in the fight but Lopez was starting to connect regularly in the third and fourth rounds and Conlan would have to change some things to turn the tide.

Conlan tried to box a bit more and was successful- at first, before running into a crunching right uppercut that sent Conlan crashing on his back with his corner immediately throwing in the towel without a count.

Lopez's best hope would be a unification bout against fellow Top Rank fighter and WBO champion Robeisy Ramirez but Ruben Villa is a possible option and another could be a move to 130 pounds to face the Emanuel Navarrete-Oscar Valdez winner.

Should Lopez prefer to stay at 126 pounds, the top-rated contender in Japan's Reiya Abe, who via IBF rules would face the second-ranked contender (currently vacant), which at this time would be a potential English battle between former champion Josh Warrington, who Lopez dethroned via majority decision, and James Dickens.

As for Conlan, it's his second loss by knockout in the last year and he could be a fighter that is damaged goods until he proves that he can take a good shot.

With his drawing power, Conlan could be matched carefully over the next year to eighteen months and should he survive that, I wouldn't rule out a third title shot but any loss during that time could mean the end of Conlan as a contender.

Meanwhile, in Nottingham England, the man who first knocked out Michael Conlan returned to the ring and avenged a knockout loss with an excellent outing as Leigh Wood regained the WBA featherweight title with a unanimous decision win over Mauricio Lara.

Lara had stopped Wood in seven rounds to win the title and Wood activated his rematch clause with most believing that the rematch could end in another KO loss for Wood.

Then Lara missed weight by just under four pounds and was stripped of the WBA title on the scales, so the question then became this- Is Lara going to be even stronger without draining himself to make weight or is this a forewarning of Lara being badly out of shape and giving a listless effort?

Either way, the edict was this- If Lara wins, the WBA title will be declared vacant and should Wood win, he would be the WBA champion as he made the division weight limit.

It turned out to be the latter as Lara would shuffle around the ring following Wood's movement without much urgency or effort and Wood easily fended off any attack on his way to an easy win.

Wood dropped Lara in the second round with a flash knockdown and the rout was on with Wood winning 118-109 (x2) and 116-111 to take the title.

I scored Wood a 118-109 winner as well.

Wood doesn't have in-house unification options with Lopez and Ramirez with Top Rank, and WBC champion Rey Vargas is signed to PBC but a fight against Josh Warrington would be a large draw in the UK and that seems to make the most sense for Wood.

Should Warrington prefer to fight James Dickens and aim for Luis Antonio Lopez instead, Matchroom has another contender in undefeated speedster Raymond Ford that is rated second in the WBA and would be an easy fight to sign.

Jack Catterall returned to the ring for the first time in over a year and dominated Darragh Foley in a fight to sharpen some edges before a bigger fight later this year.

Catterall was the loser in arguably the most controversial decision of 2022 when he lost a split decision to then-unified junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor and various issues scuttled scheduled rematched several times before the WBO (the one title Taylor kept of his four) demanded Taylor defend against Teofimo Lopez, which will happen on June 10th.

Catterall defeated Foley going away by scores of 99-88, 98-89, and 97-90, scoring knockdowns in the seventh and ninth rounds but was deducted a point for the seventh round knockdown for punching Foley while Foley was down.

I gave Catterall every round minus only the lost point at 99-88.

Catterall will likely fight for the WBC title next against Regis Prograis, should Prograis keep his title against late replacement Danielito Zorrilla in June, in what should be an excellent matchup.

Welterweight contender Alexis Rocha was the highlighted star in the evening for DAZN and their Golden Boy card as Rocha pounded veteran Anthony Young into submission through a relentless body attack that forced Young to the canvas in the fifth round and after Young rose, the fight was stopped.

Rocha is the top contender in the WBO for Terence Crawford's title but with the two-fight agreement for later this year between Crawford and Errol Spence, Rocha may be content to stay active and angle for the vacant WBO title when Crawford and Spence are likely to move up after their rematch,

In a major upset in Bournemouth, England, Chris Billiam-Smith won the WBO cruiserweight title over Lawrence Okolie via majority decision.

Billiam-Smith dropped Okolie in the fourth, tenth, and eleventh rounds and Okolie lost two points for holding in the fight, yet somehow one judge saw the fight even at 112.

The other judges saw the fight for Billam-Smith at 116-107 and 115-108.

I haven't watched the bout at this writing.

Editor's Note; After watching the fight, I scored Billiam-Smith the winner at 116-107.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 90 Pts (6)
Ramon Malpica: 83 Pts (4)
Vince Samano: 69 Pts (5) 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Boxing Challenge

   Four fight cards on Saturday, three of those in England and Northern Ireland, will have three world championships at stake, two of those in the featherweight division, and two top contenders in their divisions returning to the ring.

Starting in the afternoon from Nottingham, England will be the Matchroom/DAZN card with the rematch for the WBA featherweight title between Mauricio Lara and Leigh Wood as the main event.

Lara took away Wood's title in February via seventh-round knockout in a thrilling affair that the official judges had Wood leading when he was knocked down and his trainer, Ben Davison waved a towel of surrender.

Wood activated his rematch clause and the two are back at it three months later.

Wood had success against Lara when he boxed a little ( and I mean a little) and he landed plenty of punches on Lara, who will remind no one of a slick boxer, but Lara is the bigger puncher, and his punches are shorter than the longer and often wider shots of Wood, so unless Wood can tighten some things up, I see another exciting fight with another explosive conclusion.

Late Update: Mauricio Lara missed weight and has been forced to vacate the WBA featherweight title.

The fight will continue, if Wood wins he will be the WBA champion.

If Lara wins, the title will be declared vacant.

Junior welterweight contender Jack Catterall returns to the ring for the first time since his February 2022 controversial defeat to Josh Taylor for what-then were all four titles in the division.

Taylor slowly vacated three of his four titles, keeping the WBO version, with a stated plan to face Catterall in a rematch since so many thought Taylor had lost.

The rematch was postponed several times and finally, the WBO demanded Taylor defend against Teofimo Lopez next month rather than Catterall.

Catterall has now been screwed in losing the decision, by Taylor's injuries that kept him out of the ring waiting for various occasions for Taylor to heal, and now the WBO, who for some reason, didn't think Catterall's effort against Taylor deserved to keep him in the top contender spot.

Catterall battles Darragh Foley, a rugged journeyman, who knocked out Robbie Davies in three rounds for his biggest career victory in his last fight.

I'd think Catterall will be able to outbox Foley pretty easily but if Catterall is a little rusty, Foley could have some success.

Meanwhile, also in the afternoon, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, another featherweight title is up for grabs as Luis Alberto Lopez defends his IBF title against hometown warrior Michael Conlan.

The ESPN+/Top Rank card gives Conlan a second chance at a title, this time one that isn't a minor title, after Conlan's spectacular loss to Leigh Wood when he was knocked cold and outside the ring in what I thought was the fight of the year for 2022 for Wood's minor WBA title.

Had Conlan held on through the final round, he would have gotten the decision and it would have been Conlan that was given the full WBA title as Wood was given the title when Leo Santa Cruz finally relinquished that title after several promises to fight Wood never were fulfilled.

Conlan has won both of his fights since the loss to Wood, decisioning Miguel Marriaga, and knocking out Karim Guelfi in the first round.

Lopez won the IBF title last December in winning a razor-close majority decision over Josh Warrington in Warrington's hometown of Leeds, England, and is on a ten-fight winning streak since his last loss, a decision loss to contender Ruben Villa in 2019.

This one is a tough one to call as Conlan is the better boxer and he's fighting at home with Lopez the better puncher and won't be intimidated by the Belfast crowd after beating Josh Warrington on the road.

It should come down to how well Conlan absorbs Lopez's punches as he was wobbled in the final round against the aging Miguel Marriaga.

From Bournemouth, England on FiteTv, two long-time pals battle for a world title as Lawrence Okolie defends his WBO cruiserweight belt against countryman Chris Billam-Smith.

Okolie returns for his fourth title defense just two months after a boring unanimous decision win over David Light, while Billam-Smith has won eight straight since his only loss, a split decision loss to another British top contender in Richard Riakporhe.

Billiam-Smith always fights hard and gives his all and if he can make Okolie fight him this could be a very interesting fight.

However, Okolie is a much more skilled fighter and the most likely outcome is another less than-exciting Okolie decision win.

The evening slate comes from Golden Boy/DAZN as welterweight contender Alexis Rocha stays bust for an eventual WBO title shot (or more likely the vacant title) against veteran Anthony Young.

Rocha continues to stay reasonably busy against B-level opponents and racking up wins against such foes has been enough to move him into the back end of the top ten or so in the division.

The 25-2 Young has fought only three times against lesser opposition since his standout win, a third-round KO of former WBO junior middleweight champion Sadam Ali in 2019.

At 35, this might be Young's last chance at moving forward in his career.

Boxing Challenge 

WBA Featherweight Title.12 Rds
Mauricio Lara vs Leigh Wood
Ramon Malpica: Lara Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lara KO 8
Vince Samano: Lara KO 9

IBF Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Luis Alberto Lopez vs Michael Conlan
R.L: Conlan Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lopez KO 11
V.S.: Lopez KO 8

WBO Cruiserweight Title. 12 Rds
Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith
R.L: Okolie KO 9
TRS: Okolie Unanimous Decision
V.S: Billam-Smith Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights. 10 Rds
Jack Catterall vs Darragh Foley
All: Catterall Unanimous Decision

Welterweights.12 Rds
Alexis Rocha vs Anthony Young
R.L and TRS: Rocha KO 8
V.S: Young Unanimous Decision

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Jim Brown

    Many sports have their great players from years ago in consideration for the greatest ever but usually, as time goes by it weakens the case for the athlete of the past as fewer and fewer living fans have seen them play.

After all, how could someone of an era without the modern advantages of nutrition, training, and specialization along with the athlete being naturally larger over time compete against the more modern stars?

In football, that's a different story as two players from the past are almost always in the conversation and often one or the other is rated first.

Jerry Rice is almost universally regarded as the greatest wide receiver ever and occasionally receives mention as the greatest ever but Jim Brown played his final snap almost sixty years ago and he's still ranked as the top runner ever with the best player period often following the first compliment.

Because Jim Brown was different.

His size and speed would have made him a star in today's game rather than a player that wouldn't be able to compete against bigger and faster opponents and maybe some of his statistics would be mildly affected (by average) his total numbers would increase as Brown played four of his nine seasons in the twelve game era with the remaining five years of the fourteen game variety.

If you take Brown's yards per game (104 averaged for his career) and add twenty-six games (if Brown played a sixteen-game season and added over a season and a half to his career) at his career average (no more, no less) Brown would add 2,704 yards to his total, which would then move him to 15,016 yards and leap him from eleventh overall to fifth.

That's only at his career average over sixteen games and nine seasons.

The players ahead of him in total yards played more games- Emmitt Smith (fifteen seasons 81.2 yards average per game), Walter Payton (thirteen,88.0), Frank Gore (sixteen, 66.4), and Barry Sanders (ten, 99.8).

Only Sanders is close to Brown, playing one more season and close in yards per game (104-99.8), so it's pretty easy to see that at minimum, Jim Brown is the greatest running back in history and with the possible exception of Jerry Rice, the best offensive player in history.

Brown is the only player in NFL history to average over one hundred yards a game for his career.

Jim Brown could run over people and sprint past defenders and he played in an era where defenders could literally do almost anything that they wished to drop a ballcarrier to the ground, which is why Brown adapted a slow manner of rising after a tackle with his reasoning being that if he got up the same way every time, defenders would never know when Brown was hurt or stunned.

Brown planned on playing in 1966 (which would have given him fourteen of those twenty-six games mentioned earlier) but he was co-starring in the classic film "The Dirty Dozen" and filming in Europe was running behind schedule, so Brown notified the Browns that he would be in shape but would miss some of the Browns training camp.

Owner Art Modell said Brown would be fined as any other player would, which resulted in Brown announcing his retirement, and robbing the Browns, who had lost in the 1965 NFL title game to Green Bay, of their greatest player in a season that would end with the first Super Bowl.

In a career filled with bluster and blunders, only the possible exception of moving the franchise to Baltimore would be the biggest error for Art Modell than essentially backing Jim Brown into a corner and losing him to retirement.

Jim Brown wouldn't become a star of the highest status in Hollywood but he did carve out a niche of his own in films such as The Split, Ice Station Zebra, Riot, and most notably 100 Rifles where Brown was at the top of the billing over both Raquel Welch and Burt Reynolds, where Brown and Welch famously would have the first inter-racial love scene in a Hollywood film.

Brown's leading man days ended in the seventies but he would have plenty of television work as a guest star in shows such as CHIPS, The A-Team, and Knight Rider in the eighties.

Brown's biggest role for me as "Fireball", a blowtorch-toting hunter in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film "The Running Man".

Brown was active in the civil rights movement as an athlete and was one of the athletes involved in the famous civil rights summit that provided the famous photo with arguably more greatest athletes in one photo ever with Brown, the then-Lew Alcindor, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, and several others.

Brown's foundation the "Amer-I-Can" is credited with the Watts truce that saw the largest Los Angeles street gangs come to a truce after several years of violence between these four gangs.

Amer-I-Can was established to help gang members adapt to life away from gangs by teaching skills to help with employment and helping them avoid a return to the gangs.

Brown teased a return to the NFL at the age of 48, resulting in a famous Sports Illustrated cover with Brown in a Raiders uniform because it appeared that Franco Harris was going to break his rushing record and Brown hated Harris's style of running, which avoided contact and saw Harris step out of bounds often before being hit.

Brown would challenge Harris to a forty-yard dash that saw Harris pulling away from Brown until late in the race when Brown pulled a hamstring which assured the result and ended any serious thoughts (as if that was happening anyway) of a return to the league.

Jim Brown is a member of three Hall of Fames- college football, pro football, and lacrosse, which is reputed to be Brown's best sport and some talk of him as an all-time great in that sport.

Brown played football, basketball, and lacrosse at Syracuse and a case can be made for Brown deserving of the 1956 Heisman Trophy (he finished fifth in the voting) that was won by Paul Hornung of Notre Dame, who threw thirteen interceptions on a 2-8 team.

Jim Brown did have his off-the-field issues with various assault and domestic violence charges against him but most of the major charges against him would either be dropped or found not guilty.

Brown was found guilty of choking a golf partner in 1975 on a misdemeanor charge resulting in a fine and one day in jail and of vandalism in 1999 for smashing his wife's car with a shovel, Brown would serve community service, pay a small fine, and go to counseling after being found guilty.

None of those legal cases take away from Jim Brown's performance on the field, which was exemplary, but they do show that even people that can do good for their community away from their profession may have their dark side and are as imperfect as we all are.

On the field, Jim Brown is the best running back ever to tote a football and perhaps even the greatest player to ever play the game.

Nothing is going to change that anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Non-Sports Passings

 The tributes to recent passings continue with a non-sports version.

Goodbye to Raquel Welch at the age of 82.

Welch wound up being remembered more as a sex symbol than her actual acting, which I've always thought was a shame because while she wasn't an elite-level thespian, she was far from wooden and deserved better than most of the dreadful films in that she starred.

Welch didn't have many classic films but a pre-school R.S. was smitten with the actress (showing even then that your author had wonderful taste) and I remember her pillow and poster available in the back of the first comic books that I recall reading.

An early memory involved me wanting to see Welch's roller derby film "Kansas City Bomber" in 1972 at the age of four.

Now I knew nothing of roller derby or anything one or anything else about the film (it was rated PG for the record) but I wanted to see Raquel Welch and I remember my aunt and uncle taking me to the long-defunct Hager Drive-In to see that film, which I likely haven't seen since it's occasional "late show" viewings when I still lived at home.

It's a good memory involving people that I don't see often anymore and whenever I would see Raquel Welch mentioned or seen on television, it was Kansas City Bomber that I thought about and that trip to the drive-in.

Goodbye to Stella Stevens at the age of 84.

The mother of actor Andrew Stevens, Stella Stevens appeared in many roles in television and film with notable roles in "Girls Girls Girls" with Elvis Presley, the original "Nutty Professor" with Jerry Lewis, the "Courtship of Eddie's Father" with Glenn Ford, with Dean Martin in "The Silencers", and the original "Poseidon Adventure" with numerous big-name stars.

Stevens transitioned to television in the 1970s and became a regular guest star on just about any hour-long drama that you could think of from the time as well as a staple of the three networks' made-for-television movies.

Goodbye to Lance Kerwin at the age of 62.

The seventies child star was featured in made-for-television films but most notably was the star of James at 15/16, which was broadcast by NBC for one season in 1977-78.

James featured Kerwin as the title character, tackling some controversial subjects of the day, and usually would have James as a Walter Mitty-like character with daydreams that has trouble fitting into his new school after a family move from Portland to Boston.

Despite critical acclaim, the series was canceled after one season and while Kerwin would work steadily for the next few years, Kerwin would never star in a series again, although he did have a key role in a CBS mini-series based on the Stephen King novel Salem's Lot,  and his work seriously declined by the middle-eighties.

Goodbye to Mark Russell at the age of 90.

Russell, known for his political satire set to music, was a staple of PBS from 1975-2004 with usually six specials a year that poked fun at the political news of the day as who I would say was the parody successor to Tom Lehrer.

Russell also made appearances on the NBC program "Real People" in the early eighties, the six episodes of the CBS variety show "The Starland Vocal Band Show" ( I didn't even know that!), and would make an annual appearance on "Meet the Press" on the Sunday before Labor Day.

However, my favorite Mark Russell moment wasn't even a Mark Russell appearance.

A TRS favorite sitcom "NewsRadio" had an episode where Phil Hartman as "Bill McNeal" spent the day impersonating Russell around the office, including in an elevator!

Hartman was asked in the episode if he was impersonating Russell and he responded "I don't think I'm familiar with that name"!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

  The tributes in this post are for some memorable people if you were a sports fan around in the seventies and eighties.

Goodbye to Vida Blue at the age of 73.

Blue was one of the two aces with Catfish Hunter for the three World Championships that the Oakland Athletics won from 1972-74 and his first two seasons with Oakland resulted in a sensation that moved beyond baseball with Blue appearing on the cover of non-sports magazines such as Time, Ebony, and Jet.

Blue was a September 1970 callup and Blue would make two starts, throwing a one-hit complete game against Kansas City followed by a no-hitter against Minnesota.

Blue's 1971 season ranks with the best ever in the game at 24-8, 1.81 ERA (league leading) 24 complete games, eight shutouts (both league leading), and 301 strikeouts on his way to winning a Cy Young and the American League MVP.

Blue held out for much of the 1972 season and would only finish 6-10 but would win twenty games in 1973, seventeen in 1974, and twenty-two in 1975.

Blue was the subject of two deals that commissioner Bowie Kuhn would veto using the reasoning of "not in the best interests of baseball" as he denied a cash sale in June 1976 to the Yankees and denied another in the winter meetings before the 1978 season to the Reds for first baseman Dave Revering and $1.75 million.

Blue would finally be traded- to the Giants for six players and $300,000 and in his first season as a Giant, Blue would win eighteen games, start for the National League in the All-Star game, and win the Sporting News pitcher of the year award but struggled the following year with an ERA over five.

Blue was involved with the Pittsburgh drug trials, resulting in a suspension for the 1984 season and his career declined seemingly due to drug use with the Giants and Royals as his numbers dwindled.

Blue won his 200th game with the Giants as a reliever in his final season in 1986.

Goodbye to Denny Crum at the age of 86.

Crum won two national championships at Louisville (1980 and 86) and would take the Cardinals to four other Final Fours (1972,75,82, and 83) in his thirty seasons in Louisville.

Louisville would make the NCAA tournament twenty-three times under Crum and would win 675 games in his career, all spent with the Cardinals, who he took to the 1972 Final Four in his first season.

Crum was an assistant at UCLA under John Wooden, before being hired at Louisville and played a key role in the recruitments of the then-Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton to Westwood.

Crum was often rumored as the eventual successor to Wooden but never made the move.

Crum mentioned during his retirement season of 2001 that the opportunity to coach the Bruins was offered three times but Crum had fallen in love with Louisville and Kentucky and could never bring himself to leave.

Goodbye to Joe Kapp at the age of 85.

Kapp is most remembered as the quarterback of the first Minnesota Vikings team to reach the Super Bowl after the 1969 season as the Vikings finished 12-2 and lost as the heavy favorite in Super Bowl IV.

Kapp had led the Vikings to their first-ever playoff berth in 1968 but the Vikings declined to pick up his option before the 1969 season, which resulted in the Super Bowl being Kapp's final game as a Viking.

Kapp was signed by the then-Boston Patriots a few weeks into the 1970 season but Kapp played poorly in winning one of ten starts, throwing only three touchdowns against seventeen interceptions, and other than a 1971 training camp appearance, Kapp's career was completed.

Kapp started his career in the CFL with the British Columbia Lions, taking them to the Grey Cup twice and winning with the Lions in 1964 and would spend a portion of the 1990 season as the general manager, where he was the person that would sign Doug Flutie to his first contract in the league.

Kapp also was the head coach at California from 1982-86, compiled only one winning season (his first) but was the winning coach in the famous 1982 Cal-Stanford game where Cal used the lateral multiple times as they wound their way around the fans and band on the field.

Kapp made the news at a Grey Cup appearance in 2011 when he exchanged blows with former Hamilton defensive lineman and pro wrestler Angelo Mosca on stage during the event.

Goodbye to Claude Noel at the age of 74.

A generally undistinguished lightweight at the world-class level, Noel fought for the vacant WBA lightweight title against Ernesto Espana in 1979 for one of the two titles vacated by Roberto Duran and was knocked out in the thirteenth round.

Surprisingly, Noel would stay near the top of the WBA ratings and two years later had risen to number one despite a lack of a strong victory to become the mandatory challenger to new champion Sean O'Grady, who had recently upset Kronk Gym's Hilmer Kenty to win the title.

Rather than defend against Noel for little money in a fight with a lack of fan appeal, O'Grady dropped the title, placing Noel in line to fight for the vacant championship.

Noel was an underdog against the highly touted "Gato" Gonzalez, who had been a boxing magazine sensation on several covers for spectacular knockouts, including a two-round crunching of veteran contender Vilomar Fernandez, who had once decisioned the great Alexis Arguello and went the fifteen round distance with Roberto Duran.

Gonzalez then turned in an uninspiring effort which enabled Noel to pull off the upset to win the WBA title in a boring fight.

Noel was then scheduled to make his first defense against Gonzalo Montellano, who was replaced by Arturo Frias after a training injury.

Frias would knock Noel out in the seventh round and Noel would only appear on the world stage once more, losing to Alexis Arguello via third-round KO before returning to the British Commonwealth level for the remainder of his career.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Superstar Billy Graham

   In 1977, I remember flipping through the tv stations on a Saturday morning and seeing a large, muscular blond man with a receding hairline flexing his biceps with a much smaller man with a turban on his head gazing at him with a look of admiration on his face.

I turned to my father and asked "Just what IS this?"

His response was "Oh, that's the stupid fake rasslin'".

I wouldn't become a wrestling fan for another two years but I never forgot the big blond man and when I did become a wrestling fan, that wrestler wouldn't be seen on television for another three years-and when he did make his return, it would not be the same as he was an almost emaciated looking bald man using "martial arts" moves that looked weak even to the hardest of hard-core believers in pro wrestling.

That man was Superstar Billy Graham with his diminutive manager the Grand Wizard, and even though when I saw him wrestle, he was well past his prime, there was still a charisma to him that most wrestlers would have killed to have possessed.

Graham's death at the age of 79 brought the Superstar back to the mainstream as tributes flowed to arguably the most imitated wrestlers by other wrestlers ever.

Noted as the man that may have influenced the largest number of pro wrestlers of his age, such as Hulk Hogan, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Scott Steiner, and lord knows how many others, it was Billy Graham that was first with the rap and with muscles far beyond anyone in pro wrestling of his time.

Graham was never a strong performer in the ring but his interviews and muscles brought people to the building as a star through the seventies and both during and even after his run as WWWF champion as the first "heel" champion in the territory to hold the title for more than a few weeks.

Graham upset Bruno Sammartino in Baltimore (Chosen in order to avoid a riot in New York, where the title usually changed hands) using his feet on the ropes for leverage, on April 30, 1977, and held the title until February 20, 1978, with a title reign that worked for two reasons- Graham himself and that so many of the region's fans favorites that would never receive title shots against Sammartino were suddenly able to have their chance for the world title.

Dusty Rhodes, Ivan Putski, Tony Garea, Mil Mascaras, and Chief Jay Strongbow could never challenge Sammartino but they could try Graham, and fans of those wrestlers paid their money to see if their man could be the man to upset Graham for his title.

As a headliner at the company's unofficial home- New York's Madison Square Garden, Graham sold out nineteen of the twenty times that Graham was in the main event and the Graham title reign is noted by many as the one reign before the "Hulkamania" times that could have been extended and even more successful as Graham been turned "babyface" as both Graham and Bruno Sammartino suggested.

Instead, Vince McMahon Sr. honored his word and kept his commitment to Bob Backlund to dethrone Graham as Graham had been told would happen well before Graham's title win.

Graham would continue to sell out arenas for the remainder of his time with the WWF for rematches against Backlund, along with matches against Bruno Sammartino and Dusty Rhodes, with both men avenging "controversial" defeats or disqualification wins against Graham when he was the champion.

Graham's career changed after that run, seldomly wrestling for periods of time, and appeared in CBS's World Strongest Man contest, finishing seventh with a shaved head look that he would use in his 1982 return to the WWF for the rematch series with Backlund with the martial arts gimmick that is so often panned by Graham fans that would see Graham destroy the championship belt on television with Backlund crying, which is credited as the start of the fan backlash against Backlund.

Graham returned to the massive muscular look after leaving the WWF, keeping the shaven head but never quite returned to the top of the card status in runs in Florida and for the Mid-Atlantic/JCP territories before a touted return that never really panned out as his body was breaking down from injuries as well as various illnesses.

Graham spent some time after his wrestling career ended as a awful commentator which was a surprise considering that Graham was such a great talker but this happens frequently as some people are great at talking about themselves but not so great when talking about others.

Graham was off and on the good side of Vince McMahon and the WWF/E through the last thirty years or so as Graham would periodically appear in the news with criticism of McMahon and then reconcile, most notably when the WWE was promoting a career DVD about Graham and his autobiography and his entry into the company's Hall of Fame.

I have two personal memories of the Superstar in the ring, with the first of these with Graham in the main event of the first WWF card in Hagerstown in years against Ivan Putski.

I've mentioned often that I always rooted for the "bad guys" as a younger fan and I was one of few, if not the only, fan rooting for Graham on this particular evening- Until my mom decided she didn't like Putski for something "foul-mouthed" he must have said and begin cheering for Graham, which was really odd because she was never a huge wrestling fan, especially at that time.

Putski won by disqualification but I remember that night more for my mom cheering for Graham than anything in the match, which makes sense as neither Graham nor Putski's ring work would remind you of anyone noted for great matches!

Graham would return for another Hagerstown card in a main event that (by name anyway) seems to be much too big for a spot show in Western Maryland as Graham teamed with Magnificent Muraco against Andre the Giant and Pedro Morales.

I believe this may have been Andre's only match in Hagerstown and I remember my dad running late to take me to the match, which resulted in us standing for the entire card!

I think the end saw Andre pinning Graham after his big boot to the face and big splash onto the prone Superstar but I don't remember for sure.

Graham references this match in his autobiography, Tangled Ropes,

Superstar Billy Graham may have been referenced by some as a lovable rogue and I'm sure that there was something of a confidence-man to him as the wrestling business both attracts and creates people that are able to stretch the truth a bit as most salesmen do but I'm not sure that Graham hurt anyone other than himself and his wife Valerie, who comes out of Graham's book as the true hero of the story.

In the ring, Graham was a little below average but with his look, ability to speak, drawing power, and his influence on so many stars that came along after him and built on the foundation of his character, Superstar Billy Graham would be a deserving member of any wrestling Hall of Fame.

After I started working on this tribute to Superstar Graham, the greatest running back of all time, Jim Brown, passed away.

I want to work on a tribute to Brown this week but this was already in progress and I didn't want to stop halfway through.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Haney squeaks by Lomachenko

   In an entertaining bout alternating between slugfest and a skilled chess match, Devin Haney retained his world lightweight title with a narrow unanimous decision over Vasyl Lomachenko in Las Vegas.

The close but unpopular decision by scores of 115-113 (times two) and 116-112 not only allowed Haney to keep all four of his world championships and keep big future fights open but to do so regardless of promotional affiliation as Haney's agreement with Top Rank concluded with his win over Lomachenko.

Haney used Lomachenko's characteristic slow start to build a lead on the scorecards and held off the Ukrainan's usual fast finish to win the fight (avoid a draw) by winning the final round and while some are screaming robbery about the decision, I wouldn't have screamed with either man winning a tight nod as I scored it even at 114.

The biggest issue was Dave Moretti's scoring the tenth round for Haney, which was arguably the best round of the fight for Lomachenko but the evening was filled with storylines that actually played out with both fighters delivering excellent performances, Lomachenko winning the crowd in Haney's hometown, and Haney digging deep for the first victory of his career against an elite fighter.

While a Haney-Lomachenko rematch would be welcomed and perhaps warranted, it's pretty clear that Haney is going to move onto other horizons with his free agency status holding the potential for multiple top-level fights, each with loads of intrigue.

A decision to continue working with Top Rank could see Haney against the linear (and WBO) junior welterweight champion, the winner of next month's Josh Taylor-Teofimo Lopez battle, or against the super-talented Shakur Stevenson in a defense of Haney's titles.

Should Haney return to his former promoter (which has been rumored from the day he left) Eddie Hearn's Matchroom boxing, Haney could face Matchoom's newly-inked WBC junior welterweight standard-bearer Regis Prograis or England's Jack Catterall, who most people think defeated Josh Taylor.

A deal with Golden Boy Promotions might net Haney a fight against recently defeated but still marketable Ryan Garcia at junior welterweight or a defense of his lightweight titles, should he choose to stay at 135 pounds, against their exciting contender William Zepeda.

And the biggest payday of them all? A title defense against the popular power-punching Gervonta Davis with Al Haymon's PBC.

Lomachenko's options are more limited without a rematch as he's not able to bulk up against the stronger junior welterweights but he certainly boosted his marketability with his outing and even without Haney, a fight against Shakur Stevenson would bring plenty of attention, and should Haney move up to 140 pounds, Lomachenko would almost certainly receive a chance at one of the vacant titles.

The best single performance of the night may have been former WBO flyweight champion Junto Nakatani moving up to the junior bantamweight division for the WBO's vacant title and brutally knocking out Andrew Moloney in the final round of a fight that should have been stopped in the corner long before then.

Nakatani scored knockdowns in the second and eleventh rounds and a battered Moloney should have been saved from himself before the last round by his corner.

Moloney would pay for his valor as Nakatani slipped a Moloney punch and crunched him with a left hand that put Moloney out before he hit the canvas without a count.

Nakatani is going to make waves in the 115-pound division and I don't see any of the big names in the division, including Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, or anyone else (Kazuto Ioka gave this title up to not face Nakatani) fighting him anytime soon.

Lightweight Raymond Muratalla grabbed his biggest career win with a second-round knockout of Jeremiah Nakathila that saw Muratalla hurt Nakathila and drive him into a corner but I thought most of the follow-up punches missed with one exception and I thought the referee jumped in and ended the fight a bit prematurely in my opinion.

It's still a big win for Muratalla and may enter his name into a potential fight against either Lomachenko or Stevenson if the two don't have other options.

I haven't seen Oscar Valdez's unanimous decision win over Adam Lopez as of this writing.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 84 Pts (4)
Ramon Malpica: 79 Pts (4)
Vince Samano:64 Pts (3)

Friday, May 19, 2023

Boxing Challenge

  The long-awaited world lightweight title match between unified champion Devin Haney and three-division (and three titles at lightweight) champion Vasyl Lomachenko from Las Vegas Saturday night carries as much intrigue and possible results as a top fight as one could imagine.

Lomachenko was scheduled to attempt to regain three of the titles last year in Australia against then-champion George Kambosos but was forced to withdraw as he chose to stay in his home country Ukraine in that country's war against Russia.

Haney, who held the WBC title, stepped in and would travel to Australia twice to win the title from Kambosos and then defeat him in the contractually obligated rematch.

For all of the skill and talent of Lomachenko and his wins over good opposition, in his two losses, he showed a tendency to give too much respect to his opponents as he was bullied in a split decision loss to Orlando Salido in a fight that he would have won had Salido been deducted points for the many fouls that he committed, and in a slow start against Teofimo Lopez where Lomachenko gave away the first half of the fight with surprising meekness.

Lomachenko will need to start faster against the younger and naturally larger Haney, who hasn't shown many flaws in his career although he was hurt in the late rounds of his win over Jorge Linares.

This is a legacy-defining fight for both men.

For Haney, Lomachenko is the best fighter he's ever fought and he could answer the questions of some about whether is he a very good fighter but not a great one and perhaps answer the questions of his power punching as well.

For Lomachenko, a win over Haney would be his best as a pro, although his triumph over Gary Russell may also have consideration for that honor, and he would end the mild criticism of his career having been filled with wins over good fighters but lacking a great win.

I've been back and forth on my selection and I really can see scenarios for each fighter that are realistic for victory.

Due to time constraints, I won't be previewing the other three fights on the card for the challenge but it's an excellent evening from Top Rank on paper and I'm looking forward to seeing what unfolds!

World Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Devin Haney vs Vasyl Lomachenko
Ramon Malpica: Lomachenko Split Decision
TRS: Haney Unanimous Decision
Vince Samano: Haney KO 11

Vacant WBO Junior Bantamweight Title, 12 Rds
Junto Nakatani vs Andrew Moloney
R.L & TRS: Nakatani Unanimous Decision
V.S: Nakatani KO 6

Junior Lightweights 10 Rds
Oscar Valdez vs Adam Lopez
R.L: Valdez Unanimous Decision
TRS: Valdez KO 8
V.S: Lopez Split Decision

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Raymond Muratalla vs Jeremiah Nakathila
R.L; Muratalla Unanimous Decision
TRS: Nakathila Split Decision
V.S: Nakathila KO 8

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Alimkhanuly Dominates- Hamburglar Alert in Vegas.

  The boxing weekend would see a champion with something to prove and two championships to be claimed by challengers hoping to prove their worth with excellent outings.

One of those fighters succeeded, another did well enough to win, and a third may have proven that he may be the most fortunate fighter in the sport.

In Stockton, California from ESPN/Top Rank, WBO middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhnauly rebounded from an average effort in his previous fight to destroy undeserving Canadian challenger Steven Butler in two rounds.

The buildup for this one was based around Alimkhanuly's off-night against Denzel Bentley, whether he would return to form, and his Golovkin-like status as the man that is too good to face for such little reward, while Butler, a fighter without a win against a contender in his career and having been stopped in all three of his defeats, was the "only man willing to step up".

Butler may have been willing to step up but even in what may be an historically weak time for the middleweight division, Butler wasn't deserving of a top ten rating or a championship challenge and it showed as after a slow first round, Alimkhanuly knocked Butler down three times in the second for a quick and brutal end to a mismatch.

The fight was essentially over after the first knockdown and give Butler credit for trying to survive but it could have been stopped after the second knockdown and no one would have complained.

This fight didn't prove anything other than Alimkhanuly is usually going to walk through fringe contenders, there still isn't a big fight waiting for him, and boy is the 160-pound division in awful shape.

The co-feature was expected to be the best matchup of the weekend but it didn't deliver as Jason Moloney won the vacant WBO bantamweight title with a majority decision win over Vincent Astrolabio.

Moloney was content to counterpunch and move just enough to keep the harder puncher Astrolabio off balance, which had the desired effect as Astrolabio simply wasn't aggressive enough to offset Moloney's boxing.

I had Moloney a 116-112 winner, which was the same as one card with the others scoring 115-113 for Moloney and even at 114-114.

I thought Moloney deserved the win but the ESPN crew seemed to have Moloney far ahead and I saw a different fight than they did but they could have been zoning out listening to Andre Ward talk about the obligations of fighters, how much he cares and money ZZZZZZ.

Ordinarily, the hypocrisy of Andre Ward would receive more time here but the "main event" from Showtime/PBC in Las Vegas was even worse for boxing.

Take Rolando Romero, he of the fast mouth, wild punches, and even slower hands and his previous form.

Romero "won" a minor lightweight title in one of the worst decisions seen in years over Jackson Marinez ( Marinez would be knocked out in his next two fights by both Richard Commey and Frank Martin), defeated journeyman Avery Sparrow and fringe contender Anthony Yigit to parlay that into a big fight against Gervonta Davis, where he was stopped in six generally rounds.

Romero then doesn't fight for almost a year (two weeks shy), is handed a title fight against Alberto Puello without ever fighting in the junior welterweight division, and then rather than fight Batyr Akhmedov, who was fighting on the undercard, for the title stripped from Puello for PED use, Romero receives forty-year-old Ismael Barroso for the vacated championship.

Barroso, who had never defeated a championship contender and had lost by knockout to his two best opponents (Anthony Crolla and Akhmedov), seemed to be yet again another "lucky" draw for Rolando Romero dealt to him by his promoters (Al Haymon) and the always lovable WBA.

The stage was set for Romero to win a title that he shouldn't be fighting for in the first place against an aging opponent that isn't of title caliber but Barroso appeared to be throwing a wrench into the plan by knocking Romero down in the third round, reducing Romero to wild swipes amid chases around the ring, and building a lead on the scorecards that short of a few knockdowns, Barroso was likely to hold.

Romero does try in the ninth round to throw some heavy shots as he has to know he's losing (Believe it or not, all three judges had Barroso ahead, which knowing boxing was a surprise to me), and in his aggressiveness throws a punch/shove/crosscheck that sends Barroso to the mat, which referee Tony Weeks calls a knockdown.

Barroso rises unhurt but now knows he's on the verge of losing a 10-8 round so with Romero attacking, Barroso countering, and neither landing much or hurting the other- Tony Weeks leaps in and ends the fight to a stunned Romero hometown crowd, who know what has happened here.

Romero gets a title (and the biggest race at the PBC offices will be who can lock up the first chance at Rolando Romero) and Barroso, who at forty years old and fighting the fight of his career, is screwed as even if he is able to land an immediate rematch (short of the WBA demanding it, that's not happening) , considering his age, he's unlikely to repeat how well he fought against Romero.

As for Tony Weeks, we may have seen his Joey Curtis moment.

Joey Curtis was a well-respected referee in Nevada boxing in the 70s and 80s and he was the third man for 1982's WBA heavyweight title bout between Mike Weaver and Michael Dokes.

Dokes dropped Weaver seconds into the fight, Weaver got up and as Dokes missed every punch of a combination, Curtis stopped the fight after only sixty-three seconds and never worked a major fight after that.

I'm not saying Tony Weeks will never referee again but I think we've seen the beginning of his descent from the top fights in the sport.

I haven't had the time to watch the co-feature, which was a WBA eliminator in the junior welterweight division (and the organization that now has Rolando Romero as its champion in the division) as Kenneth Sims defeated Batyr Akhmedov in what everyone reports as a very entertaining fight by majority decision.

Boxing Challenge 
TRS: 80 Pts (5)
Ramon Malpica: 75 Pts (5)
Vince Samano:61 Pts (5)

Friday, May 12, 2023

Browns trade for Za'Darius Smith

 Andrew Berry's tenure as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns has seen several misses in the draft (hopefully that changes this year) but one thing that Berry has been very good at doing has been keeping enough open cap space to acquire an excellent player from a team that may not have the room on their salary cap to keep them and get the player at a far cheaper cost than their talents should.

Last year, Berry was able to land Amari Cooper from the Cowboys for a fifth-rounder and swap sixth-rounders under those circumstances and Berry struck again today with a trade with the Minnesota Vikings to hopefully end the Browns' problems by finding a pass-rushing threat on the opposite end from Myles Garrett.

Cleveland traded fifth-round picks in 2024 and 2025 to the Vikings in exchange for defensive end/linebacker Za'Darius Smith and the Vikings' sixth and seventh-round selections in 2025 and Smith should give the Browns the rusher that they have been seeking through the off-season.

An eight-year veteran with three teams, Smith was signed to a three-year, forty-two million dollar contract before last season by Minnesota after Smith was released by Green Bay after missing all but one game in 2021.

Smith has reworked that contract and will be guaranteed 11.75 million for 2023.

Smith finished with ten sacks in sixteen games and was named to the Pro Bowl but slowed down as the season progressed as nine and a half of his ten sacks came in the first ten weeks of 2022.

Smith was drafted by Baltimore from Kentucky in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and Smith played well in his four seasons there but truly came into his own after signing with Green Bay before the 2019 season.

Smith's first two seasons in Green Bay saw him finish with 13.5 and then 12.5 sacks before a back injury that cost him most of the 2021 season.

Considering that was only two years again, it's fair to be at least a little concerned about the back but Smith did play in sixteen games last season for the Vikings, so that is reassuring for now.

Should Smith repeat his numbers from last season, the Browns could have an excellent pass rush opposite Myles Garrett with Smith, free agent signee Obonnia Okoronwko and fourth-round draft pick Isaiah McGuire.

Andrew Berry may have finally found the help for Myles Garrett that he has been looking for.

Earlier in the week, the Browns signed veteran free-agent safety Rodney McLeod to a one-year contract to be the primary third safety behind Juan Thornhill and Grant Delpit.

The thirty-two-year-old McLeod signed with the then-St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2012 from Virginia and would play for four years with the Rams before moving to Philadelphia for six seasons where he would play under new Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

McLeod spent last season with the Indianapolis Colts, where he played in every game, starting fifteen of those, finishing with two interceptions and a career-high 96 combined tackles.

McLeod has always been highly thought of by fantasy football owners that play in IDP (individual defensive player) and was rated as the eighth-best safety in the league by Pro Football Focus in 2022.

McLeod is a strong tackler, is known for his locker room presence, and will be a huge help in teaching the nuances of the defense that Jim Schwartz will be installing for the Browns.

I'm not sure that the Browns could have done any better for a reasonably priced veteran safety than Rodney McLeod.

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing weekend isn't the most exciting one ever but two vacant world titles will be awarded and another will be defended.

The ESPN+ card from Stockton, California will have two of those title tilts with the main event consisting of a WBO middleweight title defense for Janibek Alimkhanuly against Canada's Steven Butler.

Alimkhanuly was receiving lots of hype before an expected squash match against England's Denzel Bentley last November.

Alimkhanuly looked very mortal in winning a unanimous decision that was far more competitive than anyone expected against Bentley and the question now is this- Was Alimkhanuly overrated or is Bentley a better boxer than anyone anticipated?

I'm not sure the answer comes against Steven Butler, who has been knocked out in all three of his losses, one of which came in a five-round KO defeat in an attempt to win the WBA middleweight title from Ryota Murata in 2019, and who appears perfectly aligned for Alimkhanuly to score a victory that might return Alimkhanuly to the exciting status that he held before the Bentley match.

The co-feature is the best match of the weekend as Australia's Jason Moloney and Vincent Astrolabio of the Philippines will vie for one of the four bantamweight belts, the WBO in this case, that was vacated by Naoya Inoue.

Moloney has won four straight since his seventh-round knockout loss when challenging Inoue in 2020, while Astrolabio came out of nowhere when he upset former champion Guillermo Rigondeaux via decision in February 2022 and then a brutal beatdown in six rounds on Showtime of Nikolai Potapov last November.

The winner of this one will rank at the top of the division for now (I rate either over new WBA champion Takuma Inoue) as the WBC (Nonito Donaire vs Alejandro Santiago) and IBF (Emmanuel Rodriguez vs Melvin Lopez) have yet to fill their championship voids.

This should be the fight of the weekend.

On Showtime from Las Vegas, a world title will be given as Rolando Romero will battle Ismael Barroso for the vacant WBA junior welterweight title.

Alberto Puello won the title vacated by Josh Taylor last August with a split-decision win over Batyr Akhmedov and was scheduled to defend against Romero, who hasn't fought since his knockout loss to Gervonta Davis, but failed a test for PEDs and was stripped of the championship.

Ismael Barroso was the next available contender and who really knows what the Venezuelan will bring to the ring at 40 years of age and after losses against his best opponents, including a ninth-round loss to Batyr Akhmedov.

Rolando Romero can punch but he's very crude (although very entertaining) and he makes me think that he might be one of those fighters that could catch anyone and beat them and anyone is capable of catching him and taking him out.

The co-feature will determine the mandatory contender for the Romero-Barroso victor as Batry Akhmedov will face Kenneth Sims.

Akhmedov has lost two split decisions that he might have deserved in both cases to Alberto Puello and Mario Barrios and under those conditions, I would have given Akhmedov the fight vs Rolando Romero on this card and placed Ismael Barroso against Kenneth Sims, considering Akhmedov has a KO win over Barroso.

Sims was a highly decorated amateur and the one-time prospect that had been a disappointing pro until a surprising upset over prospect Elvis Rodriguez in Las Vegas at the Top Rank "Bubble".

Sims has won three more fights since defeating Rodriguez and will have a chance to move into a mandatory challenger spot with a win.

Akhmedov is the stronger fighter, while Sims is the smoother boxer, this one comes down to whether can Sims box and move away from Akhmedov for twelve rounds.

Boxing Challenge

WBO Middleweight Title. 12 Rds 
Janibek Alimkhanuly vs Steven Butler
Ramon Malpica: Alimkhanuuly KO 9
TRS: AlimkhanulyKO 5
Vince Samano: Alimkhanuly KO 7

Vacant WBO Bantamweight Title.12 Rds
Jason Moloney vs Vincent Astrolabio
R.L: Moloney Unanimous Decision
TRS: Astrolabio Split Decision
V.S: Astrolabio Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBA Junior Welterweight Title. 12 Rds
Rolando Romero vs Ismael Barroso
R.L: Romero KO 7
TRS: Romero KO 9
V.S: Romero KO 6

Junior Welterweights. 12 Rds
Batyr Akhmedov vs Kenneth Sims
R.L and TRS: Akhmedov Unanimous Decision
V.S: Sims Unanimous Decision

Devils season ends in Overtime

   Jesper Fast's goal seven minutes into overtime gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 overtime win in game five of the Eastern Conference semi-finals and as the puck entered the net, the season ended for the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils led twice in the game, 1-0 after Dawson Mercer scored in the first period, and again at 2-1 when Timo Meier scored on a power play goal in the second.

New Jersey couldn't hold the lead and with the lost lead, went the end of the Devils season.

Hell Raisers

1) After the putrid game-four loss at home in Newark, I thought the Devils gave an excellent accounting in a game-five road tilt.

Lindy Ruff commented that the Devils gave all that they had and I'd agree.

Season-ending losses are never easy to take but a valiant effort such as this makes a loss easier to take than a loss such as game four.

2) Timo Meier scored the Devils second goal but the play that he will ponder for the off-season was a miss into an open net in the second period.

Nine times out of ten, Meier slams that puck home, and the Devils would have increased their lead to 3-1.

3) The Devils returned to Akira Schmid for the game and I thought the young goalie played well despite the defeat.

It was the only time in the five games against Carolina that New Jersey received competent goaltending and the Devils have some serious thinking to do about that situation for next season.

4) The killer was the penalty that would result in a power play that Carolina would score the winning goal as Jonas Siegenthaler lifted the puck out of play in the Devils zone for a delay of game penalty.

It was obvious and not worth complaining about because it clearly was a penalty.

5) Jack Hughes was questionable to play and the young star did play close to fifteen minutes but you could clearly see that he was hampered by an injury.

Give him credit for not begging off and doing whatever he could do and that bodes well for future Devil postseason appearances.

6) I hope to be back in a few days or so to look back at the Devils (and Cavaliers) seasons and while I'm disappointed in the Devils play against Carolina, I'm certainly not disappointed in their season.

Over one hundred points, a playoff return, and a series win over the rival Rangers are accomplishments that I would have been happy to accept before the season.

I'll expect continued improvement for the following year but I'm more than pleased for the Devils and what they accomplished this season.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Devils meltdown in 2nd, lose Game Four.

    When the New Jersey Devils have started fast, they usually are on their game, and when Jack Hughes redirected Timo Meier's shot into the net less than two minutes into the game for the first goal, New Jersey's hopes for tying the Eastern Conference Semi-Final series at two games each appeared bright and even when Carolina tied the game before the first intermission, it looked to be anyone's game.

That was the case until the second period when the Hurricanes suddenly scored four goals in just over five minutes, added another one before intermission, and cruised into the night with a 6-1 win and a three-to-one lead in the series.

Carolina can clinch the series at home with a win in game five on Thursday night.

New Jersey must win each of the next three games, two of those in Raleigh, or their season will end.

Hell Raisers

1) Vitek Vanicek allowed five of the six Carolina goals and was pulled after the second-period barrage for Akira Schmid.

Vanicek didn't play very well but some of the blame can go to the harried Devil defense, who generally allowed Carolina to continue to dominate this series through their forechecking, the key factor in the entire series to date.

2) I thought Lindy Ruff was too slow on the draw in using his timeout and a little delayed in his timing in removing Vanicek, who allowed five goals on only seventeen shots.

In that situation, I don't think there was a lot that Ruff was going to be able to do in order to slow the Carolina train but when you literally try nothing- it never looks good in these situations.

3) I have no idea what Lindy Ruff does in net now for game five.

The Devils have completed only one game with the same goalie starting and finishing, neither Akira Schmid nor Vitek Vanicek have looked strong in the series, and should Ruff want to go for broke and try Mackenzie Blackwood for a miracle cure, I'm not sure that Ruff has an appetizing option at all.

4) The Carolina forecheck has been so effective in taking control of the game, slowing the pace, and cutting the size of the ice down that the Devils, who have been at their best this season in open space, have just been unable to do anything against the forecheck for most of the series.

5) Ryan Graves missed the game due to injury, and while Graves wouldn't have made a difference in this game, his replacement Brendan Smith was just awful with poor decision-making and he's just such a slow skater that I'm surprised the Devils didn't try sliding a cone around in his place.

It wouldn't have been any slower.

6) The worst part was the lack of fight shown by the Devils and while it mattered not a bit, it makes you think down the road when this team is a bit more experienced in how they will respond when the going gets really tough.

I'm not blaming the players alone or the coaching staff alone- I'm blaming both.

You can play poorly and still give whatever best that you have on that particular evening- No one in red and black remotely did that in game four.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

    Our tributes begin with an athlete that won three medals in three Olympics in a row and finished with one of each possible medal, which is rare and I wonder if it has ever been equaled.

Goodbye to Ralph Boston at the age of 83.

The first man to ever jump over twenty-seven feet in the long jump. Boston won three medals for the United States over three Olympic long jump competitions in descending order.

Boston won the gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics, and the silver in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and finished his career in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics with a bronze medal.

Boston set or improved the world record for the long jump on four different occasions and his winning jump in Rome set the Olympic record for distance.

Boston would also be the unofficial coach for Bob Beamon, who would blast the world record in Mexico City and defeat Boston in his final Olympic appearance.

Goodbye to Newton Minow at the age of 97.

Minow was the head of the Federal Communications Commission for just over two years from 1961-63 during the Kennedy Administration but is still arguably the most remembered person to hold that position.

Minow's speech in 1961 when he drilled television broadcasters for not doing enough to serve the public interest and calling television a "Vast Wasteland" is remembered to this day but Minow moved some other important items through his term as well.

It was Minow that pushed for the All-Channel Inclusion Act, which mandated that all television have the capability of receiving UHF signals, which resulted in more channels on the dial being used and newer, smaller stations starting to enter the market.

That act also made room for public broadcasting to make its home on the dial and what would eventually turn into the PBS system.

Minow also was the person that pushed hardest for legislation to approve communication satellites to be used and the impact of that law alone is arguably the greatest on our day-to-day lives even today.

Imagine our lives without everything that is brought to Earth every day without those satellites.

Yes, they have their issues but imagine life without them.

A final note on Minow- After his speech criticizing television, a little show hit the air a few years later named Gilligan's Island and the shipwrecked boat was named after Newton Minow- the "S.S. Minnow".

Goodbye to Larry Mahan at the age of 79.

Mahan was the face of Rodeo in the sixties and seventies but entered into the public consciousness as the subject of the documentary "The Great American Cowboy" which would win the Oscar for best documentary in 1974.

The film showed the behind-the-scenes as well as the battle for the 1973 rodeo title between the veteran Mahan and the younger Phil Lyne.

Mahan was part of the first crop of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.

Mahan was also well-known for his line of Western clothing that includes hats and boots.

The boots were referenced by Josh Brolin's character in the 2007 Oscar winner "No Country For Old Men" with a visit to a store for clothes as Brolin is on the run and asks for a pair of "Larry Mahan's".

Goodbye to Don January at the age of 93.

January won one major in his PGA career among his ten victories, the 1967 PGA Championship held at Columbine Country Club outside of Denver.

In 1967, the PGA determined its winner, in the event of a tie after seventy-two holes, via an eighteen-hole playoff where January defeated Don Massengale to win his sole major.

January lost the 1961 PGA title in a playoff to Jerry Barber but was one of the initial stars during the first few years of the Seniors Tour as January won the tour's first tournament in 1980 and won a Senior major in winning the 1982 Senior PGA.

January was also the player that was the impetus for a rule change when he waited over seven minutes for a putt to fall in on the eighteenth hole of the 1963 Phoenix Open.

The putt would have placed January in fifth place, if it had fallen into the cup (it didn't), so January waited as long as he could and hoped for a break.

Before the next season, the rule was changed to the current rule, which states that the player must wait for only ten seconds for the putt to make its way into the hole. 

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Devils offense arrives in Game Three!

  The New Jersey Devils offense finally arrived for their series against the Carolina Hurricanes and it arrived with a vengeance as the Devils scored eight goals in their return to home ice and cut the Hurricanes' series lead to two games to one with an 8-4 triumph.

Jack Hughes led the New Jersey attack with two goals and two assists on the afternoon.

The remaining New Jersey goals are to:

Timo Meier, Michael McLeod (shorthanded), Nico Hischier, Myles Wood, Damon Severson, and Ondrej Palat (Power Play).

Game four will be in Newark on Tuesday night.

Hell Raisers

1)  Jack Hughes was inspired in his performance with two goals, two assists, and his first-ever fight in the NHL as Hughes tackled Sebastian Aho and tossed a few punches his way.

This was the type of game that Devils fans have hoped Hughes would provide once he gained the needed experience and poise and his play this season showed he is on his way.

Stepping up as he did today means he could be closer than we thought to superstar status.

2) The Devils activated Luke Hughes to play in game three and Hughes assisted on two goals, one of which belonged to brother Jack.

The Athletic did a mock redraft of Luke Hughes's draft class last October and Hughes, who was drafted by the Devils with the fourth pick in 2021, was selected first overall.

Defensemen with the skills and skating of Luke Hughes are far from common and the Devils were fortunate to have him fall in their lap.

I'll even be able to forgive the school that he attended with this level of play!

3) The Devils started Vitek Vanicek in the net for the first time since game two of the series against the Rangers.

Vanicek finished with twenty-six saves, received an assist on the goal scored by Miles Wood, and allowed a penalty shot goal against Carolina's Jordan Martinook.

4) Still, Vanicek allowed four goals which usually won't win many games and while some of those goals came during garbage time with both teams flying around and with plenty of what I'd call loose defense, I still wouldn't say I would go as far as saying I'm comfortable with the net situation at the moment.

5) This has become quite a gritty series between two teams known for their skating and offense.

Several skirmishes in this one and Erik Haula slugged it out with former Devil Stefan Noesen.

I didn't expect this much hostility between the two but it is clearly there and I'm guessing that something aggressive is going to decide one of these remaining games.

6) The Devils dominated this game even more than the 8-4 score, which was deceiving for the reasons above and that's why they should feel good about the win, which was as close to a must-win as there can be short of an elimination game.

Still, they cannot take too much away from this win, and game four is equally important.

Returning to Raleigh tied at two is almost a certainty for the Devils to win this series and they need another big effort on Tuesday to accomplish tying the series at two.

Boxing Challenge: Canelo decisions Ryder, Hamburglar visits Russia.

    Arguably boxing's biggest star returned to the ring after a nine-month absence and did so in his home country for the first time in several years as the undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez retained his four titles with a unanimous decision victory over John Ryder in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Alvarez dominated the entire fight and knocked Ryder down with a right hand along the ropes in the fifth round but was unable to finish the rugged but outgunned Englishman.

Alvarez won on all three scorecards going away by scores of 120-108 and 118-11 x2, the latter of which was the same as my score.

Ryder's nose bled badly throughout the fight but other than after the fight's sole knockdown, Ryder was never seriously hurt by Alvarez.

However, that didn't mean that Ryder didn't take a pounding from Alvarez as he definitely took one.

Alvarez announced after the win that he intended to pursue a rematch vs WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, who defeated him via unanimous decision in 2022.

From what I've seen from Canelo since the Bivol loss in wins over Gennady Golovkin and Ryder, I'm dubious of his chances in a rematch.

Alvarez is still among the best fighters in the sport but he does appear to have lost a half-step from his peak and he might be better suited to the challenges of David Benavidez or David Morrell in his own yard rather than try again to move up to try and catch the mobile Bivol.

In two other bouts that I have not watched yet on the Alvarez-Ryder card:

Julio Cesar Martinez retained his WBC flyweight title with an eleventh-round stoppage on Ronel Batista and former WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk stopped Ricards Bolotniks in six rounds.

Two times in recent months, undefeated fighters have left Eddie Hearn's Matchroom promotion in order to sign contracts with Boxxer promotions and their carrier Sky Sports.

And for the second time in a row, those fighters have notched victories after leaving but left observers bored with their bouts and unimpressed with their performances.

First, it was WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie's boring decision win over David Light in March and now it's light heavyweight contender Joshua Buatsi, who won a dull unanimous decision over unbeaten and unknown Pawel Stepien of Poland in Birmingham England.

The fight could be best summed up as such; Stepien was not interested in taking any chances on offense and Buatsi was content to control the fight without any type of effort to end it.

Scores all for the former Olympic bronze medalist at 100-90, 98-92, and 97-94.

My scorecard was 99-91 for Buatsi, who will be the next mandatory contender for WBA champion Dmitry Bivol eventually but will have to show far more aggressiveness in that title attempt than he has expended in his last few bouts.

The Hamburglar arrived in Russia for the theft of the week as junior middleweight contenders Magomed Kurbanov and Michel Soro squared off in a title eliminator.

Kurbanov had three solid wins in his recent fights, a close decision that many thought Smith deserved (I scored Kurbanov a 115-113 winner), and wins over unbeaten Johan Gonzalez and former WBO champion Patrick Teixeira stamped him as the favorite over Soro, who had been controversially stopped by another top contender in Israil Madrimov, when a badly hurt Soro was nailed by multiple solid blows after the bell rang and the referee allowed Madrimov to continue to punch away.

The loss stood officially but the WBA ordered a rematch and in the third round, a vicious clash of heads forced a stoppage and a resulting no contest.

The WBA ordered a third fight but Madrimov had no interest in a third fight after being on his way to winning the first two bouts and having hi-jinks ensue, so Soro accepted a Kurbanov fight in a WBA eliminator.

So of course, in the first round, the two connected their heads with Kurbanov emerging with a long jagged cut over his left eye that bled profusely throughout the fight, and later in the fight, Soro opened another cut near the left eye, this one from a punch.

Soro moved forward and backed the counterpunching Kurbanov for most of the bout and controlled the second half of the fight and while I gave Kurbanov the final round, it was the only round that I gave him after the fourth round.

The judges' cards read 115-113 Soro (close to my 116-112 Soro card), 115-113 (Kurbanov, which maybe you could get to IF you gave every competitive round to Kurbanov), and a nutty 116-112 card for Kurbanov resulting in the home fighter getting the split decision win.

I would hope for a rematch but I'm doubtful one occurs unless ordered by the WBA.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 75 Pts (7)
Ramon Malpica:70 Pts (7)
Vince Samano:56 Pts (1)