Thursday, August 31, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox

    The inbox hasn't been overflowing in recent weeks even though it has been a while since I have cleaned it, so consider this an effort to keep things in order and not too full.

The Athletic writes of the soon-to-be-defunct Longhorn Network from its controversial beginning to a quiet ending at the end of the 2024 spring sports season.

Originally envisioned as a joint network between Texas and Texas A&M, the Aggies turned down the offer to be involved and chose to join the SEC.

The other members of the Big 12 thought the network would give Texas an advantage but it didn't pan out to be the money maker that Texas and ESPN thought it could develop.

The Longhorn Network will be absorbed into the SEC Network next year when Texas (and Oklahoma) make their move from the Big 12 to the SEC.

The Athletic appears with two more articles from their series that listed several articles about college football's realignment and how it has affected different schools in various ways.

Arguably, and that is being very kind, the worst decision by a conference over the thirty years since the beginning of conference shuffling has been the Big Ten's selection of Rutgers to join their league.

The Athletic's article states that not only is Rutgers to the Big Ten the worst move in that time but that it is even worse than most fans believe that it is!

The Rutgers athletic department runs at massive financial losses each year, the football program has a conference winning percentage of under .200 since arriving in the conference, and they have finished last in the Director's Cup, a competition that measures a school's performance in all sports, in the league in four of the last six years and have never finished above tenth place.

Add to that. the flawed premise that started Rutgers's entry that they would deliver the New York City market hasn't paid off and it's easy to see why the Big Ten might feel that they didn't get what they paid for.

The final article compares the struggles of the four former Southwest Conference schools that didn't make the Big 12 cut when the SWC was raided out of business to those of the four remaining Pac 12 schools following their own conference defections.

The SWC "leftovers" (Houston, Rice, SMU, TCU) as the article calls them each have their own hard road since the dissolution, and learning from their experience could help California, Oregon State, Stanford, and Washington State as they prepare for their own decisions on their future beyond the PAC 12.

The New York Times writes that the final remaining living player of the Brooklyn Dodgers' famous "Boys of Summer" Carl Erskine was recently awarded the Buck O'Neil award from the Baseball Hall of Fame for lifetime humanitarian achievement.

The ninety-six-year-old Erskine threw two no-hitters for the Dodgers, won 122 games, and his fourteen strikeouts in game three of the 1953 World Series set a then-series record.

SpaceNews makes the case that the first manned mission in the eventual return to the moon should be a return to the original landing spot- The Sea of Tranquility.

The NASA plan is to make several landings near the South Pole of the moon but this argument states that the Tranquility location has a lower risk for the initial return and it would be an opportunity to see the effect of fifty lunar years on the remaining items left from the Apollo 11 mission, as well as securing the site as a historical site.

I don't think it has much of a chance of being selected but I can see the logic in the debate.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Browns claim Hailassie, release A.J.Green

  Andrew Berry must have seen something he liked in the Cleveland Browns final preseason game in Kansas City and it apparently wasn't all on his team's side as Berry claimed one player off the waiver wire after cutdown day from the Browns final opponent Chiefs.

Cornerback Kahlef Hailassie will be coming to Cleveland after the claim and the Browns made space on the roster by releasing fellow corner A.J. Green.

Hailassie is an undrafted rookie from Western Kentucky, where he intercepted four passes in two seasons with the Hilltoppers.

Hailassie intercepted one pass and finished with six tackles in the preseason and a clip shows Hailassie making an excellent play in breaking up a pass to the Browns top draft pick, Cedric Tillman in Cleveland's road game against the Chiefs last week.

A.J. Green signed a sizable undrafted free agent contract after the 2020 draft from Oklahoma State and started twice for the Browns in three seasons.

Green intercepted one pass in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons and is a valuable player on the special teams unit, so the Browns must have seen something that impressed them greatly from Hailassie to allow Green to walk away.

Green was due to make 1.4 million this season and would have been an unrestricted free agent after the season while Hailassie will make $750,000, so it could have been that the Browns looked at the two as similar players and chose the cheaper player with three seasons of control rather than a more expensive one with one season.

Cleveland also filled the practice squad after the waiver wire was cleared with several players that they released the previous day with a few interesting players that attended other training camps.

Cleveland was able to retain both wide receivers who had impressed in camp but were caught up in the numbers game as Austin Watkins and Jaylen Darden returned to the practice squad.

The Browns also brought back offensive lineman Michael Dunn, who is expected to be a key backup, and defensive linemen Maurice Hurst and Trysten Hill, both of whom were signed in the offseason as reclamation projects, and showed enough to stick around as possible rotational players once injuries begin to pile up.

Defensive end Isaiah Thomas was signed after clearing waivers so the 2022 seventh-rounder can continue to develop on the practice squad.

Thomas had one sack last season but suffered a knee injury in the Hall of Fame game against the Jets that caused him to miss the remainder of training camp, which hurt his chances of making the team.

Kicker Cade York had been noted as a possibility to return as the Browns said all the right things about York's potential and perhaps they really did want York to come back but once waivers are cleared it becomes the player's choice and York chose to join the Tennessee Titans practice squad.

I think the Browns figured York wasn't interested in re-joining the team, said the right thing on his way out of town, and losing York on waivers or afterward was likely when they agreed to the trade with the Chargers with Dustin Hopkins.

I had hoped the Browns would have a semi-proven kicker available behind Dustin Hopkins, considering his injury history of late but that didn't happen as the team signed kicker Lucas Havrisik.

Havrisik spent last season on the Colts practice squad and was in the Indianapolis training camp this season but lost the competition to former Ram Matt Gay.

I'm more than a little uneasy with the situation with Hopkins's injuries and yet another untested kicker as his replacement but the Browns knew this situation could happen and preferred it to gambling on Cade York.

Cleveland also added offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, a former first-round draft pick from only two years ago from Alabama.

Leatherwood was taken by the Raiders seventeenth overall in 2021 after he won the Outland and Jacobs trophy in 2020 for the Crimson Tide but his struggles at tackle were so severe that the Raiders moved him to guard and he started every game for the 2021 Raiders

Las Vegas released Leatherwood after training camp in 2022 and he was claimed by the Bears where he would play four games last season but was released in the final cutdown this week.

Leatherwood is still only 24 and with one of the best offensive line coaches in the league in Bill Callahan, Leatherwood is definitely worth a flyer as Bill Callahan's work with Tyrone Wheatley Jr. turned a player who had never played the position into a player that was a trade chip for Pierre Strong.

Cleveland was expected to bring back Kellen Mond as the third quarterback after waiving him but instead signed P.J.Walker, which to me made sense to have a player with experience around since the Browns' other quarterback will be rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Walker starred in the XFL for the Houston Roughnecks in its 2020 Covid-shortened season and would play for the Carolina Panthers for the last three seasons, playing in fifteen games, starting seven of them.

Walker made five starts last season for the Panthers, winning two of them while throwing three touchdowns and three interceptions, and left in free agency to sign with the Bears where he was beaten out by Shepherd rookie Tyson Bagent for the backup spot behind Justin Fields.

I like having someone with a little experience behind DeShaun Watson and in the quarterback room with Dorian Thompson-Robinson as a tutor of sorts, so I actually think the Browns upgraded with P.J. Walker over Kellen Mond.

The Browns aren't likely to make any other personnel moves, so this is the team that should take the field in the opener against the Bengals, barring any injuries in practice.

Now, we wait to see just how good this team will be in a season that so many jobs could be at stake.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Browns Cut to 53 with a few surprises

  The Cleveland Browns made their cuts to fifty-three by today's required deadline and while the Browns could be active on the waiver wire, the moves are likely to be minimal.

That's not to say that the Browns did not have some difficult decisions and are hoping that a few of their cuts will make it through waivers to join their practice squad.

Two undrafted players made the roster linebacker Mohamoud Diabate and safety Ronnie Hickman.

Diabate played three seasons at Florida before transferring to Utah in 2002 and he took advantage of the issues at linebacker with Anthony Walker and Sione Takitaki still working their way back from injuries suffered last season.

Diabate likely made the roster when he forced a fumble and also scored a safety in the Browns tie with the Eagles to go with six solo tackles.

Ronnie Hickman pictured above, signed from Ohio State, intercepted three passes in the preseason and joined D'Anthony Bell as backup safeties who will be expected to help on special teams, which Mohamoud Diabate is expected to contribute as well.

Andrew Berry has traditionally been very reluctant to release players he's drafted but he knows what is on the line this season and he isn't as averse to moving on from his picks as in the past.

Berry released two players from the 2021 draft, fourth-round defensive tackle Tommy Togiai and seventh-round running Demetric Felton, and two players from the 2022 draft, fourth-round kicker Cade York (as reported yesterday) and seventh-round defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas.

The release of York and Thomas along with the earlier releases of fourth-rounder Perrion Winfrey and seventh-rounder Dawson Deaton means that only one year after the draft, Cleveland has only five of the nine selections under contract with one of them, sixth-round wide receiver Michael Woods, out for the season due to injury.

What seems to be the most controversial decision is the team keeping 2022 third-round choice David Bell over preseason standout Austin Watkins.

Watkins led the league in receiving statistics in the preseason with sixteen catches, 257 yards, and two touchdowns but Bell is younger and is a better special teams performer, which is vital for one of the backup receivers.

Bell also seems to be a better fit in the slot and Watkins likely was edged off the roster, not by Bell but by the return of off-season signee Marquise Goodwin from blood clots which caused him to miss training camp and was thought to perhaps cost him a significant part of the season.

The Browns also released veteran offensive lineman Michael Dunn and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst but both are thought to be returning once the administrative procedures of placing players on the injured reserve etc. are completed.

Demetric Felton likely would made the squad as the third running back, had the Browns not traded for Pierre Strong with New England earlier this week, and the Browns will try to bring him back to the practice squad, if possible.

Kellen Mond was released as the Browns have decided to go with two quarterbacks on the active roster but with his experience with the Browns last season, Mond would likely be added to the practice squad as well.

Jaylen Darden is a wideout that I'd love to see clear and return to the practice squad as he has plenty of skills but struggled through some training camp injuries that hindered his chance to make the team.

The main losses of note on defense are the former draftees Tommy Togiai and Isaiah Thomas along the defensive line.

Togiai got caught up in the numbers at defensive tackle after a strong preseason but he didn't stand out enough to hold off the newcomers at the position and Thomas, who missed all of the preseason with a knee injury, also was hampered by the team having to place another injured second-year defensive end in Alex Wright on the roster.

Both could wind up on the practice squad as well.

Cleveland may make a move or two depending on the talent available on the waiver wire but these cuts over the long term look to come down to David Bell vs. Austin Watkins (which unless Watkins becomes a star is for the last wide receiver spot on the roster) and the biggest will be the decision at kicker to trade for Dustin Hopkins and release Cade York, which will affect this season and should York move elsewhere and become the kicker that the Browns thought he would be when they drafted him, affect many seasons to come.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Browns cut Cade York, Trade for Dustin Hopkins

   The Cleveland Browns under Andrew Berry have been noted for not giving up on players that they have drafted and giving them every possible chance to show that they can succeed as a  Cleveland Brown.

In some cases, one could argue that they have given too many chances to some players, and in the case of the player released today, I could argue both for the release and against it, and both would make plenty of sense.

The Browns decision to release Cade York only one year after drafting him in the fourth round from LSU may be one that will be debated for a long time and while the debate may depend on when and if York develops into the kicker that was expected by Cleveland to be in another uniform, it's one that could be very pivotal in the Browns 2023 and perhaps longer.

York entered the 2022 draft as the top-rated kicker in the draft and after an LSU career that saw him connect on fifty-six of sixty-six attempts with multiple successes from over fifty yards.

York's Cleveland career started on a high note when he nailed all four field goal tries in their opener in Carolina and won the game with a fifty-eight-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining to give the Browns a 26-24 win.

However, York missed an extra point with 1:22 remaining in the following week that cost the Browns a 31-30 loss when the Jets scored two touchdowns to pull out an amazing win.

Had York hit the extra point, the Browns would have forced the game into overtime rather than take the defeat.

York finished the season 24 of 32 on field goals and 35 of 37 extra points but when you consider that York hit his first eight field goals last season, he missed eight of his final twenty-four tries, which means he missed one of every three attempts. and three of those misses were under forty yards.

York wasn't challenged in training camp by anyone as the Browns seemed to be all-in with York and up until this past weekend, nothing seemed to change even with York missing from forty-six yards against Washington and missing twice on game-winning field goal attempts against Philadelphia, when York missed from forty-seven but received a second chance from forty-two after the Eagles were flagged with a penalty, only to miss again.

The rumors around York's future only started to rise after the final preseason game in Kansas City when York missed an extra point (it was taken down by a Chiefs penalty) and had a forty-three-yard field goal that would have won the game blocked with under a minute to play.

Kevin Stefanski's post-game comments about York seemed to waver and for the first time, it appeared that the Browns were considering replacing York.

Cleveland then traded a 2025 seventh-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Chargers for veteran kicker Dustin Hopkins to fill the kicking vacancy.

The soon to be thirty-three year old Hopkins was good on nine of ten attempts for the Chargers last season, including a memorable Monday night game against Denver, when Hopkins was four for four on field goals despite injuring his hamstring during the game, including the game-winning field goal in overtime.

The hamstring injury ended Hopkins's season and he would duel for the job with his replacement in 2022, Cameron Dicker, in training camp but missed time in camp due to injury.

Hopkins signed with the Chargers in the middle of the 2021 season after spending his first six and a half seasons with Washington and was 18 of 20 on the season.

Here are my issues with the trade.

Dustin Hopkins is very reliable ( 84.8 career field goal percentage) and a seventh-rounder isn't much to pay for what the Browns hope will be a steady kicker but he is 33 and his missing time in training camp after his shortened 2021 is mildly concerning.

The Browns must sign a second kicker for the practice squad in case Hopkins's injury problems become chronic and should Cade York clear waivers (and I'm not sure that he will), I would like to see the Browns keep York, although he may not be interested in that path.

And while seventh-round draft picks aren't incredibly valuable, giving one away for a veteran kicker when other solid veterans such as Mason Crosby and Robbie Gould are available for free seems a bit strange.

However, Hopkins is under contract through 2024 so the Browns likely thought the extra contract year from Hopkins was worth the cost, or perhaps Gould and/or Crosby weren't interested or may have been asking for more than the Browns were willing to pay.

The biggest question is how well does Cade York perform with whatever team signs him in the future?

The horror story of the Vikings drafting Daniel Carlson and cutting him after a few struggles, only to have the Raiders scoop him up and see Carlson develop into one of the top kickers in football has to be concerning to the Browns front office and their fans.

Should Cade York live up to his potential, it would be the latest in the personnel blunders by the Cleveland Browns but under the circumstances, with the Browns in a win big or else season looming, I can understand why the Browns felt that they had to make this decision before it could cost you a game.

When you look at the schedule with the Browns playing the other three AFC North teams in the first four weeks of the season, Cleveland can't give away winnable games because they gambled on Cade York's potential.

I'm not saying I love cutting York and I'm not saying I hate it.

The Browns decided a solid and dependable kicker for two seasons outweighed the risk of a potential long-term standout that could cost them games in the immediate future.

I can't blame them for that thinking- but it might be a move that a future administration might regret as they could be the next unit to try to turn this franchise around if things don't fall into place.

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

    We continue with our attempt to catch up with various tributes to a few who have recently passed away.

Goodbye to Alex Cole at the age of 57.

Known for his speed, the lefthanded-hitting Cole took Cleveland by storm in his Indians debut in 1990 when Cole stole forty bases in only sixty-three games to finish fourth in the American League in stolen bases.

Cole's basepath performance swayed the Wahoo brass so much that the team decided to move the fences back for the 1991 season- to disastrous results as the Indians would hit only twenty-two homers at home for the entire season.

Cole would steal twenty-seven bases in 122 games and was displaced in centerfield by Kenny Lofton before being traded to Pittsburgh midway through the 1992 season.

Cole would play for three other teams before his final MLB game in 1996.

Goodbye to Mike Ivie at the age of 70.

The top overall pick in the 1970 draft by San Diego, Ivie was drafted as a catcher and made his debut in 1971 as a catcher but developed the 'yips' in throwing the ball back to the pitcher.

Forced to the minors to learn first base, Ivie wouldn't return to the bigs until 1974 and wouldn't bust through as a starter until he was traded to the Giants before the 1978 season.

Ivie hit two pinch-hit grand slam homers in 1978, setting an MLB record that still has not been matched to this day.

Ivie hit .308 in 1978 and smashed twenty-seven homers in 1979 but in the off-season, Ivie badly cut his finger with a hunting knife and struggled for the first few months of 1980 before leaving the Giants due to mental issues.

Counseling allowed Ivie to return later in the season but other than hitting fourteen homers as a part-time player for the 1982 Tigers, he was never the same hitter and left the game for good after 1983.

Goodbye to Juan "Kid" Meza at the age of 67.

Meza was a perennial contender in the junior featherweight division, failing in a title try against Wilfredo Gomez in six rounds in 1982 for the WBC title held by Gomez.

Power-punching Jaime Garza won the same title that Gomez vacated when he moved to featherweight and Garza was thought to be too powerful for Meza, which looked to be true when Garza dropped Meza in round one.

However, Meza countered a Garza hook with one of his own to knock out Garza to win the title and become the first fighter to be knocked down in the first round and win a title in the very same round.

Meza defended the title once stopping Mike Ayala in six rounds as an underdog before losing a decision to Lupe Pintor in an action fight.

Meza would attempt to win the title from Pintor's conqueror Samart Payakarron but was stopped in round twelve in 1986.

Goodbye to Andrea Evans at the age of 66.

A long-time star of ABC's soap opera "One Life to Live" in the 1980s, Evans left acting for almost the entire decade of the 1990s at the peak of her soap stardom to avoid a stalker who was intent on killing her, including an attack in the studios of the show that only the arrival of her co-stars saved Evans from her attacker.

Evans's portrayal of "Tina Lord" was her most famous role but she also appeared in three other soap operas in between runs on One Life to Live, which she returned to in 2008.

Goodbye to Tony Roberts at the age of 96.

Roberts is most remembered for his twenty-six years (1980-2006) as the play-by-play broadcaster for Notre Dame football on the national radio broadcast on the Mutual and later Westwood One radio network.

Roberts's famous scoring call of "Touchdown Irish" was a catchphrase for football fans of the age as the Irish were the only college team with a national radio network for much of Roberts's time in South Bend.

Roberts also called Indiana football and basketball, Washington Senators baseball, and Washington Bullets basketball in his career but as the voice of Mutual sports, it was the voice of Tony Roberts who often updated sports fans on news and scores in the early morning that happened from the West Coast while the East Coast fans slept.

Goodbye to Bob Barker at the age of 99.

The long-time host of "The Price is Right", the longest-running television game show in history, from 1972-2007, also hosted "Truth or Consequences" from 1956-1975 for an extra nineteen years.

So when you remove the four years that both shows ran concurrently, Bob Barker hosted network game shows for fifty-one years.

Barker also hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1967-87, which still is the longest hosting run for both of those pageants.

Known for his advocacy of animal rights, Barker was famous for his wrap-up line as each episode of The Price is Right concluded, gently reminding his viewers to have their pets spayed and neutered.

Barker is also remembered for his famous cameo in the 1996 film "Happy Gilmore" in which Barker is paired with the title character played by Adam Sandler in a golf pro-am tournament, gets into a memorable fistfight with his partner that eventually ends with the senior citizen Barker scoring a spectacular knockout and then strutting away as he shadowboxed.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Browns trade for Pierre Strong

   As the Tuesday deadline for NFL teams approaches, the Cleveland Browns made a minor trade to help their running back corps and did it without moving any future draft picks.

Cleveland traded reserve tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr. to the New England Patriots for running back Pierre Strong in an attempt to add some depth at the position and I'm guessing that Andrew Berry was concerned that another team could claim Strong, should New England release him.

New England picked Strong in the fourth round of the 2023 draft from South Dakota State, where he rushed for over 1,000 twice and over seven hundred yards in the Covid-shortened 2020 season for the Jackrabbits.

Strong carried the ball only ten times as a Patriot rookie, finishing with an even one hundred yards and a touchdown, and was active for fifteen games.

Strong also caught seven passes for forty-two yards and is reported to be a positive in the passing game from the backfield, so that's another bonus as the number two back Jerome Ford is still not one hundred percent from a preseason injury.

Strong finished with fifty-two yards on fourteen carries during the pre-season and appeared to be the odd man out among a group of younger backs behind Rhamondre Stevenson after New England signed Ezekiel Elliott as a free agent.

Strong looks to be fighting Demetric Felton and John Kelly for the third running back spot behind Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford, and seems to have the edge if only because the Browns just traded for him and had to have felt they needed an upgrade over Felton or Kelly.

Wheatley has never played in an NFL game, having spent time with the Bears and Browns practice squads and a training camp with the Raiders, since entering the league in 2021 as an undrafted free agent.

Wheatley is somewhat new to the tackle position, having played his entire college career as a tight end at Michigan and Stony Brook.

Wheatley reportedly impressed the Browns in camp and they were rumored to have concerns that Wheatley would be claimed by someone before he would clear waivers and would not be able to be signed to the Browns practice squad.

Both teams needed help at the positions involved, Cleveland wasn't deep at running back, New England suffered some injuries along the offensive line, and neither player was likely to clear waivers after the Tuesday cuts, so it made sense for both teams to help the other.

It's more likely than not that this trade turns out to have little impact but small trades can turn out to have future impact, so no trade is unimportant, at least for a while.

Boxing Challenge: Usyk stops DuBois

 Oleksandr Usyk returned (or close to it) home for his three-title defense against Daniel DuBois in Wroclaw, Poland, and kept those titles with a ninth-round knockout but there is some controversy involved, and should the WBA rule a certain way could slow down Usyk's wished for attempt at title unification against WBC kingpin Tyson Fury.

The fight was even on my card after four rounds with Usyk winning the first two with ease and DuBois narrowly edging Usyk for the third and fourth before the controversy began.

Early in round five, DuBois nailed Usyk with a punch that ESPN's Joe Tessitore initially called a body punch knockdown with Usyk on the mat in pain.

Referee Luis Pabon ruled the punch low and gave Usyk multiple minutes to recover.

Usyk took command after the delay and won every round from there, knocking DuBois down late in round eight and completing the task after a knockdown in round nine.

I had Usyk up after eight at 78-73 and DuBois wasn't going to get back into the fight at the time of the stoppage anyway but after the fight, both DuBois and his promoter Frank Warren claimed that they had been robbed of victory by the decision of Luis Pabon.

Team DuBois will be appealing to the WBA for an immediate rematch and should they get it, Usyk may have to decide who to make happy, the WBA or the IBF, who has the next mandatory contender slot with their top challenger Filip Hrgovic.

Of course, should a Tyson Fury fight become available, Usyk could pass on either fight, neither of which would bring a large payday.

Hrgovic has stated that he will not take step-aside money, so Usyk may have to face him next or risk the IBF title.

As for the low blow vs. body shot controversy, I slowed it down to Zapruder level and it appears a bit low and only the thumb on the glove of DuBois appears to be definitively above the waistline.

It was a close call in live action but it was the right one.

ESPN moved to its own card with two heavyweight attractions from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The main event saw undefeated Jared Anderson return from his first time going the distance in a decision win over Charles Martin with a fifth-round knockout of Andriy Rudenko.

Anderson dominated the fight throughout and when he battered Rudenko in the fifth, the referee justly ended the fight with the helpless Rudenko beaten along the ropes.

Anderson did everything to the durable Rudenko but drop him and Anderson looked strong after he was wobbled by Martin in his last fight, so his return was successful in rebuilding his confidence a bit.

It'll be interesting to see how Top Rank matches Anderson in his next fight or two.

Will they give him more Rudenko-types to help re-establish him as a destroyer?

Or do they return him to the Charles Martin gatekeeper level as a test of his progression?

Zhan Kossobutskiy was supposed to be the opponent for Anderson in July but due to visa problems, he couldn't enter the country and forced the late replacement of Charles Martin to save the card.

With his visa issues settled, Kossobutskiy was slotted into the co-feature against once-beaten Efe Ajagba, who had disappointed since his only loss to Frank Sanchez.

So with his reported power and amateur background, Kossobutskiy was thought by some to be a trap fight for Ajagba and a possible victor.

Of course, it didn't turn out that way as Ajagba hurt Kossobutskiy in the second and the Russian never recovered as he began to hit Ajagba low several times, most of those intentionally (although Ajagba hit Kossobutskiy low as well, so he wasn't innocent) in the third round, losing two points as a result.

Kossobutskiy did the same in the fourth and was disqualified for his efforts (or non-effort) and likely has blown any chance of fighting on American shows for quite a while.

For Ajagba, it's another win but also another win that doesn't move him up the ladder very much.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Top Rank fish or cut bait with Ajagba and try to feed him to Jared Anderson sometime in the next year.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 141 Pts (4)
Ramon Malpica: 128 Pts (5)
Vince Samano: 96 Pts (1) 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Boxing Challenge

    The boxing weekend may lack quantity but any time that the heavyweight championship and three titles are at stake is a big weekend as Oleksandr Usyk returns to action with his three titles in tow.

Usyk will defend his WBA, IBF, and WBO championships against Daniel DuBois in Wroclaw, Poland but considering its location near the border of Ukraine, it is almost a home fight for the champion.

Usyk will be fighting for the first time since his rematch win over Anthony Joshua last August while DuBois returns to the ring after stopping Kevin Lerena last December in three rounds in a fight that saw DuBois knocked down three times in round one before rallying for the win.

DuBois can punch but will have to answer questions about his chin after the Lerena near-disaster and the tenth round stoppage in his only defeat against Joe Joyce.

The WBA's minor heavyweight title that is currently held by DuBois will be eliminated following the fight, which will leave only three minor titles remaining (Super middleweight David Morrell, welterweight Eimantas Stanonis, and lightweight Gervonta Davis) as the WBA works toward eliminating the lesser titles.

The remaining two fights in the boxing challenge will also be from the heavyweight division as ESPN/Top Rank will broadcast from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The main event will showcase unbeaten Jared Anderson against veteran Andriy Rudenko in a ten-rounder.

Anderson had his first career hiccup when he was badly hurt by Charles Martin in the fifth round in July.

Anderson won the remaining nine rounds to win an easy decision and I think it will be a good experience for the young heavyweight to work his way through adversity now rather than have it happen for the first time at the elite level.

The thirty-nine-year-old Rudenko has always lost against world-class or just under-level opponents such as Alexander Povetkin, Hughie Fury, Zhilei Zhang, and Lucas Browne but took all of those men the distance but was stopped for the first time in his career in his last fight as Vladyslav Sirenko took Rudenko out in six.

The heavyweight co-feature will pair Efe Ajagba and Zhan Kossobutskiy.

Ajagba was once a highly touted prospect before a 2021 loss to Frank Sanchez and has fought only twice since and looked very average in his January decision victory over Stephan Shaw.

The 19-0 Kossobutskiy was the fighter originally planned to face Jared Anderson in July but had some issues in traveling and was forced to pull out with Charles Martin replacing him.

Kossobutskiy is reported to be a huge puncher and if the whispers are true, could be a fighter to watch.

At 34, Kossobutskiy will need to be moved quickly so it will be interesting to see how he handles Ajagba.

Boxing Challenge

WBA/IBF/WBO Heavyweight Titles. 12 Rds
Oleksandr Usyk vs Daniel DuBois
Ramon Malpica: Usyk KO 8
TRS: Usyk KO 7
Vince Samano: Usyk Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Jared Anderson vs Andriy Rudenko
R.L: Anderson KO 5
TRS: Anderson KO 6
V.S:  Rudenko KO 8

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Efe Ajagba vs Zhan Kossobutskiy
R.L:  Kossobutskiy KO 9
TRS: Kossobutskiy KO 4
V.S:  Kossobutskiy KO 8

Friday, August 25, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings- Football Edition

 It's a long-overdue post of tributes for people of note who have recently passed away.

It is so overdue that I have enough from football itself to carry their own post from the world of football.

Goodbye to Joe Campbell at the age of 68.

Campbell followed the great All-American Randy White as the Maryland Terrapins defensive star after White's departure as the second overall pick by Dallas in the 1975 NFL draft and while Campbell wasn't as great as White, Campbell was excellent for the Terrapins in their undefeated 1976 regular season (they would lose the Cotton Bowl to Houston), leading the team in sacks and was also named a consensus All-American.

Campbell was drafted seventh overall by New Orleans in the 1977 draft and would play seven seasons in the NFL with the Saints, Raiders, and Buccaneers, winning a Super Bowl ring with the 1980 Raiders, and finishing his career with eight sacks, five and a half of those in 1978 with New Orleans.

Goodbye to Dick Sheridan at the age of 81.

Sheridan was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2020 after a career record of 121-52-5 compiled at Furman and N.C. State from 1978-1992.

Sheridan took over the N.C. State program in 1986 and in his seven seasons with the Wolfpack, Sheridan finished with six bowl appearances and won nine games in each of his final two seasons in Raleigh.

Just as it seemed that N.C. State was moving towards becoming a major power in the ACC, Sheridan resigned in 1993 due to physical problems and at only fifty-one, Sheridan's coaching career was at its end.

Goodbye to Johnny Lujack at the age of 98.

The 1948 Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame, Lujack led the Irish to the National Title three times, first in 1943 before his career was interrupted by World War II.

Lujack returned to South Bend in 1946 and added the remaining two titles after his wartime service.

Lujack is the last Notre Dame athlete to earn letters in four sports, lettering in baseball, football, basketball, and track.

Lujack was the first-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1946 but didn't turn pro until 1948, playing quarterback and safety, where Lujack intercepted eight passes in 1948 to tie the then-league record.

Lujack would be named All-Pro in 1950 and led the league in passing and passing touchdowns in 1949 before retiring after the 1951 season.

Goodbye to Johnie Cooks at the age of 64.

Cooks was the second overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft by the then-Baltimore Colts from Mississippi State, where he was a first-team All-American in his senior season, and played ten seasons in the league for the Colts, Browns, and Giants.

Cooks finished his career with thirty-two sacks with eleven and a half of those coming in 1984 with the Indianapolis Colts in their first season in Indiana.

Cooks would win a Super Bowl ring with the 1990 Giants as a reserve linebacker before his final season with the Browns in 1991.

Goodbye to Zenon Andrusyshyn at the age of 76.

Andrusyshyn played in three leagues in his career, serving as the kicker and punter for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts among three other Canadian teams, and the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits along with a punting-only season in 1978 with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Andrusyshyn was a two-time All-American at UCLA before the Cowboys drafted him in the ninth round in 1970 but failed to make the team.

Andrusyshyn moved to the CFL for most of his career and in 1977 for the Argonauts, nailed a 108-yard punt, which still stands as the longest punt in professional football history.

Goodbye to Sean Dawkins at the age of 52.

A star receiver at Cal for the Golden Bears, Dawkins was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1993 draft and would play five of his nine pro seasons as a Colt.

A consistent but not spectacular receiver, Dawkins caught over fifty passes in seven of his nine seasons and over seven hundred yards receiving in seven as well.

Dawkins's best season was 1999 with Seattle, catching fifty-eight passes for 992 yards and seven touchdowns.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Browns trade Joshua Dobbs

    As teams near the final weekend of the pre-season and the final roster cuts on Tuesday, the Cleveland Browns traded veteran backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs to the desperate Arizona Cardinals in a trade that the Browns nor Dobbs saw coming when the veteran returned to Cleveland as a free agent signing in the off-season.

Cleveland, a team that is always searching for draft capital after two drafts and one more to go as the Browns are still paying the Houston Texans for DeShaun Watson, acquired the Cardinal's fifth-rounder in the 2024 draft in return for Dobbs and the Browns' seventh-rounder in 2024.

Dobbs signed with the Browns last season as a backup to Jacoby Brissett and was released after the return of DeShaun Watson from his suspension before signing with Tennessee, where Dobbs started the final two games of the Titans season.

Dobbs was pursued by the Browns as a free agent after Brissett signed with Washington in the off-season as Cleveland was looking to backup DeShaun Watson with a veteran with a similar playing style and with Dobbs and Watson knowing each other last season, it seemed to be a good fit.

And I think it could have been but the Cardinals are in critical need of a quarterback with Kyler Murray expected to miss much and possibly all of the upcoming season and with only aging former Brown Colt McCoy and fifth-round draftee Clayton Tune available, Arizona felt that a fifth-rounder for Dobbs was a fair price to pay for a player that could be their starter for much of the 2023 season.

The Browns also didn't expect to see the strong performance of their own fifth-round quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in pre-season, throwing for over three hundred yards, two touchdowns, completed over sixty-five percent of his passes, and didn't throw an interception, so Thompson- Robinson's play allowed the Browns to feel comfortable enough to trade Dobbs.

Cleveland had waived Kellen Mond earlier in the week and recalled him to the team after trading Dobbs, so the trade with Arizona must have come together very quickly or the Browns wouldn't have waived Mond.

Mond's status is far from secure, however, as the Browns will likely look closely at the quarterbacks that are released next week.

The Browns now have the following 2024 draft picks: second, third, two picks in both round five and round six, and a pick in round seven. 

Road Trip: Binghamton

 On the final day of our trip, we decided to do our driving after the Tri-City game to be in Binghamton, New York, and do some hunting for collection items before the Binghamton Rumble Ponies game enabling us to start our travel home faster in the afternoon.

We started on the outskirts of Binghamton for an outside flea market that was huge with long and multiple rows and at Jimay's Outdoor Flea Market, you pay a dollar on arrival, which is either a parking or attendance fee but was well worth it considering the number of tables to check out.

I wound up adding a few items that I bought to give to Ryan with autographed photos of former Binghamton and later Ottawa Senators Ray Emery and Jason Spezza and I found a small Philadelphia 76ers ball and a souvenir cup from the Spectrum picturing Moses Malone and Charles Barkley along with a program from the 1970s between Oneonta and Niagara Falls.

It was lots of walking and the terrain was only sometimes friendly to Fred but he found lots of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars for his grandson, so it was a success.

Before the game, we had time for one more stop, and in a well past its prime, former strip mall, P&J's flea market was found, despite its flaws, I found a few items that made it worth its time.

P&J's is located in two former department stores and the pair must have been the anchors of the mall as both were expansive and seemed like that was their original use.

I found a serving container with a base piece and then multi-colored portion parts for Cherie ( it can be seen above the Phoenix Suns pennant on the right side) that is definitely from the sixties or seventies and the pictured pennant of the Phoenix Suns and Kansas City Kings.

Although it was the Kansas City version of the Kings and not the version that I always look for, the coveted Kansas City-Omaha pennant, I was happy to grab both and while both aren't mint, they were more than acceptable at four dollars apiece.

There also were pennants from the same era for the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons but both were in much worse condition and I reluctantly passed.

I am always a sucker for items from the seventies and early eighties from the NBA/ABA and the NHL/WHA because there are so few items that are available to collect.

If you didn't attend a game, it took a lot of work to find souvenirs from those leagues as mainstream stores rarely carried items from the local teams, let alone anything from other ones.

It was a bit musty and if you are allergic to many things, you might want to pass on this one but the best finds often come in strange places.

After we left the flea market, it was over to the field for a return visit to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, who were the Mets when I last visited, and more importantly a chance to see my friend Jason Christensen for the first time since the pandemic.

Binghamton was a surprise survivor of the MLB purge, mainly due to the intervention of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, and they have made some improvements to the facility although honestly, I didn't see a lot of difference in the fan experience.

I visited Jason Christensen for the first time since Covid and enjoyed catching up with him.

Jason and I have talked occasionally since the pandemic but not as much of late since my change in work schedule and spending time talking was a trip highlight for me.

After leaving the stadium, Jason accompanied us to Bingham's which is a restaurant that is located just along the New York/Pennsylvania line, for a meal before the final four hours of driving.

It was a great trip and we've already started a trip plan for next year that would include Portland, Maine, Manchester New Hampshire, and other stops on the way.

I've been taking my time and writing less of late as I know that I'll be ramping up with the looming start of football season but I do have another road trip post or two that I hope to finish soon before the pigskin kickoff! 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Road Trip: Springfield & Troy

  Day two of our trip would see another state that I had never visited as part of our plans, another new state that was unplanned, and a place that I had never visited before that was always on my list to see.

When I was planning the trip for things to build around baseball stops, I was surprised to see just how close Springfield, Massachusetts was to Hartford and that would mean my first visit to the basketball hall of fame.

The basketball Hall of Fame isn't like its football counterpart in Canton or Cooperstown's baseball hall which is devoted to only inductees for their professional careers.

Rather, the basketball hall honors success from college and professional levels along with the greats of the men's and women's games.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the basketball HOF after Bill Simmons skewered it in his terrific book "The Book of Basketball" but I was still anxious to see it.

And I was surprised because, in some ways, it might have been better than either of the two more established Halls.

The basketball Hall is connected to what seems to be a defunct mall and with its high ceilings upon entering, it did feel like walking into a mall!

The hall has a few exhibits that passersby can see for free (such as the Pete Maravich shown above) and once you pay, you move into an elevator that takes you to the top of the building and you wind your way through three floors of basketball history.

When you look down through the center of each floor, you are able to see the ground floor with several baskets that you can shoot at and although all you can do is shoot (and my few shots later were missed), it's a very nice touch that the other halls lack.

Fred was having a good time for a casual basketball fan as he zoomed through with his scooter up and down the floors and looked at the items on display.

It was cool seeing a few ABA items including a championship ring, an empty bottle of RC Cola celebrating the 1975 ABA champion Kentucky Colonels, and that was beside a full bottle of Coke for the 1983 N.C. State Cardiac Pack which was cool seeing there since I own that same bottle.

The gift shop didn't have many items from schools and pro teams and specialized in Hall of Fame items, so I only purchased a magnet as a souvenir.

I thought the basketball Hall was better than expected and if you are ever in the area, I'd recommend stopping by, it's right off an interstate so it's easy to reach and leave as well.

Fred had mentioned earlier in the trip that Rhode Island was only an hour away and I considered going there to add another state to my list but Rhode Island was in the opposite direction of New York and it didn't make sense to add two hours to our trip.

Instead after looking at the route, if we drove a little out of the way, I could catch another state instead-Vermont.

It was some beautiful country and that's about all we saw because in Vermont there was very little else to see and after miles and miles, we reached Burlington.

It appeared that some sort of festival was going on and when we looked around the streets of Burlington,, we found another pizza place.

I find that I eat a lot of pizza away from home and rarely when I am home, which I suppose says it all about local pizza!

This choice was Benner's Pizza and Bagels, which had outside seating and we used that to add a bit more of the excitement of the area as there were many people walking to different events etc.

I enjoyed my pizza but I thought a scale model of a moose painted red and orange that stood at the pavilion was the big star!

Two pizza places in two days with both rating well with me!

The next stop was Joseph Bruno Stadium in Troy New York, home of the Tri-City ValleyCats.

I visited Tri-City once about ten years ago with Rachel and Cherie on a trip that included my stop at Cooperstown.

Back then, the Valley Cats were a thriving member of the New York/Penn League, an affiliate of the Houston Astros, and doing well at the box office.

Now, the Cats are a member of the independent Frontier League, not doing so well at the gate and some rumors have them as having a questionable future.

I only had cards for one player, former Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr and manager Pete Incaviglia.

Upon arriving, we discovered that Incavaglia had been suspended by the league for the game for an outburst the previous night and wouldn't be leaving the clubhouse.

That's a disappointment as I had some cool cards from his college days at Oklahoma State that I had hoped to get signed.

Aaron Altherr had always been very nice in his days coming through Hagerstown and Harrisburg and he signed both cards I had for him.

We had two hours or so to get to our hotel in Binghamton, so we stopped in a former minor league town for dinner but there were not many open places, so we settled for a Buffalo Wild Wings, which was fine.

Remember when I wrote about the Roku problems in Hartford?

Here is the other issue from the trip- I could hook the Roku up fine but no internet service.

I tried different tactics, called the front desk, and went down to the lobby, and just as I neared the lobby, it turned on.

So I returned to the room and ZIp. nothing.

It turns out that the hotel was built before the wifi age and the thickness of the walls keeps the wifi from doing its job unless you are near the center of the building!

Oh, the bed was comfortable and after the controversial decision given to George Kambosos over Maxi Hughes was announced, it was off to bed.

Next time that I can, I'll write about day three as I visited an old friend, found some items for the collection, and saw the Binghamton Rumble Ponies to conclude the trip. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Navarrete outlasts Valdez

 Boxing in August often can be the slowest month of the year and looking at the schedule, this past Saturday was the biggest of the month, and up until the final bout of the day, the day had been mostly unsatisfying.

That bout would save the day as Emanuel Navarrete went to war with Oscar Valdez for twelve rounds and kept his WBO junior lightweight title with a unanimous decision victory that he deserved but not by the margins that he received on two cards.

The one card of 116-112 was the same as mine, with Navarrete pulling away in winning the final two rounds but the scores of 119-109 and 118-110 were extremely unfair to Valdez.

Navarrete is wide-open offensively and often fights down to his perceived competition but was clearly motivated on this night against a fellow Mexican and an underdog on the betting line.

Valdez's advantage in technical skill was outweighed by the relentless number of punches tossed by Navarrete and the right eye of Valdez was completely closed by the end of the fight to prove the point.

Give Valdez credit for grit and effort and should a rematch be eventually signed, I'd give him a chance to reverse the result but he'll have to throw more punches and he's going to have to do it against a Navarrete that could have full use of his right hand, which Navarrete injured midway through the fight.

Neither fighter scored a knockdown nor had the other in serious trouble, so the fight did lack some of the drama that other action fights but it deserves at least an honorable mention when the fights of the year are determined.

It's a good thing that Navarrete-Valdez delivered because the remainder of the weekend wasn't the most exciting that boxing has ever seen.

In London from Matchroom/DAZN, former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua sleepwalked through six dull rounds against late replacement Robert Helenius, even losing a round or two against Helenius, and had fans wondering if Joshua had become so defensive that he may never be the same fighter again.

And then it all went away as Joshua crunched Helenius with one right hand that was reminiscent of the right hand that Deontay Wilder wiped Helenius out with, albeit six rounds later than Wilder's, in the seventh round to end the fight and suddenly make the proposed December match with Wilder much more intriguing that it had been a few minutes previously.

Other than the fight-ending bomb, there isn't much to say about Joshua-Helenius other than Helenius lasting longer than expected, and doing better than expected.

I had Joshua leading 59-55 at the end of the fight.

Hopefully, it's onto the Wilder-Joshua fight that has been rumored seemingly forever, which could be a battle of who lands first between two bombers or a tentative disappointment with Joshua taking few chances or Wilder swiping wildly at air.

I can see either result occurring and that's some of the intrigue for the fight that thus far has been oft-rumored and never happening.

The co-feature saw the number one contender for the IBF heavyweight title score a final-round stoppage that was neither dramatic nor overly interesting as Filip Hrgovic stopped previously unbeaten Demsey McKean in round twelve.

It was pretty dull as Hrgovic didn't really press much of the action, McKean would grab when Hrgovic tried to be aggressive, and even when he didn't, with Marcos McDonnell, who is nearing Lawrence Cole level as far as obnoxious officiating, calling none of it and causing McKean to hold even more.

That covered it until Hrgovic landed a right that stunned McKean with Hrgovic landing a series of chopping Tim Witherspoon-style rights that trapped McKean along the ropes helpless before McDonnell ended the fight.

Not a great performance by Hrgovic but he finished it well and one would hope the work would be a positive for his challenge of the Oleksandr Usyk-Daniel DuBois title fight winner in two weeks.

Sometimes, two well past their prime warriors can put on a fun but sloppy fight because they can't move away and hit every punch they throw, and other times, well you get two old guys just doing enough to be safe with bored onlookers wondering when the next fight starts.

The latter was the result of the Derek Chisora-Gerald Washington fight that was filled with huffs, puffs, and holds in a forgettable fight that Chisora won by unanimous decision by scores of 96-94, 97-94, and 98-93.

My score for Chisora at 96-94 seemed about right and my hope is that Eddie Hearn won't put Chisora in next with someone that can hurt him due to the win.

Showtime's three-fight slate from PBC may not have had the most important fights of the weekend but they did fill a title vacancy, an unbeaten prospect wins by early knockout, and another prospect is shocked by another early-round KO.

The main event would see a dominant performance by Emmanuel Rodriguez, who won every round and knocked down Melvin Lopez three times in the final round on his way to a unanimous decision and would win the IBF bantamweight title vacated by Naoya Inoue.

Not much to add to the three judge's cards of 120-105 other than I concur.

Gary Antuanne Russell added his seventeenth knockout to his flawless mark with a first-round knockout of Kent Cruz.

Russell dropped Cruz twice with Cruz taking the count after the second knockdown.

Many have tabbed welterweight Travon Marshall as a future star and fighting near his home appeared to be the first step forward for Marshall's career.

Marshall had looked impressive in his eight wins with seven by KO and his opponent had disappointed as a pro in former Olympian Gabriel Maestre, who has been most remembered for his decision win over Mykel Fox that was such an awful decision that it was the fulcrum that forced the WBA into dissolving its minor titles, a process that they are still involved in to this date.

Marshall won round one and then ate a huge right hand from Maestre that sprawled him across the ropes and partially outside the ring.

Honestly, referee Sharon Sands gave Marshall every opportunity and could have stopped the fight there.

Maestre leaped on Marshall, who fired back as best he could but didn't try to hold and when he ran into a right hand that floored him again, the fight was over.

Marshall will definitely need some rebuilding after losing in his first test and Maestre will likely receive a shot against another mid-level welterweight soon after his surprising win.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 137 Pts (9)
Ramon Malpica: 123 Pts (8)
Vince Samano: 95 Pts (6)

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing weekend has some big fights after a week off without any and a slow remainder of the month, so this will be as good as it gets for fight fans for the next few weeks.

The best fight of the weekend is from Top Rank on ESPN as Emanuel Navarrete defends his WBO junior lightweight title for the first time against former WBO featherweight and junior lightweight champion Oscar Valdez from Glendale, Arizona.

Navarrete looked very vulnerable in winning the vacant title over unheralded Australian Liam Wilson by ninth-round knockout but was given the greatest of all breaks with a tremendously long count when Wilson knocked down Navarrete in round four and easily could have been counted out.

Valdez was shut out by Shakur Stevenson in losing his title (the title that Navarrete holds) but decisioned Adam Lopez in his first fight since losing to Stevenson and that fight will do Valdez a lot of good entering this fight.

It is a very even fight that almost assuredly will be an action affair with lots of punches landed and taken for both men.

Two notes that make me lean a smidge toward Valdez.

The first is that Navarrete isn't known for a spartan life outside the ring while Valdez is a diligent trainer and has never shown up out of shape, which could be a factor.

The other is Valdez's technical superiority against the winging punches of Navarrete, which could result in Valdez having success countering the champion.

In the afternoon, Matchroom and DAZN starts the day from London with three heavyweight bouts of various quality and interest.

In the main event, former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua continues his attempt to return from his pair of defeats to Oleksandr Usyk as he faces Robert Helenius.

Helenius is fighting on one week's notice after Dillian Whyte failed his PED test and was taken out of the fight.

Helenius was knocked out in one round by Deontay Wilder last year and hadn't fought since until a lower-level win last week (yes, last week) in his native Finland.

Joshua is rumored to be facing Wilder later in the year in the UAE, so while he needs a win to secure that win, a spectacular knockout and a short evening would help in selling a fight against Wilder.

The co-feature pits Filip Hrgovic, the number one contender of the IBF, against undefeated Australian Demsey McKean.

Hrgovic won a split decision over Zhilei Zhang to secure the mandatory slot for the IBF and Zhang has since become the WBO top contender after his upset win over Joe Joyce.

McKean is unbeaten but is facing his first stern test and his punches are dreadfully slow, so Hrgovic shouldn't have problems outboxing McKean.

The other fight pairs two fighters that are well past their best days but might give watchers a few fun rounds and maybe an exciting ending as Dereck Chisora will take on Gerald Washington in a match of two former world title challengers.

At their peak, Chisora was the better puncher and owned the better chin but at this stage of their careers, neither fighter has much to offer other than heart against world-class opponents.

Chisora has lost four of his last five fights but its no shame losing to the two heavyweight champions (Tyson Fury stopped him in ten and Oleksandr Usyk won a unanimous decision over Chisora) or former WBO champion Joseph Parker twice with a split decision win over another former world title challenger Kubrat Pulev in between.

Plus the Parker fights were entertaining wars and I scored Chisora the winner by one point in the first fight but Chisora has taken a tremendous amount of punishment in his career and I wish for his sake that he would step away from the ring.

Washington is just 2-5 (losing by KO in all five losses) in his last seven if you included his fifth-round KO loss to Deontay Wilder in 2017 in that total, has been stopped in his two recent fights to Charles Martin in six in 2020 and in eight to Ali Demirezen on New Years Day 2002, and has not fought since the Demirezen loss.

I actually don't mind fights like these if these fighters are matched properly against others of their type but my concern about this fight, as fun as it may turn out to be, is that Eddie Hearn (or anyone else) decides that the winner deserves a try against a contender or prospect in their next fight.

Showtime will be in Oxon Hill, Maryland with three fights with a main event that will fill the final vacancy in the bantamweight division that Naoya Inoue created when he dropped his four titles to move to the 122-pound division.

Emmanuel Rodriguez will attempt to regain the IBF title that he lost to Inoue in 2019 in the World Boxing Super Series semi-final against Melvin Lopez.

Rodriguez won the first round against Inoue before his second-round defeat and his loss to Reymart Gaballo following the Inoue loss was a split decision that I thought Rodriguez deserved.

In his last fight, Rodriguez won a dominant ten-round technical decision over undefeated Gary Antonio Russell, knocking Russell down in the eighth and losing only one round on one judge's card in victory.

Nicaragua's Melvin Lopez is 29-1 with nineteen KOs but almost all against fighters with average records and is somewhat of an unknown quantity.

Unbeaten junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell has won all sixteen of his fights by knockout but like the other talented members of his fighting family, doesn't fight very often.

And like his older brother, former WBC featherweight champion Gary, that's too bad because Gary Antuanne is pretty good.

Russell's opponent is unbeaten Kent Cruz, who is 16-0-3 with two draws against Enriko Gogokhia in his last two fights.

Those are Cruz's only fights against good opponents and Russell will be a step up from Gogokhia, so it's fair to question Cruz's chances.

The opening fight will match a terrific young prospect in Travon Marshall and former Olympian Gabriel Maestre in a welterweight ten-rounder.

Marshall has looked the part in his eight wins and takes a step up against Maestre, who "won" a decision over Mykal Fox in 2021 that was so awful that it almost cost the WBA its life as a sanctioning body and led to the process (still ongoing) of the organization ending its "regular" and "interim" titles.

Maestre forced washed-up former champion, Devon Alexander to surrender after three rounds, so that's something I guess but if Marshall is as good as many think, Maestre shouldn't have enough to trouble Marshall too much.

Boxing Challenge

WBO Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds 
Emanuel Navarrete vs Oscar Valdez
Ramon Malpica; Valdez Split Decision
TRS: Valdez Unanimous Decision
Vince Samano: Valdez KO 9

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Anthony Joshua vs Robert Helenius
R.L: Joshua KO 10
TRS: Joshua KO 3
V.S: Joshua KO 8

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Filip Hrgovic vs Demsey McKean
R.L and V.S: Hrgovic KO 8
TRS: Hrgovic KO 10

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Dereck Chisora vs Gerald Washington
R.L: Chisora KO 9
TRS: Chisora KO 6
V.S: Washington Split Decision

Vacant IBF Bantamweight Title.12 Rds
Emmanuel Rodriguez vs Melvin Lopez
R.L: Rodriguez KO 11
TRS and V.S: Rodriguez Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights  10 Rds
Gary Antuanne Russell vs Kent Cruz
R.L: Russell KO 9
TRS: Russell KO 6
V.S: Cruz Unanimous Decision

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Travon Marshall vs Gabriel Maestre
R.L and V.S: Marshall Unanimous Decision
TRS: Marshall KO 8

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Browns sign Shelby Harris

    A move that I would have supported in the off-season came to pass for the Cleveland Browns after injuries smacked the Browns defensive line hard early in training camp as Cleveland signed defensive lineman Shelby Harris.

Harris signed a one-year contract worth 5.25 million after playing for Seattle in fifteen games last season, finishing with 44 tackles (24 solo) and two sacks after being acquired by the Seahawks as part of the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver in the 2022 off-season.

Harris played on forty-nine percent of the Seahawk's defensive snaps last season before his release in the off-season.

Harris played five seasons in Denver following his first two seasons with the then-Oakland Raiders, who drafted him in the seventh round from Illinois State in the 2014 draft.

Harris is lauded for his skills against the run but collected twenty-one and a half sacks in his five years as a Bronco and twice finished seasons with six sacks (2019 and 2021).

Harris can play end or tackle but the Browns are likely going to use him more often as a defensive tackle.

Cleveland lost two second-year linemen already in camp as 2022 third-rounder Alex Wright and 2022 seventh-rounder Isaiah Thomas have both suffered injuries that will keep them off the field into the start of the regular season, so while Harris could plug in and see a lot of playing time at the very least, Harris bulks up the depth of a line with that had improved in the off-season but still had questions entering the year.

Other than Dalvin Tomlinson, the Browns have only disappointing returnees Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai, third-round choice Siaki Ika, and veteran free agent signings Trysten Hill and Maurice Hurst at defensive tackle, so signing Shelby Harris will have to help relieve the pressure on those players as the Browns won't have to rely on any of those linemen with Harris on the roster.

At thirty-two, Shelby Harris certainly doesn't solve issues for the long-term but considering Harris as an August signing, Harris should be a solution that helps the Browns for 2023 and could help Harris if he hits the free agent market next season.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Pac 12 Collapses! Oregon, Washington to Big 10

   The family picture to the left is suddenly outdated as "Black Friday" hit the Pac-12 conference in one day the elite conference in the Western United States lost five of its members as Oregon and Washington agreed to join the Big 10 and Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah decided to leave to become the newest additions to the Big 12.

These moves combined with USC and UCLA's Big 10 relocation to the Big 10 that was announced last year for a 2024 arrival and the recent decision of Colorado to defect to the Big 12 leaves the Pac 12 with only California, Oregon State, Stanford, and Washington State as members in good standing past the 2023-24 athletic season.

One of the requests by USC, when they joined the Big 10, was that Oregon not receive a future invitation to the league but clearly either the Trojans were pacified or reluctantly pushed into tolerating the Ducks entry into the conference.

I'm not sure if I'm thrilled with the Ducks and Huskies entering the Big 10 and while I do think it is ridiculous for travel and especially for the non-revenue sports, in the current climate it was a move that the Big 10 almost had to make.

The Pac-12's two most recent commissioners have made mistake after mistake with their television contracts and have basically sat the conference on a ticking time bomb that would eventually blow up.

I understand why the Big 10 wanted Oregon and Washington as the game continues down a path of two conferences that essentially separates the sport between North (Big 10) and South (SEC) with the Big 12 and ACC as fun lesser leagues with a few notable schools that can compete at the national level.

And while I don't either team will struggle in the Big Ten, I'm not sure that Washington will be more than a middle to occasional upper level such as Iowa in the league, I could see Oregon with their Nike money behind them becoming a top five league presence, although not perhaps a title contender every season.

It is a bit ironic that after dumping divisional play in the conference for next year, the Big 10 may have to return to divisions before they were even phased out.

Eighteen is a very clumsy number and doesn't fit well into a full league or schedule setup, so it is very possible the league could be forced into a two-division/nine-team alignment, which might be more to my liking anyway when you consider the four Pac 12 newcomers would bolster the western division.

My divisional setup;

East: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois

West: Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Minnesota, Nebraska, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington

I actually kinda like that and if you really wanted to make the Big 10 title game worthwhile, there is a way to do so.

Play eight games in your division and play the ninth against a team that finished in the same place as your team did in the previous season in the other division.

Or use the ninth game as a semi-final for the Big 10 title game with the other teams playing 3rd vs 3rd, 4th vs 4th, and so on.

Using this setup, only one rivalry would be lost (Illinois vs Northwestern) and if you really pushed creatively, you could make sure they played much as possible (perhaps making that game automatic, if the two teams were within two or three places of each other in the standings) and you would save the special aspect for the traditionalist, along with the different matchups on the next to last week of the season.

The Big Ten likely has an end game of twenty teams and while they would love the academic cache' that Stanford would bring, California would be a Rutgers-like drag on the conference, and taking both would also take away the long-term pining that eventually they would land Notre Dame.

As for the Big 12, well they did very well for themselves as they grabbed some gold for their league.

Utah brings a solid top-twenty program and returns their rivalry game with BYU to a conference battle,

Arizona offers an elite-level basketball school to what is arguably the best basketball conference in the country.

Arizona State is always thought of as a potential giant with the right coach and commitment and Colorado will add lots of attention as long as Deion Sanders is the coach there.

All four make the Big 12 stronger and while they lack a top-of-the-league power such as Clemson or potentially Florida State and Miami, what they possess is many schools with breakout potential and what I think is the most competitive league in the nation, top to bottom.

As for the remaining four Pac-12 schools, Oregon State and Washington State appear to be headed for the Mountain West unless the American decides to make a move but even so, the Mountain West is a better geographic fit with Boise State as a built-in immediate rival for both schools.

Hopefully, both schools will be able to keep their in-state rivalry games intact and it does seem that there is a willingness to do so.

Stanford and Cal are different cases.

Stanford as noted earlier would have some appeal to the Big 10 but not at the cost of adding Cal and I could see them trying out independence in hopes of the Big 10 adding down the road.

As for Cal, I could see Cal deciding to de-emphasize athletics and dropping down to a lower level or at least maybe 1-AA for football only. 

In neither of those schools, do I see them going to the Mountain West (academics) or the American (same and travel), if the Big 10 wanted them, a bid would have been offered already, and the Big 12 isn't a fit on many fronts.

The ACC could make sense in theory with Stanford and Cal academic-wise but just imagine the travel costs for those two schools.

Does the logistics of adding those two add up to being worth either party's while?

Only the grant of rights held by the ACC is holding that league together as the ACC would love North Carolina and Virginia with Georgia Tech, Miami, and Duke as possibilities and the SEC would covet Clemson, Florida State, and North Carolina, although I could see the SEC picking up N.C. State in the event that North Carolina would be unavailable.

The real certainty is that college football is changing to a national sport rather than a regional sport with occasional national interests and while the sport continues to evolve, its changes aren't going to stop anytime soon.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Road Trip: Hartford

      I'm not able to take as many road trips as I used to.

My work schedule is different and even my time away from work has been changed, so when you consider that with the takeover of minor league baseball by MLB, they have eliminated Monday games (one of my off-days), it would have made it difficult to attend games even if I wished.

But this trip was planned well before my job changes and this is the biggest trip of the season, so while there were a few disappointments, there were some great times and as always great memories made with Fred Landucci on the trip.

I've never been to Connecticut or Massachusetts before so it was a chance to not only add a ballpark to my list but also a chance to add two states to the states that I have been to as well.

The drive up was uneventual, we stopped in Connecticut for lunch at a place called John's, which was pretty good.
I ordered the daily special a fish sandwich, which was good but had far too much bread for my tastes.

I left a lot of bread on the table, which I feel bad about because I hate waste, but it was too much.

The legendary Northeast traffic did arrive as we neared Connecticut and Hartford, so it did take quite a bit of patience as we approached the ballpark.

Dunkin Donuts Park is a downtown stadium with its both positive and negative aspects. Still, it is almost directly off an exit into the city and that does make it a bit easier for visitors to find and park easily with a massive parking lot across the street from the field.

With Fred along, we were able to use handicapped parking, which caused one of the funnier moments of the trip in the parking lot

As we were moved along the parking lot by one person, another one followed us yelling "Where's their stickers, where's their stickers"?

Maryland vehicles have a handicapped symbol on the license plate but since this was a rental and non-handicapped plate, we only had Fred's Pennsylvania placard, which the first person had seen but the second one had not.

This lady chases all around the lot, only to see the placard and say "It's ok" in between huffs from running.

The main reason we picked this weekend was for the Hartford Yard Goats' "Whalers reunion weekend" with many former stars of the Hartford Whalers returning and we picked Friday so we could do other things over the next two days.

Unfortunately, not all of the players were there for the first night (which wasn't noted beforehand) but I still was able to meet and talk to a handful of former stars including Andre LaCroix, who was the all-time leading scorer in the defunct-World Hockey Association, and defenseman Gordie Roberts.

I didn't get as many as I hoped but I was able to get everyone that was there which was enough to please me.

Dunkin Donuts Park is a nice stadium and I really liked the wide concourses that despite the large crowd felt plenty roomy as we moved around.

We also were lucky enough to have someone sing the National Anthem (I wish I remembered her name) that sang it well yet not in a look-at-me way and it was very cool to see the home team run onto the field with the Whalers fight song "Brass Bonanza" playing in the background.

I liked the Dunkin Donuts cup on top of the scoreboard and on the right field roof, there was a large Deer (or Stag or Buck whatever) looking towards the outside of the park that I'm going to say is from "The Hartford" insurance company as that only makes sense considering the location.

It looked very statuesque from the distance and I bet it might look better had I seen it from the streets of Hartford.

We stayed at a Doubletree Hilton near the Hartford airport and when we checked in, we asked for a good pizza place.

There was a place literally a crosswalk away which would have been convenient to visit but when I asked the two ladies behind the desk about it, they both looked up sadly and nodded their heads no as in we didn't want to do that!

They recommended a place about a mile or two down the road but it was straight down the road so not hard to find our destination- a place called Tunxis Grill and Pizzeria 

Tunxis was busy (it was Friday night) and the pair of couples beside us were very loud but the wait was worth it for our pizza, which was "The Works" off their menu and might have won my favorite meal of the trip.

We returned to the hotel, which started my issues with the outside world on both nights.

I travel with a Roku stick, so I can stream and watch what I wish, even when away from home but Doubletree used what is called a "Clean Remote", which is reputed to be anti-germ and anti-bacteria and targeted toward hotels, hospitals, and nursing homes.

The Clean Remote worked fine but you need to be able to change the input on televisions to use Roku, Playstations, etc and if you go to the link, you can see they have omitted a button to access the input channels.

So if you replace all the television remotes with the Clean Remote, you would have no way to change the input and essentially render the object of choice useless and that meant no Roku and the streaming channels that it provides for this night.

I did have internet, so I used my Ipad for the night, so it could have been worse but my adventures with these issues weren't over as night two would prove.

I enjoyed day one and I liked Hartford, although I wish they had been clearer with their notes that most of the Whalers would be there on Saturday only.

I'd go back under certain circumstances and I had a nice time traveling to a new state.

I'll be back with day two of the trip sometime soon when I have time to write.