Thursday, April 11, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Hitchins survives Lemos

     I haven't had time to write this week or even watch boxing but I need to keep the challenge updated.

In the only fight I have watched, Richardson Hitchins won a controversial unanimous decision over Gustavo Lemos in a junior welterweight eliminator.

Hitchins has been razzed by me in the past for his less-than-electric efforts and he was more entertaining in this fight but I thought Lemos was the busier fighter, hurt Hitchins badly in the eighth round and he was the better fighter over the last half of the fight.

I scored Lemoa the winner with a score of 116-112 but the judges disagreed with two scoring for Hitchins 115-113 and the other an amazingly terrible 117-111.

I haven't watched Diego Pacheco's unanimous decision win over Shawn McCalman, who I thought was overmatched but fought well according to reports.

I also missed (because no one has this available) Bahkram Murtazaliev's eleventh-round knockout of Jack Culcay in Germany to win the vacant IBF junior middleweight title.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 46 Pts (4) 
Ramon Malpica: 45 Pts (4)
Vince Samano: 20 Pts (4)

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Boxing Challenge

     After an overstuffed boxing weekend last week, the plate is far smaller for this week with only three fights for the challenge.

DAZN/Matchroom has two of the fights from their Las Vegas card with one bout as a title eliminator and the other involving one of the top young fighters in the sport. 

The main event is an IBF junior welterweight eliminator between unbeaten Richardson Hitchins and Gustavo Lemos.

Lemos will be fighting for the first time outside of Argentina and will be fighting for the second time since his only name win in a fifth-round knockout of former featherweight champion Lee Selby.

Hitchins earned his biggest win in his last outing in a dominant unanimous decision win over former world title challenger Jose Zepeda.

Hitchins has only seven knockouts and isn't noted for his exciting fights, so unless Lemos is the latest Argentine to aggressively hunt down boxers (like Lucas Matthysse or Marcos Maidana to name two), this could be a dull distance fight.

The co-feature will showcase one of the best young fighters in the game with super middleweight Diego Pacheco, who has the look of a future star, against unbeaten Shawn McCalman.

McCalman's record is filled with non-entities from the Midwest circuit and he has only seven knockouts in his fifteen wins.

On paper, this is an absolute mismatch and Pacheco will decide whether he wishes to end this early or get a few rounds of work for the night.

Germany is the site of the remaining challenge fight as the final of the four junior middleweight titles removed from Jermell Charlo will receive a new owner as Bahkram Murtazaliev will meet Jack Culcay for the vacant IBF championship.

Murtazaliev, who seemingly has been the mandatory challenger since the Nixon Administration, had spent the last few years receiving step-aside dollars from PBC for allowing Charlo to fight in more lucrative fights which is nice work if you can get it but hasn't fought anyone of world-class ability.

Culcay is a solid fighter at the European level but has been defeated in all three of his fights when attempting to step up his opposition against Maciej Sulecki, Sergey Dereyvanchenko, and Demetrius Andrade.

Boxing Challenge

Vacant IBF Junior Middleweight Title. 12 Rds 
Bahkram Murtazaliev vs Jack Culcay
All; Murtazaliev Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights. 12 Rds
Richardson Hitchins vs Gustavo Lemos
TRS and V.S: Hitchins Unanimous Decision
R.L: Hitchins KO 6

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
Diego Pacheco vs Shawn McCalman
R.L: Pacheco KO 9
TRS: Pacheco KO 3
V.S: Pacheco Unanimous Decision

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Cleaning out the Inbox

     We return with another cleaning of the inbox with a few articles of interest.

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the arguably the greatest college basketball game ever and Sports Illustrated talked to some of the terrific players involved for their memories of the 1974 ACC Tournament final between N.C. State and Maryland.

Some may say the 1992 Duke-Kentucky game was better and the ending unquestionably was more memorable but the Wolfpack's 103-100 win still holds the top spot in my opinion.

Two Hundred and Three points were scored in the era that lacked either a shot clock or the three-point shot with three players selected in the first round of the 1974 draft ( State's Tom Burleson Maryland's Tom McMillen and Len Elmore), and the top overall picks in the 1975 draft (David Thompson) and 1976 (John Lucas) as well as three other with shorter pro careers (N.C. State's Monte Towe and Maryland's Mo Howard and Tom Roy) and another who would have a long career as a major league pitcher (N.C. State's Tim Stoddard).

The one scar on the game and it's speculatory, what happens if this game is outside of the 'neutral' floor for State, who shot twenty-six free throws to Maryland's eight during the game.

The Athletic writes about the history of the NIT and how to deal with the problems of players not wanting to play in the tournament (like in football's bowl games) to prepare for the NBA draft.

The NIT removed their mandate this season that a regular season conference champion that lost in its conference tournament and didn't receive an NCAA bid in an attempt to fend off a bid by Fox Sports to start their own postseason with a sixteen-team bracket with the Big Ten, Big Twelve, and Big East each receiving two automatic positions.

That decision bought the NIT one year as Fox announced this weekend that they would be creating such a tournament for next season, so hopefully the NIT will return the small conference regular season champions to their tournament as they deserve.

The Athletic also writes about how the Columbus Blue Jackets have become the most inept franchise in hockey.

I have to be honest, I didn't realize the Blue Jackets were that awful, and while I knew they were nothing to be excited about in their history, I didn't realize they were THAT bad!

And while the smoking gun was the draft selection in 2005 of Gilbert Brule over Anze Kopitat, the funniest is the story told about 2008 first-rounder Nikita Filatov, who scored a whopping six NHL goals, who offered this when his coaches tried to show him better ways to follow up at the net.

"Filly don't do rebounds".

I love this and think I might try this at my job when asked to do something I don't like- "Shawn don't do...." I'm sure it will go over extremely well!

Another story from The Athletic follows former Giants minor league pitcher John Gavin as he deals with life after baseball.

It's a very interesting article to see how athletes transition into the real world and it's easy to have some sympathy for what players go through after sports.

We wrap with Vanity Fair's cover article on one of my favorite actresses, Anne Hathaway, 

It's an interesting piece on the actress, how she prepared for roles, how she entered the profession, dealing with social media, and several other topics to boot.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Browns sign Justin Hardee

 The Cleveland Browns needed a special teams replacement after the team lost Mike Ford to the Houston Texans and it seems they have found him in Cleveland native Justin Hardee.

Hardee played for the New York Jets over the last three seasons after starting his career in New Orleans from 2017-2020 and made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player in 2022 as a Jet.

Hardee just turned thirty and until last season was listed on the roster as a wide receiver before moving to defensive back before 2023.

Hardee played in eleven games last season for the Jets, exclusively on the special teams units, so he isn't a player that occasionally sees time in the secondary like Mike Ford was used last year.

While signing a special teams standout was expected after the defection of Ford to Houston, I'm mildly surprised that the Browns didn't sign someone who would be able to play on the field in a few situations, which it doesn't seem that they would be able to do with Hardee.

I'm not disappointed with Hardee, just a little surprised.

And another reason for this?

The recent changes to kickoff for next season have to be on the minds of every team and the Browns are no exception signing proven special teams standouts will hopefully address the new rule.

However, without any data, it's not a guarantee that players who played well on kickoffs (the same rules for punts remain) under the previous rules will maintain their effectiveness, although it is very possible, so the Browns (and others) may continue to dip into the pool of players to upgrade the special teams units. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Wardley and Clarke go to battle!

   It may not have received the attention of the first Amazon card from PBC and in the United States, it might not have even gotten the media that Gilberto Ramirez's cruiserweight title-winning fight gathered but on Sunday from London, Peacock streamed a heavyweight slugfest that had to be seen to be believed as unbeaten big men, Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke battled to a draw after twelve rounds that only left those who saw wanting more.

Wardley retained his British and British Commonwealth titles with the draw, which isn't as important in the big picture but could still be an added incentive for the possible rematch.

The judges scored the fight 114-113 for Wardley, 115-112 for Clarke, and even at 113-113 each.

Wardley fought most of the fight through a cut on his nose that would require stitches after the fight and it seemed that he was going to end the fight early when a right hand in round five sent Clarke careening into a corner and after a follow-up volley, sent Clarke to the floor for what would be the only knockdown of the fight.

Fortunately for Clarke, the round was near its end and he saw the end of the round but after Clarke lost another point for low blows in the seventh round, Clarke fell well behind on my card.

The Olympic bronze medalist wasn't finished though and throughout the second half of the battle,  Clarke landed the harder punches with Wardley tiring badly, and at times, it looked like Wardley was the fighter running out of time.

Wardley responded with his share of right hands but Clarke was getting the better of the exchanges and was banking the rounds to tighten the scorecards.

Wardley's right eye was nearly closed with the ringside doctor taking a look during the tenth round to check his vision . Clarke was the stronger fighter in the tenth before Wardley changed the momentum with a strong round eleven that made me wonder if either fighter would last to the final bell.

Both fighters landed well in the final round but Clarke landed more often and it was Wardley who was fortunate to last the distance and somehow stayed on his feet, which enabled him to receive the draw by not losing a point for a knockdown.

I scored Wardley the winner 114-112 with the knockdown and point deduction making the difference.

When you consider the knockdown and point loss, I have a hard time seeing how you score Clarke the winner by three points as the judge that voted for Clarke did but the fight was close and exciting with a rematch having a great deal of appeal.

Possibly, that could happen but it's also possible that each man could use an interim bout before they would face each other again.

Clarke is the older fighter (32) and needs to be moved faster than Wardley (29), so a speedy rematch might be more important for him.

A rematch is certainly welcomed but it will have a high standard to meet to be as memorable as the one held last Sunday.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Fundora upsets Tsyzu in bloody battle

      The initial PBC card on Amazon ended with an entertaining upset that saw both men spill blood and temporarily stick a cog in a fight that was anticipated for later this year as Sebastian Fundora won the WBO and the vacant WBC junior middleweight titles from Tim Tszyu in Las Vegas by a split decision.

Tszyu was doing well in the first two rounds before an errant elbow that was just short of Dusty Rhodes from Fundora split Tsyzu open on the forehead/hairline, causing impressive bleeding that would impair Tszyu's vision for the rest of the fight.

Fundora battled through an injury of his own, a broken nose sustained early in the affair, and Fundora, who had been noted in the past for not using his physical gifts (6'6 height and eighty-inch reach) showed ring smarts by using them and hitting Tsyzu at will with his jab,

I scored the fight even at 114-114 with the judge's votes going to Fundora at 116-112 and 115-113 and a dissenter for Tsyzu at 116-112.

I'd be all for a rematch when you consider the carnage done by the bionic elbow but it was Errol Spence who was brought into the ring to challenge Fundora after the fight, which is ironic when you consider that a Tsyzu victory had been rumored to have earned him a mega-fight with Spence's conqueror Terence Crawford.

Arguably the least deserving and least popular champion in recent memory was dethroned in the co-feature as Isaac Cruz won the WBA junior welterweight title from Rolando Romero by an eighth-round knockout.

Cruz won every round, hurt Romero badly in the first and seventh rounds, and finished him in the eighth.

The amazing thing about this fight is that one judge somehow had Romero leading!

While this is the first world title for Cruz, his promoters (PBC) aren't loaded in the 140-pound division but it would be fair if someone (PBC or the WBA) took care of Ismael Barroso, who dominated Romero before losing on a ridiculous stoppage by Tony Weeks, and while Romero was sidelined with a back injury, won the interim title with a first-round KO of Ohara Davies.

Barroso was supposed to be first in line for Romero's return but somehow PBC was able to place Cruz first in line.

I'd favor Cruz over Barroso but it is time to do the right thing.

Erislandy Lara retained his WBA middleweight title with a second-round KO of Michael Zerafa in another bout that really accomplished nothing other than keeping a title with Lara.

The less written about this the better.

Serhii Bohachuk won a lesser title by unanimous decision over Brian Mendoza in a fight that Bohachuk controlled and the always gritty Mendoza showed guts and heart.

Bohachuk was originally scheduled to face Sebastian Fundora for the full WBC title but in the mess created by Keith Thurman's departure, was dropped to fight for the minor title.

Bohachuk will be waiting a while for his promised chance to win that title as Fundora will either face Tim Tsyzu in a rematch or possibly Errol Spence next and perhaps even both before Bohachuk gets his chance.

I scored Bohachuk a winner 117-111, which was the same as two judges with the other scoring 118-110.

In fights that I haven't had time to watch yet on a crowded Holiday weekend.

Julio Cesar Martinez retained his WBC flyweight title by majority decision over Angel Cordova.

Gilberto Ramirez won the WBA cruiserweight title over Arsen Goulamarian by unanimous decision.

Alexis Rocha stopped Fredric Lawson when Lawson's corner stopped the fight at the end of round seven.

I'll try to be back later with some thoughts on the heavyweight battle from London which ended in a draw, so those results are included in the boxing challenge totals.

Boxing Challenge

TRS:42 Pts (10)
Ramon Malpica: 41 Pts (9) 
Vince Samano: 16 Pts (1)  

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Estrada Unifies, Valdez wins

    Top Rank and ESPN+'s card from Glendale, Arizona featured two excellent fights at the top of the card with plenty of action.

In the main event, Oscar Valdez won the interim WBO junior lightweight title by a seventh-round knockout over Liam Wilson.

Normally, I don't acknowledge interim titles but Valdez will become the full champion sometime in May when Emanuel Navarette fights for the WBO lightweight title and is unlikely to return to the division, so will vacate the title.

I had Valdez slightly ahead at the time of the stoppage (58-56) and I thought the stoppage was a little early but Valdez was in command of the fight and it was an understandable decision.

Both fighters sustained facial damage and Valdez's face blew up for the second fight in a row, so there are still questions about how long Valdez will hold up in the future.

In the pre-fight, both WBC junior lightweight champion O'Shaquie Foster and IBF featherweight king Luis Alberto Lopez each mentioned future challenges against Valdez, should he emerge victorious, each could be a possible opponent later this year.

In the co-feature, Seniesa Estrada survived a stern test from Yokasta Valle to add the IBF and WBO minimumweight titles to the WBA and WBC titles she owned previously to win a unanimous decision.

All three judges' scores were the same as mine, 97-93 for Estrada, who outboxed Valle from the southpaw stance for most of the fight but Valle's straighter punches often found a home and under different rules (twelve-round fights or three-minute rounds) Valle might have won the decision as she was the stronger fighter down the stretch.

I'd like to see a rematch but that might be a hard sell for Estrada, who entered the fight with extensive emotions towards Valle's trainer, Gloria Alvarado, and Valle's promoters, Golden Boy, for her previous connections with both, and she could decide to move up in weight to junior flyweight or flyweight.

Valle was the more aggressive fighter so the crowd did have pockets of boos after the fight but I thought Gloria Alvarado's postfight comments were a bit out of line when you consider the personal issues that were involved.

Women's boxing does need to tweak one major issue and while I have always said the two-minute rounds prevent knockouts, a case can be made for the two-minute rounds adding more excitement.

The WBC seems to be the holdup on moving to three-minute rounds as many of the stars of the sport are asking to happen but I think that the best compromise could be for championship fights to stay at two minutes but move them from ten to twelve rounds.

It isn't perfect but I think it would be reasonable.

Lightweight Raymond Muratalla looked a little flat in winning a unanimous decision over Xolisani Ndongeni by scores of 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93, with my score agreeing with the final score listed.

Muratalla did not look dazzling against Ndongeni, who fought well but was unable to hit hard enough to keep Muratalla off him and was fortunate to make the final bell as Muratalla turned up the pace in the latter rounds.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 32 Pts (3)
Ramon Malpica: 32 Pts (4)
Vince Samano: 15 Pts (0) 

Boxing Challenge

  The boxing weekend is filled with matches in the boxing challenge on Saturday and even adds an intriguing battle of heavyweight prospects on Sunday for good measure!

The long-awaited debut on Amazon Prime for PBC takes place Saturday night and while I don't think the card is PPV-worthy, I do think it's a very solid card. 

In the main event, WBO junior middleweight champion Tim Tszyu will attempt to add the WBC title to his collection against Sebastian Fundora for that organization's vacant title.

All four of the sanctioning bodies have moved on from Jermell Charlo, so the WBC has decided to place their full title on the line since they have the chance to hop on the Tim Tszyu train earlier than they might have expected.

The fight was originally scheduled to be a non-title fight between Tszyu and former welterweight champion Keith Thurman as the WBO deemed Thurman unworthy of fighting for their title since "No Time" is chronically inactive in the ring, although not with his tongue, and had never fought at junior middleweight.

So when Thurman predictably pulled out of the fight, PBC inserted Fundora, who hasn't fought since being knocked out by Brian Mendoza last year, in his place and the WBC sanctioned it for their vacant title, ignoring the fact that Fundora and Serhii Bohachuk were fighting for that title already on the card.

Bohachuk was moved down the card to fight Brian Mendoza for the "interim" title, which questions why an interim title is needed when the actual title is decided on the same card but hey it's the WBC and it's business as always.

Tszyu-Fundora is a better fight than Tszyu-Thurman would have been and although Serhii Bohachuk was screwed over a bit, the card is better for the switch, and two titles are unified as well.

The WBA junior welterweight title is at stake in the co-feature as champion Rolando Romero defends for the first time since his controversial title win over Ismael Barroso was handed to him by referee Tony Weeks in a stoppage so awful that I struggle to remember a worse ending against Isaac Cruz.

Barroso was promised a shot at Romero after Barroso won the interim title when Romero was injured but Isaac Cruz is a bigger name, so of course Barroso is shoved aside.

Cruz has won three straight since his close loss to Gervonta Davis but he didn't look strong in his only fight of 2023, a split decision over Giovanni Cabrera.

This could be a wild fight with Romero's swipes and Cruz's aggressiveness but I could also see this ending in a lopsided affair for Cruz.

Either way, Romero will have to show more than he has in his career thus far for him to win this one in my opinion.

The middleweight division has become so weak that the WBA champion (and I say that loosely) Erislandy Lara is forty years old, hasn't fought in twenty-two months, hasn't faced a world-class opponent since 2019 (a draw against Brian Castano), hasn't beaten anyone of note since a 2017 decision over Terrell Gausha, and has never defeated a top ten middleweight.

For all of that, Lara is the FAVORITE against Australian challenger Michael Zerafa, who owns two wins of note, knocking out former WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn in nine rounds before losing the rematch, and a one-round knockout of Anthony Mundine, a former junior middleweight contender, who was almost forty-six at the time!

The less said about this as a "championship" fight the better.

The opener of the PPV will see Julio Cesar Martinez defend his WBC flyweight title against Angel Cordova.

Martinez has defended his title twice since losing to Roman Gonzalez at junior bantamweight but has been caught in limbo by several cancellations of a planned mandatory defense against McWilliams Arroyo.

The unbeaten Cordova enters the fight after his best win as a pro, a close decision win over former WBO light flyweight champion Angel Acosta last April.

Amazon is offering two fights to Prime members for free with the aforementioned minor junior middleweight title between Serhii Bohachuk and Brian Mendoza among them.

The title may be questionable but this fight isn't as Bohachuk's 23-1 record reads with all of his wins by knockout and his only loss is by knockout as well, an eighth-round KO to Brandon Adams.

Mendoza always comes to fight as shown by his knockout wins over former champion Jeison Rosario and his stunning come-from-behind knockout of Sebastian Fundora as well as his last fight, giving a very game effort in losing to Tim Tsyzu by unanimous decision.

This should be an action-packed fight for sure.

The other free fight is promising teenage middleweight Elijah Garcia against veteran Kyrone Davis.

Garcia was very impressive in stopping Armando Resendiz in eight rounds on the Canelo Alvarez-Jermell Charlo undercard last fall, while Davis is a veteran that most remember from taking a pounding for seven rounds from David Benavidez in 2021.

At the same time, DAZN and Golden Boy are in Inglewood, California with a world title main event as the oft-invisible WBA cruiserweight champion Arsen Goulamirian makes his American debut against former WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez.

Ramirez dominated Joe Smith in his cruiserweight debut in his return from his only career loss to Dmitry Bivol to qualify for this chance.

Goulamirian won his title in March 2018 and has defended his title four times, all in France and all against lesser contenders, so when you consider an unbeaten champion that has held his title for six years and yet he is an extremely unknown quantity.

In the co-feature, welterweight contender Alexis Rocha attempts to rebound from a devastating defeat against Fredrick Lawson.

Rocha took a severe beating from Giovanni Santillan last October and was stopped in six, losing his eventual mandatory shot at the WBO welterweight title either with Terence Crawford or in a fight for the vacant title if Crawford would give the title up.

Lawson was stopped in one round in his last outing against Vergil Ortiz in what was another terribly early stoppage by referee Tony Weeks in what will hopefully be the last time that Weeks ends a fight early.

Lawson is handpicked for Rocha's return to be successful, so if Rocha shows some struggles against Lawson, the Santillan fight may have caused damage to Rocha so he may not return to his previous level.

Peacock takes over on Sunday with a Boxxer-promoted battle of two unbeaten British heavyweights for the British and Commonwealth titles that will boost the victor up the ratings with Fabio Wardley fighting Fraser Clarke.

Wardley has fought more often (seventeen to eight), Clarke has the better victories with wins over veteran trial horses Mariusz Wach and Bogdan Dinu, both have wins over fellow Brit Nathan Gorman (the only two losses of Gorman's career), and Clarke was the better amateur, winning a bronze medal in the 2020 Olympics.

This seems to be a fifty-fifty fight because we don't know how either man will take a punch or how good either really is, so I'm looking forward to this one.

Boxing Challenge

WBO and Vacant WBC Junior Middleweight Titles. 12 Rds
Tim Tszyu vs Sebastian Fundora
Ramon Malpica: Tsyzu KO 8
TRS: Tsyzu KO 9
Vince Samano: Tsyzu KO 6

WBA Junior Welterweight Title. 12 Rds
Rolando Romero vs Isaac Cruz
R.L: Cruz KO 11
TRS: Cruz Unanimous Decision
V.S: Romero Unanimous Decision

WBA Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Erislandy Lara vs Michael Zerafa
R.L: Lara Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lara KO 8
V.S: Zerafa Split Decision

WBC Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Julio Cesar Martinez vs Angel Cordova
R.L: Martinez Unanimous Decision
TRS: Martinez Split Decision
V.S: Cordova Unanimous Decision

Junior Middleweights, 12 Rds
Serhii Bohachuk vs Brian Mendoza
R.L and TRS: Bohachuk Unanimous Decision
V.S: Mendoza Unanimous Decision

Middleweights. 10 Rds
Elijah Garcia vs Kyrone Davis
R.L: Garcia KO 8

WBA Cruiserweight Title. 12 Rds
Arsen Goulamirian vs Gilberto Ramirez
R.L and TRS: Ramirez Unanimous Decision
V.S: Ramirez Split Decision

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Alexis Rocha vs Fredrick Lawson
R.L: Rocha Unanimous Decision
TRS: Rocha KO 6
V.S: Lawson Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Fabio Wardley vs Frazer Clarke
R.L: Wardley KO 8
TRS: Wardley KO 5
V.S: Clarke KO 4

Friday, March 29, 2024

Boxing Challenge

    After two tepid boxing weekends, this weekend is filled with fights, so many that I'm separating the Friday night card from the Saturday versions to preview.

ESPN+ and Top Rank have a very nice card for Friday from Glendale, Arizona with three challenge bouts with impact for the future.

In the main event, Oscar Valdez will meet Liam Wilson in a junior lightweight fight that technically isn't for a world title but could become one soon.

Valdez and Wilson have lost to WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete in excellent fights, and should Navarrete succeed in his match in May for the vacant WBO lightweight title against Denys Berinchyk, the winner of this fight for a minor WBO title would likely be promoted to the full championship, so there is plenty at stake here.

Both fighters accounted themselves well against Navarrete with Valdez losing a unanimous decision and Wilson losing by ninth-round knockout but has a case that he should have won after dropping Navarrete in the fourth round and Navarrete being given one of the more egregious long counts in recent memory allowing him to survive.

Wilson has won twice since his loss to Navarrete, while Valdez will be fighting for the first time after his defeat, so it'll be interesting to see how much Valdez has remaining in his return to the ring.

Style-wise, this should be an exciting battle, and on resume, Valdez has a huge edge with the key questions being- did Wilson merely catch lightning in a bottle against Navarrete, and did Valdez leave much of his remaining skills in the ring against Navarrete and may not be the same fighter from now on?

The co-feature will see the first women's bout in challenge history in a strawweight unification between WBA/WBC queen Seniesa Estrada and IBF/WBO boss Yokaska Valle.

I'm not the most knowledgeable women's boxing fan and we won't have an abundance of women's fights for the challenge but the top fights in the sport may be added in the future.

So, why now?

Because I love Seniesa Estrada's fighting style and enthusiasm for the sport, and she appears to be everything right with boxing- I like her. Sue me.

I've only seen a few fights of Valle but people more familiar with her than I am say that this is an excellent fight and far from a squash match for Estrada.

The other bout will pit talented lightweight contender Raymon Muratalla in a ten-rounder against Xolisani Ndongeni.

Muratalla has looked the part of a future champion in his two most recent wins, stopping Diego Torres and Jeremiah Nakathila while Ndongeni was stopped in eight in January by junior welterweight contender Arnold Barboza in his only outing against top competition.

It will be interesting to compare how Muratalla fares against Ndongeni against Barboza's performance against the native of South Africa.

Boxing Challenge

Junior Lightweights. 12 Rds 
Oscar Valdez vs Liam Wilson
Ramon Malpica: Valdez KO 8
TRS: Valdez Unanimous Decision
Vince Samano: Wilson Unanimous Decision

Women's Strawweight Unification 12 Rds
Seniesa Estrada vs Yokasta Valle
R.L and TRS: Estrada Unanimous Decision
V.S: Valle Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Raymond Muratalla vs Xolisani Ndongeni
R.L: Muratalla KO 9
TRS: Muratalla KO 6
V.S:  Ndongeni Unanimous Decision

Happy Anniversary

       Seventeen years.

I find it unbelievable that I have done this for seventeen years. 

Through changes in sports, teams, coverages, hobbies, real life, work schedules, and changes in the family, for the last seventeen years, TRS has been part of my life and it's hard to believe.

I haven't written quite as often over the last year, some due to the changes in my work schedule and also my changes in sports.

Baseball barely interests me anymore and I never thought I would write or say those words.

There have been several factors in why that occurred, ranging from the pandemic to the MLB takeover of the minors and their results changes to fan interaction, to their rule changes (I hate the extra innings rule and National League adopting the DH), and just to the general despicability of Rob Manfred.

I don't miss it as much as I would have ever thought.

My Devils interest has decreased a little but that's more because I've found that while I enjoyed watching the team every game, what I really enjoyed was sharing something with Rachel, when her interest declined, mine did as well without consciously knowing!

My Cavaliers' interest and viewing are high but I hardly watch college basketball because of the various problems in college sports with conference changes, lost rivalries, players leaving far too early, and less quality of the game all adding up due to a drop in interest.

I'm still a diehard Browns and Ohio State football fan and while Boxing has its problems, I still cannot pull myself away from the fight game.

The surprising new entry has been, thanks to Fred Landucci, English soccer and Newcastle United.

I have become such a fan of Newcastle that if I had anything to contribute, I would cover them here,

I don't know enough about the game to feel like I was adding anything and for the first time, I can enjoy watching my team and have fun rather than analyze the team.

Outside of sports, I still enjoy the cleaning out the inbox items, the occasional personal piece when the mood strikes me and I've always said when this becomes a grind, I'll stop doing it.

It's still fun for me, I don't always have the time as I once did.

Time to wrap up with the normal thanks to my family, friends, and anyone else who happens to stumble by and give TRS a chance.

It's gratifying when someone tells me that they enjoyed something that I have written and while only a few of you have been around since the beginning, I owe a lot to whomever reads this book of thoughts, memories, and opinions.

It's been an amazing seventeen years with people coming into my life that mean so much to me (and will very soon) and people leaving it as well, some of those dearly missed.

If you know me personally, I'm sure that you know that I struggle with positively looking at things but I'm in a place that is pretty good right now, and while I'll never be one of those "turn that frown upside down" people, I have many people and things around me to be very positive about.

Thanks for reading and onto year eighteen next year with more good news to come!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Forgotten Superstars: Steve Watson

      I've been watching old Denver Broncos games on YouTube (Remember it was the Broncos who were the team of my youth) as I do other things and it made me want to write about my favorite Bronco on offense from childhood- wide receiver Steve Watson.

The Broncos weren't always known for offense in the seventies and eighties.

In fact, when Sears sold the NFL jerseys in their catalog at that time, Denver was the only team to have a defensive player jersey (53 Randy Gradishar) as their representative, so the "Orange Crush" defense was the star of the team.

Still, Steve Watson took over the top receiving option from Haven Moses in his third season in 1981 and was the go-to pass catcher for Craig Morton as he ended his career and for the first formative years of John Elway as well.

Watson made the Broncos in 1979 as an undrafted free agent from Temple but only caught six passes in each of his first two seasons in Denver before his breakout season in 1981.

In 1981, the first season of Dan Reeves's coaching career and the final season of Craig Morton's quarterbacking career, Watson caught sixty passes for 1,244 yards and a league-leading thirteen receiving touchdowns as he made his only Pro Bowl in a breakout year.

Watson wouldn't be selected to another Pro Bowl but he continued to rack up receiving yards with 555 (in the nine-game strike season), 1,113, 1,170, and 915 in the following four seasons for the Broncos.

It was Steve Watson who was the go-to receiver for a developing John Elway as an intermediate threat and occasional long-ball target.

Watching these Denver games during a time when the football wasn't in the air as much as it is today, Watson's ability to get open deep as well as on shorter routes makes me think that he might have been more effective in today's game.

Watson's numbers dipped a little in 1986, catching forty-five passes for 699 yards and he played only five games in 1987, catching eleven passes in what would be his final season.

Watson finished his career with over six thousand receiving yards, three hundred fifty-seven catches, and a very good average of seventeen yards per catch.

I wonder if Watson had come along a few years later with his skills perhaps the Broncos would have won one of those lost Super Bowls under Dan Reeves as he would have given the team the bigger receiver that the team lacked with their quicker smaller pass catchers such as Vance Johnson and Mark Jackson.

And now, why Steve Watson was part of my childhood fandom.

You see, the local newspaper would every year or so mention Watson in the local sports section as his grandparents lived in Hagerstown.

That was the connection to Watson and I remember every time we made our weekly run for supplies, I tried to wear something Bronco-related on the remote chance that I would run into these people (remember this was in an era that wasn't easy to acquire items from a non-local team) who in my early teenaged mind would see me, talk to me, and make a connection with someone that knows a Denver Bronco!

In a shocking development, none of that would occur and I'm not a Broncos fan anymore but Steve Watson is still one of my favorite players and we welcome him to the Forgotten Superstars series. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Browns sign D'onta Foreman

      I was hoping that the Cleveland Browns would add one more running back to their position group and I was pleased to see the signing of D'onta Foreman, formerly of the Chicago Bears.

The six-foot, two hundred and thirty-five pound Foreman will bring a bruising back that can run between the tackles and help with short yardage situations if Nick Chubb isn't ready for the early season portion of 2024.

The twenty-seven-year-old Foreman has played for four teams since Houston drafted him in the third round in the 2017 draft from Texas but his best seasons have been his most recent- 2022 with Carolina and last season with the Bears.

Foreman rushed for four hundred twenty-five yards and four scores in nine games with the Bears on one hundred nine carries last season, and rushed for over nine hundred yards in 2022, so he's a solid back that brings something to the Browns that Jerome Ford and Nyheim Hines both lack.

If Nick Chubb can return close to form. then Foreman will be a situational player but should there be anything that keeps that from occurring, Foreman could be a horse for the Browns or at least able to share time with Jerome Ford.

Ford was effective at times last season but his ability to carry the heaviest load is questionable.

I've liked Foreman as a back and thought he's been a bit underrated and underused in his career.

Sometimes in sports, there are players that you always think just need a chance and always hope it will be your team that provides that chance.

The Browns are giving one to D'onta Foreman. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Browns sign Tyler Huntley

       The Cleveland Browns created a mild surprise by signing veteran quarterback Tyler Huntley to a one-year contract at the veteran minimum with incentives to be reached if he plays more often.

Huntley was a Pro Bowl selection in 2022 when he started four games for an injured Lamar Jackson and many of the top AFC quarterbacks were unable to play in the game, so the league dipped down to add Huntley to the roster.

The 6'1 Huntley was signed by Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 2020  from Utah, and played all four of his professional seasons there, completing sixty-four percent of his passes for 1,957 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven interceptions in that time.

Huntley is more noted for running than passing, although his style does approximate DeShaun Watson as it did Lamar Jackson in Baltimore.

Now, the four-man quarterback room for training camp looks settled with Watson, Jameis Winston, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and Huntley with roughly the same skillset and style, although Winston is more of an outlier as with the bigger arm and lesser mobility compared to the others.

One could look at this in two different ways.

The first is that Watson and Winston are safe and the battle is between Thompson-Robinson and Huntley for the third spot as Winston is the veteran player that the Browns lacked behind Watson last year until they brought in Joe Flacco in case of injury to Watson.

The other possibility is that it's Watson in the top slot, Thompson-Robinson is locked into the third spot and the true battle is for the experienced veteran spot between Winston and Huntley with both players signed to one-year contracts.

Either scenario is possible and which one occurs may come down to how highly Andrew Berry and the Browns value Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who they drafted in the fifth round in the 2023 draft.

If the Browns are sold on DTR as their eventual backup, as they were last season, coming out of training camp,  and don't want to risk losing him then it could be Winston vs Huntley.

If the UCLA product's stock has dropped in their eyes and the Browns have learned from last year's experience seeing the need for a veteran and would be willing to risk losing him on waivers to keep three veterans, then it could be Thompson-Robinson vs Huntley.

In any event, the Browns signing of Tyler Huntley has placed a new variable on the quarterback situation.

A few days ago, things seemed to be cut and dried, now there will be a competition somewhere at quarterback- if only the participants knew who their opponent would be.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Cleaning Out the Inbox: Passings

         We return for another edition of tributes to recent passings.

Goodbye to Steve Lawrence at the age of 88.

I'm not sure you could have been a child of the seventies who watched network variety shows and not known Steve Lawrence and his wife Eydie Gorme.

The husband and wife duo appeared on what seemed to be every variety show at one time or the other but I always wondered why.

They weren't stars that had hits on the charts or even had songs that I knew from the past, they were just there- as constant guest stars.

Turns out Lawrence had five top-ten hits in the early sixties including a number one with "Go Away Little Girl" (which was covered by Donny Osmond in the seventies) but preferred working night clubs, acting on Broadway and film (including his cameo as producer Maury Sline in the original Blues Brothers), and working with Gorme.

A very interesting life.

Goodbye to Eric Carmen at the age of 74.

Also known as a prolific songwriter, Carmen was the lead singer with the Raspberries in the early seventies, whose hits included "Go All The Way", which reached number five on the United States charts in 1972.

After the breakup of the Raspberries, Carmen moved to romantic ballads as a solo artist with "All by Myself" reaching the second spot on the U.S. charts and would reinvent himself again in the mid-eighties with "Hungry Eyes" from the "Dirty Dancing" soundtrack, also reaching the second position on the U.S. charts.

Goodbye to Dave Ritchie at the age of 85.

The long-time Canadian Football League coach for the B.C. Lions, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and Montreal Alouettes, Ritchie won two Grey Cups with the Lions in two stints, twelve years apart, winning the Cup in 1994 and 2006.

The 1994 Grey Cup is arguably the most heated CFL title game of all time as it would match the Lions against an American opponent for the first time in league history in the Baltimore CFL Colts.

Lui Passaglia kicked a field goal on the final play to give the Lions the win and the championship.

Ritchie finished his CFL career with a record 108-76-3.

Goodbye to Ed Ott at the age of 72.

Part of the Pirates catching platoon for their 1979 championship team, Ott is more remembered for things that had nothing to do with his on-field play.

Ott slid into second on a double play attempt against the Mets in 1977 into Felix Millan.

After the two exchanged words, Millan hit Ott with the baseball in his hand, Ott grabbed Millan and slammed him across his knee, injuring Millan and ending his career.

Ott, when serving as a coach with Houston, grabbed Reds pitcher Rob Dibble in a chokehold that left the much larger Dibble turning blue while in the choke.

Ott's other note? His five letters/two names are the shortest in major league history.

Goodbye to U.L.Washington at the age of 70.

Washington spent most of his career with the Royals and was known for the ever-present toothpick in his mouth, even as he played in games!

Washington was one of three players to make the majors from the Royals baseball academy along with Frank White and Ron Washington (no relation), and Washington was on first base just before George Brett's homer in the famous "Pine Tar Game".

Goodbye to Wayne Wilson at age 66.

Wilson was the twelfth-round selection of the Houston Oilers from Shepherd College in 1979 but was released in the final cut and claimed by New Orleans, where he would play for eight of his nine seasons in the NFL.

Wilson was used as a pass receiving back and as a special teams ac in this career but Wilson was the Saints leading rusher in 1983 when he rushed for 789 yards and nine touchdowns for New Orleans.

Wilson was the first player in Saints history to notch 1,000 yards in rushing, receiving, and kick returns for a career.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Browns sign Free Agent Depth

     The Cleveland Browns continued to add players for depth in their need areas and being free agency, the Browns lost a few players as well.

The most intriguing to me was at linebacker where the Browns signed former Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick Devin Bush to compete at linebacker.

Bush spent four seasons with Pittsburgh, which was somewhat disappointing to Steeler fans, who thought Bush was going to be their next standout linebacker after an excellent rookie season.

Bush tore his ACL in 2020, ironically in a game against the Browns, and hasn't been the same player since the injury

Bush spent last season with Seattle, playing in thirteen games but in his final three games, Bush looked to be gaining confidence, finishing with fifteen solo tackles, fifteen assisted tackles, and four for loss.

Bush is noted for his run defense and hard-hitting but much of his problems with the Steelers were in his pass coverage, so Bush would have to improve quickly to be a three-down linebacker.

Still, Bush is worth a flyer on a one-year deal and perhaps his production could finally equal his potential.

The Browns also seemed to be in the market for another veteran defensive tackle to replace Jordan Elliott in the rotation and they signed one in Quinton Jefferson, who had six sacks for the Jets last season.

Jefferson played four seasons with Seattle after being drafted in the fifth round in 2016 but has played for four different teams (Buffalo, Las Vegas, a 2nd stint in Seattle, and the Jets) in the previous four seasons.

Jefferson's six sacks would have placed him second on the Browns last season, so if he could approach that number this season, the Browns would have a solid contributor.

I do wonder about the one-year contract to fullback/tight end Giovanni Ricci though,

The Browns lost Harrison Bryant to the Raiders in free agency Bryant was a receiving tight end more than a blocking tight end and Ricci caught one pass last season for two yards for Carolina.

At 240 pounds, Ricci is more H-Back than fullback or tight end, so unless Kevin Stefanski wishes to use some different portions of his playbook, I'm not sure I see the fit for Ricci.

Cleveland also signed cornerback Tony Brown, formerly of the Colts, in an attempt to replace Mike Ford on special teams after Ford signed with Houston.

Brown played for Browns special teams coach Bubba Ventrone in Indianapolis and is regarded as excellent in his role on those units.

Brown missed the final three games last season due to the Colts suspending Brown for violating team rules, so hopefully, those issues are left in Indianapolis.

Andrew Berry made his big swing with the trade to acquire Jerry Jeudy, so most of his free agency maneuvers have filled holes created by free agency.

Lose Jordan Elliott, and add Quinton Jefferson.

Lose Mike Ford, and add Tony Brown.

Lose Harrison Bryant, and add Giovanni Ricci.

Lose Sione Takitaki and Anthony Walker, and add Devin Bush and Jordan Hicks.

And biggest of all, Lose Joe Flacco and add Jameis Winston.

Only the addition of Nyheim Hines doesn't fit the bill, and it more than likely still does as the Browns aren't likely to retain Kareem Hunt.

I would grade most of these as lateral moves, although I think the potential is there for the Bush/Hicks pairing to be an upgrade over Takitaki/Walker.

However, except for Giovanni Ricci over Harrison Bryant, I don't see any severe downgrades either.

So, it seems the Cleveland Browns have decided to mostly stand pat other than trading for Jerry Jeudy in an attempt to improve at wide receiver and run it back with the same cast along with the hopes for DeShaun Watson to return to his form from his time in Houston.

That's risky but I really don't see much of a choice.

In the perfect world, they would add another quality receiving option, another defensive lineman, and another running back in case Nick Chubb doesn't bounce back to his peak.

Nyheim Hines brings a pass catcher out of the backfield, so the Browns may look at Hines as their added offensive threat but Hines isn't the same factor as a ball carrier and although Jerome Ford had his moments last season after the injury to Nick Chubb, I'm still not sold on him as a bellwether back if needed.

For the most part, free agency will take a pause for a while as we transition to draft talk with the Browns having one final year without a first-round pick as they finally finish paying the mortgage on DeShaun Watson.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Browns sign Nyheim Hines

   Day two of the free agent period saw the Cleveland Browns add a running back and an offensive tackle to add depth at two spots with starters that are returning from injury, re-signed a player for the offensive line and defensive line, and lost a defensive lineman as well.

The biggest name was former Bills running back Nyheim Hines, who signed a one-year contract worth up to 3.5 million.

Hines missed all of 2023 after an off-season injury from a jetski accident and split 2022 between the Colts and Bills.

Hines was drafted in the fourth round from N.C. State in 2018 by Indianapolis and has been a productive pass-catching back, catching 240 passes in his career.

Hines also has been a productive punt returner in his day, having returned four punts for touchdowns, two of those in 2022.

If Hines is healthy, he could bring much-needed return ability to a team in need of it and would be a third down receiving back who could prove very helpful.

Still, with the questions about Nick Chubb's return from his own injury and the erratic play last season from Jerome Ford, I'd think the Browns could use another back.

I wrote yesterday about the defensive line and hadn't heard about the status of Shelby Harris or Jordan Elliott.

Harris will be returning as he announced on Twitter but I haven't seen the terms of the contract.

As for Jordan Elliott, Elliott signed a two-year contract with San Francisco worth ten million.

The third-round pick in the 2020 draft from Missouri, Elliott never reached full-time starter status for the Browns, although he was a steady member of the defensive tackle rotation.

Cleveland hopes last season's third-round choice Siaki Ika will be able to make the rotation next season but I still think the Browns will draft another defensive tackle or sign another veteran in free agency.

The Browns also addressed the offensive line by re-signing veteran backup Michael Dunn to a one-year deal with terms unannounced and tackle Hakeem Adeniji to a one-year deal.

Adeniji played three seasons with the Bengals before signing with the Vikings last season, playing in four games.

Both players are depth players that can play guard or tackle with Dunn having the ability to play at center as well.

I'm glad the Browns kept Shelby Harris but it is clear the Browns are going to run back the team pretty close to the one from 2023.

We will see if that is good enough. 

Browns sign Jameis WInston

     The Cleveland Browns made sure that they had a veteran alternative at quarterback to DeShaun Watson going into 2024 but it wasn't the player that their fan base preferred as the Brown signed former top overall pick Jameis Winston from the New Orleans Saints to a one year contract worth up to 8.7 million dollars.

The decision to sign Jameis Winston means that the Browns will not re-sign Joe Flacco, which ends the veteran's miracle run in Cleveland that saved the 2023 season and allowed the Browns to reach the playoffs.

Winston was the first player selected in the 2015 draft from Florida State by Tampa Bay and spent five seasons in Tampa before moving to the Saints for four seasons, making ten starts over that time.

Winston played in seven games for New Orleans last season, throwing two touchdowns and being intercepted three times with 264 yards passing backing up Derek Carr for the Saints.

Over his career, Winston has thrown 141 touchdowns and 99 interceptions, thirty of those interceptions in his final season with Tampa Bay, when he also threw his career high in touchdown passes with thirty-three.

At 6'4, 235 pounds, and a booming arm, Winston has all the skills and can make all the throws but he has been prone to the interception at the wrong time as the bugaboo for his career.

Winston turned thirty in January, so he's still not an old player and what I like about the signing is that Winston reminds me a lot of Joe Flacco- big in stature, power arm, but not the most mobile quarterback at this stage of their career, and needs solid protection in the pocket.

And one more- Winston is not Joe Flacco.

Cleveland fell in love with an aging quarterback who spent most of his career playing for a rival as he saved a season that seemed to be yet another Browns season going down the drain.

That's a good thing and created a slot for Joe Flacco in Browns lore which will never be forgotten.

However, each season creates a new story and DeShaun Watson is going to be a major, if not THE major story of next season I can understand why the Browns wouldn't want a situation where Watson struggles a bit, and here comes the chants for Joe Flacco.

While I can understand those reasons, it does seem a little (just a little) ungrateful to not allow a player who did so much and seemed to want to return the opportunity to do so.

The Browns can deny the Flacco fans were a factor and while it might not have been the biggest factor, it had to be in play for an organization that knows that their fan base is still divided over DeShaun Watson.

I'm fine with Jameis Winston, it makes sense and I understand why but there is a part of me that believes in sentiment and wants to see Joe Flacco in Cleveland.

Football is not a business for sentiment.

Back later with more Browns additions and subtractions.

Browns retain D-Line Pillars

     The Cleveland Browns strengthened their defensive line last year moving it from a team weakness, aside from Myles Garrett, in 2022 to what would be a strength in 2023.

However, they have four contributing players who were eligible to leave through free agency.

I'm not sure about the status of Shelby Harris or Jordan Elliott although I didn't see either name on the transaction wire, but the Browns did re-sign the other two players in defensive end Za'Darius Smith and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst.

Smith signed a two-year contract worth 23.5 million to return after his first season in Cleveland after being acquired from Minnesota.

Smith played in sixteen games as the Browns' main pass-rushing threat opposite  Myles Garrett, finishing the season with five and a half sacks, which was mildly disappointing in my opinion but far from terrible.

Smith turns 32 in September, so he'll have to play well next season to stick around for the second year of the contract, I'd suspect.

Maurice Hurst was one of the most pleasant surprises of the season because the Browns really didn't know how well Hurst would play after playing only two games in 2021 for San Francisco and missing all of 2022 with a torn bicep.

Hurst would go down to an injury after thirteen games but played very well in stuffing the run along with a sack and a half and an interception.

I am concerned about Hurst's staying healthy when you look at his entire career but keeping Hurst with Dalvin Tomlinson retains some of last season's rotation along the interior of the defensive line.

I have mixed feelings about the Browns attempting to keep Shelby Harris and Jordan Elliott, cost depending of course.

I liked Harris's play a lot last year but he will be thirty-three before next season.

Elliott's play improved over his previous seasons but the Browns will need to make room for 2023 third-round draft pick Siaki Ika, who barely played last season.

If Ika progresses enough, the Browns could feel comfortable in signing one more defensive tackle but who knows how the Browns feel about him currently.

Cleveland lost one player as cornerback Mike Ford signed with Houston on a two-year contract for 4.5 million. 
Ford occasionally played in dime packages, starting once and intercepting one pass.

Ford was signed last off-season and was a key contributor on special teams.

Ford will be missed on those units, so look for the Browns to attempt to add a veteran player from somewhere with special teams experience. 

Browns Linebacker Shakeup

      The free agency period started with the Browns re-signing two key defensive linemen (more on the
retentions later in the week) but it was the linebackers that saw the most action with one player signing in Cleveland and two veteran Browns departing Northeast Ohio.

The new arrival is veteran Jordan Hicks, who signed a two-year contract valued at eight million dollars from the Minnesota Vikings.

Hicks will turn thirty-two before training camp and will be entering his tenth NFL season, four of those with Philadelphia where he played for Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz after being drafted by the Eagles in the third round in 2015, three with the Arizona Cardinals before his two most recent seasons with the Vikings.

Hicks started thirteen games for the Vikings last season, finishing with sixty-one solo tackles, a sack, and an interception.

Hicks hasn't played fewer than twelve games in the last six seasons, so he's durable and able to stay in the lineup.

Hicks knows what Jim Schwartz wants in a linebacker and while he's not an exciting playmaker like Jeremiah Owosu-Koramoah, Hicks is a solid, steady player that isn't all that different than either of the players that the Browns lost in free agency.

Cleveland lost Anthony Walker, who signed with the Dolphins, and Sione Takitaki, who was picked up by the Patriots.

Walker played three seasons for the Browns after being signed from Indianapolis and was loved by his teammates but I saw a player that rarely made big plays and in twelve games last season, Walker made only twenty-three solo tackles and just one for a loss.

Takitaki played five seasons in Cleveland after the Browns drafted him in the third round in 2019 from BYU.

Takitaki returned last season from a severe knee injury to play in fifteen games (seven starts) finishing with forty-five solo tackles, two sacks, and an interception last season.

Takitaki was also helpful on special teams, so the Browns will be looking through free agency, draft, or undrafted free agency for a linebacker who can cover on special teams.

Is Jordan Hicks a big upgrade over Anthony Walker or Sione Takitaki? 

Probably not but he's a mild upgrade over either.

Back later with the Browns other moves that saw them lose a key special teams player and re-sign two key members of the defensive line. 

Monday, March 11, 2024

Cleaning Out the Inbox

     The cleaning of this week's inbox starts with a familiar theme here at TRS- The ownership of Bob Nutting and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Athletic writes about the Nutting regime and the Pirates with their typical tightness and lack of player development over the last few seasons.

One person is quoted as being told in the past to wait one day before making a trade to save an extra $30,000, a pittance in today's game, and how former GM Neal Huntington was forced to take money out of his major league salary budget to pay for upgrades to the team spring training facilities in Bradenton.

It also mentions that with the constant analytics wave in the game last season when cornerstone third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes struggled, he needed more faith in then-hitting coach Andy Haines. He worked with AA Altoona hitting instructor Jon Nunnally and improved his numbers dramatically.

Nunnally was then released by the Pirates in the off-season.

The Pirates' farm system has had its struggles, especially with questions about the top overall pick in 2020, Henry Davis, who has been questioned about his defensive ability to stay at catcher, and his bat at at a corner position after hitting .213 with seven homers in sixty-two games last season with Pittsburgh.

One source may have summed the Pirates under Nutting- "They are comfortable being mediocre".

The Athletic also writes of the recent run to the 5th (field of sixteen) round of England's FA Cup by Maidstone United, who play in the National League South, which is the sixth level of English football/soccer.

That is (for those of you who watched the FX series Welcome to Wrexham, one level below Wrexham's spot during the first two seasons of the series) almost at the level of semi-pro status.

Maidstone United upended four teams higher than their level including a win over Ipswich Town, a third-place team in the Championship league, which is the English equivalent to Triple-A baseball.

Maidstone's wins will add roughly 750,000 dollars (U.S) to their funding which will go a long way toward improving the club or their facilities. writes of the iconic CNN letters outside the former CNN Center in Atlanta being removed from the building's top and from ground level near the facility's entry.

CNN moved from the CNN Center back to the original home of the network a few miles away last year and the building has been sold, so the signs needed to be removed.

The sign was a tourist attraction and was often a stop for photos with the sign.

The worst thing about the Covid pandemic for me personally was the forced cancellation of a scheduled trip in which my room was reserved in CNN Center, ending plans to tour CNN Center and visit the college football hall of fame, which is located down the street. writes "The ups and downs of a small-town basketball star" which covers the life of Rick Mount, the all-time leading scorer at Purdue, and ABA player after leaving the Boilermakers.

Mount is from Lebanon, Indiana, where Mount's father, and Mount's son each starred at the local high school and Mount's post-professional career in the small town where he grew up with its pros and cons.

It's a very interesting read about what happens when the cheering stops and you are still living where you were the town hero.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Browns obtain Jerry Jeudy

      Andrew Berry decided to return to the scene of his greatest trade since taking charge of the Cleveland Browns by trading for a wide receiver with a team dealing with salary cap issues.

Amari Cooper worked out spectacularly and while Elijah Moore didn't make the impact that the Browns hoped for, Moore wasn't a total bust either, so it wasn't a surprise that Andrew Berry returned to the wide receiver trade well to bolster DeShaun Watson's weapons.

Berry and the Browns sent fifth and sixth-round picks to the Denver Broncos for wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, whom the Browns hope will provide the deep threat they have lacked since the days of Josh Gordon.

The Browns traded the fifth-rounder they acquired for Baker Mayfield from Carolina and their own sixth-rounder.

Cleveland still has their own fifth-rounder and still owns two sixth-rounders from Arizona and Baltimore.

Jeudy had been connected to the Browns by rumors before the in-season trading deadline but Denver decided to keep their 2020 first-rounder from Alabama and wait for the off-season before exploring a trade.

Jeudy caught 54 passes for 758 yards with two touchdowns last season and is under contract for the 2024 season at a cap hit of 12.99 million after Denver picked up his fifth-year option last spring.

The Browns are expected to attempt to re-work Jeudy's contract to help create cap room and commit him to more than a one-year rental.

Jeudy hasn't been the star that Denver and many expected after being drafted but he's been decent and in Cleveland, will be slotted as the number two receiver opposite Amari Cooper as the deep speed threat that the Browns have been missing for years.

Where this does affect the receivers is that one of the current roster is likely to be elsewhere, if not two.

Cedric Tillman and Elijah Moore will be the third and fourth receivers, and I bet the Browns use either their second or third-rounders on another pass catcher.

Assuming the Browns do that, that player makes the team, so unless the Browns decide to keep six receivers David Bell may be the player on the outside looking in.

Jerry Jeudy was a disappointment for Denver but if used as a deep threat in the offense and as the number two receiver, I believe he could be a successful player in Cleveland. 

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Joshua ends Ngonnou in two!

    Francis Ngannou proved a lot in his split decision loss to Tyson Fury last year but what he may have proven yesterday is that Fury either took him very lightly or the WBC champion is past his best days.

While we will wait to see that for sure in May with Fury's fight with Oleksandr Usyk coming then, Ngannou definitely proved that he is out of his league against a prepared and motivated top heavyweight as former champion Anthony Joshua knocked Ngannou down in the first and second before a right hand from hell ended the fight with a definite contender for knockout of the year.

Ngannou may given the fight of his life to an underprepared and fairly inactive Fury but he was no match for Joshua, who was fighting for the fourth time in a year and looked razor-sharp against a relative novice in the sport.

Ngannou was completely puzzled by Joshua's jab and had no options for getting inside on the taller Briton.

The Joshua dispatching of Ngannou likely ends Ngannou's boxing forays for the time being as he is likely to return to the MMA league where he is the heavyweight champion.

As for Joshua, he's clearly the world's third-best heavyweight and his increased activity has sharpened his skills.

In the co-feature, Joseph Parker won a minor title and more importantly, will move into the WBO mandatory contender position by majority decision over Zhilei Zhang.

Zhang scored both knockdowns in the fight in the third and eighth rounds but was reluctant to follow up and gave away the final four rounds by refusing to throw punches allowing Parker to peck away to pile up points.

The fight was far from thrilling but there will be a rematch as contractually stipulated should Parker earn the victory.

The judges' scores for Parker were 115-111 114-112 (same as mine) and even at 113-113.

Before Anthony Joshua's win, the fighter of the night may have Israil Madrimov, who annihilated Magomed Kurbanov in stopping him in five rounds to win the vacant WBA junior middleweight title.

I picked Kurbanov, who had the better wins and competition, and Madrimov had been out of the ring for eighteen months, which made me lean towards the upset.

Madrimov couldn't miss with his left hand and he dominated every aspect of the fight and while the stoppage may have been a bit early, it was a matter of time before the fight ended as Madrimov was that dominant.

Madrimov needs to fight more often and be seen more but he has the talent to be a future star.

I haven't had time to watch Rey Vargas retaining his WBC featherweight title over Nick Ball. 
Ball scored knockdowns in the eighth and eleventh rounds with the cards reading 114-113 for Vargas, 116-110 for Ball, and even at 113.

Ball was expected to face WBA champion Raymond Ford, if he had won, on the Matchroom vs Queensbury card later this year but Ford was on social media with the comment saying he thought Ball won, and he is still willing to fight Ball on that card.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 29 Pts(2)
Ramon Malpica: 28 Pts (1)
Vince Samano: 15 Pts (0)

Friday, March 8, 2024

Devils revamp Goalie room- For now.

    The Achilles heel for the disappointing season of the New Jersey Devils has been their goaltending and while those problems haven't been solved immediately or even at all, at least the team is trying something.

The second of the two trades for netminders saw the Devils send Vitek Vanecek and their 2024 seventh-round draft pick to the San Jose Sharks for Kaapo Kahkonen.

The twenty-seven-old Kahkonen has also had his problems this season with a GAA of 3.81 and a save percentage of .895 for the Sharks.

Now keep in mind that the Sharks are terrible and even worse defensively, so Kahkonen faced a lot of rubber every night with very little defensive help available to him so that has a huge chunk of the blame for the one goal per game increase in GAA since Kahkonen left Minnesota three years ago.

I suppose the numbers could be excused by the Sharks' ineptitude and Kahkonen will be a free agent at the end of the year, so look at it as a month-long get-to-know-you session for the cost of a seventh-round pick.

Vitek Vanecek was in the middle of a dreadful season, which was unfair to a degree as the team and fans may have expected too much after a solid 2022-23 season.

Vanecek's 23-24 season doesn't look much different from Kahkonen's (3.18 GAA, .890 save percentage) but Vanecek is a year older, the Devils would have been on the hook for another year of Vanecek's contract, and those stats on a team better than San Jose show the Devils aren't giving up much for their look-see at Kahkoken.

While obtaining Kaapo Kahkoken doesn't solve the problem, his statistics in Minnesota were strong, and perhaps at 27 with a more talented team around him, perhaps there is a little bit of hope for the Devils here.

And if not, they moved a contract away by trading Vitek Vanecek.

The trade that seems to make little sense to me (at the cost) is the trade with Montreal for veteran Jake Allen.

Allen is under contract for next season, cost a third-rounder in 2025 that has the stipulation that IF Allen plays forty or more games next season AND the team that has Allen (covering Montreal in the event of a trade) next season makes the playoffs, the third-rounder becomes a second-rounder.

Montreal will pay half of his salary, so that's something but this seems like a lot for a thirty-three-year-old player with a 3.65 GAA and a .892 save percentage (numbers very similar to Vanecek, who I couldn't wait to get rid of).

I suppose it's possible the Devils could try to land a better goalie in the off-season and move Allen, or even keep Allen as a number two option for a while to see how things progress next season but I'm not excited for the time being.

New Jersey finished the day with the trade of defenseman Colin Miller to Winnipeg for a fourth-round pick in 2026.

The thirty-one yeat old Miller has four goals and four assists this season for New Jersey as a steadying influence defensively and is the type of player that always seems to be coveted by playoff contenders.

2026 is a while away but a very fair return.

I'd say this was a pretty average day for Tom Fitzgerald.

I like the Kaapo Kahkoken trade and the Miller trade was a fair return.

I'm not so crazy about the Jake Allen trade and while the Tyler Toffoli trade wasn't a poor deal, I think the Devils might have done a little better had they drained the deadline a bit.

Overall, going by the letter grade system, I'll say C for now with the potential for a higher grade with good play from either new goalie.