Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Cleaning out the Inbox

   The cleaning of the inbox is a bit overdue and we start with a note from Denise Nicarry, who informed me that Fruit Stripe gum is being discontinued after a sixty-four-year tenure.

Fruit Stripe and its iconic zebra mascot date back to 1960 and its parent company Beech-Nut Gum, with its striped stick with flavor that would give the chewer a few-second blast of strong flavor before almost completely disappearing.

After that jolt, Fruit Stripe was just another chewing gum but for those few seconds, it was Nirvana for the chewing gum user.

The recent retirement of Nick Saban from Alabama saw several articles on the man who has a case for the greatest college football coach in history but I found this one interesting from ESPN.

There are fewer coach shows than there used to be and even fewer that will allow callers to call and speak with the coach himself.

This article looks at the show, Saban's personality and willingness to do the show, and his number one caller who always starts the show with questions about the offensive line.

Space.com writes of the twentieth anniversary of the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landing on Mars on two different dates in January 2004.

The pair were supposed to be able to work for three months on Martian soil but lasted years longer with Spirit lasting until 2010 and Opportunity an amazing fifteen years before losing contact in 2019.

The rovers made numerous discoveries during their Martian excursion including finding the first meteorite on another planet and proving that Mara at one time did possess water.

Omaha.com writes of the history of their now-demolished racetrack Ak-Sar-Ben (Nebraska spelled backward) and the final resting place of their namesake racehorse.

Omaha won the Triple Crown in 1935 and had been buried at Ak-Sa-Ben in 1959.

The monument marking the spot of his grave was moved in 1974 to expand the grandstand but the remains were not moved and when the track was razed, no one actually knew where Omaha was buried.

The article thinks they have figured out the answer and shows the monument to Omaha where it stands near the campus of Nebraska-Omaha.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Munguia stops Ryder in Nine!

      Jaime Munguia looked very strong as he overpowered John Ryder in nine rounds in Phoenix, Arizona in their super middleweight bout.

Munguia scored knockdowns in the second and fourth rounds and appeared to be very close to ending the fight far earlier than expected.

Ryder did manage a minor rally in the following rounds and I gave him the sixth along with the seventh rounds before losing the eighth.

Munguia stormed out in round nine, dropping Ryder twice before the Englishman's corner tossed in the towel midway through the round.

It was the most complete outing for Munguia in years as he demolished an opponent that lasted all twelve rounds in his previous outing, Canelo Alvarez with Munguia predictably calling for Canelo after the win.

While I would much prefer Munguia as the next opponent for Canelo rather than the rumored Jermall Charlo, I'd still prefer David Benavidez as the top challenger to Alvarez.

Benavidez vs Munguia might be the best action fight that could be made in the division but that's unlikely with Benavidez being promoted by PBC and Munguia with Golden Boy, two promoters that rarely work together, which is also why I'm dubious of Mungia vs Canelo Alvarez.

Plus you have to wonder if Canelo would be willing to work with his former promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, who promotes Munguia.

Munguia can only reserve the slot held by Canelo in May if I'm still determining what can be done with Munguia for his next fight, assuming it's against good competition.

A rematch of his 2023 slobber knocker with Sergey Dereyvanchenko would make some sense but Dereyvanchenko has yet to fight since then, so he may not be available.

A DAZN battle with Edgar Berlanga (Matchroom promoted) would be exciting for as long as it would last but Berlanga's team hasn't seemed especially interested in such a pairing.

Another Matchroom fighter in the division seems to be the real deal in Diego Pacheco but Pacheco would be making a large leap in competition and he might not be ready for Munguia currently.

Munguia is rated first and Pacheco second by the WBO in their ratings, so there could be a slim possibility of making that fight happen.

That's all the plausible opponents that I can see happening or that would be strong fights for Munguia soon, anyone else would be seen as a comedown.

As for Ryder, he's likely to try to get his career back on track with a fight or two in Great Britain, which he'll have to win to have any type of a future as a contender.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 12 Pts (1)
Ramon Malpica: 11 Pts (1)
Vince Samano: 4 Pts (0)  


 It's time for the conference title games and the trip to Las Vegas!

Last Week: 3-1
Overall: 181-95

AFC Title
Chiefs over Ravens 27-23

NFC Title
49ers over Lions 31-24

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Boxing Challenge

  Only one fight on tap for the boxing challenge this weekend but it's an important one in the super middleweight division from Phoenix and DAZN.

Unbeaten former WBO junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia faces former title challenger John Ryder in a twelve-rounder that style-wise should be entertaining. 

Munguia won a close unanimous decision in a fight of the year contender over Sergey Dereyvanchenko last June in his most recent appearance while Ryder was last seen losing in a title attempt by unanimous decision to Canelo Alvarez last May.

Neither fighter is difficult to hit and I think there should be many entertaining exchanges during the fight but Munguia could make this an easy fight should he decide to use his height and reach advantage.

Munguia is unlikely to use those physical pluses and is more likely to try to overpower the smaller Ryder, who has been stopped only once in his six career losses.

On paper, Ryder seems to be tailor-made for Munguia but so did Dereyvanchenko and that turned out to be a barnburner. 

Boxing Challenge

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds 
Jaime Munguia vs John Ryder
Ramon Malpica & TRS: Munguia Unanimous Decision
Vince Samano: Ryder Split Decision

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Overhand Right

   It's been a long time since an edition of the Overhand Right, so here's a chance to offer a few opinions on boxing outside of fight results.

I thought Mikaela Mayer did enough to nose out Natasha Jones in their women's welterweight title fight and while it was close on my card (96-94), I thought Mayer was the clear winner as most of the rounds were decisively won by one side or the other.

I wrote about the surprising decision loss by Artem Dalakian of his WBA flyweight title to Seigo Yuri Akui and how I thought Dalakian's style of moving away hurt him as judges prefer aggressive fighters.

Sooner or later, most fighters that use this style eventually lose a fight that they deserve to win due to this factor, and Dalakian proved the rule.

Fighters like Dalakian usually make dull fights and it's not always accompanied by outrage when they lose but that still doesn't make it right.

All too often in these style matchups, the aggressive fighter receives undeserved points from judges for "coming forward" or "trying to make the fight", which isn't part of the judging criteria.

The commentators for the fight (Crystina Poncher and ladies' flyweight champion Seniesa Estrada) seemed as puzzled as I had been when hearing of the decision. However, there were observers on the net who had the fight closer than I did.

While talking about Poncher and Estrada, I found their observations of the card from Osaka to be quite interesting.

Pomcher has always been a favorite of mine as an underrated blow-by-blow voice that I hope to see given higher-profile fights for ESPN/Top Rank cards. Still, the revelation was Estrada, who offered several intriguing points during the Kenshiro Teraji-Carlos Canizales main event battle.

Estrada's best point was about Teraji's directional movement, as the champion refused to move away from Canizales's power and instead moved right into the challenger's shots.

Estrada's statement proved true later in the fight when Teraji changed things up and began to get hit far less by the challenger.

Hoping to see and hear more in the future from Poncher and Estrada as a team at the announcer's table.

I see Teofimo Lopez continues to call out Terence Crawford for a mega-fight and while I'm not sure that it happens because Lopez isn't quite the PPV draw quite yet that the WBO junior welterweight champion thinks that he is, I am still interested in that pairing.

Lopez does tend to fight better in big fights than he does small ones as he showed in wins over Vasyl Lomachenko and Josh Taylor, his only loss to George Kambosos and a split decision win over Sandor Martin that many including myself thought he lost.

Lopez doesn't have the physical disadvantages that you would think he would either against Crawford, so it's not a mismatch in stature, and skill-wise Lopez can be competitive.

However, Crawford is in a different league, in my opinion, and I'm not sure of Lopez's promotional status with Top Rank after his title defense next month against Jamaine Ortiz.

Crawford has a lawsuit pending against Top Rank and is unlikely to deal with TR should Lopez remain bound to them.

PBC announced the top two fights on their first PPV with Amazon in March.

I'm not thrilled with the main event with WBO junior middleweight champion Tim Tszyu defending against former WBA and WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman.

Tszyu has been an active contender and now champion, having fought three times in 2023.

The same can't be said of Thurman, who hasn't fought since a ho-hum decision win over Mario Barrios in February 2022, and his most recent fight before Barros was his loss to Manny Pacquiao in July 2019.

When you add that Thurman has never fought at 154 pounds and his 1-1 record in the last five years, it's easy to see Thurman as undeserving of this title opportunity.

The co-feature will have Rollie Romero, he of the questionable win over Ismael Barroso, defending against Isaac Cruz, who moves up from lightweight for the title chance.

While I don't have a problem with Cruz, the fight should be Romero-Barroso II, especially now that Barroso knocked out Ohara Davies in one round to grab the WBA interim title that was granted with Romero out with back issues.

WBA middleweight champion Erislandy Lara will defend his title for the first time against Michael Zerafa of Australia.

Lara, who has fought very soft competition in his four bouts since his 2019 draw with Brian Castano, was promoted to full champion last year when Gennady Golovkin vacated the title but hasn't fought at all since his May 2022 win over journeyman Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan.

Zerafa has lost against his best opponents Peter Quillin, Jeff Horn, and Kell Brook, and doesn't seem deserving of his status but neither does Lara really, so that says a lot for a sadly weak 160-pound division. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Teraji wins thriller

  The Tuesday broadcast from Osaka, Japan by ESPN+ was well worth the early rise with an excellent fight with a not-so-exciting bout with a questionable ending at the top of the card.

In the main event, Kenshiro Teraji kept his WBA and WBC light flyweight titles by a hairline majority decision over a very strong Carlos Canizales in a fight that will be in consideration for fight of the year around this time next year.

Both fighters scored knockdowns, Teraji's in the second round, Canizales in the third with Teraji's the more serious of the two.

Teraji had a slight edge in most of the rounds but Canizales often used the tactic of rallying late in rounds to attempt to sway the judges in close rounds.

Teraji gave away the final two rounds on my card but still had enough to win on my card 114-112 which was the same of two judges with the dissenting vote at 113-113.

An excellent fight and one that deserves a rematch should Teraji be unable to reach a bigger fight.

The co-feature saw an upset as Seigo Yuri Akui took the WBA flyweight title from long-time champion Artem Dalakian by a disputed unanimous decision.

The fight was very dull with Dalakian constantly moving away with Akui coming forward but mostly ineffectively.

I thought Dalakian clearly won but I've always thought that sooner or later, boxers that fight off the back foot eventually will get screwed on the scorecards because judges simply don't like the appearance of avoiding engagement.

Scores were 116-112, 117-111, and a shocking 119-109 card for Akui.

I thought Dalakian won at 116-112 and deserves a rematch, although it likely will not be any more exciting than this one.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 11 Pts (1)
Ramon Malpica: 10 Pts (1)
Vince Samano: 4 Pts (2) 

What might have been: Hoist The Flag

     When you follow sports, part of having fun with sports is remembering events and athletes, talking about who was better than whom, and learning about the history of the sports of interest. 

However, in every sport, there are stories of what might have been due to various reasons, events, or injuries.

And as time goes by with fewer and fewer remembering those athletes, their tales can sometimes be forgotten.

Which brings us to Hoist The Flag.

The 1970 Juvenile champion, Hoist The Flag was never defeated on the track and even though he would never achieve greatness on the track, he would show his courage and toughness in a manner that allowed future injured equine stars a fighting chance at life.

As a two-year-old, Hoist The Flag won five of his six starts, including the Cowdin Stakes, and in his only defeat in the 1970 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, Hoist The Flag won going away but was placed last due to interference in the early portion of the race.

Hoist The Flag was assigned 126 pounds by the Jockey Club's Experimental Free Handicap, which the Jockey Club rates two-year-old horses by weight (the higher weights are assigned to the best horses) for a mythical race among two-year-olds at a one-mile and a sixteenth distance.

After Hoist The Flag suffered sore shins, he was sent to winter in South Carolina.

As Hoist The Flag was traveling north to New York where he would be based for the season, trainer Sidney Watters decided to stop in Bowie, Maryland for an allowance race to make his season debut against competition that would not test him too much in his first start.

During the six furlongs, he wasn't tested a bit as he eased to a fifteen-length victory as the road to New York and the "winter Triple Crown" at Aqueduct Race Track awaited.

The three-race prep series for the Kentucky Derby started with the seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes, moved to the one-mile Gotham before ending with the Wood Memorial at a mile and an eighth.

Hoist The Flag burnished his credentials with a destructive performance in the Bay Shore, winning by seven lengths in a track and stakes record 1:21, a world record for a three-year-old running at the seven-furlong distance.

Hoist The Flag was the winter book favorite to win the Kentucky Derby and only improved his odds after the Bay Shore win.

The Bay Shore would be the final race that Hoist The Flag would ever run.

On March 30, 1971, Hoist The Flag was finishing a training session of five furlongs under his regular jockey (but not his regular training rider) Jean Crugret, when Cruguet felt a jolt under him with Hoist The Flag breaking his right hind leg, yet his momentum continuing to carry him another half-furlong causing further injury.

Hoist The Flag had suffered a broken cannon bone and a shattered long pastern bone and his life was in danger.

The equine insurance company had authorized the veterinarian who was handling Hoist The Flag to humanely destroy him. Still, the colt's owner Jane Clark authorized permission for doctors to attempt to save the colt provided that he did not suffer.

Surgeons would take a bone graft from Hoist The Flag, use screws and metal plates around the break to add strength and security, and create the first fiberglass cast to place around the leg to hopefully allow healing and blood flow to the damaged leg.

Lack of blood flow is often the fatal part in leg injuries as the blood doesn't flow to the damaged area and eventually causes the horse to be unable to stand, which in the equine world is the end of the line as there is nothing that the doctors can then do to help.

Hoist The Flag's temperament would be the most important part of his recovery as other injured horses would later discover that some horses simply would not tolerate the cast on their leg, and thrash around to remove it, which would cause more damage and force the horse to be euthanized, most famously with the 1975 injury to the filly Ruffian after her match race with 1975 Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure.

Hoist The Flag's patience and tolerance allowed him to deal with the cast without damaging the cast or his leg, which helped the healing process enough that months later, Hoist The Flag was able to be transported to his new home, Claiborne Farm in Kentucky.

It wouldn't be until 1973 that Hoist The Flag would start to breed mares, which meant his first crop wouldn't hit the racetrack as a two-year-old until 1976.  

Hoist The Flag would be active at stud for only eight seasons before another leg injury forced him to succumb and be humanely destroyed in 1980.

Hoist The Flag sired Alleged, the 1977 European Horse of the Year and two-time winner of the Arc De Triomphe, and Sensational, the 1976 champion two-year-old filly in his first crop and he would later sire Linkage, who won several stakes and finished second in the 1982 Preakness.

Hoist The King, who set a record for a yearling colt in 1979, selling for 1.6 million was the progeny of Hoist The Flag but Hoist The King was a disappointment as a racehorse as he never broke his maiden in nine races and only twice finished in the money.

It was as a broodmare sire that Hoist The Flag made his mark as daughters of Hoist The Flag bearing such stars as multiple grade one winner's Broad Brush and Cryptoclearance, Breeders Cup Distaff winner and three-year-old filly champion Sacahuista, and arguably the great female racehorse ever in Personal Ensign, who was never defeated in thirteen starts with maybe the dramatic win in Breeders Cup history, her come from behind win to conclude her career in the 1988 Distaff over a sloppy track that she hated to nail 1988 Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors at the wire.

So what might have been had Hoist The Flag not taken that bad step in 1971?

One never knows but Hoist The Flag was bred to last longer distances as a son of Tom Rolfe (Tom Rolfe won the 1965 Preakness, and lost by a neck in the Belmont) and I'd think that he would not have had an issue at a mile and a quarter in the Kentucky Derby.

The mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes would have been anyone's guess but I'd say his chances wouldn't have been worse than any other horse in the race, if not better than most by his breeding.

Jean Cruguet was the regular ride of Hoist The Flag and 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and Cruguet, who had nothing to gain by stating this, was quoted as believing that Hoist The Flag was the superior racehorse to Seattle Slew.

If you project greatness, that certainly removes the mania from the 1971 Triple Crown from the Caracas Cannonball Canonero II, who would win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

If Hoist The Flag won the Triple Crown, it would have been Hoist The Flag as the first horse to win the Crown since Citation's 1948 Triple Crown and not Secretariat, so does that take away a little from Secretariat's achievement and mainstream media attention as a "Superhorse"?

It certainly affected the attention from Seattle Slew and Affirmed's win in 1977 and 78, coming so close to Secretariat's Crown run, so it makes sense that Secretariat would have received less than Hoist The Flag.

And for Secretariat vs Hoist The Flag, it's unlikely considering the value at stud even then for a Triple Crown winner that Hoist The Flag would have still been running at age five in 1973 but nor impossible that he could have still been racing, especially if something would have been at stake such as an all-time money winning racehorse, so there could have been a slim chance that a late fall matchup, likely in New York where the trainers of both horses (Sidney Watters for Hoist The Flag and Lucien Laurin for Secretariat) housed their stables, in either the Woodward Stakes or the Jockey Club Gold Cup could have happened.

What might have been is a series that will dwell on speculation and not on answers, and I hope that when I do these readers enjoy them.

For a far more detailed article on Hoist The Flag and one that was very valuable to me in writing this post read "The Will To Win, The Fight To Survive" from Past The Wire.com. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing challenge moves to an early Tuesday morning from Japan with two world title tilts.

The main event pits WBA and WBC junior flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji against challenger Carlos Canizales.

Teraji dominated former champion Hekkie Budler in September, stopping the South African in nine rounds in the second defense of his unified titles.

Canizales, a former WBA minor titleholder, has won four straight since his only loss, a sixth round loss to Esteban Bermudez in 2021.

A Teraji win would again place him in contention for a twice-postponed unification bout with WBO champion Jonathan Gonzalez.

The co-feature also is a title fight as the WBA flyweight champion Artem Dalakian makes his Groundhog Day appearance in a defense against his mandatory challenger Seigo Yuri Akui.

Dalakian will be defending his belt for the sixth time but was very fortunate last January to win a unanimous decision over David Jimenez in a fight that I thought should have been given to Jimenez.

Akui has fought two former world champions, losing to Junto Nakatani in six rounds, but stopping Masamichi Yabuki in one, the same Yabuki that handed Kenshiro Teraji his only career defeat.

Boxing Challenge

WBA/WBC Light Flyweight Titles. 12 Rds
Kenshiro Teraji vs Carlos Canizales
Ramon Malpica: Teraji KO 8
TRS: Teraji KO 10
Vince Samano: Canizales Unanimous Decision

WBA Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Artem Dalakian vs Seigo Yuri Akui
R.L and TRS: Dalakian Unanimous Decision
V.S: Akui Unanimous Decision 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Caleb Downs transfers to Ohio State

    I don't often write about Ohio State recruiting or even transfers (although I did write about Will Howard's arrival and Kyle McCord's departure), but the announcement of Caleb Downs deciding to leave Alabama and selecting Ohio State is well worth the exception.

Ohio State had badly desired Downs for the recruiting class of 2023 and was regarded as the runner-up to Alabama for the safety of Hoschton, Georgia.

The Buckeyes would not be denied this time as they nosed out Georgia for the services of the player that most thought was the defensive freshman of the year nationally, won the SEC freshman of the year, and was named first-team All-SEC, an impressive feat as a freshman.

Downs has no weaknesses as he is a firm tackler, and plays the run well, and yet Downs is excellent in coverage with punt return ability, as Downs showed for the Crimson Tide against Tennessee when he returned a punt eighty-five yards for a score.

Downs finished last season with seventy solo tackles, a forced fumble, and two interceptions as the force on the Alabama defense.

At six foot and 203 pounds, Downs comes from a football family with his father Gary Downs with a pro history as a running back for three teams, his uncle Dre Bly spent eleven years in the NFL as a corner, and his brother Josh is currently with the Indianapolis Colts as a wide receiver, catching sixty-eight passes as a rookie this season.

Downs will pair with returning strong safety Lathon Ransom to give Ohio State the best pairing in the nation with the chance of both players making first-team All-American next season. 

The ball skills and tackling of Caleb Downs are yet another addition to an Ohio State defense that looks to be the best in the nation for 2024 and adds another tool to the belt of Ryan Day as he enters a year in which he will have plenty of advantages- and plenty at stake should he not take advantage of them. 

Friday, January 19, 2024


 It's my favorite NFL weekend of the year with four games that should be all good ones to trim the field down to four next Sunday.

Last Week: 3-3 
Season: 178-94

Ravens over Texans 34-21
Bills over Chiefs 38-35
49ers over Packers 31-21
Lions over Buccaneers 30-17

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

   The 2024 year has barely started and it's already time to pay our respects to a few people that have left us.

Goodbye to Frank Ryan at the age of 87.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection , Frank Ryan remains the last quarterback to lead the Cleveland Browns to a World Championship as Ryan directed the Browns to an upset 27-0 win over the then-Baltimore Colts in 1964.

Never known for a strong throwing arm, Ryan suffered a shoulder injury in 1966 that would eventually change his throwing motion and cause his career to decline but led the Browns to the title game in 1965, where they lost to Green Bay and threw twenty-nine touchdowns in 1966 before the injury.

Arguably the most intelligent player in the NFL's history, Ryan's life outside of football may have been more interesting than his career in the game.

Ryan was a forerunner in computer development, held multiple degrees, taught mathematics at Rice (his alma mater) and Yale, and served as President and on boards of directors for many corporations.

Goodbye to David Soul at the age of 80.

Best known for his role as "Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson" in the 1970s cop drama "Starsky and Hutch",  Soul also was a star in "Here Come The Brides" in the later sixties and as the lead for the television mini-series "Salem's Lot", which was one of the first projects to reach television or film from author Stephen King.

Soul also had a number-one single during the peak of Starsky and Hutch with the love ballad "Don't Give Up On Us Baby" in 1977.

Goodbye to Tracy Torme at the age of 64.

The son of singer Mel Torme, Tracy Torme was a television producer and screenwriter with award nominations for "Fire in the Sky", and consulted on "Contact", the Jodie Foster award winner.

Torme worked for both SCTV and Saturday Night Live before being one of two creators of the 1990s television show Sliders, which for my money was one of the most creative programs ever during the first two seasons of its five-season run.

The show's decline paralleled Torme's departure from the series and I thought it never recovered from the loss of Torme as the show's premises changed from Torme's concept.

Goodbye to Norm Snead at the age of 84.

The vagabond passer played for five teams in the sixties and seventies after being the second overall pick in the 1961 NFL draft by Washington before being swapped for Sonny Jurgensen to the Eagles in 1964.

Snead had been named to two Pro Bowls in his three seasons in Washington and the Eagles were thought to have won the trade at the time while history shows that not to be the case, Snead wasn't awful for the Eagles (and others), Snead was interception-prone throughout his career on some mediocre teams, as Snead was the first quarterback to lose one hundred games.

Snead may be the only quarterback to be involved in two trades for Hall of Fame quarterbacks as Sbead was one of many pieces included in the trade that returned Fran Tarkenton to the Vikings from the New York Giants before the 1972 season.

Goodbye to Tom Shales at the age of 79.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning television critic for the Washington Post from 1977-2010, Shales also wrote four books including oral histories of Saturday Night Live and ESPN with James Miller of the Post.

Shales won his Pulitzer in 1988 for his coverage of the Robert Bork Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Boxing Challenge: Beterbiev barrels over Smith

     Artur Beterbiev was expected to have a difficult evening defending his WBC, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight championships against former WBA super middleweight champion Callum Smith in Quebec City with even more at stake than his three belts.

It wasn't as the usually slow-starting Beterbiev aggressively bullied Smith from the beginning of the fight and never stopped in delivering a punishing attack that left Smith swollen and bruised around both eyes and knocking him down for the first time in his career with Smith hitting the mat twice in the seventh round before Smith's trainer Buddy McGirt entering the ring to surrender for his fighter honorably.

Smith did have some success hitting Beterbiev but the punches didn't have any effect and they could not slow the attack of the thirty-nine-year-old Russian native, now a Canadian citizen.

Beterbiev looked terrific in grinding the gallant Smith down. The win should see the long-hoped-for unification fight between Beterbiev and WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in the summer in Saudi Arabia.

The Beterbiev-Bivol fight is so intriguing because you can make a legitimate case for Betebiev breaking Bivol down or Bivol brilliantly outboxing Beterbiev for twelve rounds.

Super middleweight contender, Christian Mbilli battered Rohan Murdock before Murdock's corner stopped the fight after round six.

Murdock gave all he had and tried bravely but took the full arsenal of the varied offense of Mbilli and took far too much punishment than he deserved.

Mbilli looks to be ready for the best in the division and I'd give him a live chance against any of the top fighters at 168, which includes Canelo Alvarez and David Benavidez.

The best fight of the night saw Jason Moloney retain his WBO bantamweight title with a hard-fought majority decision over Saul Sanchez.

The fight was a bit marred by several clashes of heads on the inside, cutting Moloney in the early rounds and leaving both men bloody by the end of the fight, with several strong battles in the trenches.

Several close rounds could go to either fighter, so my score of 115-113 for Sanchez was the outlier on the cards of 114-114 and 116-112 x2 for Moloney.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 10 Pts (5) 
Ramon Malpica: 9 Pts (5)
Vince Samano: 2 Pts (1) 

Sunday, January 14, 2024

No Defense in Houston-Browns hammered in playoffs

    The Cleveland Browns were favored to come into Houston to defeat the Texans based on their swaggering bullying defense and the surprising play of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco.

Instead, those two parts of the team were major factors in an implosion that saw Cleveland on the downside of a devastating 45-14 defeat to the Texans and their young quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Joe Flacco finished with 307 passing yards with a touchdown pass along with two interceptions.

Kareem Hunt scored both the Browns touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving in the defeat.

Brownie Bits

1) This one goes on the supposedly "best of all-time" defense and not because they allowed forty-five points as fourteen of the Houston total is on the Browns offense.

2) Why? Look at the vaunted pass rush, which not only didn't sack C.J. Stroud, they seldom pressured him.

Some of that is because of the quick release of Stroud but the Texans' offensive line more than did their job in keeping Stroud from any harassment from the Browns.

3) Myles Garrett is a possible defensive player of the year but was outplayed by tackle Laremy Tunsil in the game that mattered most as Tunsil handled Garrett's pass rush.

Garrett finished with two solo tackles and an assist and more importantly, never hit C.J. Stroud.

4) Perhaps Tunsil has success against Garrett because he is familiar with him (both players played in the SEC), and because Tunsil has that experience blocking Garrett along with being a fine tackle himself, Garrett lacks the intimidation factor that he has against so many blockers.

5) The only Cleveland defender who made any impact in the game was Jeremiah Owosu-Koramoah, who finished with eight solo tackles, four of those for a loss of yardage.

Owosu-Koramoah was the best player on the defense in the latter part of this season and I'm looking forward to his development next season.

6) As bad as the loss could have been, Houston could have put the game away by halftime had they made two plays.

Tight end Dalton Schultz dropped a pass that would have been a huge gain, and C.J. Stroud overthrew Nico Collins on a pattern that he would have easily scored, so this could have been even more lopsided.

7) The Browns pass defense was battered all day with the Texans targeting Greg Newsome all game long.

Houston took advantage of Newsome and almost seemed to look to throw to the player that he (or Ronnie Hickman) was near and threw to that receiver.

8) The Browns had success hitting David Njoku, who was the one player that the Texans didn't have an answer for.

Njoku caught seven passes for ninety-three yards, including a forty-five-yard throw, and when you consider Harrison Bryant's forty-seven-yard reception, the Browns might have been smart to throw to the tight ends even more often.

Njoku and Bryant combined for eleven catches and one hundred fifty-eight yards.

9) The back breakers for Cleveland were the two interceptions of Joe Flacco that the Texans returned for touchdowns.

On the first throw, I can't blame Flacco too much as he was trying to throw the ball away and he was hit as he threw but on the other throw, Flacco was at full fault.

Flacco's numbers look fine but his statistics belie the interceptions that gave the Browns no chance to recover.

10) Kevin Stefanski is getting some criticism and I don't feel much of it is justified.

Other than the decision to allow the final forty-five seconds to roll off the first half and not even try to move downfield for a field goal attempt, I didn't see much to blame Stefanski for in the loss.

11) Houston had been broiled by Amari Cooper in their first meeting with Cleveland and they weren't about to allow that to happen again.

Cooper caught four of five passes but the longest was for only nineteen yards.

12) This game showed that the Browns got away with turnovers all season (Cleveland turned the ball over more than anyone in the NFL) and when you play good teams, they will make you pay for turning the ball over.

13) I'm not sure that the Browns are guaranteed to improve next season.

Cleveland won a lot of games this season that in past seasons didn't go their way and when you have a team that receives break after break during one season, they often will regress during the next season.

14) Should the Browns expect to contend, they will have to add one, if not two receivers for next season.

I like Cedric Tillman and David Bell but neither is ready to be a second wide receiver, Elijah Moore can be helpful but he's not quite as he was advertised and that's assuming the cap space can be provided to pay Amari Cooper for 2024 over twenty million dollars.

The Browns would have done well to pay DeAndre Hopkins, who finished with over 1,000 yards for a mediocre Tennessee team when they had the opportunity before the season and hopefully, Andrew Berry will realize that keeping Amari Cooper along with a solid second wideout isn't a luxury- it is a must.

15) This season has been a fun one for the fans of the Browns.

The Joe Flacco story was an amazing ride and the dodging of losses gave the team a shine that they haven't had in years.

Despite the loss, as disappointed as I am, it was still a good season.

I think this was a winnable game and that bothers me far more than a round two loss would have.

Now it's on the offseason and how a team can possibly improve themselves with the salary issues in place, it will be a very interesting one.  

Saturday, January 13, 2024


  The college season is history with the new champions proving that crime does occasionally pay but it's all about the pro game now as the playoffs begin Saturday afternoon!

Last Week: 4-1 
Season: 175-91


Browns over Texans 24-20
Bills over Steelers 27-13
Chiefs over Dolphins 37-28

Cowboys over Packers 28-21
Lions over Rams 34-24
Eagles over Buccaneers 31-15

Boxing Challenge

     The boxing weekend centers around Quebec City, Canada as the Top Rank/ESPN slate will have a main event that not only pits a pound-for-pound standout against a former unified champion but is the final step towards a fight dreamed for years by boxing's followers.

Artur Beterbiev, who holds three of the four championships (WBC, IBF, WBO) in the light heavyweight division, will face former WBA and World Boxing Super Series super middleweight champion Callum Smith in a mandated defense by the WBC. 

This fight was scheduled for last July but was postponed when Beterbiev needed to undergo surgery on his jaw after a bone infection.

Beterbiev last fought last January, when he stopped the WBO's top-ranked contender, Anthony Yarde, in the eighth round with Beterbiev slightly behind on the scorecards.

Beterbiev has stopped every opponent that he has faced but Smith is sturdy, going the distance in his only loss to Canelo Alvarez in 2020.

Smith has fought only twice since the Alvarez loss stopping Lenin Griffin and Matheiu Bauderlique in one-sided drubbings that proved nothing about Smith's abilities at 175 pounds.

The winner is expected to face WBA champion Dmitry Bivol later this year in a full unification of the division.

Super middleweight contender Christian Mbilli is the co-main event featured player as he takes on Australian Rohan Murdock in a ten-rounder.

The talented Mbilli is the type of fighter that no champion will want to face until they are forced to and as a result, everything we think about Mbilli is a projection not a certainty since he's yet to face an elite fighter.

Murdock has suffered only two losses but one was via eleventh-round knockout to the best fighter that he has faced, Zack Parker.

Jason Moloney defends his WBO bantamweight title for the first time against Saul Sanchez.

Moloney won the title vacated by Naoya Inoue last May, winning a majority decision over Vincent Astrolabio.

Both of Sanchez's losses were split decision defeats but the former product of the now-defunct Thompson Boxing program is taking a dip into world-class opposition for the first time.

Boxing Challenge

WBC/IBF/WBO Light Heavyweight Titles. 12 Rds 
Artur Beterbiev vs Callum Smith
Ramon Malpica; Beterbiev KO 5
TRS; Beterbiev KO 10
Vince Samano: Smith KO 6

Super Middleweights. 10 Rds
Christian Mbilli vs Rohan Murdock
R.L: Mbilli KO 9
TRS: Mbilli KO 7
V.S: Mbilli Unanimous Decision

WBO Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Jason Moloney vs Saul Sanchez
R.L and TRS: Moloney Unanimous Decision
V.S: Sanchez KO 10  

Monday, January 8, 2024

Browns finish season in Cincinnati, lose 31-14

    The Cleveland Browns had locked their playoff spot up and their seeding position was set in place entering their visit to Cincinnati on the final Sunday of the regular season.

The Browns sat as many of their key players as they possibly could and started a quarterback that had never dressed for the team in Jeff Driskel, so the result was a predictable 31-14 loss to the Bengals with the Browns allowing the first thirty-one points of the game before two fourth-quarter touchdowns allowed Cleveland to avoid the shutout.

Jeff Driskel threw two touchdown passes to David Bell along with two interceptions with Bell leading the receivers with four catches for sixty-eight yards.

Cleveland finished the season 11-6 and will travel to Houston on Saturday afternoon as the first game of the postseason.

Brownie Bits

1) I know I've been critical of teams in the past that benched their top players before the playoffs.

I'm not this time and not because it's the Browns in this case.

Cleveland had clinched their spot and seeding and Cincinnati had been mathematically eliminated before the game, so under those conditions, I'm okay with the decision.

2) I'm going to admit that I didn't watch this game as closely as usual.

I've been ill this weekend and considering the non-stakes in the game, I watched the first half and watched the rest later.

3) Cleveland hoped to avoid injuries but even when playing as many reserves as possible, players can get hurt that are contributors.

Shelby Harris suffered a shin injury but Kevin Stefanski said Harris will be "ok', Cedric Tillman left with a head injury and Pierre Strong had a back issue.

No word on their status on Saturday.

4) The win by the Bengals allowed them to finish 9-8 and give every team in the AFC North a record above .500.

The last time that happened? 

1935, when Franklin Roosevelt was in the first of his four terms as President.

5) Jeff Driskel didn't set the world on fire but one couldn't expect that from a player that had been a Brown for nine days.

I understand why Dorian Thompson-Robinson wasn't played, although the snaps would have been good for him but this shows just how little Kevin Stefanski wanted to play P.J. Walker.

Driskel allowed the Browns to get through a game that meant little without damaging the quarterback position so mission accomplished.

6) I was pleased to see David Bell grab the two late-game scores.

I've always liked Bell as a 4th/possession receiver and for one reason or another, Bell hasn't seen the field as much as I would have thought.

7) Perhaps Bell will play more against Houston with the uncertain status of Cedric Tillman.

Tillman has been coming along with his increased playing time since the Browns traded Donovan Peoples-Jones, so his absence would be a loss.

8) I'm not hanging too much weight on the Browns win on Christmas Eve over the Texans.

That was a Houston team without C.J. Stroud, who will be available for the Texans this time, and DeMeco Ryans, a defensive coach, has to be telling his team about the embarrassment of allowing so many yards to Amari Cooper in that game.

Cleveland may win but it's going to be a different team in this visit to Houston than the one three weeks ago.

Boxing Challenge: Tony Weeks Strikes Again

   The star of Saturday night's kickoff to the boxing year wasn't either victor of the two featured bouts. Still, referee Tony Weeks stepped up to draw attention to himself and why it could be time for Weeks to consider retiring from officiating.

In the Las Vegas main event from Golden Boy, Vergil Ortiz returned for the first time in over a year and stopped Fredrick Lawson in the first round.

Lawson isn't known for a stern chin and with Ortiz coming off a long layoff, one could easily see Ortiz scoring an easy stoppage but not this easy.

Ortiz was scoring with some punches and Lawson did buckle off the first right hand but Ortiz didn't seem to have Lawson in major trouble when Weeks stepped in.

Lawson was selected to make Ortiz look good and this didn't change the result but he was never given a chance thanks to Tony Weeks, who should be thinking about giving the game up if his recent work becomes a pattern of stopping fights too soon.

Ortiz called out WBO champion Tim Tszyu and Ortiz's promoter Oscar De La Hoya claimed that they would even travel to Australia for the encounter.

I think that is a very interesting fight and would be all for that deal to be signed.

Tony Weeks had a presence in the co-main event due to his past work.

Veteran Ismael Barroso was dominating Rolando Romero last year in a fight for the vacant WBA junior lightweight title when an ineffective Romero flurry caused Tony Weeks to step in and stop the fight, giving Romero the title, and the lesser connected Barroso the shaft that is still being talked about months later.

Romero has not fought since due to injury and in the rare case that I approve of an interim title coming into play, Barroso faced England's Ohara Davies, who looked impressive last year in a win over countryman Lewis Ritson to qualify for the title attempt.

Barroso would receive some justice as he floored Davies twice in the first round with right hands before the fight was stopped with the ringside doctor on the apron with Davies standing but in severe distress.

It's easy to feel good for Barroso, who was on his way to a win against Rolando Romero, at the age of 41, and the win over Davies should either earn him a rematch against Romero for the full title or he could be even given the full title should Romero vacate it to fight Ryan Garcia for a larger payday.

After all, if you are going to cash in, cash in for as much as you can.

Golden Boy also unveiled another junior welterweight for the first time under their banner as Arnold Barboza, formerly of Top Rank, dominated Xolisani Ndongeni, winning every round before Ndongeni's corner ended the fight after round eight.

Barboza might be a contender caught in the middle between as not valuable enough to draw a big payday for the best of the division but too risky to fight in an optional defense.

Boxing Challenge 

TRS: 5 Pts
Ramon Malpica: 4 Pts
Vince Samano: 1 Pt

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Boxing Challenge

   Not feeling well, so a just the facts version of boxing challenge

Vergil Ortiz Jr. vs. Fredrick Lawson, 12 rounds, junior  Middleweights

Ramon Malpica: ORTIZ KO 7 
TRS: Ortiz KO 3
Vince Samano: Lawson Unanimous Decision

Ohara Davies vs. Ismael Barroso, 12 rounds, for vacant WBA interim junior welterweight title R.L; DAVIES KO 10

TRS: Davies Unanimous Decision

Vince Samano: Barroso Unanimous Decision

Arnold Barboza Jr. vs. Xolisani Ndongeni, 10 rounds, junior welterweights 


TRS: Barboza KO 8

V.S: Ndongeni Unanimous Decision


Last Week: 11-3
Overall: 171-90

College National Championship
Washington over Michigan 24-17

Bengals over Browns 20-14
Chiefs over Chargers 31-27

Games of the Week
Bills over Dolphins 41-30
Texans over Colts 27-24  

Ohio State lands Will Howard

    With concerns about the quarterbacking situation at Ohio State, Ryan Day had to have some questions about dipping into the transfer pool before the Cotton Bowl.

After Devin Brown's ankle injury early in the game, the worries became larger and forced Day into making a decision for 2024 that could cost the Buckeyes both Devin Brown and potentially Lincoln Kienholz.

The decision to add transfer quarterback Will Howard, late of Kansas State, may have been one that Day didn't want to make but it was one that he had to make.

The 6'5 242 pound Howard threw for over 2,600 yards last season with 24 touchdowns against ten interceptions, completing sixty-one percent of his tosses for the Wildcats.

Howard also ran for 351 yards with nine rushing scores, so Howard is far more mobile than last year's starter Kyle McCord but he's not perfect with a tendency to force the ball into coverage.

I'm seeing some snarkiness that Howard is similar to Kyle McCord but I'm not buying that.

Howard is far more mobile and able to avoid rushers in the pocket than McCord but isn't quite as smooth as a passer in the pocket as Howard is better on the run  or with a moving pocket.

Ohio State had to make a move here mainly because they don't know what they have in Devin Brown, due to his injuries and lack of playing time.

Give Brown credit as he is indicating that he won't be transferring and will fight for the job in the spring and in training camp.

Should Brown win the job, Howard gives the Buckeyes a veteran arm in the event that Brown would be injured, and should Howard emerge with the starting spot, it buys a year for incoming freshman Air Noland to develop slowly.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Cleaning out the Inbox

    The cleaning of the inbox is overdue, so we'll start the new year by pulling everything out of the inbox to start fresh.

WTOP.com celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Capital Centre, the former home of the Washington Bullets, Washington Capitals, and Georgetown Hoyas, along with title defenses by Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, professional wrestling, ACC basketball tournaments, and many other events as well from 1973-2002.

The Capital Centre was the first arena of its era to have a closed circuit television feed on its scoreboard that could be seen from each side of the arena as well and was among the first of the move to the suburbs by teams for new stadiums/arenas.

The Capital Centre was closed with the teams moving to the new downtown arena in 2002 and now things are starting to swing back to the suburbs with the Wizards/Capitals announcing plans for a future arena in Alexandria, Virginia.

ESPN writes of the plans for the third leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, to be moved to Saratoga Race Course for 2024 and possibly 2025.

Belmont Park is undergoing major renovations to the country's only one and a half miles course and Saratoga is a natural site to host the Belmont, although the mile-and-a-half classic will be shortened to a mile-and-a-quarter due to the configuration of Saratoga.

I've thought for years that the answer to the power hitters in golf making classic golf courses obsolete due to distance was to change the golf ball itself.

Slow-pitch softball has used two different types of balls for decades, the "blue dot" made as a normal softball, while the "red dot" is a restricted flight ball that doesn't leap off the bat for the stronger hitters and I've been a proponent of golf doing the same with their ball, rather than changing the length of courses that changes some of the history and charm as well as the costs involved.

The Athletic writes of the pros and cons of the move which will begin in 2028 for the professionals and 2030 for the rest of the golf-playing world.

The Athletic also writes of the troubles with the once-proud Louisville Cardinals basketball program under second-year coach Kenny Payne.

The former Cardinal star returned home to turn the Cardinals around but finished 4-28 last season and started 5-8 this season to date amid players leaving the program, struggling attendance, and questions about the program's future under Payne.

Problems in the Atlantic League just before Hagerstown opens their new stadium next season.

The problem isn't the league as much as one franchise, the Gastonia Honey Hunters, who have been ordered to vacate their home stadium and have their franchise revoked from the league.

The Honey Hunters have left a trail of unpaid bills to the Atlantic League and the city of Gastonia for use of the stadium that the city built for them.

The stadium opened in 2021 and the Atlantic League has announced their intentions to field a Gastonia team in the league in 2024, although I'm not sure if they will be the Honey Hunters or under a new nickname as I'm not sure if the owners of the team or the league owns the trademarks to the name and intellectual property such as logos etc. 

We wrap with The Athletic's story of how Tino Livramento left the Chelsea academy to move to Southampton before his eventual move to Newcastle last summer.

It's an interesting piece on how young players progress through a sports system that doesn't use either college or a minor league system like in the United States.

Livramento is one of the few Newcastle that is playing very well during a poor run of play from the Magpies.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Happy New Year

  A quick Happy New Year to anyone reading this and I hope it's a good one for you and yours.

2023 was not a great year for me, and I'm glad to bury most of it in the rearview mirror!

Enjoy the holiday and may your teams and interests prosper in the new year!