Monday, December 14, 2015

More than just the latest of the greatest to fall

This past Saturday night the eyes of the combat sports world, including my own, were on the biggest fight of the weekend. That’s when Conor McGregor knocked out former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Aldo was considered the pound for pound top MMA fighter in the world and had not lost a fight in over 10 years. However in the fight game there is one fact and that is if you hang around long enough, someone always has your number.

That fact holds true for arguably the greatest fighter that has ever lived and clearly the greatest fighter I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. His name is Roy Jones, Jr. (62-9, 45 KO’s) and he too fought this past Saturday, yet nobody knew, including me. That’s because although I knew Roy had fattened up his record the last four years with an eight fight win streak against relative club fighters, I figured his previous fight in September 2014 was his last.

Who wouldn’t figure that? He’s 46 years old, already had a legendary career and these days, the only time anyone saw him near a ring it was as an analyst for HBO Boxing. However, part of what made Roy Jones so great is also what is slowly, but surely hurting him and his legacy. Roy Jones, Jr. always walked to the beat of his own drum and sadly that walk is starting to skip beats.

This past Saturday night, Jones got knocked out brutally in the fourth round against former cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli (41-7, 33 KO’s) in Moscow, Russia of all places. That is because he cannot get medically sanctioned to fight in the U.S. Video of this brutal KO has spread like wildfire on the Internet and for me to see it hurt me. That is because we are talking about one of the all-time greatest to ever lace up gloves in the ring, looking like a shell of his former self. That video is also what compelled me to write this piece.

There is a generation today that does not even know who Roy Jones, Jr. is, let alone was. For them, they think Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is the greatest to ever do it, and all respect due to Floyd, he is one of them. However, regardless of what Floyd tells you or what you may think, I’m here to let you know that Floyd in his prime and on his best day couldn’t hold a candle to Roy Jones, Jr. in his prime.

For those that think that I am saying a lot, it’s not; believe me. Roy Jones, Jr. was that nice! Let’s understand what I am talking about here. I’m talking about the perfect combination of speed, power, defense and ring generalship I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. If you actually think Floyd Mayweather is fast, he would’ve gotten hit with a five-punch combination from Roy Jones, Jr. in his prime before he could react. Think about that for a second.

Some may think I’m over hyping Roy Jones, but once again, I’m not talking about Jones today or even the last 10 years. I’m talking about the undisputed greatest fighter of a decade, the ‘90’s, and a multi-division champion that won titles from middleweight to heavyweight. Yes, Jones went from 160 lbs. all the way up to win a heavyweight title against a legit heavyweight in John Ruiz.

Ultimately that move would be the beginning of the end as well because after winning that heavyweight title, he had to shed all that weight to come back to 175 lbs, and defend his light heavyweight title.  He did so successfully in his first fight against Antonio ‘Magic Man’ Tarver, however it was barely by a majority decision. So when Tarver demanded a rematch and knocked Jones out cold in the second round, it was not only a shock, but nobody really knew what the ramifications of that move to heavyweight had done to him.

However, we should have known when the same thing happened four months later against Glen Johnson. Jones went from being unbeatable and untouchable, to getting knocked unconscious in two successive fights within four months.

That was back in 2004 and that should’ve signaled the end then, but Jones fought on. 18 more times to be exact compiling a record of 13-5 over the last 11 years. That may be okay for some, but for arguably the greatest boxer that ever lived, it’s sad, especially considering the competition. In those five losses, he’s also experienced three other vicious knockouts that have left him unconscious face first in the ring.

As a fan, I can only hope he never fights again. He’s actually really good as a boxing analyst on HBO and has a great chemistry with that broadcast team along with Max Kellerman and Jim Lampley. Yet more importantly, I want people that know to remember and people that don’t to recognize, Roy Jones, Jr. is not just the greatest to the latest to fall, he was and still is the greatest fighter I’ve ever seen in the squared circle.

Friday, October 16, 2015

From the Amazins to now, my love for the Mets has come full circle

With The New York Mets currently in the playoffs, fresh off their Division Series win against The Los Angeles Dodgers; a feeling I have not had in a long time has resurfaced. One of joy of course, but more importantly I feel like a kid again. That's because my love affair with my beloved NY Mets goes back almost as far as they do.

Although we have a lot in common, as we were both born in New York in the same year, 1962, I can't honestly say I've loved them all along. Truth is told I wasn't even a baseball fan until 1970. However,when I did become a fan, the Mets were my team of choice; primarily because they were the team of choice by just about everyone in my Bushwick, Brooklyn neighborhood back then. That was a good and bad thing looking back on it now.

Born out of necessity due to the departure of both The New York Giants and The Brooklyn Dodgers to California, from 1962-68 the Mets were a pitiful laughing stock of rag tag/has been players that could only be loved by their loyal fans. Even in 1969 the year of the "Miracle Mets," it wasn't until a late season miraculous run that they made the playoffs. However, miraculous is exactly what that run came to be as they defeated two mighty teams en route to their first ever world championship.

First they took on and beat the powerful Atlanta Braves in the National League playoffs, which were stocked with heavy hitters such as Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews. Then they went on to defeat a heavily favored Baltimore Orioles team also with heavy hitters such as Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell, but also a powerful pitching staff led by Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar. Little did I know at the time, while the Mets position players were considered also rans, their pitching staff was considered up and coming.

I say little did I know, not because of my age, I was six at the time, but because I had no interest. I always tell the story how in '69 when the Mets were in the world series, I came home from school and first grade looking forward to watching 'Popeye' at 3 PM on TV. We had one black & white television at the time and when I walked in my mom, who knows nothing about baseball, had the Mets on channel 9. That's because so did everyone else in the neighborhood.

When I attempted to change the TV my mom quickly stopped me and told me she was watching the Mets. Stunned and more importantly upset, I began to cry about missing Popeye. However, that would all change within a year. Once the Mets won the series and I saw the reaction of the neighborhood, I too got caught up in the excitement. Plus, I was hitting that age where baseball cards were beginning to replace "toys" as I was growing from a baby boy, to a boy.

That up and coming staff was comprised of future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and a rookie at the time who would also become a Hall of Famer named Nolan Ryan. That nucleus of three star pitchers would be the secret recipe to the Mets future successes as it is what catapulted them to the World Series again in 1973, my favorite Mets team to this day. Talk about a bunch of nobodies, this team made the '69 team look like all-stars.

The supposed big dawg on that team, our clean up hitter, was a chubby right fielder named Rusty Staub. Other no names such as John 'The Hammer' Milner, Felix Millan, Bud Harrelson and my favorite Met Wayne Garrett comprised the infield and a 42 year old shell of himself Willie Mays was in centerfield. However, we still had that pitching; Seaver and Koosman were still intact, only now Ryan was gone and replaced by a long lanky lefty named Jon Matlack.

This team of rag tags defeated the legendary 'Big Red Machine' in five games and took the mighty Oakland A's, World Champions from '72-'74, to the brink of defeat as they lost in seven games. As a 10-year old, who knew everything about and every player on this team, I cried. What a difference four years makes, crying for Popeye, but now the Mets. Nonetheless, I remained a fan through some very long lean years in the '70's and early '80's.

Then in '86, 13 years later, it happened again. This time I was a 23-year old newlywed still in love with my adoring Mets. Only now, unlike their previous two World Series appearances, this team was not the underdog, but rather the Big Bad Wolf. With stars such as Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, the Mets were stacked. Add to that the old recipe of three star pitchers Dwight 'Doc' Gooden, Ron Darling and David Cone and the outcome was inevitable, albeit with a little help from Boston bad luck as well; sorry Bill Buckner, but thank you.

Three series appearances and two world championships in less than 25 years, times were good; or so I thought. It would be 14 years before they'd make the World Series again, this time in a first ever Subway Series against cross-town rival NY Yankees. All I'll say about that is, I still believe if Mike Piazza cracks Roger Clemens over the head with the same broken bat Clemens threw at him while going to first base, the series outcome may have been different. I feel Piazza not retaliating set the tone for the series, which the Mets lost in five games.

Six years later, they were one game from going back to the World Series and I just knew it was destined once Endy Chavez made an over the fence game saving catch in the sixth inning. However, Chavez's effort and my so called destiny did not anticipate that supposed "franchise" player Carlos Beltran would go down looking like a statue as he took a called third strike to end the game with the bases loaded. 'Nuff said!

It's been tough being a Mets fan since, however in the last two years glimpses of light have been seen; most notably in the names Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. Two young stud pitchers with back to back stellar years, you could see that recipe coming together once again, all we needed was that third starter; enter in Noah Syndergaard AKA Thor to the Met faithful.

Outside of this talented trio the only real star position player is Yohan Cespedes, who can be seen as this team's Rusty Staub or Darryl Strawberry. The rest of this team is comprised of solid, but far from star talent, though Daniel Murphy is breaking out in a big way this postseason. David Wright, the beloved captain, is past his prime but still in the mix and a veteran like Curtis Granderson meshes nicely with a young homegrown talent such as Wilmer Flores.

Yes this 2015 team is eerily similar to the teams from '69 and '73 that captured the hearts of Met fans all over, including mine. In the process this team, with their dramatic defeat of the Dodgers in the division series, are doing the same. They have rekindled a fire within myself and Met fans that has been waiting to be lit for a long time. Hopefully this ride will continue as from the Amazins to now, my love for the Mets has come full circle. Lets go Mets!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mares vs. Santa Cruz = Reincarnation: I've seen this fight before

On Saturday night in Los Angeles, California undefeated featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KO's) won a unanimous decision over former multi-division world champion Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KO's) in what may very well have been the fight of the year. The two cross town rivals promised they would meet each other in the center of the ring and not back down and they held true to their word. In the end, it was Santa Cruz's height, reach and punch output that would prove the difference.

However, while this may have been the first go round between these two former sparring partners, I've actually seen this fight before, a few times to be exact. Mexico has a long, storied and proud boxing tradition, especially when it comes to the lighter weight classes. So every so often, it is inevitable that such a large country produces two fighters at the same time that mirror each other's careers and are just made for each other. While there are probably others before my time, here are just a few that I actually witnessed and remember fondly.

In 1974 before they were champions, boxing legends Bobby Chacon and Danny 'Little Red' Lopez met each other in an eerily similar meeting of LA cross-town rivals at the rise of their careers; Chacon was (23-1) and Lopez was (23-0) at the time. Live on network television, these two Mexican American warriors, put on an epic nine round classic that saw Chacon eventually stop Lopez. The two would go on to Hall of Fame careers, while never meeting again. 

The year 1977 saw two of Mexico's favorite sons Carlos Zarate and Alfonso Zamora meet as undefeated world bantamweight champions at the Forum in Inglewood, California in a title unification bout. What transpired were four rounds of fury before Zarate stopped Zamora via TKO in the fourth. I remember vividly being a 14 year old sophomore in high school and watching it live on the Spanish network channel on my mom's old living room floor model black & white TV; classic!

Then in the early '90's a couple of light flyweight champions named Michael 'Manitas de Piedras' (Little Hands of Stone) Carbajal and Humberto 'Chiquita' Gonzalez met with only one loss between them to unify their titles. The result were three legendary fights within a year from October '93 - November '94, which resulted in Gonzalez winning two out of three, both of his wins by decision. Carbajal stopped Gonzalez in their first meeting via a seventh round knockout. All three fights were great!

A few years later in 1997 it was another meeting of cross-town rivals, this time from Albuquerque, New Mexico. They met as world champions, super flyweight, with only one loss between them; their names were Danny Romero and Johnny 'Mi Vida Loca' Tapia. I remember HBO televised the fight and just like Saturday night's Mares/Santa Cruz tilt, I could not wait. Also just like Mares/Santa Cruz they delivered too, a twelve round back and forth affair that saw Tapia winning a unanimous decision. 

However, if their were ever two Mexican fighters that were made for each other, it was Erik 'El Terrible' Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. In February 2000, they met for the first of their four-year trilogy, in what I still consider one of the greatest fights I've ever seen. At the time they were both world super bantamweight champions with only two losses between them and the chemistry the two had against each other in the ring was magical. Morales won this first of three decisions, but would go on to lose the next two. It clearly stands alongside the other true iconic trilogies in boxing. 

Only time will tell if Mares and Santa Cruz will meet again. When asked in his post fight interview what would be next, Santa Cruz graciously said he'd be open to giving Mares a rematch if he wanted it; Mares being the fighter he is of course said he is open to it. Whether they do or not, their legacy has already been cemented in the historic tradition that has been laid out before them when two young Mexican warriors are pitted against one another at the peak of their careers. Viva Mejico! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dana White: Man of a Thousand Faces

Wow, I cannot believe I never noticed it before, but UFC President Dana White has an uncanny resemblance to Hugo 'Man of a Thousand Faces'. For those unfamiliar with Hugo, he was a popular toy in the '70's that could be transformed into different characters via disguises. Very similar to a Mr. Potato Head, which also seems to fit Dana these days.
Back in 2009 I had a different view of Dana White, that was because of a personal experience I had and witnessed with the man. In November 2009, I was in Las Vegas visiting my friends from MMA Junkie Radio Gorgeous George and Goze Garcia. This just happened to be the week prior to UFC 106. At the time I had no plans to attend the event, I was just planning to watch it with GG and Goze on TV; then it all happened.

Leading up to the event, GG and Goze had planned a couple of prime time night shows. Surprisingly on the Thursday before the Saturday night UFC, they were able to schedule Dana White to appear in studio for an interview. Dana in the meantime had tweeted about his appearance on the show and had also tweeted that he was going to be handing out free tickets to UFC 106 while there.

Suffice it to say the Mandalay Race & Sports Book where the show broadcasts from was packed; nearly 300 people showed up. One to catch a glimpse of Dana, but mainly to get their hands on some free tickets. At the time it was on my bucket list to attend a live UFC in Las Vegas. While I had seen it live in Atlantic City before, the energy of a live event in Vegas is what I wanted to experience; thus I waited outside the studio as well. However, when I saw how many people were there, I never thought I'd get a chance at some tickets; then it happened again!

Amidst the large crowd, I happened to be standing at the right place at just the right time. As I'm standing there wondering, which way Dana is coming from, someone slaps me on the back of my shoulders with their hands and says, "Boy you muthaf****s really came out for these tickets." Yes, to my surprise and luck, Dana came and just happened to make contact with me first before anyone else. Then another stroke of luck happened.

I just happened to be a wearing a MMAJunkie Radio shirt; so I told Dana I was with the show and would escort him into the studio. Dana told everyone to see his security man about the tickets. I immediately told his guy I was taking Dana inside the studio, so can I have my tickets first; he gladly obliged and thus I had four free tickets to UFC 106 in hand as can be seen in this pic I took with Dana outside the studio.

However, that isn't necessarily why Dana White was suddenly Mr. Nice Guy in my books; it was what I witnessed afterwards that gave me a positive opinion of the man. After sitting in the studio for over an hour, taking and answering all questions, he came outside the studio, where all those nearly 300 people had waited in the hopes of taking a picture or getting an autograph. Not only did he oblige, but also told everyone, "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere" and stood there for over two hours and took every pic and signed every autograph.

Mind you this is the President of the UFC two nights before a big event. I'm sure he had things to do, but at the time he realized his fans were his most important commodity. This was six years ago; a lot has changed in that time including in my opinion of Dana White. The man who was the primary reason for saving the UFC and bringing it from obscurity to mainstream, is also the man that is slowly destroying the product he created and not realizing it.

In the last six years the UFC has gone global, signed a major TV deal with Fox and most recently inked a deal with Reebok that would make them the official sportswear of the UFC. In doing so, the brand has grown immensely in popularity and Zuffa, the ownership of the UFC of which White has a 10% piece, is flourishing. However, as the late great Biggie Smalls once said, "Mo money, mo problems."

There have been many issues in the recent past including performance enhancing drugs and legal issues with fighters I can point to, but there are three in the past week alone I want to elaborate on. First was a segment on HBO's Real Sports that discussed domestic violence in sports, primarily MMA. While the main focus of the story centered around the fighter known as 'War Machine', a former UFC veteran, and his infamous brutal attack on his then girlfriend last year, it was the facts pointed out that were most damaging.

They showed an interview White did with Fox Sports last year where he emphatically said, "Domestic violence is one thing the UFC will not tolerate and you will never come back from." Yet, they showed numerous fighters currently on the roster that the UFC has signed after multiple counts of domestic violence on their criminal record. Not a good look to say the least.

In the wake of this, in the same evening, the UFC made what many others and I consider a wrong move in so many ways, when they decided to fire legendary cutman Jacob 'Stitch' Duran. This was done solely because of comments he made about the Reebok deal when asked for his opinion by a reporter. Note, in the interview, Duran never said anything derogatory about the UFC, he just gave his opinion in terms of how the Reebok deal does not benefit him and the other cutmen on the roster. Duran was a UFC employee for 14 years, being one of the firsts hired by White when Zuffa took over the company.

That is why it is so strange and more importantly classless when White was asked live on Fox TV Saturday night about the backlash he has received in the wake of the 'Stitch' Duran firing. His response was, "Stitch Duran and I are not friends, we were work associates; we were never friends." Wow! Poignant and disturbing words from someone who has always preached loyalty and family when it comes to the UFC.

Yet the most disturbing thing of all this past week is regarding the backlash I referenced above. That has come from UFC fans from all over the world who personally questioned Dana along social media fronts, especially twitter, regarding the Duran debacle. White's response was to personally attack each and everyone who reached out to him, even going so far as to belittle some fans and telling others in not so many words, go f**k yourself, we don't need you anyway.

Yes, the same guy who six years ago cared enough about his fans to stand for more than two hours to make sure everyone left happy is now telling them we don't need you. Dana White continues to be the voice of the UFC and it's not only gotten me angry, it has me worried. It seems that every time he opens his mouth now, there's something negative and stupid coming out of it. I keep wondering when Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, primary owners of the UFC, will finally step in and do like most owners in others sports such as baseball and either silence or fire their GM's for such acts?

Till then, I can see Dana White slowly destroying all the strides he's made with this company, including the loyalty he's garnered from hardcore fans such as myself; boycotts have actually been established on-line. Sadly, while he eerily resembles Hugo 'Man of a Thousand Faces', I guess in the end he is more like Mr. Potato Head after all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's not what you're doing, it's who you're with

So as I traveled home Sunday from Vegas over 13 hours, which included three flights, two layovers and a delay, I was thinking about the incredible week I just had. It was a foggy blur because of all the things I did and the three hours of sleep I averaged due to the late nights and early mornings; as a matter of fact Sunday, since I had broke night Saturday, I was literally in a daze. Nonetheless one thing was clear; it was only a great week because of the people I was with.

For four years and five gatherings now, I've been trying to convey in words what can only be understood by those who are a part of it. The MMA Junkie Gathering has become more than just a few MMA fans getting together to watch fights. It is now basically an annual family get together with family members from all over the states and world enjoying a week filled with events and surprises all planned by the family patriarch Goze. Of course his brother Gorgeous George gets credit as well, but even he gets surprised by Goze as he was more than once this week with the Mandalay Bay marquee and 2000th show video.

I've been lucky enough to be a part of all five Junkie Gatherings and every year I've been getting there earlier. Two years ago I flew in on Wednesday; the five days flew by so fast it was not enough. So last year I flew in on Tuesday; once again it went by too fast, so I figured this year Monday night should satisfy me. It did, because by the time Saturday night came, I was ready to come home, but the week itself was a blur!

No way to sum up all we did in a few paragraphs, but here goes. Monday night I show up at the studio lounge and to my surprise found a pretty large contingent of Junkies already in the house. Hugs from vets like Gali from Toronto, Blue from North Carolina; Hauie D from Austria and Lackey from San Francisco etc. would have been enough. However, there were already rookies in the house like Gabe from LA, the stand-up comedian who doesn't talk, and no that's not part of his act. LOL... And Billy from Texas who will now be known as 'Eddie Mush' for the crazy long shot parlay he talked a bunch of us into betting on.

So Monday night we went to a Pub on the strip, which supposedly has beers from around the world, but none on their menu. Ask Gabe and Gali, they were just as confused as I was. Tuesday brought more gluttony and debauchery with a trip to Buldogis for eats and Banger Brewery for drinks. Wednesday was awesome with our trip to Bishop Gorman for Ricky Lundell's camp featuring Frank Mir and Travis Browne (pictured above) and then laughs Wednesday night with Adam Hunter and a surprise comic, our very own Bad Mo Jack from Seattle.

Thursday brought more joy and laughter with the 'Silent Library' game at Tough Prints featuring UFC Fighters Lorenz Larkin, Tom Lawlor, Pat Barry and Rose Namajunas. (This pic below was taken outside Tough Prints) Then onto amateur tryouts @ Xtreme Couture and The Beatles 'Love' show with Pat and Rose again along with Tyron Woodley and Dominique Robinson. That night was capped by the hospitality suite @ Mandalay Bay where the star was Deane from Georgia who earned his rookie of the year title by tending bar and doing so much more all night. BTW, I'm not ashamed to say that Goze's surprise speech for GG and his parents about the marquee almost brought me to tears. 

Friday of course was capped by the 2000th show and the appearance of not one, but two current champions in Demetrious Johnson and Joanna J; if you think I was going to try and spell her last name, drink another one. Where's Darius when you need him? Lunch at Texas de Brazil, was followed by the weigh-ins, for those that could get in, then either the Marilyn Manson/Smashing Pumpkins for some and the Joe Rogan show for others; I did the Rogan show.

Of course Saturday we were all together at Twin Peaks for the fights and the after party afterwards at Eye Candy and Franklins Bar @ Delano. Everything you just read is great, but it's the untold stories that make this thing so special. The ones that happen throughout the week that bring the laughter that last for years to come. Last year it was Pancakes, Blue in the closet and The Great Wallenda; sorry but you had to be there to understand.

This years stories will include grilled cheese that taste like "sauerkraut and sadness;" those that were in the car understand how truly funny that was. Another was Goze, Victoria and about eight other Junkies scaring the f**k out of me around 1:30 AM in my room after I had dozed off; let's just say Hal from Chicago and Nick from Vancouver will forever greet me from now own with "Get the f**k outta here!" Then there was Buffalo Blue literally breaking and shutting down the escalator at Planet Hollywood. How do you shut down an escalator?

Those are just a few of the stories that will be remembered from this year's gathering. However, none of it is possible or means anything if it isn't for the people involved. This Junkie family is something special and it keeps growing with more great people, This year's rookie class included the aforementioned Gabe, Billy and Deane, along with other cool peeps such as Lerone from Maryland by way of The Bronx, Rumundo AKA Showtime and Gustavo AKA Henry Cejudo. John Wilkes Boothe and Lady Wilkes Boothe, (thanks for the donuts), Damian AKA Anderson Silva from London and Sam 'The Chef' from Chicago to name but a few.

The vets included the aforementioned along with staples such as Mindra, Duane & Regina from OKC, what an unbelievable gesture with that shirt guy, Spider Rico, Munabear and Ray in ya Face, DJ Zoo and Steve AKA Lex Luther etc. The reappearance of some O.G.'s like The Big Jew and SB Mike along with a couple of surprise last minute appearances by Dick Barrymore & Jennifer Banuelos and John Romero AKA 'Fat Guy in a little coat'; even Playboy/Millionaire 'Devante' showed up at the after party for a minute. I don't know who saw him, but Kindra and I were privy; it was epic!

I'm sorry I could not mention everyone because they are all so worthy and part of what contributes to this thing of ours; this "Cosa Nostra" known as the annual Junkie Gathering. Everyone that is a part of this thing is truly as Lou Rawls once sang, "Groovy People;" Okay, I know I just made another old man reference, but f**k it, I am the resident old man Junkie. What I'm trying to say is that the people are what makes "it what it is" (sorry Goze), special! After four years and five of these I understand now it's not what you're doing, but rather who you're with that counts.

Special thanks to my little brother Goze for the stress he puts himself through to pull this thing off every year. I see it first hand, but we all appreciate it. 

Shout out to Mike AKA Northern Lights for always sacrificing his good time to capture ours through photos and videos. He gets credit for the photos above. 

Finally, thank you to all the fighters who come through to spend time with Junkie Nation, even when Goze asks them to do some crazy sh**; like wear a giant mouse head on your head and come out dancing or get doused all over by Coke and Mentos. The Junkie loyalty and karma they will get in return is huge!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Werdum ending Cain's reign was inevitable

On Saturday night, Fabricio Werdum did what many outside of myself thought he couldn't do. He went into Mexico and defeated Mexican American Cain Velasquez to win the undisputed UFC heavyweight championship. The surprise is that so many people didn't think it would or even could happen. Below I'll list five reasons why Werdum (20-5-1, 6 KO's 10 subs) ending Cain's reign was inevitable.

1.) Since a lackluster decision loss four years ago against Alistair Overeem in Strikeforce, Werdum is a changed man. Once considered one dimensional as a "Jiu-Jitsu" fighter, now Werdum is a complete fighter. His boxing is not just good, it has gotten exceptional and his Muay Thai has developed immensely under the tutelage of Master Rafael Cordeiro; even his wrestling has improved to accentuate his jiu-jitsu that much more. Six fights in the UFC and all wins with four finishes and two unanimous lopsided decisions.

2.) Inactivity due to injury is hard to overcome for any fighter. Sure Dominick Cruz came back after a nearly three year layoff to destroy Takeya Mizugaki in one minute, but that was an extraordinary exception by a man possessed. Velasquez (13-2, 11 KO's) was coming back from a nearly two year layoff due to multiple injuries and for a heavyweight, who are usually not prone to watching their weight when they're not fighting, inactivity spells disaster. Sure Cain was in shape, but how good a shape is another issue as he was gassing after two rounds.

3.) Ironically Velasquez's forte, which is wrestling, ended up being his kryptonite. Unwilling to want to go to the ground with Werdum due to his expertise at jiu-jitsu, Cain's game plan was limited from the start. Sure he has shown good boxing skills up to this point in his career, but Werdum's boxing has clearly gone to another level in the last three years; and it was evident as he tattooed Velasquez in the first two rounds standing. Thus, Cain's only possible chance was to keep his opponent pressed up against the cage, which he did so effectively in his two victories over Junior Dos Santos, but Werdum's Muay Thai nullified that strategy, something Dos Santos does not have.

4.) The long layoff I referenced earlier was only accentuated by Cain's inexperience. While he was dominant during his title reign, I believe he was unjustly being touted as possibly the greatest heavyweight of all-time. I mean think about it, since he won the title against Brock Lesnar, which made him only (9-0) at the time, he's only fought two different opponents before meeting Werdum; the aforementioned Dos Santos three times and Antonio Silva twice. Good fighters for sure, but not necessarily Hall of Famers. Let's keep it real, five fights against those two should never have put him on that "all-time pedestal" people had him on.

5.) Meanwhile, Werdum has faced off against those two along with a lineup of destroyers in his last 10 fights; including the legitimate greatest heavyweight of all-time Fedor Emelianenko who Werdum defeated. To be honest, considering Werdum's dominant wins over Fedor and now Cain he's worthier to be put on that all-time pedestal before Velasquez. If Dos Santos, who is ranked #2 right now is his next opponent, I fully expect him to not only avenge a previous KO loss seven years ago when he was one-dimensional, but to finish him as well.

Looking back on it objectively, it only made sense that Fabricio Werdum would defeat Cain Velasquez last night. The one thing going into the fight that had me weary was the fact that the fight was in Mexico. That 'Brown Pride' tattoo Cain wears across his chest runs deep and I thought that might be the one thing that would get Velasquez over the hump. Alas, Werdum ending Cain's reign was inevitable.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Khan's win leaves more questions than answers

On Friday night in Brooklyn's Barclay Center Amir 'King' Khan was supposed to solidify himself as the next obvious opponent for the true "King" of boxing Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. Yet, although Khan (pictured @ left) may have secured a victory, his win against native New Yorker Chris Algieri left more questions than answers when it comes to Khan (31-3, 19 KO's) as a viable challenge to Money May.

Sure at just 28 years old, Khan has a 10-year age advantage to Mayweather, now 38, and is going into his prime right now. However, I witnessed many flaws and holes in his game against Algieri, especially on defense, that could and will be exposed by a master like Floyd. Less we forget that those 10 years, though considered a negative in terms of age, are actually a positive when it comes to wisdom; say what you will about Floyd Mayweather, but nobody is smarter in the ring.

Khan appeared ready to make the statement he needed Friday night as he started out crisp and clearly superior in speed against the game Algieri. He pitched a shutout through the first three rounds, however the former 'Big Apple' champ showed glimpses he was there to win. Eventually those glimpses turned into moments as he began to connect regularly with overhand right leads to Khan's face. If Algieri had any punching power, he may have actually finished the favored Khan with one of those.

Algieri (20-2, 8 KO's) tried his best, as the slick boxer who used that skill nearly one year ago in the same arena to surprisingly win a world title against one-dimensional Ruslan Provodnikov, flipped his game and actually sat down on his punches. A perfect game plan devised by his new trainer John David Jackson, as Khan admitted afterwards that he got caught off guard; however the light punching Algieiri just couldn't pull it off.

In the middle rounds as Khan began to slow down a bit, besides the overhand right, Algieri began to land lead left hooks with regularity. Again, with no punching power to go along with them, they garnered him a round here and there, but that's about it. Luckily for Khan, he too has a wise man in his corner in Virgil Hunter.

Hunter, the no nonsense trainer who has guided undefeated super middleweight champion Andre Ward, not only realized what Algieri was doing, but more importantly knew that Algieri did not have the necessary power to pull it off. He yelled at Khan to stop going in and out, where he was getting caught, and instead told him to stay within punching range. This simple adjustment made all the difference in the world as Khan took control again in the latter half of the fight en route to a unanimous decision victory.

In his post fight interview, Khan stated he wants Mayweather, which of course everyone expected, but I'm not sure he sold everyone on the idea. The light punching and relatively world class inexperienced Algieri actually gave him problems. This was only Algieri's third fight on the world class stage, and although he's lost his last two in a row, he showed definite improvements since his lopsided loss to Manny Pacquiao. His union with Jackson as his trainer should only continue to make him better.

Khan meanwhile, a former Olympic Silver medalist and former world champion, who currently holds the WBC Silver welterweight title, whatever that is, though showing improvements as well under Hunter, still has deficiencies and a suspect chin. Floyd Mayweather is a major level change from Chris Algieri, the highest level to be exact. Mayweather, though not the biggest puncher either, would definitely throw more follow-up punches and eventually hurt Khan.

The one thing in Khan's favor is the age. At any point Father Time can swing his cane and Mayweather can get old in the ring overnight. However, though 38, he has not been prone to much punishment and never comes into a fight unprepared physically and mentally. Thus, barring that, I see Mayweather defeating Khan easily if they should meet later this year, especially after Khan's win left more questions than answers about his game.