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.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The champ is here; or is he?

For the first time in four years, the UFC has a light heavyweight champion not named Jon Jones. Daniel Cormier (16-1, 6 KO's 5 subs), who just four months ago lost in his bid to wrestle (no pun intended) the title away from Jones, made good on an unexpected golden opportunity when he defeated number one contender Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson (19-5, 13 KO's) on Saturday night.

With the now former champion Jones being stripped of his title after yet another legal matter, this time a hit and run traffic accident, Cormier (pictured above) was more than willing to step in on just three weeks notice and fight Johnson for the vacant championship. He did so in convincing fashion too as he withstood an early first round knockdown by Johnson, to get up and inevitably begin a ground and pound barrage against the former top contender who came in to the fight riding a nine fight win streak. The punishment eventually led to Cormier sinking in a rear naked choke submission in the third round for the victory.

Congratulations and all respect due to the new champion, who I happen to like very much, and since my personal disdain for Jones is publicly known, all the more better. However that said, I could not help but think to myself after Johnson, in a very classy move, strapped the belt around Cormier after the fight, "Does Cormier truly relish winning the title this way?"

I ask that question in no way as a slight to 'Rumble' Johnson or his skills as I thought and publicly stated going in to the fight he would win. I ask it rather on Cormier knowing he did not beat Jones in their meeting four months ago and Jones technically never losing the title in the cage. I feel I got the answer to my question immediately after the belt was strapped on and Joe Rogan interviewed the new champ.

Rogan came in and asked Cormier the obligatory, "How does it feel" question after winning the title. Cormier's response was to grab the microphone and tell Rogan he has only one thing to say; "Jon Jones, get your sh** together because I'm waiting for you." With that Cormier walked out of the cage to celebrate his reign as the new light-heavyweight champion.

I have mixed emotions about Cormier's statement. In one sense I say kudos to Cormier because it should be his only mission right now to truly establish himself as the champion considering he loss to Jones just four months ago. However, on another note I think to myself, he looks foolish saying it considering he loss to Jones just four moths ago. It appears Cormier now finds himself in a catch-22 situation.

He's won the championship he's coveted for so long and deservedly so, but do fans of the sport and even he himself look at him as such. I feel as though right now he's like Apollo Creed was in 'Rocky II'; he won the fight against Rocky in the first film, but he was not satisfied because he did not win the adulation. Thus, the reason he wants to face Jones again and actually needs to. Because till then wherever he goes he'll always be greeted as, "The champ is here; or is he?"

Monday, May 18, 2015

Don't be misled, boxing is far from dead

It's been 16 days since the supposed disappointment or let down of the fight of the century. I say supposed because while the fight surely did not live up to the massive hype, I also didn't expect anything less. However, the backlash the sport of boxing has taken since is totally unjust. More importantly though, those who claim boxing is dead are not just mistaken, they couldn't be more wrong.

Truth is right now boxing is better than it has been in quite sometime and as a hardcore fan, I haven't been this excited about boxing in a very long time. The reason is because for a while now it's been Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao that have kept the sport afloat. Thus, the question has been, where are the new stars that will keep this sport alive when they are done?

Well it took awhile, but the new stars are here and casual fans better recognize, there are more than a few out there; you just have to give them a chance. In the last two weeks since the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, there have been some exciting, even extraordinary bouts that have taken place; and if you missed them solely because you felt disappointed two weeks ago, you have done yourself a disservice.

At the top of the list of rising new stars of the sport stands the man pictured above, world middleweight (160 lbs.) champion Gennady 'GGG' Golovkin (33-0, 30 KO's). A magnificent combination of boxer and puncher, this native of Kazakhstan appears ready to take the mantle from Mayweather as the sports "Pound for Pound" King. Not only in the ring either as he's moved to the United States, learned the language and as this past weekend's performance in Southern California showed. has endeared himself to the U.S. fan base.

So much so, that when he was asked about a potential fight against rising Mexican star Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KO's) the partisan Mexican crowd did not boo Golovkin, but instead cheered. Alvarez, ranked number one in the world at 154 lbs., is another young beast ready to break out to the casual fan base. Already known to hard core fans, if you missed the three round war a week ago Saturday he had with James Kirkland, you missed an all-time classic. I am not overstating it when I say it was eerily similar to the 'Three rounds of Fury' fight between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns 30 years ago in April '85.

While Golovkin and Alvarez top the list, there are other talented young champions out there that are about to become household names. Champions such as last years recognized 'Fighter of the Year', WBO Super lightweight (140 lbs.) champion Terence Crawford (26-0, 18 KO's), world flyweight (112 lbs.) champion Roman Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KO's), light-heavyweight champion (175 lbs.) Sergey 'Krusher' Kovalev (27-0, 24 KO's) and Deontay Wilder (33-0, 32 KO's), the first American heavyweight champion in nearly 10 years. Other names include Andre Ward, Nicholas Walters and Mikey Garcia; all undefeated and all champions in their respective weight classes.

This of course does not even include the established stars in the sport that are still fighting at a championship level such as Miguel Cotto, Vladimir Klitschko, Timothy Bradley along with the aforementioned Mayweather and Pacquiao. Boxing is alive and thriving and one underachieving mega fight or what is being spewed from the uneducated masses should not be your barometer. Watch the fights and don't be misled, because boxing is far from dead.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Don't hate the player, hate the game

Before I begin, I always feel I need to state the following disclaimer whenever I write about Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and that is, for the record I am not a Mayweather fan. However, I am a fan of boxing.

Say whatever you want, "Mayweather ran the whole fight," "Pacquiao didn't fight his fight" or "the fight did not live up to the hype." When push comes to shove, Floyd 'Money' Mayweather, Jr. (48-0, 26 KO's) did exactly what he always does and Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KO's) did just the opposite, which is not fight the way he always does and that was the difference. What fans need to realize is that Mayweather had everything to do with that.

Going into this fight I told people two things; one was that Manny Pacquiao had a chance, if he were able to cut off the ring and pressure Mayweather against the ropes. Based on my scorecard (pictured above) written on a pizza restaurant menu, Manny Pacquiao was only able to do that in four rounds. The other thing I told everyone before the fight was that my heart was with Pacquiao, but my money was with Mayweather.

While I believed Pacquiao had a chance if he were able to do what I said, it was Mayweather who was able to implement his game, which regardless of what any casual fan wants to say is the true art of boxing. 'The Sweet Science' is not called such because it means to stand and trade toe to toe; it really means to hit and not be hit. That is the object of this game and Mayweather plays it to perfection.

Of course this is not the most pleasing style to the fans, but Mayweather for as much as he is hated for this, has never lied or misled anyone about how he fights. This is what he has done for 48 straight fights now and to think he was going to fight any different, especially when it has worked every single time to this point is ignorance on behalf of casual boxing fans.

I say casual fans because true knowledgeable fans would and should understand that there is no question about how two of the judges and I came up with a 116-112 score. People asked me last night, "How can Mayweather win a fight running?" It's simple, while he ran, he did punch from time to time, which is what he does, and did so effectively. Meanwhile, Pacquiao did chase, but did not punch effectively; when he was able to do so, he was given the rounds. Unfortunately for him, it only happened for one third of the fight.

Commentators and analysts calling the fight last night such as Al Bernstein and Max Kellerman pointed out during and after the fight that Pacquiao did not fight with the same punch output as he normally does. Even during his post fight interview with Pacquiao, Kellerman told him we did not see the same ferocity we usually see from him. As much as fans don't want to, we must give credit to Mayweather for that.

In sports we hear all the time, whomever is able to impose their will, will win the game. In this case it's clear that Mayweather was able to do that and Pacquiao, though he did for four rounds, was not. Important to note that the only round I was unsure about, round eight, I scored for Pacquiao; it could have easily been scored for Mayweather, which prompted HBO's Harold Lederman's score of 117-111.

I know the fight was not the classic everyone had hoped it would be, but for those that paid $100 expecting to see Gatti/Ward, Castillo/Corrales or Morales/Barrera you should have already known. People need to recognize that Mayweather is a boxer, not a fighter and there is a difference. Sure it's not pleasing, but it's the name of the game. The sport is called boxing, not fighting and Mayweather is just playing the sport. So don't hate the player, hate the game.

Monday, April 13, 2015

UFC's strongest division literally, but that's about it

This past weekend's heavyweight tilt between legendary Mirko Cro-Cop and Gabriel Gonzaga was a battle for sure, as both fighters have the scars to prove it. However, as I watched the fight, one thought came to mind.

The current state of the UFC heavyweight division may possess the strongest fighters on the roster literally, but that's about it. Take an objective look at today's UFC rankings of their top 15 heavyweights and it's easy to argue that the heavyweight division has seen better days. As a matter of fact, it looks as though it's going backwards and in a way it is.

How else could you explain booking a rematch of a fight that took place eight years ago? Then again, how else were you going to promote and justify resigning a 40 year old Cro-Cop? I mean when the UFC let him go back in 2011, it was because he looked old, slow and disenchanted; so it makes no sense to sign him now.

However, look up and down the roster and it's evident the UFC is in need of some heavyweight talent.
Sure these are not the days when the division featured the likes of Tim Sylvia, Cabbage Correia, Fabiano Scherner and Gan McGee. No disrespect to those fighters, but any of the big boys featured in the photo above would destroy that posse. Yet outside the top five of the current edition of heavyweights and it starts to look like old timers day.

Honestly, I should say four of the top five because Junior Dos Santos as great as he was, is not the same fighter anymore. Sure he recently won a disputed decision over #4 ranked Stipe Miocic, but I personally think he lost that fight. You couple that war with the two beatings he suffered at the hands of champion Cain Velasquez before that and he just does not look like the same fighter.

Velasquez is a great champion undeniably, but he's prone to injuries, which have shortened his career. So much so, we haven't seen him in action since that October 2013 beating of Dos Santos. A rescheduled bout with interim champ Fabricio Werdum is rescheduled for June in Mexico, but only time will tell if he'll have to pull out of that fight as well. Meanwhile, Werdum is at the best stage of his career, but at 37 years old the clock is ticking on him also.

Travis Browne and the aforementioned Miocic are the only younger generation heavyweights with any promise and that's it. After that it's a who's who of former champions who should be getting ready for the Hall of Fame and not the octagon. Names like Barnett, Mir, Hunt and Arlovski deserve respect, but look at their recent past and they have more losses than wins. Guys like Mir and Arlovski were on their way to journeymen/gatekeeper status before a couple of wins propelled them back in the picture.

Speaking of which, how is a guy like Mir who is only (1-4) in his last five fights still in the top 10? That alone makes my argument for me. The division is so weak right now, a couple of wins and Mir could actually be talked about as being in the title hunt; that's crazy! I never thought the day would come where I would personally say, I miss Brock Lesnar.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What constitutes being considered the G.O.A.T.?

What constitutes being considered the greatest of all time? Okay, I realize that's a debate that can never be won. However, earlier today a friend of mine asked a question that I could debate and feel very strongly about. He asked me if Floyd Mayweather will be considered the greatest of all-time in the same breath as "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali?

My response was pretty simple and clear or at least I thought so. I said that the fact that he is now fighting Manny Pacquiao would help boost that argument. Had he retired without ever facing Pacquiao, there is no way he would be considered on the same level as Ali because that would forever have been a question mark on his career. I also went on to say that should he defeat Pacquiao and go on to retire undefeated, there is no question he should be considered on the same level.

His response was, even considering his weight division? My response was once again, simple; even the greatest welterweights of all-time such as Leonard, Hearns, Duran, De La Hoya and Trinidad all suffered defeats. His response was to question Mayweather's opposition. This is what prompted me to write this blog and expand on my argument.

This is the same bull sh** argument people use against Larry Holmes whenever discussing his place among the greatest heavyweights of all-time. The fact that he fought at the end of the "Golden Era" of heavyweights and dominated in the '80's when the division wasn't as "good." This is a ridiculous stance and I'll explain why.

It is not Mayweather's fault, the same way it wasn't Holmes fault that they dominated in an era when the star power within their divisions just wasn't there; they fought the best that were there at the time. When it comes to Mayweather, whom did he not fight that he should have? The only one was Pacquiao and now that is about to happen. The fact that his opposition wasn't on his level was not his fault. That's basically penalizing a fighter for being too good, or in this case great.

Sadly in the end this will be the downfall for current Heavyweight Kingpin Wladimir Klitschko. If Holmes has difficulty garnering respect for his generation of heavyweights, I can only imagine what people will say about Klitschko when he's finally done. Unfortunately for him the best heavyweight opponent of his era was probably his own brother; so because of that he should be looked upon as not great?

The man has held a portion of the heavyweight title for nearly 10 years and has not lost a fight in 11. He fought whoever was put in front of him and won and in most cases easily. It is ridiculous to not acknowledge his greatness. Had Klitschko fought in the '70's, I'm not saying he wouldn't have suffered a few losses, but to think he could not have possibly defeated some of the greats of that era, especially at his size and skill is crazy.

Considering that argument, then Mayweather's case strengthens. Forget not losing in over 10 years, Mayweather has never lost in 47 fights; and as for holding a title, Mayweather has been a world champion in multiple weight divisions for nearly 17 straight years now. Should he go on to defeat Manny Pacquiao, considered an all-time great in his own right, and ultimately retire undefeated I think he would have answered the question; what constitutes being considered the G.O.A.T?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

MMA may have made a mistake and woke up boxing

For a century when it came to combat sports, boxing above all else reigned supreme. Sure wrestling had been around just as long as an Olympic sport, but as great a sport as it is the public could never relate to it. Most likely it is because people can relate to throwing a punch versus a fireman's carry.

As decades passed other sports or variations of sport attempted to loosen the stronghold boxing had, such as pro wrestling in the '70's when they promoted a match between "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali and Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki. However, it turned out to be a bust when the promotion ended up being more exciting than the fight itself. In the '80's kickboxing created a minor buzz with fighters such as Don 'The Dragon' Wilson and Benny 'The Jet' Urqiduez, but in the end their top performers turned to becoming movie stars versus star athletes. Then in 1993 UFC 1 debuted and it would mark the beginning of a global phenomenon now known as mixed martial arts or MMA.

During its run in the '90's MMA would have its share of struggles and political backlash. Regardless of its presence though, boxing was still top dog around the world; especially in a decade that featured such high profile stars as 'The Golden Boy' Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Jr. and Mike Tyson. Boxing fans and purists alike laughed at the mere thought that MMA would even come close to touching its own popularity and for a while there they were right.

However, at the turn of the century Zuffa took ownership of the UFC, changed the rules of MMA and its popularity began to soar. The advent of  'The Ultimate Fighter' TV series in 2005 began its ascension into the mainstream and slowly, but surely MMA started to creep up on boxing. Boxing meanwhile didn't take any of it serious; they continued to disregard MMA's presence, but more importantly, it appeared they disregarded their public's outcries.

It appeared they got greedy and felt they could give the public whatever they wanted to at a premium. The only boxing worth watching was now only on a Pay-Per-View basis and even those were just one high profile fight every few months with a lackluster under card not worthy of the $50+ price tag. Meanwhile, the UFC laid out a blueprint of stacking cards with not just one, but many high profile fighters in evenly matched bouts. More importantly they would offer you free fight cards and even when they did have pay-per-view events, they would give you access to the under card fights for free.

MMA was smart in their approach and sure enough by the beginning of this decade they started to over take boxing in popularity. Many casual boxing fans and even some hard core started to believe the best days of boxing were now behind them. However, it appears MMA may have made a mistake and woke up boxing in the process.

In the last week alone we've been treated to fights featuring champions and former champions in high profile contender fights all for free on HBO, Spike and NBC; yes network television. NBC's debut of its 'Premium Championship Boxing' series looks as though we are taking a step into the past when boxing was showcased on network TV and even housewives and mothers knew the stars of the sport.

Whether boxing will admit it or not, stacking the under cards, creating more evenly contested bouts and showing those fights to the public as part of the product, is directly attributed to MMA. Also, the pride of boxing has come forward as its biggest stars have finally agreed to make the fights the public wants to see. Just this past Saturday night after Light Heavyweight Champion Sergey Kovalev finished former champ Jean Pascal, his biggest opponent who had previously been avoiding him like the plague, Adonis Stevenson, told the HBO crew he would be fighting him.

Of course no example of this is bigger than the "Fight of the Century" in the highly anticipated welterweight showdown between Floyd 'Money' Mayweather and Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao. For years this fight could not be made and it all but looked like it would never happen. However, we're less than two months away from it becoming reality. Sure there are many reasons for this, including the proposed $200 million the fighters can make between them. However, I believe MMA may have made a mistake and awoken a sleeping giant in boxing and for fight fans like you and I, that's a great thing.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Better late than never, or is it?

After years of back and forth rumor, blame and disappointment, it's finally going to happen. Arguably the most anticipated fight in boxing history is officially signed and will go down on May 2nd in the fight capital of the world Las Vegas, Nevada; as Floyd 'Money' Mayweather will take on Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao. Better late than never, or is it?

While I and most boxing fans are happy to see this will finally take place, I think this is a valid question considering this is a fight that should have happened at least three or four years ago. There are many reasons why and probably the biggest is money. Although this fight is probably going to be the richest in boxing history, with Mayweather possibly making upwards of 120 million and Pacquiao a paltry 80 million. Just imagine what the numbers could have been four years ago when both fighters were in their prime and clearly the two best fighters on the planet.

Sure Mayweather at (47-0 26 KO's) is still universally considered the best pound for pound fighter in the world, but in just a couple of days he'll turn 38 years old and regardless of the strides in conditioning athletes have made in sports, that's still considered old age in boxing. Pacquiao (52-5 38 KO's) is not far behind at 36 and with 10 more fights on his resume. This includes the four wars with the great Juan Manuel Marquez, the last resulting in Pac laying face down out cold just a little over two years ago. That said, one might actually consider Pac older than Mayweather in the ring. Yet, we're happy that we're finally going to see it; but will we be satisfied?

Think about it, regardless of what happens, fans on both sides will argue that if it had happened when it was supposed to, the outcome would have been different. Either way, whether it is Mayweather or Pacquiao that loses, the excuse will be, "Time caught up to him." In Money May's case they'll claim it was his age and in Pac's case they'll say it was the mileage.

I'm not trying to be the pessimist and rain on the parade, I just wish it would have happened when it should have. The fact that it is happening at all is a shocker because I personally was resigned to the fact that it never would. All excuses aside, money was the root of all evil in the delay. That being the case, it might never have happened when it should have because at the time both fighters demanded equal shares, 50/50 and they deserved it. However, with Pacquiao losing a couple of fights in the last few years, it gave Mayweather the upper hand; luckily Pacquiao realized such and was willing to go with a 60/40 split.

Alas, it is going to happen and at least we won't have to go to our graves wondering what could have been. So for that I am grateful and regardless of all I've said thus far, looking at it strategically, I don't think it will disappoint. That is because we have a wonderful defensive fighter in Mayweather who is a master boxer that avoids punishment and Pacquiao is an offensive machine who comes at you non-stop from all angles. Plus, I believe Pac's relentless attack from the southpaw stance may give Money some problems; notice I said may.

Say what you want about Mayweather, like him or not, there is no denying his skill in the ring. Part of that is his knack for being able to overcome any obstacle that he faces. I've never seen a fighter who can make an adjustment smack dab in the middle of a fight and use it to his advantage the way Money May does. It is part of what makes him so great.

The only way to defeat Mayweather is to corner him and if there is one fighter who can do it and do it to perfection it is Pacquiao. As great a boxer as Pac is, I don't think he can out box Mayweather, but if he's able to corner him, as he's done to others, and inflict punishment on him unlike anyone else has, then I believe he has a chance.

I know there are a lot of ifs in those equations, not to mention a lot of ands or buts to. Then again that is what makes this fight so intriguing. While the early Vegas odds have Mayweather as a sizable favorite, I truly believe those odds will become a lot closer as the fight draws nearer and we will actually have a close fight one way or the other. I truly hope so, because if we don't, it would not surprise me to see one or both end their careers on that note. Better late than never I guess; or is it?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is the pressure to succeeding in today's MMA too much?

Has it come to this? After so many years of struggle to get to the point where mixed martial arts is finally being accepted as a mainstream sport, is it finally just like all the others? In other words, is the pressure too succeeding in today's MMA world too much? Considering what has transpired within the last month alone these seem like valid questions.

In just a matter of weeks, three of MMA's most well known fighters and arguably the UFC's top two stars are just the latest athletes to fall prey to the underlying stigma of athletes on drugs; whether recreational or performance enhancing. BTW, for the sake of this article, I'm not even including Nick Diaz being busted for marijuana use yet again, because it's not like no one knew this was coming. Diaz has been suspended in the past for weed and doesn't deny being a smoker, so for argument sake, why even bother.

However, when it comes to UFC light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Jon Jones, former UFC middleweight (185 lbs.) champion Anderson Silva (both pictured above) and World Series of Fighting welterweight (170 lbs.) contender and former UFC title challenger Jon Fitch (pictured here),
these came out of left field for sure. Especially when it came to Silva and Fitch who failed tests for PED's and have always been proponents for a clean sport.

In the case of Jon Jones, who was popped for cocaine use, while that news also was a shocker, for many people, including myself, who don't believe anything Jon Jones spits out of his mouth, it wasn't out of the realm. Nonetheless, that aside, in Jones we are talking the UFC's most viable product and next great thing. Ironically, he is replacing Silva, who was the greatest thing before Jones and before horrifyingly breaking his leg in December 2013.

Not surprisingly, the UFC is downplaying these allegations as much as possible; especially in Jones case. To this point it appears a one-night stay in rehabilitation looks like that may be the entire penalty that's forthcoming. Strange considering Diaz was suspended for nine months for marijuana usage previously and Matt Riddle lost his job for supposedly the same thing.

In Silva's defense, he has publicly denied any wrongdoing, but as much as I want to believe this living legend, how many times have we heard this before? Funny how no one ever admits to using PED's, but fighters and athletes in other sports continuously get busted for it. Former major league baseball player Rafael Palmiero pointed his finger in the face of congress and said he had not done any drugs. A lot of good that did him; he's been really quiet since then.

Not surprisingly, so too has Jon Fitch. A long time proponent of natural training and fighting clean, his name coming up as failing a pre-fight drug test may be the biggest surprise of them all. As I commented to someone the other day on a Facebook thread regarding this news, "If Fitch is dirty, then the question now becomes, who is not dirty?"

Sadly it appears that MMA's fight, no pun intended, too become looked upon and accepted the same way as other mainstream sports such as football, basketball and baseball has come at a cost; the same cost those others sports face. The cost too succeed is so high now with TV money and corporate sponsorships as part of the game, that it appears the pressure too succeeding in today's MMA may be too much. That is unless you don't get caught; then at that rate the cost may then become even greater. That is because in a dangerous sport like MMA the cost may be someone's career or even worse and that is way too high a price to pay.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rumble young man, rumble

Saturday night in Stockholm, Sweden, Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson sent a message to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and the rest of the world. That message figuratively stated, "I'm a bad man." 51 years ago a brash young champion named Cassius Clay at the time, now known as Muhammad Ali, literally told the world the same exact thing when he knocked out the then seemingly indestructible Sonny Liston.

While Johnson (19-4 13 KO's) and his opponent Alexander 'The Mauler' Gustafsson (16-3 10 KO's, 3 subs) may not have the historical significance, yet anyway, that the aforementioned boxing legends have, their number one contenders fight on Saturday night was highly anticipated and did not disappoint. All two minutes and 15 seconds of it that is, because that's all it took for 'Rumble' to dispatch of the number one ranked light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) contender in the world in his home country. The result now makes Johnson, formerly ranked at number three, the consensus choice to be the next challenger for Jones.

Ironically, Gustafsson was riding the wave of being the only man to actually give Jones a run for his money during his title reign, going five close rounds with the champion in September 2013. Some people, including myself, thought he actually should have won that decision, and many felt he was the only legitimate contender to dethrone Jones. However, think again because a new, improved and now seasoned Anthony Johnson is in the fold.

I say seasoned because now at 30 years old, it appears Johnson has finally figured out the game, his body and what it takes to be a champion. When I say his body, you have to first understand that this man, who is a physical specimen at 6'2" 205 lbs., actually cut his teeth in the sport and the UFC fighting at welterweight (170 lbs.). That is incredibly hard to believe when you see him now at 205 lbs., but it was even more incredible when I had the pleasure of meeting him in July 2009 (pictured above) when he was fighting at 170. The photo may not do justice to a guy that at the time was walking around at a hulking 220 lbs.

However, a couple of mishaps making weight at 170 and 185 (middleweight), resulted in being cut from the UFC. He then made a run as a light-heavyweight in some smaller organizations and 'The World Series of Fighting', where he even once competed as a heavyweight defeating former UFC heavyweight champion Andre Arlovski; that has brought him back to the octagon. While back in the UFC he's been nothing short of sensational defeating three top-flight opponents, two in spectacular knockout fashion.

As for being seasoned, his affiliation with the renowned Blackzilian camp appears to have rounded him out both technically and emotionally. World class coaches such as Henri Hooft and Jorge Santiago and top ranked training partners such as former champion Rashad Evans now have Johnson on a championship course of his own. His path appears eerily similar to that of new UFC welterweight champions Robbie Lawler, who like Johnson was young and raw when he first came to the UFC.

Just like 'Rumble', Lawler's immaturity and lack of discipline ultimately got him cut from the UFC. However, also like Johnson, Lawler fought his way back through the ranks of Strikeforce and then back into the UFC. Finally, he too found a new home with American Top Team, also stocked with world class coaches and training partners; the result is he is now a champion at the seasoned age of 32. Sound similar?

While Johnson may have a tougher obstacle to overcome in Jones than Lawler did in former champion Johny Hendricks, there is no doubt that his combination of athleticism, power and technique are a serious threat to the lethal, but lanky Jones. If Johnson connects one of those strikes, kick or punch, to Jones body or head, it could be, "and new light-heavyweight champion of the world." As Muhammad Ali once said, "Rumble young man, rumble."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My life as a DJ and Record Collector (Part VII - The Final Chapter)

At the end of part VI, I started to become disenchanted with music, records and DJ'ing.

After 10 years of spinning at clubs every Friday, along with doing private gigs in between, DJ'ing wasn't fun anymore. It became a job and I already had one of those full-time. On top of that, music in my opinion wasn't the same. Regardless of genre, it had no ingenuity behind it; so the bottom line was, I wasn't feeling it.

So for a while my records, though prominently stored and displayed throughout my basement (as pictured above), laid dormant. That meant the turntables weren't getting touched either. I would go down there just about every day to watch TV, surrounded by music I loved, but had no interest in playing. Then three things happened that brought a spark back into this thing I've loved for so long.

First was in February 2010 when an old friend of mine DJ Wayne had contacted me about doing an old school party with him and another old friend from the Casablanca days, DJ Ricky. Back when I was spinning at Casablanca every Friday night, Ricky had become the resident DJ on Saturdays. The plan was for each of us to spin two 40-minute sets over four hours, playing nothing but old school classics. Ironically, the party itself was going to be held at Casablanca Night Club.

That was the perfect remedy for renewing my interest in DJ'ing. Not only did I not have to spin all night, but I got to play classic material that I loved, instead of what I considered to be new watered down crap, in a place I had history with. The party itself was a huge success. It turned out to be more like a family reunion, as everyone that turned out knew each other as we all had grown up with one another. (This photo was from that first old school party)

Since then the three of us have continued to promote and spin our brand of old school theme parties about every six months at different venues going on five years now. We've developed a following and each party has been a success. Most importantly, it's made DJ'ing fun for me again.

The second thing that happened occurred in December 2012. While on, I had discovered a new series of videos that had just started called 'Crate Diggers'. Prominent DJ's were being interviewed about their record collections and how they got started. They would also profile some of their records throughout the interview.

As I watched these videos and listened to guys like Pete Rock and Jazzy Jeff tell their stories I noticed how eerily similar they were to mine. Not only that, watching them pulling out classic records that I owned, it made me want to go downstairs and pull my own copies. Most importantly, their stories of record shopping and crate digging brought back memories.

Back in the late '70's, Bobby Konders and I would save up lunch money for a month, cut class on a Friday and take the old Reading line train from Bethlehem to Market Street in Philly. Then we would go to various stores like 'Sound of Market' to 'Funk-O-Mart' and search for the latest records; we were "Crate Digging" before there was ever a term for it.

Another crate digging memory was from the early '90's when I would travel to New York and meet up with DJ Mitch to attend the old NYC Record Conventions held at the Roosevelt Hotel. I remember Kool Herc, 'The Godfather of Hip-Hop', who would be there selling records with 'George the Music Man', yelling over to me more than once, "Yo Puerto Rico, come here I got something for you."

Thinking back fondly on those memories, it was in January 2012 that I started going back to the record stores. However, this time I wasn't looking for the latest sounds, I was looking for dusty grooves; classics that had passed me by in one way or another. It's been fun the last couple of years and I've bought more records in that time span than I did in the previous 10 years. I even got my own YouTube video as well.

While the Crate Diggers series was rolling along, there was another group of brothers from Philly doing their own thing; they're known as the Crate Raiderz. These brothers were also interviewing record collectors, but they were going where the Crate Diggers weren't, to the hidden gems in this game. Inevitably they found their way to Bethlehem and interviewed me, which was an honor. (Pictured with The Crate Raiderz and Blaak the 9th Man)

Finally, during the last couple of years of record digging, I've developed a friendship with an old acquaintance Marcelino Rivera and found out we had so much more in common musically than I had realized. On top of that, I got my friend Richie Rich, who has been my brother for nearly 20 years now and an old music head himself, back into collecting vinyl which he had stopped doing years ago.

The three of us, realizing we're all on the same page musically, which is outside the box, started getting together every couple of months at each others homes just to listen to records. We all bring records to the tables and turn each other onto grooves the others may have never heard before or just listen to classics. We have now become a collective known as 'The Soul Latineers', three brothers that are all about and only about good music.

40 years later, this music thing I fell in love with has come full circle. As you can see I'm still collecting records and occasionally, though not as often, I'm still getting on the wheels of steel to do my thing. At this stage in my life it seems like the perfect fit for me as I'm getting too old to be in the weekly grind of DJ'ing, but never too old to put the needle to the record and just listen. Music is life! (I just came up on this haul two days ago)

Much love and respect to all the record collectors and DJ's in this game I have met over these last 40 years; especially those of you who have come into my life the last two years. "Never lose sight of what it is we hear."

Junkie Gathering 2017... this time it was personal

Wow! I feel the only way to properly start this summary of what I just experienced is summed up in that one word. Although there is anothe...