See You At The Crossroads , We’re Already There ….

See You At The Crossroads , We’re Already There

At a time when both sports are in need of some rejuvenation , both Boxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) , find themselves at a crossroads. Oscar De La Hoya and his Golden Boy Promotion , in spite of their stable of boxers , are vesting more into the world of Mixed Martial Arts, though not aligning themselves with either the UFC or Bellator , who just happen to the UFC’s biggest rival competitor. De La Hoya of late , is doing his best to promote his visible fighter , Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez , after the fighter’s lopsided unanimous verdict over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr . Now with a proposed mega-fight due to take place in mid-September, with Saul Alvarez facing Gennady Golovkin for the middleweight title . This should prove to be the “biggest fight” of 2017 on the boxing calendar , unless the much-anticipated fight takes place with Floyd Mayweather Jr comes out of retirement to face UFC fighter Conor McGregor . UFC President Dana White now seems to be on-board with latest piece of buffoonery. Bearing in mind the recent mismatches seen in some of the most recent bouts in the UFC , which have been title and non-title fights, I am not so sure fans will be prepared to meet the likely $59.95 PPV price for this particular freak-show .
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In recent months UFC has seen the decline of its biggest star with consecutive losses suffered by Ronda Rousey , whose career slide has been as fast as her supposedly being the next big female action star in Hollywood. It is unlikely Rousey will return to the octagon , where her career ascent was fast , but clearly because the opposition faced in the early stages of her career was simply mediocre at best. Hype in MMA is just about everything and it can also mean absolutely nothing. Beyond the proposed fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Conor McGregor , for which contracts have yet to be signed or a proposed date being set, other the continued emphasis of hyperbole that it will take place, the UFC can only promise that some of its biggest stars will be seen inside the octagon within the coming months . Proposed bouts within the Light Heavyweight Division will see Daniel Cormier defend his title against the division’s former champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones , in a bout which will bring about even more tension , given the apparent dislike each fighter has for the other.

The long-awaited return of another former champion can’ t come around fast enough as the former Welterweight Title holder Georges St Pierre makes a comeback. St Pierre was due to face Michael Bisping the UFC Middleweight champion , but with Bisping having suffered a knee injury , Dana White is now proposing “Rush” as he is more commonly known, face the division’s champion Tyrone Woodley . Georges St Pierre was adamant upon his return to the octagon , he had no wish to fight once again within the division . The fighter is considered greatest welterweight in UFC history and his record number of defenses remains a benchmark not only within the division , but among all of the weight categories within the UFC , with only Demetrious Johnson having made more double-digit defenses of a UFC title.

Among the Women’s ranks of the UFC , Amanda Nunes has now become the “Face of the Sport” , having toppled the division’s best among the Bantamweights . With their being only three weight categories within the UFC for women to fight at the professional level , it remains to be seen what other challenges lie ahead for this highly skilled fighter. I certainly believe she is capable enough of surpassing Ronda Rousey’s record in terms of the number of title defenses . Nunes’ rematch with Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 213 should prove to be a thrilling fight, with Shevchenko looking to make amends for her loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 196 .

I read a recent article, which tried to concoct a debate as to who has been the greatest Heavyweight Champion in UFC history . Consider the fact, no claimant to the title , has ever been able to make more than three successful defenses, speaks volumes as to how mediocre the division has been throughout its history. Randy Couture might well have won the title on more than one occasion , while also being the only UFC fighter to have held both the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight titles simultaneously. Brief spells alone , Couture remains perhaps the division’s most well-known champion. The current champion , American -born Stipe Miocic , who is of Croatian ancestry , has already joined a select group of UFC heavyweights who have made two defenses of UFC Heavyweight Title. The division might just be the weakest in all of the weight categories within the Men’s Division of the UFC and at a time when boxing longs for an undisputed champion among the Heavyweight Division , it easy to understand the reason why there is no real interest in either category of the respective sports.

Stipe Miocic doesn’t fight for the glory , but he does seek make the sport and in particular his division a more respectable one . His greatest reward comes from the fact he is a fireman in his native state of Ohio. Miocic’s next bout is likely to be against a top-five contender within the division , with Dana White having the last say as to the challenger is likely to be. Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velazquez are the two leading contenders within division and it will be down to Dana White to make the pick, as to whom he believes would provide the most appealing and lucrative fight for the champion as well as the UFC.

I will continue to maintain until there is an undisputed champion in any weight division of boxing , the sport will continue to be an after-thought to even their most ardent fans. There has not been an undisputed champion in any weight category in over a decade and it has been fifteen years since the Heavyweight Division had a lone champion , with the division’s last undisputed champion being Lennox Lewis . Nowadays , it comes down to be anointed a lineal champion announced by Ring Magazine . Not unlike the winner of a beauty pageant being given a tiara made of cubic zirconium rather than real diamonds .

At present there are only two legitimately recognized claimants to the Heavyweight Title , with both boxers having unbeaten records . Deontay Wilder is the current holder of the WBC crown , while Anthony Joshua claims the IBF , WBA and IBO belts . I am not about to suggest , this decade of heavyweights have been among the best seen over the past twelve years , but it certainly does make a difference to know , we no longer have to put up with the idiotic claims that Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir Klitschko were the best things to have happened within the sport of boxing. The skills of both siblings were always questionable and the fact that in his latter years , Wladimir’s jaw was like a glass slipper along with his declining skills was proof of the fact he was an overrated champion. His fight record was littered with meaningless bouts , which padded his successful championship defenses .

Wladimir Klitschko’s last two professional fights ended in defeat, losses , one a unanimous loss, suffered at the hands of Tyson Fury and he then followed that up with a TKO (technical knockout) loss to Anthony Joshua. Now with his demands of a rematch against Joshua falling on deaf ears , there is no real reason why Klitschko should be rewarded with a second fight against his conqueror. Waiting in the wings as possible opponents for Joshua are , Joseph Parker , WBO title holder from New Zealand or a far more lucrative unification bout against Deontay Wilder. With so many international governing bodies presiding over boxing , a sport which remains in constant disarray , it should come as no big surprise , fans are leaving in droves. Boxing no longer has any real charismatic fighters or truly “ big draws” likely to lure in the crowds. Once prominent promoters, such as Don King and Bob Arum , have become aging dinosaurs , while the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and the somewhat retired Floyd Mayweather are now said to be breathing new life into the sport as promoters. One of the real issues for this sport , is the fact , it cannot escape its seedy past or an unclear future, where there does seem to be some lackluster talent laying claims to greatness.

The sport of boxing needs to be more streamlined , , properly regulated not just domestically but also on the international front. Corruption remains ever-present and while know some of the biggest names within the sport can earn millions annually and it should be noted there is little done to protect the well-being of the fighters should they fall upon hard times or suffer from a mishap inside the ring . These are some of the horror stories which often go unreported by the media or the governing bodies themselves.

When the UFC was purchased by the William Morris Agency for the unprecedented sum of $4.6 billion , it set about a great deal of intrigue for the once upstart organization. Dana White was still retained as President but , Frank Fertitta and his brother, Lorenzo Fertitta were able to walk away with over $2 billion apiece , while still retaining a small minority stake in the company. Self-made billionaires in their own right , they can now sit back and watch as the UFC enter its third decade of existence , while being one of the few professional sports’ entities in North America with over a $1 billion in revenues. The humble beginnings of the UFC and what it has been able to achieve since 1993 has been truly staggering. However, the question still remain , under a new ownership structure, will Dana White still be given so much power to hire and fire fighters as he sees fit, while signing them to contracts which in many circles might be seen as indentured slavery with their having few rights if any ? In recent months there has been dissension within the ranks of the UFC , with fighters such as Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz , leading the fray , questioning White’s authority , with UFC’s new owners offering little by way of any serious changes which would be of benefit to their biggest assets, the fighters .



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What do you believe is the biggest hindrance to the sport of boxing ? Also , can the UFC become an even bigger sport than its pugilistic counterpart while also creating household names ? If Conor McGregor can become the only UFC fighter among the highest paid athletes in the world , while the sport of boxing only has three boxers among the top one hundred , then surely MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) has to be doing something right.

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Tophatal ………………. 05/22/2017

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In The Pursuit of Happiness

In The Pursuit of Happiness

With the second round of the NBA Playoffs almost in full swing , now would be the time to start assuaging the chances of the teams now left at this stage of the Playoffs. Clearly , last season’s finalists are seen as the presumptive favorites to make a return to this season’s NBA Finals , where many are hoping to see either Cleveland Cavaliers make a successful defense of their title or the Golden State Warriors rebound to reclaim the title they won in 2015. From my own standpoint, while many believe the NBA is need of a dynasty as well as a rivalry to create more excitement within this league. I firmly believe what the NBA is lacking , are truly talented players .

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While no one can deny the astonishing season had by Russell Westbrook , who averaged a triple-double throughout the regular season, the point guard failed to ignite the postseason for the Oklahoma City Thunder , as the team failed miserably in their series against the Houston Rockets . The Thunder’s failings came from the lack of coaching acumen shown by head coach Billy Donovan and his coaching staff . During this off-season I expect there are likely to be several changes made to the team’s roster beyond their own draft selections in the upcoming NBA Draft (2017) .

It would be in everyone’s interests not to make too much of the San Antonio Spurs’ blowout loss to the Houston Rockets in the opening game of their Western Conference Semi-Final Series. The Spurs are far too experienced a team to simply lay down , without putting up much of a fight. Head coach Gregg Popovich is a Master in his role and I would expect him to make the necessary adjustments to negate the strengths of the Rockets in preparation for game-two.

If you’re looking for a definite outsider within the Eastern Conference who could possibly upset the apple-cart, then your best bet could very well be the Boston Celtics who surprised everyone by being the number-one seeds in the conference this postseason. Having dispatched the Chicago Bulls in their opening series with summary ease , the Celtics now find themselves facing the Washington Wizards in their conference semi-finals’ series. Already up 2-0 in the series , a game-three victory would pretty much place the Celtics on the path to their first conference title appearance in eight years . Teammates Al Horford and Isiah Thomas might be the primary reasons why the Celtics now find themselves on their way a possible conference finals’ appearance . During the regular as well as the postseason the two have combined to lead the team to the victories seen on-court.

Trouble in paradise ? Well , in the City of Angels , known to us all as Los Angeles , both of the NBA franchises residing in the city , the Los Angles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers , have seen their fair share of mediocrity during the regular and postseason . In the case of the Los Angles Lakers, it was another sub-par effort from a team completely devoid of leadership and play-making ability . It just seems unfortunate Luke Walton inherited a group of players who have no ambition or pride and in the case of veteran leadership, Metta World Peace has offered little to the Lakers throughout the season. Away from the basketball court, familial tensions reared its ugly head, as siblings , Jeanie Buss , Johnny Buss and Jim Buss squabbled over control of the Lakers. Magic Johnson , was brought in to become Head of Basketball Operations , while Mitch Kupchak was ousted to be replaced by Rob Pelinka as the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. I guess during this off-season , the Lakers as well as their fans, can hope Magic will be able to talk a high-profiled free agent into signing with the franchise , which in many respects looks more like a lunatic asylum , rather than a professional sports’ franchise.

Billionaire tech entrepreneur Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers for $2.2 billion and since acquiring the franchise , they have failed abysmally during recent NBA Playoff appearances. Failing to get beyond the conference quarter finals and it’s easy to understand how overrated the Clippers are. I think it somewhat asinine , reading comments from clueless NBA fans, who have pretensions of insight concerning this franchise, at times describing the Los Angeles Clippers as one of the few NBA successes of the past six seasons. A highly paid roster of players and clearly with Chris Paul not getting a great deal of help from either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan , it is easy to understand why the Clippers remain so abysmal.

The significance of the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round series loss to the Utah Jazz has not been lost to a number of fans. If Gordon Hayward can almost single-handedly outplay the Clippers’ , leading the Jazz to their 4-3 series’ first-round upset . Hayward and his teammates now have the unenviable task of facing the Golden State Warriors in their conference semi-final series.

Steve Ballmer as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is bound to be displeased with the lackluster effort of his team, but I dare say, he is likely to be peeved with the lack of coaching acumen shown by head coach Doc Rivers and the entire Clippers’ coaching staff . From my own perspective , I believe it is time for Rivers to relinquish his dual role within the organization , as Head of Basketball Operations and just remain in charge of the playing staff as the Head Coach . Rivers is placing even greater pressure on himself and for the moment , while Steve Ballmer remains loyal to his head coach , I can’t help but get the feeling , another season playing second-fiddle to the Golden State Warriors as the second-best franchise based in the state of California will not sit well with the larger than life owner.

MLB prides itself on being the first professional team sport in North America to integrate its players. Jackie Robinson is stated as being the first African-American player to play in a Major League ball-game , but in reality , Robinson was not the first. He was merely the first to play for a professional team in the twentieth century. Jackie Robinson was a the subject of such racial abuse through much of his career , albeit , that we’re told it only related to the his initial years with the Brooklyn Dodgers .

Seven decades after Robinson’s debut, it would appear racism remains alive and well within the game of baseball. We should be reminded , on the night Hank Aaron broke the career home run record held by Babe Ruth , he came under a torrent of non-stop racial abuse , threats of violence aimed at himself as well as his family. Now in , 2017, those taunts are now being aimed at players of African-American ethnicity , though it’s not being widely reported, simply because MLB’s hierarchy would rather keep this all under wraps.

In a recent game between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox , the Orioles’ Adam Jones was subject to a torrent of racial and verbal abuse . Now consider, the fact this game was being played at Fenway Park , in Boston, Massachusetts , and with the Red Sox itself , having several players of ethnic minority on the roster . It does seem somewhat repugnant that Red Sox fans would seek to act in such a way with such repugnant and repulsive behavior. Then again, it should be seen as a sign of the times , when the President of the country , Donald Trump can show his utter disregard for not only women but also minorities in general , with his own outlandish behavior and he is simply given a pass by the public and the media , specifically the right-wing cabal of Conservative leading members of the press. So why would we expect any different from a bunch of inherently racist and insensitive group of Red Sox fans ? If the league hierarchy has failed to even question the behavior of the fans in this incident and when there has been no formal comment from the front office of the Boston Red Sox. I can only surmise they either condone the actions of the fans in question or they are simply apathetic and oblivious to what went on.

If you believe this incident concerning Adam Jones is an isolated situation , you should think again as it has become more common place within the game of baseball . There has been a rise in this type of behavior , though it is not widely reported in the media or through any research done by Major League Baseball , because where its leadership remains middle-aged and predominantly overseen by Caucasians , the last thing you would expect , would be for the league hierarchy to admit there is not a tinge of racism within baseball . There has been a rise in this type of behavior , though it is not widely reported in the media or through any research done by Major League Baseball , because where its leadership remains middle-aged and predominantly overseen by Caucasians , the last thing you would expect , would be for the league hierarchy to admit there is not a tinge of racism within baseball. It is common-place but just as in this game on Monday , MLB’s own coverage of the contest failed to indicate what occurred and the racial epithets directed at Adam Jones. Once again indicating, White America loves to paint this pageantry of all inclusiveness, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth, because they would rather run with the apathy and the nonchalant belief all is right with the world.

Courtesy of Newsday

CC Sabathia backs up Adam Jones’ experience with slurs at Fenway

By Roger Rubin , Special for Newsday

HIGHLIGHTS

‘When you go to Boston, expect it,’ Sabathia says
Red Sox apologize for fans’ racial taunts toward Orioles outfielder

While Major League Baseball and the Red Sox organization reacted with revulsion and condemnation that Baltimore’s Adam Jones was taunted with racial slurs and pelted with a bag of peanuts during Monday night’s game at Boston’s Fenway Park, CC Sabathia had a different take.

“It’s happened to me — not surprising,” the Yankees left-hander said. “It’s bad. You get called names — the N-word, all kind of stuff — when you go to Boston . . . I’m glad that he spoke up. It’s disgusting.”
“I heard something that caught my attention and I’m like ‘I hope I really didn’t just hear what I thought I heard,’ ” Jones recounted in an MLB Network interview. “I’ve played against the Red Sox for 10 years and I understand booing the opponent . . . but not the racial stuff. It [expletive] that it’s still going on in 2017.”

Asked if he’d heard similar accounts from other African-American players, Sabathia replied “there’s 62 of us and we all know: when you go to Boston, expect it . . . I’ve never had it anywhere else except there . . . even shagging in the outfield before the game, sometimes you get it.”

“It’s nothing new to any of us,” Braves outfielder Matt Kemp said. “He let it be known that’s what we go through. I mean, it’s pretty much normal, especially in some of these different cities. I’m not going to name all the cities, but there’s some pretty tough cities where people say some pretty ruthless things. There’s . . . nobody holding anybody accountable for some of the things these fans do.”


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Erwin Santana (5-0, 0.66 ERA) and Dallas Keuchel (5-0, 1.21 ERA) are the two best pitchers in baseball at this point of the season. with both starting pitchers unbeaten in their respective starts for the Minnesota Twins and the Houston Astros . Unfortunately , this is not reflected in the records of either team and where they stand within their respective divisions . The Twins sit in second place within the AL Central , but that division is likely to become even more competitive and congested as the season progresses. Given the fact the Minnesota Twins have struggled to make the postseason in recent years. I do not expect the team in its current guise to be considered a serious challenger for the AL Pennant , much less the World Series . In the case of the Houston Astros , they appear to be as good as advertised , but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were to falter by the latter part of June. With both the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins in action today , 3rd May , it will be interesting to see how the teams fare in their respective games. The Twins will play host to the Oakland A’s , while the Astros have the Texas Rangers coming to Minute Maid Field for a game in Houston, Texas.

There are several milestones likely to be met this season in baseball and for all of the idiocy in print over the length of a home-run being hit. I would like the think the productivity being seen in such cases leads to the outcome of the player producing , is doing so for a team with a winning record or at least competitive within their division . Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees is now making a name for himself this season as he leads the team in home runs as well as several other team categories on offense . Let’s just say in spite of the Yankees’ deficiencies elsewhere, it’s good to know they now have someone on the roster capable of producing when it matters. Needless to say, Judge and his teammates still have a long way to go in convincing anyone they are capable of winning the AL East , much less have the aspirations of bringing the franchise another World Series title . The Yankees were in action on Wednesday evening when they faced the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx , New York. An 8-6 victory over the Blue Jays inched the Yankees closer to becoming the first team to twenty wins on the season in baseball for 2017 .

Major League Baseball works professionally within the state of Florida because , with an elderly population, the game does seem to have a lot to offer the fans during the exhibition schedule (Spring Training) . During the regular season , there are sparse crowds in attendance for the home games of the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays . In spite of the statistics provided by the league, it is obvious to even the most knowledgeable of fans, both of the Florida based teams cannot fill their respective stadiums to capacity for a home game. Marlins Ballpark and Tropicana Field have become something of a joke to those in the know. Economic impact for the cities of Miami and Tampa may well be minimal and the combined valuation as well as revenue provided by both ball-clubs pales into insignificance when measured against teams in a similar market size or bigger. From my own perspective , I believe a great deal of the blame for the lack of success with both the Marlins and Rays stems from a lack of real ambition from the respective ownership groups . Granted , pending the league’s approval , the Miami Marlins will become subject to a new ownership group led by Jeb Bush , a former governor of the state, whose partnering with Derek Jeter could see a raise in the profile of the still impoverished Marlins. Meanwhile , Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg continues to act like a petulant child whose pacifier has been taken away from him.

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I would like to think in the coming months both the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays are able to compete , while the MLB season itself is something the fans can truly revel in. Yet , for all sense and purpose we all know that is not likely to be the case.
As to the incident s which took place during the game between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox, I think it speaks volumes to the never-ending social issue this country has failed to address since its inception and that is the issue of race. It is a telling sign when the President , Donald Trump > can simply make racial bigotry a focal point of his electoral campaign and the apathy of the public is there for all to see. I don’t believe we can expect anything more from a country or its political leaders , when they are simply not willing to show any form of decency or respect of others. The continued banality seen , is something which will remain ever-present and I don’t expect it to change anytime soon !

The NBA Playoffs will continue to be a wild ride , with teams looking to achieve success and for the fans , it will provide some form of happiness or joy as the case maybe.

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Tophatal ……………………… 3rd May 2017

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