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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

No Holds Barred: Charles Farrell on Joshua vs. Parker and the Heavyweights 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with our colleague, correspondent, and the award-winning boxing writer, Charles Farrell.

We spoke with him by phone Tuesday.

Our main topic was the biggest fight of the year so far, the heavyweight title unification fight taking place this Saturday, March 31, between the two undefeated belt holders Anthony Joshua of the U.K. and Joseph Parker of New Zealand.

The 28-year-old Joshua is the IBF and WBA champ and has a record of 20-0 with 20 KOs. The 26-year-old Parker is the WBO champ and has a record of 24-0 with 18 KOs.

This fight takes place at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. It will be televised live on Sky Sports Box Office in the U.K., Showtime in the U.S., and many other networks around the world.

We discussed how we see this fight going, why Joshua is deservedly a big favorite, what is likely to happen in the series of events which may lead to the crowning of an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, the many options in the heavyweight division and business-wise for Joshua should he defeat Parker, the music of Marvin Gaye, and much more.

(Photo of Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker by Esther Lin/Showtime.)

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

How to Screw Up the Jeff Horn-Terence Crawford Fight 


by Eddie Goldman

That Top Rank-ESPN deal is turning out to be more of a lemon than a peach. After last week's disastrous ratings for a good fight between Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam, now this duo is screwing up the Jeff Horn-Terence Crawford WBO welterweight title fight. After an injury to Crawford, the fight was postponed from April 14 to, reportedly, June 9. It will still be in Sin City AKA Las Vegas, but the TV situation is also becoming sinful.

First, it is not clear just where this fight will be televised in the U.S. New ESPN commissar Jimmy Pitaro had claimed before the fight was rescheduled that it would be on the paid ESPN+ app, which is supposed to launch sometime this spring. Bye bye, major free fights on ESPN. But the app still hasn't been launched, so this one could be aired on the regular ESPN network in the U.S.

But wait, there's more!

At the same time as this fight, Showtime in the U.S. will be airing a quality PBC card from Los Angeles, headlined by the rematch between WBA featherweight "super" champion Leo Santa Cruz and WBA featherweight "regular" champion Abner Mares. Despite these bizarre designations of multiple "world" champions in the same weight class by the WBA, this fight should be top quality and action-packed, as was their first fight in 2015. Reportedly unbeaten WBA 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo will be making a title defense as the televised co-feature, so this card is shaping up to be must-see TV for fight fans.

Running a Top Rank card directly against the Showtime card, especially if it ends up on the ESPN+ paid app, sounds like a suicide mission business-wise. It presents the remaining stable of hardcore boxing viewers with an unpleasant choice of choosing to watch and focus upon one of these telecasts rather than the other. And it just plain sucks.

But wait, there's more, and it gets worse!

After defeating Manny Pacquiao last July, Australian Jeff Horn has become a major sports star in his home country. His fights now headline pay-per-views on Australia's Main Event and also New Zealand's Sky Arena. That is a major source of revenue for him.

However, already scheduled for the night of June 9 in the U.S., which would be June 10 in Australia, is another pay-per-view featuring another Australian star fighter. That is a UFC show featuring a title fight with Australian Robert Whittaker, their middleweight champion. This card takes place in Chicago, meaning that all these shows would be on at the same time.

True, there is only a very partial crossover between fans and viewers of boxing and UFC. But what this does create is a time conflict for Australia's Main Event, which had booked the UFC show months ago.

Now Main Event must either decide to show the boxing on tape-delay, get the Horn-Crawford fight rescheduled, or not show it at all. Rescheduling the time slot of either show will no doubt limit the numbers brought in for the one given the worse time. Since UFC was there first, and presumably has a valid contract with Main Event, that would put the boxing at a major disadvantage in these negotiations.

Horn's manager Dean Lonergan was quoted in the Australian press as saying that one potential option was to package both events into an Australian pay-per-view "blockbuster".

But as noted, the audiences for both shows are far from identical, and combining these shows somehow into one presentation will no doubt water down the marketing and promotion of both events.

So they are screwing up in America and they are screwing up in Australia. Sure, this fight could be postponed again, and again, and maybe again. But that would piss off not only the fans but also the fighters.

For the Horn-Crawford fight, it just may be time to change the classic Australian cheer of "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi" to "Oy Vey, Oy Vey, Oy Vey".




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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

No Holds Barred: College Wrestling Beats Top Rank Boxing on ESPN 



On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman discusses the 2018 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships finals and the Top Rank boxing shows, which aired at the same time in the U.S. this past Saturday, March 17. While the wrestling was on ESPN2 and the boxing on ESPN, it was the wrestling which did better in the head-to-head TV ratings. The focus is on what this means for both of these combat sports as they each decline.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

No Holds Barred: Angela Lee, Mei Yamaguchi, Chatri Sityodtong, ONE Championship Conference Call 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman presents the complete audio from the March 15 ONE Championship conference call. Speaking on that call were:

Angela Lee - ONE Women's Atomweight World Champion

Mei Yamaguchi - ONE world title challenger

Chatri Sityodtong - Chairman and CEO of ONE Championship

On May 6, 2016, Angela Lee defeated Mei Yamaguchi by unanimous decision in a close and exciting fight. This was also the only professional MMA fight that the unbeaten Angela Lee did not win by submission. A rematch was scheduled for last year, but injuries suffered by Lee from an auto accident forced that fight to be postponed.

Now Angela Lee and Mei Yamaguchi will finally meet in this highly-anticipated rematch, which is scheduled for Friday, May 18, 2018, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Oscar Valdez vs. the Paywall 


by Eddie Goldman

Even if you are a pretty dyed-in-the-wool boxing fan, you would be forgiven if you had not been particular familiar with Oscar Valdez until about a year ago. The 27-year-old Valdez, from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, and promoted by Top Rank, won the then-vacant WBO featherweight belt in July 2016, but was almost exclusively seen in the U.S. at that time as a lead-in to the main events on Top Rank's pay-per-views. In other words, Valdez was being virtually hidden behind a pay-per-view paywall.

Currently with a record of 24-0 and 19 KOs, he had a nice five-fight knockout streak in 2015 and 2016, but was overshadowed in the featherweight division by fighters like Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton, Gary Russell Jr., and Abner Mares. Valdez had not yet defeated an elite opponent and was thus not considered to be in the very top tier of that weight class.

But as I've been saying, boxing is primarily a TV sport, and the change in Top Rank's TV strategy last year supercharged the popularity of Oscar Valdez, as well as increased the level of his opposition.

Last year, as you probably recall -- unlike the politicians and crooks who routinely claim "I do not recall" -- Top Rank pulled their fighters from the declining HBO boxing program and their own series of pay-per-views which had small audiences, and signed a major multiyear deal to put their fights on ESPN, for free as part of the basic cable packages, we were told. All of a sudden the potential audience to see these fights grew about threefold, with no fee barring those who might want to sample the product, and also available fairly easily online and through the ESPN app and en español on ESPN Deportes.

Valdez's first fight on ESPN was on a Friday night show on September 22, 2017. His opponent was a then-unbeaten regional champion, Genesis Servania. But the ESPN telecast got off to a bad start. The show was scheduled for 10:30 PM EDT on ESPN, but only started on ESPN News as ESPN had a baseball game on. Then after an hour, it switched to ESPN2. And then after about 15 minutes or so, it finally landed on ESPN. It only arrived on ESPN midway through the Zurdo Ramirez-Jesse Hart title fight, which had ended up being switched between three channels.

At this point it was clear that Valdez wasn't coming on until way after midnight, so few would know who he and Ramirez were. Finally, at 12:28 AM EDT, the Valdez-Servania fight started.

And as it turned out, it was a sensational, action-packed, back-and-forth fight.

Servania dropped Valdez and hurt him in round four, although the impact was diluted as Teddy Atlas, then still calling these fights, was still talking over the knockdown. In the fifth round, Valdez came back and dropped Servania hard with a left hook. The fight continued with Valdez taking a unanimous decision by scores of 116-110, 115-111, and 117-109.

When the TV ratings came in, they were not as bad as they might have been, given that the ESPN part of the telecast didn't start until 11:42 PM EDT. That segment, which was 100 minutes long, averaged 706,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings. For that time period, it was not a great number, but not a disaster, either. And Oscar Valdez had taken a big step towards becoming a star.

Next for Oscar Valdez was a matchup on March 10, 2018, with British former world titleholder Scott Quigg. And this would be Valdez's first go as the leading man on a Top Rank-ESPN show.

Quigg was another step up for Valdez, since Top Rank's matchmakers like to ratchet up slowly the level of opposition for their fighters, trying to make more or less competitive fights for their top boxers, but avoiding real risks until there is real, big money for a fight, usually through the odious means of pay-per-view. They achieved this in matching up Valdez with Quigg, who went into this fight with a record of 34-1-2, with 25 KOs.

After stopping Kiko Martinez in just two rounds in July 2015, Quigg tried to defend his title against then-unbeaten Carl Frampton of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in February 2016. In the early going, Frampton was outclassing and outboxing Quigg, and in the fourth round he broke Quigg's jaw. But the injured Quigg mounted a late comeback with big rounds 10 and 11. However, it just was too late to catch up on points, as Frampton escaped with a split decision victory.

After winning a few subsequent fights, and his international reputation still intact, Quigg got a chance to regain a title against Valdez. But this setting was quite different from the Manchester Arena where Quigg had faced Frampton. This fight was held in the outdoors StubHub Center in Carson, California, under a canopy as an area where rainfall was supposed to be rare was drenched with thunderstorms. Some die-hard fans actually did stay to see the fight, but again, the vast bulk of those who witnessed it did so in front of presumably dry screens of one type of another.

Ah, beyond the raindrops, there was yet another and greater obstacle to Top Rank's star-making plans for Oscar Valdez. At about the same time as their ESPN show, Showtime had scheduled an appealing doubleheader featuring an existing star and top pound-for-pound fighter, Mikey Garcia, in a quest to win a title belt in a fourth weight class. Garcia's fight with then-IBF 140-pound champ Sergey Lipinets had been postponed because of a hand injury to Lipinets and was rescheduled for March 10, directly opposite the Top Rank-ESPN card.

While there were many ways to watch both fights simultaneously on different screens, or to watch one live and the other later, the fact remained that the viewers basically had to make a choice as to which one they would pay closest attention. That such planned conflicts of scheduling hurt the profiles of the fighters, who only fight a couple of times a year, far more than the suits who make such decisions, and hurt the business of boxing overall, has never seemed to count for much with these suits, who long have had Wild West business practices, minus the gunfights, usually anyway.

I decided to concentrate on the Valdez-Quigg fight on TV, although I also had Garcia-Lipinets on my computer. Part of that was knowing that Showtime would air their whole card the following morning, and that Garcia was a much greater favorite in his fight than Valdez was in his. It wasn't as if there was a right or wrong choice to make for the viewers, but one of preference.

Once again, Oscar Valdez put on a must-see performance in his battle with Scott Quigg. The whole fight was prefigured by the fact that Quigg had come in almost three pounds heavier than the featherweight limit, meaning that he could not win Valdez's belt, a bauble for which he apparently cared little. The extra size, intentional or not, worked to give the slower Quigg a power advantage, and as the fight wore on, that became evident.

As the fight progressed, Valdez unleashed an almost non-stop barrage of punches of every variety. He effectively worked Quigg's body in the early rounds. But as the bout wore on, and Quigg continued to stand and move forward, despite eating an enormous amount of punches, it was Quigg who was beating up Valdez, even as he was outboxed and outworked by Valdez.

The battle went the distance, and busted up face and all, it was Oscar Valdez who earned a unanimous decision victory by scores of 117-111 twice and 118-110, thus retaining his WBO featherweight belt.

Soon after the fight some of the key details of the beating the victorious Valdez had taken came out. Valdez had a broken jaw and probably a broken nose, and had lost a tooth. On the Monday after the fight, he had to have his jaw wired shut. Reportedly he will not need surgery, but the jaw is supposed to stay wired shut for five or six weeks.

Valdez will thus be unable to shout for joy for a while about the news of the ratings for this fight. While we do not have a breakdown of the fight-by-fight ratings for this ESPN card, overall it averaged 1,082,000 viewers. This made this show roughly tied for first for the most-watched boxing show in the U.S. for 2018, virtually tying with the Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz fight the week before on March 3 on Showtime, which averaged
1,055,000 viewers.

More importantly, the Top Rank-ESPN card drew more viewers than the competing Showtime card. While Mikey Garcia fights are almost guaranteed to be worth viewing, as this one certainly was, his unanimous decision victory over Sergey Lipinets only averaged 618,000 viewers. While Showtime has far fewer subscribers than ESPN, that is the point -- exposure on ESPN means a bigger audience than on premium networks.

So now Oscar Valdez has become one of the highest-profiled fighters in the world. What he lacks in power and defense is often compensated for by workrate, accuracy, technique, guts, and heart. And future matchups against other top featherweights seem on the table, if boxing's byzantine politics don't interfere.

But don't think that this little tale necessarily has a happy ending. Don't forget that its topics include boxing and Top Rank.

On Wednesday, March 14, the new president of ESPN, Jimmy Pitaro, spoke before ESPN staff in their headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, and included in his remarks an announcement. ESPN, he said, has amended its U.S. deal with Top Rank to include "exclusive access" to stream 12 cards on the new ESPN+ app. Those fights will include the upcoming Terence Crawford-Jeff Horn fight, which was originally scheduled for April 14, but has been postponed, probably to May or June.

This new ESPN+ app, due to be launched this spring, will cost $4.99 a month, each and every month. Although the app will include a wide variety of sports programming, most of it seems to be niche programming without major audiences, plus, of course, the Top Rank boxing.

So now we have a new paywall for Top Rank's top fights. Less than a year after jumping ship from HBO, the paywall returns, and the whole Top Rank-ESPN deal smells a lot like bait-and-switch.

We don't know if this makes Oscar Valdez want to scream now that he may be headed back behind a paywall, and frustrated even more that his wired shut jaw prevents him from screaming. But it may mean that his time of wide exposure to the public is coming to an end.

This ESPN+ paywall also gives a perfect opportunity for rivals of Top Rank and ESPN to put on boxing shows at the same time as those on the app, and either for free or on existing premium networks. This ratings battle will be instructive to watch, if we can even get accurate number from ESPN+.

ESPN and Top Rank have already pushed other events to the side for the sake of their deal. For years, the NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championship finals have been live on ESPN. But since that takes place Saturday, March 17, the same time as a Top Rank-ESPN card headlined by Jose Ramirez vs. Amir Imam, the wrestling has been relegated to the less-watched ESPN2. Last year, the wrestling finals averaged 735,000 viewers, so we shall see if the Top Rank boxing can match or beat that.

But I'm not worried about seeing Crawford vs. Horn. I'm not paying for this app, just as I am missing the new Star Trek on the CBS All Access paid service. This fragmentation and trying to nickel and dime viewers will only lead to people turning elsewhere for entertainment, legally or otherwise.

If I can't see Crawford-Horn later on YouTube or ESPN tape-delay, so be it. It's pretty clear that Crawford is a big favorite in this fight anyway.

In any case, spring is soon upon us in the northern hemisphere, and for entertainment and sports on TV, I for one will be heeding the advice that Edward Meeker gave us 110 years ago, in 1908:



(Photo of Oscar Valdez by Mikey Williams/Top Rank.)

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

Why Wild Wilder Won 


by Eddie Goldman

When I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Sure, I expected WBC champ Deontay Wilder to get a knockout victory Saturday night in Brooklyn over Luis "King Kong" Ortiz, but not without a little help from his friends. And yes, there was some of boxing's patented trickeration en route to Wilder's tenth-round TKO win. The New York commission's horse doctors inexplicably gave Wilder more time to rest after round seven, in which he was almost stopped near the end of that round by Ortiz. But was that extra breather decisive in allowing Wilder to avoid defeat? Probably not, as Ortiz came back to win rounds eight and nine but without scoring any knockdowns.

Then there are the judges, that merry trio who are paid, as is the norm, by the promoters. After nine rounds, they all had Wilder ahead 85-84. I had it 87-82 Ortiz, and Showtime's unofficial scorer had it 86-83 Ortiz. Ortiz would have needed a knockout to win the fight, since these judges were named Deaf, Dumb, and Blind.

But none of that gets to the basic mistake I, and several noted boxing writers who have covered and/or watched boxing for centuries, made. The premise, debunked in reality, was that Wilder could not win a clean fight against Ortiz, and thus in order to ensure the huge payday in a unification bout with Anthony Joshua, trickeration was in order.

I can only speak for myself, but there were several key miscalculations with this view. Knowing that boxing is a business first, second, and last, and has the aspects of being a sport mainly for show, was not mistaken. What was mistaken was thinking that the aging Ortiz had enough pop left in his old, injured hands to knock out the often amateurish Wilder.

Ortiz was supposed to face journeyman Derric Rossy last year in a stay busy fight, but had to withdraw because of a hand injury. At this fight's prefight press conference, Ortiz mysteriously wore black gloves. The explanation that he was cold was preposterous, as the presser was indoors and the New York temperature that day was around 60 degrees F. Whatever the case, Ortiz's steady assault on Wilder only led to sporadic moments when he had Wilder hurt.

And Ortiz had a classic and basic game plan. The lefty Ortiz circled to the righty Wilder's right, staying away from Wilder's powerful right hand, and landed effective jabs and counters to a seemingly befuddled Wilder. That changed in the fifth round, when a Wilder right dropped Ortiz, showing he could not use that strategy the entire fight. But Ortiz came back late in the sixth and then hurt Wilder badly late in the seventh.

Even with the judges, doctors, and who knows else against him, if Ortiz had knocked out Wilder, he would have won the fight. But it was Ortiz who was the one knocked out, with the finishing touch being a right uppercut by Wilder that brought back memories of Anthony Joshua's 11th-round uppercut on Wladimir Klitschko last year.

It is good and necessary to be cynical about what goes on in boxing. It is important for writers and journalists to expose the nonsense. And we are right far more than when we are wrong in doing so. But sometimes we get too exuberant, too suspicious, and make too many assumptions.

So I'm actually glad that I, and we, were wrong. What we saw was not a pretty or technically gorgeous fight, but one that was relatively unpredictable with numerous dramatic high points, and, of course, a conclusive finish.

But I'm also not upset that we warned of trickeration, because most of the mugs covering boxing these days refuse to discuss such doings. Yeah, we were wrong this time, but we have been and will be right far more times in the future. And I'd rather be occasionally wrong and honest than a dishonest shill and propagandist.

(Photo by Ryan Hafey, Premier Boxing Champions.)

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

No Holds Barred: Everything You Need To Know About Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman discusses this coming Saturday's fight between WBC champ Deontay Wilder, 39-0 with 38 KOs, and the challenger, Luis "King Kong" Ortiz, 28-0 with 24 KOs, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It will be televised live in the U.S. on Showtime and in the U.K. on Sky Sports, but, as is explained, may be more suitable for a series called Showtime Championship Wrestling.

(Photo of Wilder and Ortiz by Douglas DeFelice, Premier Boxing Champions.)

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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