Sunday, June 27, 2021

Unfinished Business with the Pittsburgh Kid

By Mike I.

Unless you are a very casual boxing fan or a huge fan of Logan Paul’s, no one was shocked Floyd Mayweather beat him easily in their recent bout. However, any hardcore boxing enthusiast, loyal to boxing was shocked he didn’t knock him out in two or three rounds.

It can be debated that Floyd is getting older, or Paul was so much bigger and younger, despite being completely out matched experience wise. No matter the circumstance, there is no other reason Floyd did not destroy Paul other than he just carried him for multiple rounds. Many could say there are all kinds of reasons for that, but in the end, that seems to be what he happened in this bout.

There is literally video of Mayweather hitting Paul and holding him up to keep him from hitting the canvas. What may be the real reason that Floyd looked like a king cobra playing with a little mouse instead of looking like a Jack Russell Terrier viciously nipping away at an awkward and confused St. Bernard is simple:  Paul was just no challenge for the greatness of Floyd.

This bout looked more like a glorified sparring session than a bout of any quality. Although it looked like a sparring match with Paul, there was an actual sparring match years ago with another Paul. That Paul is Paul Spadafora. Known as “The Pittsburgh Kid,” his roots in the tough fight city of Pittsburgh was where Spadafora became one of the purest boxers of Floyd’s time.

Spadafora is the one fighter who would be a challenge for Floyd. Spadafora was one of the true greats of Floyd’s time, and whipped him handily in a sparring session some time back. That sparring session was recorded and the footage leaked on the internet. This footage made the boxing world curious, as it was rumored the Floyd camp was even interested in giving Paul a shot at him to set the record straight about who the better fighter was.

Unfortunately, Spadafora had multiple problems outside the ring, and to promoters and matchmakers, the fight must have seemed like too much of a risk as the contest never happened. Now Spadafora is in boxing exile.

For anyone saying, “Well that was just a sparring session,” or, “Floyd was out of shape for that session,” I respond with this: Floyd is never out of shape, and there was a rumor that Floyd said this sparring session made him commit to never be out of shape again. So, if there is nothing to fear now and he is always in shape, what does he have to worry about now?

Some may ask why Floyd would risk his undefeated record for a guy who blew his chance with Floyd years ago because of his bad behavior outside of the ring. The simple answer is it is not worth it. Yet, Floyd is a special athlete, and I think for him there can be special rules in place for a potential matchup between Spadafora and Mayweather. Seeing how Floyd breaks the rules all the time with these crossover fights, who is to say what the rules need to be right?

My proposed rule for a decision in a potential showdown with Spadafora is if by some chance Floyd loses to Spadafora, the loss will be expunged from his record. This would make it worth Floyd’s time to even consider a guy who is a risk in more ways than one. I’m confident Floyd would have his hands full with Spadafora. The main thing that makes this interesting is the footage of Spadafora beating Mayweather up round after round in that sparring session years ago.

To be clear, I am not mad that Floyd is making a mockery or circus out of boxing. Boxing has always been a bit of a circus and has always had crazy circumstances around it. Jack Dempsey, arguably one of the most famous boxers in history, went around the country to bars and asked owners to let him fight the troublemakers in the bar simply for a steak dinner and some whiskey in return. It is hard to think Floyd is doing something to diminish the respectability of boxing. As Mike Tyson said about the bout on Logan Paul’s podcast, “How low could boxing go? Boxing can only go up. You can’t take it any lower.”

I agree with Mr. Tyson. Boxing can only go up, and one way for that to happen would be a fight between Floyd and a respectable fighter who Roy Jones started fighting after a comeback to the ring, Paul Spadafora. To paraphrase Mr. Tyson in that same Logan Paul podcast interview, he said things like crossover matches can broaden the public’s horizons about boxing, and it can show the sport as a skillful art form.

Now that Floyd has maybe done that with this last bout, maybe he could take it even one step further and show people the real art boxing is and bring the guy who is the other true pure boxer of his time to the main stage with him, so they can show the world in style the real beauty of the craft. However, if he continues to literally carry opponents like he did with Logan Paul, then I don’t see how he is showing the public the beautiful side of boxing. Maybe that is just me though.

Another point for a Mayweather vs. Spadafora fight is that it would be a dream come true Spadafora, and Floyd would be giving the mainstream public and hardcore boxing fans alike a great show. Spadafora, who has the potential to be a modern-day “Cinderella Man” with a victory, has a history worth looking into. After losing his father at a young age, having a mother who really wasn’t able to support him, and having multiple alleged problems with drugs alcohol and with the law, Spadafora was still one of the most talented, yet unrecognized fighters of Floyd’s time. If there is one thing boxing fans love more than a great match up between two greats, they love a great comeback story. That comeback story potential is there for Spadafora, who is a walking, talking comeback story.

That being stated, if there is nothing to fear now that Floyd is always in shape, and we have this special rule for Floyd remaining officially undefeated despite the outcome, what does he have to worry about?

Boxing fans just want to see the guy who may have quite literally whipped Floyd into shape for the rest of his career, and they want to see how much of a fluke that really was. I will tell you this:  Even if it wasn’t a fluke, Floyd adjusts in the middle of rounds and throughout fights. He has one of the highest ring IQs of all-time, so no matter what, Spadafora will have the fight of his life on his hands against Floyd.

In closing, I urge Floyd to give boxing fans one last show in a fight against the one guy of his era who needs a shot more than ever. That will give us the type of fight worth paying the money people put out for the Logan Paul fight. 

Paul Spadafora (Photo Courtesy of BoxRec)

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Monday, June 21, 2021

WWE Hell in a Cell 2021

By Steve Ward

WWE emanated, once again, from the Thunderdome within the confines of the Yuengling Center on the campus of the University of South Florida as they push on with their Dystopian Era. Thankfully the WWE has announced they are returning to the road next month with actual people in attendance but it still demonstrates questionable decisions on their part as AEW has successfully, and safely, hosted fans for over a year in nearby Jacksonville while progressing to full attendance with their pay per view last month. This has all occurred while Vince McMahon has been moving forward with budget cuts in the form of mass talent releases - including stars Braun Strowman and Aleister Black. 

Now onto the evening’s card…while this show always brings a glimmer of hope to me that we will be treated to a Hell in a Cell match that will make a valiant attempt to pay homage to The Undertaker vs. Mankind from way back in 1998, I am sadly disappointed time and time again. Perhaps it’s the PG rating they’ve carried for several years now or even the talent they book for these matches who couldn’t lace the boots of the Dead Man or Foley. Nonetheless, this evening’s card only featured six bout and showcased two Hell in a Cell Matches with blatant omissions of some of their top tier stars such as Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, and Roman Reigns.

Smackdown Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell Match

Bayley vs. Bianca Belair (c)

Winner: Bianca Belair via pinfall

The main card kicked off this evening with the squared circle encompassed by the ominous Hell in a Cell structure as Bianca Belair defended her Smackdown Women’s Championship against former champion, Bayley. This match didn’t exactly have the effect that the bookers for the event intended, I would presume, as the fans lining the arena on the TV screens seemed mostly disengaged while the cell was barely used in this contest and fake crowd noise was clearly filtered in at the conclusion of the match after Belair mercifully finished Bayley off with the Kiss of Death (her version of the Death Valley Driver) onto a ladder.

Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins

Winner: Seth Rollins

The next chapter in the rivalry between these two combatants, one that really built momentum with Cesaro’s huge victory over Rollins at Wrestlemania, was written this evening following weeks of endless ridicule directed at the Swiss Superman. This bout wasted no time getting off the ground as Rollins jumped Cesaro during his entrance and a brawl ensued that spilled down to the ring. Rollins appeared to be in dire straits late in this bout as Cesaro was beginning to systematically break him down with a series of submission holds - specifically the Sharpshooter and Crossface - after he executed the Cesaro Swing. As Cesaro was about to attempt to cinch in another Sharpshooter, Rollins rolled him up out of nowhere for the shocking pinfall victory.

Shayna Baszler w/ Nia Jax & Reginald vs. Alexa Bliss

Winner: Alexa Bliss via pinfall

Since “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt has been held off of TV for several weeks now, Alexa Bliss has assumed his role so to speak and has targeted The Queen of Spades recently leading to their showdown this evening. Under normal circumstances, this could have been a phenomenal match, however, WWE continues to push the envelope with the theatrics surrounding Alexa Bliss’ current character. After she used some “mind control” tactics on both Baszler and Jax, Bliss finally finished off Baszler with the Twisted Bliss for the win.

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

Winner: Sami Zayn via pinfall

Is it just me or does it seem like every time WWE creative has no idea what to do with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, they book them in another program together? Well this appears to be the case once again as they‘ve found themselves embroiled in yet another feud. This match evolved after Zayn cost Owens his match with Apollo Crews’ muscle, Commander Azeez, on Friday Night Smackdown which left him at the receiving end of the Nigerian Nail. After selling his “throat injury” from Friday night and seemingly injuring his shoulder at the hands of Zayn this evening, Owens only real offense mounted was in the form of a Stunner on the arena floor. Aside from that, Zayn controlled the tempo of this entire bout before he finally solidified his victory with the Helluva Kick.

RAW Women’s Championship

Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley (c)

Winner: Charlotte Flair via disqualification

Charlotte’s quest to ascend to the top of the Women’s Division once again continued this evening as she finally found her way into a singles bout with the reigning champion, Rhea Ripley. Charlotte tactfully targeted the knee of Ripley for the duration of the match by utilizing the steel ring stairs and a figure four leg lock seemingly positioning herself for an eventual attempt at the Figure Eight. This match met its abrupt end as the action spilled out of the ring where Ripley used the cover of the announcer’s table to strike Flair in the face leading to her disqualification. As we all know, this means Charlotte was awarded the match, however, the title cannot change hands in this situation.

WWE Championship Hell in a Cell Match

Bobby Lashley (c) w/ MVP vs. Drew McIntyre

Winner: Bobby Lashley via pinfall

Another chapter…perhaps the final chapter…would be written into the rivalry between WWE Champion Bobby Lashley and former champ, Drew McIntyre, this evening. Not only was this bout contested in the ominous Hell in a Cell, but also held the stipulation where McIntyre would never be able to challenge for the title again as long as Lashley holds it in the event he were to lose. Late in the match, McIntyre turned the tide of the contest after an onslaught of kendo stick shots at the hands of Lashley with the use of a steel chair. Unfortunately for Drew, he inadvertently took out the referee with the aforementioned chair before he took out Lashley with a Future Shock DDT. 

With no referee to count the pinfall, the second referee outside the cell needed to remove the padlock and enter the cage. McIntyre again attempted a pinfall only to be stopped this time by MVP who followed the new ref into the cell. After Drew laid waste to MVP, Lashley reemerged to cinch in the Hurt Lock on the arena floor only to have McIntyre break the hold by propelling Lashley and himself through a table. This reopened the door for McIntyre to continue his assault on the champion with a steel chair until Lashley stopped him in his tracks with a choke slam that propelled Drew from the ring apron through a table staged outside the ring. The match reached its conclusion as McIntyre was sizing Lashley up for the Claymore Kick only to have MVP grab his ankles allowing Lashley the opportunity to roll him up for the pinfall to retain his title.

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Sunday, June 6, 2021

Kings Promotions Returns to Philadelphia with a Doubleheader

By Frank Bartolini

On Saturday, June 5th, a day/night doubleheader took place in South Philadelphia, as Major League Baseball’s Phillies were competing at Citizens Bank Park down the road. This doubleheader took place at the 2300 Arena, and the participants wore boxing gloves not baseball mitts. 

Kings Promotions delivered a six fight appetizer during the midafternoon before a seven bout evening entre. The two fight cards were the first since prior to the COVID pandemic that allowed full capacity, and liberated the vaccinated from wearing masks. 

In the main event, super middleweights Brandon Robinson of Upper Darby, PA faced off against Genc Pllana of Hagerstown, MD in a scheduled eight round contest. A good match up on paper that did not disappoint, Pllana scored an upset eighth round knockout victory. 

Strong and awkward, Pllana always provides a difficult challenge for his opponents. Robinson, 166.9 lbs., was able to successfully navigate past Pllana’s, 168 lbs., uncourtly style winning two of the first three stanzas by being more active. Pllana was cut around the eye by an accidental head butt in the second. Getting inside Pllana’s long arms, Robinson was scoring straight stiff jabs followed by right hands during the first three sessions. Fighting out of a conventional stance, Pllana was scoring to the body with an unorthodox right hook/uppercut just under Robinson's left elbow. These body blows by Pllana were accurate and accompanied by loud thuds. Midway through the fourth, one such blow backed up Robinson as Pllana unloaded a right to his jaw. Badly wobbled, Robinson was saved when a Pllana uppercut went south of the border. After taking time to recover, Robinson went on the attack when the action resumed and buckled Pllana’s knees with left hooks to the chin. Robinson returned to his corner on wobbly legs at the bell. 

Looking to be on his way to victory, Robinson stuck to his game plan until Pllana landed a right hook/uppercut to the body near the end of round seven. Backed against the ropes, Robinson could not fend off Pllana’s barrage of punches. A right to the jaw dropped Robinson, who was able to rise to his feet to be saved by the bell. Beginning with the sound of the gong to start the last round, Pllana landed a barrage of head and body shots until a solid right to the jaw made Robinson crumble in his corner. Referee Shawn Clark jumped in and called it off 33 seconds into the session. 

Robinson stayed down for a few minutes as the ring doctors checked him out. Robinson is now 15-3, 10 KOs, with all three losses coming by way of knockout. During the post-fight interview, Pllana yelled out “Berlanga!” in an attempt to call out the young super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga. Pllana’s record now stands at 9-3-1, 5 KOs.  

All seats were filled in the evening portion of the day's activities, with several dozen more spectators standing around the perimeter of the arena. In the semi, wind up popular welterweight ticket seller Elijah Morales, 146.5 lbs., Trenton, NJ, improved his record to 8-0, 4 KOs by winning a shutout unanimous four round decision over Andres Abarca of Normandy, WA. Never relenting his attack, Abarca flew across the country in hopes of taking home a “W.” Abarca, 145 lbs., is now 2-5. 

In the afternoon most of the seats were filled to watch Devar Ferhadi of Frederick, MD outpoint Blake Mansfield of Cary, NC in an eight round super middleweight matchup. Mansfield, 167.75 lbs., put forth a spirited effort. Ferhadi, 167.75 lbs., won a unanimous decision by scores of 80-72 and 79-73 twice. Ferhadi continues his career with a record of 9-0, 7 KOs. Mansfield drops to 7-4-1, 4 KOs.

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