LOS ANGELES — It’s not the superfight boxing fans had clamored for, but this one will do. And it should be simply put, fantastic. Late Wednesday, Floyd Mayweather announced on his Twitter feed that he’s agreed to fight fellow unbeaten champion Canelo Alvarez this coming September 14 in Las Vegas at 152 pounds, putting his own unblemished 44-0 record on the line. It will without question be Mayweather’s toughest bout in years and should smash his own pay-per-view record for his new home, Showtime.
“I’m giving my fans what they want,” Mayweather said in the Twitter release, and there’s no doubt that’s the case. Since Alvarez defeated Austin Trout in late April, he’s been the hot name for Mayweather’s next hand-picked opponent. Most thought their matchup would be next year at the earliest, given Mayweather’s recent layoff and hand injury suffered against Robert Guerrero, but that was put to rest Wednesday.
The fight will take place at Mayweather’s Las Vegas home, the MGM Grand and will take place on the same day as two-time defending NCAA Champion Alabama Crimson Tide battles reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and arguably the man having the greatest Spring Break of all-time, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. My calendar is already circled for that bound-t0-be epic sports Saturday.
If I was a betting man, I’d parlay the Aggies and Mayweather.
SPURS COAST, HEAT PUSHED BY PACERS
Tony Parker, in my mind, is the MVP of the NBA Playoffs to this point. The way he dominated the Memphis Grizzlies was remarkable and unexpected, especially considering how out-of-this-world Mike Conley had been playing in the first two rounds. Truthfully, I thought the Grizzlies would defeat the Spurs in 7 games and get blown out by Miami in the Finals, but now it looks like both maybe watching from their respective Italian leather couches. To the Heat/Pacers after one more point about Tim Duncan; what he’s been able to do this postseason has been remarkable. Talk about turning back the clock, applying the deer antler spray or whatever, to see TD just destroying the competition in the second season has been wonderful. And, it’s been reported, he’s been doing in all the while locked in a nasty divorce. Kudos.
Now, onto Indiana/Miami. Who saw this coming? Put your hands down. The Pacers are huge. Like skyscraper huge and it’s obviously posing seriously problems for Miami, whose biggest player (Chris Bosh) is a 6-11 jumpshooter (I’m not counting Birdman, I’m just not). When you get outrebounded by 19 in a playoff game, you have issues. And sure, that 6th foul on LeBron James in Game 4 was pretty dubious but you have to expect that kind of wishy-washy, make-everyone-think-the-game-is-rigged refereeing once in a while. I just can’t figure out the Heat. They should be rolling, and you saw that in Game 3 and then in Game 5 how badly they can dominate when running on fully cylinders, but it just seems like they coast too much. Though I really wanna see the Spurs dismantle them. Can’t get over how amazing San Antonio is playing. I think the Spurs are going to win the title, but I think they’ll end up losing Game 1 because of the long layoff, since it seems obvious to me Pacers/Heat is going seven games.
BLACKHAWKS ADVANCE, NO CLEAR CUP FAVORITE
I’ll be the first to admit I only pay attention to the NHL during the playoffs. I’m sure I’m not alone. And while I can name more than a few players on the Bruins, to say I’m a fan would be inaccurate. I was pumped when they won the Stanley Cup a couple years ago, and I want them to win again this year, but I don’t live and die with every line change and power play. I did get moderately into the Blackhawks/Red Wings series if only because my buddy Charlie is a die-hard Chicago fan, so it was nice to see them win so he could live a little longer only to have another heart attack when they go seven games against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings here. It would be nice if I could get to a game, but it’s looking highly unlikely.
Penguins/Bruins should be a fun matchup as well. Lots of good storylines with Sydney Crosby and what Pittsburgh has been able to do this season with their super-loaded team, and Jaromir Jagr facing his former team, the team he won a couple of Cups with when he was just a rookie. Now he’s on Boston trying to lead this team to a title for the 2nd time this decade. Read somewhere that the final four is the last four Stanley Cup champions. That’s pretty neat. Hope both series go seven games.
Rooting for Kings/Bruins.
EXTRA BUTTER SUMMER-MOVIE STYLE
I’m pretty disappointed in my movie reviewing the last couple years, and every time I pledge to bring back Extra Butter, I always fall short of my own expectations (lot of first person in that sentence). So here’s some seriously quick reviews of this Spring/Summer films that I’ve seen thus far. Please note, I have yet to go see Fast 6, which I plan on doing. So in the true spirit of brevity, here’s my one-line reviews followed by my ranking.
Iron Man 3: Gwenyth Paltrow appears for a moment wearing a sports bra and Robert Downey is very polished now in his 4th go-around, if you count “The Avengers” but I thought it was a nice conclusion to the trilogy, however it made too much money not to make a 4th; as always, stay through the credits and if Jon Favreau happens to see this, eat a salad. 3.75/5
42: Harrison Ford was a little over the top as Branch Rickey, but it was a cool to sorta re-live” history” through this film, though it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be. 2.75/5
Pain & Gain: This film had 3 things going for it from the get-go with me: Marky Mark, The Rock and Michael Bay, that meant there was going to be wicked awesome one-liners, probably some big dudes doing cool stuff, and shh blowing up with gratuitous sex where applicable. Check. Check. Check. Thrown in Ed Harris and University of Southern Maine’s own Tony Schalub and you got a success, despite its stupidity. 3.25/5
Olympus Has Fallen: The first of our “let’s blow up Washington D.C.” films this year featured Gerard Butler basically doing what he should be doing in all his movies: kicking ass and taking names later, but it was nice to see Dylan McDermott getting work again despite it being this insanly over-the-top, non-believable, there-must-have-been-1,000-body-count, flick. 2.5/5
The Great Gatsby: I went in thinking this was going to be a 2-hour rap video since that’s what the previews made me think this film was, and I left thinking that I could’ve done without the Jay-Z and Beyonce songs since they, ya know, weren’t alive in 1920, but I did enjoy it, and made me think for a minute that I wanted to read the book like I was in 10th grade again. 3.25/5
GI Joe: Retaliation: A movie that knows what it is, its audience and what it wants to accomplish; fun, explosive and wrapped up with the good guys winning and The Rock kicking some serious ass; it didn’t hurt that Bruce Willis made an appearance. 3.5/5
Star Trek Into Darkness: Hands down the best flick of the season thus far, and it’s so good I don’t even want to say anything about it, just go see it and then when it’s over, see it again. 4.25/5
Oblivion: Remember when Tom Cruise went insane and everything he made was tainted? Me too, and I hated that because I really like Tom Cruise and make it a point to see all his films, so with this one I really wanted to like it and the first half was pretty awesome and then it just got weird. But Morgan Freeman is in it, so there’s that, too. 3/5
NFL OFFSEASON IN FULL SWING
I was taking some heat on Twitter when it was announced that 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree would be missing most of the 2013 season after suffering an achilles injury, those blaming me for my line of questioning to him a couple months back on the Rich Eisen Podcast. While I stand behind my simple query, I wish injury on no man, let alone someone on the cusp of greatness like Crabtree. How this affects the 49ers offense in 2013 has obviously yet to be seen, but Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Mario Manningham now carry a larger burden than before. No question Colin Kaepernick was counting on heaving the rock #15’s way 125+ times this coming season and such will have to look elsewhere on fourth and goal in the Super Bowl.
Glad to see Charles Woodson land somewhere, though it proves that the one thing that drives these athletes is the all mighty dollar, as reports had C-Wood with several other offers with franchises with more favorable odds to advance in the postseason than Oakland.
Am I the only one who doesn’t hold Brian Urlacher in such high esteem for his middle linebacking of the last 13 seasons? Because it seems that way. Let’s say we give 54 his due for the Arizona “You Want To Crown Them?” game, because most seem to agree that was a seminal moment for him given how well he played in the second half against Matt Leinart and Co., but name me another quintessential Brian Urlacher moment that would beseech him such a title as Hall of Famer? I can’t think of one. He was a very good player for a considerable period of time who also seemingly was hurt more often than not. That’s how I’ll remember him. That and his flings with Paris Hilton and Jenny McCarthy.
Enjoy the weekend, everyone.
LOS ANGELES — Late Spring is arguably the best time for sports. With the unpredictability of the NBA and NHL Playoffs, interleague baseball, the randomness of big boxing matches, tennis and golf Grand Slam tournaments, and even horse racing; if the sports planets all align there’s the chance for something special. So when the Devils beat the Kings last Wednesday to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals, and then the Heat beat the Celtics to avoid elimination in the NBA Playoffs the next day, the intergalactic sports Gods set up a potentially epic day like Saturday, June 9.
As it turned out, there wasn’t just two or three of the previously mentioned events planned, but all six. I mean, why wouldn’t there be. It isn’t often you get a horse going for the Triple Crown, a tennis great trying to complete the career Grand Slam, your favorite baseball team playing against the best young player since Junior Griffey, a potential Stanley Cup deciding game, an NBA Playoffs Game 7 and a big-time prize fight featuring who many consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. All in one day!!?! A sports guy’s dream.
However, when I’ll Have Another’s trainer Doug O’Neill pulled the horse, who already had a pair of stunning come-from-behind wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, on Friday morning after noticing signs of arthritis/tendinitis in its leg, the Gods proved they had other plans. We now know those were nightmarish ones, especially for those with northeast rooting interests, like myself.
We’ll start with the Red Sox, who are on the precipice of a disaster .500 season (seriously, Adrian Gonzalez, you suck). They got things going in the southern directional with a 4-2 loss to the hotshots from Washington (who would later sweep Boston after Sunday’s win). While I failed to watch a single inning of this contest, I didn’t have high hopes after Stephen Strasburg (6 innings, 2 runs, 13 Ks) and Bryce Harper (3-for-5, 3 RBIs and a HR) dominated the squad the day before. You know it’s a bad sign when I just expect a disastrous performance before a pitch is ever thrown; 2004 and 2007 seem soooo long ago.
Shortly there after Boston’s “L,” the rest of the field that would’ve been an asterisk to I’ll Have Another’s historic Triple Crown (he was going off at 4-5 odds as late as last Thursday) took to the track at Belmont Park before a less-than optimally hyped crowd of over 85,000 (who bet over $15M). There was a group of us watching at The Daily Pint in Santa Monica for our friend Joe’s birthday or perhaps I would’ve skipped the race entirely. Back in the day, I wouldn’t have missed a big race. There was a harness racing track near my house in Maine and my buddies and I would roll over and lay some action down; always made it more interesting. Alas, I had zero interest, but the historic mile-and-a-half jaunt ended up being a dramatic race despite the favorite’s absence. Union Rags came from behind to claim the victory but will be a distant memory to what might have been. Legendary trainer Bob Baffert once again had his horse Place, as Paynter came up just short.
Now, I’m not a hockey fan, but the hometown Kings being a game away from clinching the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s history, and with the puck dropping on Game 5 a half hour before Heat/Celtics Game 7, was enough to garner at least 30 minutes of my viewing time. Our now 5-man crew shifted over to Busby’s where we’d be able to watch both events and then possibly the Bradley/Pacquiao fight later on. The move proved to be a smart one as we posted up right in front of a TV with the basketball game on, with the hockey on directly behind us for easy viewing. I turned my head every now and again to check the score; we were updated on what was happening by the groans/cheers from the other patrons. There were mostly groans as the Devils extended the series with a 2-1 win.
Of course, my focus was solely on the Celtics, who were seeking their 3rd NBA Finals appearance in the five years of the Big Three Era and a revenge victory over Miami, which took out Boston in 5 games in last year’s Eastern Conference semis. It was a torridly-close affair but the Celtics managed to have a not-so comfortable 7-point lead at halftime, however, with just 12 minutes left to play it was dead even. The way Miami came back didn’t leave a good feeling in my gut, and as the time on the game clock dwindled it became apparent that the new golden era in Boston was coming to an unceremonious end. The Heat finished off the 101-88 win to advance to the NBA Finals against the youthfully athletic Oklahoma City Thunder and their dynamic and questionably fashionable duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. What made the loss even more obnoxious, was that suddenly we were surrounded by Heat fans, fans who were noticeably silent for the previous 36 game minutes. All that was left for me to do was lick my wounds, and devour my turkey burger, and prepare for the pugilistic showdown.
I suppose we should have taken this has a sign of weird things to come, but the fight’s start was delayed by nearly an hour as 1) Manny Pacquaio, apparently a huge Celtics fan (finally, something to like about him) refused to get ready until the basketball game was over, and 2) Pacquiao, after getting ready, had to walk on the treadmill for a lengthy period of time to loosen up his calves, which he’s had problems with tightness in throughout his training camp. Meanwhile, the HBO announcing team was running out of things to talk about as everyone waited. It was beyond bizarre. Meanwhile, Bradley was gloved up and ready to go, pacing around backstage while Pacquaio went on with his shenanigans. The whole scene was bizarre, to say the least.
Finally, just after 9pm pacific time — only an hour or so after it was supposed to get underway — the boxers made their way to the ring, Michael Buffer did this overpriced thing (did you know he gets close to $5 million to be a boxing announcer for big fights?) and the dance began. It was clear from the get-go that Pacquiao was there to fight and quell the thoughts his 12-round triumph over Juan Manuel Marquez some months back wasn’t earned. The WBO champ was aggressive and closed rounds strongly, while Bradley tried to fight off Pacquiao’s his flurries. The challenger didn’t do a good job of it. Midway through the fight I tweeted out that a knockout was looming in the coming rounds. It never came.
Bradley, who we later found out broke his foot in the fourth round, fought admirably to close the bout, but by then most assumed it was a forgone conclusion he was the big loser. When it was finally over and Bradley’s cornermen lifted him up, Jim Lampley commented on the irony, since it appeared he was soundly defeated. It was even reported Bradley told promoter Bob Arum that he gave all he could but even then couldn’t defeat Pacquiao. It wasn’t until Buffer read the first score of 115-113 that I knew something was up. And even though the round went to Pacquiao, that someone could even think the fight was that close was ludicrous was not a good sign if he hoped to continue his 7-year unbeaten streak.
Then Buffer said the second judges scores; “115-113 for Bradley” and you knew right then Bradley was going to win. The final judge’s score of 115-113 for Bradley didn’t even need to be read but when it was there was a good 15-20 seconds of silence inside Busby’s while we all soaked in what we just heard and what that meant for Pacquiao, a sitting-in-jail Floyd Mayweather and the sport of boxing. What it meant for Bradley was a rematch (one that was already predetermined, ironically) and a bigger payday and a still unblemished record. Twitter was aghast with notions of a fix and it was tough to argue. Inside Busby’s, some clown in a LeBron James jersey was running around yelling his outrage to any one would listen. Many did not. On my drive home, I wondered what Mayweather’s reaction must have been when learning of the outcome. Surely a smirk was involved.
In the end, only Maria Sharapova was able to come through to win the French Open and complete her career Grand Slam. Still, she’s getting married to former Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic so a complete victory is not awarded in my book. On top of all the sports brokenheartedness, it was the first weekend in nearly three months without “Game of Thrones,” and it was the last for probably a year with a Mad Men episode.
So much hope, so much promise when the sun rose that day all for not. Sometimes stars shine bright but their alignment is a little off. Maybe next time.
LOS ANGELES — What is it about villains that piques our interest as people? Think about your favorite movies or TV shows; all the most complex, interesting and really, best characters are the antagonists. You wouldn’t love “The Godfather” if Michael Corleone didn’t take the family business’ reigns by killing off his competition, and later, even his brother; Sonny sure wasn’t going to do it. Same with “The Sopranos.” Tony Soprano is literally one of the worst persons ever; deceiving, muderous, philandering, but did we want him to go to jail? Did we want him to die at the end. I know I didn’t.
Don Draper, Walter White, The Joker, Eric Cartman, J.R. Ewing, David Caruso in Jade; all evil and deplorable as people, yet we root for them, and if you’re honest, feel sad when they come upon bad things even though they deserve it. At its core, there’s something fun about rooting for the bad guy; the rebel dressed in black. He always walks under cool music, delivers the most memorable lines, and even if he dies in the end, we want to be them. Except Scrooge McDuck, he was just mean and had a tail.
In sports, rooting for the bad guy isn’t as easy — in fact, the easiest thing to do to HATE the bad guy — except when he’s on your team; then you see past what makes him so unlikeable (I’m looking at you, Pistons/Alex Rodriguez/Sean Avery/James Harrison fans). You don his jersey, feed his hype and make excuses for his jerkdom. Admittedly, it’s harder to be a true villain in team sports (I still contend LeBron James should’ve become the ultimate NBA villain, and in a way he sort of did but not on purpose; he still thinks he’s a good guy and wonders why he’s so disliked), but individually both being a villain and rooting for a villain is much easier.
I’ll never forgive Tiger Woods after the scandal for wanting to be liked again; being the villain on the golf course would’ve been 100-times cooler. Think about it. If you’re looking for pub, magazine covers and the ire of the crowd, nothing beats being the villain. It’s why it’s much more fun to cheer against the heel in professional wrestling.
I’ll again be rooting for the bad guy Saturday when Floyd Mayweather, Jr. steps into the ring to fight Miguel Cotto in the latest boxing “mega-fight” in Las Vegas. The two 150-pounders are set to duke it out in yet another match which doesn’t feature Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather squaring off and will probably disappointment the million-plus who purchase it for $70 on pay-per-view.
If you’ve watched any of HBO’s outstanding “24/7” leading up to the fight, or any of the program’s featuring Mayweather in recent years, or follow him on Twitter, or have read anything about him, you know what the 42-0 fighter is all about. On the show alone he’s bought $300,000 Rolls Royces, closed amusement parks for his family and friends, made six-figure sports bets, referenced dog fighting, went shopping with a backback full of cash, and unapologetically and openly taunted his opponents. He’s traded verbal assaults with his father, talked about his upcoming 90-day jail sentence, his legacy (he thinks he’s the greatest of all-time; shocking, I know), Manny Pacquaio, lit 100-dollar bills on fire, partied with Ray-J and 50 Cent and on and on. It’s amazing TV and completely unscripted. He’s selling himself and his “Money May” brand and he does it better than any athlete alive right now; he’s guaranteed $32 million from his fight vs. Cotto and possibly more.
Here’s the thing, though: I like Floyd Mayweather. I like him despite on the surface he stands for everything I’m against as a person. But as an athlete, he’s what I admire. He’s brash, unafraid (sort of, since he hasn’t yet agreed to fight Pacquiao, though the converse is true as well), extremely confident and performs on gameday with an unmatched gusto. He believes he’s never going to lose. And he hasn’t.
I want him to keep winning, too. The more Mayweather wins the more he can keep living his lifestyle and building this “Money May” persona, which means the more people will hate him, and when both he and Pacquiao finally agree to fight each other, more people will care and will shill out the cash for the pay-per-view, only making him richer. Boxing might be dying as a sport (name one heavyweight champ other an a Klitchko or big fight that didn’t include Mayweather) and if you put retired NFL players and boxers in a police lineup you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart; not to mention boxing’s concussion and brain problems leading most young Americans to choose a different sports path, but you have to respect what Mayweather has done and is doing both in and out of the ring.
He’s the last true villain and he knows it. And see him ride in on the black horse Saturday and continue to fabricate his dark legend. Don’t be afraid to cheer him. He’d rather you boo, of course, but doing so on either side will only fuel him to continue on his path away from our hearts. All part of the villain script.