The Battle for Sept. 14 for Timothy Bradley, Floyd Mayweather and Juan Manuel Marquez

After Floyd Mayweather’s clinical victory over Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero on Saturday night, the focus now turns to when Mayweather’s next fight will be. Mayweather said he intends to fight on Sept. 14. With the close turn-around time, that’s a stretch for Mayweather, who fights infrequently. Also making it unlikely he’ll fight on Sept. 14 is a hand injury. Mayweather got X-rays, but there’s no word on the extent of the injury.

Already scheduled for Sept. 14 is Cathedral City’s Timothy Bradley defending his WBO welterweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez, who is trying to become the first boxer from Mexico to win world titles in five different weight classes. It will be a good pay-per-view fight. But promoter Bob Arum saidin online reports that  if Mayweather really does fight on Sept. 14, he would move Bradley-Marquez.

But after Saturday’s fight, should Bradley-Marquez move off that date? Mayweather earned a lopsided victory, and there’s not many boxers in the Golden Boy stables who figure to give Mayweather a challenge. There’s only one that people want to see and that’s Mayweather-Alvarez. Unlikely Mayweather would take on the big fighter. After that, there’s not many boxers who can make a Mayweather fight more intriguing than Bradley-Marquez. Amir Khan, who is fresh off his narrow victory over Coachella’s Julio Diaz, could a good fight to market, but it seems like a waste of the Mexican Independence Day weekend.

Things should shake out in the coming days to see where Floyd goes, and if Bradley-Marquez will stay on Sept. 14 or go.

Timothy Bradley picked well in facing Juan Manuel Marquez

Timothy Bradley found himself in an ideal spot, getting to choose multi-million dollar fights against two superstars — Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao.

The best choice was Marquez on several levels. First, the fight was going to be in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day weekend against the country’s biggest star. Now that can change if Floyd Mayweather says he’s going to fight on that day. But Mayweather has a fight on May 4 and it’s rare he would fight on a short turnaround. While Mayweather might say he’ll fight on Sept. 14, So Bradley could have a huge audience to himself.

As for Bradley’s legacy, it would mean much more to him to fight Marquez and beat him. Marquez arguably beat Pacquiao all four times. And the most convincing victory of their four fights was the knockout victory in December that had Pacquiao on the canvas out cold for over two minutes.

Plus, Pacquiao was asking for too much for not enough compensation. In the original contract Bradley was to get close to $10 million for a rematch according to several reports. So for the Pacquiao camp to offer $6 million could actually be seen as a markdown. And then they wanted Bradley to fight in China, which is a huge ask. For that, they should have paid a premium. Or they should have made arrangements to compensate Bradley with a marketing plan in Asia that could open up millions of dollars.

And really, Bradley is doing Pacquiao a favor. Pacquiao is coming off two straight losses. Why shoule he get a title shot against Bradley?

Bradley-Marquez promises to be a fantastic, intriguing fight. And for Bradley, it can lift him up into another level.

My brush with Alice Cooper today

I was at valet of the Kraft Nabisco Championship and I saw Alice Cooper standing next to a Ferrari. I yelled out, ‘Is that your ride.’ Alice looks at me and says ‘no.’ Then the valet pulls up in his Avanti.  Alice says, ‘My car is much better.’ He gets in the car and drives off.

Why Tennis Channel is more important than ever

Well it wasn’t the best of months for tennis in America. First, the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open was on one of ESPN’s many networks, but a lot of fans struggled to find it. And then Sunday, the men’s final of the Sony Open cut off just as Andy Murray and David Ferrer were going into a third-set tiebreaker on CBS because of the start of the Michigan-Florida blowout.

The tennis people don’t want to admit this, but they’re low on the totem pole as far as network executives are concerned. If you’re not a slam, you’ll get shoddy treatment.

But if you were paying attention to Tennis Channel, they continue to do an excellent job giving fans what they want. A really great moment for the Tennis Channel was at the BNP Paribas Open, when the matches went long and Novak Djokovic had to play a match beginning after midnight. Tennis Channel stayed with the coverage and it was fantastic. And you won’t get the cutoff like you had with CBS on Sunday, and you’ll always know where to catch the matches … uninterrupted.

The BNP Paribas Open has a strong desire to be on a network, so they continue to have a contract with ESPN with hopes of getting on ABC. They need to give up on the networks, like many of the views have. If you look at the television landscape in entertainments, very few of the best shows are on network. They are on AMC, or the premium networks. I’m talking about Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Girls, Dexter, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Walking Dead. You can build a strong audience and good buzz as all those shows have. As a fan, I never cared about AMC, but once I got hooked on Mad Men and Breaking Bad, it’s become appointment TV.

Hopefully the BNP Paribas Open and Sony Open will take note.

Former 49ers lineman Kwame Harris comes out, but needs to stay out in the public

I’ve covered sports for 27 years, and when I first started, it was always weird to me that there were no openly gay athletes. Just look at the number of professional football, baseball or basketball players, and no one is gay? I always figured it wouldn’t be long before an active athlete, particularly in one of the major sports, would come out and be open.

Since I first held a job as a sports writer in 1986, attitudes have changed. Some have been out in individual sports, like tennis and recently boxing. Yet through all these years, there are no openly gay and active athlete in the major team sports?

Earlier today, Kwame Harris has come out after playing in the Super Bowl and was outed. I really applaud him for coming out and going public by doing an interview with CNN to talk about it. You hope it will give other athletes the courage to be open.

Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried joined a gay rights sports group Athletes Ally. Faried joined the group in part to honor his two mothers, who married in 2007. I suspect athletes are more like Faried than 49ers and Harris teammate Chris Culliver, who made anti-gay remarks prior to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I think Culliver’s words have more of an impact than Faried’s actions.

But lets be frank. No athlete has come out while he was an active player in a team sport. This makes it harder for the others who are in the closet. I would suspect that once someone came out, there would be several others who will come out as well. In this community, they need someone to be that leader. I can’t believe no one has stepped forward.

In an ideal world, I would like to see a team pick up Harris so he can come out of retirement and be that leader. He would get a lot of attention and have to deal with a lot of interview requests. He would create a legacy greater than anything he could do on the football field. He could create social change.

Below is the link to the Harris interview. http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/29/former-nfl-player-comes-out/

 

Fight of the Year competition for Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov comes this weekend in Rios-Alvarado II

Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado will have their highly-anticipated rematch this weekend, and could be an early contender for Fight of the Year along side Timothy Bradley’s unanimous decision victory over rugged Ruslan Provodnikov on March 16.

In their first fight, Rios scored a seventh-round TKO when he rallied against Alvarado. It was an exciting fight between two guys who just went after each other. The first fight was also a Fight of the Year candidate, losing out to Manny Pacquiao getting knocked out cold in the sixth round by Juan Manuel Marquez.

But during their tele-conference last week, they were still buzzing about Bradley-Provodnikov.

“I was almost jumping on the TV watching that fight,” Rios said.  “It brought back memories.  I was like ‘Damn, they are showing the warrior spirit.’  They were going at it.  Like they said, Bradley came out with a different game plan and he proved that he’s a warrior and a fighter.”

Promoter Bob Arum is in a nice position. He promotes Rios, Alvarado, Bradley and Pacquiao. And he has worked well with Marquez. The talk is there might be a mini-tournament between the top welterweights.

So if Rios wins, he could set up a fight against Manny Pacquiao probably in the fall. Marquez has talked about wanting to fight for another title and that’s where Bradley will come in. Only time will tell if that materialize. If it does, it will be a great situation for Arum and HBO, which last week announced it won’t air any fights from Arum’s rival Golden Boy Promotions.

“Fans aren’t stupid.  They want to see action,” Arum said. ”Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios are action fighters.  Timothy Bradley showed that he is an action fighter.  Juan Manuel Marquez is an action fighter.  Manny Pacquiao is an action fighter.  Ruslan Provodnikov is an action fighter.  They don’t play around.  They don’t dance around.  They fight.  That’s what the public wants to see, so we’ll mix and match as we go along because they are the big fights that people want to see.  That is the way the fighters can be rewarded monetarily.”

 

 

My John Wooden Award ballot. Who should I vote for?

One of the perks of covering boxing and tennis is I get to vote on the Wooden Awards for top college basketball players.

Yeah, I’m not sure how I became one of the voters, but I really do enjoy being able to vote. I’ve done it for a few years. And I grew up a college basketball fan, watching Lute Olson turn my hometown Arizona Wildcats into a national power.

With my roots, I have to say I’m surprised no Pac-12 players made the final ballot. Allen Crabbe of Cal is a fantastic player who I thought should make it at least. There’s only two West Coast players on the final ballot, Anthony Bennett of UNLV and Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga. West Coast basketball was stronger than that.

So here’s my breakdown of my ballot and what I’m leaning towards. But I am open to suggestions, so leave me a comment and I’ll consider it. The way it works is I have to vote for 10 players and rank them 1 through 10. First is worth 10 points, second is nine points, and so on.

Leading candidates: I like Victor Oladipo of Indiana and Trey Burke of Michigan. They are the best players from the best conference in college basketball this year, the Big Ten. I’ve been impressed with how Oladipo can contribute in so many ways. Burke, I think he’s a heck of a leader.  This is a tough one for me.

Top candidates: I am really impressed with what Shane Larkin has done at Miami. They were the cream of the ACC crop. I’ve also been impressed with Gonzaga’s big man Kelly Olynyk, even though I think Gonzaga is over rated as a No. 1 seed. They are nice players. Ben McLemore has emerged as something special as a freshman at Kansas.

Played out: The nice part of the Wooden Award is you can wait after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament to cast your vote. That’s bad news for a few players. Anthony Bennett of UNLV is dropping after his team lost to Cal in their opener. Same with Otto Porter Jr. at Georgetown. Marcus Smart, he was getting some love, but Oklahoma State losing to Oregon in the first round makes it hard vote him very high.

Jury’s still out: One of my co-workers is so down on Mason Plumlee of Duke. I think he’s a good player, but I don’t think he’s even the best player on his team. Indiana’s Cody Zeller had a lot of hype coming into the year, which has hurt him. Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State  has a good year, but I’m on the fence with him.

Surprised they were still on the last: Jeff Withey of Kansas. He had a down year, but he has turned it up during crunch time.

The complete list: Anthony Bennett (UNLV), Trey Burke (Michigan), Erick Green (Virgina Tech), Shane Larkin (Miami), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Ben McLemore (Kansas), Victor Oladipo (Indiana), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), Mason Plumlee (Duke), Otto Porter Jr (Georgetown), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State), Jeff Withey (Kansas), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State), Cody Zeller (Indiana)

A good story on Ruslan Provodnikov by Steve Kim

Timothy Bradley’s victory Saturday not only helped his career, but his opponent Ruslan Provodnikov. Steve Kim, an excellent boxing journalist for Max Boxing was at Wild Card Gym, which is trainer Freddie Roach’s headquarters. And he captured a really great moment, and how it was a microcosm of how his life has changed as well.

Micky Ward said he believes there’s six action fighters in the welterweight divisions, listing both Bradley and Provodnikov with the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Provodnikov might have an advantage in that he’s with Banner Promotions. So they could probably make a deal to fight a Golden Boy fighter or champion.

If you haven’t seen Kim’s story, check it out on the link below.

http://www.maxboxing.com/news/main-lead/azad-championship-report—provodnikov-feels-like-the-winner

Timothy Bradley’s win over Ruslan Provodnikov was a ratings winner according to Nielsen

Nielsen Media Research released the numbers and 1.2 million viewers watched HBO’s live telecast of Timothy Bradley’s victory over Ruslan Provodnikov on Saturday night in Carson. The audience peaked at 1.4 million viewers.

But the real measure of the excitement of the fight was 274,000 fans tuned in to watch the Sunday morning replay.

By comparison, Bradley-Provodnikov matched the amount of viewers from the week before when 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins beat Tavoris Cloud to become the oldest boxer to win a world title, the IBF light heavyweight title. But the next day replay of Bradley-Provodnikov did 57 percent better than the Hopkins-Cloud fight.

Looking back at Timothy Bradley’s win over Ruslan Provodnikov

What I saw on Saturday was something I never saw in 2008 and that was Timothy Bradley taking punishment. And lets put that into perspective, I’ve seen Bradley fight current and former world champions, and that includes the great Manny Pacquiao.

But what Bradley did during that fight was not surprising. He showed the courage to overcome and he kept coming.

Bradley stood in the line of fire and battled. Bradley did that when he fought Kendall Holt and was knocked down in the first round by a punch that had Bradley’s eyes roll up. In that fight, he said he couldn’t feel his legs. Against Pacquiao, he strained ligaments in one foot in the second round and severly sprained the other by the fourth in a fight against the dangerous Pacquiao, but overcame the pain to score a split decision victory.

Freddie Roach, the trainer for Pacquiao and Provodnikov, came towards me after his press conference and asked me to tell Bradley something along the lines that he has big cajones.

Now Bradley, who was the most criticized fighter after the Pacquiao fight, probably doubled his fan base at least. But most of all, Bradley got what he most wanted, respect. What Bradley and Provodnikov gave fans was a fight they won’t soon forget.

But let’s not forget Provodnikov. He did to Bradley what other world champions couldn’t. He punished Bradley. He is heavy handed and was able to connect on Bradley frequently with heavy-handed punches. Pacquiao couldn’t do it, Devon Alexander couldn’t do it, Lamont Peterson couldn’t do it. The only other time Bradley has been knocked down in a fight was against Holt, who did it twice. But Holt wasn’t as relentless as Provodnikov.

If you missed the fight, HBO will replay the fight. It was on Sunday morning and will have multiple replays. In a few days, the fight should be available as part of the On Demand service.

Other HBO playdates: Today (10:30 a.m.) and Monday (11:30 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Today (4:45 p.m.) and Tuesday (11:30 p.m.)