Friday, May 2, 2014

Don't Expect The Unexpected - Mayweather vs. Maidana

Floyd Mayweather is fighting on Saturday. Did you know that? Did you know that the most recognizable name in American boxing has a major pay-per-view fight? More importantly, do you care? Is anyone other than his accountant excited about this fight? At least the Canelo fight had an engaging opponent in the young Mexican.

What does Marcos Maidana have going for him? Well, he beat Adrian Broner aka Mayweather, Jr, Jr, So the argument goes that he knows what to expect from Mayweather, he's seen the “roll shoulder” defense and he knows how to beat it since Broner pretty much employs the same style. To me that's like saying I could strike Eddie Murray out because in high school I struck out someone who copied Murray's batting stance. As far as I'm concerned “Chino” has no shot, NO SHOT, to win.

Sure he's saying all of the right things. He's going to attack, he's going to pressure, he's going to hurt Mayweather if he hits him. Which is kind of funny to me. Watching a couple of the “All Access” pre-fight shows I noticed Roberto Garcia, Maidana's trainer, uses the word “if” a lot. You would think the quote would be, “When I hit him I will hurt him” not “If I hit him”.

Therein lies the Floyd problem. He is a hard man to hit inside a boxing ring. Watching the Broner/Maidana fight is like watching a minor league version of the upcoming fight. All of the same actions are there, just at a slightly reduced speed. Those winging left hooks and chopping right hands that Maidana kept bouncing off of Broner's head? They're going to find nothing but air when he throws them against Mayweather. Either that or in the time it take “Chino” to wind up he'll eat two straight rights from the champ.

The time it took you to read this caption is about how long it took Chino to throw the punch

So how do you sell tickets to a fight that everyone knows the outcome to? You make it about something else. Hence the sudden retirement talk. If this is the last time Floyd Mayweather steps into a ring, isn't worth plunking down the $65 to see it? This could be one last chance to see greatness, and make no doubt about it “Money” is a once-in-a-lifetime great fighter, one last chance to see an artist at work. Shouldn't that bring in a couple of hundred more pay-per-views and buy Mayweather another Rolex?

After Saturday he has three fights left on his deal with Showtime/CBS. Even though he is an aging 37-year-old I don't see him throwing away another potential $100 million in purses to own the Clippers or promote other boxers. Besides, with his history of “retirements” and extended time out of the ring I wouldn't be shocked if Showtime/CBS had slipped a clause in the contract requiring a buyout or return of future funds should he not fulfill the six fight deal in a certain amount of time.

My guess, based on entirely nothing, is that after he disposes of Maidana he fights Amir Khan next (providing the flashy Brit doesn't find himself staring up from the canvas in his own fight), then Peter Quillin and maybe, just for fun, a final passing-of-the-torch match with his protegee Adrian Broner. I'm sure if Quillen or Khan muck things up you could throw Sergio Martinez's name in the hat as well.

The point being that Mayweather will fight three times over the next 18 months, but it won't be against anyone that can actually beat him. As much as he loves stacks of money, Rolexes, Bentleys and big mansions, he loves that big fat “0” in the loss column even more. That's what allows him to be who he is, the entire “Money” Mayweather myth is built around his invulnerability and the fact that no man has ever beaten him as a professional boxer. If he loses then he's just another good fighter who faded at the end of his career.

I don't think those are $1 bills

I don't want to dismiss Marcos Maidana as a fighter. He is a really good fighter who punches hard and has beaten some decent fighters in Broner and Josesito Lopez, but he also lost to the glass-jawed Khan and Devon Alexander – two fighters not exactly in Mayweather's league. However as an 11-1 underdog it appears the betting public has already dismissed him in this fight. That being said boxing is a weird sport. He might catch Floyd with a wild left hand. Or maybe he gets inside and gets away with some rough, brawling tactics – a low blow here, a forearm to the throat there – that gets Mayweather off of his game. Maybe the unfairness of receiving $1.5 million to Floyd's $32 million will motivate him to a level we don't think he's capable of. I doubt it, but that's why they decide it in the ring.

Mayweather has said that he's going to be aggressive in this fight and take it to Maidana. Mayweather says a lot of things before a fight that don't end up happening. I don't see him doing anything different than he has against Alvarez or Robert Guerrero or Miguel Cotto. He will slip punches, counter, fire off blistering combinations and then masterfully spin out of trouble before Maidana realizes what happened. Twelve rounds later the referee will hold his arm in the air as the unanimous victor. He's done it for 18 years as a professional and it's been successful all 45 times he's stepped into the ring. But will there be anyone watching when it happens?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

No. No They Couldn't Dig Themselves Out

On Wednesday night three series went to a game seven. Sadly, the Tampa Bay/Montreal series was not one of them. Since you're reading this on the internet I'm going to assume you know that the Lightning had the distinct honor of being the first team bounced from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While that isn't the ideal end to a season it could have been worse. You could be a San Jose Sharks fan.

As I mentioned over on Raw Charge, there is no need to break out the fancy stats for this one. Simply put, the Montreal Canadiens were the better team. They outplayed the Lightning for most of the series (there were occasional pockets where Tampa looked like the better team) and they deserved to win the honor of getting their asses kicked by the Bruins in the next round.

Since there is no need to rehash the series let's instead review the predictions I made a couple of weeks ago. Unlike other prognosticators that tend to never go back and review their “bold predictions” I own up to my often wildly inaccurate previews. Let's see how I did:

Winner – Lighting in 6

Well that didn't happen. So much for the Canadiens being the ideal match-up in the first round. The Lightning never really found the extra gear needed to be successful in the playoffs. The Canadiens seemed to win every battle for the puck, outskated the Lightning in all three zones and created their own lucky bounces.

Number of OT Games – 4

Only one game, the first game, went to overtime. Despite the fact that they were swept, it wasn't like the Canadiens blew them off the ice. Three of the four games were decided by one goal and had the Lightning been able to get one or two bounces to go their way (i.e. Alex Killorn's shot in overtime in Game One hits the post and goes in instead of bounding away harmlessly) this series plays out differently.

Longest OT - 3

Game One almost made it into the second overtime as Dale Weise banged home the winner at the 18:08 mark of overtime. Looking back, Montreal winning Game One was the turning point of the series. If the Lightning had managed to pull that game out, scoring 4 or 5 goals on less than 20 shots, the entire tone of the series changes. Weise bailed out Carey Price's sub-par performance in that game. To Price's credit he was almost invulnerable in the final three games. Plus the confidence factor for the young TampaCuse players would have been boosted. Instead, it felt like the Lightning were chasing their opponents for the next three games.

X Factor – PK Subban

Unfortunately for the Lightning, “Good” PK Subban showed up. He picked up five assists and was a force moving the puck through the neutral zone for the Canadiens. 

And his skating led to one of my favorite photos.

Leading Scorer Lightning – Stamkos

Hey, hey I got one right! Four points in four games for the Lightning captain was enough to lead the team in scoring. He was the best player on the ice for Tampa Bay, even after he took a knee to the skull in Game 3.

Leading Scorer Canadiens – Vanek

Thomas Vanek did have a decent series as he posted three points. However, the trio of Lars Eller, PK Subban and Brendan Gallagher all had five points. Almost all of Canadiens contributed offensively (only Francis Bouillon and Andrei Markov didn't register a point) and that depth was the biggest factor in their winning the series.

Number of Games Bishop Plays – 4

I really believed he was going to play in the series. At least I believed that until Game Three. Once he didn't come out in what was a must win for the Lightning I knew he was done for the playoffs. I guess a dislocated left elbow and a torn ligament in the right wrist is kind of hard to overcome.

Number of Games Gudlevskis Plays – 0 (please god let it be 0)

Unfortunately Kristers appeared in two games. He acquitted himself well, stopping 90% of the shots sent his way and keeping the Lightning close in Game Four. If they had pulled out a win in that game there is a good chance he might have started Game Five.

Number of Games BJ Crombeen Suits Up – 2

Nailed it!

(Three Points about Radko Gudas throwing hip checks)

As I mentioned in my post after Game Three I didn't get to see too much of the series thanks to my work schedule. Gudas played in three games and except for blowing a tire in Game One that led to a Montreal goal, played pretty well.

Role Player Who Will Have a Surprisingly Good Series – Tom Pyatt

Pyatt saw action in only one game. One of the few tactical mistakes that I think Coach Copper made was his reliance on Cedric Paquette. I know his rookies had come through for him all through the season, but to rely on a player that had only 2 games of experience with the team was asking too much. I'm not sure if the Lightning win the series if Pyatt is in, but I think he helps them shut down some of the secondary scoring that the Canadiens generated.

Will JT Brown Score a GoalYes

If it had gone six games I think he would have scored. With Pyatt not playing I'll name Brown as my role player who had a good series. He picked up two assists and was one of the more aggressive forecheckers the Lightning had during the match-up.

So yeah I got two right. As usual not even close to being .500. I don't even want to tell you how bad my bracket looks on Another successful bout of prognostication from the expert!