What Went Wrong For Deontay Wilder Against Tyson Fury?

Boxing is a fast-moving sport that sometimes can take multiple viewing sessions to decipher what transpired on the night. It’s why watching old tapes on an opponent can give you insight into what you can expect from a stylistic standpoint, and it can also help a fighter to uncover any faults of his own that might be seeping through the cracks.

All of that insight is good for the boxers themselves, but it can also be used as a tool from a gambling perspective. I live in a world where my goal is to find tiny edges that aren’t seen by the public and to exploit that specific advantage against the casinos. That doesn’t mean I always solve the mystery that is placed in front of me correctly, but I do my best to leave no stone unturned.

I’m a big proponent that it can be dangerous to go with your first initial reaction when watching an event live because of the numerous pitfalls placed in front of us. Whether it is a biased crowd/announcing crew, a personal vested interest deviating us from the truth or perhaps just being too emotionally invested in the outcome, I believe there are a ton of subtle things we miss along the way.

The first time I watched the Fury/Wilder fight live, I had a few assumptions and takeaways that I no longer believe to be true. For starters, I was under the opinion that Fury hit Wilder with a rabbit punch that broke the American’s eardrum in round three. I don’t want to get into the logistics on if the blow was legal or not, but we learned that Wilder didn’t suffer damage to his eardrum after getting medical attention after the fight, nor did he sustain a concussion that might have caused the wobbly performance we witnessed for the next handful of rounds. I’m not saying the punch didn’t affect his equilibrium, but there’s more to it than one shot changing the outcome.

Naturally, if we can’t use that as an excuse, there needs to be another reason for Wilder lost. Boxers live in this world where they build themselves up to be the toughest man on the planet and can’t admit defeat when it is handed to them. It is why guys like Prince Naseem Ahmed have retired from the sport shortly after their first loss, and it is why random excuses always enter the fray. For Wilder, his reasoning came down to his pre-fight ring costume being too cumbersome. The 40-pound attire drained his legs before the fight even started and never gave him a fighting chance to compete. I do believe this explanation is closer to what did ensue on the night, but it wasn’t a costume that ended Wilder’s hope of keeping his undefeated record.

Here are five things I believe went wrong on the night:

1. Upper Body Too Big, Legs Too Small

Yes, Wilder is 100% correct. His legs did cost him the fight on February 22nd, but let’s not blame a ring entrance. Wilder entered the battle at a career-high 231 pounds, causing him to carry extra weight he wasn’t used to having for his smaller lower body.

2. Tyson Fury’s Strategy 

To make matters worse for Wilder, Fury decided to weigh-in at 273 pounds – the third-heaviest of his career. Fury implemented a strategy to use his size and strength as an advantage by not only walking the American down but also using his weight to push down on Wilder during clinches. All of this caused strain to Wilder’s legs, and the increase of his own mass to go along with Fury’s size caused the lower part of his base to crumble.

3. Inability To Keep Distance 

I believe Wilder was ill-prepared for Fury’s gameplan. As you can tell by now, all of these factors go hand-in-hand as a trickle-down effect for what eventually befell the ‘Bronze Bomber.’ Once one determinant started to crumble, the whole boat sank. Wilder’s lack of a jab didn’t keep Fury honest and allowed him to smother Wilder on the inside.

4. Incapacity To Disguise Right Hand

The great equalizer in boxing can be power, but one-punch knockouts don’t work if you don’t have the space to unleash the punch, nor does it operate correctly if the shot can’t be disguised. Wilder has a terrible habit of tipping his punches before they come, and while it might work against a smaller opponent that is forced into retreat mode, it doesn’t work against a larger adversary that is placing you on your back foot.

5. Lack of Boxing Skills

Once the strengths have crumbled for Wilder, his lack of boxing skills start to take center stage. Without the size or strength advantage he usually possesses, the American was transformed into a sloppy fighter who was manhandled on the night. Wilder’s inability to keep Fury off of him wore his legs down, and the abuse he took began to depreciate on itself round after round. By the end, Wilder became nothing more than a battered opponent who was too tired to stand on his own two feet.


What Does This Mean For Their Third Fight?

Power is the great equalizer and will probably need to be deployed for Wilder early in their fight if he wants to change Fury’s straightforward onslaught. Until he can get the Englishman to take a step back, it won’t be easy for him to find his range on shots. It would help if he could time Fury coming in, but Wilder is going to need to do a better job of using his athleticism for defensive purposes to create openings.

I’ve heard rumors that the American wants to put on about an extra 15 pounds for their third meeting, and while the idea of him becoming even more stagnant on his feet is a scary one, I don’t mind the concept if they focus on adding on some bulk to his lower half. Wilder has enough upper body strength that we don’t need to add extra muscle up top, and it would only cause the same outcome to happen once again.

Does Wilder’s camp have enough time to rebuild his frame before their next fight? I would have said no before the coronavirus put the world at a standstill, but their work will still be cut out to change the complexion of the third meeting. Ultimately, I think we see Fury put together a similar outcome after perhaps surviving an early desperation attempt from Wilder, and I think the American’s lack of reality of why he lost the second fight will come back to bite him in the end. Fighters need more than “yes men” in their corner, and it appears as if Wilder has one too many people who are unwilling to tell him the truth.

 

 

 

KSI vs. Logan Paul – Who Will Win?

On February 3rd, 2018, Olajide William “JJ” Olatunji (better known as KSI) took on fellow YouTube personality Joe Weller at the Copper Box Arena in Hackney Wick, London. On Youtube, the fight generated 21 million views and proceeded to grow to over 25 million in the next several days, making it the biggest white-collar amateur boxing match in history.

KSi

KSI, who was the bigger man of the two, used his height and reach to keep Weller at a distance throughout the fight and eventually put a stop to the action with 1 minute and 30 seconds left in the third round. It goes without saying that with it being an amateur boxing match between two YouTube celebrities that the fight wasn’t always the most technically sound thing to watch. KSI demonstrated great movement in the two and a half rounds we got to see out of him in live action, but his hands remained too low at times, and he did take some shots from the smaller Weller. All in all, however, the fight was a great success, and KSI was awarded the inaugural YouTube Boxing championship belt.

ksi1

KSI’s victory celebration was short-lived, and it took him little time to call out who he wanted next. He got onto the mic after the fight and called out Jake Paul, Logan Paul or any of the Paul’s to be his next opponent. The challenge that KSI issued spiraled the internet into a whirlwind of drama and it was announced on February 24th, 2018 that Logan Paul would be squaring off against KSI on August 25th, with both of their younger brothers fighting each other on the undercard.

Advantages 

KSI KSI 2.jpg

Experience means something in boxing, and they don’t call it the “sweet science” for nothing. Even if there has only been one fight in KSI’s career, he has spent more time thinking about angles and movement, which is something he had to put into a game plan when he faced Weller. KSI’s greatest strength is his movement, and if he is in shape for a six-round fight, the 25-year-old will hope to run circles around the more stout Paul in the ring.

Logan Paul

PAul.jpg

Logan Paul has a wrestling background, which saw him place fifth at a state-level high school tournament. KSI’s advantage of performing in front of a crowd could be somewhat mitigated because of Paul’s experience competing in one-on-one situations. However, the 23-year-old isn’t going to carry the size advantage that was once thought. Paul comes in at two inches taller than KSI, but his weight advantage has been moderated. Paul weighed in at slightly under 190 pounds, and KSI weighed in at 187.

Who Will Win?

ksi vs logan.png

Let’s be honest; this is amateur boxing, and neither guy has had enough training in their lives to become technically sound enough to overcome their weaknesses. Weight isn’t going to be an excuse for why either guy wins or loses, and I think it ultimately comes down to two main things. It remains to be seen how Paul is able to defend himself , but from the KSI vs. Weller fight, I can safely say that unless KSI has improved dramatically in the last six months, he is going to have issues with Paul’s aggressive come-forward approach. If Paul can walk KSI down and make this a phone booth fight, he will ultimately wear down the Englishman and possibly be able to pull off a stoppage.

Assuming this fight will be fairly judged in KSI’s country, which isn’t a given, KSI’s only foreseeable path to victory is to keep this fight at a distance. He needs to jab and move and physically exhaust Paul. Kind of like how he did against Weller. The problem is Paul is a different animal, and it hard to imagine that KSI will be able to keep him away for six rounds.

Prediction

Logan Paul fourth-round TKO

 

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @teeoffsports

Mount Rushmore of Sports

A friend of mine recently contacted me and asked, “You know sports, who do you think would be on the Mount Rushmore of Athletes?” I responded to him and said, “This is easy” and answered the question pretty quickly. The more I started to think about it though, the more I realized how complicated this question was. My mind began to race to different variables that needed to be taken into account. I wrote him back again and inquired for more information about what we were using as a yardstick to gauge athletic excellence. We went back and forth all day and finally realized this question was not only complicated but one that required clear rules for the criteria that needed to be used.

Mount Rushmore Criteria:
On the field achievements
Off the field legacy

We will be looking for the best athletes in their sports but also will be taking into account legacy off of the field. The computation of those two factors will determine our Mount Rushmore.

This is a tricky topic to touch on because different parts of the world would view this question contrastingly. I can only speak from an American point-of-view when putting together this list. The popularity of a sport worldwide will be considered, but dominance in a given sport compared to other combatants, mixed with positive off the field legacy will weigh most heavily. Remember, a Mount Rushmore and The Greatest of All Time are different debates. A Mount Rushmore needs to take into account athletes who transcended their sport.

Mount Rushmore Finalists 

NBA-Michael Jordan
MLB- Babe Ruth
Boxing- Muhammad Ali
Tennis- Roger Federer
Golf- Tiger Woods
NHL- Wayne Gretzky
Soccer- Pele
Track & Field- Jesse Owens
Swimming- Michael Phelps
Tennis- Serena Williams


#10 Tiger Woods

Transcendence in sports describes more than just the ability to dominate. Transcendence is a term to describe climbing beyond ordinary limitations. In this example, it is the capacity to rise above the sporting realm. It isn’t a word thrown around lightly. Very few athletes have ever been considered transcendent. Tiger Woods was just that. Similar to the way Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Woods carried the mantle for golf. Never had the game seen a player mixed with African American, Chinese and Thai ethnicity. He was a marketer’s dream, both on and off the course.

With that being said, it is amazing to think that Tiger Woods sits here at #10. A couple of years ago it would have seemed more likely that he might have been considered #1 for a Mount Rushmore list. Woods in the late 1990’s-early 2000’s single-handily put golf on the map. Everyone in the world from Nike to Gatorade wanted to be linked to Tiger. Unfortunately for Woods and the game of golf, off the field scandals started to catch up to him in 2009. From extramarital indiscretions to DUI arrests, Tiger’s image has taken a significant hit but let’s not forget the impact he has had on the game of golf.


#9 Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth began his MLB career as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox but later grew to fame as a home run hitting slugger for the New York Yankees. Ruth set many MLB records during his career, both pitching and hitting. Some of these records still stand today, like slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging (OPS). His larger than life power and personality helped make him one of the greatest sports heroes in North American culture and is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time.

During his playing career, he was subjected to extraordinary press and public scrutiny. A lot of the attention revolved around his affinity for drinking and his escapades with women. He was a known womanizer and a habitual cheater. Ruth did very little to hide his extravagant lifestyle. A famous quote by Ruth was, “its simple kids, if you drink and smoke and eat and screw as much as me, well kiddos, someday you’ll be just as good at sports.”  In defense of Ruth, the press generally ignored the good he did, like often visiting children in hospitals and orphanages. For all the turmoil surrounding Babe Ruth, his on the field prowess is too incredible to ignore. He changed the way baseball was played.


#8 Michael Phelps

If this were a Greatest of All-Time list, Phelps would have to be higher. Phelps has 28 Olympic medals, with 23 of those being Gold. I think Phelps has a couple of factors working against him here though, for why I do not have him higher.

The Olympics are held every four years. When the Olympics were not going on, Phelps would be out of sight and out of mind as far as competitive sports were concerned.
However, during those stretches of time, Phelps wasn’t always out of sight of the public eye. Marijuana controversies and multiple DUI arrests plagued his in-between time till the next Olympics would arrive.
I think Phelps is a fascinating person of where the future will take him. As time goes on, his accomplishments will become even more revered.  He has done a great job of changing up his public image as well. In 2008, he spent $1,000,000 to set up the Michael Phelps Foundation, which focuses on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthier lifestyles. Also, in 2017, he joined the board of Medibio, a company that is focused on the diagnosis of Mental Health Disorders. I believe he has the most room for growth, being only 32-years-old at the time of writing this. If Phelps can continue to develop his legacy positively, it will be interesting to see where that might take him in years to come.


#7. Roger Federer

Roger Federer is undoubtedly one of the most well-rounded individuals to show up on this list. 20 Grand Slams (the most in history for a male player), 302 weeks ranked #1 in the world, 237 of which in a row. Outside of the court, you can expect the same. He has won the ATP’s sportsmanship award a record thirteen times and has been voted by fans to receive the ATP’s fan favorite award for fifteen consecutive years. Federer has redefined longevity in the world of tennis. It was once unheard of to play into your 30’s, but he has dispelled any notions of that being a set in stone rule, by not only winning at the age of 36 but actually having a resurgence back to the top. He is grace and fluidity in a volatile tennis world.

How is it possible that he could land at only #7 with all the accolades that have been mentioned? Longevity is a beautiful thing and not something that I want to dock Federer on.  His ability to play late into his 30’s resonates from the elegance he plays with. His counterparts of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal do not look like they will be able to play very long into their 30’s before they have to retire for numerous reasons, many of which have to deal with the ferocity both players play with.

Nadal is currently 31-years-old, and Djokovic is 30-years-old. Djokovic still has a year to add to his total, but if you compare all three players at the age of 31 (or younger for Djokovic) you get the following:

Grand Slam Titles
Federer 17
Nadal 16
Djokovic 12

Current Head to Head Records:
Rafael Nadal 23 wins vs. Roger Federer 15 wins
Novak Djokovic 23 wins vs. Roger Federer 22 wins.

All-Time Winning Percentage
Federer 82.0%
Nadal 82.5%
Djokovic 82.7%

Yes, Federer is currently the greatest male tennis player of all time, but it isn’t inconceivable that Nadal could catch a second wind late in his career, kind of like the one Federer is going through right now and come very close to matching the exact statistics Federer put up. I don’t think it will end up happening, but for Nadal, and even Djokovic, to be as close as they are to Federer in the same era, I believe it does take away from putting Federer any higher than #7.


#6 Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky “The Great One” is the greatest hockey player of all time. He is the leading scorer in NHL history, with more goals and assists than any other player. Gretzky has amassed more assists in his career than all other players have scored total points and is the only NHL player to score over 200 points in a season – a feat Gretzky accomplished four times. At the time of Gretzky’s retirement, he held 61 NHL records, and currently today he still owns 60 of them.

Gretzky’s biggest downfall for this list is hockey has a smaller pool of players to draw from and isn’t as popular worldwide as any of these other sports that have been mentioned. From a pure individual dominance standpoint, I am not sure if anyone can hold a candle to him. From a team dominance point of view, he won four Stanley Cups in his twenty-year career, outstanding but maybe not as dominant as others in their respective sport. Gretzky is another athlete that would be better suited for a Greatest of All-Time list than he would on a Mount Rushmore ballot. His accomplishments take him to #6, but a lack of hockey interest worldwide will stall him there.


#5 Pele

Pele is universally regarded as one of the best soccer players of all time. In 1999 he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. That same year, The International Olympic Committee elected him Athlete of the Century. Pele is the most accomplished league goalscorer of all time, scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games. This total includes unofficial friendlies and tour games. During a portion of his playing days, Pele was the highest paid athlete in the world.

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, how can Pele show up at only #5 and just miss our Mount Rushmore? This will surely be a controversial take, but I think Pele is not the most dominant soccer player ever. Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, in my opinion, could both stake claims as being that. Maradona was soccer’s bad boy and often loses points to Pele because of that and Messi still has an active career, and I find it difficult to accurately rank a player until their career is either done or close to over. No World Cup does hurt Messi’s argument slightly to be lauded as the best soccer player ever.

My biggest gripe of Pele from a dominance standpoint comes from him not being challenged in his club career. After the 1962 World Cup, rich European clubs tried to sign him but the government of Brazil a year earlier had declared Pele an “official national treasure” which prevented him from being transferred out of the country. Most of Pele’s club career was spent playing against inferior opponents in Brazil. It must be noted that when his club team of Santos did tour to play European teams, Pele did dominate scoring 204 goals in 195 career games. It is just unfortunate that we didn’t get to see more of that night in and night out. He is very close to being on my Mount Rushmore, and you could make sound arguments for why he should be on it but on my list he will just miss.

Meet our Mount Rushmore of Athletes!

Michael Jordan muhammad ali williams Jesse Owens

Michael Jordan

Not only is Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time, but he is also the most marketed athlete of his generation. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson helped to put the NBA on the map, but Jordan took the NBA’s popularity to a new level in the 1980’s and 1990’s. His prolific scoring caught the attention of diehard NBA fans, but his leaping ability captured the imagination of casual and non-basketball fans. His dynamic hops earned him the nickname of Air Jordan and His Airness.

As new fans started to gravitate towards the NBA, they quickly became aware that Jordan was the complete package. Offensively he was a giant, but defensively he was just as stout. Jordan’s individual accomplishments include: five Most Valuable Player Awards (MVP), ten All-NBA First Team Awards, nine All-Defensive First Team Awards, fourteen-time NBA All-Star, three All-Star Game MVP Awards, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP Awards, and the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Along with all those awards he also holds the record for highest career scoring average of 30.12 points per game and the highest career playoff scoring average of 33.45 points per game. Jordan’s six NBA Finals MVP Awards were the result of his six NBA Championships he won in his career.

As marvelous as his records and stats are, they pale in comparison to his product endorsement power. He fueled the success of Nike’s Air Jordan shoes and in the process incited worldwide sneaker fandom. His influence has made collecting, wearing and buying sneakers a global phenomenon. Endorsements didn’t stop with Nike though. Gatorade, McDonald’s and even Warner Brothers, to name a few, all shilled out millions of dollars to have Jordan’s name attached to their product. His 1996 Warner Brothers film Space Jam, where he starred as himself, became a global hit. All these factors have helped to make Michael Jordan the third richest African-American at 1.2 Billion dollars, behind only Oprah Winfrey and Robert F. Smith.

Jordan’s short retirement from basketball in 1993 and decision to play professional baseball in 1994 only adds to his lore and mystique. Any Greatest of All Time list or Mount Rushmore needs to start with Michael Jordan. His influence across the board is uncanny compared to all other athletes.


Muhammad Ali

Born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, the self-proclaimed “Greatest of All-Time” was a towering figure in his prime, with a mouth that was as brash as his stature. Ali was known for being quick-witted and shrewd with his words, but he was equally as nimble and fast with his hands and feet. It is safe to say no athlete has touched as many lives or has been celebrated as widely. This wasn’t always the case though. If you had told someone in 1967, that Ali would become the most beloved athlete in the world by the end of his life, well you would have won yourself a lot of money. The day after defeating Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Title in 1964, he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Cassius X, for religious reasons, and shortly after to Muhammad Ali. His true adage comes from his battles outside of the boxing ring, versus the ones that were inside of it. He refused to accept induction into the United States armed forces based off of spiritual beliefs. This decision cost him millions of dollars, his heavyweight belt and years off the prime of his career.

This choice of a “fighter,” who decided to not fight for his country, turned Ali from a boxing phenomenon to a nationwide villain.  On April 28, 1967, appearing for his scheduled induction in Houston, he refused to step forward three separate times at the call of his name. Warned by officers that he was committing a felony that was punishable up to $10,000 in fines and five years in prison, he once again refused to step forward when his name was called. That very day he was stripped of his titles.

At his trial two months later, it took the jury only 21 minutes of deliberations to find Ali guilty. The judge levied the maximum sentence possible. After a court of appeals in 1968 upheld the conviction, the case eventually went to the Supreme Court. Between 1968-1971, the countries opinion began to change on the Vietnam War and people turned against the thought of it and started to side with Ali and his stance. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that Ali’s conviction was to be overturned.

Eight months before the Supreme Court ruled, Ali had returned to the ring in Georgia (where there was no state commission.) Having not fought in almost four years, Ali scored a third round TKO over Jerry Quarry. Back into the fight game and still undefeated he set his sights towards bigger and better things and on March 8, 1971, he took on undefeated Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier, in a fight billed as “The Fight of the Century.” Each man received 2.5 million dollars. The fight amazingly lived up to its billing, but unfortunately for Ali, Frazier left with a unanimous decision victory and the belt.

Ali reeled off ten straight wins following his loss to Frazier from 1971-1973, before suffering a shocking loss to Ken Norton. He avenged this loss in his next fight and once again set his sights on a Joe Frazier clash. A lot had changed since their first encounter though. Ali was not the fighter he was once considered to be, and Frazier was no longer the Heavyweight Champion of the World, after being knocked down six times in two rounds by George Foreman. January 28, 1974, the second fight for Ali-Frazier took place. This contest wasn’t as entertaining as the first but still was a thrilling bout. This time Ali gained a unanimous decision victory over Frazier and this set up a clash of Ali versus undefeated Heavyweight Champion George Foreman.

George Foreman was a behemoth of a man. Many feared that Ali’s life was at risk taking on such an impossible task. “The Rumble in the Jungle” was fought on October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali was a 7-1 underdog for the fight. During the bout, he introduced his Rope-A-Dope strategy, where he stood flatfooted against the ropes and covered up as Foreman flailed away. His strategy worked. As the eighth round was coming to an end, Ali noticed that Foreman began to look visibly exhausted. With only seconds remaining in the round, Ali took advantage of the situation, knocking Foreman out to regain the belt. Ali was America’s champion once again. The most hated athlete of the sixties was now the most heroic of the seventies. A man that was once denounced as anti-American in 1967 was being invited to the White House in 1974.

Unfortunately for Ali, all the punches he took affected him. In 1984 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder characterized by tremors and slowness of speech and movement. The condition left him a shadow of his former self, but he still attempted to spread goodwill to all. Arguably Ali’s most defining moment in the public eye came at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he stood front and center in the spotlight. With the world watching and his hands shaking, he steadied them to light the Olympic cauldron, which signified the start of the games. Many in attendance and around the world shed a tear watching. Ali who once divided a nation was now a unifying and beloved symbol.

Serena Williams 

If Serena Williams were a man would this choice even give you a second thought? Williams doesn’t get onto my Mount Rushmore for being a woman, but she most definitely won’t be excluded because of it.

We are conditioned to think “the greatest of all-time” or “Mount Rushmore” has to be a compiled by a bunch of men. In reality, this type of question will always be rigged against any woman. Our culture, unfortunately, does not view sports played by women as equal to sports played by men. Even when a female athlete like Serena Williams, dominates her given sport, we must find a way to put down her accomplishments. It starts with a comment like, “she definitely can’t beat a top-ranked man, how about a top-50 man? Top-100? We even further demean her achievements and start mentioning retired men. The sexism that goes into that thought process is astounding. If you want to compare Serena Williams to a man, compare her by her dominance level against competitors or her contribution and elevation of the game she has provided. Measuring her achievements in any other way is ridiculous.

So let us take a look at some of her achievements:

319 weeks at #1 in the world
72 Career Singles titles
23 Career Doubles titles
783-130 Singles record
185-31 Doubles record
27-4 Mixed Doubles record
Four Olympic Gold Medals
39 Grand Slam titles (23 singles, 14 women’s doubles, and two mixed-doubles)
Held all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously (twice)- only Rod Laver and Steffi Graf have achieved this twice. Also did this in doubles with her sister Venus Williams.
She is the only tennis player in history (man or woman) to have won singles titles at least six times in three of the four Grand Slams
Only tennis player (man or woman) to have won seven Grand Slam titles in two separate Grand Slams
Only tennis player (man or woman) to have won 10 Grand Slam titles in two different decades

Serena’s biggest impact astonishingly may come off the tennis court. Tennis has had some great African American influencers throughout the years like Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson, but Williams’s influence to young African American boys and girls who see her as a role model and ambassador to the sport of tennis may be unparalleled to any who have ever played the game. Players such as Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, and Donald Young, who have all credited her and her sister Venus Williams for getting them into the sport, have already felt her effect. For generations, African Americans had preferred to play other, but Serena has had a significant influence in showing young children that tennis is another option. It is hard to find someone who has had more significance both on and off the court than Serena Williams has. She is the current face of tennis because of her dominance but also is the future of the sport because of the brigade of young African American boys and girls who she has influenced.


Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens may only have a singular Olympics he is remembered for, but in my opinion, it is the greatest moment in American sports history. Owens during his lifetime was identified as the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field. He specialized in sprints and the long jump. He rose to fame in 1935 when attending Ohio State, by setting three separate world records and tying another at a Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor Michigan. These records happened in a 45-minute span and are called “the greatest 45 minutes in sports ever.”

It is often forgotten that leading up to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, that many African American’s felt that Owens shouldn’t represent the United States at the games. This was based on the thought process that the black community was suffering at the hands of a white racist regime. Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Committee, stigmatized the advocates of a boycott as “un-American agitators” and eventually Owens and his other African American teammates decided to go to the Olympics.

In 1936 Owens and his United States teammates set sail on the SS Manhattan and arrived in Berlin for the Summer Olympics. German tyrant Adolph Hitler was using the games to show the world a rejuvenated Nazi Germany. He had high hopes that German athletes would dominate the games in front of the world. Just before the competitions, Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas, visited Owens in the Olympic Village. He convinced Owens to wear Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik shoes, the first sponsorship for a male African American athlete.

The first day of competition on August 1, 1936, Hitler shook hands with only the German winners and then left the stadium. The president of the International Olympic Committee insisted that Hitler greet every medalist or none at all. Hitler decided to welcome none and skipped all further medal presentations. Owens started his Olympics on day-two (August 2nd) and won gold medals in all four events he was entered in. Hitler came under criticism for failing to acknowledge or shake hands with Owens during any of these wins.  Owens responded to these claims by saying, ” Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave. It happened he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100-meter race, but before he left, I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me, and I waved back.”  African-American newspaper editor Robert L. Vann is one of the only ones who claimed to have seen this small interaction. He wrote, “And then… wonders of wonders I saw Adolph Hitler, salute this lad. I looked on with a heart, which beat proudly as the lad who was crowned king of the 100 meters event, get an ovation the likes of which I have never heard before. I saw Jesse Owens greeted by Grand Chancellor of this country as a brilliant sun peeped out through the clouds. I saw a vast crowd of 85,000 or 90,000 people stand up and cheer him to echo.”

Albert Speer later reported that Hitler “was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from the games.” In a 2009 interview, German journalist Siegfried Mischner claimed that Owens carried around a photograph in his wallet of Hitler shaking his hand. Mischner alleged that Owens showed him the picture and told him: “That was one of my most beautiful moments.” Mischner added that the photo was taken behind the honor stands and because of this was not captured by the world press. This picture has never been seen or been confirmed to have ever existed.

However, in 2014, Eric Brown, Britain’s most decorated living fighter pilot, independently stated in a BBC documentary, ” I actually witnessed Hitler shaking hands with Jesse Owens and congratulating him on what he had achieved. Additionally, an article in The Baltimore Sun in August 1936 reported that Hitler sent Owens a commemorative inscribed cabinet photograph of himself. On October 15, 1936, Owens addressed an audience of African American’s in Kansas City and said, ” Hitler didn’t snub me- it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram. Upon arriving back in the United States things didn’t get easier for Owens, he was not permitted to enter the main doors of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York and instead was forced to travel up in an elevator to reach the event that was honoring him. President Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to invite Jesse Owens to the White House to celebrate his accomplishments.

Racism was more rampant than ever in the United States, and Owens found it very difficult to get a job. He took on small jobs such as working as a gas station attendant and playground janitor. Later in 1942, a friend and former competitor Willis Ward brought Owens to Detroit to work at Ford Motor Company as an assistant personnel director. He later became a director for the company. In his spare time to make extra money, Owens would race against thoroughbred horses. Owens said, “People say that it is degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can’t eat four gold medals.”

It is arguable that no athlete has ever suffered more discrimination or exemplified the struggles of cruelty and poverty better than Jesse Owens. His career and life seemingly and regrettably coincide with one another. Generally the forgotten about American superstar in sports history, his life suffered the same fate. Owen’s was pushed to the back burner after standing up to tyranny in Berlin and representing the United States with honor and grace at the 1936 Olympics. It is unfortunate that Owens does not have a better end to his story, but he is a true American icon, who didn’t always get the accolades or respect he deserved.

 

These are my choices for a Sports Mount Rushmore. I would love to hear from you with your selections on Twitter and Instagram @teeoffsports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why a 2019 Fight between Keith Thurman and Errol Spence Jr. is better for all

Boxing fans are usually used to complacency. A fight not getting made for years has become a way of life. A lot of times fighters are no longer anywhere near their peak skill-level when we finally get the match-up we have all been waiting to see. For a fight between Errol Spence Jr. and Keith Thurman though, people have taken a different approach. The public is demanding the bout, and Thurman has taken the brunt of most criticism for why it isn’t happening.

So what has changed in this circumstance? 

  • I think fans are generally fed up with being strung along. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao left a sour taste in a lot of boxing enthusiasts mouths. When finally given to us, the clash between the games two biggest stars turned out to be nothing more than a dull mismatch. Pacquiao was a shot fighter, and Mayweather wasn’t quite the pristine image he once was either. No boxing pugilist wants to see this happen in front of his or her eyes again.
  • Errol Spence Jr. is a different animal both inside and outside of the ring. Young fighters coming up thru the ranks will call out the whole world, but once they reach a championship level, they will be more calculated in their decisions. Thurman is an excellent example of this. A couple of years ago, Thurman was the one calling out anyone and everyone he could. Fast forward to the present, and now he is plotting each move he makes. When you reach the pinnacle of success, you don’t want to be taken down from it. How many post-fight interviews have you heard this exact example? A world-class fighter is asked, ” Who do you want next?” The answer usually is some form of the following:
  1. I need to speak with my team.
  2. I will talk to Al Haymon and see what he thinks is best.
  3. I am going to enjoy this win and spend time with my family.

    Does this sound familiar? It is a classic ruse to avoid answering what the pertinent question was asking and one that makes sure not to give a name. No fighter wants to get trapped into thinking he only has one option. Boxing is a business, and all business decisions need to be kept on the table. Errol Spence Jr. is different though. He has reached the game’s apex but still is as hungry as ever. He is speaking for every boxing fan when he demands the contest right this second. Spence’s persistent tone has backed Thurman into a corner, and rest-less boxing fans are jumping onboard.


Then why is a 2019 fight better? 

Despite all the reasons mentioned above, a fight in 2018 would be the wrong move for all parties involved. Trust me, Keith Thurman is not scared, but some significant factors are playing against him for a battle this year. Thurman is coming off of elbow surgery and has only fought twice since 2016. Any rationale fighter isn’t going to take on the biggest fight of his life when he isn’t prepared to do so. Both Thurman and Spence fans need to understand this. If I were a Spence fan, I would want him to face Thurman at Thurman’s highest peak level. We don’t want an excuse to be made for why either guy won or lost the fight. Right now isn’t the time for this fight. Thurman needs to get healthy, comfortable and work out all ring-rust first. Spence is 28-years-old, and Thurman is 29-years-old. The two men will be in their prime for the foreseeable future. Let’s not make the same mistakes of getting anything less than a top-notch performance from each. We want no excuses this time around when deciding who the best pound-for-pound fighter is.