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Thierry Henry suspended by Monaco

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According to Sky Sports, Monaco have suspended head coach Thierry Henry until a decision is made on his future. The Arsenal legend has struggled to turn things around in the principality, with his team currently 19th place in the Ligue One table.

Henry has won just five times since joining Monaco three months ago. With the team two points from safety in the French top-flight, it seems that the former France international is set for the exit.

Reportedly, Monaco have decided that they wish to reappoint predecessor Leonardo Jardim, which would be a shock considering how he left the club.

Team was in a mess before Henry’s appointment

When Henry arrived at the club, he faced a massive challenge. The team had been decimated in recent years, as Monaco continually sold their star players and expected Jardim to find replacements.

The Portuguese boss had done an excellent job until this season when not only did the lack of quality show in the team, he also had to endure an injury crisis. In the end, the club dispensed with his services, as they believed a change would help the team out of the relegation zone. It has not, now it seems they regret their decision to fire Jardim.

The move was a gamble all round

Monaco hiring Thierry Henry and the Frenchman agreeing to take the job was a gamble all round. Henry had never been a boss. The closest he had been to being a boss was as assistant head coach to Roberto Martinez with the Belgium national team.

He has no managerial experience, so to take on the monumental job at Monaco was a brave decision. Henry had been linked with a number of managerial jobs in the past. However, his best role since retiring from playing so far has arguably been as a Sky Sports pundit.

The decision to appoint Henry was also a gamble from Monaco. It seems like a sentimental appointment. He had started his playing career at the club, so there was that attachment. Maybe Monaco believed that Henry’s character and legend was enough to lift the players.

Unfortunately, it seems it has not been enough, as the team’s fortunes have hardly sawed since the Frenchman’s appointment as head coach. In fact, some would argue that the team has been putting in worse performances than under the highly-rated Jardim.

Monaco can still survive the drop

Monaco have been poor for most of the season. However, the good news for the team from the principality is that they have been cut off at the bottom of the Ligue One table. They are just two points away from the relegation play-off spots and three points from safety.

The fact that Monaco are odds of 7/4, fifth favourites for relegation this season suggest that not many believe they will actually suffer relegation.

However, it is not impossible that Monaco could still suffer relegation, with or without Thierry Henry in charge of the team. Henry’s suspension suggests it will be without him in charge at the minute.

The former Arsenal star always seemed eager to get into management. However, despite his obvious football knowledge, maybe it was too soon for him. It was definitely not the right set-up to start his managerial career.

If as expected, Henry loses his job, no doubt he will look back at his spell in charge of Monaco as a tough, but a good learning experience. When he returns to management, the will be wiser and hopefully be able to make better decisions.

Will Thierry Henry recover from his time at Monaco to be a successful boss in the future?

by David Nugent in Editorial, Ligue 1

Kell Brook has a couple of options in U.S for next fight

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Former IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook has a couple of options in the United States for his next fight, according to his promoter Eddie Hearn. He’s not sure if the 32-year-old Brook will move down to welterweight or continue to fight at junior middleweight. Brook did not look like a world beater in his last fight at 154 against Michael Zerafa on December 8.

There’s a possibility that Brook could face former WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas on April 6 in the U.S. Hearn isn’t confirming that Vargas is one of the two options he has for Brook to fight next in the U.S. Vargas (28-2-2, 10 KOs) is a step up for Brook from his last two fights against Michael Zerafa and Sergey Rabchenko, but he’s not what most boxing fans would consider a guy that would result in a big fight. Vargas’ record in his last four fights is 1-1-2. Vargas’ last two fights have been 12 round draws against Thomas Dulorme and Adrien Broner. Vargas was beaten by Manny Pacquiao in 2016.

“There’s a couple of big fights in the States that are available to him,”said Hearn to skysports.com. “The Liam Smith fight is another fight he will be looking at as well, so yeah he’s another guy that needs to pull the trigger in the next couple of weeks to decide his next step.”

Brook is the WBA mandatory for WBA 154 lb champion Jarrett Hurd. However, Hearn isn’t certain whether Brook will stay at 154 or move back down to 147 to resume his career at that weight. Hearn likes Brook’s weight discipline now, and he seems to believe that he can go back down to 147 if he wants to. Hurd, 28, would be a real problem for Brook due to his size, power and youth. The way that Brook had problems with 26-year-old junior middleweight Zerafa last December, he would be at the mercy of Hurd’s size and power if he dared to accept a fight against him for his World Boxing Association junior middleweight title.

Hearn signed former WBO 154 lb champion Liam Smith to a three-fight contract recently, and it’s thought that the sole reason why he signed him is so that he can put him in with Brook, and have an excuse not to match Kell against the lions at 154 like Hurd, Jermell Charlo, Tony Harrison and Erislandy Lara.

Brook vs. Vargas would interest some boxing fans in the U.S. It would obviously be shown on DAZN, so the American fans would be able to watch it as part of their monthly subscription price for that platform. Apart from that, it’s not a fight that would attract a lot of interest from people in the United States. Vargas’ 1-1-2 record in his last four fights has shown pretty clearly that he’s not talented enough to be a major player at 147. For Vargas’ sake, he should move back down to 140, if he can make the weight. However, there’s money for Vargas to make fighting Brook. Hearn will obviously make it worth his while to accept the fight.

By Tim Royner

Sevilla 2-0 Barcelona: The champions stumble

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Barcelona have had a vice-like grip on the Copa del Rey trophy for four years now, and in that time they’ve certainly been able to earn their place on the throne. Alas, while the past may favour them the present certainly isn’t on their side, as the reigning champions were defeated 2-0 in their quarter final first leg against Sevilla.

The favourites fall

Sevilla themselves have had a strong season thus far, and they certainly seem to be hellbent on picking up some silverware this season. That’ll be easier said than done, of course, but it’s not like they’re strangers to success in cup competitions. After all, their recent history in the Europa League has been one of the shining accomplishments for Spanish football on the European stage.

There probably should’ve been some warning signs from the word go in this one, with Lionel Messi being rested for Barca. As a result Kevin-Price Boateng started the game, before being replaced later on by Suarez. It was a relatively uneventful first half either way, but early in the second, things came to life in a big way.

Backs against the wall

Pablo Sarabia smashed home a nice cross to give the home side the advantage early in the second half, and from that point on they just seemed to dictate the pace of play. Wissam Ben Yedder poked in a second, meaning that Barca have some serious work to do in the return leg.

Barcelona’s next game will be a visit to take on Girona, whereas Sevilla will host Levante.

Match Report

Sevilla: Soriano (7.5), Mercado (7), Kjaer (7), Gomez (6.5), Amadou (6.5), Navas (7), Andre Silva (N/A), Sarabia (7.5), Vazquez (N/A), Banega (6.5), Escudero (6.5), Lopes (N/A), Promes (6.5), Ben Yedder (7.5)

Barcelona: Cillessen (6.5), Roberto (6), Pique (5.5), Lenglet (6), Semedo (6.5), Alba (N/A), Vidal (6.5), Rakitic (6), Ramos de Oliveira Melo (6), Malcom (5.5), Coutinho (6), Boateng (6), Suarez (6), Alena (6)

Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande

Goals: Sarabia, Ben Yedder

Yellow Cards: Gomez, Alba

Red Cards: N/A

By Harry Kettle in Editorial, La Liga

De La Hoya wants Canelo vs. Jermall Charlo & Munguia vs. Jermell Charlo doubleheader

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Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya says he’s thinking of putting together a double-header between Saul Canelo Alvarez and WBC interim middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, and Jaime Munguia facing Jermell Charlo. However, De La Hoya says Munguia isn’t ready to fght top level opposition yet because of his youth.

De La Hoya isn’t saying when he wants to make those two fights, but it’s going to have to take place soon, since the unbeaten Jermall (28-0, 21 KOs) is Canelo’s mandatory challenger for his WBC middleweight title.

The World Boxing Council will need to order the Canelo vs. Charlo fight sooner or later, being that Jermall has already been waiting two years for his mandatory title shot. Jermall earned the mandatory position in 2017, and the WBC has been slow in ordering the fight. Unless the WBC is going to let Canelo not defend against his mandatory for five years like the sanctioning body did with former WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, they’ve going to need to order that fight before long.

Munguia (31-0, 26 KOs) has a minor test that he needs to pass this Saturday against #3 WBC challenger Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7 KOs) at the Toyota Center, in Houston, Texas. De La Hoya says he doesn’t know if the 22-year-old Munguia will be able to beat the 5’8″ Inoue, but hes hoping he will. Munguia vs. Inoue will be streamed on DAZN on the internet this Saturday, January 26.

“One of the problems with these young fighters winning world titles at such a young age, a lot of these fighters aren’t ready to fight the very top, the very best,”“Jaime Munguia, the fact that he’s 21-years-old, we have big plans for him, but first things first. We want to make sure he gets the experience. We want to make sure he’s solid at 154, and then we fight one of the best,” De La Hoya said.

It appears that De La Hoya is saying is that he’s not going to put Munguia in with any of the talented fighters at 154 until he gets more experience under his belt first. As such, it would seem highly unlikely that Golden Boy Promotions will make the move to setup a fight between one of the Charlo twins like Jermell (31-1, 15 KOs) anytime soon, Jermell is coming off of a 12 round unanimous decision loss in his last fight against Tony Harrison (28-2, 21 KO) on December 22 of last year, but he’s still a guy that is in the prime of his career at 28-years-old, and very experienced in comparison to Munguia.

If the fight between Munguia and Jermall Charlo is to be made, it’s hard to imagine De La Hoya making it in the the next two to three years. What that means is if De La Hoya is going to wait until he Munguia gains more experience before matching him against Jermell, it seems to indicate that Jermall Charlo will need to wait until Munguia is ready for his fight against Jermell before he can get his mandatory title shot against Canelo.

Hopefully it doesn’t workout that way, because it means that the boxing public is going to need to wait a long time before they see Canelo vs. Jermall, but it sounds like that’s going to be the situation. De La Hoya might choose to wait until Munguia has more experience under his belt before he makes the Canelo-Jermall and Munguia-Jermell double-header. Jermell isn’t ranked in the top 15 with the World Boxing Organization, so the WBO can’t force Munguia to fight him. And if Jermell does win back his WBC junior middleweight title after he faces Harrison in their rematch in April or May, Munguia still won’t have to face him until Golden Boy decides they want to make that fight.

The only guy that Golden Boy needs to worry about it Jermall, who is Canelo’s WBC mandatory. As long as the WBC let’s continue to bypass Jermall, then there’s no threat of him losing to the talented fighter. You can argue the WBC is making it difficult for Charlo to get his mandatory title shot against Canelo, as he’s already had to face Hugo Centeno Jr. for the interim WBC middleweight title, and then make a defense against Matt Korobov since he became the mandatory for the WBC 160 lb title. The WBC now wants Jermall to have to fight Gennady Golovkin to decide Canelo’s next mandatory. That move by the WBC doesn’t make sense, because Charlo is already Canelo’s mandatory challenger. He earned that spot in 2017 in beating Jorge Sebastian Heiland by a fourth round TKO. Charlo having to fight Golovkin in another eliminator is pointless. The WBC should be ordering Canelo to defend against Charlo, but for some reason they’re not going that.

“[Takeshi] Inoue, I don’t know how difficult he’s going to be. I don’t know if Munguia is going to lose or win,”“It’s going to be a great fight, but I have bigger plans for Jaime Munguia. I have plans. For instance, imagine Canelo fighting one of the Charlo brothers [Jermall], and imagine imagine Munguia fighting the other [Jermell] Charlo brother. That’ll be a great card. That’ll be a solid card, that’ll excite the people. Obviously, first things are first. Canelo has Jacobs in May. Jaime has Inoue this Saturday. I’m sure the Charlos have their plans, but that’s what I’m envisioning for the future of boxing, putting the best against the best each time,” De La Hoya said.

It doesn’t seem too likely that the Canelo vs. Charlo and the Munguia vs. Jermell doubleheader will get made anytime soon. One major stumbling block that could make those fights near impossible to put together is the different networks they fight on. Canelo and Munguia fight on DAZN, whereas the Charlo brothers are with Premier Boxing Champions and fight on FOX, FOX Deportes and SHOWTIME. PBC isn’t likely going to let the Charlos fight on DAZN, and a fight between them and Canelo and Munguia would need to be on PPV for it to be worth it. If those fights took place on FOX or SHOWTIME, those would easily be a PPV worthy card, but that might not be possible given that Canelo and Munguia are with DAZN. The fight card that De La Hoya talks about would be a great one if it happens, but could a deal be made between DAZN and PBC to have that card made? It’s unclear at this time. De La Hoya is talking a lot, but he might just be throwing names out there to help increase the popularity of his young fighter Charlo. Canelo is soon going to run out of opponents for him to fight. Even if Gennady Golovkin signs with DAZN, Canelo is still going to run out of popular fighters for him to compete against at 160. The guys at 168, Callum Smith, Gilberto Ramirez, George Groves and David Benavidez, aren’t popular enough for Canelo to bring in a lot of subscribers to DAZN in fighting them. Canelo needs the Charlo brothers, both of them, as well as Jarrett Hurd, and maybe even light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol, in order to continue to bring in great ratings. Canelo won’t be able to bring in a lot of subscribers once he exhausts the small number of top middleweights in the division. These are the most talented middleweights at this time;

Gennady Golovkin: recently beaten

Jermall Charlo: looking poor in last fight

Jaime Munguia

Rob Brant

Daniel Jacobs

Sergiy Derevyanchenko: recently beaten

Demetrius Andrade: looked poor in last fight

Billy Joe Saunders: tested positive for a banned substance recently

Saul Canelo Alvarez

By Sean Jones

Denis Suarez is the sort player that Arsenal now must target

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Barcelona playmaker Denis Suarez has been left out of the squad to face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey this evening. According to Sky Sports, the former Villarreal star is a transfer target of Arsenal, so maybe a deal is close.

Any Arsenal move for Suarez is only likely to be a loan deal for now. Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has recently admitted that the out-of-favour midfielder could leave in the January transfer window.

Arsenal hierarchy tightening the purse

It seems that when everybody thought that Arsenal were not spending much under Arsene Wenger, they were wrong as the clubs hierarchy seem to have tightened the purse strings even further of late.

The appointment of Sven Mislintat in November 2017 was a sign that the Gunners were looking at picking up bargains in the transfer market, rather than signing proven talent. This is unlikely to surprise many associated with Arsenal, though.

Mislintat is set to leave in February, reportedly after disagreeing with Arsenal boss Unai Emery over the signing of Suarez from Barcelona. Reports suggest that Mislintat was unhappy at the amount of input that Emery had in transfers.

Arsenal have to be clever in the transfer market

If Arsenal are not going to sign top talent, then they have to be clever in the transfer market. The Gunners want a return to the top-four of the Premier League. It will be tough if they are not going to spend large amounts of money, though.

What they have to do is spot players who are just below the top level and attempt to develop them into better players. Suarez falls into that category. He obviously has talent, but at this moment in time, he is not good enough for Barcelona.

He would get in many other top teams around the world. However, competition for places at Barcelona can be brutal. As I have said previously about the likes of Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes, there is no shame in not making it at the Catalan giants.

Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward and maybe that is what Suarez needs in his career. He needs regular first-team football to prove his worth, and may just get that in north London.

With Aaron Ramsey leaving for Juventus in the summer, Suarez is for me a very good replacement, who is unlikely to cost the earth by Premier League standards. He is certainly the sort of player Arsenal has to pursue if they are going to stick to working with a relatively small transfer kitty.

The Gunners have to gamble on players who have not quite made the standard at big clubs because the hierarchy are more interested in lining their pockets than the team being successful. Sad but true.

Arsenal nowhere near title contenders

I remember a couple of years ago Arsenal were considered genuine title contenders. However, the Gunners were always a few players short of actually winning the Premier League title.

Now they are probably more like nine or ten players away from winning the title. Not many of the current Arsenal team would get in a top team like Liverpool or Manchester City. Arsenal fans have no choice but to be happy to challenge for the top-four.

The north London team are currently odds of 7/2 to finish in the Champions League spots. With just a two-point gap between the fifth place Gunners and fourth place Chelsea, Unai Emery’s side have a real chance of a return to the Champions League in the near future.

Bringing in some new additions, even on loan, in January can only help the Gunners in their quest for fourth place. The potential signing of Suarez may just be a sign of things to come for Arsenal in the transfer market.

Will Denis Suarez be a good signing for Arsenal?

By 

Joe Joyce vs. Bermane Stiverne on Feb.23 in London, UK

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Joe Joyce (7-0, 7 KOs) will be taking on former WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne (25-3-1, 21 KOs) in a 10 round fight on the undercard of James DeGale vs. Chris Eubank Jr. on February 23 at the O2 Arena in London, England. The Joyce vs. Stiverne fight will be shown LIVE on ITV Box Office. This fight will give Joyce a chance to show the boxing world what he can do against a former heavyweight world champion.

It’s been four years since Stiverne, 6’2″, lost his WBC heavyweight title to Deontay Wilder, but that wasn’t that long ago. Stiverne can obviously still punch, and he just needs to be in good shape for him to show off the talent that led him to a world title in 2015.

Also on the card is former IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby facing Omar Douglas. It’s a good fight for Selby, who is trying to come back from his loss to Josh Warrington.

Stiverne doesn’t think much of Joyce, a fighter with just seven pro fights under his belt, taking him on without the experience needed for him to have a chance of winning. Stiverne says he immediately accepted the Joyce fight when it was offered to him by his promoter Don King. Stiverne sees this fight as a path to a title shot against IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) in the near future.

This is a stiff test for a fighter like Joyce, who will be fighting for the eighth time since turning pro in 2017 after losing a controversial decision to France’s Tony Yoka in the finals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Joyce ended up winning a silver medal in that Olympics, but he arguably deserved the gold.

“Seven fights and he wants to box me? For me it is a dream come true, but for Joyce it will be a nightmare,” Stiverne said. “I will knock out Joe Joyce and step over him to KO Anthony Joshua.”

Joyce is promoted by former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who is now the CEO of RingStar Promotions. If Stiverne does knockout Joyce on February 23, it’s highly unlikely that Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn will agree to a fight between him and Joshua. Stiverne would need to beat a lot more fighters than Joyce for him to get a crack at Joshua. There are fighters that have never lost, and they still haven’t gotten a shot against the Hearn promoted Joshua. Stiverne needs to treat the Joyce fight as his Super Bowl, and not think beyond that about him getting a title shot against Joshua, since that’s very unlikely to happen. In an ideal situation, Stiverne could potentially get a title shot against Joshua in three or four years if he defeats Joyce and everyone that Schaefer puts in front of him. Stiverne will need to be a lot busier than he’s been in the last four years for him to have a shot at getting a fight with Joshua. If Stiverne beats Joyce on February 23, and then sits out of the ring for 15 months without fighting, he’s going to lose the top 15 ranking that he gets from that fight. In other words, Stiverne will be back to square one when he does eventually return to the ring.

Although the 40-year-old Stiverne will have been out of the ring for 15 months by the time he faces the 33-year-old Joyce on February 23, he still remains a very live opponent, and easily the best fighter that he’ll have fought up to this date. An out of shape and ring rusty Stiverne was knocked out in the first round in his last fight by World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in November 2017.

Stiverne is a better fighter than what he showed against Wilder on that night. Stiverne had been out of the ring for two years, and he was not in the best condition. Stiverne had a lot of visible fat on him, and he didn’t appear near ready to be fighting a guy of Wilder’s class in that fight. Stiverne should have have had two or three tune-up fights before facing Wilder, but unfortunately for him, he went into the contest after 2 solid years of inactivity. Stiverne will have a similar problem when he faces the 6’6″ Joyce on February 23. Stiverne has already been out of the ring for 14 months without fighting. That time out of the ring likely won’t have helped him prepare for a fight against a guy like Joyce.

“He is a former World Champion that has gone 12 rounds with Deontay Wilder and will give me a real challenge, but my engine and my power will be too much for him, a fact he should be aware of,” Joyce said.

Joyce and Stiverne have no love lost, as the two had a sparring session in that past, and there was trash talking afterwards. The two heavyweights can now show the boxing fans who the better fighter is. Joyce believes that he’s going to have too much power, and too good of a high pressure style for Stiverne to deal with. It still could be an interesting fight if the heavy-handed Stiverne is able to land his shots. The 2014 version of Stiverne that knocked out Chris Arreola would give Joyce a lot of problems. That was a long time ago though, and it could be that Stiverne is not going to be able to fight anywhere close to the same level as he did five years ago when he was a little younger at 35. Even that age is pretty old for a lot of fighters. Stivene took a lot of punishment in his first fight against Deontay Wilder in 2015, and he was quickly sparked out in one round by him in their rematch in 2017.

Stiverne’s career has fizzled out since his two victories over Chris Arreola in 2014. Stiverne has fought only three times in the last five years since those wins, losing to Wilder twice, and struggling to beat journeyman Derric Rossy. The obvious to look at in analyzing why Stiverne’s career has failed to keep the momentum that it previously had is the inactivity. It’s hard for a fighter to stay at the top of their given weight class when they’re not fighting.

In Stiverne’s case, he’d not been fighting often enough with his career to get the most out of it as far back as 2012. He was fighting once a year back then. After Stiverne won the World Boxing Council heavyweight title in stopping Arreola in their rematch in May 2014, he then lost his WBC title eight months later in losing to Wilder by a 12 round decision in January 2015. For all intents and purposes, Stiverne’s career went downhill with him taking 10 months off before returning to the ring to defeat Derric Rossy by a harder than expected 10 round unanimous decision in November 2015. Two years later, Stiverne fought Wilder in a rematch and was knocked out in the first round in November 2017. Whose fault it was that Stiverne was kept out of the ring for such a long period is unclear. With the kind of inactivity that Stivene has been dealing with, it would be almost impossible for any heavyweight in the division to remain sharp, be it Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury.

By Trevor McIntyre

Sonny Gray traded from Yankees to Reds, where he lands a three-year, $30.5M extension

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The New York Yankees ordinarily would not telegraph their desire to trade one of their own players, as there is hardly a clumsier negotiating strategy than unmasked aspirations. Even certainty draws vulnerability. Best, most often, to speak softly and carry a straight face, see what comes of that. Sonny Gray.

Sometimes, however, there’s hardly getting around the obvious.

And so the spectacle that was the three-month town square auction of pitcher Sonny Gray, held as respectfully and with as much dignity as there possibly could have been, concluded Monday with a gavel clack and a deal with the Cincinnati Reds, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The complete deal was Gray and minor-league pitcher Reiver Sanmartin for infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick. But that was the just the first step in what became a complicated deal.

The Reds gave Gray a contract extension, sources tell Yahoo Sports, that tacks three seasons onto his contract for $30.5 million. That’s in addition to the $7.5 million Gray will make in 2019. The contract also comes with a $12 million club option for 2023.

Then the Seattle Mariners reportedly got involved, as reports from ESPN indicate that the Yankees took Long and flipped him to Seattle for 21-year-old outfielder Josh Stowers.

And that ends it — Gray’s near 200-inning gig as a Yankee, the 4.51 ERA that seems low in retrospect, the uptick in hits and walks and home runs and suspense, the discontent at Yankee Stadium, and the rising suspicion that Gray and the Bronx, for whatever reasons, would never be a fit.

Of his final nine appearances for the Yankees, those across August and September, seven were out of the bullpen, to which he’d been demoted. He did not appear in the postseason, as he was not on the roster. In 11 starts and four relief appearances at Yankee Stadium in 2018, across 59 1/3 innings, his ERA was 6.98, a number that rather exposes an organization’s next inclination.

Acquired for three players in mid-summer 2017 from the Oakland A’s, Gray was once a young and developing ace. He was the undersized right-hander who’d gone toe to toe with Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers in the 2013 playoffs, as a rookie. He won 14 games the following season and was third in the American League Cy Young vote the season after that, as a 25-year-old. In three seasons since he has endured a variety of injuries, made 72 starts and has a 4.59 ERA.

There would be no hiding that behind vague accounts of lost release points, wandering fastballs, inattentive curveballs and hopeful bullpen sessions. The Yankees traded for Lance Lynn late last season to temporarily cover for Gray and this winter, in order to render him expendable, traded for James Paxton, re-signed CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ, and built out their already formidable bullpen with Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino. Gray was at best sixth — behind Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Paxton, Happ and Sabathia — on their rotation’s depth chart.

In early November Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spoke openly of the inevitable trade of Gray, telling reporters then, “Once we feel comfortable with the return, we’ll make the decision to move him. But the plan is to move him because I don’t want to keep going through the process of something that won’t work here.”

The Reds, meantime, seem intent on ending the organizational malaise that has presented itself over four consecutive last-place finishes in the National League Central. Attendance at Great American Ball Park has fallen in each of the past five seasons. In 2018, the Reds ranked 13th in attendance among the 15 NL clubs, ahead of only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins.

To that end, the Reds have hired a new manager (David Bell), traded for starting pitchers Tanner Roark, Alex Wood and Gray, and traded for outfielders Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. All but Gray are scheduled to be a free agent at the conclusion of 2019, and every one of them could be traded before then, if 2019 goes the way recent seasons have. But, for a team whose team ERA was next-to-last in the National League, and whose starting pitching was especially poor, the Reds do appear hopeful of putting up a fight. Some of that will depend on Gray and whether he can be a sturdy starting pitcher again.

Tim Brown MLB columnist

WBA orders Charr to defend against Oquendo

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WBA World heavyweight champion Manuel Charr (31-4, 17 KOs) has been ordered to defend his secondary WBA title against 45-year-old mandatory Fres Oquendo (37-8, 24 KOs) by the World Boxing Association, according to ESPN. Manuel Charr, who is coming coming off of a drug suspension, will have two months to negotiate the fight with Oquendo, who hasn’t fought in 4 1/2 years since his 12 round majority decision loss to former WBA heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev on July 6, 2014 in Grozny, Russia.

The WBA ordered the Charr vs. Oquendo fight last Money, and it’s now up to those two fighters to get this match finally out of the way. The Charr-Oquendo fight has been talked about for ages by boxing fans. It’ll be good to get it over with so that the fans can see arguably more interesting matches.

The WBA suspended Charr for 6 months during the investigation last November following a positive test for a banned substance by the German fighter, but they didn’t strip of his title. Manuel Charr won the vacant WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight title in beating 42-year-old ALexander Ustinov by a 12 round unanimous decision last year on November 25 in Germany.

The WBA made it known before the Charr vs. Usinov fight took place that the winner of the match must defend the title against Fres Oquendo, who has been out of action since 2014 in the first mandatory defense of the title. The reason the WBA didn’t strap the 34-year-old Manuel Charr of his title is because his team protested the way the drug samples were handled by VADA, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.

Charr and Oquendo were supposed to have fought each other last year on September 29, but the fight was canceled after Char tested positive for the banned substances epitrenbolone and drostanolone during a VADA test.

The winner of the Charr vs. Oqunedo fight must fight the winner of a match between interim WBA heavyweight champion Trevor Bryan and Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller within four months [120 days]. The WBA will need to find another opponent for Bryan to fight if the Matchroom Boxing promoted Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs) chooses not to take the fight. Miller is currently in the running for a title shot against IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua for April or June of this year. If Miller gets that fight, then he won’t be available to face Bryan for his interim WBA title.

VADA will be testing Manuel Charr, Oquendo, Miller and Bryan in the lead up to these fights.

WBA continues to have two title belts at heavyweight despite lots of criticism from boxing fans, who don’t understand why a sanctioning body would need to have two championship belts in the same weight class.

The WBA currently has two champions in the following divisions as of right now:

– Heavyweight [unlimited]: Anthony Joshua [WBA Super World] and WBA World title, which is vacant at this time]

– Cruiserweight [200 lbs]: Oleksander Usyk [WBA Super World champion] and Beibut Shumenov [WBA Super World]

– Super middleweight [168 lbs]: Callum Smith [WBA Super World] and Saul Canelo Alvarez [WBA World champion]

– Middleweight [160 lbs]: Saul Canelo Alvarez [WBA Super World] and Rob Brant [WBA World champion]

– Junior middleweight [154 lbs]: Jarrett Hurd [WBA Super World] and Brian Carlos Castano [WBA World champion]

– Welterweight [147 lbs]: Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman [WBA Super World Champion] and Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao [WBA World champion]

– Super featherweight [130 lbs]: Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis [WBA Super World champion] and Alberto Machado [WBA World champion]

– Featherweight [126 lbs]: Leo Santa Cruz [WBA Super World champion] and Jesus M Rojas [WBA World champion]

– Bantamweight [118 lbs]: Nonito Donaire (WBA Super World champion] and Naoya Inoue [WBA World champion]

– Light flyweight [108 lbs]: Hiroto Kyoguchi [WBA Super World champio] and Carlos Canizales [WBA World champion]

By Jim Dower

Pro Bowl rosters 2019: Complete AFC, NFC teams revealed

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The NFL announced full rosters for the 2019 Pro Bowl in December in a special on NFL Network. The exhibition game, which takes place on Jan. 27 from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, features the traditional AFC vs. NFC format after the league moved away from its drafting format it tried from 2014-16. That format was widely panned by fans and media alike.

The rosters are built based on votes from fans, coaches, and players, with recent years allowing for fan voting online and, notably, via Twitter this year. The three groups who vote are all weighted equally when determining who makes it to the Pro Bowl, each counting as one third of the vote.

Some players have dropped out due to injury, disinterest, or in the case of the Rams and Patriots, making the Super Bowl.

The Chargers staff will coach the AFC, while the Cowboys staff will be on the NFC’s sideline. Below, you can peep the rosters for both the AFC and NFC.

*Indicates a starter

NFC roster

Offense

  • Quarterbacks: Drew Brees*, New Orleans Saints; Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (unable to participate); Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (injured); Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (replacement); Mitchell Trubisky (replacement)
  • Running backs: Todd Gurley*, Los Angeles Rams; Saquon Barkley, New York Giants; Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
  • Wide receivers: Julio Jones*, Atlanta Falcons (injured); Michael Thomas*, New Orleans Saints; Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings; Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers; Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (replacement)
  • Tight ends: Zach Ertz*, Philadelphia Eagles (injured); George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers; Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons (replacement)
  • Offensive tackles: Tyron Smith*, Dallas Cowboys (injured); Terron Armstead*, New Orleans Saints; Trent Williams, Washington; Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles (replacement)
  • Offensive guards: Zack Martin*, Dallas Cowboys; Brandon Brooks*, Philadelphia Eagles; Trai Turner, Carolina Panthers
  • Centers: Alex Mack*, Atlanta Falcons; Max Unger, New Orleans Saints
  • Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk*, San Francisco 49ers

Defense

  • Defensive ends: Cameron Jordan*, New Orleans Saints; DeMarcus Lawrence*, Dallas Cowboys; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings
  • Interior linemen: Aaron Donald*, Los Angeles Rams (unable to participate); Fletcher Cox*, Philadelphia Eagles (injured); Akiem Hicks, Chicago Bears; DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers (replacement); Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers (replacement)
  • Outside linebackers: Khalil Mack*, Chicago Bears (injured); Ryan Kerrigan*, Washington; Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings; Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (replacement)
  • Inside linebackers: Luke Kuechly*, Carolina Panthers (injured); Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks; Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys (replacement)
  • Cornerbacks: Kyle Fuller*, Chicago Bears; Patrick Peterson*, Arizona Cardinals; Darius Slay, Detroit Lions, Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys
  • Safeties: Eddie Jackson*, Chicago Bears; Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings; Landon Collins*, New York Giants (injured); Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles (replacement)

Special Teams

  • Kicker: Aldrick Rosas*, New York Giants
  • Punter: Michael Dickson*, Seattle Seahawks
  • Returner: Tarik Cohen*, Chicago Bears
  • Special teamer: Cory Littleton*, Los Angeles Rams (unable to participate); Michael Thomas, New York Giants (replacement)

AFC roster

Offense

  • Quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes*, Kansas City Chiefs; Philip Rivers (injured), Los Angeles Chargers; Tom Brady, New England Patriots (unable to participate); Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts (replacement); Deshaun Watson (replacement)
  • Running backs: James Conner*, Pittsburgh Steelers; Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers; Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos (injured); Lamar Miller, Houston Texans (replacement)
  • Wide receivers: DeAndre Hopkins*, Houston Texans (injured); Tyreek Hill*, Kansas City Chiefs; Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (injured); JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (replacement); Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns (replacement)
  • Tight ends: Travis Kelce*, Kansas City Chiefs; Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts
  • Offensive tackles: Taylor Lewan*, Tennessee Titans; Alejandro Villanueva*, Pittsburgh Steelers; Eric Fisher, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Offensive guards: David DeCastro*, Pittsburgh Steelers (injured); Marshal Yanda*, Baltimore Ravens; Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts; Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns (replacement)
  • Centers: Maurkice Pouncey*, Pittsburgh Steelers; Mike Pouncey, Los Angeles Chargers
  • Fullback: Anthony Sherman*, Kansas City Chiefs

Defense

  • Defensive ends: J.J. Watt*, Houston Texans (injured); Myles Garrett*, Cleveland Browns; Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers; Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Interior linemen: Geno Atkins* (injured), Cincinnati Bengals; Jurrell Casey*, Tennessee Titans (injured); Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers; Kyle Williams, Buffalo Bills (replacement); Brandon Williams, Baltimore Ravens (replacement)
  • Outside linebackers: Von Miller*, Denver Broncos; Jadeveon Clowney* (injured), Houston Texans; Dee Ford, Kansas City Chiefs; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers (replacement)
  • Inside linebackers: C.J. Mosley*, Baltimore Ravens; Benardrick McKinney, Houston Texans
  • Cornerbacks: Xavien Howard*, Miami Dolphins; Jalen Ramsey*, Jacksonville Jaguars; Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots; Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns
  • Safeties: Derwin James*, Los Angeles Chargers; Eric Weddle, Baltimore Ravens; Jamal Adams*, New York Jets

Special Teams

  • Kicker: Jason Myers*, New York Jets
  • Punter: Brett Kern*, Tennessee Titans
  • Returner: Andre Roberts*, New York Jets
  • Special teamer: Adrian Phillips*, Los Angeles Chargers
  • Long snapper: Casey Kreiter, Denver Broncos

Last year, the AFC bested the NFC, 24-23. Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans was named offensive MVP while Von Miller of the Denver Broncos was named defensive MVP.

By 

Broner “came to survive” against Pacquiao says Jeff Mayweather

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Jeff Mayweather says Adrien Broner only came to just survive against WBA ‘regular’ welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) last Saturday night in their fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mayweather says he found it hard to give the former four division world champion Adrien even one round in against Manny. Jeff saw the fight as a rout from start to finish.

Jeff notes that Adrien Broner landed just two hard punches during the entire fight, and that wasn’t enough to give him to personally give him any rounds.

The judges were more than fair in scoring it 117-111 [nine rounds to three], 116-112 and 116-112 [eight rounds to four] in favor of Pacquiao.

Broner didn’t look like he won 4 or even 3 rounds. He looked like he was shutout by Pacquiao. Of course, Broner is a popular fighter, and it would have looked bad on the judges’ part if they gave the 40-year-old Pacquiao a wide decision victory with him being given all 12 rounds on the scorecards.

The loss for Broner could spell the end of his career as a main event fighter. This was Broner’s third big fight in the last two years, and it was the third time he under-performed by not throwing punches. Broner made the 40-year-old Pacquiao look sensational, which he might not have if he’d fought one of the lions in the 147 pound division last Saturday night like Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman, Terence Crawford, Shawn Porter or Danny Garcia.

It looked to some boxing fans like Broner (33-4-1, 24 KOs) just came to get a pay check. He wasn’t engaging, and he didn’t have any marks on his face afterwards. Broner bragged at the post-fight news conference last Saturday night, that his face was completely unmarked. What Broner didn’t admit is that he wasn’t fighting aggressively, and he was just hanging back, not throwing punches.

“I think one guy came to fight, and the other guy came to survive,” Jeff Mayweather said to Fighthype in criticizing Broner’s performance against Pacquiao. “It’s the same thing everybody has been saying [about Broner]. He needs to throw punches. This was the first time you really saw Broner use his legs. In most fights, he don’t use his legs. He tries to walk everybody down. If he’s going to incorporate that into his game and he’s going to move forward with his career, it would be better for him. I think he’d be a better fighter if he’d use his legs when he fights, as opposed to just using them tonight because he needed them,” Jeff said.

It was good to see Adrien Broner, 29, using his legs to move around the ring for once in his career. However, the negative thing about that was Adrien Broner looked like he was just running from Pacquiao, and not using his legs to try and win. The movement that Broner used, isn’t going to help him win against the top guys at 140 or 147. Broner needs to throw a lot more punches. That was the main reason why Broner lost last Saturday to Pacquiao. He wasn’t letting his hands go win the rounds the way he needed to.

“It looked like he came to survive. He didn’t come to fight, not at all,”Mayweather said. “I saw two or three solid right hands, which is probably what he was banking on, the right hand counter. In a fight as big as this magnitude, you’ve got to let your hands go. It’s the same thing everybody has been saying about Broner. I know the difference between a guy that is trying to win, and a guy that is trying to survive,”Jeff said.

It’s anyone’s guess why Broner didn’t adapt early on when he fell behind against Pacquiao in the early going. Broner’s corner needed to let him now that his punch output needed to increase significantly for him to have a chance of winning the fight, but he failed to do so. Broner fought with no inspiration in the way he needed to, treating this fight with Pacquiao the same way he did in his previous match against Jessie Vargas last year in April. There was no motivation on Broner’s part. He had talked before the fight about how excited he was at getting a dream fight against Pacquiao.

Everything was supposed to be different in this match than it had in the past for Broner, but it wasn’t. Nothing changed. He fought in the same reserved manner that he had during most of his career, which suggests that he’s not physically capable of throwing more punches even if he wanted to. It could be a stamina issue on Broner’s part, or perhaps a problem with his willingness to take punishment. When a fighter decides that he’s going to throw more punches, it means he’s going to get hit a lot more. Look Gennady Golovkin. He gets hit a lot in his fights while going for knockouts, but he’s been willing to take punishment in order to dish out his own.

“As soon as the fight is over, they’re going to talk s—t, and that’s it,”Jeff said in addressing the comments Adrien Broner was saying after the fight by him saying that he should have won.

Adrien Broner failing to admit that he lost the fight was a new tactic by him. In Broner’s previous losses to Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia, he hadn’t complained about the losses. He admitted that he’d been beaten by them. Pacquiao beat Broner more decisively than three fighters. Broner had his moments against Mikey, Maidana and Porter. But against Pacquiao, Broner was completely dominated from start to finish.

“To be honest, I had a hard time giving him [Broner] even one round, because he didn’t do nothing,” Jeff said. “I mean, you can’t even give a guy one round if all he did was land one good punch. That’s what he did. In the fight, he landed two good right hands, and that was it. Nothing else. Even when you counter, you’re still at risk. He didn’t want to take any chances. He caught Manny a couple of times, but he didn’t follow up with it,” Mayweather said.

Giving Adrien Broner one round would be a gift some respects, because even in his best round, which was the fourth, he was badly outworked by Pacquiao. Broner landed a couple of good shots to the head of Pacquiao, but the round was one-sided just like the rest of them. Broner clearly wants to fight like Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was known for having a low punch output. Mayweather was successful because his defense was so good. It would help him cover up for his low punch output. Broner has the same low punch output Mayweather has, but his defense is nowhere near as good. As such, Broner gets hit a lot, and he ends up getting outworked by his opponents. Adrien Broner should have fixed this defect in his game by increasing his punch output a long time ago, but he’s failed to do so. That’s why Broner keeps losing, and why he’ll continue to lose far into the future unless he fixes this glaring problem with his game. Broner’s low punch output is even worse than Mayweather’s though. There were no rounds in which Broner landed even 10 punches during the entire 12 round fight against Pacquiao. Mayweather could at least be counted on to land 20 punches per round in his fights. Broner was struggling to land just 5 per round. Broner connected on only 50 punches for the entire fight against the easy to hit Pacquiao. There are welterweights in the division today that can connect on 50 punches during a single round. Broner landing only 50 punches in an entire 12 round fight against Pacquiao last Saturday night was embarrassing and troubling at the same time.

Adrien Broner is 29-years-old now, and it’s unlikely that he’s going to improve much at this point in his career. Smart fighters are able to make corrections to their game to continue to improve during their entire careers, no matter how old they are, but Broner hasn’t proven he can do this.

By Mike Smith