After Kimbo Sliced Off In 14 seconds

Four million three hundred thousand TV viewers saw Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson humiliated in 14 seconds. Talk about 15 minutes of fame and all that transitory glory certain individuals enjoy or suffer from. Mr. Slice had his temporal anomaly, his chance at disproving naysayers and he blew it. But not before cashing in on whatever amount of fame and glory that was available to him...and poor cash-strapped EliteXC. Slice reportedly got $500,000 for his troubles, $200,000 more than what Fedor Emelianenko supposedly got for battering Tim Sylvia in the more credible newbie promotion Affliction MMA's Affliction: Banned heavyweight championship bout.

OK, a bit of recent history. Ken Shamrock, once tagged as the World's Most Dangerous Man, was another in a series of tomato cans thrown Slice's way to add to the illusion of his being one of the, if not the, toughest banger out there. Shamrock, is not exactly a worthy opponent to who is supposedly the meanest mother in existence. Shamrock is a mixed martial arts pioneer who helped make the Ultimate Fighting Championship what is today the most lucrative MMA organization in the world with reported assets of at least a billion dollars. But having lost all of his last four fights since April 9, 2005, Shamrock at 44, is no spring chicken with everything to gain and nothing to lose in the MMA arena. But, yes, Shamrock had a lot to profit from with a win over Slice. But it wasn't meant to be, as Shamrock was deemed unfit by Florida state fight officials to go up against Slice as Shamrock suffered a cut on his eye during training. His adoptive brother, Frank Shamrock, a former UFC champion who is part of the EliteXC commentators pool, said that he was offered and agreed to take his brother's place but EXC brass realized that Frank was too dangerous an opponent. EXC said that Florida state fight officials did not clear Frank to fight. Frank said it was EXC promoters who blocked the proposal.

Whatever the truth of the matter, what is true is that the honor of exposing Slice as purely a product of Internet (particularly hype went to Seth Petruzelli, a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter 2 who was dropped by the UFC after losing to Wilson Gouveia in 39 seconds of Round 2 by submission via guillotine choke in Fight Night 9 on April 5, 2007.

PINK SPOTS AND STREAKS. As the bell for Round 1 rang, Slice, pumped up by three wins in his short MMA career and at the sight from across the cage of a white boy with bright pink spots and a streak on his hair, rushed to his doom. A weak left jab by Slice at nothing was met by Seth (much easier to type and spell and it alliterates with Kimbo's faux last name) with a right-hand parry and right push-kick and a short right mestiza jab/overhand that missed, even as Seth backed off while maintaining balance. Slice kept on charging, letting go of a right straight that got nowhere. Seth kept him at a distance with another right push kick and the short right jab that landed on the face of Slice, felling him. With Slice down on all fours, Seth hit him on the back of the head with hammer fist.

Probably realizing he just did an illegal blow, Seth's next strike was on the right side of Slice's head. Hitting Slice on the shoulder with the next two punches, Seth kept on delivering power punches that made Slice turn and roll on his back, maybe seeking to get Seth in his guard, but Seth was relentlessly striking, forcing referee Troy Waugh to step in between the two fighters, pushing Seth away as a dazed Slice grabbed Waugh's left leg, thinking it was Seth's.

It was all right hands. Seth could have fought Slice with his left hand tied behind his back and still knock him out. He was that dominating and he deserved to celebrate like he had just sank a last-second 3-pointer to edge out the other team by a single point in the last game of a best-of-seven basketball championship game, or hit a game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth.

No, Seth Petruzelli (no e) did not make like Ralph Macchio (no a) in Karate Kid with a crane stance after referee Troy Waugh stopped the punishment. Seth merely threw away his mouth guard and threw his arms up in celebration as he ran around the cage while Kimbo, half out of his mind, grappled with the referee. And, yes, one of the guys in the commentary booth was right to dig up a Rocky analogy. Seth Petruzelli was indeed Rocky-like in earning a win over the Apollo Creed-like Kimbo Slice. Not many expected white-boy Seth to pound out black-dude Slice. To distinguish MMA Seth from the Hollywood Rocky, it didn't take Petruzelli 15 minutes of pounding and a bucketful of blood to have the crowd rise to its feet and roar in unison. Fourteen frigging seconds...That's all it took. Even the fading power kicker and puncher Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic might have needed 30 seconds to take out Slice.

EXCITING COMMENTARY. If the outcome of the match didn't excite you enough, the fight commentary might have:

“And it's about to get serious. Slice quickly across...the fight is over...”

“Slice goes down. Slice in trouble. Oh, my goodness. Slice gets pounded out and they stopped it. Rocky, Rocky is here! Seth Petruzelli shocks the world!...Kimbo Slice is shooting on the referee. He is trying to get the referee down...The most incredible victory in the history of mixed martial arts. Seth Petruzelli!!!...It can happen! Believe!...This is what mixed martial arts is all about. If you have a dream. If you're willing to step into a cage and fight for your life, you!, can be anything you want...Kimbo Slice battered, bruised, bloodied...Seth Petruzelli, a young man from Fort Myers, Florida. His nickname is The Silverback. He came here tonight, found out that he would be the main event. And he has shocked the entire world of mixed martial arts!”

Well, shocked is not exactly the word for it. Try, amused. The casual fight fan, brainwashed by EliteXC and CBS' hype machine on the awesomeness of Slice would be stunned immobile on his/her feet or seat at the sight of the largely unknown Petruzelli taking out Slice in less than 20 seconds of the very first round. Who wouldn't, if you had figured out Slice to be the best thing in the fight game since Mike Tyson? Thirty pounds heavier, two inches taller, and with a reach four inches longer, the then undefeated Slice (now 3-1, 2 KOs, 1 submission), on paper, looked like an overmatch for Seth (now 11-4, 9 KOs, 1 submission).

Anyone skeptical of Petruzelli's KO win over Slice should be allayed that the former can really hit and hit hard. His MMA win-loss record is rather middling, unimpressive from a Western boxing fan's perspective. But in MMA, a winning record like 11-4 is a badge of honor and respect. Considering that Petruzelli's nine wins before the Slice fight included eight victories by KO and a lone submission, while his four losses were by way of three submissions and a decision, Petruzelli is a decent MMA fighter.

TRADITIONAL. Like traditional karatekas Lyoto Machida (Shotokan) who looks so cool in the Octagon he makes cool hot, and Georges St. Pierre (Kyokushinkai), Petruzelli (Shito-Ryu) didn't get stuck in his traditional base and explored other avenues of martial arts. Machida has done sumo and Brazilian Jiujitsu, St. Pierre wrestling, Petruzelli kickboxing, all of them are mixed martial artists.

Now, the bad news. In an interview, Seth Petruzelli claimed that EliteXC offered him money to stand up and trade punches with Kimbo Slice; meaning, if Seth had any plans of going to the ground to cancel out Slice's assumed advantage on strikes standing up, he better give up that notion for an x amount of cash. As it turned out, Seth did say that he planned to shoot or take down Slice.

On The Monsters in Orlando radio show, Seth said: “The promoters kind of hinted to me, and they gave me the money to stand and trade with him. They didn’t want me to take him down, let’s just put it that way. It was worth my while to try to stand up and punch with him.”

That is exactly the kind of dubiousness that EliteXC and mixed martial arts in general do not need. Growing by leaps and bounds after the novelty early years of the UFC in the 1990s, MMA has gained fight fans' interest, if not loyalty, for its brutal mystique and general reputation for reality, as opposed to the fantasy of the WWE nee WWF, the UFC of professional wrestling.

Critics (read: boxing purists and loyalists) are waiting on the wings to descend on every perceived weakness and fakeness of MMA. Slice-Seth I was hardly rigged: neither did Slice take a dive nor did Seth put a horseshoe in his glove, but that kind of talk plants the seed of distrust in the minds of fight fans.

Petruzelli did explain himself right after, saying that he didn't mean to say what people heard on the The Monsters in Orlando. He told MMA writer Dan Wetzel in a phone interview: “What that meant was they offer a Knockout bonus, Submission bonuses, Fight of the Night bonuses. I think it just got misconstrued.

“I wanted to have an exciting fight and I wanted the Knockout bonus, so I wanted to keep it standing...They just said, ‘We want to see an exciting fight no matter what happens.’ I took it as I wanted the Knockout bonus.”

This suspiciously sounds like backtracking and spin control by a professional fighter pressured by management to turn bull shit into chocolate cake.

This is bad news for MMA. But, if bad publicity is good, this is the kind of bad that is very good for MMA. Bad seed can grow into a twisted tree that bears edible sour fruit. Tamarind* anyone?

* Tamarindus indica (from the Arabic: تمر هندي tamar hindi = Indian date) is in the family Fabaceae.

Breakthrough for Rashad Evans; maybe Chuck Liddell's career is through

Polled by on UFC 88: Breakthrough's main-event match of Chuck Liddell vs. Rashad Evans, MMA pros Randy Couture and Jaime Fletcher proved to be the most prescient. Couture said pre-fight: “Tough one to pick! Can make a case for either guy, but in my mind, it depends on Evans. We know what Chuck is gonna try to do. Can Evans pull the trigger and push himself and Chuck? That’s the question.” While Fletcher had this to say: “Liddell by KO. Rashad is a good fighter, but Chuck takes chances, is hard to take down and looping punches from weird angles are hard to deal with.”

Both were non-committal but came closest to making good predictions. Could Evans pull the trigger and push himself and Chuck? Yes, Evans did pull the trigger and push himself and The Iceman. And what result did this create? Fletcher provides the rest of the answer: Chuck takes chances, is hard to take down and looping punches from weird angles are hard to deal with. Only that it was Evans' looping punches from weird angles that were hard to deal with, giving Liddell possibly the most devastating knockout he ever suffered.

Ironically, or prophetically, Liddell had his two-cents' worth: “I don’t tend to take any shots, so he won’t have to show his takedown defense with me. I am planning on striking. We’ll see how he responds.”

And boy, did Evans, respond.

Evans jabbed, missed, jabbed and missed again. Liddell's jab missed too and almost simultaneously both fighters loaded – Evans with a looping right hand and Liddell with a right uppercut. Evans' punch landed, Liddell's didn't. With full force and his stance perfect for a strong strike, Evans hammered Liddell on the left jaw. The slow-motion replay shows Liddell's head bearing the brunt of what might as well have been a rock on a fist. Liddell fell backward unconscious. Any more strikes after that would have been overkill.

Evans tried that particular punch a few times before striking the motherload and mother of all knockouts – the kind where the victim is asleep even before hitting the deck without a pillow and a good-night lullabye. Evans faked with a short left jab and quickly followed with that arcing right bolo punch which found its mark on Liddell's jaw.

“Age won’t be a factor in this fight. I feel sharp and I’m ready for Rashad.” Liddell was right on the first one, he indeed looked fit and moved well for a 38-year-old, sadly for him, he was wrong on his second statement. He was sharp but he wasn't ready for that looping right by Evans. Call it a lucky shot, call it carelessness but luck had nothing to do with it. Evans obviously practiced that shot knowing Liddell is a sucker for a quick strong strike. It helped that Evans had Keith Jardine, who knocked down Liddell 12 UFCs ago, giving him tips on how to deal with The Iceman. It helped that Greg Jackson trained Evans. It helped that Liddell is 10 years older than Evans and has taken a lot more damage in a decade of fighting in the UFC.

Good punch.
Liddell always had a problem with standing up to a good punch. When Quinton “Rampage” Jackson kayoed him in UFC 71, Rampage's right hook didn't look much but it knocked down The Iceman and eventually he was knocked out with a few more shots on the ground. Rampage's strike is nothing compared to the one-punch bomb that Evans almost decapitated Liddell with.

Yes, maybe encroaching middle age and all those knocks on the head in mixed martial arts have something to do with it. That is not to count the time Liddell spent fighting as a kickboxer.

The main co-event of the night was the Rich Franklin-Matt Mitchell encounter. It didn't have the fireworks of Liddell-Evans but it had its moments. Strangely, some will remember this fight not for the rare kidney shot that took down Mitchell in Round 3, but for the hearing-impaired (this politically-correct thing can be difficult) Mitchell looking at his cornermen asking for instructions with Franklin just a few feet away ready to pounce on him. Ironically, Franklin won but he looked like he lost with that huge cut under his right eyebrow.

This is one of those fights where you start rooting for one fighter but gradually is impressed by the other fighter and end up wishing no one gets hurt. If only a draw could be had for all fights like this.

This fight is a breath of fresh air especially with the memory of the bad aftertaste of Mitchell's bout with Michael Bisping in UFC 75, the calling out in the traditional media and in the Internet. This time, Mitchell let his fists do the fighting for him, not his mouth and his manual sign-language skills. After he lost, there was no rancor evident, Mitchell took it like the man that he really is, while Franklin, gentlemanly and a sport that he has always been, consoled his former training partner and said: “Thanks to God I don't have any serious injuries, and thanks to God my opponent doesn't have any serious injuries.”

I am not sure, though, if God approves of two grown men fighting for the entertainment (and edification) of thousands of people live in the arena and millions more on TV, while adding to the hundreds of millions in the bank accounts of Dana White and the Fertita brothers.

Anyway...we love MMA. Call it a sport, call it sports entertainment like its distant cousin professional wrestling, but one thing millions of God's creatures in hundreds of countries will agree on – this is one fragging bloody affair we don't tire watching month after month if White and the F Bros. had their way. And watch out for Affliction 2! Dang! Randy Couture is back in the UFC! Looks like there won't be a Fedor-Couture I at least until the year ends. The
Emelianenko will have to content himself with fighting lesser lights in his chosen organization and for lesser money, we think.

Hollywood Dangerous. Oh, before we forget, another of MMA's greatest fighters ever – Dan Henderson – call him Dangerous or Hollywood but one thing's for sure, he will deliver win or lose. He lost both his Pride welterweight and middleweight belts after he made the jump back to the UFC after it bought out Pride FC, but judging by the way Henderson fought a very game but less experienced, less-gifted (meaning, he doesn't have the striking ability of Henderson) and shorter by five inches, Rousimar Palhares, Henderson still has a lot of fight left in him.

The Brazilian jiujitsu black-belt Palhares was surprisingly adept with his striking especially with his kicks (marvel at those wheel kicks!) but he was simply outsized (outreached?) by Henderson, who landed the more solid blows while escaping from Palhares' submission attempts. Henderson deserved the Unanimous Decision victory. Palhares may have lost but he proved he deserves to be in the big leagues by lasting three rounds with a future hall of famer.

Other results:
Nate Marquardt over Martin Kampmann by TKO in 1:22 of Round 1. Marquardt overpowered the muay Thai specialist from Sweden with a surprise roundhouse to the side of the head followed up with punches to the head and body, a knee to the head. All Kampmann could do was cover up and wait to be knocked out or for the referee to put a stop to his suffering. The Referee Stoppage came first.

Dong Hyung Kim over Matt Brown, Split Decision in 3 rounds. This one was an injustice. Except for a late takedown in the 3rd round by Kim, Brown dominated the fight. An SD is always controversial. “I don't fight for the judges, I fight for a submission and the fans,” Brown took a shot at the men on the table. Kim had his say too: “I will be different next time.” This was a translation, so maybe he meant something else, because if he means he will win decisively next time, we sure hope so.

Tim Boetsch over Michael Platt, TKO 2:03 R1. Boetsch misses with a left hook to the head but his right straight/overhand lands squarely on Platt's chin. Platt falls on his back, Boetsch follows up with more strikes. Referee Herb Dean steps in to stop the punishment.

“I would like to thank God, without Him none of this is possible,” Boetsch said. A brawler after my own heart, someone who flashes the website (Jesus Didn't Tap).

Kurt Pellegrino over Thiago Tavares, UD. Tavares almost gets armbarred but improbably escapes the hold of Pellegrino. Pellegrino though gets all the judges' nod.

Jason “The Athlete” Macdonald over Jason Lambert, Submission Rear-naked choke R2 1:20. Both very good grapplers with Macdonald with the edge on striking but he wins this with a real tight rear-naked choke. The Athlete was in Lambert's guillotine choke twice in the first round but survived with great stamina and high pain-threshold level.

De La Hoya ‘will beat’ Pacquiao

God forbid – PacMan forever but Manny, please, be careful out there, the Golden Boy is one tough hombre

De La Hoya will beat Pacquiao.

That’s the biggest fear in the minds of Filipinos this year, bigger than the fear of the peso-dollar rate not reaching 50-1, bigger than the fear of a resurgent Muslim insurgency in Mindanao, bigger than the fear of killer storms and killer inter-island ships, bigger than the fear of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo somehow finding a way to run for president in 2010, or worse, Joseph “Lalo Tayong Maghihirap Erap” Estrada vying for the same seat, bigger than the fear of the oil, rice, and Iraq-Iran-Afghanistan crisis put together.

It’s only boxing but we love it. With too few things to be happy and optimistic about, at least with Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao we have reason to be hopeful. Whoever first dubbed him Pambansang Kama-o or National Fist is a genius. And whoever (everyone has this feeling it was Bob Arum) came up with the idea of pitting little Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao against “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya in a big-money fight is a mercenary.

PacMan, at 5-feet-7 or thereabouts and perhaps 150 pounds when not watching his weight, taking on a decidedly taller 5-10 ½ Golden Boy who could naturally balloon to 175lbs when he downs too many tacos and doesn’t scrimp on tequila, is like a wide-eyed first-grader standing up to a polished fourth-grade bully. OK, defiance has its merits, but not when you could get beaten to a pulp. Live to fight another day is way smarter than no guts no glory.

Moving up five pounds to 135lbs to pound out a decisive TKO victory over erstwhile WBC lightweight champ David Diaz, Pacquiao was on top of the world, a celebrity in such lofty firmaments that even newly-crowned NBA champions the Boston Celtics mobbed Pacquiao for photo ops. In fighting De La Hoya, Pacquiao will add another 12lbs for their match at 147lb, the heaviest Pacquiao will be as a pro. In some (actually, many) quarters they're saying that the move is ill advised for Pacquiao.

Not many will question Pacquiao’s courage and smarts. He did show he could be a sucker to a sly businessman’s promises. And definitely no one will doubt De La Hoya’s business acumen. From being an Olympic boxing gold medalist, media monster, world boxing champion many times over, and a big-time boxing promoter, roll all of these into one and you have Oscar Gonzalez De La Hoya. That’s not to count Grammy-nominated recording star and playboy.

The nation of Mexico and the vast Mexican community in the US put De La Hoya on a pedestal, but their breadth of idolatry for Golden Boy pales in comparison to that of Filipinos' hero worship for Pacquiao. PacMan is the kind of national hero that Golden Boy will never be. PacMan bears the expectations and hopes of a whole downtrodden nation, archipelagic and abroad, that clutches at anything that resembles Filipino international achievement. Golden Boy bears the expectations of his accountants.

This fight is not about pride, it is about money. Lots of it. How much exactly is up to speculation. We have been fed figures of 65-35 sharing in favor of appropriately enough -- the Golden Boy. A disparity, perhaps, but all things considered including the current US dollar-Philippine peso exchange rate, that’s a lot of campaign funds for governor/congressman wannabe PacMan. Whatever De la Hoya wants to do with his share is up to him. We, the “once-great” (remember “this nation can be great again” quip by someone we still remember?) Filipino Malayan race is collectively concerned with our national fist. There are not many like him in supply. In fact, he is the only one we got. Boom-Boom Bautista proved to be a bust and is now reduced to fighting Mexican throwaway boxers that promoters won’t stop advertising as “world-rated” and “one of the best” this and that. AJ Banal was just as big a disappointment as Bautista, so were Rodel Mayol and Z Gorres.

PacMan doesn’t grow on trees. He is an aberration, a rebellious gene that fought neighborhood bullies or maybe was a bully himself. He knew he was good with his fists and he built his life on these. He grew up in poverty, worked for a living, learned to warm his stomach on a cup of cheap coffee and just-as-cheap pan de sal.

Pancho Villa, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Rolando Navarette, Luisito Espinosa, the list grows of past and present heroes who flirted with the title Greatest Filipino Boxer Of All Time. Some still vie for that honor; some have fallen on the wayside with the footnotes.

Manny Pacquiao could still prove to be the best Pinoy pug there ever was -- if he keeps on winning. If he starts losing, starting with De la Hoya, his star will dim and fall just as fast as it rose. We never tire of being told: “Boxers are only as good as their last fight.”

Here’s hoping that Pacquiao-De La Hoya I will not be the beginning of the end for our National Fistic Treasure. Go PacMan! Yes, but go with care.

P.S. We love you.
P.P.S. Win or lose we will always love you…maybe.

2008 Beijing Summer Games a success, yes!

Fittingly enough, the only sporting event I saw in the just-concluded Summer Olympics in Beijing was the US-Spain basketball game in the elimination round -- all 5 minutes or so of the game.

I'm not sure why I ignored the games (the way it ignored me, I guess). About three years ago, when Cebu hosted several events in the Southeast Asian Games, I was still with the print media. I had a 4 by 3 inch (thereabouts) official ID with all the trimmings, signatures and photo, but I did not once use it or had someone else use it (substituted photo or not) to enter the games venues, not even the Cebu Coliseum for the pentjak silat martial arts competition.

After working for the sports section of a community newspaper for almost a decade, it seemed I reached a saturation point. Or maybe I was just bored. It was too predictable. Only two things could happen (three if you counted a draw), one contestant or team would win and another would lose.

Surely, China either made billions or lost a corresponding number of money on the games. What the heck! They were the hosts, and for almost a month, China was the focus of the world stage despite more pressing issues elsewhere in the world -- the never-ending war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the melodrama and comedy of the US presidential campaign, the MILF war in Mindanao, the price of gasoline and pirated DVDs.

So, London gets to host the next Summer Olympics. Congratulations and all the luck to you, mates! May you have fewer pseudo-terroristic events and more gold medals (Wow! Britain placed fourth overall this time with 19 golds!) May the notorious but romantic London drizzles and downpours not rain on your parade.

Bayan kong Pilipinas? Hey, why not send more than a 15-person contingent to the 2112 Games? Medal or no medal (again), what does it matter? It's how you play the game, right? Wrong! Junket anyone? That's one Filipino sport we always excel in.

P.S. John Pages, hey, partner, let's have that beer again sometime, OK?!
P.P.S. Sadly, I never got to read much of your colored-page correspondent-in-Beijing columns (no newsprint budget and laziness) but I'm sure you had lots of fun; next time we have beer (light for you, and on you :) naturally, pilsen or Red Horse for me, maybe) you could tell me some of your escapades, er, experiences (place smiley here).

UFC 87: Sought and Destroyed

KenFlo’s even flow, Hard Brock’s afternoon café, GSP’s Fitch Festival

Florian was very smart and surprising. Lesnar was huge and unrelenting. St. Pierre was just being himself.

I take it back. Kenny Florian is a stud. I’ve always thought he was too soft to be successful in MMA. He wasn’t particularly tough against Roger Huerta two Sundays ago, but he used as much brain cells as muscles in carving a win in three fun (for Florian and fair-minded fight fans -- alliteration can be fun too) rounds.

Staying away most of the time from Huerta’s Superman punch and a toe-to-toe stand-up battle, Florian circled, stepped back, kept his distance from Huerta except when he struck, took down and tried to submit No Conquistador, er, El Matador (lo siento mucho, Rogelio).

In honor of Florian’s well-deserved victory over Huerta, I hereby name my new puppy KenFlo. (Wipe that smile/smirk off your mug! Or I’ll have “KenFlo” bull rush you for a quadruple leg takedown and lick your lips. She hasn’t had her shots yet.)

While Brock Lesnar was just sheer size, power, and determination against Heath Herring. Getting in the first shot attempt (a flying knee, of all things), then a right straight that landed on Herring’s chin, dropping him, Lesnar charged into Herring with what looked like a spear against a stunned horse who reverse rolled. Lesnar got caught in a left standing guillotine. He escaped and kept the fight on the ground for most of the three rounds of 15 minutes. Herring did get in licks of his own a few times, but these were few and far between, hardly fazing the hard Brock.

At 3:39 of Round 1, Herring was already bleeding below the left eye. Lesnar controlled Herring’s back with a little over two minutes left, Herring fell back to get Lesnar in his guard but Lesnar pushed him away and kneed Herring on the body, three times before the bell rang. Herring’s left eye was obviously damaged. Lesnar’s speed was amazing.

The next two rounds were almost picture-perfect copies of the opening round. It was Lesnar all the way. He fully deserved the unanimous-decision victory.

As to Georges “Rush” St. Pierre, what can you say about the cool GSP? With talk focused on Fedor Emelianenko and Anderson Silva as to who is mixed martial arts’ pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, GSP tends to get left out in the mix. Rush is as well-rounded as Fedor and Silva, maybe even more so than “Spider” Silva, and definitely at par with “The Last Emperor.” The trouble is GSP has his two losses to two former welterweight champions, the two Matts -- Hughes and Serra. But he did win in the rematches, decisively at that.

That’s similar to what GSP did to No.1 challenger Jon Fitch in UFC 87. Judging by the way GSP manhandled a game and durable Fitch, GSP has no plans of letting go of his belt, not even to Mickey-Mouse-voiced but Mighty-Mouse-muscled BJ Penn.

After Fitch had lifted GSP on his shoulders as Rush was declared the winner by an all-too obvious Unanimous Decision, Penn entered the Octagon and declared on the microphone Joe Rogan was holding: “Let’s do it! Let’s put the fight together.” Penn, looking manic as usual, spoke in a squeaky voice that sounded funny. But him and GSP in the Octagon is not funny at all. And yes, GSP-Penn would be an explosive match. Let the UFC grant Penn’s wish!

The other results:

Demian Maia over Jason McDonald (by Submission/Tapout Rear-Naked Choke in 2:24 of the 3rd Round) -- Great technical ground game with some strikes.

Robert Emerson over Manuel Gamburyan (KO R1 12 seconds) -- Emerson’s right straight overhand to Gamburyan’s chin and left hook to the head when Gamburyan was already on the ground did in the latter. Referee Yves Lavigne caught Emerson’s right hook to prevent more punishment.

Cheick Kongo over Dan “The Viking” Evensen (TKO R1 4:55) -- Thrice Kongo got Evensen on the ground, twice ref Lavigne stood them up. Kongo hit Evensen on the chin with a right straight, knocking him down, pounded him some more before the fight was Stopped for a TKO win by Kongo.

Joe Rogan tried to interview Kongo post-fight but was brushed off with an I-am-wasting-my-time-I-am-one-¬of-the-best-fighters-in-the-world-give-me-a-title-shot!

Jon Jones over Andre Gusmao (UD 3 rounds) – Jones dominated a stand-up and ground match that was marred by capoiera stylist Gusmao acting as if he got hit in his groin but the crowd disagreed and expressed its displeasure with boos. The judges seemed to agree and awarded Jones the victory after three rather uneventful rounds.

Tamdan McRory over Luke Cummo (UD 3 rounds) -- McRory had several submission attempts, while Cummo tried to strike quite successfully but not consistently enough to lose by unanimous decision.

Addendum: Looking at the UFC 87 poster, you will notice that all the fighters to the left won. Perhaps for UFC 88, managers should do everything in their power, including bribery and grave threats, to have their clients take the left spot. There’s a thin line between superstition and faith. Another reason those who subscribe to this dictum can be excommunicated by the Church.

UFC 87: Seek And Destroy -- Who'll do the seeking, who'll do the destroying?

Aug. 10, 2008; Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota)

UFC 87 topbills Georges “Rush” St. Pierre and Jon Fitch, but might as well have Brock Lesnar and Heath Herring as the main event. The Roger Huerta-Kenny Florian tussle is not bad either.

The only reason the GSP-Fitch fight headlines is because there is a welterweight title at stake. Defending champ Rush still seems strong and fast enough to run over Fitch, and Huerta also looks to roll over Florian. The iffier scenario is that of Lesnar and Herring.

With the most-anticipated pairing that of the supporting bout, this makes UFC 87 the most highly-stacked UFC main card since UFC 84 – a mere three promotions ago. Which is not exactly in the previous century, but it’s hard to beat a promotion which has five matches in the main card that includes Thiago Silva vs. Antonio Mendes, Tito Ortiz vs. Lyoto Machida, Wilson Gouveia vs. Goran Reljic, Wanderlei Silva vs. Keith Jardine, and B.J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk.

Brock Lesnar is a giant by any standards. But this 6-foot-2 265-pound behemoth has a soft side. Just by looking at those big gray-blue eyes (they seem gray-blue on TV) one can almost see the pain and joy, defeats and victories, not limited to thousands of hours on the wrestling mat and the World Wrestling Entertainment ring and cage. Lesnar is a huge teddy bear a child could cuddle up to, but is also strong enough to smother opponents in the mixed martial arts arena.

His opponent, Herring, is no slouch in the fighting department. Nicknamed “The Texas Crazy Horse” in Pride FC, Herring holds a 28-13-0 fight record and an enviable roster of past opponents, including: Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Noguiera, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko, Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic, and Vitor Belfort. To all whom he lost, by the way (thrice to Minotauro). And how! He fought his ass off in losing but he could take solace in the thought that he gave all of them and many others a fight they will never forget, win or lose.

Herring is strong, fast, smart, aggressive, and very seasoned. Losing to such high-quality fighters can be read as a testament to his toughness. At 30, Herring is still one of the most dangerous heavyweights in MMA.

Lesnar, on the other hand, is a generally untested entity in MMA. After making a living in “sports entertainment” in Vince McMahon’s pro-wrestling circus called WWE, which was once called WWF but was finally renamed due to a clash of acronyms with the World Wildlife Fund, “Brock” Lesnar is trying his hand at real fighting as opposed to “fake” wrestling.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion, Lesnar has the prerequisite ground skills and the size and power for a fruitful MMA career. (Think Randy Couture, Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr, Kevin Randleman, and Mall Lindland.) Lesnar’s MMA record is a middling 1-1-0 and this could be his last chance for a contract extension with the UFC. He loses and his novelty practically wears off. If the UFC hadn’t swallowed Japan’s defunct premier MMA promotion, Pride, Lesnar and others could have another option for career advancement. But as of now, the one-billion-dollar megalith that is the UFC is the only game in town that really matters.

This could go either way. Neither Lesnar nor Herring have any distinct advantage over the other. Herring is faster but Lesnar is more powerful. Herring can take a punch but Lesnar still has to prove that he can. With his solid wrestling credentials, though, plus his bulk, he can create huge problems for Herring if the fight goes to the ground and Lesnar gets on top.

If Herring successfully keeps the fight on their feet, he just might earn a knockout win. The native South Dakotan Lesnar needs all the support he can get from his fans in Minnesota, where he currently fights out of.

Roger “Matador” Huerta, like Lesnar, might find his UFC career on its last legs if he loses to Kenny Florian. But that is unlikely. Huerta has the edge over Florian in just about all departments: speed, power, skills, and marketing. The good-looking Huerta has the enviable distinction of being the very first MMA fighter to make the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Huerta is like night to Florian’s day. Coming from a hardscrabble background in his native Mexico, physically and psychologically abused as a child by both his biological parents and his stepmother, Huerta earned a living on the streets before his teens. Huerta has a lot of demons to exorcise. Fighting in the Octagon gives him an opportunity to expel those demons, while beating up on someone he might visualize as those who have wronged him. “Anger can be power/Don’t you know that you can use it,The Clash sings in their debut record.

In Kenny Florian’s case, the Bee Gees “Staying Alive” might be apropos. That is what the middle-class Massachusetts native has to do against El Matador. When someone nicknamed The Slayer goes up against someone saddled with the rather gayish nickname “KenFlo,” it’s much easier to believe that The Slayer (Murderer, Killer, Assassin) will have KenFlo for breakfast and lunch, not counting snacks in between.

In the main event, Georges St. Pierre gets another opportunity to add to his growing legend. The soft-spoken French Canadian has only lost twice in 18 MMA fights, once by submission to his “idol’ Matt Hughes and once to Matt Serra by strikes. In MMA, unlike in boxing, a 16-2 record is a mark of excellence not a questionable record. GSP is at the top of his game right now, his confidence soaring. He avenged both his losses to Hughes and Serra and fittingly in the same way he lost.

Jon Fitch has earned the right to challenge GSP. Losing two of his first four MMA fights, Fitch has gradually gotten stronger and better and amassed 15 straight wins since a No Contest result against Solomon Hutcherson in HookNShoot -- Boot Camp on March 8, 2003.

Like GSP, Fitch is on a roll, only longer. Whose winning roll will be stopped today? That remains to be seen.

Fedor Emelianenko drives over another heavyweight hump in Tim Sylvia; Spider Silva puts Sandman Irvin to sleep...early

OK, allow us to cram before the results filter in. Let’s go straight to prediction time. Free-For-All doesn’t see anything wrong about conventional wisdom -- Fedor Emelianenko may struggle against Sylvia, but despite…oh, man. Sorry about that. Thank God for ( was mysteriously offline, or just too difficult to log on to at the time I was writing this piece), I just found out Fedor did win over Sylvia via rear-naked choke, in a record thirty-six fragging seconds! This is 10 seconds slower than Emelianenko’s submission-by-strikes win over the just-as-huge Zuluzinho in Pride Shockwave 2005, and three times as long as the Ukrainian’s fastest win, a 12-second wipeout of Hiroya Takada in Sept. 5, 2000 in RINGS -- Battle Genesis Vol. 6.

Starting with a left hook followed by a left uppercut in the clinch, Emelianenko launched nine head shots on Sylvia, knocking him down, before pouncing on the Maine-iac on the ground with more punches, eventually controlling Sylvia’s back and sinking in deep a rear-naked choke.

Emelianenko, the 31-year-old balding accountant-looking Ukraine-native has proved that he is (arguably) still the best heavyweight MMA fighter in the world, bagging the first-ever WAMMA (World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts) heavyweight title. Emelianenko lost more sweat in the dressing room than in the ring with Sylvia. This is the second consecutive time that Sylvia has lost by choke (he tapped out to Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Noguiera by guillotine choke in UFC 81 just last Feb. 2). This proves, most especially in Sylvia’s mind, that to defeat someone bigger and taller than you is by taking him down and choking him out. Much like cutting down tall trees; even tall trees that hit back.

Who’s next for “The Last Emperor” Fedor? Bring on Randy Couture!

Or, if Dana “Kill ’Em All and Let the UFC Sort ’Em Out” White insists that Anderson “The Spider” Silva is the world’s pound-for-pound best MMA fighter on the planet, let The Spider eat more flies and bloat to 215lbs. Then Silva will be heavy and tall (at 6-feet-2 to Emelianenko's 6-0, the Brazilian is even taller) enough to take on Emelianenko. How about that, Dana dear?


Then we can finally settle this who’s-the-toughest-mother-on-the- planet-or-at-least-in-the-MMA-firmanent argument. And in effect, find out who’s tougher, UFC or Affliction.

Sorry for digressing. Now back to our regular programming.

At the UFC, middleweight champ Anderson Silva proved that his knockout power has not been diminished with added poundage, as he took out James Irvin in a second over one minute. Irvin foolishly kicked Silva on the leg, opening up his defense to the opportunistic Spider who caught Irvin’s leg with one of his elongated arms (two not eight) and struck Irvin down with a right straight punch. More strikes on the ground and referee Mario Yamasaki was convinced enough to put an end to the punishment.

Much like Fedor proving that he is still worthy of the Last Emperor title, Silva is still one of the UFC’s supreme strikers (Quinton Jackson and Chuck Liddell might have something to say about that). Silva’s venture into the light-heavyweight ranks might be deemed successful with the knockout of Irvin, but that doesn’t really prove anything…yet. The inconsistent Irvin (remember his KO loss to the just-as-inconsistent Mike Kyle and submission by Kimura to the diamond-in-the-rough Stephan Bonnar?) is not in the league of either Jackson or Liddell, or mayhaps Kyle and Bonnar.

Don’t let it go to your bald head, Spider. Go back to the middleweight ranks and clean it up some more, maybe rematch with Dan Henderson (Hollywood Dan’s loss via rear-naked choke was decisive but you can always rumble again as HD is still good to go, and you know it), or Yushi Okami (whom you stupidly kicked on the head while both his knees were still on the mat, earning you a loss by disqualification). And there’s also Ryo Chonan, whose spectacular flying-scissor heel-hook submission win over The Spider almost broke one of his two (not eight) legs.

The Spider Silva is the current almost-unanimous pound-for-pound best MMA fighter right now in most lists, but we all know what that means. It only means he is ripe for the picking, if the 33-year-old UFC champ doesn’t retire now, in the next few years (nah!, make that in the next few months or even within a year) he will find someone stronger, faster, smarter to beat him.

In MMA, it doesn’t take much to pop a bubble or penetrate an armor. After Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell became champions and convinced everyone they were invincible, they came up against the rather lightly-regarded and definitely older Randy Couture to learn humility and respect for elders. Weren’t Ortiz and Liddell also pound-for-pound best in MMA before? Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Noguiera also held that title while still fighting in Pride FC, that is until he went up against a stoic Ukrainian named Fedor Emelianenko and was pounded near senseless, the Brazilian’s excellent submission attempts brushed off by Emelianenko like Brazil’s national debt to the World Bank.


Speaking of the Last Emperor, he could also learn from history. If he hasn’t yet, he should watch the Oscar-winning film, he was named after. The real-life last emperor, Pu Yi, was eventually dethroned not by another pretender to the throne but by the rush of history. Emelianenko, most likely, realizes his place in MMA history and its accompanying precariousness. Maybe the smartest decision he has made in his career was not to sign up with the UFC and be just another of Dana White and the Fertita brothers’ high-profile slaves. Instead, Emelianenko became an Affliction slave. That’s too harsh a term, actually. Emelianenko and all who make their living fighting would prefer to be called modern-day gladiators. Learn from history again. All those ancient gladiators who shed blood in the Roman Colosseum and elsewhere were either captured enemy soldiers or slaves who preferred killing other humans over lifting rocks in some remote quarry.

That’s enough on history.

The fighters who were expected to win won. But the real battle wasn’t really in the ring or Octagon; it was fought in the ticket gates and pay-per-view ratings. Affliction: Banned would have been more aptly titled Affliction: Stacked, because the T-shirt giant’s initial venture into mixed-martial-arts promotion was just that, stacked to the ceiling. Rumor has it that Affliction spent $2 million to put up Banned. If Affliction broke even, it would be glad. If it turned a profit, it would be ecstatic. If it lost its baroque T-shirts to promote Banned, it can always go back to the drawing board and concentrate on selling shirts.

But whatever the financial results of Affliction’s initial MMA fight promo venture, you have to give it to Affliction; it truly was a great night of fighting. Banned, my derriere! Tanned is more like it. That’s what you call a healthy MMA fight card. Stacked and credible. What more can you say when you have Emelianenko and Sylvia, the top two heavyweights in MMA. Sure, only Antonio Rogerio “Minotoro” Noguiera fought that night, not his twin brother, Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro,” the better fighter of the two. Couture was there. He shook Fedor’s hand after Emelianenko won. Fedor’s brother (MMA brothers everywhere!) Aleksander was banned by the California State Athletic Commission from fighting Paul Buentello (hence, Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge as replacement fighter) for health issues, a heart condition according to the grapevine.

Banned, indeed.

UFC, on the other hand, had a lame name for its lamer promotion -- UFC Fight Night 14: Silva vs. Irvin. How can that match up with Affliction: Banned? The UFC started this whole MMA thing on PPV cable TV, more is expected of them. In the first place, if the UFC wants to drive Affliction out of the MMA fight promotion business, why not schedule one of their flagship fights like Aug. 9’s UFC 87: Seek & Destroy with Georges St. Pierre defending his welterweight belt against Jon Fitch; or more appropriately, UFC 88: Breakthrough, with Chuck Liddell and Rashad Evans headlining the event when they battle for higher vantage point in the 205-pound division?

Only the all-wise Dana White knows. Well, the UFC is the UFC and Pride FC is Pride FC. Oops, forgot, UFC swallowed up Pride. Monopoly used to sound good to Mr. White, until Affliction: Banned, that is.

NEXT: The undercards.

Brandon Vera refuses to fight Lyoto Machida

Brandon “The Truth” Vera, despite two straight losses in less than 10 months, is still one of the most marketable UFC fighters. Vera has the power, speed, skills, and length, to beat most of the top fighters in the heavyweight division. With his move to go down to light-heavyweight, has only added more fuel to the furnace that is the 205-pound division.

Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, on the other hand, is a fast-rising star in the 205lb category. By virtue of a five-fight win streak in the UFC, Machida could be the most promising warrior in the arena.

Put Vera and Machida in the Octagon and you get a surefire hit in so many ways. Both excellent strikers with respectable ground skills, these two mestizos will have blood pumping in their cool veins and temperatures rising in the fight venue. Machida-Vera I (the Japanese-Brazilian’s name gets top billing over the Filipino-American by virtue of a superior fight record) might just set records for pay-per-view and gate receipts.

At 13 and 0 against Vera’s 8-2-0, Machida naturally will become the odds-on favorite in both Vegas betting and fan polls. But an immaculate record is no guarantee of another victory over an inferior slate. We could do a rundown of their strengths and weaknesses:

Machida is not only fast, he is slippery. Rich Franklin and Michael McDonald found out about this the hard way. So did Tito Ortiz and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. You want to keep Machida right in front of you so you could hit him, but he almost always stays a safe distance from a punch or leg strike, while moving just enough to hit you with one of his rather unorthodox karate-flavored snap kicks and hand strikes. Grapplers may want to take him down, first distracting him with a punch or fake before lowering for a single or double-leg takedown, but the Shotokan and Brazilian Jiujitsu black-belt Machida is wise to the ways of the ground and pound, or ground and submit. While Vera is more of a striker, a muay Thai stylist who tries to capitalize on his substantial reach to land a blow. Vera has respectable talent on the ground, but it is doubtful if he could escape from a tight triangle the same way Machida did against Tito Ortiz.
Advantage: Machida

Machida only has three victories by way of knockout (all TKOs) and eight triumphs by decision in his 13-fight win run. That is testament to his reliance on speed and under-reliance on power. Machida will not only wear opponents out by evading their strikes, clinches, and takedowns, he will add on to his foes’ frustrations by hitting them almost at will, but almost never engaging them in an all-out brawl. He will hit and pull out, dance away, then come back for more when he sees an opening. Vera is a kickboxer more than a feint-hit-and-backout artist. Vera will try to pound the man in front of him with a straight punch, a roundhouse or lower kick, and go for the kill if he sees an opening or if his foe is hurt enough. Vera is a tiger shark with the tendency to go on a feeding frenzy if he as much as smells a milliliter of blood. Machida, on the other hand, is a mite, sucking blood in small degrees until he is bloated enough to let go and come back for more at a later time. By then, he will be big enough as a great white shark to munch a huge mouthful.
Advantage: Even

Vera has only gone the distance once in 10 MMA fights. Machida has finished the maximum allotted rounds nine out of 13 times, including eight in the last nine. Vera evidently was on the verge of gassing out against Tim Sylvia in UFC 77, one of the reasons he lost by decision to the “Maine-niac.” Machida comes prepared for his fights, with a cardiovascular conditioning comparable to that of Olympic long-distance runners. Vera, we hazard to guess, doesn’t as much care for jogging and sparring for periods of time longer than five minutes.
Advantage: Machida

Hands down, Machida bags this one. The poker face, the cool demeanor, even his ever-polite language that refuses to trash talk, even complimenting his opponents, are hallmarks of an honorable warrior with the calculating powers of an assassin who waits and waits before delivering the death blow. In sharp contrast, Vera is a loudmouth, a loveable one, though, much like his paisan Hulk “Terry Gene Bollea” Hogan. Vera plays to the crowd and the media, generating enough interest for his fights. He gets the attention and the amused smiles, but Machida earns the respect and perhaps the fear.
Advantage: Machida

Machida 4, Vera 1

All these comparisons might ultimately be in vain. Vera just refused to take on Machida for Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 14. For reasons of being unprepared, the usually game Vera did admit that a month’s notice isn’t the best way to get ready for a formidable fighter like Machida. He did not rule out, though, a future pairing with Machida.

Vera told, “For sure, I turned down the fight with Machida. Don’t get me wrong. I’m down to fight Machida but not in my first time cutting down to 205 on four weeks’ notice.”

The MMA fighter cut in the mold of Tito Ortiz in the trash-talk department did pay tribute to Machida by admitting that he can’t simply jump into the ring or Octagon with a supreme athlete like The Dragon: “I want to be ready for Machida. That bastard’s good. I want to make sure I’ve got good sparring and a good game plan for Machida.

“Machida’s not somebody you can just jump in the cage with and fight. I don’t care who you are; if you think you can just beat Machida because you’re tougher than him, he’s probably going to whoop your ass.

“He doesn’t go in to destroy people and finish them. Man, you can’t hit him, and he just keeps touching you. People just get frustrated and pissed off. So, I did turn down the fight with Machida, but I’m down for sure to fight Machida, given good time.”

Strikefest: Jackson-Griffin I

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s brute strength and Forrest Griffin’s not-to-be-scoffed-at physical gifts and aggression make today’s UFC 86 light-heavyweight championship bout very exciting. “Styles make fights” is a boxing dictum that applies to all sports, fighting or not. The Jackson-Griffin brawl (it is hoped) is no different.

Many are of the opinion that Jackson beat erstwhile lightheavy king
Chuck Liddell with a lucky punch. The right hook that fell Liddell was followed by more punches on the ground forcing John McCarthy to put a stop to the fight and award a TKO win to Jackson. It took Jackson only a minute and 53 seconds in the first round to dethrone Liddell, now claiming a 2-0 edge in their match-up extending back to the old Pride tournament in Japan. This will be Jackson’s second defense of his UFC belt, and technically and by extension, his first defense of the defunct Pride middleweight crown he wrested from Dan Henderson 10 months ago.

The inactivity may have put some rust into the well-oiled pumping machine that is Jackson. Griffin, on the other hand, has also been away from the Octagon for 10 months, two weeks shorter than Rampage’s absence. The difference is Jackson came off a less-than convincing win over Henderson, while Griffin choked out one of his weight division’s strongest and most talented fighters, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Although, it can be said that Rua was not at full strength when he lost to Griffin, having ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament but still decided to push through with the fight.

But Jackson-Griffin I will not be won on who they last beat. Both have their formidable strengths and subtle weaknesses. Jackson is freakishly strong but is a sucker for a fast and strong striker. He lost to brutal Wanderlei Silva, the former Pride middleweight champ, not once but twice. Griffin is a warrior through and through. His three-round unanimous-decision win over Stephan Bonnar in the Ultimate Fighter I Finale is one of the most definitive examples of an all-out striking contest between two great competitors who won’t take a draw for a result. Griffin won by UD, but barely. UFC top honcho Dana White was so elated with the slambang show the two put on that he decided to reward not just the winner, Griffin, a UFC contract, but also Bonnar.

In today’s UFC 86 main event, if Jackson risks striking with Griffin, he just might be at the wrong end of a lucky punch (or kick or knee or slam) like he did Liddell.

Let the carnage begin, Rampage…and Fire. (N.B. I Googled Griffin’s mixed-martial-arts nickname. He currently doesn’t have one. Someone in a forum suggested in jest that since Griffin resembles the image of a gremlin or Firby, that he should have the moniker Gremlin or Firby. Surely that name-caller will change his mind if he gets a taste of Griffin’s punch. Just one weeny teeny punch. While Rampage is aptly nicknamed.)

Yes, just one well-placed punch on Rampage’s hard head and muscle-bound body can give Griffin the chance to pound the champion with more strikes. Still, Griffin is the underdog to the junkyard-dog Jackson. See him howl on the way to the Octagon, with that mean look of his, huge chains around his neck and all. Henderson offered a gentlemanly hand to Rampage before the bell rang for their fight, but Rampage was too busy with dagger looks at Henderson, incidentally, a very good friend of Rampage. Rebuffed, “Dan Hollywood” Henderson quickly lost his grin and tightened his girders.

Prediction time: Griffin by KO in Round 3. I wish! Being almost always for the underdog, I would like Griffin to win in three but the odds are stacked against him. Although, the good thing about the UFC and MMA in general is that surprises and shocks are never wanting.

Let’s get it on!

– ‘David’ versus ‘Money Goliath’ –
Diaz doesn’t get it; Pacquiao pets the goat

Time was when Filipinos from every geographical location on the globe squirmed every time a reference was made to this Malay race having a taste for canines. With dog for a meal, who needs a best friend?

The notoriety may have been shed some three days ago.

With WBC lightweight champion David Diaz rejecting, or perhaps unable to comprehend, the hype of the Chicago Cubs goat, made the scapegoat of the Chicago baseball club’s “Curse of the Billy Goat” misfortunes in Major League Baseball, title-challenger Manny Pacquiao eagerly stepped up to the plate to bat one out of the Mandalay Bay. Diaz, a Chicago resident and a Cubs fan, could have earned for himself a Play of the Day highlight if he had any showbiz in his blood, but he turned his back on the chance, walking out to probably work out some more in the gym.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, who has starred in a movie in his native Philippines, has endorsed everything from potato chips to politicians, running for Congress himself and failing (you a boxer, man, not a politico), has long accepted the show-business aspect of his profession.

Someone got the bright idea of bringing in a goat during a news conference for the Pacquiao-Diaz fight. Surprised and not wanting anything to do with the responsibility of being a Steve Bartman, Diaz walked away. Pacquiao saw an opening and jabbed. "Goat is my favorite food," Pacquiao said while petting the goat. And he probably meant it. Paklay and calderetas, dishes made from goat meat, are staples in makeshift carinderia public market stalls throughout the Philippines.

DAVID VS. GOLIATH, HO-HUM. David slew Goliath with a slingshot, but it will take David Diaz more than a puny riverside stone to take out his 135-pound Goliath of an opponent in Manny Pacquiao in tomorrow’s 135-pound WBC lightweight title fight at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

Sure, the 135lb division is “uncharted territory” for Pacquiao, but the PacMan has gradually risen all the way down from 107lb to 135lb with not too many obvious ill effects. Damn! The man has won three (at 112, 122 and 130) legit international boxing titles to get where he is now, is a star in international boxing and a superstar/megastar in his native Philippines where his popularity spans all economic and social levels. Pacquiao probably makes three times on endorsement deals than he does boxing.

It was another Diaz, “Baby Bull” Juan, who wanted to take Pacquiao down his pedestal, boldly saying that Pacquiao has fought and beaten all the current Mexican boxing greats in his weight division, but they (Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez) are old and on the wane. Juan said that it was high time that Pacquiao fought a younger and stronger Mexican pugilist – him. HAHAHA! Famous last words, Baby Bull. Juan Diaz didn’t get to fight Pacquiao. He did fight someone even older than Pacquiao and Diaz lost. Nate Campbell did the honor of shutting the brash and young Juan’s mouth. He rearranged his face too. For 12 rounds, Campbell, 36, took everything Juan gave him and gave back in return. If the 135lb WBA, IBF and WBO title bout wasn’t fought in Cancun, Campbell would have gotten a unanimous points decision victory. He won by split and he more than earned it.

Since a big-money fight with the bullied Baby Bull wasn’t viable anymore, another Diaz volunteered. Fresh off a far-from impressive win over Ramon Montano last March and one over one of Pacquiao’s aging (take that, Baby Bull!) conquests 10 months ago, David Diaz has lucked on a fight with one of boxing’s most bankable stars. Thank your lucky stars, David.

PROPHETS GET STONED. Predictions are for prophets. At the risk of being branded one and stoned by an unbelieving nation, as I once was stung by just a few (honest!) disagreeable readers after writing in my defunct sports column in a local English daily that Pacquiao might lose to Erik Morales, let me say this – Pacquiao will lose.

Put down that rock! Let me explain. That is a big if…that is, if Pacquiao will lose, he might get knocked out in five rounds or less. If Pacquiao does win, he will KO Diaz in nine rounds or less.

Diaz, 32, is slightly older, perhaps stronger than Pacquiao, 29, but Diaz is much slower. Diaz knows just one direction -- forward. Even if he absorbs punishment, he is too stubborn to back down. While Pacquiao, under the brilliant tutelage of Freddie Roach, is light on his feet and can rival a whirling dervish, running circles around foes, evading blows. Latent lateral movement skills of Pacquiao have contributed to him becoming a complete fighter, boxer-slugger.

With just about everybody, boxing critics and the average boxing fan alike, saying that Diaz is overmatched by the PacMan, Diaz has a lot to prove. The surest way to make his detractors eat their words is for Diaz to knock out Pacquiao, not win just by TKO but by devastating KO. Another 12-round affair with no one losing consciousness will bring back the ghosts of Pacquiao-Marquez I. Pacquiao won. Marquez won. It should have been a draw.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, has less pressure on him to win. That is if 90 million Filipinos in the tropical depression and economically-depressed archipelago and perhaps five million more living abroad demanding nothing short of a dominant win is not pressure enough. Pacquiao has shown us his mettle and cool in previous pro fights. He can come into the ring smiling his endorsement-rich mug below bangs and leave the ring less than an hour later sweating and humming, “Para sa ‘yo/Ang labang ito…” one belt or another resting on his shoulders or worn around his waist.

If (sorry), when Pacquiao racks a win over Diaz, he will smile that sly beatific smile looking a million smackeroos and look into the horizon for the next victim and million-dollar-purse and pay-per-view share. It’s just too good to ponder.

That’s what’s so difficult about boxing. A win is never assured. Even if you have the referee and the judges in your pocket. Even if everybody is saying that you are too good for your opponent. Nothing is assured the same way you cannot predict the exact price of oil per barrel. It was $120 per barrel last April, now it’s $142 per barrel, going up to $150.

Only two things can happen in a boxing bout, one boxer loses, the other boxer wins. Three things if you consider a draw. But nobody likes a stalemate. The reason boxers train like Roman gladiators and starve like African refugees to make the weight is because they want to win. Period. But even then, a comma, a semi-colon, a hyp(h)e(n), another period can follow a period. It never ends.

If (sorry), when Pacquiao wins, he could take on Marquez for a second dance on the canvas, or maybe even a resurgent Baby Bull Diaz. Who knows?

The Shadow claims to be omniscient but even he loses his rep in the daylight. Sorry for ancient radio serial and comicbook reference. To be current, let’s try: “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Sorry (again), that’s a Lou Ferrigno-Bill Bixby Hulk not the Edward Norton incarnation.

See what happened to Marvel’s mightiest hero/villain? Sorry (again), I haven’t seen the latest Hulk movie yet, not even on a pirated DVD copy. It must be tragic-comic, much like Pacquiao will be if (sorry) when (much sorrier) he loses. He could. I am not banking on it. I am rooting for a fellow Filipino, of course.

Add this blog to the pressure that Manny Pacquiao carries on his heroic shoulders. And add tomorrow’s fight to my blood-pressure reading.

Here’s hoping that the perceived Goliath in this setup turns the tables, or at least deflects all of the perceived David’s stones, avoiding a direct hit right in the middle of his forehead.

Fight, Pacquiao! Fight!

Paul Pierce, with his 10-year loyalty and superb Finals performance, deserves to have the TD Banknorth Garden’s name attached to his. But even Pierce has to admit that without Kevin Garnett (we’ll discuss Ray Allen later), the Boston Celtics would still be languishing in the Eastern Conference, drinking cold beer in the warm summer months, enjoying the playoffs in front of the TV.

Pierce, though, truly earns the Finals MVP title. His 17 points, 10 assists (nine alone in the first half), and three rebounds are proof of his Game 6 all-around court command. Pierce made like Kobe Bryant, slashing to the paint for a lay-up and when he found himself caught in the trees, passed off to whoever Celtic was free in the perimeter or the 3-point arc.

Also playing his best in the series today, Boston’s starting point-guard, the sophomore Rajon Rondo, a good five inches shorter than Pierce, had four rebounds more than the Finals MVP. More importantly, Rondo had six crucial steals, two on Bryant alone, and had just one turnover in 32 minutes of play. Doc Rivers may still be eight championship rings short of Phil Jackson’s Red-Auerbach-tying nine, but he out-coached Jackson in the Finals.

Consider Rivers’ second-quarter decision to go small with Eddie House, Pierce, Leon Powe, James Posey, and PJ Brown. Garnett was on the bench, while Allen, his eyes poked by Lamar Odom during one of Allen’s daring lay-ups earlier in the first half, was being treated in the locker room.

OF ROOKIES AND RISKS. Practically, no matter who from the bench Jackson puts on the floor will still outsize that Celtics batch. When Garnett came back to replace Powe at 7:32, the Celtics still had the lead, 32-29. The break gave Garnett not only a breather but also kept Garnett from committing more fouls as he is wont to do. Now, how about Glen Davis, how many coaches out there are willing to take the risk on a rookie playing in the Finals for the very first time. Trust and prescience are two of the hallmarks of a very good basketball coach.

Davis played for almost 15 minutes and had a measly three points, a field goal and a free throw, but with Kendrick Perkins not a 100 percent, Davis played a minute longer than Boston’s starting center.

Overall, the Los Angeles is the better team, man for man. Almost nobody thought Boston would last more than five games. Indeed, Rivers did better than Jackson. The Celtics beat the Lakers. By 39 frigging points! You need more proof than that? Likewise, it was the first time in the Finals that the winning margin was more than 10.

So it was, the Celtics reclaimed NBA Finals on the 17th of June year of our Lord 2008 for the legendary team’s 17th title, with one of the greatest Celtics ever in the audience, John “Hondo” Havlicek, who sported a No. 17 jersey. Hang it up on the rafters of the TD Banknorth Garden, KG! along with Havlicek’s retired jersey number. Superstition may just be a combination of gut feeling and statistical mumbo jumbo, but also consider who won the jump ball. The Lakers did, same as the Celtics in Game 5. The Finals teams who got the ball in the first seconds of the ballgame eventually lost.

Reserving their best for last, the Celtics had almost total domination of a Lakers team that despite the just four-point Celtics lead (24-20) after the first quarter, had the seeds of the Lakers’ destruction planted on the Garden. Since Game 1, it was the first time the Celtics led after the first quarter, proof that Boston makes a habit of coming back.

RIFLEMAN RAY. Oh, sorry. Ray Allen. Sorry, Ray. You did very well, Mr. Rifleman. Allen had 26 points, including 7-of-9 from the arc, which tied a Finals record, 8-of-12 on field-goal attempts, and not surprisingly, was perfect from the line, 3-3. The stats don’t tell the whole story. They never do. Allen showed the warrior in him by getting back into the game despite Odom’s long fingers invading his eye sockets. There are those who mistake Allen of being soft just because he is soft-spoken and prefers to shoot from the outside with that picture-perfect textbook-model jumper. But Allen can drive to the hoop just as gracefully, with or without a defender.

Boston’s Big 3 all played big. But five makes a basketball team on the court. Whoever played with the Big 3 were just as important in winning No.17. With an intact line-up next season, No.18 wouldn’t be too difficult to visualize.

Same time next year, Lakers? Bring Big Andrew Bynum with you. The Celtics aren’t worried. They’ve got Big Baby Davis.

“Regal,” ESPN color commentary team member Jeff Van Gundy called John Havlicek “regal” for sporting thicker, though, white hair at age 68 than Van Gundy at 46. Van Gundy has a few strands he combs across his pate. Van Gundy is one of the most knowledgeable and perceptive, if not the most incisive, NBA commentators now working, and definitely the funniest. He is even funnier than Charles Barkley.

KG, KJ; Kobe, from mediocre to great

Don't know which is worse, watching the Celtics come so close to finishing off the Lakers or listening (forced to listen, more like it) to the encyclopedic babbler Quinito Henson and carabao-English proponent Chino Trinidad doing their best to make it interesting watching an NBA game, trying to convince those with access to cable TV that they are better off tuning in to Crime/Suspense/RPN 9’s coverage instead of at Basketball TV.

Stil (i.e. steal) by Kobi Bryant…Kobi. Kobi. KOBI MIKS A TREEEEE!!!!

It’s not funny anymore listening to Trinidad mangle the Queen’s English, the King’s English, and Tayshaun Prince’s English in two hours it regularly takes an NBA game to run its course.

HISTORY AGAIN. There they went again, repeating themselves.
The Lakers went on to leave the Celtics behind in their first-quarter dust, 39-22, and, as if on cue, the Celtics pursued them with road detritus in their mouths, to come closer, 52-55, at the end of the first half.

Kevin Garnett, as aggressive (read: passionate) as ever, committed his third (unearned) foul on Pau Gasol, a mere 13 seconds after relieving P.J. Brown, who himself committed his third foul earlier. Brown was exemplary, in his first-half stint, putting up not much on the stats sheet with just four points and three rebounds, but his defense helped the Celtics get back. Without the hulking Kendrick Perkins, out on a shoulder injury, Brown filled the lanes well.

Smiling, the 15-year-veteran Brown came back to give Garnett another unnecessary breather. Sure, Garnett didn’t really commit a foul, slapping his hand on the hand of Gasol holding the ball. According to NBA rules, the hand holding the ball, being part of the ball, if it is hit, no call is to be called. But we all know how the rules don’t always work, or how the referees don’t always see or choose not to see.

“One bucket at a time,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers exhorted his players in a timeout. Indeed, as the Celtics racked up 15 straight points to the Lakers' zero for a stretch, it seemed the Celtics were well on their way to ending the series at the Staples Center, thousands of miles away from the TD Banknorth Garden.

In the minds of many fans, both pro-Boston and pro-Lakers, the Lakers were too spent on excessive expectations and unexpected defeats to put up a fight in Game 5. Entering Staples Center locker room, the cameras zoomed in on Paul Pierce and Perkins, in dark suits and darker glasses, looking like they were on their way instead to audition for Men In Black 3 at a Columbia Pictures soundstage. Call it confidence, or call it conceit, but surely, many Celtics must have already felt some of the euphoria of grabbing the Larry O’Brien trophy Sunday night. Overconfidence is never a good thing.

GREEN GRIT. But Boston did play with a lot grit and confidence yesterday. After they were only four points down, 86-90, after James Posey’s three, time down to 5:48 in the fourth, you could almost feel the cold go up the collective spine of the Staples Center crowd, and cold sweat start to pour from Jack Nicholson’s bald spot to his shades.

They call it the Boston run. Garnett’s 14-foot jumper tied the game, 90-90. Shine the trophy, boys! But it wasn’t to be. Pau Gasol’s baby hook regained the lead for the Lakers, which they kept until the final buzzer, 103-98.

A lot of drama went down from 90-all to 103-98, and Bryant contributed to it. He will undoubtedly be acclaimed as one of the greatest players in the NBA, right up there in the basketball firmament with Bill Russell, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and…drum roll…Michael Jordan.

With less than a minute left in the final quarter, Bryant showed his greatness and his weakness. He attempted a three at 1:15 when they didn’t need it, causing Lamar Odom to foul Pierce, who went to the stripe but made only one of two shots. Bryant could have used his one-on-one superiority to slash to the paint and make a two or get fouled to earn two free throws. Instead, he missed his jumper, the Celtics got the rebound, Pierce’s 1-of-2 cut LA’s lead to just three, 97-94.

Then Bryant redeemed himself. Pierce had ball possession, Bryant sneaked from behind to tap the ball to Odom, who in turn passed it to Bryant for a fastbreak dunk, 99-95. In a span of 38 seconds, the Lakers superstar showed two sides of his basketball personality: middling and great.

The Game 5 win wasn’t as ugly as the Lakers’ Game 3 victory, but they did live to play another day. Boston, on the other hand, was just a bit too predictable: Let the Lakers take the early lead, let’s do catch-up. Catsup on meat patty tastes good, but patty alone tastes good, too, our neighborhood burger-store owner always says.

When Doc Rivers sat down Garnett for Rondo with nine seconds left, all Celtics on court were guards/forwards, all capable of shooting threes. And for that reason, they should have taken care of the ball much better, not having James Posey casually pass the inbound to a waiting Derek Fisher who dribbled the precious seconds away to secure the win for his team.

Bryant was waving to the crowd, clapping his hands, while the sidecourt lady was waiting to interview him. Odom was being interviewed by another person himself a few feet away, while their teammates walked past them not looking like they had just won. The Lakers had the look of the defeated (which, in many ways they still are), or the defeated who are merely suspending the inevitable.

Like this very game that they had numerically won by five points. It was a scrambling triumph at best, forging a Game 6 back in…wait, don’t let Los Angeles hear it…Boston, where the Celtics are 2-0 against the Lakers in this series. It is now, 3-2, for the Celtics. Just one more game. Just one more win. The Celtics have two chances to end it. And it will be another championship banner hanging from the rafters.

Yes, home is indeed sweet, especially if you are primed to let the balloons, confetti, and buntings fall in celebration.

This is it. Game 6. The buck stops here.


If there were any Cebuano-speaking members of the audience at the SC in Game 5, they would have sported knowing smiles listening to the “LO LO LO…” chant of the nervous crowd.

-- Sasha, get your goat; Ray of light; God; Fear of the unknown --

Game 3:

“He lost a goat…no big deal.”

There are seemingly inconsequential things in this world that reinforces my hardened belief (faith, if you will) that there is a God. Watching a Los Angeles Laker dribbling the ball while waiting for the final buzzer, and the Boston Celtics losing, 81-87, I pressed the TV remote jump button and saw the caption text of the quote above by a grizzled old man in a National Geographic feature on Iranian nomadic goat herders.

The Celtics lost Game 3. Big deal. They were expected to. Some quarters might even expect the Lakers to win Games 4 and 5 after the euphoria of that victory. I have publicly (to friends and colleagues, at least) spoken that I would love to see a Game 7 at the TD Banknorth Garden/Fleet Center.

But that was a troubling win for the Lakers. Even in their homecourt, even with naysayers earlier declaring that the Celtics were overmatched (despite a 2-0 regular-season record against the Lakers, despite having the best regular-season record at 66-16), Mr. Kobe “Ballhog turned passing superstar now MVP” Bryant and Co. had a tough time earning that win.

Now we have a Finals.

Game 4:

If by some unjust quirk of the cosmic forces, and saintly Ray Allen is sent to hell, the Boston Celtics shooting guard will still stay cool.

This game will forever be entrenched in the minds of basketball fans and conspiracy theorists. Comebacks from 20-plus points in any quarter in an NBA Finals are not just rare but heroic. Did the referees swallow their whistles to give the Celtics the edge?

This game will forever be remembered for Allen’s superheroic moves: an up-and-under reverse lay-up from the left wing past the defense of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, and a one-on-one cha-cha-cha lefty lay-up past a hapless Sasha Vujacic to up the Celtics’ lead to five, 96-91. Allen’s expression didn’t even change after those baskets. His Big 3 teammates Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and the Celtics on the court and on the bench, and the whole of Massachusetts, were whooping it up as if they had already won the series. Who could blame them? By the looks of it, with 16 seconds left, they had. Eddie House sank 1-of-2 free throws for the final score, 97-91.

History is on the Celtics’ side. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. The Celtics are 30-0 after winning the first two games in the playoffs.

By some quirk of the cosmos, as I was writing this piece, Steely Dan’s Change Of The Guard was playing on my PC. It is the second to the last song on the band’s classic 1972 debut album, Can’t Buy A Thrill. (Plug time: check out and for more of this blogger’s follies). Lakers head coach Phil Jackson should have changed the guard on Allen. There is no way jump-shooting self-declared “machine” hair-farm Vujacic can take on the bald-headed brilliance of playground-maestro Allen one-on-one. Don’t argue. You saw what happened.

Leon Powe’s (him again, Mr. Jackson) jumper tied the score at 73-all not two minutes into the fourth quarter. After coming back from 24 points down in the second, 21-45, the Celtics took the lead, 84-83, for the first time on Eddie House’s basket in the final 4:07. They kept it until the final buzzer.

OK, it’s not over ’til it’s over, the fat lady hasn’t been sited yet on stage…provide your own cliché here. All right, let’s wait and see. But as always, Free-For-All is sticking to the Boston Stranglers.

Until Larry Bird flips the bird on Red Auerbach, make mine Celtics.

Game 5 is still at Lakers territory. A lot of good it will do the Lakers. They may win Game 5 but they will still be a game down with the last two games in Boston. No more stats! Just figure the odds yourself, and more importantly, whether you are for the Lakers or for the Celtics, to enjoy the games.

It will be fun.

Especially if you are not green-eyed with envy. Apologies to The Bard. Smirk.

Game 5:

I have openly said that I would love to watch a Game 7 of this series. After that historic Game 4 turnaround by the Celtics in enemy territory, I don’t relish the thought of a for-all-the-marbles encounter anymore.

Being three games up over one in an NBA Finals series is something to crow about, yes, but it is not an impregnable advantage. As Sasha the hairy goat said, “This should be a good test for us if we are ready to win the championship,” citing that the Phoenix Suns did it in the 2006 playoffs.

Mr. Vujacic is right. The Suns did it. The Phoenix Suns, Sasha, sir. Who did the Suns beat the stuffings out of to earn that distinction? Your team, Sasha. The Suns with slippery smart eel point-guard genius Steve Nash and a motley support crew of Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell, Tim and Kurt Thomas, and the now sorely-missed Shawn Marion. Amare Stoudemire was recovering from an injury at the time but the Thomases, Marion, and Diaw, filled the vacuum down low admirably.

Who do you have with you in this playoffs, Sasha? You as a sniper from the wings (.522 FG% and .545 3P% against the Celtics in the Finals) and regular season MVP Kobe “Still a Michael Jordan wannabe but never will be” Bryant, a great one-on-one player but just good in this Finals. You have late-season addition Pau Gasol, inconsistent Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum on sick bay (shades of Amare Stoudemire). I am biased, admittedly, but the only players in the present crop of Lakers, after Bryant, that I admire are Luke Walton and the seemingly ageless and very resilient Derek Fisher. Fisher never gives up. His high-arching 3-point shot is thing of beauty and grace. Walton doesn’t have the height and skills of his father, Bill, one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players of All Time and future Hall Of Famer, but Luke has inherited the fighting genes of his dad. Bryant, Fisher, and Walton will never give up, even if two points down with a second to go in the game, even with a two-game deficit in a seven-game series.

They are the Lakers' Big 3 (Gasol and Odom are playing like bench players at this time), in my estimation. They can make things turn around for their team. Getting out of a deep hole they have dug for themselves is a daunting task. It is not impossible but highly improbable. Only one sure way to find out if the Lakers can do a Lazarus -- let’s see them play in Game 5. If they force a Game 6, let’s see if they can force a Game 7.

This is one of those times when I wish I were more careful with what I wished for. I just might get it. Get it?

I don’t know if the South African man that Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers asked to talk to his team uses a Microsoft or Linux operating system on his computer, but when he tried to psyche up the Celtics with the mantra ubuntu (“a philosophy of life that promotes the greater good rather than individual success,” from the “Bantu group of languages” of Africa – thank you, Wikipedia), it was like a schoolmarm teaching a wide-eyed class of fourth graders the wonder word magic (not Earvin Johnson). Rabbit out of a hat drawing smiles and claps, Chris Angel impaled on a fence smiling, drawing disgusted oohs and ahhs. Tells you lots on generation gap on wonder level there.

My computer’s OS used to be Linux Ubuntu, not because I liked it that way. No. I didn’t even know what Ubuntu was until I spent hours struggling over an operating system that was supposed to be “user-friendly.” But for someone who has been using a Microsoft OS for the good part of a decade, shifting, or trying, or better still, forced to try (it came with the laptop I just bought) a Linux OS was like being forced to sleep in the same bed with a woman I had only met an hour ago at an anti-government rally…in Zambia. And she doesn’t even speak the same language (or languages, I know three, one of these is English, as most Filipinos with a high-school education) as I do. OK, the prospect of having a strange woman in your bed is exciting, especially if she keeps saying to you, “Ubuntu! Ubuntu! Ubuntuuuuuu!!!”

In my first language, Ubuntu rhymes with a very sexually-charged word. But we just met! I like my conquests smiling and able to say words to me like: “How about this one, sir…Not too expensive…Thank you, come again.” Who doesn’t like to shop in a store with a very accommodating sales lady?

Ubuntu and the Celtics. From the regular season to now, the Celtics have had remarkable success. Ubuntu rulz! That’s the most important thing …it works. So, no more digs on this Ubuntu thing. I had a friend replace my OS with Windows XP. I am back in familiar surroundings but I kind of miss Ubuntu's quirks and novelty, though. I have an older laptop and I plan to find a place for Linux Ubuntu there.

JACKSON’S MIND GAMES. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson is at it again. Playing mind games is a big part of Jackson’s success as coach in the NBA. Nine Finals championships and counting. But after a heartbreaking Game 2 loss, despite coming back from 24 down in the fourth quarter to just two in the last 7.55 minutes, the Lakers failed to upend the Celtics, 102-108, and Jackson again digs deep into his bag of tricks.

Harping on the 43-17 free-throw disparity, using seldom-used Leon Powe, who had 21 points, more than either Allen or Garnett, as a peg for his criticism of the officiating, Jackson is of course aware that the far-from perfect (and it will never be) refereeing will not always be to his team’s advantage. Jackson doesn’t have to think far back into history for images of the Sacramento Kings complaining of biased officiating (if you saw the game, you might just agree it was horrendous) for the Lakers after the still-notorious Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, where the referees in their eternal wisdom and fairness, called 27 fouls on the Kings and only nine on the Lakers in the fourth quarter alone, when it was the Kings who were more aggressive going to the basket.

History has a way of biting you on the butt, Mr. Jackson, if you ignore it. Or conveniently forget it. Learn your lessons well.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, on the other hand, is right to say that his team was more aggressive (sounds familiar?) in going into the paint. Naturally, they gave the referees a lot more reason to call the fouls. The referees cannot be everywhere all the time. Even God rested on the seventh day. It was a Sunday when Game 2 was played in Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden, so maybe the Supreme Being was watching the game, too, even though it was His day off. Unfortunately, He wasn’t activated to officiate the game, so, sorry, Mr. Jackson. Maybe next time. Games 3, 4, and, “if necessary,” Game 5 will be played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Who knows, the calls might go your team’s way by then.

Where was I? Yes, the Celtics, who at the time of this post are up 2-0 over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Retired and semi-retired Celtic fans come out of your shells! Game 3, 4, and 5 may be at the arena that Jack Nicholson built, but if Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and the rest of the Celtics cast steal just one in LA, our beloved green-clad heroes will look like the DC superhero Green Lantern in a cabbage patch. Green, green all the way.

Now, who said the Pau Gasol-reinforced Lakers are too tough for the Garnet-and-Allen-reinforced Celtics? If I remember my math, two is bigger than one. But a basketball team is bigger than the sum of its parts. And an NBA Finals journey doesn’t stop until one team racks up four wins over the other. OK, two to go, Celtics. You do the math.

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