Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Still shaking my head after that Pacquiao loss

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Still SMH after that Pacquiao loss
by rick olivares

Three days after the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, talk has not abated one bit about the outcome. In fact, the headlines are still screaming it.

Manila broadsheets initially espoused conspiracy theories backstopped by two other subplots about how Floyd received painkiller injections before the bout and how his pop admitted he thought fight was much closer.

If you go on social media, Filipinos and other fight fans are lambasting the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Max Kellerman, boxing in general, and to no surprise, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

It leaves me shaking my head in sadness and dismay.

While I feel bad that Manny Pacquiao lost, I think generally, the people are in denial. The country’s brightest star (even if his luster has somewhat faded) lost on the biggest stage and not only has national pride been pricked but people are also coping by lashing out at anyone and anything.

It’s the Nevada State Athletic Commission! Floyd kept hugging, clinching, and running away (while conveniently forgetting that Money landed more shots than Manny). Floyd is the poster boy for everything wrong in sports today. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

We have Manny frozen in a time capsule. The scintillating boxer who after winning his trilogy with Erik Morales rolled over a who’s who of challengers. On the way to international stardom, he had his own version of a “No Mas” moment when he forced Oscar dela Hoya into quitting the fight; it is a victory that propelled him to epic heights. Yet people conveniently forget that dela Hoya was getting in on the years and was clearly not the fighter he once was. Nevertheless, from one Golden Boy to another. The result was the Philippines had its first true global icon.

He proceeded to feast on David Diaz and Ricky Hatton (who was felled by a an incredible knockout), bloodied Miguel Cotto, and bludgeoned Antonio Margarito to the point where he was not the same after.

It seemed as if the train ride was unstoppable. While fight cognoscenti noticed signs of slippage, they were still largely ignored even if he “lost” to Tim Bradley. But when you think about it, he lost significant power as he failed to bludgeon the American into submission. Had he place a beating on Bradley, he would have been undoubtedly the winner. It should be noted, however, that it was also around this time when talks of a Money-Pacman match were first floated with the former accusing the latter of taking performance enhancing drugs.

After the loss to Marquez (that I saw coming after the Mexican felt robbed in his two defeats to Pacquiao including the controversial third fight), I felt he was fed stiffs who couldn’t hold his jockstrap. The same accusation levied at Mayweather for fighting nobodies… well, I thought that he needed some confidence building fights en route to the mother of all fights (against Mayweather).

Only this was like the Joshua Clottey fight redux. Prior to that match, all the two fighters did was exchange pleasantries. While Pacquiao never gets into a war of words or taunts, his opponents sometimes do. Against Clottey it was as if they were a tag team entering a WWE match.

And right before the Mayweather match, both boxers continued to exchange pleasantries. It was Pacquiao’s camp that did the trash talking. Freddie Roach was in his element. Bob Arum threw verbal jabs as well. The media lapped it up. Pacquiao fanned the flames by saying he’d win and put on the fight of a lifetime.

It wasn’t a Clottey fight where the opponent merely put up a wall behind an endless barrage. Mayweather, who some believed he would dispense with his stick and jab then dance away routine to slug it out, stayed with his forever game plan as he boxed and outpointed Manny.

While many decry this tactic, it has been as old as the sport. If you want to look at recent champions, Muhammad Ali, the self-proclaimed “Greatest” even gave the tactic a name – “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Sugar Ray Leonard also had the same style. When he opted to slug it out with Roberto Duran in their first bout, he lost. In the rematch, he went back to his style and won. “Can’t hit what you can’t catch,” he said.

If you put it in basketball terms, if a team’s strength is running the fastbreak, then you want to jam that outlet pass and slow down their offense to a crawl where they are probably not as adept at a half court game.

In Mixed Martial Arts terms, if you are a wrestler, you don’t want to face a striker in the center of the ring, you want to take it to the canvass where you can force him to submit.

The shoe is on the other foot and I thought it was well played. Floyd opted for a more humble approach despite the tactics about questioning the gloves etc. on fight day. In the post-match, whether he was being truthful or not, he was praising God and saying all the right things.

I thought that Pacquiao looked not only befuddled (something I have not seen since he fought Marquez the second time) but he also look dazed. He thought he won the fight. Look at the scene immediately after the final bell. Mayweather immediately raised his arms in victory. Manny? It took him a moment before he remembered to raise his arms. And he didn’t look convinced. Listen to the MGM Grand crowd that has always been pro-Manny. They didn’t think he won either.

Personally, I don’t have anything against what Max Kellerman asked. I think he was just as stunned as everyone was but that was a question that begged to be asked as Manny said he thought he won the fight (you don’t get points for being the aggressor; you get points for shots you land and winning rounds).

Now there’s talk about Manny hurting his shoulder three weeks prior to fight day and facing possible sanctions after not revealing that he suffered that injury. Some feel deceived by that because they felt it handicapped him. But if you look at all the newspaper headlines leading up to fight night, the Pacman camp was very confident and that victory was assured. Furthermore, fighters are always fighting hurt. It is the same with athletes from all over as they suck up niggling injuries. So there it is.

I thought Floyd won it. Just like Juan Manuel Marquez did in his third meeting against Manny (that was a controversial decision that has come back to snakebite Pacman twice).

I thought that after the Clottey fight, Manny should have hung it up. But like most great athletes, they never know when to call it a career. There’s always one more fight. And usually, it is one fight more too much.

He could have been the greatest. Now after three losses in his last six matches, Manny Pacquiao is now merely among the all-time greats.

Josh Andrei Caracut is the latest Bedan sniper looking to lead DLSU to glory

Caracut is the latest Bedan looking to lead DLSU to glory
by rick olivares pic from josh's twitter account

When the La Salle Green Archers played a Korean team during a friendly at the San Juan Arena earlier this year, it was a revelation for fans of the perennial UAAP title contender to see how seamlessly rookie Joshua Andrei Caracut blended in with the team. It was as if he had been playing with them for some time now.

When the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup tipped off last April 25, the Green Archers, the defending tourney champions, faced San Beda.

Unfortunately, the Archers had a tough time against the Red Lions who repeatedly repelled rallies. The one person who kept DLSU in the game was Caracut prompting SBC head coach Jamike Jarin to remark at the half, “We are winning at the moment, but San Beda is also beating us.”

Jarin referred to Caracut, the former San Beda Red Cubs star who led the squad to a couple of NCAA Juniors crowns.

For the 5’10” Caracut, playing against his former school was awkward at first, but he got over it pretty quick. “There was a lot of pressure and excitement before the game,” recalled Caracut. “Nung warm-ups, nasa side ako ng San Beda at marami yung tumatawag sa akin. Di ko alam kung paano sila kakausapin ng isa-isa kasi kailangan mag-focus.”

Caracut strafed San Beda with 22 points including including six for eight shooting from the three-point arc. The Green Archer rookie drilled four in the first half to stay within striking distance of SBC. La Salle managed to forge overtime but eventually ran out of steam, losing 86-80.

“Excited din ako talaga maglaro na suot yung jersey ng La Salle. Binigay ko yung best ko sa kanila to help us win the game (against San Beda).”

Caracut’s presence gives hope to the Green Archers for the last three Bedan snipers to wear the green and white led them to glory. There was Renren Ritualo and JVee Casio, both long range gunners, who made their mark in college and the professional ranks.

Ritualo led La Salle to a four-peat from 1998-2001 while Casio won a UAAP championship in 2007.

Said Ritualo of Caracut’s performance, “I heard Andrei played well in his formal debut for La Salle. My thoughts? Just keep what he is doing and improve in every practice and games that he'll play. And of course, study well. Studies comes first.”

Caracut was starry-eyed with the endorsement of Ritualo. “Sana nga magawa ko rin yung mga nagawa nila before or mahigitan pa. Yun yung magiging motivation and inspiration ko.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

Perpetual Help Altas’ Bright Akhuetie captures top Filoil honors

This appears in the Tuesday, May 5, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

Altas’ Bright captures top Filoil honors
by rick olivares

The University of Perpetual Help Altas’ young Nigerian center Bright Akhuetie captured Total Player of the Week honors after leading his school to a 2-0 record in the first week of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup.

In two matches, Bright averaged 17.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.0 blocks in two wins over Letran and University of San Jose Recoletos.

Filoil Tournament Director Joey Guillermo named Bright to the Gatorade Best Five along with San Beda’s Baser Amer, Emilio Aguinaldo College’s Addum Mbang, UE’s Paul Varilla, and UST’s Mario Bonleon.

The Gatorade Best Defensive of the Week is Mapua’s Allwell Oraeme who was the lone bright spot for the Cardinals during a loss to the University of the Philippines. Oraeme grabbed an incredible 29 rebounds and blocked two shots.

Aric Del Rosario: Old blood and guts still has it.

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Aric Del Rosario: Old blood and guts still has it.
by rick olivares

Aric Del Rosario sat on Commissioners’ Row along with that other noted local sports icon Ato Badolato for a match between the high school squads of La Salle Greenhills and National University. Through the expected protests of coaches, players, and fans regarding the officiating and who looked to the seated commissioners for succor or explanation, both Badolato and Del Rosario remained impassive. Years, no, decades in the game of basketball, as well as age, have taught them to keep their emotions in check.

An hour and half later, Del Rosario took his seat this time across the court next to the University of Perpetual Help Altas who were going to play the visiting Cebuano team of the University of San Jose Recoletos Jaguars.

The transformation of Del Rosario was instant. At 75 years of age, he may look like someone who has hung around the game too long. Someone living off old glory; over five decades to be exact. But the sound of leather on the hardcourt, the squeak of six thousand peso sneakers, and the shrill whistle of a game about to start fired up the synapses. The blood and fire returned to his frame. And Aric Del Rosario was once more in his element.

This year’s Altas were missing Justine Alano, Jong Baloria, and Harold Arboleda, three of his undersized Fantastic Four (the other being Most Valuable Player Scottie Earl Thompson who was unavailable due to national team duty) who flaunted the largest of fighting hearts. They defeated taller and deeper teams and made a serious run only to fall in the Final Four of the NCAAs.

That fighting spirit is what Del Rosario was known for. He played at a time when 6’1” players were centers. He was a small forward for UST and went up against the likes of UP’s Joe Lipa and this strapping strong kid who liked to barrel into the lane, a rookie from the University of the East named Sonny Jaworski. “Malakas yun,” Del Rosario remembered of his UAAP days in the 1960s. “Rookie pa lang siya pero parang mama kung maglaro.”

But Del Rosario, who played for coaching great Fely Fajardo, played during an era where fights were routine and tough players were abound. “Hindi ka pwede umatras sa court. Parang hindi ka lalake kung ganun. Laban lang. Sa depensa lalo nang patayan. Walang bigayan.”

That philosophy, shaped by experience and winning a championship for UST in those turbulent 60s, is still in full effect for all to see.

During their recent Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup debut, the Altas looked shaky in the early goings against USJR and that got Del Rosario up from his seat. “Atakihin mo!” he bellowed to his players. He was more involved than usual.

“Deny! Deny! (insert expletive here). Deny!”

“Labanan mo yung mga pick!” (insert expletive right to punctuate the command)

Coach Aric to guard Gerald Dizon: “May puso ka ba? Pakita mo sa akin kung nasaan yung puso mo.”
Dizon (points to his chest area where the heart is located): Dito coach.
Coach Aric: Meron ka pala, eh. (insert expletive here) Bakit hindi mo pinapakita sa court!”

And there’s more with some choice words thrown in for effect.

If the image of the coach for the 1990s generation is fiery mentor who coached the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers to four consecutive titles in the UAAP as well as the inaugural Metropolitan Basketball Association championship with the Pampanga Dragons it is well deserved. One time, during a practice for UST, he got on star player Dennis Espino’s case for loafing and being standoffish. Coach got in his star center’s face and growled for the whole gym to hear, “Akala mo ikaw ang siga dito? Star ka na kaya pwede kang tatamad-tamad? Kung gusto mo suntukan tayo!”

He kept Espino longer on the bench in favor of Chris Cantonjos and when the former felt that he was falling out of favor, humbled, he returned sans the coasting and played hard.

For all of his butting heads with Espino, the center remains the best player that he ever coached. In fact, Del Rosario named Espino, Edmund Reyes, Rey Evangelista, Udoy Belmonte, and Gerard Francisco as the five best players he ever coached at UST. No Pido Jarencio? No Julian Rabbi Tomacruz? No Alfrancis Chua? No Bong Hawkins? He coached them all while at UST.

“Nung mag-coach ako ng UST in the early 1980s, established players na sila,” explained Del Rosario. “Sila Espino at iba, nakuha ko eh hilaw pa yung iba. Yung iba nga hindi marunong. Kailangan turuan.”

And teach them he did. Eleven years after his glorious coaching run with UST, ending one of the longest coaching stints in Philippine sports history, Del Rosario now on his fourth season patrolling the sidelines of Perpetual Help Altas.

Since taking over a squad that was hounded by player eligibility problems, the Altas have taken off. The intensity is there. They jack up treys like there’s no tomorrow. And the mercilessly hound foes with that full court pressure defense. “Aric magic,” sportswriters describe the turn-around.

Del Rosario dispels it. “Basketbol lang,” he deadpans.

This season, he knows he doesn’t have the firepower that he had last year with the departure of Baloria and Arboleda to the pros. He has a young, mostly inexperienced squad with a lot of spunk in them. Aside from Thompson and Dizon, he has Ric Gallardo, Gab Daganon, Flash Sadiwa, and Bright Akhuetie to count on. This year, Del Rosario has a little more ceiling.

While San Beda is the team to beat once more in the NCAAs, this early, Del Rosario is crafting ways to beat them. He isn’t ready to concede the title to the Red Lions no matter if they still retain the championship core from seasons past. “Kung walang lalaban, eh iabot na natin yung trophy na ganitong kaaga pa lang at wag na tayo magaksaya ng oras at pera. Pero hindi ganun. Bilog yung bola. Malay mo makasungkit tayo ng panalo.”

The dream to is win one for Perpetual Help. And should his old alma mater in UST come calling, he wouldn’t hesitate to come back for one last tour of duty.

After he left in 2004, a number of UAAP teams asked for his services. While flattered, he turned them down. “Hindi ko kayang harapin yung dati kong team (UST). Mabuti pa kung mag-coach ako, sa ibang liga.”

It was like that for him in the pros. He was one of Bogs Adornado’s coaching staff holdovers when he joined Tim Cone’s staff. And that partnership made for an even better 1990s. Not only was he the hottest coach around winning UAAP and MBA titles but also he was part of a winning and dynastic Alaska squad in the PBA.

When he moved over to Mobiline/Talk ‘N Text, he found himself troubled facing Alaska. “Siguro kasi, loyal ako,” he surmised. “Sobrang loyal ako. Hindi ko kayang humarap sa dati kong koponan.”

And that brings us back to the Perpetual Help Altas.

In their second Filoil match, this time against a Letran squad with some holdovers from its failed back-to-back championship teams of a few years ago, his young Altas, still without Thompson, handily defeated the Knights, a team with a fearsome reputation for toughness.  He knows this augurs well for his young squad as they learn to fend for themselves. It’s a character-building win for Perpetual Help.

The match over, he did a Bruce Banner.

The color left his face and his features softened. The veteran coach smiled as he shook hands and offered some good words to both his players and foes alike. Ten he shuffled off the court with a little gait. And if you didn’t know that he was a basketball coach, he’d be like everyone’s favorite grandpa, a jolly good fellow with a yarn or two to tell.

He took off his Perpetual Help Altas t-shirt and traded it for the Filoil shirt worn by the staff running the tournament. He took his customary seat next to Badolato and Pepe Sanchez and sat. Impassive and emotionless. Attendant to the game as commissioner. The blood and fire waiting to erupt for another day.

On Al Jazeera for Mayweather-Pacquiao (pics)

It was a blast being interviewed on Al Jazeera regarding pre and post-Mayweather-Pacquiao. And it sure was cool to be interviewed by Andy Richardson! Kinda nailed it with the predicitons. Hopefully, I'll get some writing assignments from them as well.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Breaking down Floyd Mayweather's win over Manny Pacquiao

This appears in the Monday, May 4, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

Post-Money-vs-Manny: A greatly missed opportunity
by rick olivares pic by getty images

It is barely 10 minutes after I Tweeted before the official decision that Floyd Mayweather would the superfight from Manny Pacquiao by “Unanimous Decision.”

Emotions are raw and a national pride is pricked. People lament the clinching, grabbing, and hooking by Mayweather as foul and are citing the flurries by Pacman as reasons why the latter should have won.

Except as painful as it sounds, Manny didn’t win it and he didn’t do enough to win it (the Compubox scores are already telling as it is).

In an interview with Al Jazeera (via video patch) last Saturday evening, I was asked how I saw the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. I said several things: that whoever imposes his game plan on the other would win it; and that it will go the distance. For Manny to win it he had to bring the war to Mayweather’s doorsteps early in the fight. I appreciate the all-around action style of Manny that has endeared him to many fans all over the world but when you’re older, you have to be cleverer. It like trading the dunk for a jumpshot. It’s like going for singles as opposed to swinging for the fence.

For Floyd to win it, I said that he will stick and jab, then dance away. Frustrate Manny then stick and jab again. He’d win it by earning points and winning rounds en route to a decision. Could be a split decision or an unanimous decision but a decision nevertheless.

I thought that Floyd had this fear of losing to Manny. For sure, he does care about the streak. Anyone in his place would. For the first time, he didn’t talk pre-fight trash. The only thing he said was that he was the greatest and not Muhammad Ali.

The once-fearless Floyd Mayweather Jr. knew fear. And I thought that would make him even more of a canny fighter. The days when he knocked out foes with routine ease are over (just as they are for Pacquiao). Instead, of late, he won on smarts, guile, and the tricks of the trade.

And it played out exactly like that against Manny.

Floyd was smart in fighting Pacquiao. Stick and jab. Dance out of harm’s way. If Manny got some licks in, clinch – all legal, of course. Force Kenny Bayless to separate them. That would hurt the momentum of Pacquiao and give Money time to regain his bearings. Then he would let that over-eagerness of the Filipino make him careless when he waded in. He waited for Pacquiao to commit mistakes then he threw some telling shots that had Manny all red in the face.

I thought that in the first round, Floyd’s superior reach definitely prevented Manny from fighting up close. The tactic of jabbing coupled with straight shots then clinching should have not gone unnoticed by Freddie Roach.

By Round Three, they should have changed tactics by attacking. I felt that maybe Manny was a little cautious about getting knocked out. Did his corner do him a disservice by not telling him how it was going? That he was losing? That Floyd pretty much had his way in the ring?

In stark contrast, Mayweather Senior let his son have it. He said it in full HD view on what his son wasn’t doing right and what his son needed to do. That forced Floyd to come out firing in the fifth round (after Manny took Round Three).

By Round Nine, Manny should have really stepped on the gas pedal. Instead, he simply fought using the same style. Furthermore, with no sense of urgency. And that is where the coaching staff failed Manny too. I can’t see how they thought he was winning because he was getting seriously tagged. For the first time, Manny couldn’t mount any serious offense.

Someone told me that Manny was fighting injured (a rotator cuff injury). Whether he wasn’t 100% or not, the fact that he was cleared to fight means he is good enough to go.

When I was in second year college, I watched the fight between Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard. I rooted for the former who had a style akin to Manny’s. I thought that Hagler won the fight but Leonard escaped with a controversial split decision. That was my education to the sport. I will never forget in a post-match article in the New York Times, how the judges explained that while Hagler was the aggressor, “he wasn’t an effective aggressor” because his punches either missed or didn’t hurt Leonard at all.

Honestly, it really hurts that Manny lost. Do I see him retiring? Maybe not. Maybe he’s got one more going away fight. I’d love for him to hang it up so he doesn’t damage his legacy anymore. However, as Michael Jordan once said after media postulated that playing for the woebegone Washington Wizards would hurt his legacy, “That’s for you to decide.” Fortunately, for Jordan, missed playoff spot for Washington or not, he is still universally regarded as the GOAT.

I would have loved for Manny Pacquiao to be hung with “the Greatest” tag. Instead, as unpopular as Mayweather is, he owns it (as much as Muhammad Ali would protest).


Additional reading on Why Manny Pacquiao/Floyd Mayweather will win