My Arnold Palmer stories from the Bob Hope Classic

 

 

By Leighton Ginn

There are a few things I remember about Arnold Palmer from my days of covering the Bob Hope Classic celebrity field.

I hadn’t grown up with golf, so when I started covering the tournament, some of the tradition and lure was lost on me.

That was until I saw Palmer finishing his round in 2001 at PGA West. The 71-year-old Palmer shot a 71 that day, matching his age. As he approached the final hole and sank his putt, there was an ovation so large that it always stuck with me.

The top of my head, the ovation reminded me of when Robert Horry sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Sacramento Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference. It was that kind of energy and excited me, and on a golf course, nonetheless.

I never knew that was possible in golf until Palmer.

 

Most of the time I interviewed Palmer, he was very classy, but sheepish with his answers. He was guarded, and there was nothing that really stuck out to me.

That’s why this next memory stood out, because it was so unexpected.

On the driving range before a round, John Daly made his way. It looked like either he just rolled out of bed and came straight to the driving range, or he didn’t sleep the night before.

The other thing that really stood out was that Daly had this gigantic Big Gulp with him. I think it was 8 a.m., or around that time.

I happened to be within hearing distance when Palmer approached him and said, “You look sweet.”

My jaw dropped trying to figure out if I really heard what I thought I heard. But Palmer said what we all thought in such a fun and playful way. That’s when I really understood the Palmer charm that people of all generations loved and respected The King.

But I always did take a cue from Palmer and his fans. The main writer for the Bob Hope Classic was Larry Bohannan, and I was just one of his minion. So whenever I introduced myself, it was always a good idea to have an association with Bohannan.

So I would tell people, “You know how Arnie has his Army? I’m one of Larry’s Lackeys.

 

 

 

Umami Seoul is a welcome addition to the neighborhood

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By Leighton Ginn

I used to joke that the Chinatown, or Asian population base, in the Palm Springs area was the casinos and the outlet malls, since those places bused people from Los Angeles.

That was reflected in the choices of Asian restaurants around here. There were a bunch of Thai restaurants, and Thai Kitchen in Cathedral City was my go to.

But over the years, there’s been many more Asian options than I could remember, which makes me happy.

The newest addition is really from an old friend. Umami Seoul took over the spot where Thai Kitchen used to be — across the street from Trader Joe’s in the Target shopping center.

The owners of Wasabi in Downtown Palm Springs sold their business earlier this year. The owner said she was ready to retire, but a few months later, started to look for another business to open.

Thus we have Umami Seoul, which has all the great sushi you’ve come to expect from Wasabi. It’s not just sushi, but a full Japanese menu.

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It’s not exclusively a Japanese restaurant, as evidenced by the name. They also wanted to add Korean dishes to give customers a pretty loaded menu.

For my maiden trip, I decided to go pass on the sushi, which wasn’t easy to do, and try a Korean dish and some of the appetizers.

I started with the basic appetizers of pot stickers and the shrimp egg rolls.

Both were very good in the traditional sense. For me, traditional is good.

For the main dish, I tried the Bi Bim Bap, a rice bowl that had beef, veggies and a fried egg with a spicy sauce that was really flavorful.

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The dish also came with your traditional Korean side dishes, including kimchi. Nothing was super spicy, and I didn’t ask for it to be spicier. But it was all good.

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Sitting next to me, several people got the Korean BBQ. I have only been to the ones where you grill your own meat. This one, the food came on sizzling plates, much like you would expect from fajitas.

When I looked at the menu, there are several other dishes I want to try, including the ramen for when it gets colder. Pho is great, but I’m more of a ramen guy.

The owner told me she just wanted to open something small. Umami Seoul is a small spot, but I think they’re going to be a hot ticket in the Coachella Valley very quickly.

UMAMI SEOUL

Address: 67555 E. Palm Canyon Dr. #A-105, Cathedral City

Phone number: (760) 202-0144

Website: http://www.umamiseoul.com

 

 

 

 

 

Aspen Mills a favorite among locals in Palm Springs

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By Leighton Ginn

Since moving to Palm Springs in 1999, Aspen Mills stands out for its high quality and consistently tasty treats.

On the corner of Ramon and Sunrise, Aspen Mills (555 S. Sunrise) offers great sandwiches and tasty salads. It’s been a great option for lunch, especially if you want fresh and creative breads.

It was a favorite of my coworkers. The only issues is they close at 6:30 p.m. and they are not open on Sundays. it’s difficult for a night owl like me, but when I make it out there, it’s well worth it.

Pictured above is the Prime Cut, a roast beef sandwich with horseradish, tomatoes, zucchini slices, red onions and mayo on dark Squaw bread. Delicious and it never disappoints.

The other sandwiches are also good, so much so that it’s difficult to make a decision. I had to also consider the Aspen and Newporter.

The Aspen is a turkey sandwich with cucumbers, red onion, lettuce, mayo, horseradish and guacamole on cranberry spice bread. The Newporter is a chunky white albacore tuna salad sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and celery on jalapeno cheddar bread.

For the vegetarians, Aspen also offers the Coachella, which includes pepper jack cheese, sprouts, guacamole, lettuce, red onions, homemade salsa, olive oil and cilantro on nine grain bread.

 

What makes Aspen Mills special is that it bakes its own breads daily, with so much variety. I was always a fan of the banana and nine-grain bred. The Squaw was unique and delicious.

 

And we can’t forget the treats. The brownies are rich and delicious. The carrot raisin bran muffins are so good.

In addition to the main bakery, Aspen Mills can be found inside the Rancho Mirage library (71-100 HWY 111) and Clark’s Nutrition (34175 Monterey) also in Rancho Mirage. All locations ae closed on Sundays.

For more information, you can go to http://www.aspenmillsps.com/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

Why do some people think Serena Williams career is over after the year she’s had?

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Watching the ESPN talk shows and many were ready to declare Serena Williams’ career over, or she might not win another major, etc.

It always seems to happen to all the great players when they suffer an upset loss and they are over 30-something.

Williams lost her semifinal match to Karolina Pliskova, who is No. 11 in the world and might have the biggest weapons on the WTA Tour, outside the Williams sisters.

But the overanalyzing of Williams began soon after the match.

So here’s my take on a few of the issues.

  1. HER DAYS OF DOMINATION ARE OVER: When the new rankings come out Monday, Williams will be No. 2 behind Angelique Kerber. This year, Williams reached the finals of the Australian, French and Wimbledon and the semifinals of the US Open. She won Wimbledon. And ask yourself, is there a player on the WTA Tour you would make a favorite over Williams? Kerber will be No. 1, but I still don’t think I would favor her over Williams just yet.
  2. WILLIAMS’ BEST DAYS ARE BEHIND HER: I felt this last year, when she completed the Serena Slam for the second time. Williams is not the same player she has been, but to her credit, she has evolved her game. She’s gone from intimidating power player to more of a cerebral assassin. What hasn’t changed is Williams’ fierce competitive nature. On the WTA Tour, no player really has elevated to Williams level, and the ones who have haven’t maintained it until Kerber. But it remains to see how long Kerber can keep up this level, and if some other players can rise.
  3. AGE HAS TO CATCH UP WITH HER: Williams turns 35 later this month, which is old for tennis players. Her shoulder hurt was an issue in the Rio Olympics and now her knee was giving her problems. This could be the most legitimate threat to her career. But for right now, we don’t know the extent of these injuries. But Williams says she plays for the majors, so we could easily see her take the rest of the year and relinquish the year-end No. 1 ranking to Kerber, rather than chase her. Williams has proven she doesn’t need a good seed to win a tournament, so she could lighten her schedule and still contend for majors.

In tennis, there is this desire to declare someone’s career over prematurely. When Pete Sampras went on a two-year slump, they thought he was done until he won the US Open. People thought Roger Federer was through last year because he hadn’t won a major since the 2012 Wimbledon, but he was No. 2 in the world and reached the finals of the US Open and Wimbledon.

We don’t always know when it’s over for a great player. But there should be real evidence. Although there will be a change at the top, Williams is still at the top of the tour.

Unless there’s something more, I anticipate Williams will be back next year contending for major titles and the No. 1 ranking.

 

 

 

Could Novak Djokovic lose out on Player of the Year honors in a year he completes the Grand Slam?

 

In a year where Novak Djokovic became the first player to win all four Grand Slam titles, there is a possibility that he could lose out on Player of the Year honors.

It’s unlikely, but plausible.

What makes is plausible is the way Andy Murray is playing of late. If Murray captures the US Open, then he will have a stronger case.

Currently Murray has a Wimbledon title and reached the finals of the Australian and French Opens, both of which Djokovic won. Then you throw in the Olympic gold medal, that’s an incredibly strong year.

What might give Murray an edge is how Djokovic had done at Wimbledon and the Olympics.

Djokovic lost in the third round at the All England Club to No. 41 Sam Querrey and the first round in Rio, although he did lose to the eventual silver medalist in Juan Martin Del Potro, who is currently No. 141 in the rankings.

It’s been a draining year for Djokovic, who has played at a superior level for an incredibly long time. But since the award is for accomplishments since January, he could be leaving the door open for Murray.

It won’t be easy for Murray. He would have to win the US Open, and he has never won two majors in the same season (depending on how you rank an Olympic gold medal). And the US Open is the most grueling Slam.

Now if Murray does win the US Open, that might still not be enough to surpass Djokovic.

In Masters 1000 events, Djokovic has won four of six events. Murray has won just one, but did reach two finals.

How much the Masters 1000 events count into Player of the Year honors, I’m not sure, but these are significant tournaments.

And there is also the ATP finals in November. If Murray can win that, then people will have to look closely.

So US Open and ATP Finals titles, and with Djokovic still playing high-level tennis, is a huge mountain for Murray to climb.

But it is also possible.

 

How 1968 Olympians George Foreman and John Carlos influenced champion boxer Timothy Bradley

 

By Leighton Ginn

George Foreman said he has been impressed with the career of WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley, comparing him to legend Jersey Joe Walcott, and thought he was a boxer who came out of nowhere.

But Foreman didn’t realize that he had actually met Bradley early in his career.

In 2005, Foreman had flown out to California to do a favor for his 1968 U.S. Olympic teammate, sprinter John Carlos, who was a counselor at Palm Springs High School. During an event, Carlos had asked Foreman to take time out to talk to his friend Ray’s son, who happened to be Bradley.

When told of that event, Foreman remembered talking to Carlos’ friend who was a boxer. He just never realized it was Bradley.

“That’s who that was?” Foreman said during a telephone interview. “I didn’t realize that was Timothy Bradley at all.

“What a small world. Man alive.”

It is the friendship between Carlos and Ray Bradley that made the meeting possible for Tim Bradley and memorable for Foreman.

Back in 1968, Foreman was just a 19-year-old boxer with a lot of talent but little experience. Carlos was a world record holder in the 200 meters and one of the biggest personalities on the U.S team.  He was also a man Foreman looked up to.

Once the Olympics began, both athletes were busy preparing for their events and wouldn’t have time to catch up. They made a deal they would meet a few days after the Olympics to share their experiences.

“It was the day after the Olympics we were going to meet and go over what happened in our lives,” Foreman said.

“We didn’t get to actually sit and chat.”

John Carlos and George Foreman: Contrasting images, lasting friendship

Carlos won a bronze medal in the 200 while U.S. teammate Tommie Smith won the gold. At the awards stand, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised their gloved fists during the national anthem to protest the lack of civil rights for people of color.

Afterwards, Carlos and Smith were ostracized and thrown out of the Olympic Village. Both were booked on the next flight back to America.

 

Days later, Foreman would win his gold medal as a boxing heavyweight. Immediately winning the gold medal, Foreman would pull out a small American flag that he would wave in celebration.

For many, Foreman’s celebration was interpreted as a response to Carlos and Smith’s protest. Foreman said that wasn’t the case.

Foreman said his flag waving was not a statement to contrast what Carlos and Smith had done. As a 19-year-old, Foreman had fulfilled a dream and he wanted to celebrate and show his patriotism.

“There I am, winning a gold medal, and I got to make sure everyone knew where I’m from,” Foreman said “In my ignorance, if I don’t raise this flag, they wouldn’t know where I’m from.”

Because the perception was Foreman was protesting Smith and Carlos, he encountered his own backlash. It became evident when he returned home to Houston.

“I’m a happy boy and I’m wearing my gold medal everywhere, the grocery store, everywhere. I didn’t take it off,” Foreman said. “One guy comes to me, and he was a neighbor for years and I knew him. He said, ‘How could you do what you did when the brothers were doing their thing?’ I didn’t understand what he was talking about, I really didn’t understand.

“Later on, I heard more about it and what the media was saying about it. I got a little mean about it and no one said anything about it again. I was waiting for it with a left-right. I wasn’t going to hear anything like that.”

The backlash would form Foreman’s surly and intimidating persona when he turned pro.

Foreman would ascend to the heavyweight boxing title and forged a legendary career, beating Joe Frazier for the title, losing the title to Muhammad Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle and the Rope a Dope strategy.

In his second part of his career, the kinder and gentler Foreman become the oldest heavyweight champion at 47 when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994.

Outside of the ring, Foreman became one of the country’s most successful businessman with his Foreman Grill.

Carlos faced his own backlash.  He regularly received death threats and was constantly followed by the FBI. In his book, “The John Carlos Story,” he said the harassment and constant surveillance put a strain on his family life that he separated from his first wife Kim.

The lowest point, according to Carlos in his book, was a moment he was so lonely from the isolation that he asked the agent who was following him if he would like to share a cup of coffee one night.

By 1989, at the urging of his kids during a detour on a road trip, Carlos had moved to Palm Springs, Calif. What was supposed to be a short stopover became his home for over 20 years. Carlos raised his kids and worked for the Palm Springs Unified School District as an in-school suspension supervisor and a coach.

It was through his job he forged a friendship with Ray Bradley, who was a security guard for the district.

“Ray was always a true grit-type of guy,” Carlos said. “What I like about Ray, he’s a man’s man. He’s a damn good father to his kids, he’s good to his woman. He has loyalty to his staff, loyalty to his job, loyal to his wife and kids and loyal to his friends. It was a rare quality at that time. It might still be a rare quality today.”

Ray Bradley said he was 5-years old when Carlos made his protest. When he saw it on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, Ray Bradley said he didn’t understand the protest because he was so young, but developed an appreciation as he got older.

“That was a very powerful statement Mr. Carlos made in Mexico City,” Ray Bradley said. “Growing up at a young age I didn’t know what was going on. I saw a lot of racial tension and we just wanted equal.”

It was during those hot, lazy days in the Palm Springs desert when Carlos would share his experience of what happened after Mexico City.

“The stories he tells me, I go, ‘I don’t know how you are still here,’” Ray Bradley said. “Everyone wanted to hurt you for making a statement like that. He told me there was death threats, getting banned from the Olympics, kicked him out and sent him home.

“Then he goes, ‘They killed my first wife.’ Oh, that’s some heavy stuff.”

Carlos’ first wife Kim had committed suicide in 1977.

 

Feared and respected

 

There is a legend of Carlos that still stands today, Ray Bradley said.

Carlos had caught two kids ditching. When Carlos found them, they made a run for it, figuring they had several years on this middle-aged teacher and a few blocks head start. The student didn’t realize he was once one of the fastest men on the planet.

“He said, ‘Mr. Carlos ran me down. I had blocks on him and he smoked me. I thought it was a ghost,’” Ray Bradley remembered from the student. “He still had speed. As a mid-aged person, he still had speed.”

The kid asked who was the old man who ran him down. Carlos told the kid that if he was in class instead of ditching, he might learn who he was.

The kid would find Carlos in a history book.

But a young Timothy Bradley knows Carlos as a family friend.

He was a friend until Bradley got in trouble one day.

Mouthing off in class, Bradley was sent to Carlos by his teacher.

Bradley said he was scared.

“John Carlos didn’t pull any punches. He told you like it was. Don’t nobody want to hear the truth,” Bradley said. “That’s the reason why I was scared, I was scared about what he had to say.”

When Bradley walked into Carlos’ classroom, he said what he feared came true.

“I walked in, ‘What are you doing in here young blood? What are you doing in here? You don’t belong in here. Sit down. Get a magazine and write me an essay,’” Bradley remembered. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing in here?’ He was loud, he didn’t care if he hurt my feelings. He was real, and it was felt.”

At first, Carlos gave a different version of the incident.

“He was a pretty reserved kid,” Carlos said in a telephone conversation from his home in Georgia. “That wasn’t his style. My thing was to cheer him up, pick him up and make him feel good about who he is.”

When Carlos was told Bradley said he was yelled at and felt intimidated, Carlos quickly replied, “I scare them all when they first come in my room because I don’t want them coming back. That’s my stamp there.”

Bradley’s father was well aware of Carlos’ reputation. So when Tim returned home and told his dad about what happened, there was no further punishment.

“He already had his punishment. John Carlos jumped down his throat,” Ray Bradley said. “I didn’t have to do anything but give him that eye. ‘Do something again, I’m going to put something on you. I might have to go to jail, so don’t do it again.’”

Tim Bradley said he didn’t get in trouble again.

Carlos said he would see Ray in the weight room, and was mesmerized by how hard he worked. It was as if he was bonding with the weights.

“I think he transferred that work ethic to his son when he was a baby and embedded this in them. Never say quit, never say die,” Carlos said. “It was a commitment all around. You truly had to be committed. When you see the momma and daddy get up early with their boy at 5 a.m. and have him training, they must have had a goal in mind. They had a program to reach that goal.”

And through the years, Carlos said he would see that same kind of commitment from Bradley.

“His work ethic is the same today as it was as a kid, because he would get up and run all over the desert. I used to see him out there on the road and I’d just be smiling,” Carlos said. “When I would see him now, I would picture a little boy running in the morning. He never went away from the foundation his parents gave him.

“You could see his determination when he fights people. He fights guys taller than him, heavier then him and he goes through them like they’re a piece of cardboard.”

For more on John Carlos, go to his website

So when Carlos was contacted by Foreman in 2005, it was the first time they had spoken since the 1968 Olympics. In Carlos’ mind, he wanted Foreman to meet Tim.

Palm Springs High School was planning an event for Black History Month. Carlos asked Foreman if he could show up. Because it was a last-minute request, Foreman chartered a private jet to make sure he could fulfill the request.

“He said, he’s coming, He’s coming, so bring your son. I want him to meet him because he’s a great man, a great person. Whatever he can tell him, he could use it. Your son will be big one day. He needs to hear from Big George,” Ray Bradley said.

When Foreman arrived, he was busy meeting people all day before his speech. But Carlos made sure the Bradleys were backstage, so when Foreman was through talking, they could meet.

“Meeting him, it’s how a champion should be. He was very charismatic,” Tim Bradley said. “It was an honor to actually meet him, especially early in my career. It gave me someone to look up to, someone to be like. It showed me how a top former fighter from a different generation or era was and how he carried himself.”

While the day was a whirlwind for Foreman, he said meeting the Bradleys stuck out because Carlos made them a priority. And then what Foreman saw also stuck with him, and that was Tim with Ray and his mom Kathleen.

“You meet a lot of boxers, and they come up with their trainer or manager or promoter. Very rarely do they come with their family,” Foreman said. “It makes them different, that they have people who love and care for him.

“That’s what I remember, he had people who loved and cared for him. That’s why I poured out the information.”

Editor’s note: This is a repost of a story that ran in April.

 

Andy Roddick will have his New York moment in World Team Tennis

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By Leighton Ginn

 

When Andy Roddick makes his return to World Team Tennis for the 2016 season, it will be in a place he never played but in a state where he had his biggest moments.

Roddick will play for the New York Empire at Forrest Hills, the longtime home of the US Open, on Aug. 9. The next day, the Empire will travel to take on the Philadelphia Freedom which will complete the season for Roddick, who is also part of the WTT ownership group.

Playing in New York is the highlight for Roddick, given his history in the Empire State.

“I feel like I’ve grown up in front of New York,” Roddick said. “I played doubles there for the first time in a pro tournament when I was 15 to retiring there and playing my last match in 2012. I had the highest of highs, and lowest of lows.

“But I just love New York. The fans are so fair all the time. If you give them everything you have, they’re going to give you everything they have. Conversely, if you play like a schmuck, they’re going to let you know about it. I’ve always kind of appreciated the honesty of the New York sports fan.”

Roddick said he has always been a fan of the unique style of WTT, and is always happy to participate. He believes the pacing is what makes it so exciting for the fans.

“Everything is quicker, faster, more in-your-face,” Roddick said. “The one-set matches keep your attention, or demand your attention during the 2-3 hours. I always liked it. It feels like the players are more interactive based on the format. It’s something I enjoyed when playing.”

Roddick also attributes World Team Tennis to his progression as a professional, while the format also provides something exciting for the fans. So when he was approached about investing in the league, Roddick said it was a no brainer.

“Anytime you’re approached by someone on the iconic level of Billie Jean King, especially in the role she’s played and how important she’s been in the game of tennis, you always want to listen,” Roddick said. “We’ve had a great relationship for a long time. Her presence in this league and my memory of this league and the opportunity it gave me.

“I was 17 and had no ranking, kind of just trying to break through in the pro ranks when they let me play for the team in Boise, Idaho at the time. That experience of playing professionals day in and day out in a three-week sequence during the summer was a huge part of my development. It felt like something that was good to be apart of.”

 

Happy for Victoria Azarenka starting a family, but selfishly wish she was playing now

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By Leighton Ginn

After watching Victoria Azarenka’s exciting run in March, when she captured the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open title, I had high expectations for her for the rest of the year.

But those plans will be on hold.

On Friday, Azarenka announced she is pregnant and will be due at the end of the year.

Azarenka had already been out after injuring her knee in the first round of the French Open.

It’s a happy moment for Azarenka, understandably, and family is always more important than tennis.

Selfishly, I have to admit I’m a little disappointed.

The way Azarenka played in March, including a victory over No. 1 Serena Williams in the finals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, held promise that there could be a legitimate rivalry at the top.

Williams, although she hadn’t won a major title until her Wimbledon title this year, has been incredibly dominant yet again. No one appeared to really push her.

That was until Azarenka’s March run.

Azarenka displayed a ton of confidence and embraced the pressure, something we haven’t really seen from other players on the tour. Mentally, she’s been tough.

Physically, Azarenka has enough power and physical gifts to stand up to Williams.

With her injury, maybe Azarenka wouldn’t be able to get back soon, so the pregnancy  probably came at a good time.

Azarenka said she plans to resume her career and has her sights on the No. 1 ranking, which is great to hear.

And there’s no reason why Azarenka couldn’t regain the No. 1 ranking, as Kim Clijsters proved it could be done. Coming back after retirement and giving birth in 2009, Clijsters would regain the No. 1 ranking two years later.

If Azarenka can return to the tour healthy, there’s every reason to believe she can achieve what Clijsters did.

The only thing is, Williams turns 35 later this year, and who knows how much longer she will continue to play at such a high level, or if she will retire soon.

For many reasons, fans will miss Azarenka, but I’m sure all tennis fans are happy for her news.

 

 

A playlist after some difficult days in this country, and this world

 

By Leighton Ginn

After everything we’ve witness and endured, now we have what happened in Nice.

Just sharing some songs that reflect my thoughts and hopes during these troubling days, but also trying to embrace the love and hope people are sharing.

DON’T GIVE UP

I discovered this song when it was played in the end segment for ESPN’s SportsCentury profile on Muhammad Ali.

It always sticks with me because of the story Ali’s former business manager, Gene Kilroy:

“A little boy came to see Ali. He looked at the boy, ‘Why do you wear a skullcap?’ The boy said, ‘Ali, I have cancer, I got chemo, I lost all my hair.’ Ali hugged the boy and Ali told the little boy. ‘I’m going to beat George Foreman and you’re going to beat cancer.’ Two weeks later, Ali and I went to go see the little boy. We heard he was in bad shape. When we talked in, Ali said, ‘I told you I’m going to beat George Foreman and you’re going to beat cancer.’ The little boy looked Ali in the eyes with his big blue eyes, and he said, ‘No champ, I’m going to meet God and I’m going to tell him I know you.'”

The dynamics of the song is powerful, as Gabriel’s parts represent isolation and despair, while Kate Bush’s chorus offer hope and encouragement.

 

WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE

So many great versions, but Jackie DeShannon’s is the iconic one.

WHAT’S GOING ON

A different time, but we all find ourselves asking this question again.

 PUT A LITTLE LOVE IN YOUR HEART

Great voices and a great song. Video is a little unusual.

 

 

 

 

Manny Pacquiao needs a quality fight if he is ending his retirement

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By Leighton Ginn

When it was announced that Manny Pacquiao would return to boxing after he was successfully elected into the senate in the Philippines, it was no surprise to fans.

Pacquiao was honest during fight week when he took on Timothy Bradley on April 9 that he wasn’t sure if that would in fact be his final fight, despite what he had said earlier in the promotion.

As far as the American media, no one declared it his final fight, but tempered their stories with, “if this is his final fight.”

And his promoter, Bob Arum, never staged the fight as a Pacquiao finale.

So it was surprising that many Filipinos, posting on Facebook, they were not happy that Pacquiao was returning, making it seem as though he wasn’t treating his office with the seriousness it deserves.

It doesn’t seem to be a fair criticism, as Pacquiao made it clear he may not actually retire.

But if Pacquiao does return, the stakes are high that he needs a marquee matchup.

All due respects to Adrien Broner and Jessie Vargas, Pacquiao needs a ‘Oh wow’ match up.

Now let’s rule out a Floyd Mayweather matchup. The damage from that fight is still being felt in the sport, so revisiting it is just bad news.

And Manny shouldn’t fight a familiar opponent. It’s time for new blood.

Two names come to mind immediately: Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman.

They are both part of Premiere Boxing Champions and Al Haymon.

Garcia is long overdue for a pay-per-view matchup. He should have gotten a fight against Mayweather before he retired. Pacquiao wants to face him, and indicated he would drop down to 140 to face Garcia, one of the most accomplished boxers in the sport.

Arum said he’s the front-runner, and he should be.

Thurman is an exciting fighter, but there are questions if he really is elite. As a boxer, he’s a Ferrari, but hasn’t put the pedal to the metal yet. Facing Pacquiao would be the ultimate litmus test for Thurman.

A third person to consider is Terence Crawford, the rising star in the Top Rank stables. First, Crawford will have to get past a difficult fight on July 23 against Viktor Postal.

That would be the easiest fight to make, and if Crawford’s pay-per-view numbers are good, it would make a lot of sense for Top Rank.