Former SaberCat Griffin a win from world title shot

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Former SaberCat Griffin a win from world title shot

March 4, 2011Ryan MaquianaCSNBayArea.com

Four years ago, Otis Triple O.G. Griffin had the boxing world in the palm of his hand. I had a great contract and I was making seven figures, said the former SaberCats defensive specialist turned pugilist. I was undefeated in 20 straight fights and on the warp-speed track to a world title.Then everything slipped away. An overconfident Griffin traveled to Australia and was knocked out by Danny Green. Four more losses in his next five fights followed. Suddenly, the fame and the paydays were gone.Griffin was no longer the pigeon, but rather, the statue. Even worse, his own mother asked him to hang up his gloves for good.She told me that I had a successful job and an education, so why not just call it quits? recalled Griffin, who attended West Texas A&M. But I refused. I became a fighter to win a world title, and Im not stopping until I do that.Perhaps its fitting that the SaberCats return to the AFL from a two-year hiatus at precisely the same time the 33-year-old Griffin (23-6-2, 9 KOs) enjoys a career resurrection, having won his last four bouts in a row.Friday, the Sacramento resident has the opportunity to make his boxing dream a reality, as he travels to south to Woodland Hills to face Yusaf Mack (28-3-2, 17 KOs) for the right to face IBF light heavyweight world champion Tavoris Cloud in the summer.During my losing streak, I got a concussion and was knocked unconscious, and that led to some questions about retiring, said Griffin, who paused before continuing. But I think Ive answered them with my latest climb back to the top of the mountain.After spending parts of the 2000 season as a free safety on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad, Griffin made the move to San Jose the following year in hopes that it would be a springboard back to the NFL. It didnt work out. While life on the gridiron fizzled, however, the ring subliminally came calling.I got into boxing because I actually got into a fight with one of my teammates, said Griffin, laughing. I met up with a boxing trainer after that and I realized that a lot of the things you do as a defensive back correlate to what you do in the ring, especially your footwork.Otis was an athletically gifted player during his time with the SaberCats and he certainly showed the aggressiveness and strength it takes to not only be a football player, but also a great boxer as well, remembered SaberCats head coach Darren Arbet, who has added the titles of owner and general manager since Griffins stint in San Jose. Griffin seemed to walk a paved road to stardom upon leaving pro football in 2004 to partake in Fox Sports Nets boxing reality series, The Next Great Champ. After winning the televised tournament, he signed with Oscar De La Hoyas Golden Boy Promotions. I didnt realize how everything was being handed to me after I won that reality show, he said. I wasnt a complete fighter, however, and I found out how important that was.Griffin soon learned that boxing, much like football, is a sport where perfection is at a premium at the elite level; incurring just one loss on the ledger can ruin ones chances for a championship. I was relying on pure athleticism and raw power to win early on, he said, but that mentality got me to lose five out of six fights.It was the last of these defeats, a two-round destruction at the hands of Marcus Oliveira in June 2009, which forced Griffin to take a hard look in the mirror.A knockout like that will make anyone wonder if theyre in the right sport, said Griffin, his eyebrows rising. I needed to clean house with a new team around me.First, Griffin enlisted the help of an old friend from Alabama, Osric Pratt, to be his new manager. The subsequent hire of Sacramento mainstay Seifudeen Mateen as his new trainer followed, and the budding partnership couldnt be happier.My boxing I.Q. has increased exponentially with Coach Mateen, said Griffin. Im a late bloomer in the sport, kind of a like a fine wine. Im learning to box more and not living off athletic ability alone.We started with the basics, especially his footwork, said Mateen, who nodded his head in agreement. Then its like building the foundation of a wall brick by brick. Now hes moving from side to side and using his boxing ability instead of just coming forward.So far, so good. Griffin is riding a four-fight winning streak that includes an impressive eighth-round technical knockout of former world champion Byron Mitchell last May, which netted him the regional USBA title.Coach Mateen said some of the body shots he saw me get hit with by Byron could knock down a wall, recounted Griffin. But I outboxed him and then stopped him, thanks to the grace of God. My confidence was sky-high after then.Now all that separates Triple O.G. from a date with destiny is Mack, a longtime buddy and former sparring partner. Still, expect Otis to shelve their friendship temporarily on Friday.Yusafs heavy-handed with great power, said Griffin. Weve been working on not running into a big shot and using our skills to prevail.Ive studied Mack upside down and inside out, added Mateen. Ive watched his last six fights. Were going to take away the left side of his arsenal and jump on him right away.Although the fight wont be televised, count Griffins old head coach as one of his supporters this Friday.I wish him all the luck against Yusaf Mack and hope to see him with a light heavyweight belt very soon, said Arbet.Griffin was never quite able to bask in the Super Bowl spotlight, but one more victory in the ring will take him closer toward vindicating his athletic renaissance.I just want guys to know that even though youre down on your luck, you control your own destiny, he said. A champion is a guy that presses on.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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USATSI

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

This is the NBA Finals that will define the Warriors forever

This is the NBA Finals that will define the Warriors forever

There are no more ways to extol the virtues of the Golden State Warriors without redundancy. They have owned three consecutive regular seasons and three consecutive Western Conference playoffs, and just finished savaging the last one faster than any team since the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, who didn’t have to play as many games as these Warriors did.

But now the season begins, and in the pass-fail world of the NBA Finals, this is the one that will define the Warriors for the ages.

After mugging the San Antonio Spurs, 129-115, to close out the West final in the minimum number of sanctioned events, the Warriors now wait for the resolution of Cleveland-Boston to begin the final assault on their destiny.

They did so without giving in to their occasional predilection for easing up on the throttle. They took an early lead, widened it slowly and carefully and made damned sure the Spurs never felt like they could do as the Celtics had done the night before in Cleveland. The Warriors were coldly efficient (well, okay, those 17 turnovers were bothersome but not ultimately an issue) at both ends of the floor and all points inbetween, and the result and its margin were both fair representations of the difference between the two teams.

In dispatching the Spurs, they became the first team ever to put 120 points on a Gregg Popovich-coached team three consecutive times; indeed the only time Popovich ever had one of his teams allow 120 in back-to-back games was when the 2005 team that eventually won the NBA title beat the Los Angeles Clippers and Warriors, both in overtime.

And while this series will be remembered as the one in which the Spurs had the least amount of weaponry, it will also be the one in which the Warriors will be remembered for wasting only one of the eight halves they played. It is difficult, in other words, to make the case that San Antonio would have won the series even with Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker. We do know it would still be going on, but the outcome seems only slightly more in doubt in such a case.

But as this affects the Warriors, this next series will dictate all of it. Win, and they can claim a mini-dynasty. Lose, and they will damned in the court of public opinion in ways that make last year’s 3-1 memes seem downright charitable.

It is the price they pay for being very good already and then adding Kevin Durant without giving up anything of real substance. It’s the price they pay for wanting it all and then doubling down for more.

People and teams who did that are not treated kindly unless they win everything that can be won, and the Warriors are now that team – like the Yankees of lore and Patriots of today, they are the standard of both excellence and excess, and marrying the two without danger is not possible, as they learned a year ago.

But that was then, Draymond Green’s wayward hand and five minutes of 0-for-everything shooting is just history. They can adapt and avenge if not eradicate the hard lesson of 2016 and be thought of as the team they all believe themselves to be.

All they have to do is take the Celtics or Cavaliers and ender them inert. They don’t have to do it in four games; chasing numbers is a fool’s errand as they discovered last year chasing the now-meaningless 73.

They just have to do it four times, and if they play as they have, winning 12 consecutive games by an average margin of 16 points and change  against three other quality teams, they will succeed at the hardest level basketball can create. And whatever people may say of them good or ill, they will have achieved what was demanded of them by both supporter and detractor alike.

And that, to paraphrase Kevin Durant, is what they came to do. Win the thing, and not worry about the numbers -- especially not the style points.