The Minneapolis Armory will host a boxing card on Dec. 16 with a historic element attached, although not for a reason that would be preferred for this multi-challenged sport.
The card on that Saturday night will be the final for Showtime, which is leaving the boxing telecast world after four decades in the sport.
As recently as last spring, Stephen Espinoza, Showtime's president for programming, said that he remained "bullish" on boxing.
In late October, Showtime announced it was leaving boxing, and Espinoza offered this:
"Unfortunately, in a rapidly evolving media marketplace, the company has had to make difficult choices allocating resources, resetting priorities and reshaping its content offering."
Bottom line: Premier Boxing Champions, which has been putting together the cards since boxing returned in April 2018 to the privately funded, much-remodeled Armory, needs a new TV partner.
Ned Adbul, the owner of the Amory and also now involved with Al Haymon's PBC, was asked for comment and offered this statement:
"Showtime has made an indelible impact in boxing. The Armory was humbled to host this world class production nearly a dozen times. The exposure has been awesome.
"… The Armory is confident our PBC partners will keep our sport growing, so superstars such as David Morrell Jr. will continue to have a national platform to shine."
The choice of the Armory to host the final Showtime Boxing event is tied to Morrell, the Cuban defector, transplanted to Minneapolis and now training in Houston.
Morrell, already a well-established 168-pound belt-holder, will be having a 10th pro fight as he headlines next month's Showtime finale.
The opponent will be Sena Agbeko, a Ghanan who has made a vow to give a first loss to Morrell. That confidence could wane when Morrell delivers a first combo of his power punches to Agbeko's face.
As a TV attraction, boxing already had a dwindling audience in this century, and then Ultimate Fighting came along to steal a sizable share of younger generations who enjoy violence inside confined areas.
The future TV options for PBC are said to be streaming on Amazon Prime (perhaps) or DAZN, an international streaming service that is familiar to … well, somebody.
Goodbye, Showtime Boxing. You'll be tough to replace.
Go-for-it at Grey Cup
There were enough stagnant moments during Sunday night's Vikings-Denver contest that us admirers of the Canadian Football League's style of play spent significant time checking in on the Grey Cup being played in Hamilton, Ontario.
And then those 15 minutes or so in real time when the CFL champion was being determined — well, who cared how Josh Dobbs was holding up in Denver?
The underdog Montreal Alouettes (11-7) had upset the Toronto Argonauts (16-2) in the Eastern finals, and now were taking on the West champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers (16-2).
The CFL has a rapid-fire game, with three downs, not four, for a first down, and 20 seconds to run a play — after an official takes a few seconds to mark the ball — and not 40 seconds, meaning no chance to kneel out the final couple of minutes of a game.
And this was the best moment in last Sunday night's football, American or Canadian: Montreal's down 24-21 in the final minute, it's facing third-and-5 at midfield … meaning, if you don't get five, the game's over.
"We had been setting up the play the whole game,'' receiver Cole Spieker said. "Everybody was expecting us to throw a couple yards past the sticks. We caught the corner sort of flat-footed."
Spieker sprinted past the corner near the left sideline and quarterback Cody Fajardo fired long. Spieker had to shield the arriving cornerback and jump toward the ball to bring it in. He did that — a 31-yard gain when five were needed, and the Alouettes promptly scored on a 19-yarder to Tyson Philpot with 13 seconds left.
And Spieker, very much one of the Montreal heroes? He's a Brainerd product, 6-foot-2, a junior on the Brainerd team that lost the Class 5A championship to Owatonna in 2018.
After high school, he became the WIAC's Offensive Player of the Year as a senior at Wisconsin-La Crosse, went to pro tryout camps, played summer pro ball and this was his second season with the Alouettes.
"It's now my option year, so I'll have to talk to the general manager and see what's the plan,'' Spieker said. "You're right about the CFL brand of football, though. It's fast and it's fun.''