Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Response: Del Negro vs. Paxson: Who wins with special commentary from Ben Mercado

The fight is almost here and special guest Ben Mercado will give his pre-fight breakdown of Del Negro vs Paxson II at the end of the fight's backstory

Late last week, news broke that after the March 30 loss by the Chicago Bulls to the Phoenix Suns, Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson stormed into Head Coach Vinny Del Negro’s office and had an argument over the 27 minutes that Joakim Noah played. Noah, who missed several weeks with a plantar fasciitis issue in his left foot, has been limited since his return to the Bulls. The team sat him for three weeks and upon his return, he played limited minutes for the first couple of weeks to build up his stamina. On this specific night, Noah played 27 minutes and according to reports was supposed to play 22. The game was close in the fourth quarter and Vinny Del Negro decided it was important for the team to win the game as they were attempting to make the playoffs. Despite his minutes and his stellar play that night (12 points 10 boards), it is clear that the Bulls were less concerned about making the playoffs than they were about the future health of their star forward. Del Negro is fired and everyone around the organization, in the media and Vinny himself know this, but he is fighting for his next job and knew making the playoffs would help his chances of landing on someone else’s bench next season.

According to Yahoo Sports, Paxson stormed into Del Negro’s office, berated him with words and then grabbed him by the tie. The staff had to separate the pair and the Bulls, Paxson and Del Negro have hired attorneys due to the delicate nature of the incident.

TNT’s Craig Sagar, who suddenly believes he is a journalist, reported during Wednesday night's game between the Bulls and Celtics that Chicago Tribune Bull’s beat writer K.C. Johnson knew of the fight and did not write about it out. Johnson told Sagar, “‘when somebody's future is in my hand and I can affect it. ... I did not report it,” and that his decision to keep a tight lip on the story was based on "private conversations". Johnson refused to provide any details on who the conversations were with but later released the below statement (found on

“I made the decision less because of the flow of information. It was more for a humane reason. Ultimately, you may view that reason as unsound journalistically, but I'm comfortable with it even while facing the fallout.”

While I understand why people may believe Johnson should have reported the incident right away and not hold onto it until someone else broke it, then report what he knew about it; I am glad there are still journalists who have morals and do not release stories that really have nothing to do with the sport they are covering. As for Del Negro, Paxson and the Bulls Organization, the only person to talk was Bulls GM and resident puppet Gar Forman who released a nonsensical statement on Friday.

“The Chicago Bulls are focusing all of our energies into the remainder of this season and, as such, were disappointed at the recent stories that may have distracted from that. Reports of a recent internal disagreement between a Bulls executive and the Bulls head coach were the result of each expressing their passion about the health and well being of their players and the desire to win basketball games.

The event occurred in Coach Del Negro's office, not in the locker room and not in front of the players, as some wrongly have reported. This disagreement, while not communicated well by either party in the heat of the moment and in the immediate aftermath of a tough loss, was a result of conflicting views, but all based on the fine balance required to ensure both the immediate and long-term success of the team and the health of its players. The fans well know that the Bulls are dedicated to the team's day-to-day success, but first and foremost want to protect the health and well being of its players.
The Bulls have a full and complete understanding of what took place, but, as requested by all parties, will address the attendant issues with the participants after the season is over. At this point, everyone intends to keep focused on the remaining games”

I am certain that Del Negro knows he is fired, and has actually known for a long time. Based on the internal investigation and the results of both parties hiring lawyers to look into the situation further; it is questionable if Paxson will be fired as well. The Bulls are probably going to look into firing Del Negro “with cause” and avoid paying him the last year on this 3 year 9 million dollar contract. If this was to occur and they can provide that Vinny the Black was negligent in listening to his boss's request not to play their young star when he was coming off an injury, they will have a case. Of course, since the report stated Paxson started the fight, it is unclear how that would exactly work. Then there was another report on Thursday night from that it was Del Negro that started the fight. VDH did respond to that report by saying

"That's 100 percent false,” adding, “'it’s not about me, it's about the players . . . I'm very proud of how guys have hung together all year through a lot of things. Just gutted it out."

Of course the Bulls players did not respond with words, but with action and despite losing 10 games in a row during a stretch where Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Lou Deng were out, they managed to make the playoffs. This article is being written after their game 1 loss and I’d expect the series to end in no more than 5 games as the Cleveland Cavs are simply too strong and too deep with talent for the young Bulls to compete for a game, let alone a 7 game series.

Since I have fed you what we know, let us started to imagine, what if they actually did schedule another fight and Paxson vs. Del Negro 2 occurred in the UFC's Octagon. Before we get to a special guest’s breakdown of the fight, here is the tale of the tape:

John Macbeth Paxson-6’2” 185 pounds (playing weight)
Vinnie Del Negro- 6’4” 185 pounds (playing weight)

I invited friend, mentor, fellow Cubs fan, former boxer and current staff writer of Chicago Boxing News, Ben Mercado to provide a pre-fight break down so we can be more informed about what we can expect from this battle royal. 

Dan Starzec Jr.

Take it away Ben

John Macbeth Paxson vs. Vinnie Del Negro
185lb middleweight bout

After the long awaited, yet anticlimactic rematch between Roy Jones, Jr. (certain future hall-of-famer and onetime P4P king), and Bernard Hopkins (the middleweight division's longest reigning champion), was over with, I could not help but long for the upcoming MMA rematch between Vinnie Del Negro, and John Paxson.

Del Negro, a tall middleweight at 6'4" is a long, rangy fighter with solid footwork, and decent stand-up. While predominantly an experienced grappler on his own right, training out of camp Extreme Kurt Rambis, he can stuff the take-down well enough to keep the fight where he wants it - which, against Paxson (a shorter, but much stronger fighter with an incredible ground game) will be on his feet.

While it's true that oftentimes, taller MMA fighters can find a disadvantage in striking a smaller opponent as shorter fighters can capitalize on their own lower center of gravity. This allows a firmer stance, a quicker sprawl, and by punching upwards, a power advantage with take-down stuffing uppercuts. That said, as Del Negro really has no business in Paxson's mount (or his guard, for that matter), his only choice is to try and use his reach advantage and out strike Paxson. Leg kicks, straight jabs with countering rights. He should use his range to keep his opponent at bay...long enough to create openings for a head kick, which Del Negro can use to end the fight instantly.

Easier said than done, of course, as with Paxson you've not only got a superior Jiu Jitsu practitioner (brown belt, out of Dave Corzine's Cobra Kai camp) but a harder puncher as well. Paxson is by definition, a true scrapper. His relentless energy and incredible accuracy make him a formidable striker who lands at will. But if his stand-up is "world-class", his ground game is "beyond our solar system". While it's true that in the first fight, Paxson used Del Negro's tie as a grip for some dirty boxing, he should have no problems finding Vinnie's chin without it this time (the rematch will be "no GI") as he often uses his striking to create distractions for the take down. A quick rush-in, left-right combo upstairs, then a double-leg thrust that ends up immediately in could call this his forte. Count on seeing this all night.

At the end of the day, I'd have to say that Pax has the ability to walk away the easy victor here. If he remains focused and utilizes his Corzine-bread ground skills, his all-around game should allow him to command the Octagon (first fight was unsanctioned, but can be found on YouTube).

But then again, if Vinnie the Black, with his long range and viscous head and leg kicks, can find Paxson early, he may be sending the former Bull back into the basketball court where it's safer.


Please comment on whom you believe will win the upcoming match up as well as provide your answer to this week’s poll question, “Who wins Paxson vs. Del Negro II.

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