Categories
Sports Strength

The 15 Most Famous Bellator Fighters

Bellator MMA will be moving to CBS Sports Network in October, and there is no better time to become acquainted with the mixed martial arts promotion’s top talent. Founded in 2008, Bellator MMA is widely considered one of the top mixed martial arts promotions outside of the UFC. What makes them different is their willingness to co-promote with the likes of the Rizin Fighting Federation in Japan and hold hybrid MMA and kickboxing events. They even have a cage/ring set up to help transition from one to the other and hold tournaments to determine title contenders as opposed to the interim titles other promotions like to use.

A new home on an all-sports network means fans will be seeing a lot more of Bellator MMA. They will be bringing their fanbase that goes back as far as twelve years, and while many have been along for the ride, the sport of MMA has grown a lot since then. With MMA’s growth, a new network means a lot more new fans. In no particular order, here are Bellator MMA’s top 15 fighters to watch representing countries from around the world.

1. Ryan Bader 27-6-1, Current Bellator Heavyweight Champion Representing the United States of America

Bader was at one point a double champion in Bellator MMA. He was both the heavyweight and light-heavyweight champion before losing the light-heavyweight title to the next man on this list. Still, as the current heavyweight champion, Bader is Bellator’s biggest and toughest not because he holds the title, but because of how he won it. Bader fought through the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, a tournament set up to win the title. To win the title, Bader beat Matt Mitrione and the legendary Fedor Emelianenko.

2. Vadim Nemkov 12-2, Current Bellator Light-heavyweight Champion Representing Russia

Nemkov is the current Bellator heavyweight champion. He recently picked up the title at Bellator 244 when he finished Bader in the second round by technical knockout. Coincidentally, he is also the protege of Emelianenko, the man Bader beat in the heavyweight Grand Prix to become heavyweight champion. Nemkov is currently on a seven-fight win streak and with the recent win claiming the title, he has a target on his back in Bellator’s light-heavyweight division.

3. Cheick Kongo 30-10-2-1, Representing France

Kongo is one of Bellator’s heavyweight contenders, and at 45-years of age, seems intent to continue to fight Bellator’s biggest and baddest. Having renewed his contract for four more fights, it would seem a fight with Bader is in his future. The two fought in September of last year at Bellator 226 but the fight was ruled a “no-contest” due to the accidental eye-poke Kongo received from Bader in the bout. Situations like that call for a do-over and this will likely be a possibility should Kongo get through his upcoming bout against Tim Johnson when Bellator holds their first event in France on October 10.

4. Douglas Lima 32-7, Current Bellator Welterweight Champion Representing Brazil

Lima is the current welterweight champion but it is his third time reclaiming that title. Doing that means he holds wins over notable opponents and avenged some of his losses, particularly his last two title losses where he was able to reclaim the belt from the men that beat him. One was against Andrey Koreshkov (also on this list) where he lost the title to him via decision and fought his way back to a rematch to win by a third-round knockout.

The other was against Rory MacDonald. MacDonald beat him by decision at Bellator 192 then there was a welterweight Grand Prix that had the title on the line. Lima had to go through Koreshkov again and Michael Page to meet MacDonald in the finals, winning back the title and the Grand Prix for his division.

5. Gegard Mousasi 45-7-2 Former Bellator Middleweight Champion, Representing Netherlands

Mousasi has been a top middleweight in MMA for a while now. He came to Bellator from the UFC on a five-fight win streak. The streak continued when he came to Bellator and fought his way to a title fight with Rafael Carvalho. Mousasi won the fight and defended the title against MacDonald attempting to do his own run being a double champion. Mousasi would lose to Rafael Lovato Jr., who had to vacate the title due to medical issues. He and Lima are scheduled to face one another for the vacant title at Bellator 250.

6. Patricio Freire 30-4, Current Lightweight/Featherweight Champion, Representing Brazil

Freire, known as “Pitbull” to fight fans, is currently the only double champion in Bellator. He and his brother, Patricky, both fight for the promotion and share the “Pitbull” nickname. Their tenacity in competition warrants the nickname. Patricio holds two titles—and while awaiting another bout—is calling out UFC lightweights. His next featherweight title defense was supposed to be against Pedro Carvalho, but the fight was postponed due to the COVD-19 pandemic. With MMA already back, that fight is likely to get booked soon.

7. Cris “Cyborg” Justino 22-2-1, Current Women’s Featherweight Champion, Representing Brazil

Justino, best known as “Cyborg” to long time fans of the sport is the only woman to have held titles in various mixed martial arts promotions. For those unfamiliar with what that entails, she has been featherweight queen in the UFC, Strikeforce, Invicta FC, and now Bellator.

In her Bellator debut, she beat Julia Budd who was the inaugural featherweight champion, and defended the title three times before facing Cyborg. There is no shortage of opponents in her weight class either. Since Cyborg made her Bellator debut, other notable featherweights have joined Bellator such as Cat Zingano and there is one former Bellator title challenger waiting to face her next.

8. Arlene Blencowe 13-7, Representing Australia

Blencowe will be Cyborg’s next opponent and it will be her second attempt at Bellator’s featherweight title. Blencowe fought the former champion twice, losing the last fight by a split decision, meaning not all the judges thought she lost. Having come so close to winning in the past means another title shot should make for a great fight with the current Champion in Cyborg.

Blencowe has won titles in the World Boxing Association and Women’s International Boxing Association so she is definitely a worthy challenger to keep an eye on. Coming from the world of boxing against Cyborg could answer the questions about how Cyborg would do in boxing, especially if Blencowe wins.

9. Ilima-lei Macfarlane 11-0, Current Flyweight Champion Representing United States of America (Hawaii)

MacFarlane is undefeated and currently reigning and defending Flyweight Champion for Bellator. Her evolution as a submission specialist to a mixed martial artist has been showcased throughout her career leading up to when she won the title back in 2017. She has defended the title four times and even holds the Flyweight Eddie Bravo Invitational Combat Jiu-Jitsu Flyweight title. Macfarlane will not be going anywhere either as it was announced at the beginning of 2020 she signed a ten-fight, five-year extension on her Bellator contract. Her fanbase in Hawaii has allowed Bellator to hold shows there twice where she headlined the card both times.

10. Juan Archuleta 25-2, Current Bantamweight Champion, Representing the United States of America

Archuleta recently won the vacant bantamweight title at Bellator 246. Before that, he made a run for the featherweight title in the featherweight Grand Prix suffering a decision loss to the current champ Freire. That only underlined that his path to Champion lied in the bantamweight division and his ultimate test would be in the title fight he won against a very formidable opponent. Having competed also as a lightweight, it is clear that the 135-pound division is where he fights best. As the new champ, there is no shortage of challengers for him in Bellator.

11. Patrick Mix 13-1, Representing the United States of America

Mix rarely leaves a fight to the judges and even though he lost to Archuleta when they fought for the vacant bantamweight title, it was by decision. That means he was hard to put away and at only 27-years-old he will likely be fighting for a title soon. Of Mix’s 13 victories, nine came by way of submission. Chances are, if Mix gets a hold of his opponent, a tap out will likely follow. For someone so young in the sport, he is probably one of the most focused bantamweights on Bellator’s roster.

12. Darrion Caldwell 15-3 Former bantamweight Champion, Representing the United States of America

Caldwell is a lifelong competitor from Rahway, New Jersey who won NCAA wrestling championships and, like many wrestlers that want to make a living competing, transitioned to mixed martial arts. Caldwell was also the first Bellator champion to get a shot at winning the Rizin bantamweight title when Bellator co-promoted with the Japanese promotion. He lost the title to the Japanese Champion Kyoji Horiguchi but made the change to featherweight and is currently riding a two-fight win streak in Bellator’s featherweight Grand Prix. He was scheduled to face AJ McKee in the semifinals this past summer but the bout was postponed due to the COVID 19 pandemic. With the move to CBS Sports Network, this bout will likely be announced soon.

13. A.J. McKee 16-0, Representing the United States of America

McKee has been written about here on ONE37pm before, but it would be a mistake to not bring up the undefeated featherweight again. McKee’s father, who also competed in mixed martial arts, has passed on his knowledge to his son, and the two have even competed on the same card at Bellator 228. McKee is currently in the semifinals of the featherweight Grand Prix and will put his undefeated record up against the likes of Caldwell. Second generation MMA fighters at this level are rare, making McKee a fighter to watch. McKee is only 25 years old so he will likely be around for a while.

14. Andrey Koreshkov 22-4, former welterweight Champion, Representing Russia

The Russian mixed martial artist and former welterweight Champion has been a staple in Bellator’s welterweight division for years. Of his 22 wins, 12 come by way of knockout and his style of fighting is definitely more offensive than defensive. He holds wins over former champions like Benson Henderson and Lyman Good. He won the title when he first faced Lima but lost it in the rematch. Still, at 30-years-old, he will likely be making another run for the title soon.

15. Raymond Daniels 2-1-1, Representing the United States of America

Daniels’s record might make it seem like he does not belong on this list, and his recent fight at Bellator 245 resulted in a “no-contest” due to an accidental groin strike. However, chances are you have seen Daniels’ highlight reel finish of Wilker Barros from his second mixed martial arts bout last year. The finish made the rounds all over the internet making him a “must-see” fighter. You can see the first round finish here, but Daniels did not get the win by luck. His kickboxing and Karate titles go back as far as 2005 and his kickboxing record makes his MMA record seem like a hobby. In kickboxing, Daniels is 35-3, with 22 wins by way of knock out. Calling him a world-class striker in MMA would be an understatement.

Categories
Sports Strength

#TheUnknownHustle: Giannis Antetokounmpo

On September 18th, the NBA announced the winner of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the league’s regular-season MVP for the 2019-2020 regular season. Milwaukee Bucks combo forward Giannis Antetokounmpo beat out Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and 2017-2018 NBA MVP James Harden to become just the second player ever to win back-to-back MVPs before the age of 25. This came just weeks after Antetokounmpo won NBA Defensive Player of The Year which made him joined NBA legends like Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to ever win the MVP and DPOY award in the same season. But the journey in climbing the mountain top was a humbling one for the “Greek Freak” as he experienced some episodes of trials and tribulations.

While playing for a team with the worst record in the league (12-47) during his rookie campaign in 2013-2014, a youthful, Antetokounmpo was still learning how to adjust to American culture after being a promising prospect in his hometown of Athens, Greece. Only at 19, he had to experience some growing pains to enjoy the success that was coming his way. One time he had to run a mile from a local Western Union to get to a Bucks home game.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweeted a series of interesting, peculiar events that transpired for Giannis while writing a story for SI. He tweeted that one day, Giannis took a cab to a local Western Union to wire money to his family in Greece. He didn’t realize that he wired so much unknowingly— that he didn’t have enough to catch a cab to make it to his home game. Giannis ran for a mile until a couple who was heading to the Bucks game spotted 7-foot guy jogging toward the Bradley Center. They asked if he was Giannis and the Bucks rookie accepted their offer for a lift.

Even though the Bucks were subpar that season, their fans had something to cheer about as Antetokounmpo showed them signs of superstar potential on and off the court. Fast forward to 2019, Giannis lived up to the upside everyone saw in him. At age 25, he’s already atwo-time MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year, three-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA All-Second Team member, the NBA’s most improved player for 2017, and the face of a Bucks franchise that had the best regular season in the NBA. 

During the summer in which he won Most Improved Player, the Greek Freak anxiously tweeted Kobe for his latest challenge. 

Kobe’s response was true “Mamba Mentality.”

Giannis can add two-time NBA MVP to his already well-accomplished resume of hoops accolades as well as “the Mamba” congratulating him on accomplishing this epic feat. Now, the NBA’s best player has a new challenge from the future Hall of Famer.

This is why we love this game. 

Categories
Culture Music

Movies About Musicians: 25 Biopics to Watch Now

Bohemian Rhapsody’s stunning box office success made at least one point clear: Music biopics are far from relics of the past.

Through these riveting films, larger-than-life icons are humanized, criticized, idolized and even memorialized. Music biopics bring real stories to life, evoking nostalgic memories with unforgettable tunes and performances. Most recently, Elton John’s musical biopic Rocketman exceeded its projected opening and landed in the No. 3 spot in the U.S./Canada market.

Future biopics are already on the horizon for a number of artists, including Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, Céline Dion, and David Bowie. But don’t forget about the amazing slate of music biopics already available. Take a look back at 25 of the best, featuring recent releases as well as beloved classics.

1. ‘Rocketman’ (2019)

Before Elton John became one of the most successful recording artists ever and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, among other accolades, he was a young piano prodigy living in London. Rocketman recounts the star’s struggles with addiction and coming to terms with his sexuality. The film also highlights the memorable music, energetic performances and theatrical costumes that secured John’s immutable greatness in pop rock history.

Available on: Amazon Prime

2. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (2018)

Freddie Mercury’s tumultuous rise to fame is riddled with conflict, sex, drugs and, of course, Queen’s legendary rock music. Rami Malek’s Academy Award-winning performance as Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody presents the musician’s rise to fame and the personal toils that threatened his reputation. With spectacular music sequences to tunes you know by heart, the 2018 hit fully deserves a viewing.

Available to Rent on: Amazon Prime

3. ‘The Runaways’ (2010)

The Runaways chronicles the formation of the rock band of the same name and the turbulent relationship between bandmates Cherie Currie and Joan Jett. The two are united by an unshakable dream of rock stardom, but as the band attains more notability Currie’s drug addiction becomes increasingly afflicting. The film beautifully portrays the vulnerable moments and musical experiences that would eventually propel Jett to start her own band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Available to Watch on: Netflix

4. ‘Walk The Line’ (2005)

From humble beginnings on a cotton farm in Arkansas, Johnny Cash made an astonishing journey to become a country music icon. The 2005 film delves into many aspects of Cash’s life—his childhood trauma, Air Force service and troubling addictions—including his romance with June Carter, a role that won Reese Witherspoon an Academy Award.

Available to Watch on: HBO Max

5. ‘Selena’ (1997)

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez lived only 23 years, but her life story is immortalized in the 1997 film Selena. Jennifer Lopez scored her breakthrough role as the Queen of Tejano music. A young Selena starts singing with her father’s band to form Selena y Los Dinos and begins a romance with guitarist Chris Perez. She eventually evolves into an influential artist and icon in the Mexican-American community, remembered for her music, fashion and untimely death.

Available to Rent on: Amazon Prime

6. ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ (1993)

Tina Turner’s personal history is one of trials, tribulations and breakthroughs. What’s Love Got to Do With It? follows young Anna Mae Bullock’s early life coping with her unstable family. Turner finds eventual solace in Ike Turner’s band and she soon begins a romantic relationship with Turner, which descends into chaos after their marriage. Angela Bassett brings Turner’s remarkable story to life in the 1993 film.

Available to rent on: Prime Video

7. ‘The Doors’ (1991)

Jim Morrison’s legacy as the lead singer of The Doors is depicted in the 1991 film of the same name. Val Kilmer plays “The Lizard King” himself, emphasizes the problematic drug usage and alcohol addiction that led to his exit from the band. Morrison’s life epitomizes the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that afflicted many of the genre’s most legendary musicians.

Available to watch on: Amazon Prime

8. ‘La Bamba’ (1987)

Before he was known as Ritchie Valens, Richard Steven Valenzuela led a normal life in Los Angeles, playing music and eventually finding fame. The film represents Valens relationships with his girlfriend Donna Ludwig and brother Bob Morales. The 1987 movie outlines the events that led to his appearance on American Bandstand and his fateful addition to the Winter Dance Party tour.

Available to Watch on: Hulu

9. ‘Sid and Nancy’ (1986)

Sex Pistols band member Sid Vicious enters into a chaotic relationship with groupie Nancy Spungen. Already heroin-addicted herself, Spungen engages in heroin use with Vicious, whose relationship with his bandmates eventually starts to decay. Vicious and Spungen’s relationship progresses from unstable to explosive over the course of this dramatic film.

Available to Rent on: Amazon Prime

10. ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ (1978)

Buddy Holly’s extraordinary story unfolds in the 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story starring Gary Busey. Jesse Charles, Ray Bob Simmons and Holly form a trio called The Crickets, quickly gaining traction in the rock ’n’ roll sphere. The film details the band’s evolution and Holly’s immeasurable influence on the music industry.

Available to Rent on: Amazon Prime

11. ‘Jimi: All is By My Side’

Jimi Hendrix was an anomaly when it came to his uncanny ability to play the guitar. Andre 3000 of Outkast fame can also be considered a one of a kind artist whose music transcends conventional genre trappings. Jimi: All Is By My Side placed the lauded ATLien in its starring role and gave viewers an inside look at Jimi’s humble beginnings. Andre proved his acting chops were more than up to snuff as he portrayed Jimi to perfection and relived his earliest triumphs as a musician.

You can watch this film on Tubi and iTunes.

12. ‘Get on Up’

The late Chadwick Boseman has appeared on the big screen as a Marvel Comics superhero, a Supreme Court Justice, and an African American baseball legend. He also played the role of one of the most prolific American soul singers of all time, James Brown. Boseman’s vocal delivery and mannerisms mimicked James Brown to near perfection in Get on Up. What makes this film so memorable is its fourth wall breaking sequences that saw James speak directly to the audience as he broke down his most monumental moments.

You can catch this film on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play Movies & TV, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.

13. ‘Miles Ahead’

Don Cheadle made his feature-length film directorial debut with Miles Ahead, a strong biographical journey that took viewers on a wild ride through the life of jazz great Miles Davis. This cinematic experience bounced around different points of Davis’ life as it showed just how dedicated he was to get his musical career back to its most prominent state. Davis’ inner demons weren’t glossed over thankfully, which made his eventual redemption all the easier to root for.

This film can be seen via Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and iTunes.

14. ‘Ray’

This next selection is definitely worth a watch or two simply because it was awarded an Oscar award for Best Actor (Jamie Foxx). It was also given high accolades and additional awards by the Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, and Critics’ Choice institutions. Jamie Foxx’s moving performance as the iconic rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles was monumental at the time of this film’s release. And its inspirational story of making your way in this world despite one’s physical shortcomings is immensely effective.

Ray can be viewed on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play Movies & TV, and Vudu.

15. ‘Jersey Boys’

If you’ve seen the Jersey Boys Broadway play, then you need to make sure you also watch the big-screen adaptation of the same name. Clint Eastwood directed and produced this touching biopic about the musical group by the name of The Four Seasons. It’s fascinating to witness what initially brought the group to unfathomable heights of fame, what ended up leading to their initial breakup and what it took to bring them back together.

Jersey Boys can be seen on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, and Netflix.

16. ‘Nowhere Boy’

While Nowhere Boy doesn’t get into much of John Lennon’s most memorable years alongside The Beatles, it does offer a closer look at his teenage upbringing. This film follows Lennon’s fruitful (and sometimes stressful) relationships with his mother Julia Lennon and his aunt Mimi Smith. It also gives viewers a look at what led to Lennon’s infatuation with rock ‘n’ roll music in the first place and the earliest incarnation of The Beatles.

You can check out this film on iTunes and Vudu.

17. ‘Roxanne Roxanne’

Roxanne Shante became hip-hop royalty once she grabbed the mic and gave the world “Roxanne’s Revenge.” This groundbreaking moment is just one of the many instances that will keep your eyes glued to the screen during a viewing of Roxanne Roxanne. Watching Roxanne’s tough home life unfold is an eye-opening experience, as is her hip-hop ascension and early interactions with a future MC by the name of Nas.

Roxanne Roxanne can be seen exclusively on Netflix.

18. ‘8 Mile’

While not a beat for beat biopic about Eminem’s life, it’s as close to one as we’re ever going to see. 8 Mile is a legendary film that’s easily quotable and recognizable by even non-rap fanatics. Eminem stars as Jimmy Smith Jr., an up and coming battle rapper who goes through hell and back in order to become something greater within his home city of Detroit. The closing rap battle contested between B-Rabbit and Papa Doc is replay worthy material.

8 Mile can be seen on YouTube, Google Play Moves & TV, Vudu, iTunes, Hulu, Sling TV, and Starz.

19. ‘Straight Outta Compton’

NWA stands tall as one of music’s most impactful hip-hop acts. Their songs gave the rest of America a closer look at the many hardships that came with living in Southern Los Angeles. Straight Outta Compton provides a thorough look at what went into the formation of the group, how they dealt with all the controversy that came from their music, and what led to them coming apart at the seams. Straight Outta Compton was a box office smash at the time of its release and it’s easy to see why after just one complete viewing.

You can watch this film on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.

20. ‘The New Edition Story’

You can’t deny just how amazing New Edition’s catalog of hits is. Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Ralph Tresvant, and Johnny Gill were young heartthrobs that maintained their relevance for decades. BET’s biopic miniseries about the R&B group was a nationwide event during its debut and still makes fans out of viewers who were once clueless about them. The New Edition Story is a well-put-together biopic that perfectly encapsulates the reign of one of the best boy bands in American history.

You can check out this biopic miniseries on BET’s main website.

21. ‘The Bobby Brown Story’

BET made sure to offer fans of the last entry on this list a worthy follow-up. And this time, it focused on R&B’s undisputed bad boy Bobby Brown. The Bobby Brown Story picks up right after the young singer gets kicked off the road tour due to his problematic behavior as a member of New Edition. This miniseries then gives us a look at the rise, fall, and subsequent redemption arc of Bobby Brown. To see a man like Bobby experience so much physical and mental anguish and still come out on the end of it all with his life still intact is amazing.

This biopic is a BET website exclusive.

22. ‘CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story’

TLC has a special place in the heart of all those late 80s and early 90s babies. Their youth filled energy and mass appeal made them household names and one of music’s most likable R&B starlets. CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story summarizes the rise to superstardom the young trio experienced. But it also provides some insight into the many horrors of the music industry and how it takes advantage of the ones you’d least expect. But in the end, TLC’s legacy remains intact and is evidenced by the final sequence of events this biopic includes.

You can check out this film via BET+ on Amazon.

23. ‘I’m Not There’

I’m Not There takes Bob Dylan fans on a journey through his life and breaks it down in an interesting manner. Six actors play the role of the iconic singer-songwriter and portray the many different facets of his varied personas. The film goes in and out of Dylan’s many personalities, but makes sure to offer a deep look at how each of them shaped Dylan into the legend he is today. To get a full understanding of the genius behind “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” I’m Not There is a must-see.

This film can be seen via iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play Movies & TV.

24. ‘La Vie En Rose’

French singer Edith Piaf’s life ended prematurely. But before she left this world, she left an indelible mark on the world with her angelic voice. La Vie En Rose is a cinematic review of Piaf’s life and the career she built up during her reign of excellence. Her passing was connected to years of alcoholic abuse and drug addiction, which is touched upon in this biopic in full. But Piaf’s triumphs are detailed just as much as her inner demons, which makes this film the best look at the chanteuse’s life.

La Vie en Rose can be seen on iTunes, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.

25. ‘The Pianist’

The Pianist is not only a biopic about a musical stalwart. It’s a war drama that delves into the horrors of the Holocaust. The main topic of this film is Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, a man known for his many recordings and contributions to polish radio. During his time spent in Warsaw alongside his family, Szpilman was forced to survive the many horrors of the Holocaust. This film details the hardships Szpilman experienced and the amazing music he produced in the midst of all that madness.

You can watch The Pianist on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

Categories
Sports Strength

What Is the Average WNBA Salary?

In 2020, the issue of a wage gap is still a very serious one in the WNBA. The egregious gender wage gap has been the subject of heated debate over the past three or so years as WNBA visibility has burgeoned behind social media. The average 2020 WNBA salary is $100,658.51. That’s up from $74,349.14 in 2019. As a comparison, the average 2020 NBA salary is $7.7 million. That’s up from $6.4 million in 2019.

It is of no use to cite the classic sexist, anti-intellectual arguments against better pay for WNBA players; if professional sports in America were a meritocracy, men and women would be compensated equally. The WNBA is one of the most competitive professional sports leagues in the world, and it is not controversial to believe that top athletes deserve pay befitting of their talent. We’ve talked about who is getting paid the most in the WNBA, but what about the other players in the league?

The league itself presents problems
Getty Images

The concentration of WNBA talent is rich, precious, and rare. Just 144 players are parsed out over 12 rosters, and it is extraordinarily difficult to make even the worst team. For example, the University of Iowa legend and 2019 Naismith Player of the Year Megan Gustafson, was drafted 17th overall by the Dallas Wings in 2019. Days later, she was ceremoniously cut from a team that had already lost its two All-Stars during the offseason. While Dallas ultimately re-signed Gustafson, the former NCAA superhero was ultimately an afterthought, finishing the 2019 season averaging 2.9 points in under ten minutes per game. 

The WNBA problem is by no means a talent, skill, or ability problem—until, of course, the league pushes its brightest stars away. WNBA players are in the habit of playing year-round at opposite ends of the earth with very little recovery time; there are bigger deals to be negotiated with oligarchs abroad. So much money is up for grabs that Diana Taurasi (author of the iconic quote, “we had to go to a communist country to get paid like capitalists”) missed the entire 2015 WNBA season because UMMC Katerinburg paid her to rest. Up until this year, the WNBA did not have avenues to incentivize its marquee players to preserve themselves. At a particularly damning turning point, 2018 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart ruptured her Achilles during the 2019 Euroleague championship game as a member of Dynamo Kursk; Stewie, one of the greatest winners of all time, missed an entire year of WNBA play.

Talent is lost to other industries

Talent isn’t just being lost to Russia, China, and Australia. The league is seeing players move on from the game and switch careers entirely. 2017 league MVP Sylvia Fowles has been studying mortuary science for years and has taken that career path as seriously as she has basketball.

Meanwhile, Chiney Ogwumike, 2014 No. 1 overall pick by the Connecticut Sun and that season’s Rookie of the Year, has become a household name—not for her basketball stardom, but for her ESPN punditry. Injuries sustained thanks to year-round international play have shifted Ogwumike’s career. A 2014 microfracture suffered in Italy forced her to sit out the 2015 WNBA season; whilst playing in China in 2016, Ogwumike injured her Achilles and had to miss the 2017 WNBA season. She was subsequently suspended from the Sun in order to free up a roster spot—the team could not afford to pay their injured All-Star, who began flourishing as a talking head in nearby Bristol. Ogwumike, who is now taking time off from the LA Sparks, recently became the first Black woman to co-host a daily national radio show. All power to women pursuing their dreams—but you have to ask, what’s a league without its talent?

The harsh realities of promoting a majority Black women’s league

Chicken-and-egg conundrums plague the WNBA. What’s an audience without mainstream coverage and television deals? Where are the headlines and primetime games without an audience? The matter of generating profit is a fundamental American problem. So too are misogynoir and homophobia. For anyone grounded in social reality, a professional basketball league that is majority Black women, and home to an open and out queer cross-section that transcends race, is not profitable. It really is this simple. Minnesota Lynx forward Lexie Brown made it plain: “people in the WNBA are female, successful, and Black. So you put all three of those together, and you got a whole lot of hate.”

How do you market a players’ league to an audience that cannot meaningfully, respectfully engage with those players? How is it worthwhile for women athletes to win over a target audience that has only ever targeted them with harm? How do you capture a new, less prejudiced audience—say, women and LGBTQ+ people, who share identity and community with WNBA players—that has been chronically, systematically barred from the hypermasculine hysteria of professional sports? These questions are complicated and difficult, but it is not practical to move forward in discussions about WNBA growth without acknowledging the league’s tether to broader societal ills.

Progress is being made

It is worth noting that the WNBA is only 23 years old, and it is, to this point, the longest-lasting professional women’s sports league in the U.S. It has endured difficult, awkward phases but is blossoming anew as the league matures into its third decade, and players are moving ahead in unified confidence. This past January, after many months of anticipation from players and fans alike, the WNBPA and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert unveiled a monumental new collective bargaining agreement.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which covers all bases, including new maternal benefits and travel perks, WNBA players can look forward to their overdue 50-50 revenue sharing. This long-abhorred systemic financial issue is often an oversight for anti-WNBAers, who have historically declined to acknowledge that WNBA players have only earned—depending on the year—in the ballpark of 20-35% of league revenue. Au contraire, NBA players have long enjoyed their well-deserved 50% of league revenue. Some may point to the impracticality of WNBA revenue sharing, as many teams lose money and thus cannot afford to pay players their just due. Conveniently, these arguments decline to account for the NBA teams that hemorrhage money too.


The 2020 CBA has already provided substantial financial bumps, as the average salary has already risen by 35 percent in just a year. Max and supermax players who sign new contracts can expect annual salary increases of three percent, and all players will be in the running for more perks, as base salaries do not account for bonuses.

New money-making opportunities on the horizon
Getty Images

The 2020-2027 WNBA CBA delineates a handful of new earning opportunities for players, including trade, time off, and merit bonuses. Trade bonuses, which cap at ten percent of the remaining base salary on a player’s contract, are made available to players who have accumulated six or more years of service. 

A time-off bonus is meant to disincentivize a player from traveling abroad to play during the WNBA offseason, which on the one hand, protects the player from fatigue and injury, and on the other hand, protects the WNBA from losing talent based on earning potential. A player who might benefit from this is Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun. Thomas has been living with two torn labrums for years, and you’ll be reminded of this whenever you watch Alyssa shoot a free throw (and especially if the opposing team resorts to Hack-a-Thomas). Commentators gab about Alyssa’s chronic injuries as if they’re a quirk, or just an impressive testament to how addicted the All-Star is to working. The reality is damning: Alyssa has been refusing to address her injuries with surgery because she does not want to take time off of playing overseas during the WNBA offseason. For her, rehabilitation and recovery—up to seven months—would cost too much in lost paychecks for surgery to feel worthwhile.

The third new type of bonus is a merit bonus, which can be awarded on either a team or an individual basis. Team achievement bonuses are based on postseason play; any player on a playoff roster on the final day of the regular season will be paid a bonus that scales up based on team success in the playoffs. Individual achievement bonuses are rewarded to players who make All-Star teams and win All-Star Weekend awards and players who earn major league awards and are named to all-WNBA teams. For example, a league MVP who makes the All-WNBA First Team and All-WNBA Defensive Team, as well as their conference All-Star team, stands to earn an extra $29,825 in merit bonuses in a given season. Should that player win a WNBA championship with their team, they tack on an additional $11,356. In the same vein, a Rookie of the Year who makes the All-WNBA Rookie Team and their conference All-Star team wins the All-Star Weekend Three-Point Contest, and loses in the second round of the playoffs will earn an extra $13,603 in merit bonuses.

Also up for grabs are “league and team marketing agreements,” which, like the time off bonus, are designed to tempt players to pass up overseas opportunities. This marketing avenue, which will “recognize top performance and highlight the diversity of the league,” could earn some players up to $300,000 in addition to their base salaries. Further, beginning in 2021, the league will roll out new in-season competitions with $750,000 in prize money set aside.

The WNBA is a league of world-class talent and multitudinous, inspiring women. They deserve better than what they’ve been dealt with, but they and their advocates mustn’t let up.

Categories
Sports Strength

The 4 Most Underrated Players Remaining in the NBA Playoffs

It’s been over two months since NBA teams arrived at Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the resumption of the 2019-2020 season, and both Conference Finals are set. In the East, the Boston Celtics (3) are taking on the Miami Heat (5) while the Los Angeles Lakers (1) are taking on the Denver Nuggets (3) in the West.

The star power is dazzling, with names like LeBron James and Jimmy Butler capturing all of the headlines, but what about the guys that have flown under the radar? You know, the ones who’ve been overlooked as an intricate part of their team’s success? Here’s the most slept on player from each team remaining in the NBA Bubble:

1) Kemba Walker
Boston Celtics
Getty Images

On a team where only six players average at least eighteen minutes a game in the playoffs, it’s hard for a Celtic to be considered ‘slept on.’ However, when the team’s third-leading scorer in the postseason has been tweeted about 120,00 times less than Marcus Smart over the last thirty days, it’s evident that Kemba Walker isn’t getting enough attention.

As a reminder, ‘Cardiac Kemba’ is a four-time All-Star, just finished his fifth consecutive season putting up twenty points a game and is the highest-paid player on Boston’s roster. While in Charlotte, his teams made the playoffs just twice, neither time advancing past the first round which makes these playoffs his first deep run in his nine-year career.

Walker has averaged only 17.7 points per game in the bubble, but he’s been scoring efficiently with a field goal percentage of 46.1%, up from his season’s average of 42.5%. Boston’s primary ball-handler is also leading the team in assists during the playoffs with 5.3 per match while turning the ball over at a scarcer rate than Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.

There’s just something special about combining the former UConn Husky with big tournaments in the east…let us step back for a few seconds and we’ll see if we can put a finger on it.

2) Paul Millsap
Denver Nuggets
Getty Images

Coming back from down 3-1 in the series is amazing but when a team does it twice in a row, it’s historic. These Denver Nuggets have been nothing short of spectacular thanks to their dynamic duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. With that being said, there’s a good chance they’d be on vacation right now if it wasn’t for Paul Millsap.

With the Clippers up sixteen right before halftime of Game 5, Marcus Morris got into a scuffle with Millsap where he reportedly told the Nugget to ‘get ready to go home.’ How did the veteran respond? By coming out in the third and dropping fourteen points on 80% shooting and helping his team outscore Los Angeles by five in the quarter. Jokic went 1/4 from the field in the third, including 0/3 from three as well as turning the ball over twice, while Murray didn’t do much better going 1/3, making Paul’s contributions that much more important.

That Clippers team was composed of a bunch of bullies, and they were well on their way to bullying the Nuggets out of the playoffs in five games before Millsap single-handedly kept his team alive. In the final frame, the two superstars from the Mile High City combined for twenty points on 64% shooting which allowed them to fight another day but they wouldn’t have been in that position if it wasn’t for number 4.

3) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Los Angeles Lakers
Getty Images

When you think of the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers, you think of LeBron James. And when you think of a LeBron James-led team, spot-up shooters are always crucial as the defense collapses to stop LBJ as best they could. So, with all that understood, why is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope being tweeted about 1.5x less than Markieff Morris when he’s shooting a team-high (min. 20 3PA) 41.2% from three in these playoffs?

Way back at the beginning of the 2019-2020 NBA season, KCP was being slandered left and right for his poor start to the season, especially for his struggles from beyond the arc. In fact, he shot a minuscule 22.7% from three in the team’s first eleven games. There were memes made, tweets tweeted and insults thrown from Laker Nation all over the country, but Caldwell-Pope kept working and finished the regular season with an impressive 38.5% conversion rate from deep.

Fast forward to Game 1 of the Bubble Playoffs where KCP shot five threes and hit zero, again initiating the trolls. Since that game, he’s become an extremely reliable option for LeBron to kick it to, hitting 45.7% of his three balls.

I say all of this to say, can we put some respect on this man’s name as a warrior who bounces back time and time again?

4) Goran Dragic
Miami Heat
Getty Images

Trailing the team’s leader in points per game during the playoffs by only .7, you’d think Goran Dragic would get more hype than he has. Generating less than 33% the amount of tweets as Jimmy Butler has and only becoming a starter on August 14th, the man from Slovenia has helped propel the Heat into championship contention.

Dragic has been around the block, playing in his twelfth NBA season and sixth straight in Miami. Despite being a legitimate starter for the majority of his career, number 24 hasn’t received the recognition he’s deserved, but that’s slowly changing due to his performance in these playoffs.

A scoring average of 21.1 points per game on 45.8% shooting as a guard is impressive enough but Goran is also shooting over 38% from three on seven attempts a game. Additionally, he’s done a great job running Coach Erick Spoelstra’s offense, apparent in his 4.7 assists a game during the postseason, only .1 behind Bam Adebayo’s 4.8.

‘The Dragon’ has emerged as a primary option for the Heat after coming off the bench for the majority of the season and if they continue this splendid run, he’ll surely be an essential piece.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

24 Best Sci-Fi Series On Netflix to Watch Right Now

We’re currently surviving about 8 separate armageddons all at once — so there’s something oddly comforting about fiction in which humans have to deal with only one doomsday at a time. Netflix’s sci-fi section specifically has been an unlikely balm for the radioactive burns of this current dystopian moment, with selections ranging from cyberpunk adventures to philosophical meditations on the difference between man and machine. Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot of garbage on there, too, so you might be wondering: What are the best Sci-Fi series on Netflix?

Like a diligent robot farming for minerals on a distant planet, we’ve sorted out the valuable resources from the detritus and curated a playlist of Netflix’s greatest sci-fi series for your post-apocalyptic viewing pleasure. Check out our (superhero free!) curated list, below.

1. ‘Twin Peaks’

David Lynch’s psychotic TV show somehow charmed American audiences in the late ’80s with its bizarre combination of fantasy, sci-fi, neo-noir, and surrealist tropes. What starts as an investigation into a homecoming queen’s mysterious death unravels into an oneiric journey into other dimensions and unknown realities. It’s not exactly hard sci-fi, but the show’s influence is patently obvious throughout the genre in the ’90s and beyond.

2. ‘Black Mirror’

Near-future dystopias are the name of the game in Black Mirror. For a moment, it was easy to dunk on the show’s premise for its facile predictions about the future of social media, but as the real world increasingly resembles the program’s darkest realities, there’s something nauseatingly prescient about even the earliest episodes. The violence and nihilism have gotten toned down a bit since the show’s inception (there are even a few romance episodes thrown into the mix these days) and the quality isn’t always even — but there are few series willing to give such dire warnings about our current digital hellscape. Each episode is a stand-alone story, so feel free to hop in wherever and skip around.

3. ‘Stranger Things’

The speed with which Stranger Things became a ubiquitous cultural phenomenon would have been downright irritating if the show wasn’t precisely as charming as it’s die-hard fans profess it to be. Stranger Things is essentially a pastiche of 80’s sci-fi cliches executed with precision, deftness, and a whole lot of heart. It’s far from original—and the quality takes a dip after Season 1—but the excellent acting from the show’s adult and child stars elevate what could have been rather corny into something extraordinary. The series’ supporting protagonist, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) even became an unlikely streetwear icon.

4. ‘Gurren Lagann’

Gainax, the studio behind the greatest Japanese cartoons of all time, brought forth this bizarre shonen series in 2007. Gurren Lagann follows the same beats as most giant robot anime — but turns the speed and intensity up to 11. It’s filled with a lovable cast of miscreants, fast-paced action sequences, endlessly endearing character design, and a truly hyped soundtrack of next-level J-rock. Considering how unapologetically stupid some episodes are, the final emotional moments are shockingly powerful. We bet you’ll be sobbing by the last episode!

5. ‘Sense8’

What if eighty minds suddenly became one? The seemingly simple conceit for this series, helmed by the legendary Wachowskis, contains far more political and social commentary than one might immediately assume. A deep and meaningful exploration of identity, sexuality, gender, and embodiment is hidden not so subtly beneath the show’s action-oriented exterior. The series functions perfectly well as a post-cyberpunk thriller as it does as a contemplation on posthumanism.

6. ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’

Widely viewed as the greatest anime series of all time (and often hailed as a sci-fi masterpiece), NGE is a both a Freudian and existentialist meditation as much as it is a story about child soldiers fighting for the world’s survival. What starts as a typical anime quickly devolves into something far more strange and avant-garde. The series’ conclusion doesn’t make much sense as a result of major budget constraints at the time, so expect to follow up with the supplementary film, The End of Evangelion (also currently available on Netflix), which provides more clarity. (Note: due to ongoing licensing issues, the version currently streaming has been re-translated, re-dubbed, and re-scored from the original series that had at first aired on [adult swim] in the early aughts. The general consensus is that this new version is good enough, but not quite as impactful as the original).

7. ‘Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045’

GITS began as an obsessively detailed manga by Masamune Shirow in the late 1980s and spurned several films and TV series since — all of which have become essential texts in the cyberpunk canon. SAC_2045 is the latest offshoot of this story, and although it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the first entries into the franchise, it’s still pretty amazing. The CGI rendering is certainly a step down from the gorgeously animated films but there’s something delightfully uncanny about watching the doll-like figures navigate the treachery of various virtual realities. In this iteration, cybernetic super-soldier Motoko Kusanagi attempts to thwart a post-human threat as multiple cyber brains suddenly and spontaneously go rogue.

8. ‘Dark’

Dark is a nexus of sci-fi concepts, a post-apocalyptic show, a time-travel show, a moody forest show (with advanced technology), a show rooted in German esoterica. It asks the viewer to watch like a detective from a timeline continuity bureau, taking copious notes to keep the story intelligible as characters create their own futures by their travel to the past. Often compared to Stranger Things.

9. ‘The 100’

The 100 might at first appear to be a generic teen dystopian drama — but it rapidly turns into a sci-fi thriller about adaptation to ceaselessly changing circumstances in war and peace. You might expect a show that originally aired on the CW (and is helmed by the producers of Gossip Girl) to be insipidly sexy, but the lightly erotic juvenile dream the show seems to promise quickly turns into a sophisticated post-apocalyptic nightmare.

10. ‘Altered Carbon’

Set in a Blade Runner-esque world where human consciousness can be transferred from body to body, Altered Carbon is a difficult to follow but an intricately woven story. Because mankind is no longer limited to one corporeal vessel, characters are sometimes played by multiple actors, making the twisty espionage story and accompanying fan interpretations somewhat dense but worth investigating.

11. ‘The OA’

How could one possibly summarize this truly strange series in just a few sentences? Near-death experiences, alternate realities, miraculous dance routines, extensive torture sequences, some kind of dimensional-bending clandestine seance: throw it all in a bizarrely emotional blender and you get The OA. There are definitely high art aspirations in the show’s somewhat avant-garde premise and presentation, but it’s a sci-fi story at heart. That being said: where the show begins is extremely far from where it ends up. Comparing it to any other film, book, or TV show is simply doing this shockingly original program a disservice. You really have to see it for yourself.

12. ‘Godzilla (Planet of the Monsters, City on the Edge of Battle, The Planet Eater)’

We’re cheating a little here: this latest Godzilla anime is technically a trilogy of films but they function as a self-contained mini-series more than as stand-alone movies. Think of it as a total re-imagining of the Godzilla mythos: What if the original Kaiju was so powerful that humans had to flee the planet to escape his wrath? And what if they came back thousands of years later to find the monster still stomping around the globe? Does the human spirit really have enough resilience to endure such serious calamities and humiliations? Or would it be better to just … give up? It’s hard to imagine Godzilla as an existential parable, but it somehow works here.

13. ‘Neo-Yokio’

Jaden Smith stars as the main character in this Afro-centric, postmodern parody of anime’s most obvious cliches. This ultra-fashionable show is unexpectedly hilarious and winkingly smart while still featuring absurd action sequences: in one scene, for example, Smith’s label-obsessed main character battles a possessed Damien Hirst sculpture during a hyper-futuristic art gala. How Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon even got involved in this project is beyond us.

14. ‘The Twilight Zone (Original Series)’

Would we even have contemporary sci-fi without The Twilight Zone? Seems unlikely. This expansive original program, the first series of which aired from 1956 to 1964, spanned the gamut of sci-fi subgenres — exploring dystopias, alternate timelines, near futures, alternate dimensions, the supernatural, psychological terror, and more. Each episode is a perfectly self-contained little nightmare. With powerful, expressionist aesthetics and ultra-sharp dialogue, every moment of this intelligent show is absolutely iconic.

15. ‘Dragon Pilot’

The premise of Dragon Pilot sounds absolutely infantile, but the show has a surprising amount of emotional complexity for something so seemingly stupid. Air Defense rookie Hisone Amakasu is far from the best soldier, but when she pair-bonds with a mysterious dragon that can miraculously transform into a fighter jet, her whole world changes. Obviously inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s anachronistic steampunk fantasies, Japanese studio Bones turns a goofy adventure story into a moving metaphor for growing up.

16. ‘Mobile Suit Gundam UC’

Gundam is the paradigmatic giant robot anime and the franchise is comparable to the Star Wars in how far-reaching and detailed the mythology really goes. MSG: UC follows a different continuity from most of the other series in the same universe but has plenty of outer space fight scenes to keep regular fans satisfied. The interplanetary politics are not always the most accessible, but the lushly gorgeous styling of the mechs are something to truly obsess over.

17. ‘Attack on Titan’

Attack on Titan is often hailed for sparking yet another resurgence in American interest in anime, with its ultra-dark plot about giant, skinless humanoid beings attacking major cities. It’s much more gritty and far less colorful than your standard anime fare, but the series is often hailed for its gut-wrenching storytelling and high-stakes action sequences.

18. ‘Star Trek: Deep Space 9’

Deep Space 9 is a bit of a departure from your standard Star Trek series: Instead of tracking the adventures of information-gathering spaceships, this iteration of the iconic franchise is about a space station located on the outskirts of a wormhole. Playing with the standard formula of the show allowed for creators to take interesting creative liberties, leading to plenty of unexpected moments.

19. ‘LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS’

A spiritual successor to the psychedelic 1981 animated film Heavy Metal, LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS is an anthology of internationally animated, ultra-violent short films helmed by Academy Award-winning director David Fincher. At times strongly aesthetic and at times shockingly misogynistic, these bite-sized stories (each rendered in an entirely different visual style) range from darkly comedic, to abundantly absurdist, to deeply poignant.

Stories center around army werewolves, trash monsters, unlucky space marines, sentient yogurt, history-manipulating iPhone apps, and a pool-cleaning robot that changes the fate of humanity.

20. ‘Ultraman’

The so-called “Ultra Series,” an expansive sci-fi franchise starring the eponymous tokusatsu cyber-soldier, Ultraman, and his various allies and nemeses, has garnered a massive cult following since its inception in 1966 — and Netflix’s adaptation is a perfect update of the original program’s thesis. Despite it’s very 2019 looking sheen, this new Ultraman is shockingly faithful to the original manga on which it’s based. Expect bonkers action and quintessentially Japanese transformation sequences.

21. ‘Lost in Space’

There’s something impossibly lazy about “grimdark” updates of camp classics — but who could possibly resist Parker Posey starring as a duplicitous space vixen?! Not entirely humorless, this reboot of the 1960’s sci-fi classic (itself a reimagining of the 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson) is pretty clever, if not a bit expected.

22. ‘Hunter X Hunter’

Aesthetically reminiscent of the Final Fantasy video game franchise in its blending of steampunk fantasy and harder SF elements, Hunter X Hunter is remarkable in that zero out of its 148 episodes are filler. The more sci-fi stuff doesn’t really begin until the second season, but the fast-paced action of the first plot arc will surely keep even cynical audiences interested until then. Hunter X Hunter tracks the journey of Gon Freecss, a young boy from a fishing village, hoping to find his long lost father. During his misadventures, he befriends Killua Zoldyck, the heir of the world’s greatest family of assassins. The duo somehow becomes humanity’s last hope as they fight off various super-powered enemies — while also, of course, discovering the power of true friendship.

23. ‘American Horror Story: Apocalypse’

Ryan Murphy’s campy horror anthology series doesn’t too often veer into sci-fi territory, but the show’s 8th season took an expected turn with its strange and sometimes delightfully silly ventures into a post-doomsday scenario. The first episode depicts a nuclear holocaust, during which the world’s smartest teens have been whisked away to an underground bunker run by a suspiciously satanic matron. Then, it turns out, humanity’s last hope is a bunch of very trend-aware witches living in New Orleans. It’s hard to tell how much AHS: Apocalypse makes sense if you haven’t been keeping meticulous track of the program’s extensive lore, but there’s a good amount of easter eggs, fan service, and throwbacks for attentive viewers.

24. ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’

What Evangelion is for giant robots, Madoka is for magical girls. Although the show at first seems like a frivolous fantasy story about fanciful female fighters in frilly dresses, Madoka unravels into a deeply nihilistic allegory about the meaninglessness of human life: What if all the earth’s inhabitants were just livestock for another planet all along? Stunning, experimental animation and reality-bending plot twists are plentiful in this bizarre mini-series.

Categories
Gaming Streaming

How VTubing is Slowly Changing the Gaming World

Do you ever wish that sometimes you could be invisible? Invisible in the sense that people can hear you, but not necessarily see you. What if you could take it a step further and create an animated version of yourself on social platforms? Well, that’s exactly what Twitch streaming sensation Pokimane has decided to do.

The official word for that is called VTubing (short for Virtual YouTubing), and it’s something that we should all start becoming familiar with. VTubing is on the rise, and in the future we’ll be seeing more big names play and stream through their animated characters. So how exactly did VTubing come about?

VTubing first originated in Japan. The process of creating a VTube is actually quite similar to traditional YouTube and blogging with the only difference being the use of a virtual avatar. These avatars replicate every single body movement, facial expression, and human action you could possibly think of. At the moment, there are about 5,000 VTubers, and while most of them are still based in Japan, we are slowly starting to see the rise of VTubers in other countries like the United States. That leads us back to Pokimane.

In the last few years, Pokimane has become a phenom in the gaming world, but like every job that puts you in the public eye, there can be some negative elements as well. Gamers, in general, receive a lot of criticism, harsh insults, and backlash. That criticism can be especially difficult if you are a woman in gaming. 

At the end of the day, gamers are still human beings, and every human has their limitations of what they can or should have to put up with. Which is exactly why, Pokimane decided to take a small break from streaming. Her return, however, was a huge surprise to the people who had followed her for years.

Pokimane’s return to Twitch, saw viewers being introduced to the anime version of herself. While Pokimane called the live stream an “experiment,” it was very much deliberate in certain areas. When asked why she chose the VTube route for her return, Pokimane stated that some days she doesn’t feel like doing the “glitz and glamor” required for a live stream. The Twitch sensation also said VTubing is a way for her to not deal with the terrible comments she receives every stream. In addition to the creative element involved in VTubing, it’s also a form of protection (like a defense mechanism). While not a permanent change(at least for now), Pokimane intends to make her VTube character a regular part of her career. 

One could argue that Pokimane is already having that impact. Since the debut of her anime character, interest in VTubing has surged significantly, and more gamers are starting to at least consider the possibility of going that route.

While Pokimane has definitely brought attention to VTubing in recent weeks, the interest has actually been building over the last couple of years. VTubers such as Kaguya Luna and Mirai Akari have been making noise in the VTubing community since around 2017. Both Kaguya and Mirai, are slowly reaching the one million subscribers mark on their channels. Kizuna AI, the streamer responsible for the early VTubing interest, is currently at two million subscribers on her channel. Known for her feisty demeanor, Kizuna’s balance between her “innocent persona” and her “bad girl persona,” has kept viewers entertained for the last four years. These streamers have paved the way for newer streamers to make an impact in the VTubing world. Kizuna is now an ambassador for the Japan National Tourism Organization. Projekt Melody (the popular 3D anime streamer) partnered with Twitch earlier this year. 

While the idea of VTube has made some streamers hesitant (some argue that VTubing challenges the authenticity of gaming), gamers are now seeing it as a way to expand their presence in the gaming world while not being “limited to one lane. ”VTubing’s demand is now more dominant than ever. This past week has seen the debut of Vtubing newbie Watson Amelia. In this week alone, the streamer has released 12 videos with huge streaming numbers ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 views on YouTube.  

Meanwhile, more artists in gaming are starting to be hired for their artwork. For example, Pokimane commissioned artist Teru for her VTube debut. Creating more work in the gaming community is a win for everybody. Whether you’ve hopped on the VTube train or not, the tide is slowly turning. Be prepared to see a lot more of VTube in the future.

Categories
Culture Trading Cards

Are Sports Card “Breaks” The New Blackjack?

“I was literally shaking and almost crying because Kobe touched this card. It was an on-card gold auto. It was amazing.”

Ryan Shapiro has opened countless packs of cards over the past six months, but he knew he hit something special this time. His company, PullKingz, is one of the leaders in the emerging sports card breaking industry. For those who are unfamiliar with what a “break” is, followers of pages like PullKingz buy “spots” for a share of a box of sports cards in what has become 2020’s version of a casino, merging the camaraderie and fun of a blackjack table with the draw of an immediate slot machine type of jackpot. The gambling aspect of card breaks is one of its biggest attractions, and it’s no coincidence that it exploded during the quarantine when professional sports were shut down, giving sports gamblers nothing to bet on. 

If it were a blackjack table, PullKingz would be the dealer. On that night, Shapiro was ripping open a box of 2017-2018 Panini Noir NBA that has only ten cards inside of it. Each of the ten spots cost $140, and every spot would receive only one card in a “hit draft” format, which means that everyone is randomly assigned a number from 1-10. If you are lucky enough to draw #1, you get your choice of what you think is the best card in the box. If you are unlucky enough to draw #10, you get the last card remaining after everybody else has taken their pick. The lucky person who bought into this particular break for $140 and drew the #1 spot was rewarded with a Kobe Bryant card worth over $7500. 

New Industry Leaders Emerge In South Florida
PullKingz
PullKingz owner Ryan Shapiro
PullWax
PullWax owner Mike Vinokur

Shapiro collected cards as a kid but was entirely out of the game as recently as early 2020. While working at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, he saw a social media post by Gary Vaynerchuk stating that he would “rather invest in sports cards than real estate”. From that point forward, Ryan was hooked. 

“I hid in the extra bedroom in my house from my girlfriend, watching and buying cards”, said Shapiro. “I was a consumer. My girlfriend didn’t get it. She was like, “what are you doing?” We started PullKingz downstairs in my living room. I had to text my friends to jump into the breaks just to fill them. I never gave up, and I kept going.” PullKingz now has over 13k followers on their Instagram page and fill those same breaks within minutes. 

Besides Gary Vee, Shapiro credits Mike Vinokur, owner of the wildly popular Pullwax Marketplace, for inspiring him to get into the breaking industry. Both reside in South Florida, which has become quite a hotspot for these types of pages.

“Mike from Pullwax is a true inspiration to me. When I first started this, I watched Mikey when he only had five people in his life, and I was buying in his breaks. It’s so crazy how life works. We work together now. I love Mikey. He motivates me to be better.”

For those that have never watched a Pullwax break, it is one of the best shows currently on social media. Vinokur and his team of young breakers – most notably “Lil P” – unbox an endless stream of valuable cards nightly. 

“What Pullwax has always wanted to do is take the esports world and the sports card world and kind of mesh them together. Sportscards have been around forever. Esports is brand new. They are two totally separate generations, and I want to mix the two. When an athlete comes into my store, I want to sit down and play video games with them and then open a box.” said Vinokur, who credited his parents for getting him into sports. 

“As a kid, I was a die-hard sports fan. My family came here from Russia as immigrants. The one thing they loved about America more than anything else was sports. Miami Dolphins, Miami Hurricanes, and the Miami Heat. When I was 13, I became a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I loved Ben Roethlisberger. I went against my roots, and my family almost threw me out.”

Like Shapiro, Vinokur collected sports cards as a kid but was out of the game for a while before starting Pullwax. His first business was a successful high-end sneaker store in Miami named Sneak Peek Luxury. 

“I was collecting in 2003-2004 when LeBron, Carmelo, and Wade were rookies. As time went on, cards were just not cool anymore.” Vinokur said. “I learned everything from sneakers. With SneakPeak, I developed great relationships with so many athletes from every league. I just got tired of being the sneaker guy. I wanted to get closer to sports.”

Breaking has become big business, with some products bringing in eye-popping dollar amounts. “The biggest break we’ve ever done was Panini National Treasures First Off the Line NBA”, said Vinokur. “One box. We had 500 people in the live. Each spot, I think, was $1800 to get in. There were 15 spots. Two teams per spot. It was NUTS.”

Influencers Take Notice:

Celebrities and influencers have become commonplace in both Pullwax and PullKingz live broadcasts. One of the coolest things about joining one of their live streams is that you never know who will be in there. 

“Everybody is watching it,” Shapiro said. “Steve Aoki did his first break with us. Now he is doing Aoki’s Card House. We had rapper Lil Pump in our live the other night also.”

NBA on TNT analyst Adam Lefkoe is a mainstay in the Pullwax live, talking sports cards and basketball with followers almost nightly. 

“When I first started using Instagram to consume sports content, I was fascinated by the live breaking,” said Lefkoe. “Of all the channels, I found Pullwax to be the most entertaining. The music, the knowledge of modern boxes, the energy in the chat. It was like sitting at the blackjack table where everyone was high-fiving, not cursing out the dealer. That’s more of my vibe.”

Concerns in the Hobby?

Unlike some of the newer breakers, Ryan Johnson, owner of Card Collector 2, a brick and mortar store in Grove City, Ohio, has been running sports card breaks on his Instagram for over four years. 

“I started breaking back in 2016,” Johnson said. “I got into it when my Instagram started to pop off. I got a couple of boxes at a show and decided to go live and see how quickly we could move them. It filled pretty quickly. It was an eye-opening thing for us and something I thought we could build on it, and it just led to more and more breaking.”

The @CardCollector2 Instagram has become one of the most popular sports card social media channels in the hobby with over 36k followers, and Johnson says that he has never seen anything like these past six months. 

“We have had a pretty substantial increase in sales since the pandemic. A lot more people in-store and new faces getting in the hobby that are asking all sorts of different questions. Breaking has taken off. The store has taken off. Everything in general about the hobby is really hot right now.”

One might think that with the amount of time and effort it has taken to build such a large following and product allocation, that there might be some resentment towards newer breakers who are experiencing such relatively immediate success. However, Johnson doesn’t see it that way.  

“It’s not really frustrating. If you’re brick and mortar, you have the option to break as well to get more product. You wanna get as much product as you can. If you break the product and you order more, you will get more. It doesn’t really bother me that these new breakers get a lot of it because they break a lot of it, and they take a lot of the junk too.” 

It’s fair to wonder how a return to normalcy in the coming months will affect the industry. As things continue to re-open and people have more choices of how to allocate their discretionary income, are the current prices of a box of cards sustainable? 

“The sustainability of prices and boxes going up so much is not really there,” Johnson said. “You are basically pricing out new consumers who don’t have super deep pockets because the hardest part about it is these boxes have gotten to these values in time. It used to be if I buy a box of Prizm, a year from now, it’s worth two or three times as much. When Prizm basketball came out last year, they were $440. Now they are $2500. So you are seeing a 5x increase in an eight-month period rather than a 2x in a year. When COVID happened, the product wasn’t available as much, so that shot everything up. I think over time, as product catches up, there won’t be as much of an increase.”

It will be exciting to see how things shake out in the coming months and years. Will the rise of card breaking popularity during the pandemic begin to fade? Will all of these new faces in the hobby find something else to spend their money on? Or was COVID the perfect storm that opened up the eyes of mainstream society to a new way to gamble on sports? Only time will tell, but this feels to me like the start of something huge. 

Categories
Sports Strength

A Complete List of the Current Boxing Champions

The world of Boxing is constantly changing. With numerous championships across several different weight classes, there’s constant movement with boxers looking to either fight at certain weights or face certain opponents. There might be a few too many championships, but it definitely helps spark interest with highly competitive matches taking place on a regular basis. 

There are 68 different belts available in the WBO, IBF, WBC and WBA organizations. From multi-champ Anthony Joshua to Manny Pacquiao, here’s a look at the current champions across the sport of boxing in the WBO, IBF, WBC and WBA divisions.

WBO Champions
Heavyweight Champion: Anthony Joshua (23-1), Title Reign: December 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: British

Joshua was a dominant boxer, winning his first 22 fights with relative ease. He faced his first challenge, losing to Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden in June of 2019. The brit rebounded, defeating Ruiz in a rematch for all of the belts six months later.

Junior Heavyweight Champion: Vacant 

The title was originally held by Mairidis Briedis before he was stripped of the belt due to not agreeing to a second fight with boxer Krzysztof Glowacki.

Light Heavyweight Champion: Vacant


Canelo Alvarez relinquished the belt to fight in different weight classes.

Super Middleweight Champion: Billy Joe Saunders (29-0), Title Reign: May 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: British

Saunders began his boxing career in 2009 and through these 11 years, has still yet to drop a match. A European, British, and Commonwealth middleweight champion, Saunders added the WBO super middleweight belt to his collection in May of last year with a win over Shefat Isufi.

Middleweight Champion: Demetrius Andrade (29-0), Title Reign: October 2018 – Present

Title Defenses: 3

Nationality: American

Andrade began his fighting career with four KOs. He’s had success, winning the WBO light middleweight championship in 2013. Andrade took home the middleweight belt after defeating Walter Kautondokwa in October of 2018.

Junior Middleweight Champion: Patrick Teixeira (31-1), Title Reign: December 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: Brazilian

Teixeira turned professional in 2009 and has been one of the best boxers in the middleweight and light middleweight classes. 22 of Teixeira’s 31 wins have come via knockout. The southpaw won the light/junior middleweight title Davi Eliasquevici in Brazil.

Welterweight Champion: Terence Crawford (36-0), Title Reign: June 2018 – Present

Title Defenses: 3

Nationality: American

From Omaha, Nebraska, the 32-year old Crawford was named Fighter of the Year in 2014. A southpaw, Crawford is just one of eight fighters to ever simultaneously hold the WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC belts. A perfect 36-0 in his career, there isn’t much that Crawford hasn’t accomplished in the sport.

Junior Welterweight Champion: José Ramírez (26-0), Title Reign: July 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: American

The Unified WBC and WBO light welterweight champ, Jose Ramirez has yet to lose a fight since he debuted in 2012. Ramirez has defended the title one time successfully, retaining the belt most recently last month in a win against Viktor Postol.

Lightweight Champion: Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1), Title Reign: December 2018 – Present

Title Defenses: 2

Nationality: Ukranian

There aren’t many professional boxers with Lomachenko’s track record. The 32-year old has two gold medals from the Olympics in 2008 and 2012. Lomachenko is set up for a huge match with Teófimo López where Lomachenko is putting up the WBA and WBO lightweight titles and vying for the IBF lightweight title.

Junior Lightweight Champion: Jamel Herring (22-2), Title Reign: May 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 2

Nationality: American

Though Herring just recently had a controversial title defense, he managed to hold on and keep his championship. Also known for his nickname “Semper Fi,” Herring has managed to successfully defend the junior lightweight championship on two occasions.

Featherweight Champion: Vacant


Title was dropped by Shakur Stevenson so he could pursue the junior lightweight belt.

Junior Featherweight Champion: Angelo Leo (20-0), Title Reign: August 2020 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: American


One of the more recent champions, the 26-year old Leo captured the junior featherweight title after defeating Tramaine Williams in a dominant performance last month. A member of The Money Team, Leo brought home a world title belt to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the first time in 18 years.

Bantamweight Champion: John Riel Casimero (29-4), Title Reign: November 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: Filipino

Casimero won the Bantamweight title last year after a win over Zolani Tete. A former IBF Flyweight champion, Casimero originally was also the interim bantamweight champion before his win last year.

Junior Bantamweight Champion: Kazuto Ioka (25-2), Title Reign: June 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: Japanese

One of the better fighters, Ioka has won titles in four different weight classes. At the age of 31, Ioka is a great defensive boxer who’s ready to pounce once the opportunity to strike becomes available. Ioka has 20 wins by KO in his career.

Flyweight Champion: Vacant


Champion Kosei Tanaka vacated the title in February of this year.

Junior Flyweight Champion: Elwin Soto (17-1), Title Reign: June 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: Mexican

At the age of 22, Soto first captured the junior flyweight title in June of 2019 and retained the belt four months later after defeating Edward Heno. Diminutive at just 5’3”, 12 of Soto’s 17 wins are via KO.

Mini Flyweight Champion: Wilfredo Méndez (16-1), Title Reign: August 2019 – Present

TItle Defenses: 2

Nationality: Puerto Rican

Méndez has lost just one match in his professional career, losing to Leyman Benavides for the vacant WBA Fedelatin mini flyweight title. At age 23, with the WBO mini flyweight belt and two successful defenses, Méndez has a bright future.

IBF Champions
Heavyweight Champion: Anthony Joshua (23-1), Title Reign: December 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: British

At 23-1 Joshua has been near perfect in his run as a professional boxer. He won the IBF title in the aforementioned win against Andy Ruiz Jr.

Cruiserweight Champion: Yuniel Dorticos (24-1), Title Reign: June 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: Cuban

A former WBA cruiserweight champion, Dorticos won his first 17 fights by knockout and he hasn’t looked back since. The 34-year old Dorticos won the IBF cruiserweight belt back in June of 2019.

Light Heavyweight Champion: Artur Beterbiev (15-0), Title Reign: November 2017 – Present

Title Defenses: 3

Nationality: Chechen

There aren’t many dominant fighters like Artur Beterbiev. Beterbiev has won all but one of his 15 matches by KO or TKO. The WBC and IBF light heavyweight champ, he is set to defend both titles in October against Adam Deines.

Super Middleweight Champion: Caleb Plant (20-0), Title Reign: January 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 2

Nationality: American

A boxing technician, Plant has been successful in the sport, going undefeated in 20 matches. Plant captured the middleweight belt in January of 2019 and has managed to defend the title successfully on two different occasions. This included a TKO of Vincent Feigenbutz in February of this year.

Middleweight Champion: Gennadiy Golovkin (40-1-1), Title Reign: October 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: Kazakhstani

A silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics, Triple G is one of the largest names in the boxing world literally and figuratively. Though he lost to Canelo Alavarez back in 2018, Golovkin rebounded in October of 2019 with a win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

Junior Middleweight Champion: Jeison Rosario (20-1-1), Title Reign: January 2020 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: Dominican

Rosario got off to a great start in 2020 when he defeated Julian Williams in January for the WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles. With just one loss in his pro career, Rosario is a tough competitor. In September, he will defend both the WBA and IBF titles against the WBC world champion Jermell Charlo in a unification match.

Welterweight Champion: Errol Spence Jr. (26-0), Title Reign: May 2017 – Present

Title Defenses: 4

Nationality: American

Spence has been a powerful force in the Welterweight class. He’s held the IBF welterweight belt for over three years and doesn’t look ready to give it up. A southpaw, he will be defending both his IBF and WBC titles later this year against Danny Garcia.

Junior Welterweight Champion: Josh Taylor (16-0), Title Reign: May 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: Scottish

Taylor won the junior welterweight championship back in May of 2019 when he defeated Ivan Baranchyk in his home country of Scotland. A perfect 16-0, Taylor has proven to be a tough matchup for opponents with knockout punches.

Lightweight Champion: Teófimo López (15-0), Title Reign: December 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: American


The Brooklyn-born López began his boxing career in 2016 and has compiled a list of knockout highlights. López is set for a big match in October to defend his lightweight belt against Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Junior Lightweight Champion: Joseph Diaz (31-1), Title Reign: January 2020 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: American

Diaz won the belt at the top of this year, after defeating Tevin Farmer. A California native, Diaz is known for his multi-colored hair look. With only one loss in his career, the quick striker is one of the more unique fighters in the sport.

Featherweight Champion: Josh Warrington (30-0), Title Reign: May 2018 – Present

Title Defenses: 3

Nationality: English

The IBF featherweight champion, Warrington has retained the belt three different times in the past two years. From Leeds in England, Warrington has also won the WBC International featherweight championship and the European featherweight title.

Junior Featherweight Champion: Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0), Title Reign: January 2020 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: Uzbek

A newcomer to the boxing world, Akhmadaliev has accomplished a lot in a small amount of time. Just this year, Akhmadaliev managed to win the IBF junior featherweight championship as well as the WBA Featherweight belt.

Bantamweight Champion: Naoya Inoue (19-0), Title Reign: May 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: Japanese

A former junior bantamweight champion, Inoue has yet to lose a match in eight years of pro boxing. Now the Bantamweight champ, the punch thrower has continued his triumph in the sport. Later this year, Inoue will defend the WBA and IBF bantamweight titles against Jason Moloney.

Junior Bantamweight Champion: Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2), Title Reign: September 2016 – Present

Title Defenses: 8

Nationality: Filipino

Ancajas has held the junior bantamweight title for four years. He’s been able to win or draw on every title defense that came his way. Only time will tell if Ancajas can keep up this memorable title reign.

Flyweight Champion: Moruti Mthalane (39-2), Title Reign: July 2018 – Present

Title Defenses: 3

Nationality: South African

Mthalane won the flyweight championship in July of 2018. He has been able to defend the title three times and retained the belt at every instance.

Junior Flyweight Champion: Felix Alvarado (35-2), Title Reign: October 2018 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: Nicaraguan

In October of 2018, Alvarado won the IBF junior flyweight title after defeating Randy Petalcorin. He’s only defended the belt once since then. At 5’4”, “El Gemelo” packs a punch at a small frame. He hasn’t lost a professional match since 2014.

Mini Flyweight Champion: Pedro Taduran (14-2), Title Reign: September 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: Filipino

A pro boxer since 2015, Pedro Taduran has been an aggressive and consistent puncher. The Phillipines-born Taduran has held onto the IBF Mini Flyweight belt for over a year. His lone title defense of the belt against Daniel Valladares in February of this year resulted in a draw, allowing Taduran to keep his title.

WBC Champions
Heavyweight Champion: Tyson Fury (30-0-1), Title Reign: February 2020 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: British

Arguably the most intriguing personality in the sport of boxing right now, Fury’s TKO win over Deontay Wilder this year is probably one of the biggest moments in sports this year. Now, the question is what’s next for Fury and who will be contending for his belt?

Cruiserweight Champion: Ilunga Makabu (27-2), Title Reign: January 2020 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: Congolese

Makabu lost his first pro match, but has only lost once in his next 28 fights. A supreme puncher, Makabu won the cruiserweight belt after defeating Michał Cieślak in January of 2020. A former Silver cruiserweight champ, 24 of Makabu’s 27 wins have been by TKO.

Light Heavyweight Champion: Artur Beterbiev (15-0), Title Reign: October 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: Chechen

Beterbiev has held the WBC light heavyweight belt for nearly a year after defeating Oleksandr Gvozdyk for the belt in October of 2019.

Super Middleweight Champion: Vacant


David Benavidez was stripped of the belt after failing to make weight for a match against Alexis Angulo.

Middleweight Champion: Jermall Charlo (30-0), Title Reign: June 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 2

Nationality: American

Undefeated in his pro boxing career, Charlo has had a good run in the middleweight division. He won the junior IBF middleweight title in 2015 and held it until the end of 2016. Nicknamed “the Hitman,” Charlo has 22 wins by knockout in his 12-year career.

Junior Middleweight Champion: Jermell Charlo (33-1), Title Reign: December 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Nationality: American

The twin brother of Jermall, Jermell is a two-time junior middleweight champion. After dropping the belt to Tony Harrison in December of 2018, he reclaimed his championship nearly one year later after defeating Harrison by TKO.

Welterweight Champion: Errol Spence Jr. (26-0), Title Reign: September 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 0

Spence won the WBC title in a unification match against Shawn Porter over a year ago. He will be defending the WBC belt along with the IBF welterweight title later this year.

Super Lightweight Champion: José Ramírez (26-0), Title Reign: March 2018 – Present

Title Defenses: 3

Nationality: American

Ramirez won the WBC lightweight championship in July 2019 and has held the title for over a year.

Lightweight Champion: Devin Haney  (24-0), Title Reign: October 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: American

At the age of 21, Devin Haney has already accomplished more than most boxers. The lightweight champion after a win in September of 2019, the San Francisco-born Haney is undefeated in his short professional career.

Super Featherweight Champion: Miguel Berchelt (37-1), Title Reign: January 2017 – Present

Title Defenses: 6

Nationality: Mexican


Berchelt has held the WBC super featherweight champion for more than three years. A fighting champion, Berchelt has defended the title seven different times. He won six of his title defenses, and the final one was a no contest.

Featherweight Champion: Gary Russell Jr. (31-1), Title Reign: March 2015 – Present

Title Defenses: 5

Nationality: American

Standing just 5’4”, Russell is small in size, but packs a powerful punch. The featherweight champion beginning in 2015, Russell has defended the championship once a year and has successfully defended it on five different occasions.

Super Bantamweight Champion: Rey Vargas (34-0), Title Reign: February 2017 – Present

Title Defenses: 5

Nationality: Mexican

In 10 years of professional matches, Vargas has yet to lose a fight. Vargas won the super bantamweight title over three years ago and he’s been able to defend the title and win five different times.

Bantamweight Champion: Nordine Oubaali (17-0), Title Reign: January 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 2

Nationality: French

Oubaali has yet to lose a match since making his pro debut in 2014. A southpaw, Oubaali will be defending his belt in December of this year against contender Nonito Donaire.

Super Flyweight Champion: Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3), Title Reign: April 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: Mexican

Just 18 years old when he began his pro boxing career in 2008, Estrada has been a tough competitor across three weight classes. The current WBC super flyweight champ, Estrada has defended the belt just once, and he won that match against Dewayne Beamon in August of 2019.

Flyweight Champion: Julio Cesar Martinez (16-1-1), Title Reign: December 2019 – Present

Title Defenses: 1

Nationality: Mexican

Martinez turned professional in 2015 and has won in all but two fights in five years. He won the WBC flyweight championship in December of 2019. After one successful title defense, Martinez is still at the top of the flyweight division in the WBC.

Light Flyweight Champion: Ken Shiro (17-0), Title Reign: May 2017 – Present

Title Defenses: 7

Nationality: Japanese

Standing just 5’5”, Ken Shiro packs a major punch. The son of former boxer and champion Hisashi Teraji, Shiro has followed in his father’s footsteps to build a solid pro career. Shiro has a 17-0 mark with 10 of his victories occurring via knockout.

Strawweight Champion: Wanheng Menayothin (54-0), Title Reign: November 2014 – Present

Title Defenses: 12

Nationality: Thai

Given the nickname “Five-Star Grilled Chicken,” Menayothin has been dominant in his weight class. The 5’2” boxer hasn’t lost a professional boxing match since his debut in 2007. He’s held the strawweight belt for nearly six years and looks like he won’t be dropping it any time soon.

WBA Champions
Heavyweight Champion: Anthony Joshua (Super Champion), Mahmoud Charr (World Champion), Trevor Bryan (Interim Champion), Robert Helenius (Gold Champion)

As previously mentioned, Joshua leads the pack in the boxing world with two Heavyweight titles as well as the WBA Super belt.

Cruiserweight Champion: Arsen Goulamirian (Super Champion), Beibut Shumenov (World Champion), Ryad Merhy (Interim Champion), Alexey Egorov (Gold Champion)

Already the WBA World cruiserweight champ, Goulamirian was promoted to Super champion in October of 2019. Goulamirian has been able to retain the championship two different times in November and December of 2019.

Light Heavyweight Champion: Dmitry Bivol (Super Champion), Jean Pascal (World Champion), Dominic Boesel (Interim Champion)

A former interim champ in this WBA light heavyweight class, Bivol has managed to advance to the World champion and finally Super champion title. Bivol has managed to retain the belt six times, once since he was named Super champ.

Super Middleweight Champion: Callum Smith (Super Champion) Saul Alvarez (World Champion), Fedor Chudinov (Gold Champion)

Callum Smith is the Super champ, and he’s been able to hold on to the belt for two years. The 30-year old Smith is British and holds a 27-0 record.

Middleweight Champion: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (Super Champion), Ryota Murata (World Champion), Chris Eubank Jr. (Interim Champion)

Recording a tidy 53-1-2 record throughout his career, Canelo Alvarez is one of the toughest boxers on the planet. With his only professional loss coming to Floyd Mayweather, it’s safe to say Alvarez has a near spotless record. Canelo has defended the WBA Super title once and won against Daniel Jacobs.

Super Welterweight champion: Jeison Rosario (Super Champion), Erislandy Lara (World Champion), Michel Soro (Gold Champion)

Rosario — who also has the IBF title in the same weight class — won the WBA SUper welterweight belt this year.

Welterweight Champion: Manny Pacquiao (Super Champion), Vergil Ortiz Jr (Gold Champion), Alexander Besputin

One of the greatest boxers of all-time, Pacquiao holds an all-time record of 62-7-2. He won the Super championship back in July of 2019. Pacquiao defeated Keith Thurman to win the title.

Super Lightweight Champion: Josh Taylor (Super Champion), Mario Barrios (World Champion), Alberto Puello (Interim Champion), Ismael Barroso (Gold Champion)

The Scottish Taylor won the WBA belt back in October of last year. With a perfect record, it might be a long time before he drops the title any time soon.

Lightweight Champion: Vasiliy Lomachenko (Super Champion), Gervonta Davis (World Champion), Yvan Mendy (Gold Champion)

A multi-time champion, Lomachenko is a tough champion with a track record of extreme success in the boxing world.

Super Featherweight Champion: Leo Santa Cruz (Super Champion), Rene Alvarado (World Champion), Chris Colbert (Interim Champion), Mark Urbanov (Gold Champion)

Leo Santa Cruz became Super champion after he beat Miguel Flores last year. From Mexico, Cruz has a 19-1-1 record.

Featherweight Champion: Leo Santa Cruz (Super Champion), Xu Can (World Champion)

Santa Cruz also is the Featherweight champ. He’s held this title for more than three years.

Super Bantamweight Champion: Murodjon Akhmadaliev (Super Champion), Brandon Figueroa (World Champion), Ronny Rios (Gold Champion)

Back in January of 2020, Akhmadaliev defeated Daniel Roman to earn the Super bantamweight championship.

Bantamweight Champion: Naoya Inoue (Super Champion), Guillermo Rigondeaux (World Champion)

The IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue holds the WBA Super belt while former WBA Super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux holds the World title.

Super Flyweight Champion: Román González (Super Champion), Joshua Franco (World Champion), Mikhail Avakian (Gold Champion)

From Nicaragua, Román González won the Super flyweight title earlier this year. Holding a 49-2 pro record, it will be interesting to see how long González can hold the belt.

Flyweight Champion: Artem Dalakian (World Champion), Luis Concepcion (Interim Champion)

In February of 2018, Artem Dalakian won the WBA flyweight championship and has held it ever since. He’s retained the championship four different times, most recently in February against Josber Perez.

Light Flyweight Champion: Hiroto Kyoguchi (Super Champion), Carlos Canizales (World Champion), Daniel Matellon (Interim Champion)

The Japan-based Hiroto Kyoguchi has held the WBA light flyweight title since December of 2018. Kyoguchi has retained the belt twice and will defend the WBA Super title against Thanongsak Simsri later this year.

Minimumweight Champion: Thammanoon Niyomtrong (Super Champion), Leyman Benavides (Gold Champion)

Niyomtrong has held the WBA Super championship for over four years. He recently retained the belt in March of this year against Norihito Tanaka.

Categories
Culture Music

Everything You Need To Know About TrOyMan

Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow was the first show of its kind; a musical competition made purely for Hip-Hop. Until then, rappers had appeared on other shows, but it never really felt genuine, despite how inherent competition is in the culture. Looking back, it was a no-brainer, and after the success of the first season, it’s no surprise that the show has been renewed for a second season. It seems to have been slightly delayed due to events beyond their control, but when it ends up coming out, it’ll be huge.

D Smoke was, of course, crowned the winner, and you can read more about him here. But part of the reason the show was so great was that fans were split on who they thought won individual rounds like the battles and the videos. One of the leading names that viewers adored was TrOyMan, who made it to the final four.

California to Atlanta
TrOyMan/Instagram

TrOyMan, whose real name is Troy Earvin Curry, was born in San Francisco, California, grew up in Oakland, and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with his mother when he was just thirteen-years-old. He describes the move as “a culture shift, but nothing too drastic.”

Despite the complicated upbringing, there’s no identity crisis there. TrOyMan cites West Coast legends like Dr. Dre and 2Pac as influences, even saying that he was “rapping a lot of 2Pac lyrics before I could even speak complete sentences”, but has no problem representing Atlanta. Of course, the judges for the show were Chance The Rapper, Cardi B, and T.I., the latter of which is one of the kings of the A. Knowing that that connection is there, you might think that Tip went easy on him, but that was not the case at all. There was some pressure on him to come correctly because of that.

Despite that, throughout the show, fans noticed that it wasn’t T.I. that gave him the hardest time on the panel, but Chicago’s Chance The Rapper instead. TrOyMan has even gone as far as to state that it was like Chance had it out for him specifically, though acknowledging that that wasn’t the case at all.

His personal life
TrOyMan/Instagram

One thing that fans watching the show noted was how infectious TrOyMan’s positive energy was, and he attributes it to his late mother. His mom passed away in April of 2016 after she suffered an overdose on crack cocaine, leaving her in a vegetable state. A few days before his twenty-fourth birthday, Troy made the difficult decision to take her off life support. He spent a week in a hospital room contemplating the decision and says that at the end of the week, a butterfly flapped its wings immediately in front of his face while he was standing on the porch. He felt overwhelming energy that he “sent chills throughout (my) entire body,” taking it to mean that she was the butterfly. He took it as a sign to let her go. On how she affected him, he says, “I’ve looked at how much she was a positive light in people’s lives, and when she passed, I was like ‘well I gotta kinda step into that.’” Ironically, TrOyMan says his kindness has helped him develop the grittiness you’ll so often hear in his music.

TrOyMan’s stepfather was also a rapper, and so he spent a lot of time in a studio around music from a young age, helping count artists in before punches. His stepfather was a rapper called P.O.U.N.D., who was part of a group called Street Thugz, who rolled with 2Pac back in the day. TrOyMan has also had a stepmother who he says he is very close with, along with some stepsiblings who he also maintains good relationships with.

Outside of music, TrOyman has done it all, working at Burger King, K.F.C., being a bartender, a server, and working wedding receptions, to name a few of those jobs. He worked for Adidas and made a song dedicated to them called ‘Miii A.D.I.D.A.S.,’ even managing to get Hip-Hop legend D.M.C. on the remix. He hoped it would get him a push through the company, but it didn’t.

A long journey in music
TrOyMan/Instagram

When Troy was sixteen-years-old, he made a song called ‘Anything,’ which ended up allowing him to do Wild Out Wednesdays at BET’s 106 & Park at a very young age. He took first place, making it one of the more notable things he’d done in his career from the jump. Not long after that, MTV named him Atlanta’s best independent artist. For many, these experiences could lead to complacency, but TrOyMan knew it was just the beginning of a challenging, uphill journey. He also says that the experience at BET helped him later on with Rhythm + Flow, in terms of being around cameras.

One of the standout moments from TrOyMan on Rhythm + Flow and arguably on the show, in general, is his performance of ‘Streetlight’. It was one of his songs that ended up on the show’s soundtrack and is a fan favorite amongst his discography.

A lot of music he released before this new streaming era doesn’t appear on digital streaming platforms. In 2017 after the passing of his mother, he put out a project called APRIL (which stands for A Period Realising Infinite Life). It consists of fourteen tracks, and there are no other artists who make guest appearances on it. Troy says the LP is him “climbing out of depression” that followed his mother’s death, which led to suicide attempts. The follow-up to that is his EP Insomniac, which dropped earlier this year. This one does boast features. Fellow Rhythm + Flow contestant Londyyn B appears on ‘Blessings’, which Troy admits his manager from Miami told him to make so she could “shake her ass” to it. His manager also suggested that Londynn appears on the song. He credits the music to the notion that everything you make doesn’t have to be lyrical, an essential piece of information that some don’t acknowledge their entire career. The winner of the show D Smoke and judge T.I. also appear on the next track, ‘Rapido’. After the show, TrOyMan has kept in touch with the King of the South and considers him somewhat of a mentor.

The future

With his career only surging, TrOyMan says that he would love to work with J.I.D., J. Cole, Jon Bellion, Big K.R.I.T., Kendrick Lamar, and Beyoncé in the future. He’s also supposedly working on a full-length project with Tay Keith, who produced ‘Streetlight’ amongst other things for him.

TrOyMan’s time in the show showed that he had the ability to grow steadily, which was even acknowledged by the judges. Many viewers note that they didn’t start taking notice of the rapper until he did the music video for ‘Again’ and until he performed ‘Streetlight,’ proving his ability to be a dark horse and capture the imagination of the people at a moment’s notice. If the weeks that he was on the show are any indicator, then the next few years of TrOyMan’s career will see him gain fans at a steady rate, and the future is very bright for him.