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January 17, 2014     Post-Gazette
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Page 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 17, 2014 .w = z :: ,: , ., , ,: ii!ii!i!iii!iiii!iiii!,,  iii!i!iiiiiiiii. 'i:iiiiiiiiiz ....... : .......... ,iiiiiiiii:ii:!ii!i ......... The Old New Garden Gym PART 2 FACES From left to right: Johnny Dunn, Joe DeNucci, unidentified, Tom McNeeley, unidentified, Sammy Fuller. Jack O'Halloran. Vinny Curto. The New Garden Gym had three different locations over the years from the 1950s to the 1980s. The first two were on Friend Street, and the third was on Cause- way Street at the corner of Friend. Today, you can stand in the middle of Friend Street and see all three lo- cations from one spot. The first one is now a parking lot, the second has been turned into condos and the third is a modern workout club. The street really hasn't changed much over the years. I was never fortunate enough to have visited the first New Garden, but I have been told it was much big- ger than the second one. When the move was made across the street in the late sixties, the ring was too big to set up in its entirety, so it was put together at about half size. That made for some close quarter sparring ses- sions. I'll never forget the day I was in the gym and middle- weight Vinnie Curto, at 5'7", was sparring with heavy- weight Jack the "Giant" O'Halloran, who stood 6'6" and weighed about I00 pounds more than Vinnie. It was amazing to see these two going at it in that tiny ring. Both Jack and Vinnie would go on to have success- ful careers in Hollywood. Jack is best known for his role as Non in the Superman movies. Ray Robinson, Kid Gavilan, Joe DeNucci, Paul Pender, Tony DeMarco and many other greats trained at the New Garden 1. Muhammad Ali once worked out at the second New Garden. But Jt is the lesser known faces that I will always remember, such as the trainers who would be chewing on cigars while working with their fighters, the shady charac- ters who would be taking turns on the payphone in between whispering to each other and the fellow with the coke bottle glasses who would offer to give massages along with other not so appropriate services to the young boxers. They were all characters from central casting. I often wondered if any of them had homes as they were always there. Former great light heavy- weight contender Tony Shucco would walk over from his room on Beacon Hill most days and spend time watching all of us sparring. He would love to give point- ers when asked. He used to tell me "Keep hitting them with the left. They love get- ting hit with the left. Then, just so they don't get bored, toss in a right." I hung on his every word. Tony had beaten five world champions over the course of his career including Heavyweight Champs Jack Sharkey and Jimmy Braddock. That was pretty tough competition. Tony also was one of the nic- est guys you'd ever meet. Ron Stander came to the New Garden to prepare for his 1972 title shot against Joe Frazier. His backers sent him to Boston so Johnny Dunn could prep him for the fight. Stander was tough as they come and after working out each day he would head downstairs to the Ninety- Nine Club for a pitcher or two of beer. I guess he thought the 16-ounce curls would help build his strength. He was a modern day Tony Galento. Across the street from the original New Garden was a bar called The Bat Cave. Heavyweight fighter Johnny Pretzie would work the door there dressed up like Bat- man. Johnny had fought some of the greats including Rocky Marciano and Jake LaMotta. He was also famous for portraying the Shamut Bank Indian. Pretzie met a violent end outside of a South Boston bar in 1969. For every shady character such as Pretzie there were also the really decent types like Tony Shucco. One that left a lasting impression on many of the young boxers was Blair Richardson. Blair was a top middleweight con- tender who always took time out to give encouragement to the young prospects that were training at the gym. Blair was a deeply religious man who was a tremendous role model and an example of the best in the sport. In 1967 while at the top of his game he suddenly retired citing that he had lost his viciousness. He went on to join the faculty at Emerson College where he continued to be a positive influence on young people. Unfortunately, he was taken from us at an early age, the victim of a brain tumor. Some of the great trainers who spent time at the differ- ent New Gardens were the locals such as Sammy Fuller, Al Clemente, Johnny Dunn, (Continued on Page 14) FIRST -- AND GOLD TO GO She is Gracie Gold and if ever a competitor had a style, a dream, a goal and perhaps a destiny all wrapped up in the name she carries through life, then this 18- year-old figure skater origi- nally from Massachusetts certainly fits the bill. Her talent has taken her on a lengthy journey -- from winning the long pro- gram portion at last year's nationals (that saw her fin- ish second overall) to a wire- to-wire win on the ice at the Garden last week. The convincing victory means that not only will the Newton native forever be included when the conversa- tion turns to some of the best skaters of all time. It also enabled her to punch a first class ticket to next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia where she will con- tinue her quest for the high- est honor -- an Olympic gold medal. Coming on a Saturday night when many sports fans were fixated on the Patriots' performance at Gillette Sta- dium, real excitement was also building on Causeway Street as the premier event of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships -- the Championship Ladies Free Skate -- reached its climactic moment. For some three hours skaters had been perform- ing in the long program por- tion before Gold took to the ice as the evening's final competitor. And no, it wasn't set up that way. It came by way of the draw. Following the short pro- gram on Thursday, the top six finishers drew out of a hat and Gold came away with the final slot. It meant all the pressure would be on her since the long program scores for the other five would already be calculated. She came onto the ice as the 19  and final competitor in the night's ordained order but left as the first and fore- most female skater in Amer- ica thanks to a near flawless performance. It was her culminating achievement in a weekend that featured elegance, ex- citement, energy and yes, grace. It was also her second record setting effort in 48 hours. On Thursday, she had vaulted into first place with a record setting total of 72.13 points in the short program and then smoked the field with another record setting score of 139.57 in the LP. Her only slight miscue in the finale was a brief touchdown (placing one's hand on the ice for balance purposes) immediately following the completion of a triple jump. But just as Rome wasn't built in a day neither was the athletic road that brought Gracie Gold to the most memorable moment in her life just a few miles from her hometown. It was the culmination of an 11-year journey: born in 1995, she began skating in 2003. She would move to the Midwest with her family early in life, growing up in Missouri and Illinois. She came onto the skat- ing scene with a fourth place finish in the 2010 U.S. Novice Championships. The next season brought only a sixth place finish in the Midwest sectionals. It was a pivotal moment in her young career, a go on or go home moment. She chose to stay and work on her technical content. Her hard work paid off. She won the first event she entered in the 2011-2012 season- the Junior Grand Prix in Estonia. She went on to win both the short and long programs and capture the junior title at the U.S. Nationals. Last year she moved into the top level -- the Champi- onship Ladies division. After a seventh place finish at Skate Canada, she worked with a sports psychologist to improve her focus. The result was a pair of second place finishes -- including the one at the 2013 U.S. Nationals. In addition, her sixth place finish at the 2013 World Championships helped the U.S. to secure three spots for the U.S. women at the Sochi Olym- pics (the U.S. men only have two). Perhaps the most impor- tant move Gold made last fall to get ready for this Olympic season was one she made off the ice. She decided to work with legendary coach Frank Carroll. A native of Worcester and a 1960 graduate of Holy Cross, Carroll was a competitive skater in his younger days. (Continued on Page 6) Family Serving Your Family With Pro0000ssi'ona Di00gn & Rds;pect" Complete Funerals Starting at $3900. (prOs does i,c00ude cash adwnce,) Off Street Parking Complimen Valet Parking Nonsectarian For Family & Guests for Visiting Hours Si Italiano Please call 61 7-569-OO alIy questions Visit us at our website: