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January 29, 2016

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PAGE 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 29, 2016 HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss Dempsey reaches WiUard with a right. It is a chorus heard over and over again, "Sure, guys like Dempsey and Louis were good in their day, but today's giant heavyweights would just be too big and strong for them. The old-timers would wilt under the power they would be facing." I guess before the 21st century, we were living in a world of small people. Those who believe the Klitschkos and Furys of today would beat the greats of the past because they are so big just can't be convinced differently. They think bigger is better and refuse to take into account boxing skill, something that is sorely missing in today's game. I am including some photos with this article along with details that show very big heavyweights have always been around, and there have been plenty of giant killers to accommodate them. Jack Dempsey is always the first to come to mind with his brutal destruction of the 6'-61A", 245-pound Jess Willard. Take a look at the photo of this bout I have included and tell me Dempsey would not have been able to reach the jaws of today's slow moving behemoths. Dempsey, at 187 pounds and standing 6'1", used his speed and power to make Willard's size a liability for the Pottawatomie Giant. Not only did Dempsey defeat Willard, but it was one of the most brutal beatings ever handed out in a championship boxing match. And don't tell me Willard was a bum. A few years before, he had defeated the great Jack Johnson while going 45 rounds in the blazing Havana sun. Sure, Johnson was not in his prime, but he was still a great fighter. Plus, battling in temperatures that reached over 100 degrees is something not many today would be able to do, especially for over two hours. Dempsey beat two other fighters who were much bigger than he was. The 6'4" Carl Morris, who weighed 226 pounds to Dempsey's 187, lost three times to Dempsey. Once by decision, once by DQ, and once by first round knockout. In 1923, Dempsey defended his title against South American champion Luis Firpo in a bout that will be remembered for Dempsey being knocked out of the ring. Firpo outweighed Jack by 24 pounds and was as strong as they come. While Dempsey's rather awkward exit from the ring makes this sound like it may have been a close fight, the real.i.'ty is Dempsey administered almost as savage a beating to Firpo as he did to Does Size Matter? Super Size Heavyweights are Nothing New Willard. Firpo was down seven times in the first round and twice in the second on the way to being knocked out. Dempsey hit the canvas one time on top of the trip outside of the ring, but those knockdowns were caused more by the rushes from the Wild Bull of the Pampas. Oddly enough, while Dempsey was truly a giant- killer, he did have some trouble with a fighter smaller than he was. When Dempsey defended the title against Tom Gibbons in 1923, he had a 12 pound weight advantage. The survival-minded Gibbons, a very smart boxer, moved deftly and tied up Dempsey for the 15 rounds while losing a unanimous decision. This is one of Dempsey's most interesting fights to watch in that you see what great boxing moves the Manassas Mauler possessed. He was well taught by the great trainer Jimmy DeForest. I will briefly mention a few others. Joe Louis was no stranger to fighting opponents who were much bigger than he was. He fought and beat Primo Camera at 260 pounds to Louis's 196, Buddy Baer who came in at 250 to Joe's 206, and Abe Si- mon with Louis at 202 to Simon's 254. The Brown Bomber had no problem reaching the jaws of any Dempsey sparring with Big Bill Tate. of these giants. Again, Joe had more difficulty with the lighter guys. Billy Corm, Max Schmeling, and Joe Walcott were all smaller than Joe. Boston's Jack Sharkey didn't believe size mat- tered either. Jack, at 187 pounds, took on and beat the 6'3", 220-pounds George Godfrey. At 188 he beat Harry Wills who weighed 214. Andnd in his first fight with Primo Camera, he easily beat the 260-pound strong man though only weighing 201 himself. Again, it was the smaller guys who gave Sharkey more trouble. He lost to Tommy Loughran and Tony Shucco, both of whom he outweighed by a considerable margin. I would like to conclude this piece by includ- ing another very great fighter of the past whom Carnera vs. Louis. Louis attacks Buddy Baer. many of you may not have heard of. Kid Norfolk was a middleweight and light heavyweight who fought all comers, including Harry Greb. At 5'8" and weighing 182 pounds, he took on the 6'6" 235-pound Big Bill Tate and beat him soundly over ten rounds. Tate was a sparring partner for Jack Dempsey and looked formidable against Norfolk. The Kid used his speed and great box- ing ability to run rings around Tate. This fight is available on YouTube, and I strongly urge you to view it. Norfolk vs. Klitschko or Fury? My money is on Norfolk any day of the week. Does size matter? I guess you good say it does, but often to the benefit of the smaller man. IT WAS ONE GAME, NOT Griffin wants to win the NBA A SEASON -- Yes, it was Championship -- as do all the embarrassing, but it was just other 29 teams in the league, one game in the midst of an by the way. His team certainly 82-game regular season. That's has a good chance again this why we feel sorry for Boston- year, although Toronto may give area native Dave Blatt, who was the Cavs a run in the Eastern fired as the head coach of the Conference playoffs. Cleveland Cavaliers recently -- It's still pure speculation that his departure coming just four the Cavs will make the finals, days after a one-sided 132-98 let alone face the Warriors. loss to the powerful Golden Golden State must still win the State Warriors. Western Conference playoffs, Blatt, who grew up in not exactly a guarantee with a Framingham and played his possible matchup against the college ball at Framingham San Antonio Spurs looming State, had guided the Cavaliers ahead. And we say that knowing all the way to the 2015 NBA that the Spurs put on their own Finals last June, before bowing version of a Cleveland cold night to the Warriors in the best-of- recently against the Warriors, seven championship series, losing to Golden State 120-90 Even after this most recent as Spurs star Tim Duncan sat regular season defeat to Golden out the proceedings with a sore State, the Cavs still boasted right knee. the best record in the Eastern Interestingly, Spurs coach Conference at 28-11 (. 718). And Gregg Popovich is still in charge the Cavs actually picked up a with the powers in San Antonio. couple of more wins after the They seem to be taking a longer setback, owning an impressive view rather than a short-sighted 30-11 mark on the day Blatt one as provided through the was shown the door. narrow focus of one game. Call it what you want, but in But that's not so in Cleveland, the long-haul seasons that are however, where a different set the trademarks today of Major of standards appear to be in League Baseball, the NBA and operation. There, Dave Blatt the NHL, there are just some sits on the sidelines, a %ictim" nights where things aren't going of leading his team to the 2015 to go your way. NBA finals, of owning the best That may well have been regular season record in the what happened to the Cavs. Eastern Conference this year, On a team that boasts its own and of having his team play at Big Three, all of them had a a better than .700 pace. What cold night on the court in this a world[ rematch of last spring's NBA TUUKKA RASK ON THE NHL finalists. ALL-STAR BREAK -- ~I think it Superstar LeBron James, for will help the team by enabling example, who averages over 25 us to charge our batteries. It's points a game, wound up with always a tough schedule no only 16. Kyrie Irving managed matter what, so it's good to get only eight points on 3-for- 11 a break for a few days, get your shooting, while Kevin Love had mind off things and then get a measly three points while back and get ready to do battle seeing 21 minutes of action, again." It was the perfect storm of an "I think there is still a lot off night for the Cavs -- and it of improvement for us. We've happened at a home game in played some good hockey, Cleveland, no less. we've gotten some good wins Still, as bad as it was, it was but we've also been on a roller only one game. The Cavs showed coaster ride at times. I think they were pros. They didn't we want to find a consistency. sit around and mope. They We want to bring that level up went out and won a couple of as a whole group. It'ssomething more games- including a win to work on. We'll try to cut over the Doc Rivers-coached down on some of the mistakes. LOs Angeles Clippers, who are We're in a good division-type currently playing at an over conference: Anything can .600 pace and trailing only the happen. It's good training for Warriors in the Pacific Division. the playoffs because there are The doors in the pros revolve no easy games." and, as Blatt was leaving, SUMMER PREVIEW--When another mentor with a Boston we were crossing the street connection was getting his near the TD Garden a few own big chance. That would be hours before our most recent Tyrone Lue, the top assistant snowstorm last Saturday, with the Cavs under Blatt and we beheld a most interesting a former assistant with the sight. Coming up to the Celtics during the Paul Pierce- stoplight was a young couple Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen era. in a BMW convertible with The seat he's taking must the top down -- even though be hotter than a blast furnace, it couldn't have been much We mean, what can one do more than 20 degrees at the to improve upon a team that time. They were all smiles and already is p!aying over .700 ball seemed to be enjoying this and went to the NBA Finals last unusual experience. Then the spring? light changed and they sped It's obvious that Cleveland off, a fleeting preview of summer general manager David disappearing in the distance. The Post-Gazette is now on the Web ! Check us out at www. You'll find the history of the Post-Gazette, information about our columnists, as well as advertising, submission and subscription information.