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February 12, 2016

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PAGE 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETI'E, FEBRUARY 12, 2016 ..~J::Z HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss In 1897 Ruby Robert Taught Gentleman Jim About Solar Power Corbett Down from the Solar Plexus Punch. dames J. Corbett, also known as Gentleman Jim, won the Heavyweight Championship of the World from John L. Sullivan in 1892. It was only Corbett's thirteenth professional fight, and in it he not only overcame the odds in defeating the great John L., he also ushered in the era of modern boxing. The Corbett/Sullivan bout was the first title fight held under the Marquis of Queensbury rules. It was very similar to the rules we have today, requiring rounds be of three-minute duration and with each participant wearing padded gloves. It was an effort to add a layer of sophistication to a sport that was considered by many at the time to be bar- baric. The fight was held at the prestigious Olympic Club in San Francisco. After winning the title, Corbett was not an active champion. He waited a year and a half be- fore having his first defense, a third-round stoppage of Charlie Mitchell. After that, another two and a half years elapsed before he fought Tom Sharkey to a four-round draw. Corbett found he could make more money cashing in on his fame as champion by taking to the theatrical stage, his first love. He also participated in exhibition matches. Meanwhile, Bob Fitzsimmons, the former World Middleweight Champion now campaigning as a heavyweight, was compil- ing an impressive record while fighting on an almost weekly basis. From 1892 through 1896, "Ruby Robert" had 36 fights, winning 34 with one draw with his only loss being by disqualifi- cation to Tom Sharkey. Twenty- nine of those victories were by knock out, with twenty-eight occurring before the end of the 5th round. The lanky Fitzsim- mons, a former blacksmith, was certainly among the hardest hit- ting fighters of all time. By this time, Bob Fitzsim- mons was eager for a shot at the champion. Corbett was enjoying the life of a thespian and his life was more that of a former title- holder. After much negotiating, Gentleman Jim agreed to defend his title against Bob in a fight scheduled for St. Patrick's Day 1897. The match was to take place outdoors in Carson City, NV. The state of Nevada had passed a special law allowing for the fight to take place, as boxing was illegal in the state at that time. I have not been able to find out how many rounds the fight was scheduled for. I think it may be a safe assumption that it was going to be a battle to the finish. Corbett, despite his inactivity, came into the ring looking fit at 184 pounds. Fitzsimmons was wiry at 167 pounds. Jim certain- ly looked bigger and stronger. In the early rounds, the cham- pion showed the fleetness of foot he was famous for. He was very effective with the left jab and straight right hands as he busted up the face of the challenger. In the sixth round, Fitzsimmons was dropped for a nine count. There has been some controversy over this as Fitzsimmons went down to a knee and held onto Corbett's leg. While Corbett was trying to labeled the Solar Plexus Punch. It was said that Fitzsimmons had studied anatomy and knew the area near the pit of the stomach contained a complex system of nerves. Supposedly, Fitzsimmons planned on strik- ing Corbett there, thus causing him to lose the ability to control his body. While I do not believe this was just a lucky shot, the term Solar Plexus Punch took on mythic proportions as the sportswrit- ers of the day touted it as Bob's secret weapon. The part about the solar plexus, also known as the celiac plexus, being a nerve center is true and a well-placed punch there can cause the symptoms Corbett experienced that afternoon. It is more com- monly referred to as having the wind knocked out of you. But did Bob Fitzsimmons know the science behind the punch or did he simply know from experience that a shot to that area delivered to a tiring opponent would cause such damage? I think a bit of both is true. Fitzsimmons was a very experienced fighter, well- schooled in the art of the knock- out. He had fought hundreds of rounds and spent many days in Fitzsimmons and Corbett. step back and free himself from Fitzsimmons' grip, the referee did not begin the count. Bob, cut and looking like a beaten man, survived the round. As the fight moved on, Cor- bett began to slow down. The years of inactivity, combined with Ruby Robert's relentless pressure, were now taking their toll. The champion continued using his superb boxing skills, but Fitzsimmons was s~g to get closer and was effective with body punches. In the thirteenth round, Cor- bett was continuing to jab. Fitzsimmons, now bleeding quite profusely, was timing Corbett's jab, which had slowed down just enough for Fitzsim- mons to become more effec- tive in countering it. Midway through the round, the chal- lenger slipped inside the cham- pion's left and landed a solid left to the midsection. Corbett went down as if he had been stabbed. His body appeared paralyzed while his head seemed clear. He struggled to regain his feet, attempting to crawl near the ropes in order to pull himself up. His efforts were in vain, as he was counted out and Bob Fitzsimmons was declared the new champion. In the days that followed, the punch that ended the fight was / training camp where he would not only practice his art in the ring, but also discuss it with his trainers and sparring partners. Old school boxers became well versed in anatomy, and it is pos- sible that he knew the term solar plexus before the bout. I believe this was the only time in heavyweight champion- ship history that the title has changed hands as the result of a single blow to the body. Body punches have played a major role in the defeat of champions, but I cannot recall another time when one punch to the stomach put a champion down for the full count. History was made that spring day in Carson City, NV. Bob Fitzsimmons would eventually lose the title to James J. Jeffries, but then go on to win the light heavyweight championship. His career record would stand at an amazing 63 wins against just 8 losses and 4 draws. An astound- ing 59 of his 63 wins came via knockout. Ruby Robert's name rarely comes up today in dis- cussions about great fighters of the past, but he certainly deserves recognition as one of the greats. He certainly ranks near the top in punching power, and his photo should be next to the term solar plexus in the anatomy books. It was great. It was memo- Eagles have now won six of the rable. It was fantastic. And yes, last seven Beanpot crowns. probably most especially, in It was the ninth Beanpot one of America's most historic crown for veteran BC coach Jer- cities, there it was before your ry York, who has now eclipsed eyes -- the making of history the eight amassed by legend- in the Hub. ary BC mentor John *Snooks" We refer, of course, to the Kelley. extraordinary game played The victory enabled BC to between Boston University and extend its unbeaten streak to Boston College for the 2016 7-0-3. The Eagles entered the Beanp0t Championship at the contest tied with St. Cloud State Garden. It was so good you for the longest active unbeaten wanted more -- and they gave streak in the country. you more. Yes, it took overtime The game was a matchup of to decide the title as BC won top 10 teams. BC was ranked the championship 1-0 with just third in America while BUwas under two minutes having been seventh. played in overtime. It was the second time in And when it was over, all over, five years that BC beat BU in BU goaltender Sean Maguire overtime to win the tire. Back lay on the ice in defeat while in 2012, the last time the two BC sophomore forward Alex teams met in the Beanpot Tuch experienced a moment of Championship game, BC pre- athletic glory by having scored vailed 4-3 in the extra session. the game-winning tally and While BC outshot BU 23-12 then embracing his teammates in the first period -- a session in joy. At that moment, one felt interrupted by a 29-minute both happiness and sadness, power outage, both teams were Happiness because there was held to single digits in shots in a victor, sadness because that both the second and third pe- joy could not be shared. There riods. BU was held to a single could only be one winner but shot on net in the abbreviated you knew there shouldn't be a overtime. loser. It was that grand a game. Alex Tuch, who scored the For those who feel that the game-winning goal for Boston Beanpot has dropped a bit in College, actually grew up in an prestige and popularity, this area dominated by basketball. was a major indicator that He'sfrom BaldwinsviUe, N.Y., a nothing could be further from community about 15 miles from the truth. The skill, spirit and Syracuse, a city well known emotions displayed in the con- for coverage of the Syracuse test were worthy of a national University basketball program. championship game. The game may not have been In fact, given that BU played the last meeting of the two Providence College in the Na- teams this season. They could tional Championship game at meet in the Hockey East Tour- the Garden back in April, we'd nament while other possibilities say that the Beanpot contest include the NCAA regionals or was the better one by far, even the Frozen Four itself. for BU which lost both games. BU goalie Sean Maguire made It was probably the best col- 41 saves in the championship lege hockey game at the Garden game and was presented with since Maine beat UMass-Am- the Eberly Award for having herst in the 2004 Hockey East the best sav~es percentage {.970) Championship game in triple over the of the event~ overtime. He was also named the tourna- In the 256th game in Beanpot ment's Most Valuable Player. history and the 64th year of the His counterpart, Thatcher storied tournament, it was the Demko of Boston College, made first time that a game had ended 30 saves to record his ninth with a 1-0 score. In addition, it shutout of the season, a school was the first time in Beanpot record at The Heights. history that a game was score- Given the fact that the Bruins less at the end of regulation. It were whacked by the Los Ange- was the 20th shutout all-time les Kings by a 9-2 count at the in Beanpot history. Garden on the very next night, It was also the 22nd time one just might be able to make that the two archrivals faced the case that the best two Bos- each other in the championship ton-based goalies on the singu- game. If you can't remember the lar evening of Tuesday, Febru- other 21, that's OK. The one ary 9th were not employed by that was played on February the Boston Bruins but instead 8th will go done in history as the were still performing for their most memorable of all of them. respective colleges--Thatcher The one-goal margin of victory Demko for Boston College and also was the latest chapter in an Sean Maguire for BC. Maguire interesting facet of Beanpot his- was drafted by Pittsburgh in tory. Ten of the last 11 Beanpot 2012 while Demko was drafted games between BU and BC have by Vancouver in 2014. been decided by a single goal. Finally, remembering veteran SIX of those contests went into Boston College sports infor- overtime, marion staffer Dick Kelley on It was the 20th time that the second anniversary of his Boston College has won the passing (February 13, 2014) tournament and its 55th time from complications of ALS. As in the championship game. The always, he was there in spirit. The Post-Gazette is now on the Web! Check us out at You'll find the history of the Post-Gazette, information about our columnists, as well as advertising, submission and subscription information. BostonPostC