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February 24, 2017     Post-Gazette
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February 24, 2017

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PAGE 12 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 24, 2017 HOOPS and HOCKEY in by Richard Preiss the HUB FRAZIER vs. ELLIS Jimmy Showed Incrediable Courage Frazier lands hook on Ellis. It was 1970, and Muhammad Ali was still in boxing exile. Ali had been deprived of a license to box by the Commissions in all-50 states. The Ring Magazine continued to recognize Ali as the champion, arguing a rifle can only change hands in the ring. Meanwhile, two other fighters laid claim to a portion of the title. The argument being since Ali could not fight, they were deprived of a shot at the championship. In 1967, the WBA sponsored a tournament to find a successor to A1i. Joe Frazier was invited to participate, but declined. Jimmy Ellis did take part, though he was considered a longshot at winning. He proved the pundits wrong, when he went on to win the tournament by defeating Leotis Martin, Oscar Bonavena, and Jerry Quarry. If memory serves me right, Jimmy was the underdog in all three fights. Frazier went on to win his share of the title with a knock out win over Buster Mathis. Joe's portion of the crown was sanctioned by the New York State Athletic Commission, and a few other governing bodies. Five months after winning the WBA title, Jimmy Ellis traveled to Sweden to defend it against Floyd Patterson. Patterson had taken part in the origi- nal tournament, but lost a close decision to Jerry Quarry in a semi-final match. Ellis, fighting with a broken nose sustained in the first round, won a hard fought 15-round decision over the former two-time champion. Because of the damage to his nose, Ellis had to take some time off. When he was better, there were proposed bouts against Henry Cooper and Gregorio Peralta, but neither materialized. During the same period Frazier defended his portion of the title four times defeating Manuel Ramosi Oscar Bonavena, Dave Zyglewicz, and Jerry Quarry. Frazier was staying active and sharp. The public, now not sure, if Ali would ever return to the ring, began to clamor for a unification bout between Frazier and Ellis. You see, back then, people were used to there be- ing only one heavyweight champion at a time, and having the title divided up just didn't seem right. At some point in late 1969, All had made a statement that he would never fight again. It was at this point The Ring Magaz/ne announced they would recognize the winner of an Ellis-Frazier fight the undisputed champion. Back then, Nat Fleischer, editor of The Ring, was the most re- spected voice in boxing and what he said carded a lot of meaning. The bout was set for February 16, 1970, to take place at Madison Square Garden. As was the norm at the time, it was to be a 15-round affair, 15-rounds or less. Ellis entered the ring weighing 201 pounds to Frazer's 206 pounds. This was the heaviest weight Ellis had ever fought at. Frazier was a 6-to-1 favorite, though many in the press gave Ellis a very good chance at winning; after all, he had overcome the odds time and again. He also had something else going for him. Ellis had tremendous power and speed in his right hand. He had dropped the iron jawed Bonavena twice . with that punch. In two fights against Frazier, lasting a total of 25-rounds Bonavena was never even staggered. Both contestants entered the ring looking confident and fit. Ellis did look bigger than in previous encounters, but he also looked strong. Frazier was lean and energized. When the bell rang for the first round, it was apparent what Ellis' strategy was and why he came in at the heavier weight. He came out with a puncher's stance. His feet were wider apart than usual, and even though he was moving, he was more setting himself up to be able to throw power shots as Frazier came at him. During that first round, Ellis threw dynamite at the bobbing and weaving Frazier. Frazier was hit on a number of occasions by the one/two combos Ellis threw, but none of the shots caught him squarely on the chin. While Ellis won the opening stanza, Frazier had landed some telling left hooks to the body. Yank Durham, Frazier's trainer, had taught his pupil years earlier the old boxing adage, "If you kill the body the head will die" and Frazier learned the lesson well. In the second round, Frazier came out on fire. He was extremely aggressive and started crowd- ing Ellis. Ellis was able to tie him up, but it took a lot of strength to do so. He was also taking more hooks to the body from Frazier. It was also interesting to see Frazier throwing and landing the occasional left jab. Ellis and Frazier. By round three, Frazier was running on all cylinders. While Ellis was still trying to land the one/two combos, he was being kept busy just fending off Frazier's murderous assault. Frazier was firing off brutal combinations to the head and body. His attack was furious, and by the end of the round, Ellis had been staggered, and his legs were very heavy. Between rounds, Ellis was taking deep breaths while Frazier looked like he had hardly broken a sweat. The fourth round saw Frazier at his murderous best. Ellis came out and immediately threw two right leads in a desperate attempt to turn the tide of battle. Frazier rolled under both of them, and then went to work. He started with a vicious body attack and then moved to the head. At this point Ellis had lost the ability to move much on his legs. With about a minute left in the round Frazier backed Ellis up against the ropes, and dropped him with a left hook. Ellis was up at nine, and was now fighting on shear courage. Ellis was trying hard to land that one good punch, but he had nothing left. As the fighters moved to mid-ring, Frazier stepped to his right and unleashed a brutal left hook to Ellis' chin. Ellis went down fiat on his back. As the referee, Tony Perez, counted over him, the bell rang. By some miracle, Ellis staggered to his feet and walked to his corner. It was at this point, against protests from Ellis that Angelo Dundee called the fight off. It was the right and decent thing to do. Ellis' courage could have gotten him killed. Frazier would go on to defend his title against Bob Foster and then Muhammad Ali. Jimmy Ellis would continue fighting taking on Ali, and much later have a rematch with Frazier. He would never again fight for the title ...... ANOTHER ON THE MOVE-- A couple of weeks ago, it was Bruins Coach Claude Julien, who was forced to leave the Hub, bound for an extended vacation until the Montreal job was opened for him. Now comes word that the next sports person of note to be leaving the Hub will be Boston College Athletic Director Brad Bates. He~ head away from The Heights this spring for a posi- tion with a sports consultancy firm down south. He leaves a program where the highest profile sports (in terms of national TV coverage) are experiencing far from suc- cessful seasons. The problem for the Eagles is that they are in one tough league -- the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 2015, the football team finished at 3-9 (overall), while the basketball team was 0-18 in the ACC portion of its 2015- 2016 schedule. The 2016 grid edition did improve to 7-6 on the year, including a post- season victory over Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl. However, that middle of the pack finish in the land of 40-plus bowl games doesn't bring much recognition or many dollars. The current edition of the men's basketball team was 2-13 in the ACC, and 9-19 overall in games played through February 20th. The women's squad is about the same: 2-12 in the conference, and 9-18 overall. Part of the problem is facili- ties. If you were a really good football player -- one that had attracted national attention from scouts while in high school -- would you really want to play in Alumni Stadium, an older facility with a seating capacity of just over 44,000? You'd prob- ably opt for an ACC school down south, or an SEC team, or a Big 10 institution -- in areas where college football is king. The same goes for basketball. If you were a top recruit, would you really want to play in Conte Forum with its super small ca- pacity of 7,884? You most likely would opt to play at a school that had a facility that sat 15,000-20,000, or even more. The Carrier Dome in Syracuse can hold in excess of 30,000. Another aspect of this is the rise in importance of training facilities. These are where the athletes, in reality, spend most of their time. They are in them year-round, not just during the season. And yes, they can be a deal breaker (or maker} when it comes to recruiting. To his credit, Bates saw the handwriting on the wall, and had developed plans for a $200 million upgrade to the athletic facilities that will include a rec- reation center and a new field house. Unfortunately, they have to be built. And until they are, recruits will still see the same small stadium and other older facilities. Anyone who doubts what BC isup against should go online and view the facilities that ACC member Clemson is building for just its football team -- a $55 million complex that includes bowling lanes, a barbershop, and other amenities designed to enhance the athletes' home- away-from-home. You're abso- lutely correct if you feel that this is more of a professional setting than an amateur one. In current parlance, this is called the "athletic arms race," and schools that take a pass from participation (meaning delaying upgrading facilities), will soon find themselves way down on the list of blue-chip recruits in revenue sports. In addition, BC may have trouble over time finding top coaches. Why? Take a look at where the lion's share of the publicity is in the local sports pages and regional TV. It is devoted to the four professional franchises. College programs -- even Division 1 college pro- grams -- are given secondary treatment. Compare that to how a foot- ball coach would be treated at Clemson, Auburn, Ohio State, etc. Or, how a basketball coach would be treated at Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina, or even Wisconsin. They would be treated with honor and celebrity status in these college towns. Not here. The very fact that the story of Bates' resignation appeared on page 37 of the Herald -- rather than on the front or back pages -- speaks volumes concerning a reality of how local sports media view college athletics. That attitude, plus the lack of appreciation by the community at large, may very well keep some worthy coaching candi- dates away from The Heights for years to come. IN MEMORIAM -- Remember- ing Red Sox star Tony Conigliaro on the 27~ anniversary of his passing (February 24, 19901. Known as Tony C., the Red Sox outfielder led the American League with 36 homers in 1965, his second big league season. A defining moment in his career came in August 1967, when a pitch thrown by California Angels hurler Jack Hamilton hit the North Shore native in the face. He did not return to the lineup until 1969, when he had his best season -- 36 home runs and 116 RBIs. In his retirement years, he became a sportscaster. He suf- fered a heart attack and stroke in 1982, and was in poor health for the remainder of his life. He was only 45 at the time of his passing. JFK STAMP -- If you're a person who has gradually got- ten away from traditional marl and postage stamps in favor of e-marl, you just might want to pick up a few of the new John F. Kennedy stamps. Issued as part of the JFK Birthday Centennial Anniver- sary Year -- had he lived, the 354 President would be turning 100 on May 29% The stamp is a rendition of a striking photo- graph taken of Kennedy during a campaign stop in Seattle in September 1960. It's a beautiful stamp and is a bit large at that. But it actually appears like a miniature photo- graph and looks wonderful on a traditional white envelope. One of the best stamps we~,e seen in years.