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Page 12 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, MARCH 13, 2015 Was There Almost a Rocky 2? Marciano Considered Coming Back to Fight Ingemar Johansson in 1959 Was He Serious? Moore vs. On September 22, 1955 Rocky Marciano stepped into the ring to defend his title in Yankee Stadium against the great Archie Moore. It was a bruising fight with Moore dropping the Champion in the second round, but Rocky eventually wore down his cagey opponent and stopped him in the 9 th round. While the fight was one sided in scoring up until the stoppage, it was by no means an easy fight for the Rock. Moore was .a great boxer and a power- ful puncher, and he landed punches on Marciano that would have flattened other mortals. But Marciano was no mortal when he was in the heat of battle. He seemed to get stronger when he got hit, and his drive and determina- tion were too much for the 49 men he met and defeated in the ring. This would be Marciano's last fight, seven months later he would retire citing his desire to spend more time with his wife and daughter. He did leave a slight window open for a return to the ring when he said "No man can say what he will do in the fu- ture, but barring poverty, the ring has seen the last of me." It is reported that Rocky told those close to him that the real reason for his retirement was his displeasure with his manager AI Weill and the way his money was being handled. Rocky believed he was be- ing taking advantage of and wanted out. I was speaking with Mike Silver, the author of The Arc of Box/ng, and we both agreed that while both of these rea- sons are legitimate, we felt that Marciano may have finally tired of the grind of training and the pain he had to go through in each of his fights. Again, while the Moore bout may have seemed one sided in scoring, Rocky took some terrible blows in the light and had to be feeling the effects for days afterwards. The Champ was not a stupid man and may have figured it was best to get out while he still had his faculties, a deci- sion, sadly, too few fighters make, and one that he should be admired for. Rocky went on to enjoy re- tired life, and with only a bit of a tease, he pretended to consider a comeback when Marciano Rocky Marciano an offer was made by pro- moter Jim Norris nearly a year after his retirement. He looked to be permanently out of the ring. Recently, I got to view some photos of Marciano that were taken in 1959. They show a healthy, but bit pudgy former champ hitting a heavy bag under the watchful eye of his trainer Charley Goldman. Was this some type of a pub- licity stunt? I called the experts, my friends Dan Cuoco of IBRO and Mickey Finn, President of Ring 4, to ask what they knew about this. Both told me that Rocky had indeed contemplated a comeback in 1959. It was to be a one bout deal for in ex- cess of a million dollars, and he would challenge Ingemar Johansson for the title. So, what happened? There hasn't been a lot written about this subject, but it does appear the former champion trained for about a month in Florida and that these sessions did receive coverage. Dan Cuoco sent me a copy of an item that ap- peared in the Boston Traveler on January 16, 1960. In the short piece penned by Bill Liston, he states that he has heard that Marciano is train- ing for a comeback, but hopes it doesn't happen. Though he believes Rocky would have no problem dispatching the new Champion, he thinks Rocky should leave well enough alone. He also theorizes that Marciano was doing this to enhance his marketability for public appearances and refereeing. Others have said he was serious about fighting Johansson and only gave up on it when his back, a life- long problem started giving him trouble. Mike Silver told me Rocky had met the Swede and felt he would have no problem taking him. I can see Ingemar Johansson how tempting the thought must have been to Marciano. Here he would stand to make over a million dollars, hit the magic 50 and 0 mark on his record, and be on top of the world again. However, Ingo lost the title back to Floyd Patterson and that would lead to a third match between the two, and another year gone by before a bout with Marciano could be negotiated, another good reason not to keep at it. I think the real reason is a combination of the two theo- ries. There had to be no doubt in Rocky's mind that he could beat Johansson and he had to have thought seriously, even ff just briefly, about tak- ing him on. He also saw how this enhanced his image as so many great athletes are forgotten not long after they leave the spotlight. By doing this, Rocky was able to keep his legend alive and his name in the news. He would go on to host a popular television show and continue to be in demand for public appear- ances. In a second item sent to me by Mr. Cuoco, an AP story dated January 15, 1961, once again Marciano teased the public a bit about a pos- sible comeback. When asked about how he would do against Liston or Patterson, Rocky states "I'm not the boasting type, I don't want to say I could whip them. But then I don't want to lie about it either." He seemed to be enjoying tantalizing his fans with the thought they could see him in the ring again. Rocky would eventually return to the ring in a futur- istic and bit eerie way. The Rock and Muhammad Ali sparred a number of rounds together and the footage of that sparring was pieced together to make a computer created match that was shown in theatres across the country. The sparring was filmed in 1969, just a few months before Rocky's untimely death in a plane crash. It was shown in 1970. It is strange that Marciano's comeback, such as it was, would happen after his death. The computer had the Rock winning by knock out in the 13 th round. NEXT WEEK: What if Rocky had Come Back? These are the Bruins that will move forward, defend their playoff berth and hope- fully move on to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The trade deadline has passed and the team is now set for the Fmal stretch drive. The B's possess the eighth and Final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and are in the process of defending it against all challengers. "That's important," noted B's defenseman Torey Krug just after the B's put away Detroit to add two points to their season's total. "Guys are starting to pay a little more attention to the stand- ings and when other teams are playing. But at the same time we just have to focus on ourselves. We're in a spot right now where, if we keep playing the way that we're playing, we're going to find ourselves in the postseason. Guys are working towards that. We're not just sitting back and playing games. We're here to win games and get our game going so we're confident going into the playoffs." But perhaps just as im- portant is that a big concern has been removed from the locker room -- the trade deadline has passed and everyone can calm down. The players know that they are members of the team going forward. "Guys talked about it time and time again," recalled Krug. "It's a tough thing. We always say we don't worry about it. It's out of our con- trol and you try your best not to think about it. But I'm sure when guys read the names it can be tough. Stress is a big part of this game. Men- tally, you've got to be sharp. If you're coming to the rink stressed every day you're not going to be able to put your best foot forward. I think it definitely can weigh on guys no matter what they say. But now we finally have a group in here and we know that's it. Nobody's moving, nobody's leaving. We're excited about the opportunity and the chal- lenge to move forward into the postseason and go from there." And yes, there is some- thing in the locker room that perhaps was not there ear- lier in the season. That is excitement. "This is the best time of year other than the play- offs," noted B's forward Brad Marchand, who delivered a big win for the B's over Phila- delphia at the Garden just when Boston needed it. Trail- ing by a goal with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Marchand scored on a 6 on 4 power play to tie the count and then found the range for the game-winner in OT. It did more than win a game. It seemed to ignite the B's go- ing forward -- as the Bruins posted back-to-back home victories over the Flyers and Detroit and followed that up with an impressive 3-1 vic- tory over Ottawa on the road. "Guys are so much more excited to play every game and put our best effort on the ice right now," explained Marchand. "I think it's bring- ing character out on our team and that's what we need. I think right now everyone is bearing down and making sure we don't get too far ahead of ourselves. We know the situation we are in and we can't take any game for granted. When you do that every game is important. We just seem to be prepared and focused on what we have to do to win every game." If there's an area of con- cern down the stretch it's with goaltending. Over the summer of 2014 the B's let substitute goalie Chad John- son sign with the New York Islanders. Johnson had been a superb backup to Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask last year, playing in one third of the regular season games while putting up stats that were sixth best in the NHL. This season backup duties have been assigned to Niklas Svedberg, a goalie who had only one NHL game under his belt when the season started. There's no ques- tion that Rask is the top netminder. The questions come when one discusses the backup situation. It's the position where the B's are most vulnerable. If Rask couldn't go because of an injury or family emer- gency, there's a feeling among many that there would be a drop-off in quality in the crease. Svedberg went the distance in the win over Detroit, but still there were moments that gave one pause. Coach Claude Julien noted that there was "a lot of pres- sure on a guy who hasn't played much. He won us a game in New Jersey and a game here against Detroit and that's all we can ask from a guy like that who hasn't played too much." Yet Julien also admitted that there was a point in the Detroit game where pulling Svedberg in favor of Rask entered his thoughts. "I'm going to be honest with you," said the coach. "I'm not going to say it didn't cross my mind. At one point there, you look at the score and say well, if something hap- pens, maybe I have to make a tough decision." The B's are in the middle of a significant stretch of games -- 11 contests in 18 days -- that will go a long way in determining their fate. So far it's been success- ful. As the middle Of March approached, it looked as if the B's could even make a run at Washington, the team just above them in the wild card standings. The three games with per- haps the most meaning loom ahead -- matchups against wild card challenger Florida. One is at the Garden (March 31 t} while the other two are on the road (March 21 st and April 9th). Right down to the wire this race may go.