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Page16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, MARCH 20, 2015 1 HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by RichardPre s f qlb Rocky 2 --- Part 2 What if Marciano had made a Comeback? Rocky With Trainer Charley Goldman. It turned out Rocky Marciano never did enter the ring again, and we will never know if he had been really serious when talking about a comeback in 1959. But, let's sup- pose that he was and that he did. What would have happened? Could he have regained the title, and ff he did, who would have been his challengers for it? Ingemar Johansson won the Heavyweight Cham- pionship from Floyd Patterson on June 6, 1959. It has been said that when Rocky met Ingo he immediately felt he could take him easily. Rocky even set up a train- ing camp in Florida and started getting serious about such a matchup. He was also reportedly offered in excess of a million dollars for the fight. Let's say he accepted the offer and continued training. The first obstacle would be getting Cus D'Amato to negate the rematch clause that Floyd and ingemar had. I believe this could have been done. First, because Floyd would have been given a substantial sum for not fighting along with a guaranteed shot at the winner, and second, because D'Amato would know that a fight between Patterson and Mareiano (assuming Rocky won) would bring in more money than ever seen before. Also, I believe Cus would be convinced Floyd could take Rocky. With the problem of the Patterson- Johansson rematch out of the way, Rocky could now start training in earnest for the bout. Marciano's last fight had been in Sep- tember of 1955. It would now be over four years since he had been in the ring or in training for a fight. By the time the fight could be aiTanged and publicized, it wouldn't take place until June 1960 at the earliest (That was when the Patterson rematch took place), so it would now be close to five years since the former champion had fought. That is an eternity in boxing. Jim Jeffries had been out of action for nearly six years when he made his comeback against Jack Johnson, and while he looked to be in great physical shape, he was a shell of his former self. Of course, Johansson was. no Jack Johnson. Would Rocky have had any warm up bouts so he could work on getting his timing back? No, the promoters would not want to risk having the public see the former champ not looking his best. The selling point in this match up would be the belief that the Rocky of five years ago would be stepping into the ring. They would be taking no chances that the former champ would be seen as any- thing less than super human. Five years is a long time off for a boxer, but this was not just any boxer, this was Rocky Marciano, the man who had never been defeated, Rocky the indestructible. Johansson was also undefeated at the time, meaning this would be the first meet- ing of two undefeated Heavyweight Cham- pions who could lay claim to the title. Rocky had never lost the title, he just loaned it to these other guys while he took some time off. Rocky would train hard for this fight as he always had. He would push his 37-year-old body as hard as he could. His chronic back Undefeated Forever, The Rock. Ingo Lands His "Hammer of Thor" on Floyd. problems would plague him. His trainer, Charley Goldman, concerned that he is going at it too hard, would try to get Marciano to moderate his workouts. Charley knows that an older fighter can easily leave his fight in the gym, but Rocky doesn't know how to workout at half speed. He gets his body looking like the Champion of 1955, he is flooring sparring partners as he still has his punch. In the public workouts he is looking sharp and formidable, but those who are there for the private sparring ses- sions notice his timing is off. He is not able to crouch down as low as he used to, and he is just a bit slower. His desire is there though and he is training to win. Over in the Johansson camp it is a differ- ent story. Since winning the title, Ingo has been living the life of a movie star. Train- ing is a bother and a chore to him, and he figures he can beat this old man without any trouble. Rocky is slow and easy to hit, and Johansson has his Hammer of Thor which he knows he can land on Rocky's jaw whenever he wants to. It should be an easy night and a big payday. It is June of 1960 and the whole world is watching Yankee Stadium as the two un- defeated Champions enter the ring. This fight is not only sold out at the stadium, but close circuit showings around the world are filled. This will be the most watched sport- ing event in history. Introductions are made, the referee gives his instructions to the fighters, and the bell rings for round one. So, what happens? I think Rocky would not have looked good for the first couple of rounds. He would have been missing and probably would hit the deck either from a punch or from being off balance. Fans would be disappointed and saddened to see their idol looking so far off his game. But Rocky would not quit. Despite taking Ingo's best shots he keeps after him. In his prime Rocky would have ended this bout after a couple of rounds, but this one goes much longer. Heading into the tenth round, Johansson can't believe the old man is still coming after him. It seems as if Rocky is getting stron- ger while the Swede is feeling the effects of not only the punches he has been absorb- ing but also those late nights out on the town. Rocky pummels the Champion to the canvas where he lies exhausted and beaten. Rocky Marciano is once again Heavyweight Champion of the World. What now? Would Rocky go on to defend the title against a crop of hungry young heavyweights? Guys like Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Zora Folley, Eddie Machen, or maybe even a youngster named Cassius Clay? I'd like to think that he would have made this a one shot deal and grabbed his money and ran. I believe this is what he would have done. He would also now have a 50-0 record. I am glad this fight never took place. Just training for it would have been murder for the Rock. I am happy with 49-0 and also glad there was at least one champion who was able to walk away from this brutal game and stay away. It was a happy bunch of Celtics that left for a brief road trip in their new role as one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Just think, after languishing in the nether world of the Eastern Confer- ence for so long, the C's were suddenly in a three-way tie for seventh place and look- ing upward. The road to a possible post season berth has been amaz- ing. As of St. Patrick's Day, the Green had won 10 of their last 13 games -- including 5 in a row and 7 of their last 8 games. That brought their season record to 30-36. But just in case you thought the winning experi- ence might be getting to their heads, think again. "I haven't heard them talk about it (possible playoff berth) once," said Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens with reference to his players. "I'm dead serious. I don't hear it. I have not heard them say who is Miami playing or who is Charlotte playing today. They haven't talked about it around me. I just want them to play good basketball and I think our guys want to play good basketball. I think as a result you have a lot more fun when you spray the ball around the way we're spray- ing it around and when you're competing together and pulling for one another and five guys are playing together defensively." And maybe that is the key. The Celtics finally are a team -- not a collection of individuals, some of whom were just passing through on their way to other places. It may seem hard to believe, but a total of 25 players have been on the roster for the C's this year. That instability is over, steadiness is now the hallmark and the very real potential of earning a play- off berth is a reality. "The whole year we've been changing," noted Tyler Zeller after pouring in a career high 26 points against Philadelphia at the Garden. "I think Danny (Ainge) has done a great job putting together the team that we've got. We've been play- ing with different players every night and finally have a team where we've settled in, playing with the same players every night. It's fun to go battle that way. We do a great job of playing hard and playing together." And Avery Bradley credits Coach Stevens: "We've been in just about every game since the All-Star break so it shows that we're making strides and we're continuing to be a better team. I think it all starts with Brad. He's getting us all together, having us believe in one another. We're like a family out there. We're a lot closer than we were earlier in the season and it shows on the court." And Bradley, like his fel- low teammates, takes every game as a challenge. "It's a blessing, that's the best thing about the NBA. Every night you get a chance to go up against another great opponent and go out there and get a win. You get a chance to prove you're im- proving as a team, improv- ing as individuals. We're definitely showing that everyone's improving." Indeed, it's an exciting brand of basketball that these Celtics are playing with the ball being whipped around the court until an open man is found. What we've found interesting is that the Celtics seem to have a repertoire of surprise plays, any one of which often stuns the crowd into amaze- ment if carried out suc- cessfully. There are behind- the-back passes, back door plays, hook shots and scor- ing attempts from the cor- ner -- after getting a pass from a player at the other corner. It's fun to watch and sure keeps fans engaged. Gone are the days from earlier in the season when the Celtics folded in the second half and lost the game. They might still lose, but it won't be as often and it won't be because they sim- ply folded in the latter stages of the game. Gone also is the talk of tanking that prevailed in some quarters earlier in the season. We know Coach Stevens and the players never bought into that, but a good number of fans obviously thought it was the way to go. It was a topic that consumed some segments of the media in the first few months of the season. Now, talk has properly shifted as to how high the Celtics might finish in their quest for a playoff berth and what a stunning reversal of fortune that would mean if that eventually came to pass. As the day after St. Patrick's Day dawned, the Celtics were still in that three-way tie for seventh with Indiana and Miami with 16 games remaining in the regular season. It's obviously a very fluid situation, but right now it seems that it's the Celtics that are rising. Sure, they are going to lose again before the regular season ends. But those setbacks won't dispel the positive attitude that is surging through the Celtics locker room as the campaign comes down to the wire. The Celtics were still 30-36 on the morning of March 18th and for the first time in a long time, the possibility (however slim), of drawing even at .500 was on the horizon. There's a host of reasons for the-odds to be against it. Then again, how many would have thought that the Celtics would actually be contending for a playoff berth with less than a month to go in the regular season? In a season of surprises there may be more that come to pass.