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June 6, 2014     Post-Gazette
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June 6, 2014

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Page16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, JUNE 6, 2014 . i Hand Me Down My Dancing Shoes Ray Robinson pivots to the right against LaMotta. Over the years boxing equipment has changed quite a bit. Gloves used to be stuffed with horse hair and now are filled with foam• A medicine ball used to be used as a tool for working on particular punches when teaching a boxer. Yes, its only use wasn't to bounce it off a fighter's stomach in the hopes of somehow toughening up his stomach muscles• I always thought by using that train of thought they should take a hammer and hit them on the jaw to better enable them to take a head punch. The silly punch pads have now re- placed the medicine ball. The only purpose for these pads I can see is to give the impres- sion some of these trainers -- in name only -- are actu- ally doing something. I guess they missed out on playing patty cake when they were kids. There have been many other changes as well, but the one that has had the most impact on the sport has been the evolution of the boxing shoe. For most of boxing his- tory the shoes had smooth leather soles. Boxers would take a pair of scissors and rough up the bottoms of the shoes by scratching them with the scissors, and then, before getting into the ring, would step into a rosin box and rub the shoes in the rosin to give them a little bit of traction. Modern boxing shoes have rubber soles on them. This is a very signifi- cant difference as these newer shoes grip the canvas much more than the earlier versions. They are more like sneakers. How does this impact the sport? Well, as I suffer through watching what passes for boxing today, I have All on his toes. observed how little good foot- work I see. I believe the rea- son a Bernard Hopkins is able to be so competitive against his much younger opponents is because they are only fighting from the waist up. Older fighters lose their legs, the ability to move around the ring with ease. Hopkins cer- tainly has lost the spring in his legs, but he doesn't need it, as they guys he is fighting are moving like old men. A great part of this lack of good movement can be attrib- uted to the fact that these young prospects are not be- ing taught the fine art of foot- work. Another piece of why this is happening is the new boxing shoes. They have way too much grip and make many of the important moves needed to be a good boxer very difficult, if not impossible to execute. Pivoting to the side, turning on the toes in order to get the hip into the punch, sliding smoothly side to side are very difficult to do when the shoes have the equiva- lent of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of them. Watch Ray Robinson or Muhammad Ali as they glide around the ring. Now try to imagine them doing that with shoes that adhere to the can- vas. In the gym I have seen boxers trying to do some of the classic moves with these new shoes. They hurt their ankles and the sides of the shoes also start to tear away from the soles. In short, these moves do not work with the rubber- soled shoes. This has had a profound impact on the sport of boxing, a sport that already has enough problems when it comes to technique. Can you imagine Jersey Joe Walcott doing his shuffle with his feet glued to the canvas? How dif- ferent would a dancing mas- ter such as Willie Pastrano have been if he had been made to wear these ridicu- lous shoes when performing in the ring? It would be com- parable to having made Fred Astaire or Gene Kelley wear sneakers while dancing. So, why the change? I am not sure of when this change occurred or the reasoning be- hind it. I would have to as- sume that the way boxers were being instructed had begun to change at about the time this happened or else there would still have been a demand for the leather soled shoes. Also, the new shoes make it much more difficult for boxers to perform defen- sive moves, and in this age of TV promoters and fans clamoring for every fight to be a replay of Ward v Gatti, this plays a major role in causing more and more fights to be rock 'em sock 'em robot affairs. Giving the boxers shoes that prevent them from being able to move smoothly, couple this with pad work that teaches them to punch only from the waist up and while using very little mobility, downplay the use of the jab, feints, and slipping punches, and you end up with two fight- ers just standing in front of each other tossing head shots. So many of today's matches are just copies of each other. You don't see the uniqueness of an Archie Moore or a Harold Johnson plying their art in the squared circle, or the beautiful move- ments of a Gaspar Ortega. I don't blame today's fighters• Most of them are gifted athletes who train hard and listen to what they are told, but with the shoes they are made to wear and the instruction they are given, it is impossible to know what to do in there. It's very hard to dance when you don't have the proper shoes. Mickey Finn's boxing shoes. I want to thank Ring 4 President Mickey Finn for al- lowing me to take the photo- graphs of his father's boxing shoes, which have the origi- nal leather soles on them. Kevin Dorian On another note, the box- ing community was greatly saddened by the passing of South Boston's Kevin Dorian. Kevin was a hard punching welterweight who competed in the 1970s. He defeated Terry Rondeau, Ricky Bur- gess, and Donnie Sennett among many others. He closed out his career with a 22-4-3 record and was never stopped. May he Rest In Peace. As the Stanley Cup Cham- pionship Final series contin- ues between the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings, there are some local angles to the national event. Specifically, there are a number of athletes who once played for Hockey East schools, including two who perfected their skills under Boston College head coach Jerry York. They would be Brian Boyle and Chris Kreider who put in their college time at the Heights• As the series contin- ues they're going against L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick, the former net minder for UMass- Amherst. And let's not forget Martin St. Louis, who was leading the Rangers in playoff scoring as the final best-of-seven series began. The Rangers veteran played ,four years of college hockey at the University of Vermont. Both Boyle and Kreider grew up in Eastern Massa- chusetts -- Boyle in Hingham and Kreider in Boxford. If the latter sounds familiar it's because former Bruins All- Star and Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque chose to raise his family in Boxford. But Ray didn't grow up there• He's originally from the Montreal suburbs. Kreider did and played two years of high school hockey for Masconomet Regional High School before transferring to Phillips Andover Academy. He continued on to Boston Col- lege where he was a member of two of BC's National Cham- pionship teams• "There's NHL skaters and then there's elite NHL skat- ers," said York in a piece posted on NHL com. "He's in that elite category. We've had a lot of NHL players. They're all a little different from each other. But he's that rare com- bination of size and strength and skating ability," said York of the star forward. Boyle played four years for York at BC and started his NHL career by playing a year and a half for the Kings, who had drafted him in the first round way back in 2003. After a brief time with the Manchester Monarchs, Boyle made his NHL debut period memorable by scoring three goals in his first four games. Times changed and in June 2009 he was traded to the Rangers for a draft pick. Since then the veteran for- ward has been a member of the Blueshirts, playing in all 82-regular season games in three of the last four years. Both Boyle, who played for BC from 2003 to 2007, and Quick -- who was at UMass for two seasons (2005-2007) -- encountered one another as collegians. Quick posted a 3-2 record against the Eagles, posting 3.05 goals against average and .928 save per- centage against the team from Chestnut Hill. That sounds good overall but Boyle definitely had Quick's number. He accounted for four of the 16 goals that BC scored against Quick and also registered assists on four others. In other words, Boyle was involved in half of the BC scoring plays that the Eagles put together against Quick• So, as the two renew acquaintances, it will be interesting to see ff Boyle still has the magic touch against the L.A. goaltender or whether Quick can stop his former collegiate nemesis. Quick was true to his name while growing up in Connecti- cut, winning a national championship with one of his youth hockey teams• Like Kreider, he started his scho- lastic career at a public high school (Hamden High School in Hamden, Conn•) before transferring to a prep school (Avon Old Farms). He led Avon to a pair of New England Prep School Cham- pionships, posting nine shut- outs in his senior season. At UMass, he led the Minute- men to their first NCAA Tour- nament appearance, shutting out Clarkson 1-0 in overtime in his first tournament game by stopping all 33 shots• During his UMass career he appeared in five playoff games, posting a •944 save percentage. Quick is still playing for the team that drafted him. He was selected by the Kings in the 2005 draft (72 n pick over- all, proving once again that lower round draft picks can work out). He shuttled back and forth between the minors and the parent club for a couple of years with his big break com- ing during the 2008-2009 sea- son when he played 44 games for the Kings, going 21-18-2. Later years would bring the glory. He was one of three goaltenders on the Team USA squad that won the silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He was the start- ing goalie in five of the six games that Team USA played in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In between, the 28-year-old net minder picked up the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the MVP of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, won by the Kings, who defeated the New Jersey Devils in the final best-of-seven series. The year before (2011), he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goalie in the regular season. Every time Quick looks down the other end of the rink over the next two weeks he'll see the man who beat him out -- Henrik Lundqvist, the goalie for the New York Rangers. Finally, there's Martin St. Louis, a 38-year-old NHL veteran who was picked up by the Rangers in a trade with Tampa Bay on March 5 th. The Quebec native had one goal in 19 regular season games with the Rangers but has returned to form in the play- offs, leading New York in scor- ing with 13 points (six goals, seven assists) through the Conference Finals. The Stanley Cup Champi- onship Fortnight. A f'me cap- stone to the NHL season.