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June 13, 2014

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Page16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, JUNE 13, 2014 I,L HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss Great Versus Great at Their Best Louis vs. Schmeling 2. l Dempsey vs. Willard. On June 22, 1938, Joe Louis stepped into the ring at Yankee Stadium to defend his title against Max Schmeling. Two years earlier, in the same ring, Schmeling had defeated Joe in a bout where the Brown Bomber was decked twice, the sec- ond time for the count. Over the next two years Louis remained undefeated and was finally matched with Champion Jimmy Braddock for the title. What most people don't know is that Braddock had signed to defend his title against Schmeling and backed out when he was able to make a deal with Louis's handlers that would guarantee him a cut of Joe's purses for the next ten years, if Louis won the title. Schmeling ended up being paid for the Braddock bout even though it never happened. If Schmeling had beaten Braddock, the title would have gone to Nazi Germany and Joe would have had to challenge Max for it. As it was, Louis felt he was not truly the champion because he had not avenged his loss to the Black Uhlan of the Rhine. After defeating Braddock for the title, Louis defended against Tommy Fan- in a bout that went the distance and in which Joe gave a bit of a disappointing performance against the rugged Welshman. He also knocked out Nathan Mann and Harry Thomas, but his target was Schmeling. By the time the two entered the ring on that warm June night, world, events had entered the picture. The Nazis were on the march in Europe and Max was Seen as representing that evil regime. Joe was not only in a bout for his own honor but also for that of the nation. Max Baer quote. When the bell rang for the first round Joe came out like a man possessed. He stalked Max and set him up for incredible combina- tions. In the two minutes and four seconds the bout lasted, Joe gave Max a fearful beat- ing, even breaking two vertebrae in his back. I bring this fight up as a backdrop for a discussion about who the greatest cham- pion was. When boxing fans argue about who was the best, names are tossed around with styles, endurance, and punching power being compared. One thing that is missing however is how these greats would have fared against each other on their best night. In boxing, more than any other sport, emo- tion plays a huge role. When il boxer enters the ring and that bell sounds he is alone with his opponent. There is nowhere to hide and no bench to have a time out on. Thou- sands, and with TV, millions of people are watching. The boxer is participating in a sport that could end in death, and whose object is to inflict serious physical harm on his opponent. The Joe Louis of the Schmeling fight was unbeatable that night. But could he reach that level of focus and intensity if he were fighting someone else? What if Max had not previously beaten him? What if the entire nation wasn't counting on him to pull this out for them? Joe was the perfect fighting machine that night. When thinking about who would win in these dream matchups, I would say that you should take each great and imagine them fighting on their best day or night. Imagine the Jack Dempsey of the Willard fight going up again'st-the Louis of the second Schmeling fight. It has been written that the Dempsey in the ring on that hot July 4, 1919 in Toledo, Ohio was as close to being a feral human being than anyone. He had grown up just about living in the wild, and he fought like that. Cagey and vicious with great speed and punching power, he destroyed the Pottawatomie Giant in three rounds. While Dempsey was certainly great in the fights that followed during his reign as champion, I don't know if he was ever as great as he was on that July afternoon. Could Gene Tunney have" beaten that Dempsey? Could any man? Being on edge, in great physical shape, and motivated by a desire to win that goes beyond the merely competitive is what makes these fighters perform at such a high level. Cus D'Amato told me before the Ali Wepner fight that it could be a tougher bout for Ali than many expected because Ali would not be psyched for the match and not in great shape, while Wepner would be fight- ing the fight of his life in his one chance at the title. Given this combination, the vast differences in skill and ability between the two would be just a bit less then it would normally be. Ali would be fighting below his best and Wepner would be at his best or better that night. Wepner did surprise by almost lasting the distance and finally col- lapsing more from exhaustion then any one punch. The Ali of the first Frazier fight would have destroyed him. Some fighters get better after winning the championship. They now have a title to defend and an honor to uphold. Some, after losing a title shot, go into decline. Tommy Farr, after his incredible performance against Louis, lost four straight bouts. When Joey Archer first challenged Emile Griffith for the Middleweight Title he fought a brilliant fight losing a majority decision that many thought he had won. In their rematch, Joey was not the same fighter. He appeared to just be going through the motions and lost a unanimous decision. He was not able to rise to the occasion the second time around. when arguing about who the greatest of all time is, remember to include the human factor and how much a boxer's emotional state plays into his performance. The All of the Wepner fight going up against the Louis of the second Schmeling fight would be much different than the Ali of the first Liston bout fighting the Louis of the Farr matchup. How would these dream matchups turn out if the fighters were matched based on their performance in their best fight? This is what makes discussing boxing so much fun. There are so many variables that just can't be measured. Bobby Franklin can be reached at bob 2 boxer@yahoo, com. Veteran Hockey East com- missioner Joe Bertagna has been reappointed as Execu- tive Director of the American Hockey Coaches Association, the group comprised of virtu- ally all college hockey coaches in America. Bertagna will serve a four- year term in the post as he continues his work as Hockey East commissioner. He has held the executive director position with the coaches association since it was created in 1991. The Arlington native and current Gloucester resident has just completed his 32"d year as a college hockey administrator. He spent 15 seasons with the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) before joining Hockey East at the start of the 1997- 1998 season. Bertagna played goal for Arlington High and went on to mind the nets for Harvard University, graduating in 1973. He also served as goalie coach for the Boston Bruins from 1985 to 1991 and for the 1994 U.S. Olympic team: He also founded the Harvard women's hockey program, serving as its first head coach during the 1978-1979 season. Next season will be a big one for Hockey East and Bertagna as the NCAA Frozen Four Division I National Championship comes to the TD Garden in April, 2015. It last was played on Causeway Street in 2004. HUSKIES NAME COLE HEAD COACH -- Kelly Cole, a veteran in Boston area college coaching circles, has been named the head women's basketball coach at Northeastern University. She'll take over for Daynia La-Force, who was hired by the University of Rhode Island in May after serving as head coach at Northeastern for eight seasons. Cole, who has more than 20 years of experience in coach- ing, comes to NU after most recently serving as an assis- tant at Harvard. while there she helped Crimson head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith lead the Crimson to a 43-17 record, including a 22-6 mark in Ivy League con- tests and a pair of Women's NIT appearances. "We were so lucky to have Kelly with us at Harvard, even for just two years," said Delaney-Smith. "She brought great knowledge, experience and energy to our team." Prior to coaching at Har- vard, Cole spent nine seasons as an assistant at Boston College under former head coach Cathy Inglese. While there, BC logged a 192-89 record and made seven trips to the NCAA tournament. Her last five seasons at BC were the best as the Eagles won 20 or more games each year and advanced to the Sweet 16 three times. When she left BC in 2006, Cole, who is married with three children, decided to coach at local high schools so she could spend more, time with her family. Up to 2012 she put in time at Gann Academy in Waltham and Bedford High School, as well as Buckingham Browne & Nichols in Cambridge. She also has experience coaching on both coasts, hav- ing served as head basket- ball and volleyball coach at Newberg High School in Oregon from 1991 to 1996 before moving on to the colle- giate ranks. She spent her collegiate days in the Midwest, playing four years at Northwestern University (near Chicago). While there she served as team captain from 1989 to 1991, scoring 1,206 points during her four-year career. Northeastern will return 11 players from the 2013- 2014 squad that finished the year with a 12-18 record. The coach that Cole replaced -- Daynia La-Force -- spent eight seasons at NU before resigning in May to take a similar position at URI. "There is an undeniable commitment from the play- ers, support staff, administra- tion and alumni to build something special here at URI," said I.a-Force in a press release. "The passion and pride of everyone associated with URI athletics inspired me and helped me make my deciaion. My staff and I will work tirelessly to build a cul- ture of respect, integrity and competitive excellence that the URI family will be proud to support." Although joining URI after going through a losing season at NU this year, La-Force ex- perienced her most success- ful time at NU in 2012-2013 as the Huskies finished with a 17-13 overall record. She was named the Colonial Ath- letic Association Coach of the Year as the Huskies recorded the most victories by an NU squad in 13 years. The team's 10 conference wins were the most for Northeastern since the 2004-2005 season. La-Force replaces former BC head mentor Cathy Inglese, who had coached at URI since the start of the 2009-2010 season. Inglese, who led the Rams for five sea- sons, was in the final year of her contract. She was not fired. Her contract simply expired and URI did not offer her a renewal. Inglese posted a 30-115 record over those five sea- sons and as she left she had something in common with recent URI women's basket- ball coaches. The last five (including Inglese) have left the campus in Kingston with losing records. This says one thing: URI must be one tough place to put together a win- ning program. Since the Rams went 7-23 this past season (losing 12 of their last 13 games), La-Force has her work cut out for her as she seeks to improve the basketball fortunes at URI. It may take time but she was able to do that at Northeast- ern. Whether she can over- come the dismal outcomes of recent years at URI is some- thing only time will tell.