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II Page16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, JUNE 27, 2014 HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss Holman Williams and Marcel Cerdan, the Boston Strong Boy, and Boxing at Boston City Hall Plaza Holman Williams and Marcel Cerdan, Paris, 1946. The photo of Holman Williams and Marcel Cerdan which accompanies this article, having a conversation on a Paris rooftop, has always fascinated me. I first saw it in the International Boxing Research Organization Journal, and Dan Cuoco, the director of that fine organization shared it with me. On July 7, 1946 Williams and Cerdan fought each other in Paris with Cerdan winning a decision over the American. Holman Williams was one of a group of boxers that came to be known as The Black Murderers' Row. Others in this elite crowd were: Charley Burley, Cocoa Kid, Eddie Booker. Bert Lytell, Loyd Marshall, Jack Chase, and Aaron "Tiger" Wade. All were great fighters who never got a shot at the title partly because of race, and partly because they were just too good. Author Harry Otty has written a fine book chronicling the careers of these boxers who deserve to be recognized by all boxing fans. His book, Charley Burley and The Black Murderers' Row, is a must read for anyone interested in the history of the sport. In this photo, we see Williams who is at this point on the downside of his career, speaking with Cerdan who would two years later win the Middleweight Title from Tony Zale. I don't know if this was taken before or after the bout, but it is interesting to see how intently they are listening and speak- ing to each other. This is not a photo of two wise mouth punks talking trash to each other, but of two Professionals, of two gentle- men spending some time together. Are they talking about their fight? About boxing in general and the techniques they use? Per- haps they are having a conversation about the cultural scene in Paris. What I find strik- ing is how relaxed they are with each other. These are two great fighters who would, or have already, put on a very tough fight; yet they are completely at ease in each other's company. In this photo, both men convey class and dignity. The backdrop of Paris fur- ther enhances them. Both are impeccably dressed and could easily pass for a couple of writers or actors. It is a snapshot of a very different and interesting time. Take a moment to study this picture and let your mind wander to just what their conversa- tion was about that July aftemoon on a roof- top in Paris. mmmmmm Strong Boy, The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan America's First Sports Hero by Christopher Klein Published by Lyons Press John L. Sullivan was Amer- ica's first larger than life sports star, and author Christopher Klein has written a fine ac- count of the Boston Strong Boy. Sullivan, the son of Irish immigrants who had arrived in Boston during the great wave of Irish migration• in the mid nineteenth century, was born in Boston's South End, not Roxbury as many have believed. He made a reputation for himself at an early age with his amazing strength, intimi- dating stare, and powerful right hand punch. Klein's book follows Sullivan's life in detail and shows just how the Great John L. was the right man at the right time to win the adoration of fans nationwide. His fistic talent along with his magnetic personality and booming voice made him an instant ce- lebrity. But, he never would have attained the prominence he did had it not been for the completion of the intercontinental rail- road system. This feat of technology, com- parable with the internet today, allowed Sullivan to crisscross the country putting John L. Sullivan, The Boston Strong Boy. on exhibitions and taking on all comers in four round matches. For the first time, Americans were able to see one of their heroes up close, sometimes too close, be- cause Sullivan's proclivity to drink would make him a very difficult character to control. I learned much about John L. from Klein's book. Many things I didn't know, such as the fact that after Gentleman Jim Corbett defeated Sullivan for the crown, the men would later engage in at • least two exhibition matches. That Sullivan was a somewhat talented actor who loved performing on the stage, and that he was the first athlete to earn over a million dollars, most of which went to living the high life. The only fault I find in this book is that often times I found myself wanting more details about some of the events, such as the time in Augusta Georgia where Sullivan, who had been drinking heavily, grew so ver- bally abusive that a train hand knocked him out. Surely, this was a big deal, and I would love to have had more details about that incident. I found this book a very interest- ing read and highly recommend it. mmm Boxing at City Hall This Sunday a live boxing show will take place outdoors at City Hall Plaza in Boston. It is the Neighborhood Youth challenge and will feature a team of young amateurs from the local gyms going up against a mmm Plaza -- June 29th team of boxers from Connemara, Ireland. INTERESTING YEAR FOR ND -- It was a some- what novel experience for the newest institutional member of Hockey East this past year. We speak, of course, of Notre Dame, a school that is known to sports fans throughout Amer- ica, primarily due to the his- tory of its football team. But there are other sports at the university that calls South Bend, Indiana home, with one of them being ice hockey. And, ~ overall, in the recent past, it has been a successful program, although somewhat out of sight and out of mind for many hockey aficionados in this area. That was because the Fighting Irish had played in the old Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) from 1992 through the "spring of 2013. It was a con- ference made up of Midwest- ern schools. Thus, trips to New England were few and far between. Combine that with the fact that the ND men's basketball team appeared frequently on national tele- vision and the view of ND hockey was in the rearview mirror across our region• That changed during the 2013-2014 season as the Irish competed for the first time as a full conference member of Hockey East. They played local schools more often, were seen in the area more frequently and their program was followed more intensely by fans. Notre Dame joined Hockey East as winners -- capturing the last CCHA champion- ship (2013) before that league melted into history with schools going their separate ways into several conferences. Thus it was that ND hockey found a home in Hockey East, a definite feather in the cap for conference com- missioner Joe Bertagna. And what was it like for ND this past season? On the. surface, there seemed to be a distinct challenge for the Irish in Hockey East, who logged a 9-9-2 record and a tie for seventh in the conference but" improved to 23-15-2 in overall play. The Irish even made it to the conference semifinals at the Garden (before ~being ousted by UMass-Lowell) and secured an NCAA berth, los- ing to St. Cloud State in the opening round of the West Regional. But again there was that challenge of regular season conference play. "It was a strange season," stated ND head coach Jeff Jackson as spring once more sprouted over the land. Outdoor boxing in Boston is a bit of a throw- ° "There were a lot of different. back to the days of the Great John L. and should be a lot of fun. I hope to see you there• For events going on in Massachusetts this SUMMER, call the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism Web site at ww.w.massvacation.com. For a complimentary Massachusetts Getaway Guide, call 1-800-447-MASS, ext. 300. factors that came into play. Obviously moving into a new conference was a bit more challenging, especially in Hockey East with the depth of the Conference being so strong•" But it was more than that. It was the loss of familiarity -- a comfort that came with going to the ~ame schools year after year and knowing their programs thoroughly. "No matter how much we tried to prepare for teams, as far as watching video and things like that, it seemed that every time we played a Hockey East opponent, we were surprised by how they played the game. When you play in a conference for so many years and you're ac- customed to going to Ferris State, Bowling Green and Michigan, you kind of know what to expect -- and not just from the venue and the en- vironment. You know what to expect as far as how the teams play, how the coaches coach, even the line match- ups and things like that. There's a lot of little things you have to become accus- tomed to and I think it was a little different for us. It was a little bit of a challenge to get accustomed to different teams and styles of play and I think that threw us off a little bit." Jackson, who just com- pleted his ninth season at ND (after winning a pair of national championships at Lake Superior State), said that injuries also took a toll. As a result the Irish "never had a lineup that was solidi- fied with line combinations, special team combinations or defensive pairs -- things like that. Everything was changing on a constant ba- sis. So it was a little hit of a different and difficult season for us -- frusfration wise -- both from my perspective and I'm sure for our team's perspective as well." One aspect that Jackson discounted as having an effect was the impact of long distance travel. Notre Dame is the outpost of the league, located about 90 miles east of Chicago while all the other Hockey East schools are in New England. "I don't think it took a toll during the season," said Jackson, who took over the reins of the Irish in 2005 fol- lowing the resignation of ND coach (and former Bruins player) Dave Poulin. "We did have some crazy weather conditions that obviously impacted our travel. You do worry a little bit about the travel aspect of things, espe- cially with the academic load these kids have. But I worry about the overall mental fatigue more than the physical fatigue." Whether next year will be any easier for the Irish remains to be seen, The team roster featured 11 seniors last season, mean- ing that there will be a significant number of fresh- men donning those golden helmets come fall. If they catch on fast enough, then Jackson's team might be making a double appearance in the Garden -- for the Hockey East Tournament in March and the NCAA Frozen Four in April. Whatever, don't count Jeff Jackson's team out -- until the final bell.