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July 4, 2014     Post-Gazette
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July 4, 2014

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Page 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, JULY 4, 2014 i Boxing on the Fourth of July Jeffries-Johnson fight, Every year on the Fourth of July Americans celebrate the anniversary of their in- dependence with barbeques, concerts, hot dog eating con- tests, parades, and fire- works. While the Fourth is not known as a big day for boxing, there have been some fistic fireworks on this holiday. Two of which stand out in boxing history, and a few others of lesser note. On July 4, 1910 in Reno, Nevada Jack Johnson defended his heavyweight championship by defeating James J. Jeffries via a fifteen round knock-out. Johnson had won the title two years earlier by stopping Tommy Burns in the four- teenth round in Sydney, Australia. Burns had won the title by defeating Marvin Hart in an eliminator to fill the vacancy left when Jeffries retired undefeated. In that era when most champions drew the color line and would not defend their crowns against a black challenger, it came as quite a shock that a man of African descent now held the most coveted sport's title in the world. Not only that, but Johnson was not shy about flaunting his crown and his amazing abilities. The search was immedi- ately on to find the "Great White Hope." In a racially charged and disgraceful col- umn, Jack London wrote, "Jim Jeffries must emerge from his alfalfa farm and remove that golden smile from Jack Johnson's face. Jeff, it's up to you. The White Man must be rescued." Jeffries did leave his alfalfa farm to take on Johnson, but London must have been very disappointed as Johnson gave the former champion a fearful beating while finally stopping him in the fifteenth round. On that Independence Day in 1910 we were reminded of just how far the nation had to George Foreman 1968 Olympics. go when it came to race relations. Nine years later on an- other Fourth of July there were real fireworks in the ring as the explosive Jack Dempsey climbed through the ropes on a very hot day in Toledo, Ohio to face the champion Jess Willard. The 6'6", 245 pound Willard dwarfed the 185 pound Dempsey, and many not only believed Dempsey would lose, but that he would be lucky to get out of the ring alive. Dempsey had other plans, and in what had to have been the greatest dis- play of fireworks ever on a July 4 th, the Manassa Mauler destroyed the cham- pion, beating him so badly he was unable to answer the bell for the fourth round. A couple of years later Dempsey would again fight on July the Fourth defend- ing his title against Tommy Gibbons in a bout that is best known for bankrupting the town of Shelby, Montana. It seems that the town fathers had been convinced that having a heavyweight title fight in their town would put them on the map, so they agreed to pay a huge sum of money to bring Dempsey in. The fight did not draw much of a crowd, so the town had to empty its coffers to pay Jack his guarantee. Dempsey and his manager were the only ones to make money that day, as Gibbons never received his cut. This was one Fourth where the fireworks proved to be a dud. On two consecutive Fourths, Reno, Nevada was the sight of a bit of a throw- back style boxing matches, and Max Baer was a contes- tant in both of them. The thing that made these bouts unusual was the fact they were both scheduled for twenty rounds. For many years up to this point the longest matches were fif- Max Baer vs. King Levinsky. teen rounds and those were generally title matches. Most main event fights were contested at the ten round distance. On July 4, 1931 Baer went up against the very rugged Paulino Uzcudun in an out- door stadium on a very hot day. The two fought a gruel- ing match with Baer win- ning the decision. One year later Baer would return to Reno to take on King Levinsky. In this match up Baer won a one sided decision over the King and established himself as a top contender. Speaking of King Levinsky reminds me of a story I heard about the time he was at a formal dinner in England. Before the meal was served, as was tradition, the host raised his glass and toasted, "Long live the King." Levinsky stood up and said, "Aw, thanks guys, that's very nice of you." One final Independence Day bout of note was Joe Louis's professional debut. The fight took place on July 4, 1934 in Chicago with the Brown Bomber scoring a first round knock out. That would be the start of a career that contained many explo- sive moments and also brought to the scene a great American who would break down many of the color bar- riers that erected in the era of Jack Johnson. I want to wish everyone a Happy and Safe Fourth of July. While celebrating, take a moment to remember our incredible forefathers who made the American dream possible by creating a repub- lic unmatched in human history. We are all truly lucky to be Americans. God Bless America and keep our troops around the world Safe. I hope they are all home soon. Mathew Saad MUHAMMAD I am saddened to report that former Light Heavyweight Champion Mathew Saad Muhammad has answered his final bell. Mathew passed away at the age of 59 after a tough battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was among the toughest of champions and is noted for his bouts against Marvin Johnson and Yaqui Lopez. Mathew was never in a dull fight and always was able to reach down deep and fight back when it looked as if he was all through. May He Rest in Peace. DRAFT NIGHT NOTATIONS -- It was with interest that we approached the TD Garden on June 26 th when it had been over two months since we had covered a live event that featured the Boston Celtics. Ever since the curtain came down on the regular season the Celtics moved somewhat to the back burner of Boston sports with the Bruins and Red Sox vying for interest before baseball took solo center stage. But on this night, when no basketball games would be played but perhaps some long term futures might be de- cided, it was hoops that once again reigned supreme as the C's held their Draft Night Party on the arena level of the Garden. There was a lot to celebrate, of course. The poor finish of the prior season had been pushed to the past and in its place came a celebration that looked to the future with all its hopes, aspirations and pos- sibilities. Those invited to this event included many of the Celtics season ticket holders -- and we might say that can have an expansive definition. We met one person who had gone in with two others and pur- chased a half season package consisting of several seats for 21 home games. So between them each would be able to attend seven games with family members. That per- son indicated that he had received two tickets to the draft night event. We say this in a positive way since rather than decid- ing who should be excluded, the Celtics approached it by deciding who could be included -- engendering good will all around. Those strolling the floor of the arena found themselves awash in a sea of green. If you didn't know otherwise, you would have thought you were at a St. Patrick's Day celebration. In addition, several former Celtics players were on hand, including Tom Heinsohn and Jo Jo White, lending a his- torical perspective to it all. Above was the Jumbotron, displaying the live ESPN broadcast of the draft that took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Which leads us to an inter- esting scenario that some fans might not realize. Although the NBA Draft took place in Brooklyn, the Celtics management and coaching staff were all on site at the Garden, utilizing one of the back rooms as their Draft Night central location. It was there that all deci- sions concerning the draft were made, not at the actual draft site itself. For all its buildup, the work of the draft was basically conducted off site with only the final deci- sions being announced in Brooklyn. This is the main difference between the NBA Draft and the NHL Draft, which took place later in the same week in Philadelphia. There the entire coaching staffs and many of the front office executives from all 30 NHL teams were on hand in per- son, making deals and deci- sions right there in the same building where the actual draft was conducted. Of the two methods, we pre- fer the one utilized by the NHL. We feel that nothing really beats person-to-person dialogue. The two general managers who walk down the hall together in conversation may well be more productive than two others who con- duct business solely over long distance:telephone calls, computer e-mails or text messaging. To us, the face- to-face meeting is the much preferred way of doing business. The members of the media were headquartered in the normal game night room set aside for journalistic activity. Many had not seen one an- other in a couple of months. It was good to interact with them once again and ex- change pleasantries with the Celtics media relations staff as well as the game night ushers who were present. There was an interesting twist this year in that two of the co-owners of the C's were assigned to address the media following each of the selec- tions made by the Green and White -- Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State (taken with the no. 6 pick in the first round) and James Young of the University of Kentucky (taken with the no. 17 selec- tion in the same round). Thus it was that Wyc Grousebeck addressed the assembled media following the selection of Smart while Steve Pagliuca did the same after Young was picked. This was a somewhat different scenario than that which took place in the past when GM Danny Ainge would comment following the selections. After all, who better to offer thoughts on the picks than the very person on whom the final responsibility for the decisions regarding such matters rests? Later in the evening head coach, Brad Stevens, came to the podium and offered his assessment on the picks as well as matters concerning himself. He said he felt much better having gone through the experience of an entire NBA season. Indeed, the draft could be viewed as the clos- ing moment of his initial year in the league. Hired on July 3, 2013, he was still the head coach at Butler Uni- versity in Indiana when the draft took place last year and thus played no role in the 2013 selections. On this night, he did look more at ease, more rested and more self-assured. In short, he appeared to be more comfortable with being the head coach of the Celtics and all the responsibilities that the role encompasses. Eventually the activity of the evening wound down. It was time to take our leave of this brief reminder of the fall to come and re-enter the rest of the summer that stands ready to be enjoyed.