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PAGE 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETI'E, JULY 15, 2016 HOOPS and HOCKEY by Richard Preiss in the HUB -.f, Shadow Box A Second Look at an Amateur in the Rin9 Shadow Box: An Amateur in the Ring By George Plimpton -- (Little Brown, 347 pages) chills done the spine of an opponent. The three rounds with Moore went well in front of a large crowd that had gathered in Stallman's for the event, and George was very proud of the bloody nose he came away with. The book moves on from there to many interesting experiences Mr. Plimpton had in the boxing world, as well as some wonderful stories about authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote. In one of these tales, we learn how the author attempted to arrange a meeting between Hemingway and Mailer, but it never happened. Perhaps this was for the better, as any restaurant the two would have met in almost certainly would have been busted up. We also learn that Mailer was undefeated at thumb wrestling. Some of the best parts of the book are about All tllI[ i ill Ill[ llill6 the time Mr. Plimpton spent with Muhammad Ali and his covering both the first Frazier fight ,, as well as the Foreman fight in Zaire. The author was in Ali's dressing room immediately after the Frazier bout and describes Book cover, the pain Muhammad was in after his 15 rounds with Joe. Most fans are not aware of Every young man who steps into a boxing just how much punishment boxers take in ring for the first time sees himself as a future a fight, and this was no ordinary fight. Ali champion. Appearing so basic in its nature, prizefighting is the one sport where it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see one's self as landing that knockout blow against the champion and taking the rifle. Reality is a bit different. For many, that first experience getting punched in the nose by a blow that seemed to come out of nowhere is enough to send even the most imaginative packing and leaving the gym never to return. For others, it is just the thing that gets the adrenalin flowing and the desire spiked to move forward in pursuit of the nearly impossible dream. George Plimpton was the editor of the The Paris Rev/ew from 1953 until his death in 2003. He was also a frequent contributor to Sports Illustrated Magazine. Mr. Plimpton earned a reputation as a participatory journalist by stepping onto the mound to throw against a number of MLB All- Stars, play quarterback briefly for the Detroit Lions (he lost 30 yards in his few minutes on the field), and being beaten at golf by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, among other things. In 1960, he also decided to experience boxing Moore and PUmpton. firsthand. Now most people would have gone to (Photo by Walter Daran) a boxing gym and taken a few lessons, stepped was exhausted and in excruciating pain. He in with a sparring partner of similar experience, could barely walk. I am sure the situation and gotten a good taste of what it is like to be was as bad ff not worse in the Frazier camp. in the ring. Not so in Plimpton's case. His first Mr. Plimpton's wonderful writing brings this choice of opponent was Heavyweight Champion moment in boxing history vividly to life. Floyd Patterson. When that arrangement failed The last portion of the book is devoted to Ali's to materialize, he moved down a weight class and fight with Foreman in Africa. After the press had sought out Light-Heavyweight Champion Archie arrived, the bout was postponed for six weeks due Moore. The Old Mongoose agreed to meet George to a cut eye the champion received in training. in the ring at Stillman's Gym in New York City. Being so far from home, the writers stayed in He recounted his session with Moore in Shadow Zaire for the six weeks. This leads to a number Box: An Amateur/n the R/ng first published in of tales, such as the one where Norman Mailer 1977 and now reissued by Little Brown as part thought he was going to be eaten by a lion. of a delightful set of the sports books by George Mr. Plimpton spends a number of pages writing Ptimpton. This rifle is one of seven in the group, about Hunter Thompson. Thompson was sent and it is a wonderful read. to cover the fight for Rolling Stone Magazine, but I first read Shadow Boxin 1977 while I was srill didn't go to the bout. I really don't know why active in the ring. Rereading it now has brought so many pages are devoted to Thompson, as I back so many memories of that time when boxing really never understood why he was ever taken was quite different than it is today, seriously, but it is an insight into the time. Mr. Plimpton begins with his bout with Archie The author talks quite a bit about Drew Moore. He took this match quite seriously, Bundini, Ali's sidekick. Mr. Plimpton refers to enlisting a professional boxing trainer to prepare him as Ali's trainer. In one depressing scene, Ali him for the fatal day. He also read numerous belittles Bundini and slaps him in the face in books on the subject and learned he was not front of a roomful of reporters. Mr. Plimpton, who unique among writers in getting into the ring worshiped All, says he hated him at that moment. with a champion boxer. The poet Arthur Craven, Shadow Box is a delight. It is a book by an reputed to be the nephew of Oscar Wilde, fought author who is a master with words. A man who Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson in Paris. brings the enthusiasm of the dedicated boxing It should be noted that Mr. Plimpton fared much fan along with just enough knowledge of the better in his match against Archie Moore. sport to make it all come alive. It is a book about George had one fatal flaw as a boxer, something the sport when it was much different and much he called the "sympathetic response." This was an more exciting. That excitement comes through involuntary reaction to being hit that resulted in" on every page. If you have not already read tears flowing from his eyes giving the appearance Shadow Box, I urge you to do so. ff you read he was crying. This reaction was a far cry from it years ago, go to it again. You will not be hhe Sonny Liston stare and would hardly send disappointed. It always amazes me when I read of a highly paid athlete who can't seem to comply with some of the rather simple requests of management. Here is the professional ath- lete, skilled enough to com- mand a contract worth several million dollars, but lacking in the motivation to keep in tip-top shape for the competition he will face throughout the dura- tion of the long regular season and possibly the playoffs. The latest version of this tale to come to light is that of former Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger. The Columbus, Ohio native, who went on to play for his hometown school -- Ohio State -- was drafted in the first round (2 ist overall) in the 2012 NBA Draft by the C's. He seemed to fit right in as a rookie, mostly coming off the bench to appear in 45 regular season games while contributing 6.0 points per game. The next three seasons saw him assume a more prominent role, becoming a starter most of the time while averaging 13.3 points in his second and third seasons and 10.3 during the 2015-2015 campaign. If you look on the internet, you'll find that Sullinger's weight is listed at somewhat over 260 pounds. That's a pretty good weight for someone like Sullinger, whose height is listed as 6-8. But I have a feeling it's been some time since that was really what he weighed. According to the Herald, there were concerns about Sullinger's weight for at least two years. During the summer of 2015, even members of his family supposedly sought to intervene. Apparently, it was all to no avail. The paper reported that as the Celtics were losing to the Atlan- ta Hawks during the first round of the 2016 playoffs, Sullinger's weight "had reportedly climbed to north of 300 pounds." WhyP As a follow-up article in the Herald noted: *Bad eating put Sullinger in this situation." He was an out-of-shape man attempting to compete with world class athletes who were in excellent physical condition. At its core it seems so simple, doesn't it? A professional fran- chise agrees to pay an athlete millions of dollars to engage in something the athlete re- ally likes to do -- in this case, play basketball. Beyond the normal routine of showing up for practices and games, it's expected that the athlete will keep himself in shape so that he will be able to compete at his highest level. According to internet sites, Sullinger's salary last season was $1.4 million. If he had remained with the Celtics, he might have collected as much as $4 million in a qualifying offer for the coming 2016-2017 season. Remember, these payments are for something he suppos- edly likes to do, play basketball. How many of us, hopefully engaging in an employment endeavor we consider worth- while, would have been thrilled to have been compensated at the multi-million dollar level over the course of the past 12 months? But there was a detail. Your employer wanted you to go on a diet and lose some weight. Would you have done it for a position that would have made you a multi-millionaire? We bet you would have jumped at the opportunity. But Jared Sullinger appar- ently could not -- or would not. And so the Celtics cut him loose. "The weight issue sim- ply made the decision easy for Celtics management," noted the Herald. And since they had had recently signed A1 Horford and had Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko in the fold, Sullinger became even more expendable. He became essentially a free agent. And in the weird, wacky financial world of the NBA this current offseason, he was not unemployed for very long. With- in a couple of days, the Toronto Raptors had signed him up for a one-year, $6-million deal. So, he'll make much more than he would have with the Celtics. But make no mistake about it. Toronto team President Masai Ujiri is no fool. Notice the term of the deal -- only for one season. There's a big message there for Sullinger. It's either shape up or ship out. This is his second chance, but they~l be no second season north of the bor- der unless Sullinger gets his act together and gets in shape. If he does both, he may be rewarded with a better contract -- either with Toronto or with another team in the NBA. The ball is in his court. Well probably have a good idea by midseason (January in the NBA) whether he has gotten the mes- sage. Many observers believe he has the skills to be a quality NBA player. Sullinger could definitely help the Raptors, who are coming off their best season in the history of the franchise -- winning 56 regular season games and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in the playoffs. Whether he has the desire to be in the best competi- tive shape to best utilize those skills remains to be determined. It's been said that many coaches prefer athletes who are lean, mean and hungry. As it stands right now, SuUinger does not fit that description -- either literally and metaphorically. But as the NBA begins to take the first steps to sail out of the harbor for the 2016-2017 sea- son, there's always the possibil- ity that Sullingcr can reverse course and turn into the player many people in the NBA feel he can become. Where there's a will, there's a way. It's up to Sullinger to find that determination within himself, reverse direction, and set sail on a course that will lead to personal and professional success. i WWW.BOSTON POSTGAZETTE.C()M ' H.,