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, . , , PAGE 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 20, 2015 O~!!i i!iii! iiiiiiii! ~" .: ...... But Can He Take a Punch? A Young Cassius Clay Answered that Question Early in His Career Banks drops Chy. When Cassius Clay exploded on the professional boxing scene after winning a gold medal at the Olympic games in 1960, the public knew they were witnessing the rise of not just a very talented young boxer, but also seeing a figure that was going to make boxing interest- ing and colorful again. This was in his pre-Black Muslim days, when he was known for his braggadocio rather than his political views. Young Cassius watched how professional wrestlers would attract crowds by putting on a show before the matches. They would brag about what they were going to do to their opponents, and in the case of one who had a particular influ- ence on Clay, Gorgeous George would talk about how pretty he was. Cassius, with his outgoing personality, good looks, and gift of gab was a natural for this approach. It also didn't hurt that he was an extremely tal- ented boxer. Of course, this bragging didn't sit well with all boxing fans. Some did pay to see him get beaten, as he knew would happen. They felt the loud- mouth deserved to have his big trap shut by a knockout blow. Another thing that irked those rooting against him was the fact that he moved fast and was very difficult to hit with a solid shot. Cassius played on that as well by saying, "I am just too pretty to be hit." Those who wanted to see him take a licking came to believe that if he was finally tagged, he would not be able to take a punch, and that he re- ally wasn't tough enough to deal with being in a serious slugfest. They questioned his heart. If only an opponent could reach his jaw, this big mouth would be finished. He was just talk andwould never be able to back it up in a real fight. The question about Clay's ability to take a punch lingered for years, but he proved his mettle in only his 11th fight against the hard-punching Sonny Banks. Not only could he take a punch, but he also showed he could fire right back when hurt. Sonny Banks came into the fight with a record of 10 wins via knockout and just two losses. He was another young prospect and, even this early in his career, was known for his punching power. The two met on February 10, 1962, at Madison Square Garden in a ten-round main event. Clay had predicted he would stop Banks in the fourth round, but the fight almost ended much earlier than that, and not irt Clay's favor. In the opening round, Cas- sius came out dancing. He was circling Banks and throwing jabs. In his usual form, Clay had his hands down and was avoiding punches by moving his head and staying mobile. Not long into the round Clay backed Banks into a corner. Clay squared-up with Banks, He got ~o his feet at the count of two. He took the mandatory eight count and then he changed his style. There was no quit in him at all. When the action resumed, Clay steadied himself and began throwing very hard shots at Banks. Sure, he was still circling, but he was more sure-footed now and throwing hard punches with great accu- racy. He was also throwing them with tremendous speed. He was angry that he had been decked and was now taking that anger out on Banks. In the second round, he dropped Banks with a lightning fast right/left combination. He then battered him constantly, and referee Ruby Goldstein was about to step in and stop the bout when the bell rang ending the third round. The doctor was called in to examine Banks be- fore the start of the fourth and allowed the fight to continue. It didn't last much longer, as Clay unloaded a fusillade of punches causing Goldstein to jump in and stop the fight at 26 seconds into the round. For those paying attention at the time, they would have seen a number of things in young Clay that had champion written all .over thim. He was able to take a great shot to the chin and not only survive it, but not even be flustered by it. His first thought when hitting the canvas was to get up again and get back into the fight. He also showed the heart of a champion by fight- ing back with an intense fury. He adapted his game plan and would not be hit with another good shot for the remainder of i if!i):/ Clay stops Banks. and Banks fired a solid left hook that caught Clay flush on the jaw, dropping him. It was a solid punch and Cassius went down on his back. It should also be mentioned that, shortly before the hook was landed, Clay was on the receiving end of a solid right hand. It can be argued that Clay went down because he was somewhat off balance when he was hit. But make no mistake about it, this was a hard left hook to the jaw. So, how did Clay react now that he had finally been tagged? the bout. Any talk about Cassius Clay's heart and ability to take a punch should have ended that night in Madison Square Garden, but many were so blinded by their dislike of the brash youngster, they would not give him the credit he earned in that fight. He would go on to prove the critics wrong time and time again. Looking back on that Febru- ary night in 1962, I would say Clay answered his critics and the smart money should have been on him after that. HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss It's been a sore point with Boston Bruins fans so far this season. No one can really point to an exact reason for it, but the results so far are clear -- the Bruins play better when they are on the road and not as well when they are at home. In a way, it defies the natural order of things, causing fans to pause and ponder the meaning of it all. But the fact remains that through games of mid- November, there hasn't been a home ice advantage for the B's. So much so that, .in fact, it's been said that some members of the team prefer to play in games scheduled far from Causeway Street. "The point with our game is where it's been going at home," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien shortly before his charg- es took to the ice for another contest in a five-game home stand in the period leading up to Thanksgiving. With a week to go before Turkey Day, his team was 6-2-0 on the road but only 2-6-1 at home. "I think a lot of the focus has to be on us and knowing that every team that comes in here looking at our home record cer- tainly comes in here with a lot of confidence right now." What coach Julien would re- ally like to see is more of what he calls "60-minute efforts" on the part of the team, especially at home. Often this season, in his press conference after a game at the Garden, Julien would come in and describe scenarios where he felt his team played well in the first period nor didn't play well at the start but l layed better in the third period, often when it was a bit too late. The key, the coach has in- dicated, is to play well for the entire game, because in today's NHL, one team will probably not dominate too many games. "This playing once in a while in games is not going to cut it in this league," said a visibly per- turbed Julien following another home setback, this one a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks. tit has to end. It should have ended by now. The most important part is go out there and do it and show it. It's not happening. We know it isn't acceptable and it shouldn't be." "Every team in this league is good," stated Julien, "so you can't expect to dominate for 60 minutes. But if you continue to grind your way throughout the game, eventually you get rewarded." The coach added that he feels the team still has potential -- a feeling that hasn't changed since the start of the season. "I was excited about the potential. There's potential here if every- body really takes charge of their jobs and then shows up every night. We've got to be willing to be able to play and adjust (to varying game situations). But right now I don't think we've got the focus or the commitment of the whole group." dulien indicated that he in- tends to lay down the law in private meetings with the team, not in front of media members. "That's something Ill deal with internally," said the coach. "I'm certainly not going to elaborate on that here (in front of the media). This is where part of my job has to be worked on in the dressing room and certainly not outside the dressing room." After hearing those com- ments, one could not help but feel that it would be a less than pleasant experience for a player to be in the locker room the next day. Over the years weYe ob- served how thick the walls are that lead into the dressing room from the outside corridor. Their ability to contain the sounds that emanate from within may be put to their ultimate test over the course of the next few days. And if you feel that goalie Tuukka Rask is the main man to blame in all of this, then you need to pause and consider the following: ~He had some good games," said Julien in defense of the 2014 Vezina Trophy win- ner (best goaltender in the regu- lar season}, think right now we keep looking back at some average games. But he'll find his game. I'm going to be back- ing him and supporting him all year long because I know what kind of goaltender he is. When things go bad, that's when you support your goaltender. That's when you show trust in him -- because we know he's going to help us win games like he did against Detroit." For his part Rask feels "there are nights where I have to make big saves and play real good. I think a lot of times I go hand-in- hand with the guys. I look good when they look good and vice versa. Obviously some nights are tougher than others. We just have to understand that when that happens we stick together. If we really keep the game simple then we are going to get even more results. We want to get the wins but we want to feel really good about the wins. I think that's where it's at right now." We still believe that the Bruins have the talent to be a Stanley Cup playoff team next spring. As noted, the team possesses quite a bit of potential. It is up to the play- ers whether that potential will be squandered away or utilized in a positive manner. If the latter choice is made then the reward should come next April with a berth in the playoffs. The Bruins right now are looking at a forkin the road regarding their season. The direction they choose to take will be made over the course of the next few weeks. For informat/on on advert in.the Post-Gazette, call 617-227-8929.