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PAGE 12 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 2, 2016 Ezzard Charles m A Gentle Terror Ezzard Charles: A Boxing Life By William Dettloff Published by McFarland,, 232 pages Ezzard Charles was not some- one you would look at and think of a vicious fighting machine. He looked more like a member of Duke Ellington's jazz band. He was also very mild-man- nered with a gentle air about him. As a kid in Lawrenceville, Georgia and later in Cincinnati, Ohio, he was friendly but quiet. He did always love boxing and dreamed of one day becoming a world champion. In 1949, after an amateur career and almost ten years of fighting pro, he attained his dream by beating Jersey Joe Walc0tt for the title Joe Louis had vacated. Unfortunately is worn out." William Shake- speare would be envious. There are also other interest- ing facts related here. It turns out a young Charles, while serving in the military, fought a three-round exhibition with Joe Louis. Also, while training for his bout against Bob Satterfield, the Charles people brought in a crude young heavyweight by the name of Sonny Liston to be a sparring partner. Liston was not up to the task at that point in his career. After Charles lost the title to Walcott, and a rematch with Jersey Joe, it looked like his hopes of ever regaining the title Charles vs. Louis. Charles vs. Marciano. for Charles, he had two things against him. He was stepping into the shadow of the beloved LOUIs, and he did not possess the exciting and dramatic style of the Brown Bomber. The public just did not take to him. It's not like Charles hadn't earned re- spect. He had fought and beat a number of the Black Murderer's Row fighters. He had two wins over the very great Charley Bur- ley, as well as a decision win and a knockout over Archie Moore. While Charles may have looked more like a piano teacher out of the ring, when the bell rang he was a brutal competi- tor. As I was reading William Dettloff's excellent biography of Charles I couldn't help think- ing that Ezzard had to have a lot of anger in him that he could only express in the prize ring. He could also be erratic in his performances, sometimes not looking motivated enough to win convincingly. Charles would be a ripe candidate for some psychoanalysis, and in fact, before his rematch with Rocky Marciano, the press had a psychiatrist visit the camps of both fighters in an effort to drum up interest in the fight. The doctor described Charles as "a dreamer type.., who loses the spontaneity in his dreams" because of his many "inhibi- tions." Interesting insight, even flit was just hype to sell tickets. Mr. Dettloff has done ex- haustive research on the life and fighting career of Ezzard Charles. He takes us to the trag- ic night in 1948 when Charles fought Sam Baroudi. Baroudi would be carried from the ring and die the next day. Ezzard was devastated by this tragedy, but just three months later would step back into that very same ring and knock out the very formidable Elmer "Violent" Ray. In fact, he would fight four more times in 1948, including a win over Jimmy Bivins. Charles would continue win- ning and often, finally landing a fight with Jersey Joe Walcott for the vacant heavyweight crown. Beating Walcott may have made him champion, but he still had to live in the shadow of Joe Louis. He defended the title often and even went on to defeat his idol LOUIs in a brutal fifteen-round affair that should have removed all doubt to his legitimacy as champion. It did not. The problem was, as Det- tloff points out, Ezzard Charles was not Joe Louis. This lack of public support may have had something to do with his not being always able to motivate himself. An- other reason was his fighting so often and against such tough competition. Ezzard rarely got an easy opponent. In fact, in reading this biography we are treated to a history of the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions in the 1940s and '50s. Mr. Dettloff gives brief but very interesting biographies of many of Charles's opponents: Archie Moore, Walcott, Bivins, Harold Johnson, Bob Satterfi.eld, and many others. This all makes for a very interesting book. Dettloff also introduces us to many of the characters who occupied the world of boxing during that era. One of the most quotable was Charles' man- ager (he had many) Jake Mintz. Mintz could twist the English language amazing ways. For example, when recounting sur- gery he had to repair a hernia he said, "They thought I had some gallstones there so they took an autograph of my heart and said, 'One of your ulsters were over. He began campaign- ing for another shot at the ti.tle, but lost back-to-back matches against Nino Valdez and Harold Johnson. Charles was getting tired and old, but he did come back to life with wins over Sat- terfield and Coley Wallace. It was enough to earn him a shot at the new and exciting young champion, Rocky Marciano. Dettloff writes about this fight in detail. He discusses Charles' training and strategy for the fight, a strategy that at first glance may have sounded foolish but made sense. Ezzard went into the Marciano moti- vated to win, but came up short. He also earned the distinction of being the only man to take the Rock the full 15 rounds and came closer than any fighter to taking the title from him, though the decision was clearly in Marciano's favor. Charles would get a rematch based on his performance, and even though he severely cut Rocky's nose, he just did not have anything left. Though he would continue to fight on for another four years, it was all downhill from there. He would end up broke, take up profes- sional wrestling, and struggle to make ends meet. His final years were spent suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease. A very tragic end for such a great fighter. William Dettloff has writ- ten a fine biography of a great champion, and one that Ezzard Charles deserves. Boxing fans should take the time to read this very interesting book and learn about this man who deserves to be remembered. It has often been said that Charles is the most underrated of all heavy- weight champions. Mr. Dettloff has down a terrific job in chang- ing that perception. HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss Looking down the entire length of the ice, Calgary Flames goalie Chad Johnson could see his past, what could have been his present and even what might have been his future. For as he scanned the familiar frozen surface of the Garden, where he had played a signifi- cant number of games not too far back, the scene at the other end registered remembrances of things past, games won and a playoff berth attained. As the game started, he could look down the ice and see the goal nearest the Bruins bench. Only some three years earlier, it was he that would come off that bench, ready and primed to serve as the skilled backup netminder to Bruins star goalie Tuukka Rask. For Chad Johnson was once a Bruin, and a good one, too. When Rask had a spectacular 2013-2014 season on his way to winning the Vezina Trophy (emblematic of best goalie over the course of the regular sea- son), Johnson also had been impressive as his backup. Rask was the NHL's leading goalie, compiling a list of impressive stats that would win him the award, going 36- 15-6 with a 2.04 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. But Johnson, as his backup, wasn't far behind. The Sas- katchewan native played in 27 regular season games -- one third of the schedule--posting a fine 2.10 goals against average and a 0.925 save percentage while going 17-4-3. Just how good were those stats? They were good enough to place him sixth among all goalies in the 30-team NHL that season, the only one he would play for the Bruins. It was his best year in hockey since he turned in a dazzling senior season at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks back in the 2008-2009 campaign, capping his four-year collegiate career with a sparkling 1.66 goals against average over the course of a 35-game span, coupled with a 0.940 save percentage and six shutouts, the most in any season of his career-- amateur or pro. On this night after Thanksgiv- ing against his former team, he would also be a leader -- earn- ing the game's number one star in a 2-1 victory over the Bruins as he turned aside 35 shots in the process. Coming before a Bruins home crowd in Boston, it was a statement about what could possibly have been, if doubts and dollars had not intervened. It was Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who, during Johnson's single season on Causeway Street, proclaimed the transition as ~seamless" on the nights when Johnson started in place of Rask. With a statement of confidence like that coming from his well- respected mentor, it appeared that the question of who would spell Rask -- at least for the next year or two -- had indeed been answered. But it hadn't. Instead, there would come to be a rotating cast of goaltenders serving in the backup role. The night that Johnson was in town it happened to be Anton Khudobin, a netminder on his second tour of duty with the Bs after seeing action in 14 games during the 2012-2013 season. He's not a bad goalie. Calgary scored only two goals, but his teammates could only get him one, a current version of the timeless tale concerning how the offense failed to do its job for the defensive side. Still, Julien's remark in his pre-game media availability was in stark contrast to the "seam- less" statement he had made about Johnson three years earlier. Coming off a rehabili- tation stint at AHL Providence, Khudobin was "good enough that they (Bruins management) called him back up and think he can play for us tonight. I don't like to lie, so I'm not going to make things up." Regardless Of whether it's Zane Mclntyre, Malcolm Subban or Khudobin, it's obvious that there's a drop-off after Tuukka, one that might have been avoided if the B's had been willing to extend Johnson's contract. He was earning $600,000 on a one-year contract, but the Bs passed on him for another season so he went to the Islanders for $1.3 million per year in a two-year deal. So how much more money would the Bruins have had to spend in the summer of 2014 to avoid an unsettled situation concerning Rask's relief? About $700,000 a year. The Bs refusal meant that not only did Johnson leave the Bruins, he became an itinerant netminder, playing with the Is- landers, later with the Buffalo Sabres, and currently with the Flames where he's on a one- year, $1.7 million contract. THE BRUINS AT THANKSGIVING -- As Thanksgiving Weekend came to a close, the Bruins stood just outside the playoff picture -- a place they've occupied at the conclusion of the regular season for the prior two years. The top three teams in each division qualify for the playoffs. The Bruins were fourth in the Atlantic Division with 24 points {12-12-0). In addition, two Eastern Conference teams will earn wild card berths. The Bs were third in that race behind Columbus (26 points) and New Jersey (25 points). Overall, the Bruins were 15th in the 30- team league. LINKED IN LIFE AND DEATH -- Its obvious to all that Fidel Castro, who was one of the last remaining world figures from the mid-20th century, often tangled with U.S. authorities of the era, notably President John F. Kennedy. Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959, the year before JFK was elected President in 1960. Yet even in death Castro had a link to Kennedy. Castro's passing on Nov. 25 came 53 years to the day (November 25, 1963) of JFK's funeral at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. Castro was 90 at the time of his passing. If Kennedy had lived, he would have been 99 when Castro died.