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December 30, 2016

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PAGE 12 BOSTON POST-GAZE'n'E, DECEMBER 30, 2016 HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss 9f" My New Year's Resolution It's the New Year and a time for resolutions. I don't usually make any as, like rules, they are only made to be broken. How- ever, this year I think I am going to resolve to give up something .... Most of my columns are about fights and boxers from the past. I also try to shed light on the is- sue of brain injuries that result from a person's time in the ring (this issue also crosses over into football and other contact sports). On occasion I will write about a current boxing match, but that is rarely done in a posi- tive tone. A little over a year ago, I watched the worst heavyweight title fight in history, the one be- tween Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko. These two proved themselves to be the absolute worst heavyweights in the his- tory of boxing. I wrote about that fight at the time, but look- ing back I can say that was the day boxing finally died. Oh, it had been suffering a long and painful death for many years, but that spectacle was an ab- solute disgrace. After that, I did keep watching boxing. It has been sad look- ing at just how far this sport has come from what was once known as "The Manly Art of Self Defense." About a week ago, former champion Bernard Hopkins took on Joe Smith, Jr., for some version of the light heavyweight championship. There are so many different versions and so many different weight classes today that it is impossible to identify any boxer as a true world champion. The 27-year-old Smith came into the ring with what looked on paper to be an impressive record of 22 wins in 23 fights with 18 knock outs. Hopkins, at age 51, was once a very good fighter whose best days should be long past him. Yet, Hopkins still manages to be competitive. In this fight, he was stopped after being knocked out of the ring. But until the time of the stoppage he was giving Smith all he could handle. Now Hopkins is in good shape for a 51 -year-old man. He takes good care of himself and is quite fit. But he is no Superman. Time has never been kind to ~i~!~iiiii!~!iiiiiii!iiiiiiii!iii!:ii aging champions and Hopkins is no exception. What is excep- tional is the utter lack of talent in boxing today that allows a man who should be spending time out on the golf course and with his grandchildren to be a factor in championship circles. Make no mistake about it, the only reason Hopkins is still able to challenge the current competition is because they do not know how to fight. It is plain and simple. I urge my readers to take time and study the videos of the champions and contenders of the past and make the compari son. There is no way you can objectively view a Jersey Joe Walcott, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joey Maxim, Billy Conn, Archie Moore, or many more former champs in action and not come to the conclusion they would crush today's collection of paper champions. Even the contenders from the years gone by, those who never made it to the top, would have a field day today. George Benton, Artie Levine, Gaspar Ortega, Holman Williams, and thousands of others would have a field day toying with this crop. Boxers today are well-condi- tioned and dedicated. Most of them have plenty of heart and a desire to win. The problem is they have never been taught the art of boxing. They also train like weight-lifters so their muscles are tight and they do not move with the fluidity that makes a talented boxer. I feel sorry for them as they devote so much time to learning how not to be a boxer. There is an old saying, "Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent," The teaching methods used today have given us a sport that does not even remotely resemble the great profession it once was. Without teachers, the students have no one to learn from. The televi- sion people a}e happy to have matches where fighters simply hit each other in the head a lot, and the fans don't know better as they have grown up watch- ing a generation of unskilled participants going at it. I realize boxing has been pronounced dead almost from the time of Cain and Abel's epic fight, but today it is different. In the past, it may have been counted out .because of mob involvement, or a death in the ring, or competition from tele- vision, or even over-exposure on TV. There was always some reason it was said to be over, but today is different. How can you have a sport continue to exist when the participants do not know how to practice it? When there is nobody left to teach it? Boxing has not been killed by outside forces. It has committed suicide. I have given up my subscrip- tions to HBO, Showtime, and the other channels that give us travesties such as the Fury- Klitchko fight. I have resolved to r/o longer torture myself by watching something billed as boxing. Boxing went into a coma a number of years ago and has now finally slipped into that dark night. I have now resolved to stop watching it. It has become too painful. I will continue to fol- low the parts of it that relate to brain injuries and to write about the progress being made into the research being done to make all contact sports safer. I will continue to research and write about the rich history of this once great sport. But I will not write about a sport that does not exist any longer. Boxing will not be back. The days when the Heavyweight Champion of the World was one of the most recognized people on the planet are gone, never to return. IRS-IMPERSONATION TELEPHONE SCAM Con artists can sound convincing when they NOTE TIIAT THE IR$ WILL IiEVER: call. They use fake names and bogus IRS iden- 1) call to demaad immediate paymeat, nor tification badge numbers. They may know a lot will the agency call about taxes owed with- about their targets, and they usually alter the out first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling, that you pay taxes without giving you the Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and opportunity to question or appeal the amount it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded they say you owe; 3) require you to use a debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses specific payment method for your taxes, such to cooperate, they are then threatened with ar- as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or rest, deportation, or suspension of a business debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) or driver's license. Or, victims may be told they threaten to bring in local police or other law- have a refund due to try to trick them into shar- enforcement groups to have you arrested for ing private information, not paying. A FABULOUS PHOTO -- If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then the photo that dominated the poster/ program distributed by the Boston Celtics as fans entered the Garden for the recent game against the Charlotte Hornets was an outstanding example of the time-honored dictum. In recent years, both the Celtics and the Bruins have utilized game night posters as the latest version of the time- honored game program. The vast majority usually feature an athlete in an action mode on the front. Once in a while, a star athlete from the past is featured. The reverse contains team rosters plus some notes about that night's contest. They are distributed free to all fans. Some display advertising on the back, which covers production and printing expenses. The programs are attractive, timely, and make fine keepsakes. They are printed on magazine quality paper. They are something you'd be happy to have in your home or office. They have a classy look that would add to any indoor d6cor. This brings us to the poster that was distributed by the Celtics on December 16m _ the night of the game against the Hornets. Rather than feature an athlete in game action, this one featured Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in a somewhat different scene. He wasn't wearing a Celtics uniform. Rather he was wearing a casual t-shirt and shorts. It was an outdoor summertime shot with Olynyk crouching down to warmly embrace a youngster who had obviously come forward to meet him. The picture was distributed on the Celtics inaugural Shamrock Foundation Night, an evening dedicated to featuring the charitable arm of the Celtics organization that focuses on partnering with organizations that directly benefit children in need. To me, the photo was one of the most memorable ever distributed at the Garden. The warmth, caring, and sharing that flows so freely in Olynyk's embrace of the youngster delivers a message about the Shamrock Foundation that words would find hard to capture. This brings up a thought. Perhaps there should be more pictures in this genre, showing players out of uniform interacting with not only youngsters, but fans of all ages. They would illustrate additional dimensions of the players. In Olynyk's case, for example, no longer was he simply a basketball player. He was shown to be a warm and caring human being. A great way to start a New Year and a wonderful way to start a new tradition in poster topics. LARRY BIRD AT 60 -- Yes, that Larry Bird, the one who flew all over the parquet at the original Garden, leading the Celtics to three NBA Championships while on his way to becoming a 12-time NBA All-Star and earning three consecutive NBA MVP Awards. He turned the "Big Six-O" back on Decem- ber 7% Shortly thereafter, there was a great interview on by David Aldridge. In it, Bird -- the president of the Indiana Pacers-- states that he still has his health, but is slowing down. "The one thing I miss is going out and running five miles or three miles. I can't do it because of my back." He indicated that he can exercise with machines but, "it's not the same as getting up in the morning and just taking off and running outside. I can't do that anymore and I miss that. I miss going outside for little jogs." Bird said he never trained for the Boston Marathon -- but he thought about it. "I ran in some races back in Boston. The most I ever ran was about eight miles when I was playing. And my knees started hurting. That was the first time I had knee pain in my life. So I always kept it to around five miles. When I was living in Boston, every time you went out for a jog, you weren't alone. There were hundreds of people out there. Everybody runs in Boston. I thought about it (Boston Marathon). Could I ever do it? The reason I ran close to eight miles was my girlfriend back then was supposed to pick me up after four miles and forgot about it (remember, no cell phones). So I just kept running. Finally, I just got too far out there, so I just kept running. The reason I know how far it was because I had marked it off in the car." He also admits to gradually changing his mind on the three- point shot, introduced into the NBA for the 1979-80 season. "I don't know if I was just being hard-headed because I was never a three-point guy. But the way the game has changed, I think it's better for the fans." When Bird was playing for the Celtics, he noted: "We pounded the ball inside. If you came down the court and somebody threw the bail to your man and he was at the three-point line, you backed off two feet. You were worried about the drive. But it would give Kevin McHale and Robert Parish more space down there." Bird says he controls his weight with an occasional diet. "I'm probably 10-15 pounds more than I want to be. But every three months, I go on this strict diet for a month and lose the pounds ... as far as movement, I try to run every day ... [but] there's a limit for me. I try to stay active, keep moving. I always heard people say, as they get older, that you have to keep moving. I believe that." In the interview, Bird seemed more concerned about other experiences. "The thing that scares me the most about getting older is you get out of your car sometimes and you go, 'did I just park that there? I thought I had it in there straight, but it's not as straight as I thought it was.' I find myself completely losing my train of thought. Ill be starting on something, and I'm talking, and then all of a sudden, I'm talking about something else."