Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Victoria aut Mors - Tommy Loughran

There's Philadelphia, the historic "City of Brotherly Love," and then there's boxing's Philadelphia - the city with an unquestionable penchant for producing the type of fighters that laugh off blood and smirk at guts. 

But the industrial apathy of early 20th century Pennsylvania gifted the boxing world with one of the original "Philly fighters," Tommy Loughran. 

He doesn't quite fit the schema of the brawling boxer we're used to hearing about; Tommy was actually much more defensive-minded stylist than say Matt Saad Muhammad or Joe Frazier, to put it lightly.

However, Loughran was a legitimate professor in the ring. The issue was simply that it wasn't often thrilling, and he is regrettably shortchanged for it as time goes by. 

 Even in 1928, essentially Loughran's prime (or close to it), the Springfield Republican stated, "...for years Loughran was regarded as a colorless, uninteresting sort of fighter. He is a fine looking chap, of wonderful physique and handsome features, but he couldn't hit a lick on earth, and he was given to defensive tactics to a degree that was positively annoying." 

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Don't Tug on Floyd's Cape

Photo: AP/Eric Jamison

Home Box Office has carved a space in the world of outstanding production in a few different areas, and especially boxing. 

Aside from HBO Sports though, its original programming is consistently the type of stuff that wins Emmys. It's just accepted at this point. 

A few years back HBO aired a program called Carniv├ále - an award-winning show about a traveling carnival and sideshow in the Dust Bowl Era. 

On the surface, Carniv├ále was a grimy, realistic take on how your average degenerate survived in extremely tough times. The show touched on much broader, cryptic issues though, most of which unfortunately never got resolved, as the show was canceled after a second season for casting reasons. 

But in a particularly memorable episode of the first season, the sideshow exacts what it refers to as its own "carnival justice," forcing a potential murderer to play a twisted version of Russian Roulette when unable to rely on outsiders to uphold the law. 

There weren't many bearded ladies or reptile people in the MGM Grand on Saturday night (Cirque de Soleil notwithstanding), but Floyd Mayweather relished the role of villain as he doled out his own kind of justice over a foggy-headed Victor Ortiz, with a surreal finish nobody could have seen coming. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mayweather vs. Ortiz - Who Laughs Last?

Photo: Gene Blevins/Hogan Photos

The template for "big event" in today's sport has been etched and rehashed numerous times over the last few years, and the mega, ultra, stupendous, gigantic and supposedly captivating matchup between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz tomorrow does little to deviate from that formula. 

Leading to "fight week" this week, endless delectable details have been examined, reexamined and applied towards various predictions about the fight. 

We've been spared none of the quotes and dramas that have made spectacles of recent big fights - even what basically amounted to a televised excommunication of a family member on HBO's 24/7 series. 

Right or wrong, we'll watch. And we won't know whether it was right or wrong until we watch. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Victoria aut Mors - Tony Zale

The words "dirty" and "crafty" are often interchangeable in this great sport. 

One might be less likely to decry the not-so-sweet portion of the sweet science if brought up, for example, in a town like Gary, Indiana - a town created from the flattened remnants of sand dunes for the specific purpose of building steel manufacturing plants. 

A few years before Anthony Florian Zaleski was born in 1913, a writer named William B. Hard made public the dangerous and poor working conditions in steel mills in nearby Chicago with an article entitled "Making Steel and Killing Men."

And making steel in a steel mill was basically the story of Tony Zale's childhood.  

When he was just 2-years old, his father was run over by a car and killed while bicycling to the drugstore, leaving his mother to raise a handful of kids alone. 

Like many children born into immigrant families in Gary's Central District, Tony worked the mills with his older brothers when he was old enough to. He would later say, "It seemed like I worked in the steel mills since I was weaned, breathing the burnt air, catching [with a bucket] the hot rivets that could burn a hole right through you if you missed."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

HBO & Haymon's Fling Shooting Blanks

Business relationships are all about coming to a mutually beneficial understanding - the old quid pro quo, as it were. 

And the business of boxing is making gymnasts out of fighters - that is, having them bend every which way to get screwed by any means possible. 

A novel concept this is not. Boxers by nature are rarely the most intelligent (or even cunning) mind in the equation; when they are, they're superstars that are the exception, not the rule. Over the long haul, the non-combatants have reaped more consistent rewards than the guys lacing up the leather. 

But the advent of television altered the way money flows through the sport. 

Even over 100 years ago, Jack Johnson and Stan Ketchel negotiated their way to a 40% cut of television/motion picture money that flowed in as a result of their infamous cakewalk gone awry. 

Much more recently, in the 1973, a new player rolled up to boxing's doorstep: Home Box Office. 

Random Classics - Daniel Zaragoza vs. Paul Banke I, II & III

It's not as if boxing hasn't had its share of male models, singers and handsome faces, but you wouldn't generally expect a sport where guys wind up getting more facial cosmetic surgery than Joan Rivers, to highlight a bunch of lookers.

Cheekbones get shattered, noses wind up cartilage-free, scar tissue where cuts chronically open up is repaired, etc. This is a sport of blood. 

And they say you should never fight an ugly guy, because he's got nothing to lose. 

Daniel Zaragoza was an outstanding example of why that advice is perfectly sound. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Victoria aut Mors - Carmen Basilio

"The Onion Farmer" was tough enough to make onions cry. 

Perhaps serendipitously from Canestota, New York, home of the IBHOF, Carmine Basilio grew up on an onion farm run by his father, who wasn't shy about making hard workers of his children - he would frequently have them rush home from school to help on the farm. 

Carmine, who later changed his name to Carmen for heretofore unknown reasons, farmed alongside his father while reportedly fighting often for a few bucks as a youngster. 

Basilio joined the marines out of school, and had a few amateur exhibitions while serving. After being honorably discharged in 1948, Basilio turned pro at the age of 21.