Friday, October 5, 2012

From Beyond the Grave - The Elements

Photo: Chamreon Songkitrat, left, and Jimmy Carruthers; Jay Robert Nash Collection

"Undefeated Jimmy Carruthers of Australia retained his world bantamweight title tonight by out-pointing Chamreon Songkitrat, Thailand police lieutenant, in a grueling, bloody 12-rounder fought in a driving rainstorm. Because of the heavy downpour, both fighter fought bare-footed, the first world title fight in Thailand's history. A crowd of around 50,000 sat in the open air National Auditorium ... The bout was interrupted in the third and ninth rounds when exposed electric bulbs over the ring exploded and splattered glass over the ring. Time had to be called while the glass was swept up."

     - Times-Picayune, 1954, Jimmy Carruthers vs. Chamreom Songkitrat

"The American A.C., the new boxing club in this city, which had its opening last night, was handicapped by the weather, but the conditions as they existed would not attract anyone who seeks comfort. Three bouts were held in a clubhouse whose temperatures caused the majority of the 295 members to shiver. Two stoves were used to heat the big structure. ...The weather conditions were against the opening, but the accommodations, under the very adverse circumstances, were decidedly inadequate."

     - Boston Journal, 1910, Honey Mellody vs. Kyle Whitney

"The heat of the day was terrific, intensified as it was by the vast acreage of green lumber. During the preliminary bouts, which lasted from 11 o'clock until 2:30, a thermometer exposed, as were the spectators and fighters, jumped to 120 degrees, which was the limit of what the instrument could record. It showed 110 degrees when Willard and Dempsey entered the ring." 

     - Daily Herald, 1919, Jack Dempsey vs. Jess Willard

"And even though the fight was scheduled for 10:30 P.M. so as to accommodate closed-circuit television venues in the United States, Angelo Dundee believed that it was hotter than in Zaire, especially because a tin roof helped keep the heat humidity locked in the enclosed space. The fight ebbed and flowed. Ali was the aggressor for the first few rounds, seemingly trying to end the fight early. But when he took to the ropes in the 5th round, Frazier went after him. Frazier jarred the champ with a massive left hook in the 6th round. Ed Schuyler of the Associated Press said it was even harder than the one Frazier landed in their first bout. But this time Ali stayed up, looked at Frazier and said, 'They told me Joe Frazier was washed up.' Frazier responded, 'They lied.' They kept hammering each other, neither man backing down, through heat and humidity."

     - Muhammad Ali: A Biography, Anthony Edmunds

"The day of the fight was miserable and cold. The rain came down in sheets, but 10,000 people tromped five miles through deep mud to the field where the bout was set. At around noon, 'Gentleman' John Jackson, the master of ceremonies, roped off a 24-foot ring at the foot of a hill, then had it surrounded by spectators' carriages to shield the contestants from the wind. The fighters stripped off their shirts. The first few rounds were tense and indecisive. The fighters were coping not only with the pressure of the occasion and, in Cribbs' case, with nearly two years' worth of rust, but also with the heavy rain and a sodden, mud-streaked ground."

     - A Fighter Abroad, Brian Phillips, on Tom Cribb vs. Tom Molineaux

"The Stadium ring burned and bleached dead white like a fierce, isolated desert. Around the ring, sweating and howling 47,963 watched in disbelief as referee Ruby Goldstein reeled against the ropes and staggered, heat-struck, from under the savage lights as the 10th round ended. Then they watched in double disbelief in the 13th as Sugar Ray Robinson, ex-welterweight, and current middleweight king, never knocked out in his career, blundered and retched like a stunned animal. ...And suddenly, strangely, the great Sugar Ray Robinson was a man alone in the desert. He even saw a mirage, and swung at it, and missed and fell sprawling on his face."

     - Register-Republic, 1952, Joey Maxim vs. Ray Robinson

Late Summer and early Fall are often the times of year where Mother Nature likes to wedge her foot up our collective posterior by way of stuff like heatwaves, brush fires and drought, depending on where you live. 

In boxing, every so often, a fighter may complain of fighting in the heat, or he may have to deal with torrential downpours, but more often than not, hostilities are carried out in the relative comfort of arenas or smokeless clubs or gyms -- a stark contrast to eras where fights held in outdoor venues were regularly rescheduled in rainy seasons, and fighters' lungs were robbed of their full potential by smoke-filled clubs. 

The elements add a wildcard to the already dicey situation of dodging leather flying at your head with anger behind it. In a sport that's perfectly lethal as is, it's quite understandable that fighters would prefer to dismiss outside factors that could potentially affect a fight's outcome. 

At least Mother Nature can't be bribed, or pegged as inept. 


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