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The Hauser Report: Literary, Medical, and Other Boxing Notes

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The Hauser Report: Literary, Medical, and Other Boxing Notes

Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn by Ed Gruver (Lyons Press) is what its title says it is – a book about the June 18, 1941, heavyweight championship fight between Joe Louis and Billy Conn.

Conn was born and raised in Pittsburgh and grew up fighting. He liked to say that he started in alleys and worked his way up to the streets. He had his first pro fight at age sixteen, defeated five former world champions by age twenty, and was light-heavyweight champion of the world at 21. In a twist of fate, when a heavyweight prospect named Joe Louis fought Hans Birkie in Pittsburgh in 1935, Conn (then seventeen years old) handled the spit bucket in Louis’s corner.

Conn was 23 and Louis 28 when they fought in 1941. The weight differential between them was enormous. The challenger weighed in at 169 pounds (announced as 174). Louis tipped the scales at 204. Many expected the bout to be a replay of the 1921 “million-dollar-gate” encounter between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in which the hard-punching heavyweight champion obliterated his charismatic but smaller foe.

But Conn matched up well against Louis in two areas. His footwork was superior and his hands were faster.

More significantly, perhaps, The Brown Bomber was slipping a bit. Fighters got old at a young age in those days. And Louis hadn’t fought a top-level challenger since Max Schmeling in 1938, feasting instead on thirteen opponents referred to collectively by some sportswriters as the “bum of the month club.”

Louis was a 17-to-5 betting favorite over Conn. 54,487 fans packed the Polo Grounds in New York on fight night. They saw a great fight between two great fighters.

Scoring in New York in 1941 was on a round basis. Conn’s footwork and hand speed were dazzling. After twelve rounds, he led 7-4-1 and 7-5 on two scorecards and was even on the third. In the twelfth stanza, he staggered Louis. In today’s world, he would have been the new heavyweight champion. But championship fights in 1941 were fifteen rounds, not twelve.

Conn’s version of what happened next was, “In the twelfth round, I staggered Louis. It made me feel good. I knew I had the title if I wanted to box for it. But I thought how great it would be to beat the unbeatable Louis at his own game. I went into the thirteenth with the idea of knocking Joe cold.”

“Casting caution to the wind,” Gruver writes, “Conn went all out for glory. Operating on a knife’s edge, the Kid was extending a Homeric effort. If he succeeded, sportswriters would speak of his stunning victory in epic prose which would echo in eternity. There would be odes written in the Old World as well as in the new, paeans to Conn fighting with the passionate intensity of his Irish ancestors.”

But, Gruver continues, “trading blows with Joe Louis proved to be a bridge too far.” Louis froze Conn with a crushing right hand and, soon after, ended matters with thirteen unanswered blows.

Conn, Gruver recounts, “fell limply like a marionette whose strings had been cut” and struggled to regain his feet. But as the count reached ten, his gloves were still touching the canvas. The time of the stoppage was 2:58 of the thirteenth round.

Had Conn beaten the count, rounds fourteen and fifteen (if there was a fifteen) would likely have gone poorly for him. In all probability, Louis would have won by decision or knockout. Also, while much has been written about Conn going for the kill in round thirteen, Gruver acknowledges that, having fought twelve hard rounds, Conn might no longer have been physically able to maneuver out of harm’s way.

The Joe Louis lode has been mined by numerous authors (most notably, David Margolick, Don McRae, Randy Roberts, and Chris Mead). Conn was the subject of an excellent biography by Andrew O’Toole. Gruver’s work doesn’t have the texture or depth of analysis that these books offer. And he glosses over the endless dysfunctional family struggles that plagued Conn throughout his life culminating in the boxer’s sad decline into pugilistic dementia (which was particularly well covered by O’Toole).

There are also times when digressions interrupt Gruver’s narrative flow. The end of round six of one of the most exciting fights in boxing history isn’t the place to insert a three-page biography of Bill Corum (Don Dunphy’s radio commentating partner that night).

That said; Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn is an entertaining read. Gruver brings his subject to life. The fight itself is dramatically told over the course of five chapters. And Conn (who clearly has a place in Gruver’s heart) gets his due as a great fighter.

*         *         *

One of many divisive issues facing society today is the question of whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in a gender category other than that assigned to them at birth. Recently, Dr. Nitin Sethi (chief medical officer for the New York State Athletic Commission) offered some thoughts on the matter as it relates to combat sports.

Sethi supports transgender rights. He has pledged to protect transgender individuals against discrimination in employment, education, access to healthcare, and other areas of everyday life. But he is also, in his words, “committed to the value of fair competition.”

“A combat-sport bout,” Sethi states, “should occur between two equally matched competitors. At present, there is no consensus whether a bout between a transgender woman against a cisgender (biological) woman is a fair bout between two equally matched competitors.”

Metrics such as testosterone levels, Sethi notes, are inadequate to ensure fairness at the time of the bout. “It can be argued,” he posits, “that by the time a transgender woman combatant launches her professional career, she has already gone through male puberty, thus conferring her with the musculature and bony structure of a male. So, a transgender woman combatant may have an unfair advantage over her cisgender woman opponent.”

The converse would be true in the case of a fight between a transgender man and a cisgender man.

“Combat sports such as boxing,” Sethi continues, “are unique since every punch thrown at the head is thrown with the intention of winning by causing a knockout, which is a concussive head injury. These sports carry an exceedingly high risk for both acute and chronic neurological injuries.”

Thus, Sethi advocates for “two equally skilled and matched athletes competing on a level playing field and to keep matches fair, competitive, entertaining, and, most importantly, safe for all combatants.” At the present level of scientific knowledge, he concludes, allowing transgender athletes to compete in combat sports raises serious health and safety concerns that he finds unacceptable.

*         *         *

The Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP) says that its primary mission is to educate all persons involved in combat sports with regard to medical issues. This responsibility is of particular importance when it comes to the doctors themselves. In many jurisdictions, physicians with no combat sports experience evaluate fighter medical data, conduct pre-fight physicals, and are at ringside on fight night. And to be blunt about it, there are concerns that, in recent years, the ARP has fallen short in carrying out its educational mission.

Dr. Gerard Varlotta (a renowned orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist who has served as a ringside physician for the New York State Athletic Commission since 1991) is seeking to educate. Toward that end, he has been the driving force behind a book titled Association of Ringside Physicians’ Manual of Combat Sports Medicine that will be published in early-September.

“I started thinking about the manual a decade ago,” Varlotta says. “The longer I worked as a ringside physician, the more I realized that most of us come from different backgrounds and have different training and there was no one place we could go to cross-learn about how to care for fighters. Boxing and MMA are complicated sports. There are a lot of nuances that need to be understood from a medical perspective. I began working on the project in earnest about three years ago. It has taken since then to get enough people with the right expertise to write the chapters, edit everything, and put it all together.”

No one picks up a Merck Medical Manual for pleasure reading. The same is true of this book. The manual consists of 53 essays authored and co-authored by 71 contributing writers. It’s 600 pages long and technical in nature.

That said; any doctor who takes on the role of being a ringside physician should study this book.

*         *         *

HBO Boxing is long gone, although fans can relive HBO fights on YouTube and other platforms. Meanwhile, Larry Merchant (who enjoyed a highly-praised career as a newspaperman before transitioning to television) will make an appearance next month in an unexpected theater.

On September 10, EPIX will televise Part 1 of an eight-part documentary entitled “NFL Icons.” The first episode paints a wonderful portrait of the immensely likable John Madden – a Hall of Fame coach and possibly the greatest expert analyst in any sport ever.

At one point, the documentary shows Madden facing the press after leading the Oakland Raiders to a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the 1977 Super Bowl. The first question comes from Merchant who inquires, “Coach, it looked like the halftime show could have given you a better game than the Vikings. How much stronger is the AFC than the NFC? You’ve dominated this game for five years.”

“I didn’t see the halftime show,” Madden answers.

“I don’t remember it,” Merchant told The Sweet Science when asked about the exchange this week. “But hearing about it from you now, I like it.”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – In the Inner Sanctum: Behind the Scenes at Big Fights – will be published by the University of Arkansas Press this autumn. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Thomas Hauser is the author of 52 books. In 2005, he was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which bestowed the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism upon him. He was the first Internet writer ever to receive that award. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for boxing's highest honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lennox Lewis has observed, “A hundred years from now, if people want to learn about boxing in this era, they’ll read Thomas Hauser.”

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In a Shocker, Ryan Garcia Confounds the Experts and Upsets Devin Haney

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Its good to be crazy. Like a fox.

Ryan “KingRy” Garcia knocked down WBC super lightweight titlist Devin Haney three times to remind everyone of his fighting abilities in winning by majority decision on Saturday.

“I just knew what I could do,” Garcia said.

Fans will not forget the lanky kid from Victorville, California now.

Garcia (25-1, 20 KOs) fooled everyone in playing crazy weeks before the fight, then showed shocking power to hand Haney (30-1, 15 KOs) his first loss as a professional at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Haney’s WBC super lightweight title was not at stake for Garcia because he weighed three pounds over the limit.

After Garcia seemingly acting out of control on social media, Haney’s guard must have slipped in the first round during the first few seconds as Garcia connected with that hellish left hook and Haney, with a look of shock in his eyes, almost went down. He barely survived the first round.

“He caught me with it,” said Haney.

During the next few rounds, Haney proceeded to advance toward Garcia seemingly fully aware of the lethal left hook. He used feints and rights to score with a busier approach as Garcia seemed cocked and ready to counter with a left hook.

In the fourth round it seemed Haney was confident he had regained control of the fight, but every time he opened up with more than a two-punch combination Garcia reminded him whose hands were faster and more dangerous.

Though Garcia seldom jabbed he seemed bent on looking for the right moment to unleash his deadly left hook. And every time the Southern California fighter opened up with a combination he scored and Haney dare not exchange.

A few times Haney smiled as if signifying he escaped.

In the seventh round Haney looked to punish Garcia’s body and instead was met with a three-punch combination included a left hook to the chin and down went Haney slumped on the ground. He managed to beat the count and as soon as Garcia came within reach Haney wrapped his arms around him with a python grip. Despite the warnings by referee Harvey Dock, the fallen fighter would not release and Garcia impatiently fired a weak punch during the break. The referee deducted a point from Garcia though he could have deducted a point from Haney for not obeying his instructions to release his hold. Haney actually went down three times in the round but only one was counted by the referee.

From that point on Haney was very cautious but still looking to win by decision.

Though Garcia kept using a shoulder-roll defense that left his body exposed, he would retaliate with three and four punch combinations that usually Haney could defend against other fighters.. But Garcia’s blazing combinations were too fast to defend.

In the 10th round Haney looked to attack and was countered by Garcia’s right and a blinding left hook to the chin and another two blows that sent the former undisputed lightweight champion to the floor again.

It didn’t look good for Haney to survive.

Garcia walked into the 11th round still composed and never out-of-control He dared Haney to exchange and when within striking distance Garcia unleashed another lightning combination and down went Haney again with a defeated look.

Both fighters had fought each other as amateurs six times so there were no surprises between them. But Garcia’s power and speed were superior and that was the difference in a professional fight.

In the final round both were cautious with Garcia’s combination punching proving too dangerous for Haney to open up. Garcia celebrated early as the round ended confident of victory.

After 12 rounds Garcia was seen the victor by majority decision 112-112, 114-110, 115-109.

“You really thought I was crazy,” Garcia told the interviewer and the crowd. “You guys hated on me.”

Other Bouts

Arnold Barboza (30-0) won a curious split decision victory over United Kingdom’s Sean McComb (18-2) in a 10-round super lightweight fight. McComb’s long reach and busy southpaw style gave Barboza trouble. But he managed to win the fight though the crowd was not pleased.

Bektemir Melikuziev (14-1, 10 KOs) defeated France’s Pierre Dibombe (22-1-1) by technical decision after eight rounds due to a cut on his eye from an accidental head butt. It was a very competitive super middleweight fight.

Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (16-1, 11 KOs) outworked John “Scrappy Ramirez (13-1, 9 KOs) in a 12-round scrap to upset the Los Angeles based fighter. After a few close rounds Jimenez simply bullied his way inside and forced Ramirez against the ropes and unloaded his guns.

After 12 rounds two judges saw it 117-111 and 116-114 all for Jimenez.

“I’m a hard-working man from Cartago I come from nothing,” said Jimenez. “My corner told me I had to work inside.”

Charles Conwell (19-0, 14 KOs) stepped on the gas early with vicious body shots and uppercuts and blasted through the resilient Nathaniel Gallimore (22-8-1, 17 KOs) for several rounds. After a brutal fifth and sixth round the referee halted the one-side beating in favor of Conwell who was fighting for the first time under the Golden Boy banner.

Another winner was Sergiy Derevyanchenko (15-5) by decision over Vaughn Alexander (18-11-1) in a super middleweight match.

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Haney and Garcia: Bipolar Opposites

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Haney and Garcia: Bipolar Opposites

One young man flew halfway around the world to take on a world champion in his own living room; not once, but twice. The other young man quit prior to one fight, and then again during another one.

The first guy mentioned is an obedient son of an ultra-streetwise father.  The type of parent where, if he doesn’t know the answer (and more times than not he most likely does), he will know where to find it. The second guy doesn’t appear to have that quality guidance scenario going on for him, which is probably for the best, because he believes he has all the answers.

The first guy is on record as saying he wants to go down in boxing history as an all-time great.  The other guy?  He decided not to continue in a fight while he was still sporting an undefeated record.  You may think to yourself if there was ever a time to soldier through, right?

Then yesterday, that same guy missed making weight by 3.2 pounds, and seemed to be more than fine with it, to the point where he actually appeared to be quite pleased with himself.

If you haven’t heard, Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia are going to share a boxing ring in a twelve round go for God knows what will be at stake by the time they actually punch off.  The fact that no one from Garcia’s team has stepped in and rescued him from these unfolding events, his own personal well-being, and/or not to mention Devin Haney is, well, troubling in and of itself.

Back in the amateur days, the record shows they split six fights.  They were boys back then, so it means zero.  If anything, you’d want to be the older of the two, and Ryan had over a three-month age advantage.  If you’ve only been on the planet for a total of 120 months or so, every extra month could be a big enough difference in strength and development. Now as world class professionals in their prime?  That’s different.  Younger is always better.  Devin is that guy.

Haney and Garcia fought six times for free but will fight only once as professionals.  Then one of them will continue with their march for historic greatness, while the other will head back to Kamp Krazy, where he’s the current Mayor.

It’s never smart to lay 8-1, 9-1 in boxing.  And if you see taking Garcia as a value bet with +500 to +600 and beyond, you don’t understand value and you evidently don’t like money.

There is, however, a wagering opportunity here.

Total Rounds:  Fight doesn’t go 10.5 rounds.

Take anything over +125.  It’s worth a unit on a scale of 5.  Logically, there are a lot of ways to cash this ticket: legitimate victory, meltdown, catching lightning in a bottle, etc.  Or simply the exiting stage left of a guy who may be already plotting his next career move.

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In a Massive Upset, Dakota Linger TKOs Kurt Scoby on a Friday Night in Atlanta

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Although it was an 8-rounder on a show with two “tens,” Kurt Scoby’s match with Dakota Linger was accorded main event status on tonight’s card at the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta. This had everything to do with Scoby (pronounced Scooby), a former record-setting college running back who was considered one of the brightest prospects in the 140-pound weight class. “[Scoby] works harder than almost anyone I’ve ever seen,” said veteran New York promoter Lou DIBella in a conversation with Keith Idec. “But he’s literally getting better after every fight and he’s got the hammer of Thor, man. He can punch through walls.”

The Duarte, California product who has relocated to Brooklyn and trains at Gleason’s Gym, was undefeated (13-0) heading in and was expected to make Linger his ninth straight knockout victim. But Linger, a 29-year-old Buckhannon, West Virginia policemen whose first ring engagements were in Toughman competitions, wasn’t intimidated by Scoby’s press clippings or by Scoby’s bodybuilder physique.

Linger, who improved to 14-6-3 with his tenth win inside the distance, took the fight right to Scoby and repeatedly found a home for his overhand right. In the sixth round, after Linger strafed the ever-retreating Scoby with a barrage of punches, referee Malik Walid determined that he had seen enough and waived it off. The decision seemed a tad premature, but neither Scoby nor his cornermen offered anything in the way of a protest.

Tournament results

In the first installment of an 8-man super welterweight tournament, Brandon Adams returned to boxing after his second three-year layoff and showed no ring rust whatsoever. Adams, a 34-year-old family-man who grew up in the Watts district of LA, dismissed Ismael Villareal with a wicked punch to the liver in the waning seconds of round three. The official time was 2:59.

A former wold title challenger, Adams who improved to 23-3 (16 KOs), has become the king of boxing tournaments. He first attracted notice in 2018 when he won the fifth edition of “The Contender” series, scoring a wide 10-round decision over Shane Mosley Jr in the championship round.

Villareal, a second-generation prizefighter from the Bronx whose dad fought the likes of Hector Camacho, declined to 13-3.

Adams next opponent will be Francisco Veron who will bring a record of 14-0-1 (10).

In an energetic 10-rounder, Veron, a Florida-based Argentine with a strong amateur pedigree, scored a unanimous decision over Mexico-born, LA southpaw Angel Ruiz (18-3-1). The judges had it 100-90, 99-91, and 96-94.

Ruiz certainly had his moments, but Veron launched and landed many more punches despite fighting the last six rounds with a damaged eye.

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