Yes, I told you so in my 5-6-04 Quick Take. I picked Detroit to win the NBA title. The error I made was picking them over San Antonio, and had Derek Fisher not made his heroic shot against the Spurs, that’s precisely what would have happened. The Pistons redefined team defense, effort and unselfishness against the Lakers; the Lakers played with none of the above and deserved to lose.
Conservatively speaking, the Boston Red Sox suck!! I just watched them blow game two to the "Buy-George-A-Flag" Yankees in their series in the Bronx. Per ESPN commentary, the Red Sox need a full-time shrink. My opinion; they should bring in an exorcist to do away with "The Curse Of The Bambino." I'll give 'em this; they find new and creative ways to lose clutch games.
Story of the Week
The greatest fights and the greatest fighters were in the old middleweight division. That’s when there were just eight fight divisions, ranging from flyweights up to heavyweights. The greatest fighter of all time was Ray Robinson; you can access my article on "Sugar Ray" on my website by going to 9-6-01.
But there was one who was the most ferocious and relentless fighter I’ve ever seen. This week’s feature story is about a one-of-a-kind, the "Bronx Bull", Jake LaMotta, a product of the middleweight division.
From 1941 to 1952, LaMotta had 106 bouts, with 30 knockouts and 53 victory decisions. He lost 15 fights, four by KO. It wasn’t LaMotta’s wins that told the story of his courage. It was those 15 losses that told the true story of the man. He absolutely refused to concede. He took some of the most savage beatings the ring has ever seen, but would not admit defeat.
Within the middleweight division was the incomparable head-to-head between "Sugar Ray" Robinson and Jake LaMotta. These two great fighters met six times during their careers. Robinson had his number in five of those six fights. The first five were all decisions. The last one was a TKO; the referee had to stop the fight in the 13th. round as LaMotta had been beaten to a pulp by Robinson. That was the greatest rivalry in boxing history, and its equal will never again be seen.
LaMotta became champion in 1949 when he kayoed Frenchman Marcel Cerdan. Cerdan was killed in a plane crash on his way back to the U.S. to fight LaMotta in the rematch. And so began Jake’s reign. It lasted until Robinson won the middleweight title for the first time when he defeated LaMotta in 1951.
There was a major difference between the fight "game" of that era versus the ring today. It was quite common indeed for the champion of any of the few weight divisions to fight three or four times a year. And LaMotta welcomed it; the more he fought, the happier he was. One reason for all the matches and re-matches was the need for money; the gates then were hardly the kind of money that today’s fights bring in. By today’s standards, it was chump-change; to illustrate, the championship rematch between Ray Robinson and Randy Turpin at the Polo Grounds in New York in 1951 set a record non-heavyweight gate of just $767,626.
Biographical motion pictures typically don’t do the subject justice. "The Raging Bull" of 1980 does. In Robert De Niro’s finest performance as Jake LaMotta, this movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, offers a compelling look at the legendary prizefighter LaMotta, both in and out of the ring. De Niro won a richly-deserved Academy Award for his portrayal of the complex LaMotta.
Last Week’s Trivia
In 2003, Eric Gagne, the absolutely magnificent Dodgers relief pitcher, was the second Canadian to win the Cy Young. The first Canadian to win it was Ferguson Jenkins of the Chicago Cubs in 1971.
Trivia Question of the Week
What Hall-of-Famer hit a home run during his first major league at-bat, and then had a 21-year major league career without hitting another homer? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.