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A Press Democrat Blog

Old School

Robert Rubino connects current sports news with the past

Angelo Dundee, R.I.P.

In 1957, Carmen Basilio won the middleweight championship of the world with a split decision over Sugar Ray Robinson, who is still considered by many experts to be the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time. Angelo Dundee was Basilio’s trainer for that fight. I was only 9 at the time, but I remember listening to a live radio broadcast of that fight with my dad. In 1964, challenger Cassius Clay outboxed heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, who quit after six rounds.… Read More »

Ali’s best, Ali’s worst

Here’s wishing a happy birthday to former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who turns 70 on Tuesday. And here’s one longtime boxing fan’s lists of Ali’s 10 best and 10 worst performances in the ring. Feel free to join the discussion. Ali’s 10 best fights: 1. First time vs. Sonny Liston, 1964. Without this win, when as Cassius Clay he won the heavyweight championship of the world after a thoroughly beaten Liston quit after six rounds, there may not have… Read More »

Jesse Jackson and Joe Frazier

At the funeral service for Joe Frazier on Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had a lot of nice things to say about the former champ, and he made a good point when he said since Philadelphia has a statue of a fictitious fighter, Sylvester Stallone as “Rocky,” it should have one of a real fighter, its own Smokin Joe. OK. But then, expanding on that thought, he said “Rocky never faced Ali or Holmes or Norton or Foreman.” Perhaps someone… Read More »

Strangest part of the Ali-Frazier rivalry

In June of 2001, Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali and his third wife, Veronic Porsche, fought an eight-round match against Jackie Frazier-Lyde, daughter of Joe Frazier. Laila Ali won a majority decision. On so many levels, this has to be one of the most bizarre (and vaguely uncomfortable and embarrassing) boxing shows ever.

Joe Frazier, split decision

As much as I admired Joe Frazier, who died Monday at 67, I wouldn’t rank him among the great heavyweight champions and here’s why. His reign was too short, or too unremarkable. Although he won a share of the title when he KO’d Buster Mathis and another share when he stopped Jimmy Ellis, he wasn’t universally accepted as champion until he beat Muhammad Ali in 1971. Twenty-two months later he lost the title, to George Foreman, never regained it and… Read More »

Joe Frazier hypotheticals

Joe Frazier, the great heavyweight boxer who died Monday, fought Muhammad Ali (three times), George Foreman (twice), Jerry Quarry (twice), Oscar Bonavena (twice), Jimmy Ellis (twice) and Buster Mathis, among others. How do you think he would have done against some notable heavyweights who preceded him? Here is my take: Frazier vs. Rocky Marciano would be such a war, wouldn’t it? It’s very hard to imagine Rocky losing, since he never did. On the other hand, to my knowledge, he… Read More »

Where have you gone, Pete Rademacher?

My friend and colleague Lowell Cohn and I are a couple of old boxing nerds. We love to talk about boxing from the 1950s and ’60s. Lowell called me the other day and told me he watched the Floyd Patterson-Henry Cooper fight from 1966 on YouTube, and how good Patterson looked — and this was years after he had been stopped by Sonny Liston (twice) and Muhammad Ali and was on yet another comeback trail. I had previously watched the… Read More »

Good for Mendenhall

It’s so rare to see such a courageous moral stance by an athlete. Among athletes, Muhammad Ali stood virtually alone against the Vietnam War in 1967. In 2003, baseball star Carlos Delgado was one of the precious few athletes who didn’t support the U.S. invasion of Iraq — a country that had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. And now, in a much smaller but not insignificant way, NFL star Rashard Mendenhall of the Pittsburgh Steelers gives us… Read More »

Ali vs. Frazier

40 years ago — March 8, 1971 — occurred the only heavyweight boxing match in my lifetime that exceeded its hype, which was gargantuan. The fight was at Madison Square Garden in New York. I saw it at Boston Garden on closed-circuit TV — admittedly not the best vantage point, but better than not seeing it. Five things still stick with me about that fight. 1. Joe Frazier was unstoppable, indomitable. Although the smaller, slower opponent, he relentlessly moved forward,… Read More »

Phantom Punch: Final thoughts

Today is the 45th anniversary of the phantom punch, when Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in their heavyweight championship rematch. Recent Old School blogs and Sunday’s column (in The Press Democrat and online at pressdemocrat.com) contain plenty of information and commentary about the controversial fight, so no need to rehash. But here’s a final thought. I think the phantom punch was a legit knockdown punch. Notice I wrote “knockdown” not “knockout.” I think it disorented Liston enough for him… Read More »