All posts by Bobby Franklin

Remembering Ron Stander

Rest In Peace Ron Stander

Trained In Boston For His

Shot At The Heavyweight Title 

Against Frazier

By Bobby Franklin

Ron At The New Garden Gym In 1972

Ron Stander is best remembered for the courage he showed when he challenged Joe Frazier for the heavyweight title in 1972. The fight was stopped after the fourth round with Stander suffering multiple facial lacerations; however, he was never off his feet and had rocked Frazier in the first round. 

Stander, who was known as The Council Bluffs Butcher after one of two places he called home; Council Bluffs, Iowa. He also lived not far away in Omaha, Nebraska where the fight with Frazier took place.

Tom Lovgren was a boxing promoter in Omaha and he arranged for the fight to take place there. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of Stander who believed his local hero had a real chance at upsetting Frazier. Tom decided to bring Ron to Boston to train under the guidance of local fight guy Johnny Dunn. Mighty Joe Young a talented heavyweight from Brooklyn, NY was brought in as a sparring partner.

Young was managed by Frank Gioseffi who had been a heavyweight boxer himself in the 1950s. Frank fought on the undercard of the Marciano/Moore fight. Gioseffi later changed his name to Frank Gio and became a successful actor playing in movies and television. He was in Moonstruck, Once Upon In America, King Of New York, and Analyze That among many others.

Frank wasn’t able to make it to Boston with his fighter so I was asked to handle Joe for the training sessions. That was quite an exciting assignment for a teenage kid; working in the camp for a boxer training to fight for the heavyweight championship. 

His quietness could be taken as brooding, but in reality he was a very nice guy; very easy going.

I got to know Ron Stander while he was in Boston during that time. At first he was a bit scary and intimidating. His quietness could be taken as brooding, but in reality he was a very nice guy; very easy going. 

The ring at the New Garden Gym was quite small, so the sparring sessions turned into spirited affairs. Joe Young was no soft touch and the two of them went at it pretty hard. In an early session Young caught Ron with a left hook that cracked his nose. Not wanting to postpone the bout and risk losing their title chance altogether, Stander and Lovgren opted to use a full face headgear for the rest of the sparring sessions. This protected his nose but limited Stander’s vision while boxing.

After the workouts Dunn and Stander would head downstairs to the Ninety-Nine Club for dinner and pitchers of beer. While a hard worker in the gym, Stander wouldn’t give up his beer.

Ron Defeating Earnie Shavers

Tom Lovgren told me he was convinced Stander had a great shot at winning against Frazier based on the time Ron kayoed Earnie Shavers. It was early in both men’s careers with Shavers having a record of 12 wins and 1 loss with 12 knockouts, and Stander being undefeated in 9 fights with 7 knockouts. 

Shavers gave Stander a real going over in the first two rounds but Ron withstood the battering. Lovgren told me Ron actually broke his arm during the exchanges. Stander came on in the next two rounds and put Earnie down for the count in round four. Lovgren figured Stander could have a similar performance against Frazier. He even put his money where his mouth was by betting $10,000 on Stander at ten to one odds.

The fight took place on May 25, 1972 in at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha. As expected, Ron came out swinging. In the first round he caught Joe with a right hand that shook the champion. Stander held his own and many gave him that round. The crowd was pumped.

Trading With Frazier

Frazier went to work in the second round and by the third was starting to bust Stander up. By the end of the fourth round the referee intervened and put an end to the fight. Ron ended up with 32 stitches in his face, but he never went down and was swinging until the very end. 

For his efforts, Stander’s purse was $100,000 of which he took home about $40,000, the biggest payday of his career. Lovgren lost his bet but not his respect for Stander. He was proud of his fighter as were the fans at the Civic Center who turned out to cheer him on. Ron Stander had nothing to be ashamed of. 

Ron Stander passed away on March 8th from complications related to diabetes. He was 77.

Ron’s son Frank told Peter Huguenin of the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, “As a father, he was probably one of the greatest guys in the world. He never would spank me. He was very, very gentle and loving to me and my sister. He was kind of a gentle giant. He was a different person when he was in the ring obviously, but he was very loving and caring and just always wanted me to keep it real with my deal and make sure I didn’t ever do anybody wrong and he never did anybody wrong and just be a good, genuine person.” 

That’s the Ron Stander I remember from back in Boston in 1972. 

Joe Frazier And Ron Stander

Stander would continue fighting after the loss to Frazier. He stepped in with the likes of Ken Norton, Scott LeDoux, James Tillis, Jeff Merritt, and Gerrie Coetzee. He was never able to pull out the big win, but always gave it his all. 

He retired in 1982 with a career record of 37 wins (28 by knockout), 21 losses, and 3 draws. After leaving the ring he worked as a machine operator at Vickers Inc. He made a decent living and was a good father and grandfather, well loved by his family and in his community of Council Bluffs where he lived until his death.

Ron Stander may not have been the most talented of fighters, but he was among the toughest. More importantly, he is remembered as a good man, something much more important than being a champion.

 

Cassius Vs Sonny: Banks That Is 

Cassius Tickles The Ivories While Sonny Dreams Of Victory

Clay Hits the Canvas for the First Time, Banks’ Life Ends In Tragedy

By Bobby Franklin

Cassius Clay was making quite the name for himself by the time 1962 had rolled around. He had a stellar amateur career behind him culminating in an Olympic Gold medal, and was undefeated in ten professional fights when he signed to fight Sonny Banks in Madison Square Garden on February 10 of the year.

Clay had already defeated some very respectable heavyweights, and this, coupled along with his self-promotion had drawn a lot of attention to the young man from Louisville, Kentucky. He had wins over the likes of Willi Besmanoff, Alex Miteff, LaMar Clark, and Alonzo Johnson. All were decent opponents.

Sonny Banks had a different career arc. He had not had any amateur bouts, and in his 12 fights leading up to his match with Cassius, he had won 12 and lost 2. He had been kayoed by Joe Shelton and lost a decision to Chuck Garett. He avenged the loss to Shelton with a knockout victory. His level of opposition was nowhere near the level of Clay’s, but he was known for having a solid punch. They had one common opponent, Tunney Hunsaker, whom Clay had beaten by decision in his first pro fight. Banks stopped him in two rounds. Hunsaker was the best Sonny had fought.

On fight night Clay was a five to one favorite. The bout didn’t attract a very big crowd but was on national television. It was a replacement fight for a match between Eddie Machen and Cleveland Williams, which had been postponed.

Clay was not expected to have any problem defeating Banks. He had much more experience, was faster, and was riding high at this early stage of his career. Banks was still getting his footing in the game. However, this was boxing and anything can happen in a fight. Cassius Clay was briefly tested in the early moments of the fight, and how he reacted gave some great insight into what he was made of.

Banks Drops Clay

In the first round of the fight, Clay came out dancing and self-assured. He was taking control early and moving on his feet a lot. Banks was following after him. At one point Cassius backed Sonny into a corner and appeared to have him trapped when suddenly, Banks unleashed a vicious left hook that caught Clay flush on the jaw. The former Olympian went down hard. I have seen this referred to as a flash knockdown, and Clay did get up fast, but make no mistake about it; he was tagged hard and appeared to have lost consciousness right after being hit.

As hard as he was hit, Clay regained his feet very fast. He was sent to a neutral corner by referee Ruby Goldstein while receiving an eight count. Another sign he was hurt was the fact that he put both hands on the ropes while in the neutral corner. Goldstein pulled his arms off the strands and sent him back into action.

Cassius recovered very quickly and was almost immediately on the attack. It was the first time he had been decked as a professional and he was not happy it happened.

Clay now stopped moving as much on his feet and focused on laser focused shots to the head. His hand speed was phenomenal, and he had precision accuracy. Banks began taking a frightful beating. This was quite a first round.

Clay Opens Up On Banks

In round two, Clay came out ready to end it. He battered Banks around the ring and dropped him near the end of the round. In the third round, the attack continued, and while Clay was not able to drop Banks again, he gave him a terrible going over. It was getting so bad that the referee called the doctor in to examine Sonny between rounds. The doctor told Ruby to keep a careful eye on the fighter and not hesitate to stop the fight.

As the fourth round opened, Clay continued his relentless assault. Referee Goldstein mercifully stopped the carnage after just 26 seconds. Other than the knockdown scored by Banks, this fight was as one sided as they come. However, it did tell us quite a bit about the potential of a young Cassius Clay. It also was the beginning of another tragedy in boxing. This one involving Banks.

Clay showed he could take a really hard punch, could be on the verge of being knocked out, and come roaring back. The fact that he rose from such a serious punch so quickly showed he was made of championship material. Cassius also displayed a killer instinct.
Once he perceived Banks to be a threat, he went to work, taking him apart mercilessly. He didn’t waste any motion, a fault he had throughout his career, and made every move count. He could be a brutal puncher when he put his mind to it. He had power, but more importantly, he had accuracy.

Banks Hits The Canvass

Poor Sonny Banks would end up one of boxing’s victims after the fight. He should never have been in with Clay to begin with. Even though they had similar professional records, Sonny had nowhere near the experience. He had no amateur career behind him and had not been in with the same caliber of opposition. I believe he was called in late to the fight as the promoters were looking to fill in the spot left open when the Machen/Williams bout fell through. Because of this, Banks gained notoriety by ending up on television and also because he had decked Clay. It was the worse thing that could have happened to him.

He was definitely seriously hurt by Clay, and worse, he was now a salable commodity. He would now be elevated to a level that was beyond where he would have been had he not fought Clay and had been brought along at a normal pace for a young prospect. In his very next fight he was matched with Young Jack Johnson. Johnson was a top ten heavyweight and vastly more experience than Banks, having stopped Zora Folley and beaten Willi Besmanoff, Ezzard Charles, and Marty Marshall. He had fought 41 times when he faced Banks. Johnson kayoed Sonny in the fifth round.

Referee Stops The Fight

After the Johnson loss, Banks went back to facing opposition more on his level and put together a number of wins over the next year and a half. He had not shown much improvement but still was a known name. In 1964 he was put in with Cleveland Williams. Williams had over 60 wins at the time with most coming via knockout. He gave Sonny a terrible beating stopping him in the 6th round.

This should have been it for Sonny Banks, but it wasn’t. Eleven months later he was put in with top prospect Leotis Martin. At this point Sonny had already taken at least three serious beatings. Boxing was not a profession he should have been pursuing, but he had a name because of the Clay fight.

It is said Sonny Banks died from injuries incurred in the Martin fight, but the circumstances leading up to his death began three years earlier in Madison Square Garden when he had his moment of glory against Cassius Clay.

Unfortunately, that notoriety cost him his life. In the Martin fight, Sonny was knocked out in the ninth round and died three days later. It is said Sonny Banks died from injuries incurred in the Martin fight, but the circumstances leading up to his death began three years earlier in Madison Square Garden when he had his moment of glory against Cassius Clay. His fame made him marketable for promoters, but he never made anything himself and was killed at the age of 24. A story not unusual in the fight game.

Rest In Peace Marion Conner

Former New England Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight

page1image19644608Champion Passes at the Age of 81

By Bobby Franklin

Marion Conner had a magical smile. When you would see him flash it, it was hard to believe this man had a career in the most violent sport there is. Yet, there was a kindness to his face that belied his career as a professional prizefighter. On January 12, 2022 Marion Conner passed away. He had been suffering for a number of years from dementia brought on from his years in the ring.

page1image29901008

Marion was born in 1940 in Canton, Ohio. From an early age he was athletically gifted and participated in swimming, basketball, track, and football, but it was boxing that captured his imagination. I first met Marion Conner in 1965. I was a ten-year-old boy, and my father had taken me to some sort of sporting show.

At the time, I was a very shy kid, but for some reason loved to watch boxing on TV. When my father asked me if I would like to meet a real boxer in person, though a bit nervous, I jumped at the chance. He brought me over to this very handsome fellow with the friendliest smile. It was such a thrill for me to meet Marion Conner, and he made me feel like his friend. We squared off for a photo, and I never forgot that moment and the nice person who made me feel so important.

page1image29902880

About two years later, I would attend my first professional boxing card. It was on December 18, 1967. My father brought me to the Boston Garden where we were seated a couple of rows behind former Governor Foster Furcolo. As I sat there, I saw my friend Marion Conner step into the ring with the number one heavyweight contender, Joe Frazier. I now had a personal connection right into that ring, and I was so proud of how my friend handled himself. Outweighed by thirty pounds and in with one of the all-time greats, Marion did not give an inch. He was not an opponent. He was in there to win and go on to become world champion.

Unfortunately, he had run into one of boxing’s greatest fighting machines. Not only had Marion been decked, but the referee went down as well. When you look at a picture taken right after the fight, you can see the disappointment etched in Marion’s face. He had come to win and felt he had let everyone down. Well, he hadn’t let me down. He showed this now 12- year-old what courage and determination was all about. To me, he was a winner and a champion, and I was proud of him.

page2image30078576

Forty-five years later I would meet Marion Conner once again when he came to Boston to receive an award. We got to have another picture taken, and you can still see that wonderful smile on his face. We talked about his boxing career and how it still pains him that he never became a world champion. How thrilled he was to have met such greats as Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, and Jersey Joe Walcott. His time living in Roxbury and training at the New Garden Gym, a gym I would later work out at as I tried my hand at a boxing career. His friendship with New England Boxing Champ Larry Carney and how much he respected Larry.

page2image30078368

When I asked him about his fighting style, he told me he was an aggressive body puncher with a very strong left hook to the head and wore his opponents down. As an amateur, he had competed as a southpaw and was turned around when he became a pro. In his first fight with Tom McNeeley, Marion credits a part of that win to switching to lefty midway through the bout. Boxing scribe Mike Marley remembers the bout that way as well.

When our discussion turned to his fight with Joe Frazier I was surprised to learn from Marion that his handlers told him to trade left hooks with Joe Frazier. That wasn’t very wise advice. I believe Marion’s best chance would have been to use his speed and a sneak right hand.

’On November 16, 1966, tragedy struck when Marion met rugged Greatest Crawford of Brooklyn, NY at the Canton Memorial Auditorium. Marion had an outstanding record of 30 fights, 23 wins, six losses, and one draw going into this fight. Crawford, who was 26 years old, was knocked out in the ninth round and was taken to a hospital after efforts to revive him failed. He underwent surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain but succumbed to the injury on November 17, 1966. The tragedy of that night took the fire out of Marion.

Marion’s wife, Emma, told me he was never the same after that fight. He would now let up when he had an opponent hurt. In his rematch with Herschel Jacobs, Marion had Jacobs cut but then backed off out of fear of hurting him. His post-Crawford record of 7-17-1 shows just what an effect the sad outcome of that fight had on him.

page3image29894192

During his career, Marion Conner fought many of the top names in an era when boxing was still a sport with many great fighters. Look at his record, and along with Joe Frazier, you will see many familiar names. Henry Hank, Herschel Jacobs,

Tom McNeeley, Jimmy Dupree, Levan Roundtree, Mark Tessman, Billy Tisdale, Billy Douglas, and Ronnie Harris, to name just a few. It is also something to note that Joe Frazier had 37 bouts against 30 different opponents. Only two of them were light heavyweights, one being Bob Foster and the other Marion Conner. Quite an exclusive club to be in. It has been a long time since that ten year old boy first met the boxer with the warm smile, but he was still the man I remember so well from that day. When heard he had died I felt very sad. I know he is still smiling. There was something very special about him.

page3image29893984

Marion and his lovely wife Emma had just celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary in November. Emma was his strength, and their’s was a wonderful love story. In his later years Marion devoted much time at the Food Ministry at the Community Life Church Of God In Christ. He was a good man.

So long Champ, you will be missed.

 

 

 

Mauriello Vs Louis

Tami Mauriello 

vs 

Joe Louis

Short But Exciting

By Bobby Franklin

Tami Mauriello

Tami Mauriello began his boxing career in 1939 fighting as a welterweight. He went undefeated in his first 24 fights before losing to the great Billy Soose by a split decision. He then went on an eight fight winning streak while moving up to the light heavyweight ranks where he earned a title shot in a bout with Gus Lesnevich. In only his second loss, Tami was robbed of the title coming out in the short end of a very unpopular decision.

Three months later the two would fight again and this time Lesnevich won a unanimous decision over Mauriello. After this loss Tami began his move into the heavyweight ranks. In his debut fight at the new weight he demolished Jay D Turner in the first round. Turner had nearly forty pounds on Tami but was no match for him.

Mauriello continued successfully campaigning at the heavier weight in hopes of landing a shot at champion Joe Louis. WWII put things on hold for Joe who was serving in the Army. Meanwhile, having scored wins over Gunnar Barland, Tony Musto, Red Burman, and a draw with Bob Pastor, In 1942 Tami was matched against Jimmy Bivins for the Interim Heavyweight Title. The fight with Bivins was a spirited affair with Jimmy gaining a 10 round split decision and the Interim Title.

Tami was back in the ring soon after scoring four wins including victories over Lou Nova and Lee Savold, he got another shot at Bivins. This time Jimmy won by a majority decision.

Tami On The Attack Against Lesnivich

Mauriello would have to wait a few years before getting another crack at a title, but he stayed busy. He fought 26 times before finally getting his shot at Joe Louis. Out of those 26 fights Tami won 24, losing only to Joe Baski and Lee Oma. He avenged the Oma defeat. He also beat Gunnar Barland, Lee Savold, and Lou Nova again, as well as knocking out British Champ Bruce Woodcock. He now was signed to fight Joe Louis.

Most observers felt that even an older Joe Louis who had recently returned from the Army and had won a long awaited but disappointing rematch over Billy Conn, would have no trouble with Tami. Yet, they also knew Mauriello possessed dynamite in his right hand, and there were distant memories of what Max Schmeling had done to Joe back in 1936, kayoing the Brown Bomber with overhand rights. Joe had learned from that loss, but could the fact that he had slowed down over the past ten years coupled with his inactivity because of the war make him vulnerable once again? That, coupled with the fact that Tami was a legitimate contender, was enough to make the match interesting to fans. 

On September 18, 1946 the two stepped into the ring at Yankee Stadium before a crowd of 38,494 fans. The fight would last just a little over 2 minutes but there were fireworks. 

Tami came to win and he went right after Joe. Many believe what happened in the opening seconds of the first round was just a lucky punch by Mauriello, but if you watch the film closely you will see Tami had a plan, though one he was able to follow through to completion. 

Mauriello Lands The Right On Louis

At the bell the two came out of their corners with Joe stalking the challenger and Tami circling to his left. After just a few seconds Mauriello threw a wide left hook with caught Joe’s attention. While Louis was distracted by that punch, Tami let go with solid straight right hand catching the Champion flush on the jaw. Louis shaken by the punch and  appeared briefly to be hurt. The crowd went wild sensing a massive upset was in the works. However, Joe quickly regained his composure and tore into Mauriello who desperately tried to land a follow up right hand. 

Joe then settled down and started landing short hard shots on Tami who went down twice, but all the time he fought back ferociously. At the 2:02 mark of the round the fight was over. The crowd felt they got their money’s worth, and Tami would always be remembered for his booming right hand shot that connected.

Joe Lands A Left Hook That Lifts Tami Off His Feet

It has to be noted that this was not a lucky punch. Tami’s use of the decoy left hook was a strategy that nearly worked. He drew Joe’s attention with the move which set up the opening for the right hand he threw. Mauriello was a very, very good fighter, and he knew what he was doing. He just couldn’t follow up against the great Joe Louis.

Tami continued fighting until 1949 when he retired with a record of 82-13-1 including 60 wins by knockout. He was only stopped on 4 occasions. Movie fans will remember seeing him in the classic movie On The Waterfront alongside Marlon Brando and Lee J. Cobb.

Tami Mauriello passed away on December 3, 1999 suffering from dementia  caused by boxing, the fate that most fighters end up dealing with. He will always be remembered for his match with Louis, but should also get the respect he deserves for the stellar boxing career he had. Tami’s right hand would tear up today’s so-called heavyweight boxing division. 

Murder In Montreal

Jeanette Zacarias Zapata

Dies After Suffering Beating In Ring

18 Year Old Had Been Knocked Unconscious 

Just Three Months Earlier

By Bobby Franklin

Jeanette Zacarias Zapata

Jeanette Zacarias Zapata took her last breath on September 2, three months, two weeks, and five days after having been brutally knocked out by Cynthia Lozano in a boxing match in Reynosa, Mexico. That fight held on May 14 was Zapata’s first bout since being stopped on November 9, 2018 at the Jose Sulaiman Arena in Monterrey, Mexico when she was only 15 years old and fighting as a professional.

When you read the news accounts of her death last week it will be reported that she died from blows received in a fight on Saturday night in Montreal, Canada. While it is true the right cross delivered by Marie Pier Houle was the final blow she would ever be hit with, her death was no accident. 

If you watch footage of her loss to Cynthia Lozano from back in May you will see eerie similarities in the way the two fights ended. In both, Zapata is trapped in a corner and seems not to have the skills to defend herself. In the fight in Mexico she sinks to the canvas in a way that would be seen this past week in Montreal. The difference between the Montreal bout and the fight in Monterrey is that after some time passed, the fallen Zapata was able to be revived. Revived to be allowed to fight again, or rather be used again by promoters looking to build up the record of an up and coming “prospect”. 

Zapata Before The Opening Bell

Some questions that should be answered: Was she given a thorough examination after being kayoed in Mexico? Was a brain scan performed? Was medical information about her condition known by the promoters in Montreal? Had the promoters seen footage of that loss? If so, did they have any concerns about her fitness to fight? And most importantly, why did they allow someone so young who had suffered such a terrible beating so soon before to fight? 

Marie Pier Houle is an undefeated pro with a record of 4 wins, no losses, and one draw. At 31 years of age she is a fully matured adult woman who was facing a pudgy teenager. Houle, a native of Quebec, has been fighting since June of 2019. It is clear from watching the fight that Houle completely outclassed Zapata. The teenager from Mexico was clearly just an “opponent” for the local favorite Houle.

The Fatal Blow Landed By Marie Pier Houle On Zapata

There’s no getting around what happened here. A poor teenage girl from Mexico is talked into turning pro at the age of 15. She has five fights, all in Mexico, winning only two. She is stopped twice, the second stoppage being the brutal knock out in Monterrey. A couple of months later she is brought up to Montreal to fight a hometown favorite on the undercard of a World Boxing Council sanctioned title fight. It is worth noting the WBC was founded by Jose Sulaiman. The same Jose Sulaiman whose name adorns the stadium in Mexico where Jeanette Zacarias Zapata once fought. The WBC is now run by Sulaiman’s son Mauricio Sulaiman. It is widely known that the WBC is a corrupt organization that uses its power to extort money from boxers in the form of sanctioning fees. These fees are taken out of the purses of the fighters. The safety of boxers has never been a priority for the people who run the organization. They have become quite wealthy off of the blood of fighters over the years.

Zapata Unconscious
She Did Not Wake Up

Boxing has always been a seedy sport populated by thugs and lowlifes. This was accurately portrayed in the movie The Harder They Fall, starring Humphrey Bogart. As terrible as the characters in the movie are, they look like den mothers compared to what is going on today. The current crop of sleaze that control boxing have sunk to levels never before thought possible; they are now using poor adolescent girls as fodder for their for- profit entertainment business. What’s worse, the public is paying to watch this perversion. 

Last week Jeanette Zacarias Zapata should have been hanging out with friends and doing the things teenage girls do. Instead, she was being led into a boxing ring after suffering a traumatic brain injury. She was being led to her death. She, like so many others, was nothing but fodder to be used to build up a new prospect. 

We are told Zapata was cleared by a doctor to fight. What real doctor would clear a kid who was recently knocked out so badly that she lay on the floor for minutes without moving? That is the very definition of a brain injury. That is the very definition of neglect. 

The following statement was issued by the Mexico based WBC: 

“The president of the WBC, Mauricio Sulaiman and the entire boxing family affiliated with the WBC, as well as all boxing, mourns this irreparable loss. We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jeanette. May she rest in peace.” 

How caring, “The entire boxing family”. More like the Manson Family. I can just feel the love. 

I don’t know a lot about the personal background of the young Zapata. I very much doubt she came from an upper middle-class family. Odds are she was poor. She most likely wanted to improve her lot in life and was sold a bill of goods about how boxing could be her way to a better life. Her parents, if they were still in the picture, probably bought into the narrative as well. 

Like drug dealers giving kids their first taste of drugs to get them hooked, boxing people looking for opponents sell them on the narcotic called boxing while sweet talking them into how they will one day achieve fame and fortune in the ring. To a fifteen year old this would sound great. The reality is quite different.

Jeanette Zacarias Zapata

For those who say “Hey, these people know the risks they are taking. It’s their choice”, I would ask if they would let their adolescent son or daughter be used like this? Do you really think a young teenager is capable of weighing all the dangers involved in getting involved in such a profession? Would you really want your child being watched out for by the likes of the Sulaimans and others like them? Would you allow your child to step back into a boxing ring just less than three months after suffering a traumatic brain injury? Would you ever allow them to fight again?

Jeanette Zacarias Zapata will soon be forgotten. Boxing and the animals who run it will still prosper. Fans will still get their kicks out of watching kids suffering brain injuries for entertainment. Fighters will continue to die, but this rotten profession will live on. It’s sickening.

Live Theatre Returns To The Greater Boston Stage Company

THE 39 STEPS MARKS THE RETURN TO MAINSTAGE PROGRAMMING AT GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY 

Live theatre returns to Greater Boston Stage Company! The raucous The 39 Steps kicks off the 2021- 2022 mainstage season on September 23rd as GBSC presents this fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre. This two-time Tony (R) and Drama Desk Award-winning treat is packed with laughs, a slew of characters, a plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers, and some good old- fashioned romance. Adapted by Patrick Barlow based on the thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and the novel by John Buchan, The 39 Steps is directed by Associate Artistic Director Ilyse Robbins. Performances run September 23 – October 10, 2021.

“I am honored and thrilled (get it?) to direct this first mainstage show on our road to recovery,” says Robbins. “What better way to come back to the theater than to enjoy a good old-fashioned comedy/whodunit/romance where 4 actors play over 100 roles. I have the great good fortune to work with four of the funniest actors in town. They give new meaning to the words, ‘We wear many hats.’ I hope you will find yourself laughing as much as I do.” 

Russell Garrett

The cast of The 39 Steps includes Grace Experience, Russell Garrett, Paul Melendy, and KP Powell. The design team is comprised of Scenic Designer Shelley Barish, Lighting Designer Daisy Long, Costume Designer Rachel Padula-Shufelt, Sound Designer Andrew Duncan Will, and Props Master Emme Shaw. Shauwna Grillo is the Production Stage Manager.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Box Office at Greater Boston Stage Company at (781) 279-2200, or visit www.greaterbostonstage.org 

Greater Boston Stage Company is pleased to announce that we have joined with a coalition of Boston- area theatres to implement masking, vaccination and testing policies designed to keep our audiences, artists, staff and volunteers safe in accordance with CDC and local guidance. The following policies will be in place from September 1 through October 31. For more information, please visit:

http://www.greaterbostonstage.org/health-and-safety.html 

Live Theatre Returns To SpeakEasy Stage In Boston

THE SOUND INSIDE

Opens At SpeakEasy Stage

September 24

From September 24 to October 16, 2021, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present the Boston-area premiere of the gripping drama THE SOUND INSIDE by Adam Rapp.

Nominated for six 2020 Tony Awards including Best Play, THE SOUND INSIDE is an intensely quiet play that introduces us to Bella Baird, a novelist who, in the seventeen years since she was last published, has almost completely isolated herself from the world.  But everything changes when she meets Christopher, a brilliant but enigmatic student in her creative writing class at Yale. As their friendship deepens, their lives and the stories they tell about themselves become intertwined in unpredictable ways, leading to a shocking request. Intensely intimate and deeply moving, THE SOUND INSIDE is “an astonishing new play… about fiction, both the kind we read and the kind we live.” (The New York Times)

Playwright Adam Rapp made his Broadway debut with THE SOUND INSIDE, which was commissioned by Lincoln Center and received its world premiere in 2018 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  A 2006 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play Red Light Winter, Rapp is also the author of Nocturne (American Repertory Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop), Finer Noble Gases (26th Humana Festival), Stone Cold Dead Serious (A.R.T.), Blackbird (The Bush, London), and Essential Self-Defense (Playwrights Horizons/Edge Theatre), among others.  

Director Bryn Boice will helm this Boston premiere production of THE SOUND INSIDE Winner of the 2019 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director, Large Theater for Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s Universe Rushing Apart: Blue Kettle & Here We Go, Ms. Boice returns to SpeakEasy after having directed the company’s 2020 production of The Children. Ms. Boice also serves as the Associate Artistic Director at Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and is a professor at Salem State University.

Jennifer Rohn (Broadway’s The Kentucky Cycle) and Nathan Malin (SpeakEasy’s Admissions) will star in this production.

NATHAN MALIN (Christopher) is thrilled to return to SpeakEasy after appearing in its production of Admissions. Other area credits include Gone Nowhere (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre); The Crucible (u/s, Bedlam); Vanity FairThe Happy Prince/Matchless (u/s, Underground Railway Theater); 1984The Lathe of Heaven (Boston University); Maura Dunne (The Poets’ Theatre), Titus Andronicus (Actors’ Shakespeare Project); and Much Ado About Nothing (Boston Theatre Company). Nathan was also a production intern on Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet (Bedlam). Training: Boston University, Shakespeare & Company.

JENNIFER ROHN (Bella Baird) is making her SpeakEasy debut with this production.  A 2019 Elliot Norton Award winner for her performance in Dark Room (Bridge Repertory Theater), Jennifer began her professional career appearing in numerous productions created by renowned experimental theatre director Robert Wilson.  She has also appeared on Broadway in The Kentucky Cycle and The Crucible, and in several Off-Broadway productions including Love’s Fire and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (The Public Theater); Romeo and Juliet (The New Victory Theater); The CIVIL warS (Brooklyn Academy of Music); and Another Person is a Foreign Country (Anne Bogart, director/ En Garde Arts). Her regional theater credits are extensive and include work for The American Repertory Theater, The Huntington Theatre, The Guthrie Theater, The Cleveland Play House, The Kennedy Center, The Seattle Repertory Theatre, The Philadelphia Theatre Company, and The Dallas Theater Center.  She toured Europe with Hamletmachine, and appeared at La Scala in Salome (Robert Wilson, director) and at The Barbican Centre in Love’s Fire (Mark Lamos, director). Her television credits include several television commercials, Law and Order, American Playhouse, and the film Crossing the Atlantic. Jennifer teaches at Bennington College.

 

THE SOUND INSIDE will run for four weeks, from September 24 through October 16, 2021, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call BostonTheatreScene Ticketing Services at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com.                

Boston Theatres Announce COVID Protocols For Reopening

14 GREATER BOSTON THEATRES UNITE TO ANNOUNCE

COLLECTIVE COMMITMENT TO PUBLIC SAFETY

AS LIVE, INDOOR PERFORMANCES RESUME

 

Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test and masks 

will be required for all audience members

New survey results show majority of arts goers

support these measures

The following is from a press release sent out by the Huntington Theatre:

Fourteen theatre companies in the Greater Boston area have banded together to announce a collective commitment to public safety as live, indoor performances resume in the region amid concerns around the rise in COVID-19 cases in the US.

These theatre companies will implement policies designed to protect the health and safety of everyone by requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test for all artists, staff members, and audiences who attend live, indoor performances at their institutions. Masks will be required inside the theatres as well.

These policies will be in place starting immediately and valid through October 31, 2021 (in alignment with Broadway’s current policies), and will be reevaluated as the situation evolves. They are based on CDC guidance and were developed in consultation with public health officials. Individual theatres will list their specific protocols and guidelines on their websites.

The organizations joining in this effort are: Actors’ Shakespeare Project, American Repertory Theater, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Central Square Theater, The Front Porch Arts Collective, The Gamm Theatre, Gloucester Stage Company, Greater Boston Stage Company, The Huntington, Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Moonbox Productions, SpeakEasy Stage Company, and Wellesley Repertory Theatre. Other companies are expected to sign on in the coming weeks.

“We at The Huntington, along with our colleagues, are eager to welcome back audiences to live performances this fall, and we are prioritizing everyone’s health and well-being in order to safely reopen,” says Huntington Managing Director Michael Maso. “These measures will provide multiple layers of protection in our theatres – it’s what our patrons want, and it’s an essential part of our broader responsibility as public-facing institutions.”

“We’re committed to creating a culture of care,” says Central Square Theater Executive Director Catherine Carr Kelly, who is also co-vice president of New England Area Theaters (NEAT), an association of midsize theatres. “All of our companies are fully vaccinated. Requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, along with wearing masks, increases the safety for fellow patrons and also for the artists and staff of each company.”

AUDIENCE OUTLOOK SURVEY DATA AND THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

The recent announcements that theatres in New York City, Washington, DC, and Chicago have established similar policies around requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID test and mask wearing, combined with the latest results of ArtsBoston’s Audience Outlook Monitor survey, gives Greater Boston theatres increased confidence in implementing these measures.

The Audience Outlook Monitor is a longitudinal survey sponsored locally by ArtsBoston and run nationally by independent consultant WolfBrown, that has been regularly providing Greater Boston arts organizations with data about audience perceptions, concerns, and intentions during the pandemic. It has been a vital tool for arts groups in developing their plans, policies, and communications strategies.

In the most recent round of survey data collected August 9 – 13, 2021, 80% of respondents indicated that proof of vaccination would make them more likely to attend indoor events, and 50% said that proof of vaccination or negative COVID test is a prerequisite for their attendance. According to the survey, 98% of respondents reported being fully vaccinated or planning to do so.

The survey showed that news of the delta variant has reduced audience demand to return to indoor performances right away. In the June 2021 survey, 18% of respondents said they wouldn’t attend an indoor event that week. That figure more than doubled to 39% in the recent August round of surveys. The increase reflects the rising level of concern of audience members

“After deep consideration on this topic and following the guiding principles of our Roadmap for Recovery and Resilience for Theater, we came to this decision, recognizing that the vaccines are now widely available and free,” says Mark Lunsford, ART Artistic Producer. “Along with enhanced ventilation and universal masking, vaccination and testing are critical cornerstones of our multi-layered mitigation efforts that prioritize the safety of our community of staff, audiences, and artists.”

“Requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test is the best way for us as a community to reopen responsibly,” says Paul Daigneault, SpeakEasy Stage Company Producing Artistic Director.  “It will allow us to move forward and continue to prioritize everyone’s safety – audiences, artists, and theatre staff alike.”

“The health and safety of the audience, artistic team, and staff must always be the first priority,” says Joseph Allen, associate professor and Director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “That means when we have new tools available, we need to use them. On top of enhanced ventilation and masking, the vaccines offer an additional, and excellent, layer of protection that should give everyone even more confidence as we reopen theaters.”

 

PROTOCOLS FOR ATTENDING A PERFORMANCE

All patrons attending live, indoor performances at participating theatres must present proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test before entering the venue, and must wear a mask inside the theatre.

Proof of vaccination may include showing either a vaccination card or a photo of the card, or a digital vaccine record (through an app such as Bindle at www.joinbindle.com/people). Anyone who is unable to be vaccinated or to verify their vaccination status for any reason will be required to show proof of a recent negative COVID test before entering.

Individual theatres may have their own guidelines and instructions for patrons; please see a theatre company’s website or contact them directly for further details about specific policies.

 

 

Mamma Mia Returns To Theatre By The Sea In Rhode Island

THE ULTIMATE FEEL-GOOD MUSICAL MAMMA MIA!

RETURNS TO THEATRE BY THE SEA  AUGUST 18

In celebration of the return to live theatre, owner and producer Bill Hanney is proud to present an encore of Theatre By The Sea’s massive hit production of the international sensation, Mamma Mia! which will be presented from August 18 – September 5, 2021.

“We have been overwhelmed with the support from audiences who had been anxiously awaiting the reopening of the theatre after nearly two years!” said Bill Hanney. “The July Concert Series was very well received, and we expect Mamma Mia! to be just as popular, if not more, than it was when we originally produced the Rhode Island Regional Premiere back in 2018.”

Prepare to have the time of your life…again! Sophie, a 20-year-old bride-to-be, is on the search for her father. After reading her mother’s diary, she discovers there are three potential candidates. Unbeknownst to her mother, Donna, Sophie invites each of them to her wedding, in hopes of having one of them walk her down the aisle. As the big day draws near, surprises abound with old flames and old friends. Mamma Mia! is packed with 22 ABBA hits, including “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trouper,” “Take A Chance on Me,” and “The Winner Takes It All.” This worldwide mega hit will have audiences shouting “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” more!

Directed and choreographed by Theatre By The Sea’s Producing Artistic Director, Kevin P. Hill, who directed previous TBTS productions of Mamma Mia! (2018), Smokey Joe’s Café, Sister Act, Young Frankenstein, Mary Poppins, Grease, and Hello, Dolly! (2010); with musical direction by Bob Bray, who returns to TBTS after music directing Mamma Mia! (2018) and Hello, Dolly! (2010); the cast includes Lexie Dorsett Sharp, whose touring credits include School of Rock, Young Frankenstein, The Addams Family and Elf, as Donna Sheridan; Tiffani Barbour, who appeared in Mamma Mia! (2018) at North Shore Music Theatre, as well as on the National Tour, as Rosie; and Merrill Peiffer, who has played every Dynamo in Mamma Mia! and appeared in the 2018 TBTS production, as Tanya. In the roles of Sam Carmichael and Bill Austin are David Elder and Al Bundonis, who will be reprising their roles from the 2018 production. Mr. Elder’s Broadway credits include Curtains, 42nd Street Revival, Kiss Me Kate, Titanic, the Musical, Once Upon a Mattress, Damn Yankees, Beauty and the Beast, and Guys and Dolls, and Mr. Bundonis is well-known to TBTS audience as King Arthur in Spamalot (2014), Horace Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly! (2010), and Lawrence in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2009). In the role of Harry Bright is Jesse Sharp, whose tour credits include The Addams Family, Elf, and Grease. Sara Bartoszek and Markcus Blair will both be making their Theatre By The Sea debuts in the roles of Sophie and Sky. The ensemble includes Jamie Askey, Morgan Blanchard, Tyler Dema, Yoni Haller, Masumi Iwai, Breia Kelley, Derek Luscutoff, Sami Murphy, Brett Pederson, Kennedy Perez, Gracie Phillips, and Jake Urban. 

PLEASE NOTE: In light of the most recent CDC recommendations and for the safety of audiences, actors, and staff, masks will be required for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, while in the theatre. Everyone is encouraged to wear their most creative mask, as prizes will be given at each performance! Theatre By The Sea thanks theatregoers for doing their part to keep everyone safe while celebrating the return of in-person performances.

Mamma Mia! will be presented from August 18–September 5, with performances scheduled for Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm, Thursdays at 2:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 and Sundays at 5:00 pm, with special performance times on Sunday, August 22 at 2:00 & 7:00 pm and a special added matinee performance on Wednesday, August 25 at 2:00 pm. The theatre is located at 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield. Tickets are $58 – $81 (additional fees may apply). Discount rates are available for groups of 10 or more by calling (401) 782-3800 x112. Tickets are on sale at the box office Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am–5:00 pm, and performance days until curtain, online 24-hours-a-day at theatrebythesea.com and via telephone during normal box office hours by calling (401) 782-TKTS (8587). 

Cagney On Boxing Safety

Armed And Dangerous

Are Boxing Gloves Lethal Weapons?

Ask James Cagney

By Bobby Franklin

James Cagney

With the recent publication of Tris Dixon’s book Damage: The Untold Story Of Brain Trauma In Boxing (Hamilcar Publications), a discussion has been reopened about how dangerous boxing is and what should be done about making it safer, or less dangerous. When this excellent book first appeared I thought it would create a much bigger stir as it is an exhaustive study of the years of research into the affects of blows to the head that cause what was once called punch drunkenness, now called CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The book lays bare the brutality of the sport and the severe and permanent damage caused to the brains of those who participate in it. 

I was at first taken aback by the lack of conversation over what happens to those who spend years in the ring, but I now realize that the truth is hard to face, especially when it is about something people love. Boxing is a highly emotional sport and those who are intoxicated by its primal attraction find it hard to justify their love for it with the reality of what is actually going on in the ring. It is easier to just shut one’s eyes than confront the truth.

For those who are willing to talk about it, there are those who say it is okay because fighters know the risks when they go into the profession. There are others who acknowledge the dangers and seek ways to better protect boxers. Very few call for an outright ban as that would not put an end to the sport but rather drive it underground.

Though there is much more research concerning brain trauma available now, the arguments over whether or not people should be allowed to beat each other up for the pleasure of spectators has been going on for decades. 

In the bareknuckle days most contests were illegal and had to be held while staying one step ahead of the law. That did not deter these fights from occurring and drawing large audiences. Eventually, boxing found respectability when practiced in private clubs when they were billed as exhibitions. But the public desire to watch these matches meant there was much money to be made, and as the 20th Century moved towards the Roaring 20s, boxing began to be legalized in more and more places and promoters built major fights into huge attractions drawing upwards of a million dollars and more. 

Boxing gloves are actually a weapon, not a safety device.

It was during this transformation that the boxing glove was introduced and billed as a way of making the sport safer and more civilized. This was the complete opposite of what the gloves did. In truth, they made the sport much more dangerous and lethal. Boxing gloves are actually a weapon, not a safety device. Add to wearing the gloves the taping of hands, and the fists are turned into weapons that deliver much more force than a bare fist could ever come close to. The reason for this is the bare fist will break when making forceful contact with the skull; the taped and gloved hand will not. The glove does not protect the brain, it protects the hand. In fact, if you want to make boxing less dangerous the best way would be to ban the boxing glove and any type of protection for the hand. I have been saying this for years.

Rocky Marciano’s Gloved Fist Lands On Jersey Joe Walcott

Recently, I came across an article by Red Smith published in the New York Times on September 11, 1974. In it Smith writes about a conversation he had with the actor James Cagney about boxing. He cites a letter from Cagney referring to a time the two met at Champion Ingemar Johansson’s training camp. In it Cagney wrote, “When we met at the Johansson training camp some years back, I struck you a glancing blow, with the suggestion that we take the gloves off fighters to try to eliminate the concussions caused by the padded mitts. The expression on your face was wonderful to behold, and I kind of had an idea that you were looking at a guy with three heads instead of two.”

Cagney, who had brothers who were physicians had learned a bit about brain injuries from them and was onto something about the “padded mitts”.

He also went on to say, “I worked with a lot of former fighters in the picture business, and I saw the results of getting belted about the head. You know, scar tissue once formed after a concussion continues to grow. That’s why it’s progressive encephalopathy.” 

Cagney continued, “If you ever hit anybody on top of the head with a bare fist, you wouldn’t try again in a hurry.

Cagey saw what many of us who have spent a lot of time around boxers have seen, but most do not want to face, boxing causes irreparable brain damage. Cagney continued, “If you ever hit anybody on top of the head with a bare fist, you wouldn’t try again in a hurry. You would learn boxing and body‐punching, and, that’s what I’m after. Gloves sacrifice the brain to preserve the metacarpals. Did you read about the last days of Lew Tendler, that great old lightweight, in a wheelchair with the classic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?”

Notice how he mentioned Tendler showed the classic “symptoms” of Parkinson’s, not that he had the disease. It is now known that fighters do not develop Parkinson’s Disease from boxing, but rather something described as Boxing Related Parkinson’s Syndrome. This is caused by blows to the head.

It is interesting that a movie actor speaking in the early 1970s would have this knowledge, but it makes sense for a few reasons. First, Cagney had been around boxers all of his life and witnessed first hand the effects of the sport on them. Second, having doctors for brothers he was in tune with the medical aspect of what happens to the brain when it is repeatedly hit, and third, Cagney, being an actor, was an observer of human behavior as well as a highly intelligent man who could look beyond the surface when thinking about such matters. It’s hard to argue with his comments.

The boxing glove has allowed the sport to become extremely punishing to the human brain.

It is often said boxing is the most basic of sports as it pits two opponents against one another with nothing other than their fists. That is hogwash, it pits two well trained athletes against one another with lethal weapons in both hands. The boxing glove has allowed the sport to become extremely punishing to the human brain. For those who are looking for a way to make boxing less dangerous, listen to James Cagney. Let’s focus on protecting the brain, not the hands.

To read a review of Tris Dixon’s book go to: 

Book Review: “Damage: The Untold Story Of Brain Trauma In Boxing” By Tris Dixon,