Kissing the Canvas to Victory ...
It was a vintage year for "the sweet science," which
once again drew 16 would-be heavyweights into the tournament
ring. Alas, 16 - the perfect number for a four round, single
elimination event - wasn't enough to keep it in the Century but
there's always hope for next year. Ali and Joe Louis were forced
into retirement by the ruthless GM, who ruled his event with
an iron fist. A former champion selected the boxer who had emerged
victorious in 1999. A Civil War gaming veteran showed that he
knew a little bit about 20th-century pugilism. Last year's champ
pulled a big draft-day move, and a long-time sports gaming GM
pulled off the upset of the tournament.
Dennis Nicholson, determined to prove that his win with Ali
two years ago was no fluke, drafted early and chose Jack Dempsey.
Given Dennis' penchant for sluggers (he chose George Foreman
last year), it was hardly a shock when Dennis knocked out "Gentleman
Jim Corbett" (Jonathan Lockwood) and Derek Landel's boxer,
the oft-underrated Tommy Burns, on the way to the semis. Derek
made the quarterfinals for the third straight year by upsetting
"Iron Mike" Tyson (John Reiner), but couldn't avoid
Gordon Rodgers, a Title Bout regular, denied former
champ Bruce Reiff another plaque by winning with Peter Jackson
over Sonny Liston. But Gordon fell to another former champion,
Ken Gutermuth, in the quarters. Ken picked in the middle of the
draw, but was able to select one of his favorite boxers, Sam
Langford. Able to fight defensively or to go all-out knockout,
Ken was able to use his experience to handily outpoint Charles
Severance with James Jeffries in the first round, and then Gordon
Against Dennis, however, Ken couldn't come up with the KO
he needed, and eventually lost out in the sledgehammer fist contest.
A nasty cut reduced Langford's control factor, and Ken was unable
to overcome the scoring deficit. The big question now seemed
to be, would Dempsey win two years in a row?
The other half of the draw held a lot of surprises. British
pride was upheld when John Ellman (who runs the excellent March
Madness event year after year), almost by sheer force of will,
steered Bob Fitzsimmons (the last undisputed British heavyweight
champ) to a win over Harry Flawd (with Gene Tunney). For this,
John won the Biggest Upset Award for the event, a prize of the
book "King of the World : Muhammad Ali and the Rise of
an American Hero" by David Remnick. John's success was
short-lived, however, as he fell immediately afterwards to Marshall
Collins, who understands how to use a class boxer in the TBT
system. Marshall also defeated Chris Bauch (Ezzard Charles),
in an battle of two precision punchers.
In the lower half of the draw, Terry Coleman pulled a mild
upset with Joe Jeannette over Chris Nolan and Joe Frazier. But
the wildest bout of the tournament had defending champ Jim Bell
taking on Bruno Passacatando (with Rocky Marciano). Jim was one
of the last people to select a boxer. So, he picked a lower-rated
boxer, Cleveland Williams, in order to benefit from the
handicapping rules used at the event. Jim was leading on all
scorecards, and he had knocked down Bruno's boxer twice, while
suffering a bad cut and a knockdown of his own...when Marciano's
fists finally landed enough to give Bruno a TKO victory in the
Kissing the canvas became a theme for Bruno, who had to get
up off the mat ten times during the tournament. Marciano trailed
in every single fight, but Bruno kept his calm through a tight
quarterfinal, outpointing Terry Coleman, and swept three of the
last four rounds in defeating Marshall in the semis (meaning
that no one has yet won this event with Jack Johnson).
The final was a wild affair, with both boxers falling to the
mat more than once. Dennis' boxer, Dempsey, soldiered on with
an incredible seven cut points, and despite this, was well ahead
on all the judges' score cards. After knockdowns, intentional
butts, more cuts, and hits that would have stopped lesser men,
Bruce finally landed one big bomb too many, and Dennis was denied
his second Title Bout crown.
Lower-rated boxers gained a free point in each round, and
if there was a big enough gap in ratings, the lesser boxer won
close rounds (the "hometown rule). The handicapping resulted
in a lot of close games, and seemed to be well-received. Marciano's
victory made for four different winning boxers in the last four
years -- a good indicator of play-balance.
The final tally of victories gave a slight edge to boxers
over sluggers 8-7. However, the two finalists were both sluggers,
so draw your own conclusions.