Give the boxers their due

In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, sports writer Rick Reilly actually wrote the following about golfer Tiger Woods: "Woods gave us the single greatest achievement in sports history: the Tiger Slam in 2000 and 2001."

Let's get this straight. Winning the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship in 2000 and the Masters in 2001 is the "greatest single achievement in sports history?" Reilly may well be the highest paid sports journalist out there, and he may be one of the best sports writers, but if he truly believes that, he needs to start a new career as a stand-up comic.

-- Since this is a boxing space, only passing references will be made to other great sports achievements, such as Joe DiMaggio hitting safely in 56 consecutive games, Wilt Chamberlain's 1961-62 season in the NBA, when he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game, not to mention single games where he scored 100, 78, 73 (twice) and 72 points. Let's not leave out the NHL's Wayne Gretzky, who had 215 points (including 163 assists) in 1985-86 and 92 goals in a 212-point season in 1981-82

--all of which are records.

-- That said, it will be both necessary and easy to trump all of those fine accomplishments (yes, golf fans, including Woods' Tiger Slam) not once, but twice, with superior feats performed in the squared circle.

If you want to talk about less than a calendar year, nothing can match Henry Armstrong winning the featherweight, welterweight and lightweight championships in a period from Oct. 29, 1933 to Aug. 17, 1938.

If you want to talk about a career, try out heavy champion Rocky Marciano's feat of retiring undefeated at 49-0, with 43 knockouts.

-- Just how great was Armstrong? Consider this: Armstrong, 150-21-9, with 100 knockouts, defended his welterweight crown 19 times. The guy he beat for that championship was Barney Ross, a Hall of Famer who had also won the lightweight and junior welterweight titles and retired with a record of 72-4-3 (22). Lou Ambers, whom Armstrong beat for the lightweight crown, was also a Hall of Famer, finishing at 90-8-6 (30).

-- Or look at it this way. For a fighter to do today what Armstrong did then, he'd have to beat the winner of Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez at 126 pounds, move up to 147 and defeat Cory Spinks, move back down to 135 and beat Floyd Mayweather Jr., then move back up and defend his welterweight belt 19 times. There's no way.

-- Marciano's record should speak for itself, but look at this way. Go out and try to make 49 straight free throws and see how you do. Remember, that's with no crowd and nothing at stake. Winning even one fight against someone who can knock you out with one punch or stop you because of a head butt or cut (or any one of several other variables) is tough enough. Now do that 48 more times in a row, including seven times in world championship fights.

-- There isn't enough space or time to adequately juxtapose boxing and every other sport vis-à-vis athleticism, but there is when one compares golf and boxing. One needs know only four words: "There is no comparison." Don't think so? Please reread the above. If you still don't think so, if you still believe golfers are as or more athletic than boxers, I have some property at Area 51 for sale.

-- Now let's toss in this nugget from a February article printed in USA Today, which listed the "world's toughest athletes." Included in its top 10 were Woods and Annika Sorenstam, but not a single boxer. This is, beyond a doubt, the single most idiotic thing I've read.

-- Yeah, Annika and Tiger are tougher than Mike Tyson, Arturo Gatti, et al. I know S.I. and USA Today have editors, so my question is ... Where the heck were they when this drivel was written and allowed to be printed?

-- OK, let's give Reilly a break. He's quick-witted, colorful and probably just plugging his book "Who's Your Caddy." Or he's out of his bleeping mind, like the pinheads who think golfers are tougher than boxers.

-- Not to put too fine a point on it, but how often do you hear how dangerous a sport golfing is? That's right, never. But with boxers it's not a cliché, it's a fact: Pugilists face the possibility of death every time they step in the ring. Several have died. There's only two ways you're going to die on a golf course: One is if you get struck by lightning and the other is if the PGA wants to add some excitement to the somnolent game by encouraging the players to attack each other with their clubs.

-- Hey, wait a minute. That sounds like an idea for a pay-per-view event or a new reality series. Now all we need is former figure skater/shot caller Tonya Harding.

-- Speaking of Harding (whose boxing nickname is "Bad Girl"), wasn't that terrible when SportsCenter showed highlights of Edmonton's Amy Johnson knocking the hubcaps out of Harding? It was so terrible, that I watched it every chance I got and even considered taping it for posterity.

-- Yes, here we go again. In another episode of Here's What's Wrong With Boxing, the chain-smoking Harding made $25,000 to get the tar and nicotine kicked out of her by Johnson, who came into the bout with a record of 1-0-1.

But here's the kicker. The 33-year-old Harding, now 3-3, reportedly stood to make $600,000 for a title shot of some kind if she beat Johnson. Leaving out the fact that Harding was stopped in three rounds by Johnson and was coming off a bout in which she was stopped in one round by Melissa Yanis (who was 1-1 coming in), Harding's only wins have come against other women who were making their pro debuts.

So she deserved $600,000 and a title shot?

-- And for those who will try and use Harding to buttress their specious argument in favor of golfers over boxers, Harding isn't really a boxer. She's a joke. But she's still a better athlete than Woods or Sorenstam. She was a figure skater, remember? And if you don't think she's tough, go tell her. Just remember to duck when she reaches for a hubcap or to run when she makes a phone call to her boyfriend, or you'll have a sore head or a very sore knee.

NOTEBOOK: The Carson City Boxing Club will host an amateur boxing card on Saturday. Francisco Parra, who runs the CCBC, said Monday that he will present between 15 and 17 bouts and that teams from Oakland and Santa Rosa will be on the card, in addition to members from Bruno's Boxing Club, Rite of Passage, Arce Boxing and Eagles Boxing Club.

The card will be held at 3579 Highway 50 East, Building #218. Tickets will be $5 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under. Donations are welcome and the first bout begins at 2 p.m.

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