Big pond, little pond. Two champs

(Originally published 2/2/12)

Angelo Dundee died yesterday. The legendary trainer for Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard was 90.

When Angelo Mirena got his start in boxing during the 1940’s, he changed his name to Dundee – just as two of his brothers had done – to hide their work in boxing from their parents. Today, all these years later, tributes are pouring in from all over the country. A part of boxing died with Dundee, they all say.

Dundee’s death brings to mind another longtime boxing trainer that I once knew, long since gone. He didn’t swim in the same world-class waters as Dundee, but he left his own long-lasting impression nonetheless.

Tony Orlando Sr. operated the gym in the basement of Kirk Center in Elizabeth, N.J. He trained fighters for five decades and worked well into his 80s. Anyone would be hard-pressed to meet a nicer man and gentler soul in such a violent world than Orlando. Continue reading

Pat Summitt and the right to say ‘when’

(Originally published 3/25/12)

I’m the type of guy who loves an underdog. It’s not often that I root for a No. 2 seed to beat a No. 11 at the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but that’s the situation I found myself in yesterday as Tennessee rallied from a 14-point deficit to knock off Kansas, 84-73, and reach the quarterfinals of the women’s tournament.

I’d like Pat Summitt to get one more trip to the Final Four in what is most likely her last go-around as head coach. Perhaps even win one more championship before walking off into the sunset, retiring on her own terms and with the sounds of celebration echoing throughout the arena rather than the quiet calls for her to just go away. For the good of the program.

Getting old sucks. Getting old and sick is much worse.

The odds are stacked against Tennessee reaching the Final Four this year. The consensus No. 1 team in the country, undefeated Baylor, stands in its way. Most likely, a 38-year career comes to an end Monday night in Des Moines, Iowa, but what do I know? Only that I recognize true excellence when I see it. Continue reading