Category Archives: Sports

Tribute to a Boxing Champion

By Roger Zotti

Justina Ihetu, author of "In Africa's Honor."

Justina Ihetu, daughter of former world middleweight and light heavyweight champion Dick Tiger, has written a skillfully constructed, inspiring, and insightful book titled “In Africa’s Honor” (iUniverse). “It puts boxing history relating to Africa into perspective,” she tells us, “and spotlights the first championship fight on African soil, occurring eleven years before the more popular ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ battle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.”

A man of dignity and courage, Tiger was an aggressive, crowd-pleasing boxer. Born in 1929, he died in 1971. He began boxing in 1955, retiring in 1970 with a record of 60-19-3 (27 KO).  One of the most formidable fighters of his talent-rich era, Tiger never ducked a worthy opponent, nor did he ever take a backward step. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

Justina remarks that “revisiting and pondering over my father’s early years as a young adult when he was struggling to make a living, under the most excruciating circumstances, and without any kind of support,” proved gratifying because “against all odds, he was able to turn the deficits of his environment into benefits and eventually he gave back to his community: When his country was embroiled in a civil war, he did not turn his back on it, but became a voice for the distressed during the Nigerian/Biafran war.”

At the same time, she admits keeping her emotions in check was difficult: “Despite his reputation in his beloved Nigeria, the country is devoid of any visual representations or memorials of his remarkable boxing accomplishments. His stand against injustice and his involvement in the Civil War in Nigeria, I’m afraid, may have for decades cost him his rightful place in Nigeria’s sports history.  I believe that were he given another chance, he would do exactly the same thing—and that’s the mark of a true hero.”

Because her father “is unsung and almost forgotten,” Justina asserts, her goal was “to keep his story fresh and relevant, especially to the younger generation who had not the privilege of knowing about the first boxing championship held in Africa, or about Africa’s greatest boxer.” The motivating technique she used—and it worked—was writing “In Africa’s Honor” in play form.

The championship bout between Tiger and Gene Fullmer—the third meeting between them—took place August 10, 1963, at Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, Nigeria. Tiger emerged victorious when the West Jordan, Utah warrior was unable to answer the bell for the eighth round. “If you have to lose, it’s a pleasure to lose your championship to a great fighter, sportsman, and gentleman like Dick Tiger,” the gracious Fullmer said after the fight.

Asked what she hopes readers take away from “In Africa’s Honor,” Justina’s answer is memorable: “It is the determination to accomplish their goals in life, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, race, or creed. As with Dick Tiger, their circumstances should not become an impediment to their growth and success in life but should, instead, compel them to persevere and rise about their circumstances.”

 

 

Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game

story & photos
by Christopher Annino

The 10th Annual Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Basketball Game was held in the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday, August 9. Former and current UConn players such as Travis Knight, Ray Allen, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Rip Hamilton, Caron Butler, Kevin Ollie, Donyell Marshall, Khalid El-Amin, Doron Sheffer, Ricky Moore, Charlie Villanueva, and Rudy Gay took part in the game. Basketball Hall of Famer, Jim Calhoun began this fundraiser to benefit the UConn Foundation, Inc.’s Jim and Pat Calhoun Cardiology Research Endowment Fund for the UConn Health Center.

Both teams were made up of former alumi: the white team, with older players, and the blue team, with more current players.

From the second the tip off began, the game was full of fun and amazing plays that the audience of over 8,000 people enjoyed. The game was played with much heart, enjoyment and fun. During one play, NBA champion Ray Allen blocked a shot, got the steal, and did a backwards pass to his teammate who later responded with a slam-dunk.

The blue team won 119-117. “This is a great cause, and I enjoy coming every year to visit with fans, coaches, friends, and fellow players,” said UConn legend Travis Knight.

UConn legend and current star for the Milwaukee Bucks Charlie Villanueva added, “We are all bound together here as players because of what Coach taught us, I have been in the league for three years and I miss UConn. Coach taught me everything I needed to know as a man and a player.”

The game was dedicated to Robert “Spider” Ursery, who recently passed away from a six-year battle with Hodgkin’s Disease. Rudy Gay was the games MVP with 38 points, and after the game the fans were able to meet and greet their heroes for a two-hour autograph session. Mohegan Sun, Gold Orluk and Partners, Nike and other organizations helped sponsor the event.

Sportsbook: Hockey, MLB Draft, and Notes of Note

by Bob Trieger

CT Provides Fertile Hockey Resource for NHL & Colleges

For years, CT provided on-the-job training for future college and professional hockey players, highlighted this year by Colin Wilson’s selection in the seventh overall spot by the Nashville Predators.

Born in Greenwich, the son of former NHL player, Carey Wilson, Colin grew-up in Winnipeg. He was a member of the US National Development Team (22 goals, 25 points), as well as the New England and Hockey East Rookie of the Year this past season, skating as a freshman for Boston University (13-22). The 6’1, 215 pound left wing is only 18 years old.

The Daniels twins, Justin and Drew, were both drafted by the San Jose Sharks out of Kent School. Center Justin, who led his prep team last season with 17 goals and 27 assists, was selected in the third round with the 62nd overall pick. Right winger Drew went in the seventh round. Both are committed to Northeastern University.

In the sixth round, Colorado selected Avon Old Farms right wing Cameron Atkinson, the 5’7 Boston College-bound skater from Greenwich who had 26 goals and 37 assists in only 28 games this past season.

Boston College right wing Ben Smith (Avon), who had 25 goals and 25 assists for the Eagles 2007-2008 national championship sextet, went 12 spots later in the same round to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Choate-Rosemary Hall center Mark Goggin, who is heading to Dartmouth College, went in the seventh round to the Boston Bruins. He had 15 goals and 21 assists this past season for Choate.

Caught in the MLB draft

Salisbury School shortstop Anthony Hewitt was the 24th pick in the opening round by the Philadelphia Phillies in the recent Major League Baseball amateur draft. The Phillies plan to move Anthony to third base.

Here’s a look at other CT players drafted by rounds: 7th, Amity Regional (Woodbridge) third baseman Jason Esposito (Kansas City Royals); 12th, Bristol Eastern shortstop Brett Anderson (Detroit Tigers); 17th, Yale pitcher Brian Irving (San Francisco Giants); 20th, New Haven catcher Michael Moras (New York Mets), Manchester Community College.

Notes of Note

Sports at Mohegan Sun: Battle At The Sun III: Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Tournament starting at 9 a.m. on August 3rd and Professional Supershow will be held that night … The annual Jim Calhoun All-Star Basketball Game is scheduled for August 9.

Team CT MVP. A.J. Rataic’s (East Catholic) bases-loaded ground rule double broke-open a 2-2 game in the fifth inning as Team CT went on to beat Team Massachusetts, 8-4, in the annual All-Star Baseball Game. Team CT’s Most Valuable Pitcher was Wil Jolin (Guilford), who fanned five and allowed only one hit.

UConn Women’s Basketball Team head coach, Geno Auriemma, signed a five-year, $8 million contract, keeping the Hall of Famer coaching the Lady Huskies through 2013.

Tonya Cardoza, veteran UConn women’s assistant hoop coach, is the now the head coach at Temple University. Tonya’s spot with the Huskies was replaced by former Huskies star, Shea Ralph.

Southern CT State track & field and cross-country coach, Wil Wright, has retired after 46 years, 35 as head coach. He coached 100 All-American and 24 National Champions.

UConn forward Stanley Robinson will not play for the Huskies this year. He is attending junior college near his Alabama home addressing academic and personal issues.