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Martin Kane
September 03, 1956
Some moves were made to clean up the game when the NBA met under the southern sun, but so far it's
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September 03, 1956

Careful Sparring

Some moves were made to clean up the game when the NBA met under the southern sun, but so far it's

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The commissioners took up other matters, such as what to do about Sandy Saddler and his foul tactics. Solution: Whenever Saddler fights, instruct the referee to enforce the rules. And what to do about the International Boxing Club ( James D. Norris, president) and its tendency to put on big fights in states that curry IBC's favor. Solution: "If we stick together the IBC will have to stick to the laws of decency."

This week also provided boxing's lightweight division with a new champion in the tall and stately person of Joe Brown, the New Orleans Nonesuch. Last Friday night Brown took the crown in his old home town, lifting it from the uneasy head of Wallace (Bud) Smith, who had worn it with appropriate embarrassment. Smith defended his championship at long last, having in the last 10 months lost three non-title lawn parties—to Larry Boardman, Tony DeMarco and to Brown himself.

Almost any ranking lightweight could have beaten Champion Smith, so low has this division fallen, but Challenger Brown, ranked No. 8, did it with one hand, so to speak. In the second round of a 15-round title fight he broke his right hand with a stunning blow to Smith's jaw. But in the end that fist became the instrument of a remarkable beau geste. It restored dignity to the division. With it Challenger Joe established that the essential quality of a fighter is courage.

With 50% of his forces depleted, Brown was committed to defensive generalship. This is not a policy that wins wars or fights, nor did it bring the New Orleans crowd, unaware of the accident, to its feet. After 13 rounds the fight was actually close but Brown needed to win the last two rounds.

"You have six minutes to win," his corner told him.

Joe Brown made a decision. His right hand was blazing with pain. In such a situation a fighter cannot grimace or grab at the hurt or, for fear his opponent will learn of it, do anything but pretend the pain is not there. Brown's decision: to punch with the broken hand as hard as he could, to accept the agony and the possibility of more than temporary disablement.

He knew what to expect—something like what you would get if you were to pull your own tooth without benefit of Novocain. He threw the right again anyhow, harder than ever, and saw Smith go down from a right cross, then rise groggily and go down again, this time from a right, a left and a shove. The bell rang at the count of six.

Smith was a beaten man in the loth and there was no longer any point in getting hurt to punish him further. The challenger had established something precious—that he had the heart, if not all the proper skills, of a lightweight champion.

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