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By David Staba

The last time downtown Niagara Falls hosted a boxing card, Razor Ruddock won the Canadian heavyweight title and some thugs gave Niagara Falls Reporter Editor in Chief Mike Hudson a close-up look at the men's room fixtures in the old Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center, when they followed him into the bathroom and smashed his face into the urinal.

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Ruddock retired soon after stopping Egerton Marcus in 10 rounds on that Friday night in October 2001, the Convention Center is now the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hudson's nose has presumably been broken at least once in the interim, although it's sort of tough to tell anymore.

On Oct. 30, live boxing returns to the downtown area for the first time in more than three years with a promotion called "Halloween Boxing Bash at the Garden."

The Ruddock-Marcus fight was the last of three staged at the Convention Center by Allan Tremblay's Orion Sports Management in 2001, following Joe Mesi's knockout wins over Jorge Luis Gonzalez and Busty Bert Cooper.

This month's promotion is on a smaller scale, featuring all amateur bouts, but represents a good first step back for both the sport and the Wintergarden, where renovations are underway to host what promoters hope will become a regular series of fights.

The facility's owner, Smokin' Joe Anderson, teamed up with Casal's Boxing Club to put the show together. (In the interest of full disclosure, the Niagara Falls Reporter is also a sponsor.)

Boxing is a natural fit for Niagara Falls, given the proliferation of casinos on both sides of the river. While there's no sufficient facility for hosting large professional cards since the conversion of the Convention Center, starting small and building a market could spur such a development.

The Oct. 30 show will be headlined by a pair of local two-time national champions -- Anthony Casal of Niagara Falls and Joey Trusello of Ransomville. Anthony's older brother, Nick, has already started making a name for himself in boxing circles by delivering impressive knockout wins in each of his four professional fights.

While fighting at a similar weight as his brother, with both in the 140-pound range, Anthony offers a different style. Where Nick bobs and weaves his way inside to throw bombs with both hands, Anthony -- a southpaw -- jabs and counterpunches more, though he also displays solid power.

In addition to other members of the Casal's stable, the card will also include fighters from Buffalo, Rochester, Cortland, Cleveland and Canada.

Tickets are $10 for general admission and $25 for ringside, and available at Smokin' Joe's on Saunders Settlement Road and Casal's Boxing Club at 1314 Hyde Park Blvd.

Didn't there used to be a hockey team in Buffalo?

Why would anyone pitch to David Ortiz with the game, and especially the pennant, on the line? And how did Minnesota let him get away?

Ortiz was good last year, his first in Boston, but the Red Sox designated hitter was positively monstrous this season (.301 batting average, 41 home runs and 139 RBI). As if that wasn't enough, he hit .545 to lead Boston to a sweep of Anaheim in the American League Divisional Series.

Fittingly, he finished the Angels with as dramatic a bit of clutch hitting as you'll ever see, crushing the first pitch from Anaheim ace Jarrod Washburn -- a very tough lefty making a rare relief appearance to try to save the Angels' season -- to send Boston fans into a frenzy.

At least until they take on the New York Yankees this week in the American League Championship Series.

Oh, yeah. That Derek Jeter guy's pretty good, too.

The very best of wishes go out to Jack Mesi as he recovers from surgery for prostate cancer. Jack has absorbed a fair amount of criticism while managing son Joe's boxing career, which remains in limbo following the horrific beating he took in the final two rounds of his win over Vassiliy Jirov in March.

But even if Joe never fights again, Jack steered his son through the extremely treacherous waters of boxing to a place few fighters ever reach -- a spot in the world rankings, repeated appearances on national television and some very nice paydays.

And whatever you think of Jack's managerial decisions, there's no questioning his devotion to his family and, of particular importance in this fight, there's no doubting his toughness.

Anyone who wonders why boxing carries such a strong attraction for its fans should check out PBS on Monday, Oct. 18.

That night, the series "American Experience" is running a 90-minute documentary on one of the most famous fights ever, Joe Louis' 1938 demolition of Max Schmeling.

Schmeling, a former heavyweight champion from Germany, had blemished Louis' perfect record two years earlier. After noticing that Louis dropped his left hand after jabbing, Schmeling constructed a perfect fight plan around the flaw. He stunned the previously unbeaten Louis with a fourth-round knockdown and pummeled him with rights thereafter, finally stopping him in the 12th.

By the time the two men met again, Adolf Hitler's propaganda machine had deified the reluctant Schmeling, depicting his win over Louis as proof of Aryan superiority.

At a time when everyone knew the name of the heavyweight champion (because there was only one, for one thing), the patriotic build-up was just as fervent in the United States, marking the first time the entire country rallied behind a black athlete. A sellout crowd packed Yankee Stadium for the rematch and more than 70 million people listened on the radio -- the largest audience ever.

And then, well, if you don't already know the outcome, you're just going to have to tune into PBS on Monday.

"The Fight" comes on the heels of a stellar CBC documentary last month that chronicled the 1966 fight between Muhammad Ali and George Chuvalo in Toronto. It, too, showed the connections between the turbulent political tides of the times and the most basic, and savage, of sports.

Schmeling, by the way, celebrated his 99th birthday on Sept. 28.

David Staba is the sports editor of the Niagara Falls Reporter. He welcomes e-mail at dstaba13@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct.12 2004