Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Other Italian Heavyweight Champion


After playing Rocky Marciano through the Rocky movie fights, I've adopted that "Gauntlet" as a way to enjoy myself with Fight Night Champion for an evening without having to spend time picking bouts. Since there's a lot of variety in the opponents, it makes for an interesting evening.

Marciano wasn't the only Italian heavyweight champ that was talked about in our family. My Grandmother had a few famous person landmarks for things. Anytime my sister would try a difficult swimming feat (which she could do, of course, as an Up the Lake kid) Grandma would ask, "Who do you think you are, Esther Williams?" (For me swimming, it was Johnny Weissmuller.)

While Grandpa was the huge boxing fan, anytime I tried to lift something heavy, it was always the same question from Grandma, "Who do you think you are, Primo Carnera?"  I knew he must be very strong. He fought Mighty Joe Young.

I find with most things, there are levels of understanding. When I first dug into boxing, I learned "The Ambling Alp" was known as a paper champion, unable to win in tough matches that didn't have a little "outside influence" on his opponents. His skills weren't highly regarded, and he eventually transitioned into Professional Wrestling.

I learned more, however. 
First of all, with a six foot six muscled frame, there is no doubt about this man's power. And the fact that he still holds the record for most knockouts when champion does mean something.

Second, now that I've done an equally obsessive deep dive into professional wrestling, I am aware of how that life is extremely physically and mentally taxing. It requires a huge amount of skill and discipline, which are different than boxing, yet he made the transition.

Most importantly, I read an interview with him where he stated whatever he did in his life, including what was required to put his body and mind through for boxing and wrestling, everything he did was for his kids. 
That's the kind of thinking that raises my family's estimation of anyone to a high level.
Being Italian certainly doesn't hurt either.

The game supplies him with the reach and knockout power he was known for, and also the levels of speed and stamina he was not known for possessing.

I figured that would be an interesting challenge for "The Gauntlet."

It did take a while to work out how to balance his strengths and weaknesses correctly, especially in figuring out how to put an opponent away once he was on the ropes. The fights with both Rocky and Apollo were kind of dull overall, especially the finishes. I'd come close to winning the match in one round, but be unable to land a knock out punch. Then the next round, the first jab I threw would end the bout. It wasn't worth getting up off the couch to film those lack luster endings.

Finally, against a similarly, high power but low endurance opponent like Clubber Lang, but with a HUGE advantage in reach, I figured out how to cleanly take him out in the third round.

Then it was time for the fight I didn't expect to win. It took me years of playing with some of the greatest fighters in history (including Dad) to defeat Drago. I expected to either slip up and get laid out with a lucky punch, or lose on points for being too defensive. However, after three bouts with Primo, I learned how to use a reach advantage, which is something I was quite unused to having against the Siberian Express. It took eleven very careful rounds of out boxing and maneuvering but the Russian fell to Mama Carnera's Italian boy in this battle of giants.

The bare knuckled "street fight" against Tommy Gunn (Morrison) is always a relaxing breather after facing Drago. It took a full three rounds, which is longer than I was used to against the ungrateful pupil. However, by this late point in the evening I was enjoying unleashing the power in Primo's massive arms and knocked Tommy senseless with devastating hooks and uppercuts. 

That left the final match against Mason Dixon. The young fighter looking for respect has surprising stamina, but lacks power. In most cases, it isn't a difficult fight, but it can be a long one. However, the advantage of using the same boxer in six matches in a row is the ability to develop a feeling for what performs best. Primo Carnera's enormous reach allowed working amazingly well off of the jab. Then taking advantage of his strength to slam in body crunching blows following the forceful straight punches staggering his young opponent.  Dixon fell in six.

Post Script- Of course, in the viscous circle that is my life, I got excited after writing about Primo Carnera, and it was still relatively early. (in the way I define "relatively early" on weekends where I'm playing video games...which is to say, "really late") Therefore, I had to play as him again, in order to avenge his sixth round knockout by Joe Louis on 25 June 1935.

Mission Accomplished

Honestly, it was pretty close and in the second and third rounds, Louis landed some stunning blows that I didn't thing Primo would survive.

Having run "The Gauntlet" with the Ambling Alp, I was able to fight defensively and keep my distance, wearing the Brown Bomber down with long distance head and body shots.

Another thing I figured out with this enormous reach advantage was that if Louis was close enough to land a jab, Primo could land a more powerful hook!

By the fifth and sixth rounds our Italian star of this post was handily in control. However, he was still kinda slow, and facing someone usually ranked in the top two of greatest heavyweights of all time. I mean, I stopped using him in the game because he was too easy to win with.

The other issue is that Carnera's arms being SO FREAKIN' LONG made any blow that staggered Louis, in addition, knock him well out of range. 

However with continued focus, and those powerful arms working from what seemed like half way across the ring, in the seventh round Primo Carnera got his payback almost eighty-eight years later. Grandma and Grandpa would be proud.

Yes, there are more boxing posts coming. I goofed off playing games for way too many weekends. Plus... y'know... huge Disney World Travelogue coming soon.

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