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    Friday, December 01, 2023

    The bazooka right hook from Cassius Chaney

    New London - He accomplished the ultimate goal, Cassius Chaney did, with the most memorable, if not authoritative, punch of his boxing career. This was early November in Miami, against former champion Trevor Bryan, a short right hook seemingly shot from a bazooka, that sent Bryan careening to the ground.

    At that point, Chaney, a young man who otherwise mentors kids from the city at Bennie Dover, vanquished his opponent in the most Darwinian sport of them all. Chaney stood in a neutral corner, awaiting the bout to be stopped in the seventh round, while the residual effect of the bazooka hook was running like a current throughout the sport.

    Except that Trevor Bryan wasn’t moving. He lay stagnant, his mother rushing to the ring to console him. Medical personnel tended to him with a neck brace and a stretcher.

    “The knockout was a rush, but then you see him not getting up. I’m thinking, ‘what's going on?’” Chaney was saying last week back home over breakfast at Jake’s State St. Diner. “I was in a neutral corner. Then he’s not moving. He’s a former champion, so it was important for me to win. I wanted to win impressively. But it’s bittersweet.”

    And so in the afterglow of winning the World Boxing Association Continental title, Chaney was left to ponder the real-life consequences of winning so impressively. Sure, it’s a good sound bite to dismiss the whole thing as the consequences of a violent sport. How it comes with the meal. Except when it happens to you. Chaney has stayed in communication with Bryan, who has been healing.

    “I never saw anything like it,” Chaney’s coach, Fred Weaver, said. “Another ref would have stopped that fight earlier. Everything sort of happened too fast after the overhand right.”

    Chaney, 36, began his boxing career later than many others do. He entered the Bryan bout with one round of experience in the last 23 months. His only pro loss came against George Arias in 2021 in a ten-round split decision. Chaney is 23-1 with 16 knockouts.

    He’s also on more radars than ever, moving to No. 3 in the latest rankings. One man’s serious injury is another’s opportunity. Such is boxing.

    “I see a path opening,” Chaney said.

    And yet he is cautious. Perhaps suspicious. Chaney is to the heavyweight division of boxing what mid-majors are to college basketball: plenty good enough to take down one of the big guys, which is exactly why the big guys might try to avoid him.

    “Somebody's going to open that door and give me a shot,” Chaney said. “I’ve just got to be ready for it.”

    Meantime, Chaney will continue his work at Bennie Dover. He’ll be part of Dave Cornish’s staff this winter with New London boys’ basketball. Chaney won a state championship at Old Saybrook as a high school kid and played in college at Div. II New Haven.

    Boxing and basketball. Basketball and boxing. And all with this gentlemanly demeanor. Except when it comes to his vocation.

    “I don't think I'm nice in the ring. I know how to turn it on and get focused, but I think a lot of that comes with my background growing up (in Baltimore),” Chaney said. “You have to be able to change into ‘that guy’ when you get in the ring. You have to be able to put that cape on and more.”

    Weaver: “He gets a whole different attitude, especially once he gets hit.”

    Trevor Bryan discovered as much a few weeks ago in Miami. So did others in the boxing sphere. Now Chaney has some basketball to distract him as the next opportunity awaits.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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