JOHN RIORDAN: Tough breaks for Boston’s bruised and battered fans

He’d won over the judges but Danny O’Connor’s face and entire demeanour seemed more like a swollen tribute to some sort of courageous defeat.

Backstage at the theatre of the MGM Grand in Mashantucket, Connecticut on Saturday evening, the light-welterweight boxer from Framingham, Massachusetts pointed half-heartedly to his bulging left eye and grinned wryly; of course he wasn’t happy with how he’d fought.

His unanimous decision win over veteran Hector Munoz was never going to go any other way. O’Connor is an extremely popular Irish-American working class hero from the western environs of Boston. He is a key component of promoter Lou DiBella’s stable and was a nice draw for a vocal group of fans who may have otherwise not bothered to pay into that evening’s highly anticipated middleweight title fight between Gennardy Golovkin and Matthew Macklin.

Munoz accepted the decision with good grace — a little surprising given the fact that one of his many tattoos was more than a little suggestive of extreme menace: an inked Glock 9mm on his lower back half-concealed by his Mexican flag-coloured shorts.

When O’Connor was announced as the winner, he donned a slim-fitting Glasgow Celtic jersey. When he subsequently faced the media, he chose a baggy Boston Bruins ice hockey shirt. The battle scars which had disfigured his good looks rendered him an oddly appropriate personification of what has been a remarkably tough period for the sports fans of that city.

All in the space of a week, one of their star NFL players was charged with murder, their hockey Bruins lost the Stanley Cup in a gut-wrenching manner to the Chicago Blackhawks and their basketball Celtics were dismantled and sold for parts.

Aaron Hernandez was the second best tight end at the New England Patriots and in the entire NFL until his arrest last Wednesday. Almost a year ago, he was handed a huge contract by the Patriots. When word filtered through that he was about to be arrested in connection with the shooting of a friend, Odin Lloyd, the Patriots quickly moved to cut ties with their player.

That will run its course and it doesn’t look good for him. The rest of what has befallen Boston recently is simply sport — not life and death — but it’s been one of those weeks where tragedy rapidly becomes comedy.

As if it wasn’t enough that the Bruins became unravelled by a 17-second turnaround which left them 4-3 down after being 3-2 up in Game Six of the Stanley Cup, their cruel defeat was suffered against the backdrop of the Boston Celtics organisation deciding to start from scratch and wave goodbye to almost every key member of one of the greatest teams of the last decade.

In the always fascinating, always murky world of player trades (or transfers) in US sport, the manner in which the Celtics coach Doc Rivers jumped ship and headed for the LA Clippers was a dramatic twist.

He knew what was coming but it came as a shock to everyone else. Just as an incredibly unpredictable NBA draft was sending young players off to a life of riches and adulation, news filtered through that the Celtics linchpins Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were being traded away to the Brooklyn Nets for little more than the promise of whatever future stars emerge out of college in the next few years.

Pierce has been a Celtic all of his professional career, ever since he left the University of Kansas in 1998. In 2002 he was pivotal to their memorable run to the finals although they failed at that last hurdle.

When Garnett and Ray Allen were added to the team in the summer of 2007, the Celtics finally had the big three they needed for a first title since the heyday of Larry Bird in the mid-1980s.

Allen left last year to win a title with the Miami Heat and now Pierce and Garnett have followed, emptying out the Boston Garden of all but one of their All Stars, the injured Rajon Rondo left to wallow in what must feel like a strangely eerie clubhouse. No matter what happens throughout the rest of 2013 in Beantown, this will truly be a year to forget.

Danny O’Connor’s hometown of Framingham has been a staple of the early section of the Boston Marathon course since the 19th century. On Saturday night, he fought in a special kit that will be auctioned for victims of the April atrocity. Some of it is tragic and some of it is comedy but all of the misfortune that has come their way will cause Bostonian sports fans to shudder for several seasons to come.

* Twitter: JohnWRiordan

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