They say it's only in fairy tales that the good little boys fight the giants and the dragons and the witches and come out on top. It's strictly in fairy tales that virtue, as Harry Balogh would say, emerges victorious, and the evil spirits and Frankie Carbos get it in the end.
Well, the APPPFF, your old Association for the Protection of Poor Put-upon Fight Fans (SI, Nov. 29, 1954), has got a hot fairy tale on its hands and is ready, in these investigating days, to put it into the record.
Once upon a time there was—and, thank goodness, still is—a good little boxing commissioner by the name of Julius. He tossed into his garden a few seeds of honest doubt as to just how legitimate this ancient game of boxing really was. There was fertilizer aplenty, for, after all, this was the great un-cleaned barn of professional sport. As a specialist who has harvested his share of murderers and racketeers, Julius was an old hand at planting seeds and seeing them sprout and branch out into indictments and convictions.
When Julius looked out of his boxing commission office window he was delighted to see a beanstalk that reached up and up through clouds of managerial resentment and IBC resistance—and into what strange world it penetrated Julius could only wonder. But one thing you could say for Julius, he was very inquisitive. There had been boxing commissioners before him who had sprinkled seeds of doubt which had burst forth into giant stalks. But they always had been too timid to climb up the stalk and see where it might lead them.
February 6, 1956
But Julius was different. He liked to get to the top of things, which is fairytale language for getting to the bottom of them. So he climbed and he climbed and he climbed. In Cauliflower Alley there were managers and promoters and even a few status quoters among the sportswriters who laughed at Julius and waited for him to fall off and land on his little investigation. But Julius held on tight and never stopped climbing until, high above a great cloud of cigar smoke, he came upon a castle. "Who's there?" cried a terrible voice from within the castle. "This is the kingdom of the boxing ogre. How dare you invade our domain? We got a boxing monopoly going, see, and we don't want nobody butting into our business."
"My name is Julius and I feel I have a right to know what's going on in there."
This answer was so surprising that the assistant giant guarding the door opened it a crack to see what kind of adventurer it was who dared to question the operation of the boxing ogre. Before the assistant giant could say, "You're wrecking the game," Julius had darted inside and had begun to look around.
"Look, I will level with youse," said the assistant giant. "The boxing ogre eats officials like you for breakfast. You'd better scram out of here before the boss finds you and—"
Just then a thunderous voice shook the castle walls. "Fee fo fum fer—I smell the blood of a commissioner." It was the ogre, Frankie Ogre, also known as Carbo. The assistant giant was afraid Frankie would throw him out of the Guild for letting Julius slip into the castle. So he told the little intruder to hide in the stove.
Frankie Ogre and his giant stooge sat down and swigged a hogshead full of Java, and then they swaggered into the money room to count the loot. The assistant giant figured he could sneak back, turn the oven on and roast Julius to a crisp. But Julius maneuvered out of the stove and had gone gumshoeing around the rest of the day, checking into Frankie Ogre's operation.
He found collusion between Frank Ogre and licensed managers who confronted him. He found that deserving boxers and managers could be starved out if they didn't play ball with the ogre. He found out about managers with criminal records, about shakedowns and kickbacks and a lot of other things. Frankie Ogre had a goose that was laying golden eggs, and Julius decided he could break the power of the ogre by bringing the goose in as evidence. Then he would hit the ogre with a nine-page report. "Help, help—he's ruining the racket—er—I mean the game," the golden goose called out as Julius started scurrying down his beanstalk. "Fee fi fo fud," cried Frankie Ogre, "I want to drink the commissioner's blood. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread."
When Frankie Ogre started chasing Julius down the beanstalk all of the smart boys thought Julius was finished. "Ogre'll teach him to wreck the game," they chortled. "Even if he doesn't swallow him whole, he'll fool 'em by moving to Maryland. There won't be no more boxing in New York for Julius to be commissioner of."
But while the ogre came cursing after Julius, the Governor of Maryland said his state was also off limits for Frankie Ogre. And managers who had sworn to stand by Ogre to the end suddenly swung over and said whatever Julius wanted Julius would get. Al Weill, all of a sudden, stood with Julius. And Jim Norris, Frankie Ogre's old coffee crony, said he was with Julius all the way.
So Julius swung his ax to chop down the beanstalk and send Frankie Ogre crashing to earth. In the fairy tale, of course, the ogre died and everybody lived happily ever after. In this true APPPFF fairy tale, it must be admitted that the ogre is merely wounded. The dark spirit that has shadowed the vital sport of boxing is not to be exorcised in fairy-tale fashion. But at least the APPPFF and lovers of fist fighting everywhere have a champion in Julius Helfand. A real giant killer. If Marciano and Basilio aren't careful, he might turn out to be the fighter of the year.