It was quite a week in professional boxing. In California there was a little matter of a $10,000 check stub made out to "A. W.," which could have stood for Al Weill.
In New York Federal Judge Sylvester J. Ryan took home a mound of documents to study before resuming trial of United States of America, Plaintiff, vs. International Boxing Club of New York, Inc., et al., Defendants, an anti-monopoly action of import to sport (SI, April 23).
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's Governor George M. Leader sat with members of the National Boxing Association and other boxing elite to talk over a proposed uniform national code for the sport. Julius M. Helfand, New York's rampaging commissioner, was present, and he is a very blunt man. As the governor's group sat with ballpoints at the ready for a rousing preamble to the code, Helfand snapped at them that there is law and code aplenty for those who would clean up boxing. What's needed, said Helfand, is enforcement of the existing code in such delinquent states as New Jersey and Illinois.
And in Illinois the fight fans howled once more in futile dismay at a Chicago Stadium decision—this time the split victory of Bobby Boyd, a rising young middleweight who leans on the Bible for strength before fights and on his opponent during them. A referee and judge decided Boyd had beaten Holly Mims, but to the crowd and to some sportswriters the decision had an odor that might have come off the Rugby pig farm of Johnny Williams, latest victim of Hurricane Jackson's spastic punches. The Boyd-Mims affair was the first Stadium fight since the mighty peculiar night of March 14, when Carmen Basilio was stripped of his welterweight championship by an equally unpopular decision. It was also the first of nine Stadium fights in which the favorite (9 to 5 this time) won. Three times previously this same Bobby Boyd, whose manager of record is Bernard Glickman, had been the underdog at the Stadium. In the Mims fight he was appearing there for the fourth time in nine fight nights. Boyd would appear, then, to be the Stadium management's favorite son, for reasons not apparent in his drawing power—a mere 2,496 on this occasion. Somebody up there, as Rocky Graziano has put it, must like him. A defense point in the IBC's antitrust troubles with the government is that the Stadium lost well over $300,000 last year.
April 29, 1956
While the Illinois boxing commission morosely pondered the fact that no one but fight fans would tell it what was wrong with boxing in Illinois, California's James Cox, appointed by Governor Goodwin Knight to turn over boxing's wet rocks, skewered another grubworm on his trident. This time it was Jimmy Murray, the northern California Dopplg√§nger of Los Angeles' Babe McCoy.
Cox contended that Murray had kicked back $10,000 to Al Weill, Rocky Marciano's manager, after the Don Cockell fight. It was money, Cox said, which should have gone to the fighters. He produced the check stub, made out to "A. W.," but Murray insisted that his word on a check stub was no good and actually he had lost the money at the races. Cox reminded him that the race track had closed three days before. Murray mumbled it must have been some other race track. Then he decided that, well, he had just plain "spent" the money.
On a hearing room blackboard Cox set down some figures, those that might turn up in the kind of fight contract he was describing:
"Isn't it, in fact, true, Mr. Murray," he asked, "that the $250 payment should be written as 'Theft'?"
There was no adequate answer and that was as far as Cox could get on this, which was part of an attempt to establish that the kickback to managers (and the cheating, thereby, of fighters) was common California practice. In New York Al Weill said: "I wish it was so, but it isn't. I haven't seen any $10,000."
Cox developed the fact that Murray, like many prominent men in boxing, was a friend of Frankie Carbo, the sinister underworld figure. Yes, he had met Mr. Carbo "socially" many times, Murray said, and liked him very much. Another Murray friend was Mobster Mickey Cohen, and still another was Gambler Dave Kessell, who was run out of town by police when he and Murray visited Los Angeles.
But the best friend of all was Babe McCoy, the Los Angeles matchmaker and ex-convict fixer. What he and Murray had in common, mostly, was Willie Ginsberg. Ginsberg had previously disclosed only the vaguest connection with boxing. A sort of hanger-on, he thought you might call him. On the other hand, there were indications that he might better be called a "bag man" for McCoy. And, through Murray's testimony about Ginsberg, the name of Blinky Palermo, manager of Welterweight Champion Johnny Saxton, came into the investigation, as it comes into so many.
HARD TO BELIEVE
Ginsberg had testified that Murray paid him $896 for driving Ike Williams, a Palermo fighter, around to radio stations for a couple of days. Would Murray regard this as a reasonable sum for such services, Cox inquired. "I sure wouldn't," Murray replied, "but, Mr. Cox, if I could sit down with you—off the record—I could tell you a lot about the fight game.
"It's hard to believe, I know," he continued, "but Crazy Blinky Palermo—that's what we call him—asked me to give Willie a percentage of the show because he liked Willie."
He had laid out, he remembered under prodding, $117.74 to buy Willie "some hats and ties."
"Everybody," he explained easily, "likes hats when someone else is paying for them."
That was the brightest remark of the week. It was, as stated before, quite a week in boxing—in California, in New York, in Pennsylvania and in Illinois.