SALIENT POINTS OF JUDGE'S DECISION
•"The unlawful combination of the defendants still possesses and exercises its monopolistic control in the field of championship contests."
•"The illegal monopoly...was made possible...because of their control of the promotion of championship fights together with their control of the principal stadia.... Accordingly, there must be a limitation placed on the promotional activities of these defendants.... The decree will enjoin the Garden for a period of five years from promoting more than two championship boxing contests in each calendar year. Likewise the decree will enjoin for a period of five years Wirtz and Norris from promoting more than two championship contests in each calendar year."
•"Championship boxing was regarded by defendants as a business, engaged in solely for profit. For these profits defendants were bent upon a plan of monopolization to exclude all competition and leave them free to reap financial gains. The extent of defendants' activities in this illegal conspiracy requires drastic affirmative action by this Court. The relief outlined herein is designed to put an end to the conspiracy; to deprive defendants of their present position in the market, which was attained through the conspiracy, and to destroy the monopoly which they created and seek to perpetuate. Professional championship boxing contests will be opened with television and radio broadcasting to legitimate and healthy competition."
June 30, 1957
The conspiracy that James D. Norris and friends entered into eight years ago to bring all but Class C boxing under their domination has come to an end, by force of law. Soon the last ring announcer will proclaim the last bout under the promotion of the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president). There will be no International Boxing Club and Norris will be president only of Chicago Stadium, a relatively minor enterprise.
Federal Judge Sylvester J. Ryan has so ruled after legal action that began in October 1951 when the Department of Justice put a grand jury to work on the case. Since then it has been fought all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled that professional boxing is subject to the antitrust laws. So far it has cost Norris a reported $500,000 to fight the case. His next step, if he wants to take it, is to the Supreme Court again.
Judge Ryan's decree ordered Norris and his partner, Arthur Wirtz, to turn all their stock in Madison Square Garden over to a trustee, who will vote their shares. The Garden now owns IBC. Norris and Wirtz control the Garden. During the next five years they will be required to sell their stock in the Garden or have it sold for them during the following two years. At the same time Norris and Wirtz must resign as officers (Norris is president) and directors of the Garden. Jim Norris' Garden party (SI, June 20, '55) is thus at an end.
The Garden, which was a defendant in the suit, is enjoined from promoting more than two title fights a year for the next five years. The same limitation is placed on Norris and Wirtz acting as operators of Chicago Stadium, which is all that is left to them. They may promote only two championships a year. (Since May 1953, the judge pointed out, they have had an interest in all 37 championship fights held in the United States except for one bantamweight contest.)
It is to be presumed, and is the intent of the decree, that the Garden and the Stadium will be competitors, not. only for championship fights but for all others that they wish to promote, since Norris and Wirtz no longer will have anything to do with the Garden. The Stadium is expected to continue promotion of Wednesday night TV fights and the Garden will promote Friday night TV fights, but Norris and Wirtz will have a finger only in the Stadium promotion.
Furthermore, both the Garden and the Stadium must be leased, for a reasonable rental, to independent promoters who want to put on championship fights at either arena.
The International Boxing Clubs of New York and Illinois are simply dissolved. They will exist no more. Their exclusive contracts with champions and contenders are at an end.
In court Jim Norris, his face deeply tanned, hunched forward to hear the judge's decision. He complained later that Judge Ryan spoke so softly that the decision was hard to hear. But it was obvious that if the mastermind of the IBC found the voice irksomely soft he knew the court carried a big stick.
Norris refused to say that he would appeal to the Supreme Court.
"We'll get the decision," he said, "and go over it point by point. I don't think it will affect the Robinson-Basilio fight. I'll continue in boxing. Sure, I'll continue."
Previously, Norris admitted, he had threatened to get out of boxing if the decision went against him. Reminded of this, he chuckled.
"We're staying in," he said.
Barring reversal by the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Ryan's decision puts a. new face on prizefighting or, you might say, takes off its false whiskers. Since 1949 big-time boxing has been the creature of Jim Norris, whose natural beard (see cut) is darker than Santa Claus's. Since 1949, when the IBC was formed, all but a few big fights have been promoted by the IBC. Now any number can play.
This will be good news for promoters such as Emil Lence of New York, Jack Hurley of Seattle, Sad Sam Silverman of Boston, and many others around the country who have suffered from the IBC monopoly. It will be good news for fighters and managers who have had to take IBC terms or nothing.
Judge Ryan's decree followed naturally on his decision of last March when he found that the IBC had conspired in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and monopolized professional world championship boxing.
The IBC had eliminated competition largely by acquiring exclusive contracts with champions in all but the unimportant bantam and flyweight divisions.
FOREVER WAS EIGHT YEARS
Acquiring control was simple. It began when Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis agreed to use his prestige to obtain exclusive rights to the services of Ezzard Charles, Joe Walcott, Lee Savold and Gus Lesnevich, the leading contenders. Once they were signed, Louis resigned his championship and assigned the contracts to the newly born IBC. For this he got $150,000 and an apparently lifetime contract of $15,000 (later $20,000) a year with the IBC. Promoter Mike Jacobs, with about four years left to live, agreed to stay out of boxing for 10 years. IBC bought out another promotional outfit, the Tournament of Champions, and picked up exclusive leases with Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. Through Norris' and Wirtz's real-estate operations it already controlled stadiums in Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. In time it came to control fight presentations on the national television networks interested in boxing.
The IBC perpetuated control by its original device of signing champions to exclusive contracts. Indeed, a fighter could not get a bout with a champion unless he agreed in advance that, winning the fight, he would become the property of IBC.
With this system it seemed that the IBC must surely go on forever. Control of the champions gave it commercial prestige to control all the major outlets of modern boxing—the big arenas, radio and television.
But in 1890 Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, and in March 1952 the United States charged the IBC with violation of the act. Now, five years later, after the Supreme Court had ruled (in January 1955) that professional boxing was subject to the antitrust laws, Judge Ryan has handed down his decision. The IBC has lost its championship.