The coincidences of history, from which, it is said, salutary lessons may be drawn, have been reflected recently in the simultaneous decimation of baseball's minor leagues and the near extinction of boxing's small clubs, both of them victims of television competition. It is very hard to sell at one store what is given away more or less free in another.
As a result, in boxing anyway, there is fear that young talent must soon be in critically short supply. Something is being done about it. Not much, at present, but something. Chairman Julius Helfand of the New York boxing commission, crusading for more small clubs, has encouraged the opening of a few—most notably the Eastern Parkway Arena in Brooklyn. The International Boxing Club, pursuing at last a policy of enlightened self-interest, has opened two small clubs in Chicago, where for 99¢, less than the price of a movie, the fans have been seeing some live, well-matched action and taking their wives and girl friends to ringside. In Detroit an ardent fan named C. W. (Larry) Smith has for some time been an ardent promoter, with somewhat similar motivation. The fact that his engineering business grosses $1 million a year makes the fact that his boxing promotions are financially unrewarding much easier to take.
All three operations have been successful in their major purpose, which is to give boxing a talent transfusion and, in the case of Larry Smith, to keep leading fighters active when television cannot use them.
Boxing's farm system is still a mere backyard garden plot, too small and too new to have produced much of national moment so far. Even so, some interesting new fighters have been growing in uncultivated soil. One is Jay Fullmer, welterweight brother of the famous Gene but remarkably unrelated to him in boxing style. Whereas Gene mauled his way to the middleweight title, Jay has won 13 professional fights by boxing and sharp punching—a sufficient difference to make one wonder about heredity and environment.
Jay started at the top, in Madison Square Garden, by winning a four-rounder. He will be on national TV June 4 (a Wednesday night) from West Jordan, Utah, against the fast-fading Joe Miceli, most recently KO'd by Tombstone Smith. Fullmer should win his 14th fight.
A lean fellow, Jay's footwork is good, his punches fast and sneaky. He resembles Gene in one respect. When stung he forgets caution and flails away. No one knows if he can take a punch, but his mother knows he can give one.
Before a recent sparring session with Big Brother Gene, Mrs. Fullmer whispered: "Gene, take it easy on Jay." After all, at 21, Jay is more than five years younger than Gene. Mother Fullmer watched Jay jab and hook, both like nearby lightning, then issued new instructions. "Jay," she commanded, "now don't you go it too hard."
Two young lightweights, Irish Bobby Scanlon of San Francisco, and Bobby Rogers of Chicago, appear on a Wednesday night card in Chicago Stadium, May 28. Scanlon has beaten ex-champion Bud Smith, no great feat nowadays. Rogers, a Golden Gloves champion of 1955, has lost to unbeaten Carlos Ortiz, among others.
Another new face, a French import, is Lahouari Godih, matched for Friday night (May 23) at Madison Square Garden. His American debut was an impressive licking of Larry Baker. He may establish a reputation in the Garden fight against Johnny Busso, who stopped Larry Board-man with a TKO last month.
The heavyweight division, its stock bearish after Eddie Machen tried to beat Zora Folley by making faces at him, got a heartwarming lift last Wednesday night. TV cameras picked up the superior, though raw, talent of Sonny Liston, a cool type whose jab is easily the most punishing in the division, perhaps the best there is if you believe Sugar Ray Robinson has retired. The jabs are true shockers, and he threw 12 in the first round into the face of that gentle giant, Julio Mederos, before he ever bothered to cross a right. After two more jabs he caught Mederos with another right, almost drove him through the ropes and at the end of the round had him sagging. A bravely stubborn sort, Julio would not go down. In the second round he took more jabs, soon was bleeding profusely from nose and mouth.
Julio tried to swallow the blood, for purposes of concealment, but this sleight-of-mouth availed him nothing. One of the jabs had jolted Julio's teeth, mouthpiece and all, through his lower lip, and the doctor stopped it between rounds, giving Liston a third-round TKO in the records, his 18th victory in 19 bouts and his tenth knockout.
Liston will be heard from during the year. He was up against nothing much in Mederos but, on the other hand, there is nothing much between him and a high rating among the heavyweights. Some day, maybe, he will look Floyd Patterson in the eye.
Liston's backers are reputed to include Blinky Palermo, who has been voted the man most likely to take the Fifth if New York's District Attorney Frank Hogan should get him before a grand jury.