The year of decision for boxing will be 1959. During that fateful time there will be more decisions than an ambitious egg-candler could make in an eight-hour day plus overtime.
There will, for instance, be an early decision of the Supreme Court of the United States as to whether the International Boxing Club is a monopoly and, if so, what an indignant people should do about it. Prediction: even a TV repairman can't save the IBC.
Then there will be a decision by Sugar Ray Robinson as to whether he will surrender his middleweight championship and retire into the world of song and dance or, perhaps, take arms against a sea of troubles and defend his title against Carmen Basilio in another fabulous fight. Prediction: Sugar Ray will learn that people would rather see him fight than hear him sing. Look for them to fight in March at Madison Square Garden.
There will be a number of decisions about Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson, all made in the intricate mind of Manager Cus D'Amato. So far, D'Amato, arms folded and lips sewed, has said nothing. Prediction: Patterson's next opponent will be the winner of the Brian London-Henry Cooper bout in England January 12, and his second will be Ingemar Johansson, the No. 1 contender.
January 5, 1959
The heavyweight division, a slack and glassy sea in 1958, will thereby acquire interest. Toward the end of the year Sonny Liston will begin to emerge as the title's biggest menace. At the same time Roy Harris, the teacher from Cut and Shoot who went 12 rounds with Patterson in the only heavyweight title fight of 1958, will start to climb in the ratings again, after he beats Willie Pastrano in that long-postponed return bout.
The world in 1959 will continue to marvel at Archie Moore, the light heavyweight division's mountain of youth, and to speculate on his next defense. Prediction: He will fight Yvon Durelle again at Montreal and, surviving that, will meet a revived Bobo Olson in San Francisco.
As for the welterweight division, Carmen Basilio, if he wants to return to it, can handle either the present champion, Don Jordan, or that strangely inconsistent fellow, Virgil Akins, from whom Jordan won the welter championship. Prediction: despite popular disgust after their first meeting, Jordan will fight Akins again in St. Louis next March. Then, if Basilio should lose again to Sugar Ray, Carmen will look fondly back at the welterweights and regain his 147-pound title in a big-gate fight with either Akins or Jordan.
Among the lightweights, Champion Joe Brown, suddenly touted as another Benny Leonard when he defeated the rather insignificant Ralph Dupas in a title fight, lost disgracefully to the rather insignificant Johnny Busso when the title was not at stake. He will have to decide whether to take on Busso in a title match. Prediction: Brown, will fight Busso, win clearly and make sheepish explanations for his victory.
As for the rated featherweights, bantamweights and flyweights, who can say? They are scattered from Nigeria to Japan, and most of them will never meet each other, even socially. But a likely match next month pits the featherweight champion, Hogan (Kid) Bassey, the Nigerian, versus Davey Moore, the Springfield, Ohioan at Los Angeles. Prediction: Bassey in trouble but winning by superior punching power.
The situation abroad, where tiny fighters dominate, is not to be compared with the situation in the United States, where the heavyweights and the income tax collectors dominate. Considering that five of the eight champions are Americans, one might expect a fury of activity in U.S. boxing during 1959. But if Patterson defends his title twice next year and is then offered a third fight he will be making that third defense, and risking his championship, for approximately the reward of a second-rate flyweight in Thailand. He may do it out of pride, and to hell with the income tax, but the sport is, after all, prizefighting.
The same consideration—money—applies to the other divisions. There can be no question that the income tax laws are unfair to those who live by the ideal of the bonanza, an old American ideal, as against the ideal of a safe, secured income, an old pensioner's ideal. Perhaps this calls for a congressional investigation. Prediction: no soap.