I stand before you divested and dissolved," said Harry Markson, managing director of the International Boxing Club. "I have been married for 28 years and my wife still loves me, so I am not yet divorced." So, folding its tentacles, the IBC exited laughing last week and, as Sean O'Casey once wrote, "th' whole worl's in a terrible state o' chassis!" Just the other day, for instance, a fight manager, name of Al Braver-man, was saying: "The fight game's dead and they forgot to bury it. The managers had better get frankfurter stands or wagons." Now the IBC's dead and they're burying it, but the managers say: habeas corpus. As Cus D'Amato tells it: "There was a guy in World War I who sat silent through the false armistice and the real thing while his friends leaped in the air about him and shouted happily. But once on the boat for home he went on deck and by himself leaped in the air and shouted."
Although nobody's shouting, the hope is that a reasonable facsimile of the good old days will be here again, the days when the gyms" were full of brave young fighters who knew all the moves and did what they were told; and you could move with them. And here is a gallery of hopes: some major, with only time itself between them and the big score, some minor and wistful: young prizefighters who are most likely to succeed when the chassis is over. They are presently unranked by either The Ring magazine or the National Boxing Association. No fighters from outside the U.S. are included, and there are no feather-, bantam- or flyweights present, because the preponderance of the unranked in these divisions is foreign.
"I've got a message from beyond," said Cleveland Williams, who, at 205 pounds, is big enough to know better. "I'm not well enough to fight." Four doctors told him he was, but Williams was listening to his voices in Wales in July and would not fight Dick Richardson. "He publicly disgraced himself," says Cus D'Amato. "He hadn't the decency to pretend he wasn't frightened, to keep within the rules of our business. But all terribly scared people have a certain amount of skill." Williams, 24, of Houston, is a bad actor, but he does have a noteworthy skill; he is a first-rate puncher with both hands, and, as a consequence, has knocked out 33 opponents in 40 fights while losing but twice. In the main, he has fought those whom he can hit and who are not good hitters (busted valises with names like Baby Booze and Graveyard Walters) and has avoided those who can take it and not quit; and, in fairness, he has been avoided, too; there is no advantage in taking on a Williams. But instead of gaining confidence and ability as the quality of the opposition was stepped up, Williams has never relinquished his faith in his punching. Almost paradoxically, then, his strength has become his weakness; if he cannot knock the man out early he may get discouraged, frustrated and listless. Yet he is an exceedingly strong puncher and because of that is the best of the rest, as is written in the horse charts.
January 26, 1959
They are Tom McNeeley Jr. and Ernest Terrell. McNeeley played football at Michigan State, which also produced Chuck Spieser, who is harder to pronounce (Some say it's Spieser/ Like freeze her or please her/ But I am much wiser/ And know it is Spieser) than he is to lick; and that TV dinner, Chuck Davey. "Tom's the strongest Irishman you've ever seen," says one of his handlers, "and he got a nice, big head on him." McNeeley, 22, comes from Arlington, Mass., stands 6 feet 2 inches, weighs 198, and has won all seven of his bouts, six by kayo. He is managed by another collegian, yet: Peter Fuller, Harvard '48, the son of former Governor Alvan Fuller of Massachusetts.
Terrell, 19, is an attenuated Chicagoan out of Mississippi, who has lost one fight, a split, out of 13. Although a quick and potent hitter, he moves his feet awkwardly, and it is felt that "his frame's too small." His manager, Ed Stevenson Sr., a kind of retired plumbing contractor, has other doubts. "He's a nice boy, good behaving, but you never know," he says. "If they meet the wrong kind of girl at the right or wrong time, you never know. But he has all the possibilities. He's a gentleman and never says anything wrong in any form or shape."
"I really don't like boxing as a boxer should," says Orville Pitts. "I've always wanted to go to school. But I haven't done justice to myself or school or anything in the last six months. I'm frustrated." Pitts, 25, is a lean, moody, indecisive figure who has been boxing since he was 13 and wants to be a lawyer. He was an NCAA champion when he attended the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and a National Golden Gloves champion. When he turned pro in January 1957, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) and has a year to go for his B.A. degree in political science. But now, to his wife's consternation, he has dropped out of school. "I can always go back," Pitts says. "But I can't always go back to boxing."
Pitts has been "retired" since he was beaten by Tony Anthony, the No. 1 contender, in a gross mismatch last June. Prior to that fight he had knocked out eight and lost a split decision to Jimmy Slade, the old spoiler. Pitts is willing to share the blame for the disastrous Anthony match. "The only nice thing about boxing, it seems like, is that the money comes in fast," he says. "You can't imagine what is taken from a man's body in 10 rounds, and it can't be replaced. Maybe my ego was inflated, and here was a long shot, a chance to make some money. If I hit, I'd be in the bucks."
Out of the bucks, he now is back in training, working chiefly on the conspicuous flaws in his style: he is hesitant to throw a left hook and is an inferior infighter. He does possess a smart left jab and an extremely powerful overhand right. An experienced fighter, however, can adjust his defense to contain the single, signal weapon he has to fear from Pitts, the booming right. If Pitts can, indeed, become a complete fighter, he has a splendid future; if not, he should go back to poli sci.
There are three bright young men in this class: José Torres, Diamond Dick Kelly and Hank (Hurry-Up) Casey. Torres, 22, is the celebrated Puerto Rican in Brooklyn who has won all nine of his fights, seven by knockouts, to the delight and glory of his countrymen in the harsh, cold and bewildering North. He fights out of Cus D'Amato's rigorous "peekaboo" style (SI, Dec. 15) and, despite his record, is not an explosive puncher or a quick finisher; most of his kayos are a result of attrition.
Squire Bill Daly, a dresser in the Italian suits with the cuffs on the sleeves, has Diamond Dick and gave him his name for flash and because he feels he has "a diamond in the rough." Kelly, 24, comes from Florence, S.C., is as tall as a first baseman (6 feet 2 inches) and, as they say, if he hits you on the top of the head he'll break your ankle. He has had 32 fights and has won 27 of them by knockout. He has lost three, all by knockout, being stopped twice by Clarence Hinnant in 1956 (while giving away 17 and 24 pounds) when Hinnant was a far, far better man than he is today, and he was knocked out by Chebo Hernandez when he had a 102° fever and too much medicine. Kelly is a straight-up-and-down combination fighter with a dandy right hand; his left hook ain't bad, either. His trainer, Lee Black, says: "We would take on a Giardello or a Jones." Black says Kelly says: "It makes no difference. They all got to go, so they all got to come. Got to make that Big Ten."
Casey, 24, of San Francisco, is the California middleweight champion. He lost to Jim Cody in his third fight, but the newspapers gave it to Casey. He drew with Willie Vaughn, and the newspapers gave it to Casey. The newspapers and the officials gave Casey his 19 wins. Casey is clever and not particularly pleasing, even to the freebees. He's a pop hitter, cute defensively, using his long arms to ward off blows, and is a busy worker in spots, especially in retreat.
The finest welterweight prospect in the nation has had only five fights, won them all, four by kayo, and has such speed of hand that it is difficult to tell that he is, in truth, a counter-puncher. He is Joe (Buzz) Shaw, another of Cus D'Amato's Wunderkinder. Shaw, 20, is a silent, determined boy from St. Louis, with extensive amateur experience, including the '56 Olympics. Although a big hitter, Shaw is a boxer, D'Amato claims, rather than a slugger. D'Amato defines a slugger as "one who is willing to take a punch to create an opening," a boxer as one who doesn't have to get hit.
Eddie Perkins is 21, lives on Chicago's South Side and is a boxer-puncher who can counterpunch. "But he presses when I tell him to press," says Co-manager Frank Tomaso. He has had 16 fights, has lost three and has beaten Baby Vasquez and Frankie Ryff on the TV. Perkins likes to play practical jokes, which is O.K. by Tomaso. "I told him to be jolly so he'll occupy his mind, so he won't be, you know," says Tomaso. "I used to be an adult probation officer."
Gene Gresham, 21, the lightweight champion of Michigan, came to Detroit from the South in the great postwar migration because the word down yonder was that Detroit was a money town. Gresham had 200 amateur bouts and lost only nine, and he's won all 19 of his professional starts, nine by TKO. He has never been knocked down or cut. He is an assertive boxer who carries his hands high, jabs constantly and accurately, but throws few combinations. "I will box," he says, "as long as I have good health. As long as you're doing it right, it doesn't seem hard at all."
Little Bobby Hicks says: "I just want to be a fighter, but I want to be a good one like Ray Robinson." Hicks, an 18-year-old senior at Seattle's Garfield High, rarely produces a sentence as long as that one; he is a grave and close boy. Introvert Bobby came out of his shell long enough this winter to play a walk-on (or fall-down) bit in his class play. Fortunately, Bobby had no line load; he played the part of a prizefighter who was flattened with one punch. It was something of a novelty for Bobby, who has not been on the floor in 62 amateur and 10 (all wins) professional fights. Hicks's success in the ring lies in extremely fast reflexes and an aggressive attitude. "Sometimes I think he wants to kick them when he gets them down," says Manager George Chemeres, with ill-concealed delight. Chemeres, you may recall, trained Pete Rademacher until the "death" of that salesman in L.A. last year.
Hicks hits well with both hands and is gradually acquiring polish as a boxer. He has a good sense of balance and has inherited through Chemeres (who learned much of his stuff from Jack Hurley) a few of the techniques of the irascible old Deacon. This means, in essence, that Little Bobby carries his hands somewhat lower than the average fighter. "Bobby don't keep his hands no lower than anybody else," says Chemeres hotly. "It just looks that way. I'd put him in with any lightweight in the world right now—for two, three rounds. But I ain't going to do that. He's got the body of a baby yet, and we got lots of time."
Solomon (Buzz Saw) Boysaw, 26, the son of an itinerant minister, came to Cleveland from Birmingham. He has won all 21 of his fights. The left hook has been his most dependable weapon to date, but he's working on his right on the big bag and now believes he can hit equally hard with it. "I stay on my toes and keep moving until I hurt my man," Boysaw says. "Then I get off my toes to get more power. Been doing more bobbing and weaving lately; fact is, I have three or four styles; use whichever one the situation calls for."