NEW YORK GETS THE BIG FIGHT

Promoter Bill Rosensohn, totting up his score card, awards the big Patterson-Johansson fight to the big city
March 16, 1959

While Floyd Patterson toiled among the sheep folds at Ehsan's (formerly Madame Bey's) training camp in New Jersey this week, the world quite suddenly became a more profitable, useful place to be heavyweight champion of. Patterson found that his big fight with Ingemar Johansson will take place in New York, the big and golden apple of boxing.

So, after his long, ingenious and devious search for a site for the Johansson fight (SI, March 2), Promoter Bill Rosensohn returned to New York. "The quest has turned up the desired end product," he said after totting up his score card (see below). "There was tremendous pressure from Sweden, where 4,200 Swedes have made reservations to come over, the only condition being that the fight would be in New York; and the Swedes have indicated they will pay from $50 to $100 a seat. There was also the unavoidable fact that New York has proven itself the best boxing city in terms of really large gates; the grim, unyielding determination of the general [Major General Melvin L. Krulewitch, New York's ambitious boxing commissioner]; the splendid cooperation of Mayor Wagner; the positive attitude of the press; and, finally, the guarantee."

The last, the guarantee, was, of course, the signal reason. When it looked, in the past fortnight, as if New York would lose out, Mayor Wagner hurriedly formed a Heavyweight Championship Fight Committee. Its members were: Chairman Joseph P. Binns, president and chairman of the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau and vice-president, Hilton Hotels; Paul Carey II, president, Carey Cadillac Renting Co.; Bernard Gimbel, chairman of the board, Gimbel Bros.; James A. Farley, chairman of the board, Coca-Cola Export Corporation; Sigurd S. Larmon, chairman, Young & Rubicam; Kingsbury Smith, publisher, New York Journal-American; Kenneth P. Steinreich, president, Jacob Ruppert; Lee B. Wood, executive editor, New York World Telegram and Sun; and William Zeckendorf Jr., president, Zeckendorf Hotels.

Again, the last, Zeckendorf, turned out to be the most significant. Young Zeckendorf (he is 29) is a man Rosensohn recognizes as being of his own mold. "He immediately recognized," said Rosensohn, "the value of the fight for the city, and he moves as quickly as his mind works." Moving quickly, Zeckendorf took Rosensohn to see his father, the bold, visionary president of Webb & Knapp, a massive real estate empire. "His father," said Rosensohn, marveling, "is, in his own right, one of the outstanding promotionally minded men in business. After only two meetings, the Zeckendorfs came up with a $600,000 guarantee. Their feeling was that it would be a cardinal crime to let New York lose this fight."

The $600,000 was $100,000 more than Rosensohn had been offered by any other city, and he felt it would be a cardinal crime to turn the money down. Although he had an alluring offer from Baltimore, where a group had suggested buying the 50,000 permanent seats in Memorial Stadium from Rosensohn for $500,000 and 5,000 of the 10,000 seats on the field for another $100,000, Rosensohn declined and told Patterson's manager, Cus D'Amato, that he was going to announce New York as the site. D'Amato, who admires Rosensohn's engaging dash and impetuosity, but is used to a more thorough and conservative gait, asked why they should tip their hand so soon. "I'll tell you," Rosensohn told Cus. "The general told me he will not sanction another outdoor fight between June 1 and July 10 if we go on record that New York has this fight. I say speed is important to head off the Robinson-Moore fight if those people make it." D'Amato smiled and relented.

"This is something people said was impossible to do," Rosensohn said. "This is the first time New York as a city has said 'We want something' before the fact rather than after it, and done something about it. It augurs well. And doesn't this mean, with all these cities interested, with all these substantial men interested, that boxing at last has come out of the dim and the dark?"

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PHOTOPROMOTER ROSENSOHN, as though asking for unanimous assent on his site selection, gets a show of hands from his cast (below). TWO PHOTOSANGEL BILL Zeckendorf (left) got New York the fight with a $600,000 guarantee. Patterson's manager, Cus D'Amato, abandoned caution for early announcement. TWO PHOTOSCHAMPION PATTERSON has been hard at work at a New Jersey training camp. Challenger Johansson (right) is luring 4,200 fellow Swedes over here for the fight.

HOW ROSENSOHN SCORED THE 10 CITIES

10 points is the maximum in each category, and the scoring, while subjective in part, is as realistic as possible

NEW YORK

CHICAGO

LOS ANGELES

MINNEAPOLIS

BALTIMORE

PHILADELPHIA

COLO. SPRINGS

INDIANAPOLIS

SAN FRANCISCO

LAS VEGAS

Size of stadium

9

10

10

5

6

10

2

3

6

2

Potential gross gate

10

9

7

6

6

6

4

3

5

2

Parking facilities

5

7

8

10

7

10

6

7

6

6

Recent gate history

8

5

3

1

0

5

0

0

2

0

Recent sports trend

5

5

8

3

7

1

1

2

6

1

Attitude of media

9

8

5

9

8

6

7

10

6

7

Business, civic aid

10

10

8

10

9

6

10

10

7

7

Unusual events

6

8

10

9

2

2

10

8

3

1

Cash guarantee

10

8

0

8

6

6

8

0

0

0

Other considerations

10

9

10

7

5

3

4

4

3

2

Totals

82

79

69

68

56

55

52

47

44

28

Rosensohn includes in his last score-card category such items as nearness to Sweden, attitude of boxing commission, TV blackout prospects, hotel rooms, population makeup; in "unusual events," civic festivals, conventions, arena openings, etc.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)