The sorry situation Bill Rosensohn describes in these pages leaves only a dim possibility that the return bout between Ingemar Johansson, new heavyweight champion, and Floyd Patterson, new ex-champion, can be staged in September. A wrangle as tangled as this one cannot be resolved easily. To make a September fight possible Ingemar would have to start training almost immediately. He shows no sign of doing so. He has said he would prefer to wait until next year, and now he has an excuse for postponement.
The crisis even raises the question of whether there will be a return bout at all, though it is such a commercially attractive match that it must be assumed some way will be found to make it—possibly by next June. But before it is made Ingemar Johansson will have to be satisfied that everything is on the up and up. At this moment he has no reason to think so.
Neither has anyone else. The situation calls for investigation by the New York State boxing commission and by any other state commission to which the fight may be offered, perhaps even by other law enforcement bodies. It is illegal for a manager to be, at the same time, an undercover promoter.
For it is now revealed that Rosensohn Enterprises is not, as previously represented, controlled by Rosensohn but by Vincent J. Velella, an East Harlem politician of no previous stature in boxing. How did Velella get into Rosensohn Enterprises? Rosensohn says it was through Charley Black, whose signature seems to be interchangeable with that of Cus D'Amato, manager of Floyd Patterson (see opposite page). Black, indeed, seems to have owned a third of Rosensohn Enterprises before Velella assumed a full two-thirds and thus absolute control. Velella could not have done so without Black's acquiescence—and therefore D'Amato's. Last weekend, at what Rosensohn happily calls a "bastard meeting" of the corporation, Rosensohn was ousted as president and Velella took the chair. At a previous meeting Irving B. Kahn, president of TelePrompTer, which televised the Johansson-Patterson fight, was elected to the board of directors of Rosensohn Enterprises. Kahn is Rosensohn's old boss and new enemy. Thus the entire cast of the promotion corporation was loaded against Rosensohn, whose disgusted response was an offer to buy out the corporation or sell his interest in it for $75,000. He also resigned as director. This ploy was by no means founded on a defeatist attitude, for the fact is that Rosensohn Enterprises needs Rosensohn simply because it needs Johansson. Consider this enlightening statement from Johansson, given to our Gilbert Rogin in Sweden last week:
August 9, 1959
"My contract is with Bill. I can't understand why those fellows are destroying interest in the fight. They will chase it away, make people think it is crooked. Bill has always been very fair to me. I can't see any reason for me to change my opinion of Bill. But I'd like to know more of what's going on.
"I will wait and see that everything will be cleared up. If everything works out and I am satisfied with everything, I will be glad to give Floyd a chance.
"But if they are putting me in trouble I will surprise them. I hope that they don't try to put me into the trouble. I don't want to be in the fight politics."
What this means is that Johansson has sided with Rosensohn and will have no dealings with a promotion organization that is transparently allied with the manager of his prospective opponent, Floyd Patterson.
D'Amato announced last week that he has the contractual right to determine the site and date of the return bout. It sounded impressive, but no one knows better than D'Amato that his contract is meaningful only if he can persuade Johansson to accept the site and date. There is no way to get the heavyweight title away from Johansson in courts of law. It can only be won in the ring.
And only in the ring can Floyd Patterson win it back. If Floyd does not get his chance to regain the championship, it will be the fault of D'Amato's desire for power and his self-defeating urge to control every possible eventuality in a sport that, like all sports, lives by hazard or is not a sport at all.
Thus D'Amato tried to foist Harry Davidow, a luncheonette owner, on Johansson as his 10% American manager. Johansson cleverly knocked that scheme on the head just by exposing it, and the New York State boxing commission denounced the contract. The Rosensohn Enterprises raid is in the Davidow pattern.
The Davidow gambit doesn't seem to be working this time, either. Rosensohn is dealing from more strength than he cares to admit. With Johansson on his side he has that big right-hand punch going for him.