The jowly mug shot on the opposite page is of Mr. X. Mr. X is the underworld character (FBI No. 4817958) who has figured in baffling absentia in New York District Attorney Frank S. Hogan's investigation of the fast shuffling and double-dealing behind the promotion of the Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson title fight, an unsavory chronicle first revealed in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED three weeks ago.
This is an article from the Aug. 31, 1959 issue
From that story of how he got progressively elbowed out of his own company, Rosensohn Enterprises, Inc., Promoter Bill Rosensohn suppressed, at the request of the D.A., one bad actor—Mr. X. There is no longer any reason to conceal him or his cloak-and-influence role.
Mr. X is Anthony Salerno (alias Anthony Russo) of New York, Miami Beach and Rhinebeck, N.Y. Salerno rose to the white-on-white eminence coveted by contemporary tough guys out of East Harlem's celebrated 102nd Street Gang, whose rank file also included Trigger Mike Coppola, Vincent (Jimmy Blue Eyes) Alo, Joey Rao and Frankie Carbo. He is known as Tony Fat to such pals as Coppola, the notorious Detroit hood Joe Massey (or Massei) and Joe (Scarface) Bommarilo, whom he has meets with on the Beach (where he maintains a residence at 12 Island Ave., Belle Isle, Apartment 15). Tony Fat, born in The Bronx 48 years ago, is fat (5 feet 6 inches, 234 pounds), and Tony Fat smokes crooked, black cigars.
Tony Fat lives high, though his means of support are indefinite. He once ran a supposedly legitimate jukebox service known as Metro Urban Co. (228 First Ave., New York) but sold out in 1950. The Miami Deed Office shows that in 1954 he sold a house in Miami Beach to sinister ex-con Paul (The Waiter) Ricca for $75,000 and it is also said that he books horse bets. He has a large, attractive house in Rhinebeck replete with stables and outbuildings.
In keeping with Tony's arriviste station, his 16-year-old daughter takes riding lessons. She calls the hoods who guard her daddy "Uncle," and once she told a friend that Uncle So-and-So was doing a lot of target shooting in the backyard.
One of Tony's favorite hangouts is The Playroom on New York's West 58th St., where he is seen with the "uncles" and a moll named Jessica.
Tony's record isn't much longer than his pudgy thumb. He was picked up on a vagrancy charge on the Beach in 1947, was arrested as a suspicious person in Providence in 1945 and was charged with a policy offense in New York in 1933. But the Miami Crime Commission knows him as "a Sicilian underworld character with jukebox connections in New York." New York knows him as an East Harlem policy baron. The FBI knows him as one of the top East Harlem mobsters. And Bill Rosensohn knew him as a one-third partner in Rosensohn Enterprises, Inc.
Rosensohn originally met Salerno in the company of Gambler Gil Beckley. Some months later, when Salerno declared himself in as a partner, Rosensohn accepted him for two major reasons: he promised to make money available to the promotion (it turned out, ironically, that he never put up any cash except to buy a substantial block of $100 tickets) and he had close contacts with such useful and influential figures as Cus D'Amato's good friend and confidant, Charley Black. In order to promote the fight it was paramount that Rosensohn remain in D'Amato's good graces. Toward this end he had already accepted Black as a partner.
When Salerno announced that he was a partner in Rosensohn Enterprises, he made it clear that he could not afford to have his name publicly involved. He said he needed to be represented in the promotion by a legitimate guy and introduced Rosensohn to his friend, Vincent J. Velella, a fellow East Harlemite who is a lawyer and politician. Velella, then, was Salerno's front.
What is, in essence, quite a simple story has been obscured in the public mind by a barrage of obfuscating claims and counterclaims. Rosensohn, in his desperate anxiety to promote the fight, saddled himself with an unavowable alliance. When these allies turned on him and sought to oust him—rashly inviting exposure of themselves and their manipulations—Rosensohn decided to cooperate with the authorities and told most of the sordid story to the public via this magazine.
Rosensohn was wrong in accepting Tony Fat as a partner; this action came under his own somewhat euphemistic heading of "compromising." But credit where credit is due. It has not been sufficiently brought out that it was Rosensohn himself who cooperated with District Attorney Hogan and made possible not only Hogan's investigation but the resultant investigation of the New York attorney general and the New York State Athletic Commission.
Both Rosensohn and Velella have appeared before the New York grand jury investigating boxing. Rosensohn says: "There seem to be several versions of one story. It is a question of who is telling the truth and who is lying. Basically it's a question of credibility between Velella and myself in regard to the events leading up to the fight." Presumably, Rosensohn is telling his version of his business arrangements with Tony Fat and Velella to the grand jury, while Velella is contradicting or denying it.
It is indeed a sorry world if it is necessary for a promoter to carry such monkeys as Salerno on his back in order to put on a prizefight. But there is no inherent reason why boxing cannot throw the monkeys off. If the confessions of Rosensohn do not provide the authorities with ample evidence of precisely what is wrong with the fight business and how that wrong can be corrected, then this boxing scandal will have achieved nothing but headlines.
"Consistent with my policy of engaging capable men above reproach," grandiloquently announced Vincent J. Velella last week in Jack Dempsey's restaurant in New York, "our friend Jack Dempsey is to become promotional adviser for Rosensohn Enterprises."
"Business has been lousy all summer, anyway," muttered Dempsey behind his cigar.
Thus the latest, frantic move of the palace guard which usurped from Rosensohn the virtually assetless company which bears his name was made public. Vellella and Irving B. Kahn (paunchy president of TelePrompTer and newly elected director of Enterprises) has engaged the old Champ Jack Dempsey ("I feel it's time to do something for boxing," said Jack. "I think Mr. Velella is all right") for a publicized $500 a week in a grandstand attempt to persuade Ingemar Johansson to defend his title against Floyd Patterson on Sept. 22. Or, as Irving B. sweetly added: "If he wants to move it up, we certainly will negotiate."
A CLOUD OF PRESS RELEASES
And thus armed with a return-bout contract of questionable strength and the platitudinous presence of the old heavyweight champ, Kahn, Velella, Edwin S. Schweig (D'Amato's lawyer) and a public relations man flew to Sweden in a cloud of press releases to tackle the tiger, Ingemar.
By a curiously circuitous route, the Argonauts flew to London first (the best way to get to Goteborg is via Copenhagen) and chanced, by a curious coincidence, to get seats on the same plane to Sweden as Ingemar. Johansson, ostensibly, had been in England for a personal appearance, but his real mission might well have been to have a chat with James D. Norris, Truman Gibson and Promoter Jack Solomons, who were said to be in London. Norris had arrived earlier in the week and, not so curiously or coincidentally, had a chat with Rosensohn before he returned to New York, a chat which was a prearranged follow-up to the Paris summit meeting (SI, Aug. 17).
When Dempsey and Johansson et al. landed in Sweden, Dempsey piously announced, "My mission here is to clear up this mess and make the fight game an honest business."
But once in Goteborg, the comic-opera trappings were shed. As Monday's sun sank over the Slottsskogen the following developments seemed to have come out of the conference room: Johansson has agreed to fight Patterson for Rosensohn (read Velella) Enterprises, perhaps in Philadelphia or Los Angeles. Kahn and Velella want an October or November date, but Ingo is holding out for 1960. Apparently, then, all of Ingemar's hoary objections—a satisfactory accounting of his monies from the first fight; the unwelcome specter of Harry Davidow, the 10% American manager foisted on him by D'Amato; his personal distrust of Kahn and Velella—were satisfactorily overcome. What remains to be seen, however, is whether any responsible athletic commission will approve of Rosensohn Enterprises as a promoter.
Like the Owl and Pussy-cat, Kahn "and Velella departed with "honey and plenty of money." Those, evidently, were sufficient to coax the wary tiger out of his den.