For once the cliché is justified. He is Nat Fleischer, and for more than 50 years he has chronicled, with love, hope and 40 million words, the glory and decline of the prize ring
August 05, 1962

The office of Nat Fleischer, the founder, president, publisher and editor of The Ring, a monthly magazine devoted unblushingly to boxing and blushingly to professional wrestling, is located on the second story of Madison Square Garden in New York. Fleischer's office has two exposures. The north windows overlook the Garden's outer lobby; through the east windows Fleischer can read the Garden's marquee. These are melancholy sights for a man who, at 74, is firmly and sentimentally rooted—all live feet two of him—in the humus of the past. No longer is the lobby thronged with the wise and humming fight crowd; the marquee usually displays the names of second-raters. "Boxing," says Nat Fleischer with feeling, "is at its lowest ebb."

To reach Fleischer's office a visitor must pass, as in a decompression chamber, through The Ring Museum (which includes the Boxing Hall of Fame), a clutter of incunabula, memorabilia, gimcrackery and junk in glass cabinets recalling, more or less, the heyday of boxing and Nat Fleischer. There are hundreds of old boxing gloves like great beef tongues; gilded replicas of fighters' fists, cast by an indulgent dentist, including "The Astonishing Large Fist of Floyd Patterson, which is bigger than Jack Johnson's. Jack Sharkey's or Jack Dempsey's"; a pipe belonging to John C. Heenan, The Benicia Boy; "The Personal Bible of Stanley Ketchel"; Bob Fitzsimmons' top hat; "A Four-Leaf Clover Found by Nat Fleischer in Timaru, New Zealand"; the head of a leopard shot by Johannes van der Walt, a South African wrestler; James J. Corbett's silk handkerchief; "Indian Relics Found by Nat Fleischer in Yucatan in 1913"; and 368 watches, among them timepieces that belonged to Oliver Cromwell and Ann Livingston, the sweetheart of John L. Sullivan.

Not open to the general public is The Ring's morgue: 62 filing cabinets containing innumerable clippings and 40,000 photographs. "Joe Louis has an entire cabinet," Fleischer says, "and there is a whole drawer only on me." Among the photographs is one showing Fleischer at a soccer match in Argentina. Nat is depicted pushing a button to raise the U.S. and Argentine flags. "There were 102,000 people there," Fleischer recalls, "and when the U.S. flag went up there was a wild cheer. Our ambassador sent for me later. 'Nat,' he said, 'I've been down here for 10 months and I've had a heck of a time. You did more when you pressed that button than I've done in 10 months.' " In the office safe are 10,000 cigarette cards portraying boxers and other athletes, and tickets to every fight promoted by Tex Rickard and Mike Jacobs. Not on display are 200 pieces of antique jewelry Nat has collected over the years, including a brooch that belonged to King William IV, a King James II ring and a necklace and crucifix worn by Cardinal Richelieu.

Fleischer, who has a conspicuous nose and a compelling, resonant, nonstop delivery, often is called Mr. Boxing, or in the cant of masters of ceremony, "Mr. Boxing, himself," an introduction uniting man and legend. There are no contenders, worthy or unworthy, for his crown. Besides putting out the highly regarded Ring—which for most of its 40 years ran the only authoritative rankings of fighters—Fleischer has, since 1942, published Nat Fleischer's Ring Record Book and Boxing Encyclopedia. This is an annual compendium (1962 edition: 904 pages) of the records of all active boxers, champions and former champions, and selected oldtimers, as well as a mishmash of facts, figures and such recherché items as Father and Sons in Boxing, Giant Boxers, Fighters Who Have Appeared in Broadway Shows, and Odds in Heavyweight Championship Fights. Fleischer publishes only 3,000 copies a year and, at $8.75 a copy, loses money. "But they are collector's items," he says. "I've spent $30 to buy back my 1942 book."

All told, Fleischer has published 57 books of history, biography and instruction on boxing and wrestling, including Reckless Lady, the life story of Adah Isaacs Menken and her husband, John C. Heenan; Black Dynamite, a five-volume history of the Negro in boxing; and Commando Stuff. Three of his instructional books have sold more than 100,000 copies each. A nonstop author, too—when Corbett died in 1933 Nat wrote a 30-chapter biography in 36 hours—with a confessedly nonliterary style, Fleischer has a dozen unpublished manuscripts in the safe. Among them are a sixth volume of Black Dynamite, Famous British Fighters I Have Known, Crimes and Politics in Pugilism and a 268,800-word "bibliography" of boxing. "Famous stories of past masters," says Fleischer. "Take Hugo, take Dickens, take Conan Doyle. But no publisher will take it. It's too long." Counting his articles for The Ring and serials and pieces he dashes off in an hour or so for foreign publications, it has been estimated that Fleischer has written 40 million words in his lifetime.

Mainly in the interests of boxing, Fleischer has made 37 trips to Europe and has gone around the world six times, furiously writing all the while. "I keep a regular log," he says, "including the name of the pilot and the name of the plane. You never know when it is going to come in handy." He has had 20 passports. Discounting entertainers, Fleischer is probably the most widely known U.S. private citizen abroad. He has received La Médaille d'Honneurd' Or de l'Education Physique et des Sports, the Costantiniano Ordine Militare di San Giorgio di Antiochia, the Commandatore della Stella al Merito Sportivo, the Order of the White Elephant, Third Class, from King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand—all on display in The Ring Museum—and he is enshrined in the Helms Hall of Fame in Los Angeles. "I can be in any foreign country and I have no trouble," he says. "No matter where I go—I don't care where it is—someone knows me and puts at my disposal a car and sometimes a chauffeur."

The Ring is an international publication with a circulation of 157,000 in the U.S. and 93,000 abroad; a British edition is printed in London. On his journeys Fleischer relentlessly ferrets out obscure newsstands to see how The Ring is selling and, invariably, increases sales. "In an old store under a railroad crossing in Japan I picked up the February 1962 issue," he said the other day. "In the Nathan Road in Hong Kong I picked up the April and May issues. 'Ah, you Nat Fleischer,' the proprietor said to me. 'You here year ago.' Constantinople—Istanbul, that is—Rome, Karachi, I always find a copy of The Ring. Whereever I go I get a little kick out of it."

Fleischer has refereed and judged more than 1,000 fights. Because of his age he no longer referees, but he is in great demand as a neutral judge, particularly in South America and the Orient. Last May he judged the Pone Kingpetch-Kyo Noguchi flyweight championship in Tokyo, and this September he will judge the Eder Jofre-Joe Medel bantamweight championship in S√£o Paulo, Brazil. His career as an official has not been without incident. In 1939 he refereed a bout between Joey Archibald, the featherweight champion, and Simon Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela. The night before the fight, Fleischer was sitting in his room in his pajamas when two men entered. "They told me," Nat says, "that they had a load of dough on Chavez, took out a load of dough, which they flung on the bed, and flourished a gun. 'You know what you're going to do,' they told me. 'Put that gun away,' I said. 'I am going to call police headquarters the moment you leave the room,' and I swept the money onto the floor." Hearing this Dick Rover declaration, the men left. The bout went on under heavy police guard. Alas, Chavez won. "Without explaining what had happened," Fleischer recalls, "I asked Archibald to go all out for a knockout, but the high altitude sapped his strength. After the fight I told him why I had done this, and expressed my regrets. "Gee, Nat,' Joey told me, 'I just thought you wanted me to put the U.S. on top of the heap.' "

Fleischer has also been instrumental in discovering, either in person or "by extolling the deeds of these fellows in The Ring," close to two dozen fighters. The most successful was Max Schmeling, with whom Nat held a contract as a 10% American manager. According to Fleischer, Max wouldn't have fought in the U.S. unless he felt he was in reliable hands. Fleischer never honored the contract, which would have earned him $200,000. "I simply held it as a souvenir," he says. "It was just a ruse to get him over here. I never had a desire to manage." Other fighters Fleischer discovered didn't fare as well as Schmeling. There was Ted Sandwina, for instance, another German heavyweight. "That fellow," says Fleischer, "was a flop."

Carrying on what he calls "the romance of the ring," Fleischer has given out 198 championship belts since 1922. "They stand me close to $500 apiece," he says, "and they go to champions of all classes, including foreigners. With reference to the belts, this is one occurrence worthy of note. In 1948 I brought to England a championship belt for Rinty Monaghan, the flyweight champion. I was told that I would have to pay a duty of 22 pounds. I protested. I told them that the British government should be honored to have this handsome trophy of international recognition. I thereupon left the belt with customs and said I would take the matter up with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The next day I received a letter by messenger from The House of Commons. It said that the matter of the belt would be taken up tomorrow and that the House would be honored to have my wife and I present for the debate. We had a lovely lunch in the House, sat in the front row and listened to the discussion. A member got up and said, 'Will it please the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his intentions are relative to the belt?' Somebody else got up and said, 'I understand the American Nat Fleischer is in the audience. If he will return to the hotel a check will be there in the sum of 22 pounds.' Since then there has been no trouble. A trophy given to a British subject comes in free of duty."

Fleischer and his managing editor, his son-in-law Nat Loubet, have, between them, the largest library on boxing and wrestling in the world—some 2,000 volumes. Fleischer also owns the most complete set of the Police Gazette extant and has tried, unsuccessfully, to sell it to the New York Public Library. "I told the public library, you're making a grave mistake. It's Americana. Call it filth if you want to, but it's the real story of America. They wouldn't agree with me." This is a radical statement for Fleischer, who is passionately high-minded. On the contents page of The Ring there is this stirring paragraph: "The Ring is a magazine which a man may take home with him. He may leave it on his library table safe in the knowledge that it does not contain one line of matter either in the text or the advertisements which would be offensive. The publisher of The Ring guards this reputation of his magazine jealously. It is entertaining and it is clean." As Nat says, "In the early days of The Ring, other sports magazines contained a lot of filthy ads—lonely hearts and that stuff. I am utterly opposed to such advertising. I think it an outrage. The Ring is a magazine catering to young boys!"

When Fleischer was refereeing the Harry Jeffra-Spider Armstrong featherweight title bout in Baltimore on July 29, 1940, it was 102° at ringside. Nat recalls: "After the 11th round I took my tie off. After the 12th I unbuttoned my shirt. After the 13th I pulled off my shirt. After the 14th I took off my undershirt. After the 15th I held up the hand of Jeffra and slumped against the ropes, hardly able to budge. A lady came up to me and said, 'So you're the Nat Fleischer who preaches morals in The Ring! You should be ashamed of yourself, taking off your underwear in public!' "

Nat is reluctant, but only momentarily, to discuss what he considers his major contribution to boxing. "After I published my autobiography, 50 Years at Ringside, I got a lot of letters saying the book was interesting but I bragged too much. But I take great pride in what I have done. What I deem the major work I've accomplished over the years is the influence I've had in obtaining world recognition for boxing by organizing organizations to control the sport in various parts of the world. Before that it was haphazard, at best." Fleischer helped set up the Cuban commission, the South American federation, the Japanese commission, the Oriental federation ("As a result," he says, "there have been five world championship bouts in Tokyo, three in Thailand"), the West Indies Union, the old European federation, the Texas commission and the Philippines commission.

About the only memorable date in the history of boxing that Fleischer is ignorant of is the date of his birth. He was born in 1887 on New York's Lower East Side, but the date has been lost. When he was about 21 he selected November 3 for his birthday; he wanted to vote in an important election.

Nathaniel Stanley Fleischer became interested in boxing because his father smoked Sweet Caporals and Murads, which came with cigarette cards depicting boxers. He saw his first fight in 1899—Terry McGovern vs. Pedlar Palmer for the bantamweight championship in Tuckahoe, N.Y. A fortnight later he took up boxing and became, in time, captain of the boxing team as well as president of the Oregon Athletic Club in New York City, which was sponsored by the Brace Memorial School for Newsboys. Nat also played first base and catcher on the Oregon AC baseball team, did trick bicycle riding, broad-jumped 19 feet 10 inches and ran the 100 in 10.2 at New York's City College, from which he graduated with a B.S. in botany and chemistry in 1908. With his longtime friend Dan Daniel, at present a sports columnist for the New York World-Telegram and The Sun, he organized CCNY's first basketball team. "Mr. Daniel and I both set intercollegiate basketball on its feet," Fleischer says. "We had an outstanding team. We beat MIT and Army." Fleischer's boxing career—he weighed 122 pounds—came to an end with what he calls "a bing on the chin." One Joe Gordon, who outweighed Nat by 10 pounds and was, in addition, a ringer, or a professional fighting under an assumed name, knocked him out. Nat awoke with two of New York's most celebrated ladies, sponsors of the Boys' Club where he fought, ministering to him, Mrs. Oliver Harriman rubbing his forehead and Mrs. Jay Gould patting his hand.

Another "bing" concluded his career in chemistry. Fleischer had become interested in journalism as editor of a monthly at P.S. 15. While at CCNY he was campus correspondent for two dailies and worked on the sports desk of the New York Press. After graduating he passed a teaching examination and, while working on the Press nights, taught sixth-grade girls botany at P.S. 7. But he didn't like teaching, and he abandoned it for a graduate course in commercial chemistry at New York University. "It took only a few months," he says, "when, sleepy following a hectic, long night at the Press, I mixed the wrong solutions in a special morning test, blew up part of the laboratory, and Professor Hill, my instructor, suggested it would be best for me to resign. This I did."

He next took a summer course in forestry at Yale, but that career was nipped in the bud. He still retains a great interest in horticulture, however. "Whatever I plant comes up pretty well," Nat says. Once, in Bangkok, he ate some exotic oranges and placed the seeds, which he had first dried in the sun, in his wallet. Back home, he planted them in pots in his room, later transplanting the trees to his yard. The orange trees are now two and a half feet high. Once in Sorrento—"that's in Italy," advises Nat—he obtained roots from black and white fig trees. He took these to his home in Long Beach, Long Island, and when he moved last year to Atlantic Beach they were seven feet high and loaded with figs.

"In 1942, shortly after we had entered the war, rationing had begun and there was a scarcity of vegetables and fruits, since a good portion of our produce was taken by the government," Fleischer has written, in a good example of his later, almost Biblical, style. "I owned two lots on one side of my home, then in Long Beach, and one on the opposite side, each 100 by 100 feet. I decided to experiment on an agricultural basis. At the time the use of fuel oil was not as prevalent as now. Most of the homes at the beach used coal. I asked my neighbors to deposit their ashes in my empty lots instead of with the Sanitation Department and after I thought I had a sufficient quantity, I halted the dumping and ordered 10 truckloads of good topsoil and 10 bags of government fertilizer such as was generally used by produce farmers. I requested federal permission for their purchase (since fertilizer could be used only by farmers) and, this granted, I had the topsoil and fertilizer spread and I had the first victory garden on Long Island.

"So successful was I, that I hired a gardener to work steadily for me as a general house worker, a Georgia Negro, Louis Dixon, and together we planted vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash, watermelon, beans, etc., and soon we had an abundance. So hardy was my victory farm, that the New York Herald Tribune sent a photographer to take pictures for a special Sunday page, and after that was published, I induced the city of Long Beach to open all vacant lots belonging to the city to people with adjoining property and soon Long Beach was a city of victory gardens. Most of what was produced on my property was turned over to the Long Beach Hospital.

"I had been showing fight pictures and lecturing to the armed forces in Nova Scotia, and from there I brought down to New York Nova Scotia corn kernels and planted them. With my rich soil, produced by the mixture of ashes (a splendid fertilizer and holder of water), topsoil and good fertilizer, I produced corn stalks 14 feet high, with as many as 12 corn ears. I was told it was as fine Nova Scotia corn as ever was produced in our part of the country. Farmers from several parts of Long Island came to see what I had done, and were interested to know of the mixture that produced such fine products. It was a worthy and successful experiment, but unfortunately I spent so much time bending and lugging heavy loads that I suffered a double hernia. However, I didn't give up my farm until three years later, when I turned the vacant lots into grass fields to beautify my home.

"At the time I started this experiment, I planted some pits and I raised four beautiful peach trees. Seven years later, they began to bear fruit and last year the peaches were as large as McIntosh apples and very sweet and we had an abundance."

After his whirl at forestry at Yale, Fleischer decided that he would be a full-time journalist. Under Frank A. Munsey, who bought and merged newspapers with abandon, Fleischer was, for 13 years, sports editor of the Sun, the morning Herald, the Telegram and Evening Mail and the Evening Telegram. In 1927 Scripps-Howard bought the Telegram and Fleischer was canned. He thereupon devoted all of his time and considerable energies to The Ring, which he had founded in 1922.

The Ring is thriving. "Despite boxing being at its present low level," Fleischer says, "the public likes to read about individual fighters past and present." When the issue price was recently increased from 35¢ to 50¢ there was a 7% circulation gain for the first issue and an increase of a couple of thousand for each subsequent issue. As a rule, one-eighth of The Ring's pages are devoted to professional wrestling, which distresses Fleischer, who used to be an advocate of the game. "Years back," he says, "there was true wrestling. They knew the game from A to Z, they were masters of the art. I myself wrote the wrestling section then. But I quit after the retirement of the eldest Zbyszko and Londos. I quit because to me wrestling was an art which I loved. This is a burlesque! Once in Italy I saw Primo Camera wrestle his own manager, who was disguised as an Arab. Primo tossed him in seven minutes, and the house, which was packed, cheered its head off. We have at least 20,000 fervent readers of wrestling. They are organized into fan clubs. We have over 70 wrestling stringers. You can't convince them that anything is wrong. The wrestlers come into my office and laugh. But if we were to eliminate wrestling we'd lose 20,000 readers."

After its formative years The Ring has been, generally, a profitable publication, with the exception of the war years, when Fleischer was permitted to publish only 54,000 copies. He presented the Army with 13,000 free copies a month and ran off a special 250-copy edition of the record book for camp libraries. This patriotic largesse paid off with a circulation gain of 30,000 in less than a year after V-J day, the bulk of the new subscribers being ex-servicemen. One of the experiences that most moves Nat involved "one lovely letter I got during the war from the Mesopotamia district—around there—from a fellow who noticed a copy of The Ring in a hut where the boys stopped for a little liquor—grog he called it. He wanted to know whether he could become a subscriber. Don't pay, I wrote back, you're on as long as the war is on. Three years later, in 1944, I got a letter from his mother. 'Dear Mr. Fleischer,' it read, 'I would be grateful if you would stop sending the book to my son who, unaware to you, has been killed in action. I am forwarding a photograph of my son and several of his mates in Egyptian territory reading your magazine.' I ran the picture in The Ring with the caption: 'Reading The Ring before being killed in action.' "

Fleischer gets a lot of mail beginning, "My son wants to become a professional fighter," as well as letters from youngsters inquiring whether they should take up boxing as a career. "I tell the mothers that if the boy likes boxing as an exercise, by all means don't discourage him, otherwise he may become a street fighter. I tell the lads that they should take up a job instead, that that will be their future, that the chances of becoming wealthy through boxing are practically nil and not to turn professional unless they have real ability."

Fleischer feels that boxing is "at its lowest ebb" because of a lack of talent, the failure of young kids to come out for the sport, television and the loss of the small clubs—the incubators. "The American way of living under the present government," he says, "gives a good living wage in any field without the element of danger. Before, the boys were hungry; they had insufficient work at low pay." Only in Asia does Nat find boxing on the rise. "In Bangkok, Tokyo, Singapore, there are hungry kids," he says. "There are nine gyms now in the heart of Tokyo. Ten years ago there were only two. It seems to me that, though boxing is at its lowest ebb, it will make a comeback, but only in those countries that do not have to depend on television to promote boxing. In the U.S. it is virtually at a standstill. We've made a little progress with some small clubs opening up, but the talent isn't there. Though you hear the steady call for the death knell of boxing I don't think you can kill it. The public interest, as shown by TV, will keep the sport alive, no matter how small or how few. But it will never come back like before.

"I've always stuck to the oldtimers because I saw them," Fleischer says. "They are fellows who were far superior to the boys today. In recent years their equals were Willie Pep, Tony Canzoneri, Lou Ambers, Jimmy McLarnin and fellows like Rocky Marciano on his heavy hitting, not as a boxer. These fellows are more like the oldtimers in that they possessed combinations." In Fleischer's alltime rankings, which list 10 men in each of the eight weight divisions, it is rare to find a man who boxed into the '40s; there are but 11, and only one is rated higher than fifth—Jack Dempsey, who had three bouts in 1940 after an eight-year layoff.

"Feinting today," continues Fleischer, "is absolutely a lost art. The last man to feint well was Benny Leonard. [He retired undefeated in 1925, making a brief comeback in 1931-2.] I don't think the technique of boxing has advanced since 1940. Today they do not go in for the development of science but for the pell-mell mix, trying to batter a man down, score heavy hits at the expense of ring cleverness. I attribute this wholly to TV. The sponsors want an action fighter. The public hisses and boos boxers performing a clever piece of work. I remember the days when you saw a beautiful machine out in the field there and you loved it. Nobody hissed Tommy Loughran! Now the public has been educated to demand ring action of a gory spirit. Any of the clever boys of the past would stand the fighters of today on their ears.

"And the trainers we have today, a lot of them are what I call shoemakers. They lack the knowledge of caring for their fellows. Still, thank the Lord, we have a handful as good as we had in the past. With them training was a business. They had wonderful trainers then. Boxing is backward, very backward. I've been severely criticized, but American boxers, with the exception of the two lower divisions, are still superior. What's wrong with our boys? they ask me in the Orient. Your training may be all right, I tell them, but your seconds don't know their business.

"There were far better judges and referees then, too, with a few exceptions. Now we have many men of incompetence with political affiliations. A number of officials today are influenced by the howling crowd and applause; they try to follow the accuracy of the mob instead of their own. And they don't know how to score. They score for aggressiveness when they should only be scoring for effective aggressiveness. And they are too timid, too often afraid to act. Too often they don't even warn a fighter, or take a point away for an infraction. On January 12, 1942 I refereed a fight in Toledo between Billy Conn and Henry Cooper. Up to the fifth round there was very little action. In the sixth round the crowd began to hiss and boo and toss paper. I stopped the fight, jumped up to grab the mike and made this announcement: 'You are not seeing a fight. Unless there is more action I am requesting the police department to return your money and I am declaring it no contest.' There was a hell of a battle after that, and Conn won. When the fight was over, Billy said to me, 'Gee whiz, Nat, you've got a hell of a nerve! Mike Jacobs is going to match me for the championship. You want me to get knocked out?' 'Don't you think you should earn your money, Billy?' I asked him. 'And besides, now you're in trim.' "

Conn and Ingemar Johansson are only two of the fighters whom Fleischer has brought to prominence through his ratings. Nat hotly defends The Ring's rankings against the National Boxing Association's, which have only been compiled for the last few years. "The Ring," he says, "is an international magazine catering to a great majority. We stood steadfast behind Archie Moore as long as other groups refused to accept the NBA edict vacating his title. When New York acted and Great Britain and Europe followed suit, we said we could no longer stand by ourselves and we vacated his title, too. We're not a discriminatory body opposed to the NBA, but we feel we must stand by the majority when a controversial matter comes up. When the world at large changes, we change.

"We disagree heartily with most of the NBA's rankings. They rate men in order to please commissions in foreign countries or here who don't belong in the first 10. Take Sid Prior, an Australian junior welterweight. The NBA ranks him ninth. He doesn't mean a thing. Hank Casey, the ninth-ranked middleweight—he's been inactive. The NBA's ratings are not legitimately based. I call them a geographical present. Of course, today you're lucky to be able to rank 10 men in a division. In the old days you had 20 men deserving of the top 10."

Fleischer lives alone in Atlantic Beach, moving to Scarsdale, N.Y., where his daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren live, when it gets cold. (His wife, Gertrude Phillips, in her youth a Broadway actress, died in 1949.) He keeps to a precise schedule. "I take the 4:19 train home from the office," Nat says. "When I get home I change my clothes for sitting clothes, fix dinner—I cook my own meals, except twice a week when I eat out—and watch TV until 8. I like the 7 o'clock news and I'm fond of a good western. Then I read until 10, when I go to bed, unless there's a fight. I keep to a steady routine. I don't smoke or drink. My drinking is confined to ginger ale and an occasional glass of sherry. I get up at 5, at 5:30 I have breakfast, and I get the 6:45 train in, arriving at the office between 7:20 and 7:30. I'm a person who doesn't need a lot of sleep. I require every night at least one barbiturate to put me to sleep. It gives me three hours of sleep. I need two more hours of sleep when I'm on the road. For lunch I have my secretary make me two cups of coffee. That's my normal routine day after day."

For the future, Fleischer sees the need of a national boxing commissioner. "We need a firm control and jurisdiction in order to prevent what we now have—the failure of uniform legislation. The commissioner will be a preventative against any commission discarding the actions of all other commissions. It is my contention that boxing commissions are too soft, they bend backwards to obtain contests regardless of the ability of the individuals. The majority are much too politically inclined to carry out their duties in a beneficial manner. We've seen this in the case of Pennsylvania. They've altered their stand on a number of occasions to accept fights voted against in an NBA poll. California, on the other hand, adheres strictly to the rules. They're the finest commission in any part of the world.

"We also need better matchmaking. At the present time it is of a type. The same faces are seen repeatedly on TV, with the result that the public loses a lot of interest. We need new faces but we've got to stop the importation of too many foreign fighters to the exclusion of American lads. We're alienating the affection of American lads, who are fed up with what I call the crumbs, while foreigners who can't do too well where they come from get lucrative fights."

The future of Mr. Boxing, himself, is brighter. As he says, he comes from hardy stock. One of his grandfathers lived to be 102, a grandmother to be 101. He has a sister, Edith, 85; another sister, Rebecca, 82; a brother, Mark, 80; a brother, Joseph, 79; and a kid brother, Dr. M. B. S. Fleischer, 72. Nat just keeps reliably ticking away like one of his antique watches. "Boxing for me," says Fleischer, "wasn't wholly a means of obtaining a living. It was a lot of fun, a lot of satisfaction and a love for the sport. I made thousands of friends. Today I can go to any part of the world and there is somebody who is my friend. Look at this letter I got today from Sir Roy Welensky, the Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, asking me to give him a 'little line on Liston.' That's a pretty nice letter to get from the prime minister of a country." Nat Fleischer beamed.

PHOTOWIL BLANCHERooted in the past, Fleischer wistfully contemplates memorabilia and gimcrackery in Ring Museum and Hall of Fame. PHOTOWIL BLANCHE