The Ring, the self-proclaimed Bible of Boxing, went into decline after the death in 1972 of founder and publisher Nat Fleischer and the magazine's 1979 sale to a group headed by former New York Knick Dave DeBusschere. In June, with sales having fallen to 25,000 a month (from a high of 130,000 in 1947) and debts nearing $1 million, The Ring ceased publishing. Rumors surfaced that Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss would buy the magazine, but The Ring found a more fitting savior: 70-year-old Stanley Weston, who bought the monthly from DeBusschere in August.
For Weston, a Rockville Centre, N.Y., publisher of wrestling and boxing publications (among them KO, formerly one of The Ring's chief competitors), the deal was something of a homecoming. As a boy he had raked leaves for Fleischer, a neighbor. After graduating from Long Beach (N. Y.) High in 1937, Weston took a summer job as an office boy at The Ring—and stayed for 14 years. A talented artist, Weston painted 57 Ring covers before leaving in 1951.
When Weston launched the first of his magazines—a monthly called Boxing & Wrestling—in 1953, Fleischer turned against him. "I was blacklisted [in the boxing community] when I left The Ring," says Weston. "I guess I never forgave Fleischer for that. Still, without him I wouldn't be where I am."
In moving operations from The Ring's old offices in Manhattan to Rockville Centre, Weston turned up some 60 file cabinets and 75 boxes filled with old fight photos, clippings and memorabilia. Among the items uncovered were the pen used by James J. Corbett in signing for his 1892 fight with John L. Sullivan, boxing trunks worn by Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano, and the "confession" signed by Jack Johnson saying that he threw his '15 heavyweight title bout with Jess Willard. There were also several of Weston's original cover paintings, including his first, a '39 portrait of light heavyweight champ Billy Conn.
Many of the old photos will find their way into the new Ring, which returns to newsstands this week. Will Weston contribute new artwork? "It's possible," he says, "though most of what I do these days is quite abstract. Still, no matter who I paint, he ends up with a broken nose."