With sauces of gentle asperity, the New York Boxing Writers' Association last week served up its annual dinner to members and friends and those who came with some reasonable expectation that they might be broiled alive. For dessert there was apple pie and Rocky Graziano.
The dinner is boxing's biggest noncompetitive event, graced by as many champions and other elite as the writers can assemble. All the best managers attend. Among the champions this year was Rocky Marciano, world heavyweight champion, who sat at the head table but, perhaps through inadvertence, was not introduced. Afterward there was comment that such an oversight would have been impossible in the presence of a Dempsey, a Tunney or a Louis (none of whom was there) and that, very likely, the incident might serve as a footnote on the current status of the heavyweight championship.
It was remarked in addition that Jim Norris was not present. Frankie Carbo did not show up either. But the program's seating guide listed a Robin Hood at Table No. 40.
The planned feature of the evening was a series of skits in which boxing managers were depicted in prison stripes and boxing commissioners in fright wigs. However, a rank amateur, with a part as yet unwritten, stole the show. Julius Helfand, newly appointed chairman of the state boxing commission and a racket buster of some prestige, was called upon for a few words.
But before Helfand had a chance to open up on his yet undeveloped theme, Jim Farley, who used to be a boxing commission chairman himself once, was introduced. Jim, his fine organ voice vibrating with love for boxing, paid tribute to Mickey Walker, seated on the second dais, and went on from there to advise the new chairman in a fatherly way.
"I get a little bit annoyed," Jim said, addressing himself to Chairman Helfand, "with all this talk about boxing and everything being wrong with it. There's nothing wrong with boxing that can't be handled with a little common sense." Do not, he advised Helfand, talk toe much to these boxing writers "until you know what you're talking about." He then paid tribute to Jimmy Walker. Chairman Helfand sat very still.
When Helfand got up he thanked Jim for his "public advice" and went on to say: "I couldn't go one round with anyone in this room, but I can lick my weight in wildcats when I go up against a crook or a racketeer."
After that, Jacob Javits, Attorney General, picked up the Farley theme about what's wrong with boxing and, like a trumpet responding to the challenge of a bassoon, chucked in a couple of grace notes.
"There is nothing wrong with boxing," he said, "that a little common sense and a little COMMON HONESTY can't cure."