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This case presents classic instances of violations of the antitrust laws. A group of men have banded together to seek domination of a field. In this, they have succeeded.
It is submitted that the equity powers of this Court should be invoked to dissolve that amalgamation of power and enjoin the illegal practices through which it was achieved.
So ends the government brief in the case of United States of America, Plaintiff, vs. International Boxing Club of New York, Inc., et al., Defendants. The et al., or the group of men who "have banded together" in the government's charge, are: International Boxing Club of New York, Inc., International Boxing Club, Inc. ( Illinois), Madison Square Garden Corporation, James D. Norris (president of all three) and his partner, Arthur M. Wirtz of Chicago. Trial begins this week before Judge Sylvester J. Ryan in the skyscraper United States Courthouse in downtown New York's sprawling Foley Square. It could end with the International Boxing Club ( James D. Norris, President) broken of both its stranglehold on championship boxing and resultant control of all other important boxing.
The government case rests on a 1955 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, delivered by Chief Justice Earl Warren, that boxing is a business in interstate commerce and therefore comes under the antitrust laws.
That decision permitted the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice to move against IBC on allegations that it had bought control of boxing championships, bought out competitors, acquired exclusive use of the big stadiums and forced championship contenders to agree that, if they won the championship, they would fight only for IBC. Through these means, the government contends, IBC has become boxing's colossus, promoting 80% of championship bouts in the period involved (June 1949 to May 1953, for purposes of the suit), with revenues in that period of more than $7 million. The extent of the IBC's control of champions—and the lucrativeness of that control—are set forth in the tables, from the government's brief, on the opposite page and on pages 28 and 29.
In addition to controlling the championships, of course, IBC promotes nonchampionship bouts, including the big television shows on Wednesday and Friday nights.
By controlling the champions—in all but the flyweight and bantamweight divisions, which are no longer important in the United States—IBC has been able to force the loyalty of lesser fighters, managers and copromoters. For if a fighter wants to get a crack at the championship some day he must be an IBC-pleaser as well as a crowd-pleaser. If a promoter or a manager wants an occasional IBC-TV fight he must be an amiable fellow.
But if the government wins its case, then championship fight promotion will be wide open to competition. Other promoters will be able to bid for the fighters' services and have access to the big indoor and outdoor arenas where such fights can be staged profitably. Fighters and managers will not have to consider IBC wishes when they sign for a fight in the hinterlands outside its domain. Some good fighters who have found it difficult and even impossible to win national recognition may at last have their chance.
The immediate result, if all this comes to pass, is likely to be the kind of confusion that comes with word of a gold strike in hitherto inaccessible territory. Managers of top fighters will be in the saddle (though the bridle in some cases may still be held by the likes of Frankie Carbo). Promoters and would-be promoters will doubtless join in a frantic scramble for fights. Television promotion will be affected, since managers will be able to drive hard bargains for more than the current $4,000 minimum, and the IBC, recently re-signed to its $962,000 Pabst-Mennen contract for 52 weekly TV fights (in addition to its similar Gillette contract), may have difficulty in guaranteeing schedules of acceptable matches to the sponsors. Competition, of a sort long since gone from boxing, will be restored.
A government-favored decision will have an effect, too, on the hoodlums who have infested the sport for many a long year but thrive best under monopoly conditions. Fight managers have long known that the man to see, if you want to be sure of getting fights for your boy, is the hoodlum and killer Carbo, who wants first to know whether the manager and his fighter are "businessmen." If they are (and "businessmen" is a hoodlum euphemism for those willing to do as they are told) they get fights. With independent promoters running loose, Carbo may be reduced to his stature of the '40s when, for the most part, though a big-time betting operator, he could offer only sporadic money bribes to a fighter or manager instead of a steady livelihood. As IBC took over more and more of boxing, Carbo's influence, whether real or pretended, mounted in managerial circles. He and Norris had known each other for 20 years. The Carbo name became a whispered byword. But his influence could now decline.