I stand before you divested and dissolved," said Harry Markson, managing director of the International Boxing Club. "I have been married for 28 years and my wife still loves me, so I am not yet divorced." So, folding its tentacles, the IBC exited laughing last week and, as Sean O'Casey once wrote, "th' whole worl's in a terrible state o' chassis!" Just the other day, for instance, a fight manager, name of Al Braver-man, was saying: "The fight game's dead and they forgot to bury it. The managers had better get frankfurter stands or wagons." Now the IBC's dead and they're burying it, but the managers say: habeas corpus. As Cus D'Amato tells it: "There was a guy in World War I who sat silent through the false armistice and the real thing while his friends leaped in the air about him and shouted happily. But once on the boat for home he went on deck and by himself leaped in the air and shouted."
Although nobody's shouting, the hope is that a reasonable facsimile of the good old days will be here again, the days when the gyms" were full of brave young fighters who knew all the moves and did what they were told; and you could move with them. And here is a gallery of hopes: some major, with only time itself between them and the big score, some minor and wistful: young prizefighters who are most likely to succeed when the chassis is over. They are presently unranked by either The Ring magazine or the National Boxing Association. No fighters from outside the U.S. are included, and there are no feather-, bantam- or flyweights present, because the preponderance of the unranked in these divisions is foreign.
"I've got a message from beyond," said Cleveland Williams, who, at 205 pounds, is big enough to know better. "I'm not well enough to fight." Four doctors told him he was, but Williams was listening to his voices in Wales in July and would not fight Dick Richardson. "He publicly disgraced himself," says Cus D'Amato. "He hadn't the decency to pretend he wasn't frightened, to keep within the rules of our business. But all terribly scared people have a certain amount of skill." Williams, 24, of Houston, is a bad actor, but he does have a noteworthy skill; he is a first-rate puncher with both hands, and, as a consequence, has knocked out 33 opponents in 40 fights while losing but twice. In the main, he has fought those whom he can hit and who are not good hitters (busted valises with names like Baby Booze and Graveyard Walters) and has avoided those who can take it and not quit; and, in fairness, he has been avoided, too; there is no advantage in taking on a Williams. But instead of gaining confidence and ability as the quality of the opposition was stepped up, Williams has never relinquished his faith in his punching. Almost paradoxically, then, his strength has become his weakness; if he cannot knock the man out early he may get discouraged, frustrated and listless. Yet he is an exceedingly strong puncher and because of that is the best of the rest, as is written in the horse charts.
They are Tom McNeeley Jr. and Ernest Terrell. McNeeley played football at Michigan State, which also produced Chuck Spieser, who is harder to pronounce (Some say it's Spieser/ Like freeze her or please her/ But I am much wiser/ And know it is Spieser) than he is to lick; and that TV dinner, Chuck Davey. "Tom's the strongest Irishman you've ever seen," says one of his handlers, "and he got a nice, big head on him." McNeeley, 22, comes from Arlington, Mass., stands 6 feet 2 inches, weighs 198, and has won all seven of his bouts, six by kayo. He is managed by another collegian, yet: Peter Fuller, Harvard '48, the son of former Governor Alvan Fuller of Massachusetts.
Terrell, 19, is an attenuated Chicagoan out of Mississippi, who has lost one fight, a split, out of 13. Although a quick and potent hitter, he moves his feet awkwardly, and it is felt that "his frame's too small." His manager, Ed Stevenson Sr., a kind of retired plumbing contractor, has other doubts. "He's a nice boy, good behaving, but you never know," he says. "If they meet the wrong kind of girl at the right or wrong time, you never know. But he has all the possibilities. He's a gentleman and never says anything wrong in any form or shape."
"I really don't like boxing as a boxer should," says Orville Pitts. "I've always wanted to go to school. But I haven't done justice to myself or school or anything in the last six months. I'm frustrated." Pitts, 25, is a lean, moody, indecisive figure who has been boxing since he was 13 and wants to be a lawyer. He was an NCAA champion when he attended the University of Wisconsin ( Madison) and a National Golden Gloves champion. When he turned pro in January 1957, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin ( Milwaukee) and has a year to go for his B.A. degree in political science. But now, to his wife's consternation, he has dropped out of school. "I can always go back," Pitts says. "But I can't always go back to boxing."
Pitts has been "retired" since he was beaten by Tony Anthony, the No. 1 contender, in a gross mismatch last June. Prior to that fight he had knocked out eight and lost a split decision to Jimmy Slade, the old spoiler. Pitts is willing to share the blame for the disastrous Anthony match. "The only nice thing about boxing, it seems like, is that the money comes in fast," he says. "You can't imagine what is taken from a man's body in 10 rounds, and it can't be replaced. Maybe my ego was inflated, and here was a long shot, a chance to make some money. If I hit, I'd be in the bucks."
Out of the bucks, he now is back in training, working chiefly on the conspicuous flaws in his style: he is hesitant to throw a left hook and is an inferior infighter. He does possess a smart left jab and an extremely powerful overhand right. An experienced fighter, however, can adjust his defense to contain the single, signal weapon he has to fear from Pitts, the booming right. If Pitts can, indeed, become a complete fighter, he has a splendid future; if not, he should go back to poli sci.