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MAN WITH FIGHT SEEKS SITE
Gilbert Rogin
March 02, 1959
The man is Bill Rosensohn, the first of the Ivy League promoters, who stumped the country like the last of the oldtime drummers, pricing cities for his heavyweight fight
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March 02, 1959

Man With Fight Seeks Site

The man is Bill Rosensohn, the first of the Ivy League promoters, who stumped the country like the last of the oldtime drummers, pricing cities for his heavyweight fight

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CHICAGO

LOS ANGELES

NEW YORK

MINNEAPOLIS

PHILADELPHIA

SAN FRANCISCO

INDIANAPOLIS

COLO. SPRINGS

HONOLULU

PRO

Largest Swedish population. Immense stadium ( Soldier Field, cap.: 110,000). Good parking. Guarantee. Large gates for indoor title fights. Civic, business aid. Concomitant special events.

Fight would open new Sports Arena, with theater TV in huge Coliseum. Promise of guarantee. Splendid sports trend (e.g., Dodgers). Civic, business, media cooperation. Fine weather.

Finest record of outdoor gates (best recent: Marciano-Moore, 1955, $948,117). Potential gross excellent. Largest population center. Large arena ( Yankee Stadium, cap.: 85,000). Nearest Sweden.

Large, militant Swedish population. Swedish Day, June 28. Best city to black out for TV. Superb business, civic, media cooperation. Guarantee.

Tremendous stadium (Municipal Stadium, cap.: 120,000) available at token rental. Guarantee. Civic cooperation promised. Large population center.

Sports trend healthy (e.g., Giants). Fairly suitable arena ( Kezar Stadium, cap.:75,000). Keen boxing interest in area. Civic cooperation promised.

Splendid cooperation of business, civic, media leaders. Concomitant special event: "500" race (attendance: 200,000). Good city to black out for TV.

Guarantee. Excellent cooperation of government, business leaders. Concomitant centennial celebration. Fine city to black out for TV.

Guarantee.

ODDS

3-1

7-2

4-1

4-1

15-1

25-1

40-1

75-1

100-1

CON

Boxing officials unsatisfactory to principals. Lingering influence of disbanded IBC. No I recent large outdoor fight gates (last: Louis-Braddock, 1937, $715,470).

Poor history of large gates for outdoor fights (largest: Basilio-Aragon, 1958, $236,521). Potential gross uncertain.

No guarantee. N.Y. too sophisticated to give much civic, business cooperation. Least profitable to black out for TV. Outdoor sports trend declining (e.g., Dodgers and Giants departing).

No real boxing history (largest gate, in St. Paul, Flanagan-Gavilan, 1957, $43,653). Available arena has only 21,688 seats but plans call for 30,000 temporaries. Potential gross uncertain.

Boxing, sports trend not heartening. Largest recent outdoor gate (Marciano-Walcott, 1952, $504,645) poor second to N.Y.

History of outdoor gates (largest: Marciano-Cockell, 1955, $196,720) not too good. Foggy, uncertain weather in early summer. No guarantee.

No boxing history to speak of. Insufficient seating in arena (Victory Field, cap.: 30,000). Potential gross uncertain. No guarantee.

No boxing history. Insufficient seating in arena (Penrose Stadium, cap.: 27,500). Johansson's fear of altitude.

Mainland TV improbable.

Bill Rosensohn returned to New York last week after a swift, audacious and extraordinary odyssey to Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago in search of a site for this summer's Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson heavyweight championship fight, of which he is the promoter, the drummer, the one-man band. He had lost his voice but, in turn ingenuous, cunning, bullying, sympathetic, wheedling, conning, he had gotten promises of $500,000 gate-receipt guarantees from six cities—Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Colorado Springs, Philadelphia and Honolulu. He had all but dismissed Honolulu's proposal which included a plan to televise the fight the 2,400 miles to the mainland by "air-to-air microwave relay" as "science fiction," Colorado Springs because of its dinky stadium and Johansson's fear of altitude.

Rosensohn admits that when he set out he was prejudiced in favor of New York and Los Angeles but wanted to visit the other cities to be fair and to assay them for future promotions. At week's end, however, New York remained lofty, complacent and Rosensohn turned dubious. "I told the general [ New York's boxing commissioner, Major General Melvin L. Krulewitch]," he says, "that New York would have a much better chance of getting the fight if one of his rich Republican friends came up with the money. The general was upset, so I said, 'Look, General, supposing you were a 38-year-old boy sitting down with a pencil in his hand, figuring.' "

To appraise the various cities equitably, Rosensohn devised a score, or report card. It has 10 categories: 1) seating capacity of stadium, 2) potential and probable gross receipts, 3) parking facilities, 4) recent history of large boxing gates, 5) recent sports trends, 6) attitude of media executives, 7) cooperation of business and civic leaders, 8) unusual events which might help the promotion, 9) cash guarantee, 10) special considerations. Each category is scored from 0 to 10, and 100, as always, is a perfect score.

There is still time for new guarantees, proposals, schemes; Rosensohn's mind and score card are not yet made up. But, with the decision on a site only a week or so away, our chart below summarizes the current prospects of each city.

Rosensohn began scoring in New York four weeks ago when he had separate talks with Co-owner Dan Topping and General Manager George Weiss of the Yankees and Mayor Robert F. Wagner and the general. Rosensohn explored a flat rental deal for the Stadium with Topping and Weiss, instead of the traditional 10%, and sought the Yankees' cooperation in plugging the fight at their games, on radio and television and by selling tickets. Rosensohn asked Wagner for permission for Johansson to train on city property (wherever he went Rosensohn was insistent that Johansson's training camp be located where people could see him) with half of the admission fees going to a city charity; for permission to use the city's information centers to sell tickets in, with Rosensohn employing the additional personnel; for permission to put up streamers at his expense in 20 locations. Then, belted and buckled in his huge trench coat, he flew to Indianapolis.

Indianapolis asked Rosensohn to stage the fight on the eve of its 500-mile automobile race, when, he was told, it never rains. In the enormous living room of his suite, which was a Pullman stop from one end to the other and stuffed with venerable parlor car furniture, he was told that 200,000 fans attend the "500" ("Are they boxing fans?" asked Rosensohn politely). In the rose-paneled Louis XIV Room of the Hotel Claypool, he lunched on apple juice and filet mignon in an effluvium of sweet after-shave lotion and among gleams of pinky rings and hard white collars with monstrous points. The luncheon assembly was made up of what he likes to refer to as "business, civic and media leaders"—his favorite people—the banquet captain offered himself as a sparring partner, and he was told that the American Association baseball schedule would be altered so the fight could be held in the ball park. On the Speedway, over which he was permitted to drive at 60 mph, he was incredulous when told that more than 40,000 people could be seated in a 12,671-seat ball park. Rosensohn was genuinely impressed, however, with what he likes to call the "enthusiasm and cooperation" of the city, but on points 1, 2, 4, 5 and 9 of his score card Indianapolis was wanting.

In Minneapolis, Rosensohn was told at a meeting of his favorite people in Room 118 of the Radisson Hotel: that there are a lot of Swedes in Minneapolis and that on Svenskarnas Dag, or Swedish Day, 90,000 of them come to town ("Are Swedes boxing fans?" inquired Rosensohn politely); that Lawrence Welk grossed $56,000 at the ball park; that "there is no animosity, as the Irish would like you to believe, between Swedes, Norwegians and Danes"; that "the same thought would run simultaneously through the beans of all Swedes—to see Johansson"; that the Swedish flag would be printed in full color on the front page of the newspaper and that "we'll get some royalty to come over." Rosensohn was impressed with the "enthusiasm and cooperation," the Swedish legions, and the incontrovertible fact that it would be considerably more profitable to black out Minneapolis for either home or theater TV than New York or Los Angeles, but the meeting was running down like a wind-up phonograph. The ball field (cap. 21,688) was just not big enough. At this point one of the civic and business leaders left the room. "I have talked with God," he said upon returning. "We offer you not only a $500,000 guarantee but we will try to get the University of Minnesota football stadium [cap.: 75,000]." He told Rosensohn that the university's board of regents has never permitted the stadium to be used for a professional event. Early last week the regents turned the business and civic leaders down, so they have devised a desperate plan to seat 50,000 in the ball park.

TUMBLING CITIES

In Las Vegas, that city of performing monkeys, mastiffs and magicians' doves that the show girls call Devil's Island, Bill Rosensohn watched three jugglers working and saw himself. "I'm a juggler," he said. He was. Above him were cities tumbling in the air. None of them was Vegas, however, which Rosensohn characterizes as "half a city." He went there because "I know just enough people to get into trouble," and to examine the possibilities of holding quite another heavyweight championship fight there, a fight which would not require an arena with an enormous seating capacity. He sat early one morning in the lounge of the Desert Inn, while 12 violinists fiddled love songs among the tables, with Artie Samish, who once made the celebrated boast that he held the California legislature in the palm of his hand. Samish is a substantial, patriarchal man with "Art" embroidered on his shirt, who rolls off California counties like the names of grandchildren. Samish toyed with a plastic souvenir cane, and told Rosensohn not to put the fight on in Los Angeles, a town of "cheap bastards" but in San Francisco, where "the bastards are spenders." Rosensohn was unaware that Samish had been in jail on an income tax rap.

Rosensohn's chief concern in Los Angeles, his next stop, was that half the press was knocking Johansson and the fight. In a particularly diplomatic press conference, in which he let the truculent writers air their beefs, he succeeded in gaining their support. One of Rosensohn's most effective techniques is to ask the local press for advice. "Let me ask you this, now," he will say, and, his long fingers in a prayerful tent, he will inquire of them how much he should charge, where they think the training sites should be, whom he ought to visit for support. Before he arrived in Los Angeles he had intended to put the fight in the Coliseum, but when he was taken through the new Memorial Sports Arena adjoining it, which has 22,400 seats, he got the "tremendous idea" of staging it there at premium prices and erecting three giant screens in the Coliseum where the masses could watch it for popular prices on theater TV. He spent an evening with Mac Krim, a lean, old bachelor friend, at his hilltop home on Krim Drive ("It's named after me," said Mac as he roared up to it in his Dual-Ghia) which has hi-fi in the bathrooms. Krim told Rosensohn that he was going to import the 100-girl Japanese troupe which had appeared in Sayonara and wanted Rosensohn's help. "What do I want with 100 Japanese girls?" said Rosensohn, and flew to San Francisco.

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