'When I reached up to pull down the garage door something hit me from behind. The blow drove me to my knees. I rose. Another blow dropped me again. I was kicked several times. I heard two voices but I was so dazed I could not identify the men.'
The voice that gasped out this dramatic story was that of Jackie Leonard. Having regained consciousness, he was speaking now in the emergency ward of a Los Angeles hospital where doctors were treating him for concussion of the brain and examining him for even more serious damage.
The after-dark attack on Jackie Leonard June 3 was big news in Los Angeles and across the country because Jackie Leonard, a boxing promoter, had been under police protection since giving testimony, only two weeks before the blows were struck, to the California State Athletic Commission about how boxing's dirty businessmen—its undercover underworld governors—had threatened just this sort of reprisal if they were not handed a 50% interest in the welterweight champion. The attack was a demonstration—naked and contemptuous—of the way the underworld still strives to run boxing in the U.S.
The testimony of Jackie Leonard and others, as given two weeks earlier before the California Athletic Commission, reveals the same unremitting underworld attempt. Here is the story that emerged from the sworn testimony before the commission:
At 42 Jack Leonard is one of the leading fight promoters on the West Coast. He has a wife, children and a Los Angeles home with a swimming pool. He also has as friend and associate a 33-year-old boxing manager named Don Nesseth. And Don Nesseth is the manager of a husky young fighter, Don Jordan, who last December won the welterweight championship of the world. Don Nesseth has a wife and two children. As promoter, manager and welterweight, Leonard, Nesseth and Don Jordan seemed to have a highly promising future in their joint association.
But one night not long before Don Jordan won the welterweight championship, Jackie Leonard's telephone rang with a long distance call from Chicago. The voice on the other end of the line identified itself as that of a man all too well known in U.S. boxing: Blinky Palermo, numbers racketeer and longtime friend of boxing's Hoodlum No. 1, Frankie Carbo. "We're in for half," Leonard heard Blinky say. And when Leonard sputtered, "I don't know what you're talking about," Blinky repeated, "We're in for half of the fighter."
Jackie Leonard did know what Blinky Palermo was talking about, just as he could well have known that Blinky's "we" meant "me and Carbo." If you are a boxing manager or a fighter who gets around, you know, if only by boxing's grapevine, that Frankie Carbo, often in association with Blinky Palermo, has undertaken for 25 years to "organize" professional prizefighting in much the same way that other underground hoodlums seek to "organize" vice and narcotics. If you remember what has happened to the relatively few men in boxing who have tried to buck Carbo's system, you may decide to go along. In which case it is only a question of time until the mob owns your fighter.
Jackie Leonard and Manager Don Nesseth talked it over. They decided to appeal to a higher power. They got in touch with Truman Gibson, successor to James D. Norris as president of the International Boxing Club and now (since the court ordered extinction of the IBC) president of National Boxing Enterprises, of Illinois. Leonard and Nesseth found Gibson reassuring and received the impression Gibson would smooth things out: "Go ahead, tell them [that Carbo and Blinky are in for half]. They won't bother you."
"We'll end up in the river or something," Leonard objected.
Gibson reassured again: "Aw, that went out with high-button shoes. Call Blinky and tell him everything is going to be all right." So Leonard told Blinky, with mental reservations of his own, that the deal was on.