The author of this article is the Bill Rosensohn who, without previous experience but brimful of imagination and daring, promoted ex-Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson's last two fights and, with the emergence of Ingemar Johansson as the new champion, seemed in a position to join the great promoters of boxing history.
He reveals here that that position had been undermined even before the Johansson-Patterson fight, when he signed over control of his promoting corporation to persons allied with Cus D'Amato, Patterson's manager. The implications of his story will rock boxing and may jeopardize Patterson's one chance to regain his title.
Recently, Rosensohn flew to Sweden to complete arrangements for the projected return bout. With him was Gilbert Rogin of Sports Illustrated. Harassed by his associates to a point of near-despair, Rosensohn decided, on the night before he returned to New York last week, to give Rogin this intimate, sordid and intricate statement—an indictment of his enemies and an admission of his own compromises which in retrospect seem to have been quite as needless as they were disastrous.
What price can a man pay to achieve an objective? In the last fight many pitfalls and problems were made public four weeks before the fight because I felt that was the best way to get the fight on. Subsequently there were certain things the public became aware of—the Eddie Machen lawsuits, the rotten weather—and the public was sympathetic to my unenviable position. But the public did not know all the hardships I had to endure. It was not my intention then or up to a week ago to disclose them. Circumstances and events in the last fortnight now make me want to tell all.
The first thing I want to talk about is the television. Last March it was necessary for me to sign a waiver of my rights as a promoter for radio, TV and motion pictures. If I had not I would not have gotten a contract with Patterson's signature on it for the fight. The original contract that was signed in January was never delivered to me by Cus D'Amato's lawyer. At that time I was trying desperately to go through with the fight. Since the revised terms affected only me and since my prime interest was the fight, I agreed to suffer the loss of TV and radio and put on the fight. I agreed unhappily, unwillingly to these terms.
D'Amato has since said that they were the same TV terms as for the Roy Harris fight, and that was what I was entitled to. But the Harris terms were in no way negotiated by me, but by Al Weill, the original promoter of that fight, and Cus. I wasn't happy then, and it would seem somewhat silly that a guy who has spent five years in the closed-circuit television business and who had put on the most successful theater-TV fight (Robinson-Basilio, $1,400,000) and therefore knew the great potential, should give up these valuable rights.
In June, two weeks before the fight, when official contracts were signed at the New York State Athletic Commission, Edwin Schweig, D'Amato's lawyer, presented me with another contract, this time calling for the waiving of my rights to share in the radio, TV and movie rights in any fight in which Patterson might participate in the future, including the Johansson rematch, if there was to be one.
This I refused to sign. Subsequent persistent pressure and an accumulation of bad news (the slow ticket sales, Ingemar's bad showing in training) made me capitulate. Finally, on June 18, I gave in and signed the paper, and the contract is presently dated June 18, a week before the fight, in my own handwriting to show the date I agreed. I did it only to insure, again, D'Amato's and Patterson's participation in the fight. If I had not signed it, there would have been no fight.
The only thing that mattered was not future Patterson fights, for I had decided there would be no promotions connected with Patterson except the rematch. That was the bridge I felt I would have to cross when the time came, the perilous crossing now before me.
The second thing is that in New York it is necessary for a promoter to get a license through a promoting corporation, so I formed Rosensohn Enterprises, Inc. At the time of its formation I owned all the stock.