Boxing headlines have swept the nation in bewildering profusion in recent weeks, and the sports fan should be pardoned if he stopped reading the individual stories and sat back to wonder what is actually responsible for the sport's chaotic troubles.
One certain conclusion is that boxing has been a dirty business because the people in a position to influence it expect it to be a dirty business. For a generation, too many men with responsibility for boxing have accepted mob influence, monopoly and evasion of the laws with a mixture of resignation and cynicism. The latest voice to conclude that boxing must continue to be a nether-world operation run by iron-fisted Caesars is, appallingly, that of the good old New York Times. "The antitrust court action that ended the monopolistic power of the International Boxing Club has spawned the current chaotic state of boxing," said the Times in a six-column review of the boxing situation the other day. The destruction of Jim Norris' IBC opened the boxing business to "all manner of interested parties and avaricious outsiders," and the sport will be in trouble until "untrammeled free enterprise by dilettantes gives way again to a legally sanitary monopoly." So said the Times, observing also that boxing "lives in a world of its own."
This is to assert, in effect, that there are some areas of American life in which principles of freedom, law and competitive initiative should be ignored. It both reflects and illuminates the present situation in boxing, in which the promoter of the Johansson-Patterson fight has acknowledged that he felt obliged to "compromise" and go looking for financial support in backroom conferences with gamblers.
Even with a multimillion-dollar possibility on his hands, Bill Rosensohn obviously felt that he could expect no help from the kind of sportsman investors who have proved a boon to, say, Thoroughbred racing, baseball and professional football. Nor is the reason surprising, for what assurance could Rosensohn have given a Jock Whitney, a Phil Wrigley, an Alfred Vanderbilt or a Gussie Busch that they too might not end up before a grand jury being asked about the associations that a boxing investment had forced on them?
Boxing can well envy such self-vigilant American sports as racing, baseball and football, which have attracted, on the strength of their wholesome modern histories, some of the nation's top businessmen as investors.
What would it take to open this golden gate to boxing's future? It would take a realization by those in a position to do something about it that the laws of the land apply to every person and every sport. State athletic commissions must first have the men and the means (most state commissions sadly lack adequate investigative staffs) to enforce state boxing laws. Only if alerted state officials fail will the time come to talk of federal control.
Existing laws are designed to guarantee, via licensing requirements for fighters, managers, trainers and promoters, the probity of boxing itself. Once assured of probity, sportsman investors could and would be expected to risk capital in this potentially sound and lucrative field. And boxing would not be "in a world of its own." It would have become a praiseworthy part of the American sporting scene.