Disenchantment of a Champion
The ugly mess surrounding the promotion of the Johansson-Patterson fight, which gave Europe one of its rare heavyweight champions, has gravely injured America's sporting prestige abroad.
Scarcely a person involved, except the two fighters, emerges with honor. Now, as Promoter Bill Rosensohn, who first shed light on the situation in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED two weeks ago, returns from the French Riviera, cutting short his vacation, to answer questions of a New York grand jury, Ingemar Johansson repeats in LIFE this week his disillusionment with the American boxing scene and adds that to a degree this disenchantment now extends to Rosensohn. He resents the fact that Rosensohn introduced him at a Paris meeting (SI, Aug. 17) to Truman Gibson, president of National Boxing Enterprises, the court-created successor to the International Boxing Club ( James D. Norris, president). Ingemar declares he wants "nothing to do with the shady IBC," which he has always despised almost as much as has Floyd Patterson's manager, Cus D'Amato.
Ingemar has every good reason to be disenchanted with the situation. He has one solace. He is the heavyweight champion of the world, and it is in his power to see that the next Johansson-Patterson fight is promotionally as clean and open as the blue skies of Sweden.
As every man in public office well knows, chances are good he will someday be out. Thinking ahead for himself last Friday, Vice-President Richard M. Nixon told the Football Writers Association in Chicago: "After I finish my term I could, of course, become a lawyer. But if I had the choice—and if I had the ability—there is nothing I would rather do than write sports." By questioning his ability, however, Dick Nixon was selling himself short. And a few hours later, at the Colts-All-Stars football game, he proved he already has the sportswriter's credentials of observance, analysis and, to be sure, political tact.
From a 50-yard-line seat in Chicago's Soldier Field, the Vice-President watched the game with animated interest, followed each play closely and frequently stood up to cheer an exceptional run or pass. In the third quarter, with the All-Stars trailing 29-0 (the final score), David and Dewey Graham, sons of All-Star Coach Otto Graham, came to Nixon's box. The boys gave him a football autographed by each of the All-Stars. Nixon thanked them, then, noticing their visible unhappiness, said soothingly: "Now boys, tell your dad not to worry. These Colts are just too tough." A few minutes later a man from the Colt cheering section next to Nixon said to the Vice-President: "I sure hope our yelling hasn't bothered you, but we just love our Colts."
Said Nixon: "Not at all. Those Colts are great. You just tell them to take it easy when they play the Washington Redskins. I'm a Redskin fan, you know, but you have a fine team. You have a right to be proud." That was almost too much for the Baltimore man, who shouted back: " Mr. Nixon, you sure converted a lot of Democrats just then."
After the game Nixon went to the All-Star dressing room, there shook hands with his old friend Otto Graham. "You were up against a great team," he said. "Your kids were scrapping to the last minute and that's what I like to see." The dressing room was crowded, hot and littered with discarded football gear and towels, but Graham yelled for his players to line up to meet the Vice-President. Nixon walked down the receiving line of men—some dressed, some undressed, some dripping wet—shook hands and spoke with each. "I hear Indiana's going to be up this year," he said to Indiana's Mike Rabold. "Seeing you, now I know why the Boilermakers were so good," he said to Purdue's Nick Mumley. To Utah's Lee Grosscup, introduced by Graham as "our Ernest Hemingway," Nixon said, "Yes, Lee, I enjoyed your article in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED."
Well, now Grosscup, who wrote for us in the August 10 issue (Private Life of a Forward Passer) gets his chance to examine the sportswriting style of the Vice-President. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED invited Mr. Nixon to set down his quick summary of the game he had just watched. He agreed—dictating it in a pacing stroll with our correspondent—and here it is: