The year between
title fights was a nightmare. Ingemar Johansson did more than knock me out. He
made me think for myself. That's an awfully painful thing, especially for
somebody who always had somebody else to do his thinking for him.
knocked me out, Cus D'Amato was my mind, more or less. I had no reason to doubt
anything he did or said because every minute of my relationship with him I was
like a son being guided by his father. Eventually the son grows up. Inevitably
he begins to think more and more for himself. Occasionally something happens
that makes the boy become a man before it was intended. It is always a shock to
the father, but after a while the father becomes resigned that that, too, is
the way of life.
least, Cus continued to be what he always was, but actually I tried to show him
that too many things had happened for me to allow myself ever to be completely
in anyone's control again. I was Cus's boy, but in defeat and confusion I
became my own man.
From the time I
returned from the Olympics until after I had become the champion the first
time, everything he said or did I accepted as right. I believed in his crusade
against the International Boxing Club because I believed in him. I had faith in
the way he handled me, and it was borne out by my climb to the top.
Oh, there were
irritations along the way, naturally, but Cus usually would have some kind of
complicated explanation for them, and generally I'd accept what he said.
Frankly, in the early days, I didn't understand enough of what he was saying
and I'd just agree blindly not to show my ignorance. Cus is a persuasive
For a long time
there were papers signed involving me in various business matters that I didn't
know anything about. That was all right with me because I sincerely believed it
was my business to fight and Cus's to manage. Some of them cost me money, and I
didn't even mind that. Cus had helped me to make a lot of money. I couldn't
even get sore at him in his maneuvering for the Brian London fight and the
change of promoters and site. It cost me a lot of money.
I wanted a warmup
for Johansson, but I wasn't too proud of what came out after the fight. I could
say this was kind of an alarm clock for me—the beginning of a sort of awakening
that made me look at myself in relation to Cus.
I was terribly
embarrassed by that fight and all the circumstances surrounding it. First there
was London being met at the airport in New York by D'Amato's representative and
kept away from the newspapermen. Then London winds up doing his early training
before going to Indianapolis at Cus's Gramercy Park Gym. He works out with my
own sparring partners and is trained by Nick Baffi, who is a good boxing man
but happened to be a friend of Cus's and a former business associate. Once when
I was sparring at the gym Cus came around to see me, and who should be with him
but the man who was going to be my next opponent.
We had guaranteed
London his expenses and purse. Hardly had London returned to England when he
told the newspapers there that Cus had originally guaranteed him a second shot
at me if he would agree to let my manager manage him. I believed Cus when he
denied that story. I still do, but only weeks before I was supposed to get into
the ring with Ingemar the first time, another bombshell had exploded, which Cus
didn't try to deny, just explain.
In a book that
was written for him in Sweden, Johansson revealed that to get his match with me
he had had to agree to take on an American manager suggested by Cus. It turned
out to be a man named Harry Davidow, who used to be D'Amato's partner in the
Gramercy Gym many years before I started fighting. Davidow, who had been out of
boxing for 15 years and was running a luncheonette in Brooklyn at the time, was
to get 10% of Johansson's purses and be allowed to select two opponents for him
for the next five years in the event that Ingemar beat me.