Randolph Sandy is a neatly groomed, mustachioed six-footer whose suits, sportswear and haberdashery bear a quiet distinction. He often carries a tan attache case, giving the impression that he is taking paper work home to his six-room brick house in The Bronx. In the dining room Sandy says grace over a comfortable meal with his wife Ruth, his mother and his two young sons. After dinner he plays with 2-year-old Eric, whom he calls Big Shot, or cuddles 10-month-old Mark. When the children have gone to bed, Sandy, Ruth and his mother watch television in the living room, where, among some silver trophies, stands a placard reading "Christ Died for All Our Sins."
Sandy suggests a young white-collar worker immersed in the struggle that sociologists call upward mobility. But Randolph Sandy is a boxer; his tan attach� case contains clean towels, a T shirt and wrappings for his hands. His place of business is a Manhattan gym. Sandy is not one of the eight reigning champions, nor is he even one of the three or four top contenders in any class, the fighters who might be expected to get big money when they fight. At his best not long ago, when he was fighting the likes of Rory Calhoun, Joey Giardello, Spider Webb, Dick Tiger and Emile Griffith, he lit up boxing with a Roman candle flash of potential. Now he qualifies merely as an "average" fighter.
Randy Sandy's importance at the moment is not as a fighter but as a symbol of the predicament of the journeyman performer in the present chaotic condition of boxing. An economic system isn't judged by its millionaires but by the well being of the majority of its citizens. Boxing is not Floyd Patterson, it is Randy Sandy.
As a professional fighter, he belongs to a small and rapidly declining group, like blacksmiths and railroad firemen. Not more than 1,500 worked at Sandy's profession last year. The Ring Record Book listed 1,100 U.S. fighters, and these fought in some 5,000 fights, but since they were often meeting one another, there were only 2,500-odd bouts. But even these figures are misleading insofar as they suggest the earnings of average fighters, for few of them fought often enough to provide a livelihood even if they won. The middleweight category, in which Randy Sandy belongs, has been severely depleted; only 200 middle-weights are currently listed for the U.S.
Randy Sandy reached his uncertain position in this hazardous business as a result of native skills and the lack of opportunities. His father died when he was 8 years old, leaving his mother to bring up seven children. In Harlem he ran, jumped, climbed and threw better than his contemporaries and became a top athlete at the local Police Athletic League center. He took up boxing as just one more sport available to him in the Police Athletic League. Simultaneously, school seemed to offer little prospect of advancement. " 'Randolph, you is going to grow up to be a bum,' my third-grade teacher told me," Sandy says. "I had an older sister told me the same thing. I thought they could tell right out what would happen to me, and I figured I'd be wasting my time working in school."
He flourished in local amateur events organized by the PAL, the Golden Gloves and the AAU. In 1948, when Sandy was 17, he came to the notice of Syd Martin, a trainer who is a gentle soul troubled by man's inhumanity to man. ("Personal relationships is gone to hell these days," says Martin. "Say hello to a guy and he don't even answer.") Martin became something of a father to Sandy as well as his fistic tutor and shortened his name to Randy in search of a catchy name for the box office.
Under Martin's teaching, Sandy progressed so rapidly that he was national AAU welterweight champion in 1951. He reached his peak as an amateur that year, when he toured Europe with an AAU team. Exhibiting a photograph of the 1951 Golden Gloves team, Sandy points out a small, almost frightened-looking boy named Floyd Patterson.
After the AAU tour, Sandy turned professional to support his family. "Oh, I liked the idea of being a big shot in the neighborhood well enough," he says, "people asking me who I was going to fight. But before long I got tired of this. They asked me foolish questions."
On November 2, 1951 Randy Sandy entered the ring at St. Nicholas Arena to fight somebody named Charley Douglas in a six-rounder. Sandy knocked him out in the fifth. Three weeks later Sandy beat Jackie Cummerlander, a welterweight who had won his first four fights. From there on, Sandy's career ran right on the schedule of the typical TV-age promising fighter. He won six more in a row. Late in 1952 he met Willie Troy, a rugged middleweight with 15 straight victories. Troy made it 16 straight victories with a TKO and handed Sandy his first pro defeat.
Sandy bounced back fast, winning five in a row and drawing another. Then up popped Troy again. This time, in Washington, Sandy was knocked out in the seventh. Still, his career looked bright—at least economically. He had become a main-event fighter on television. He fought often enough to make a $7,500 down payment on a house in The Bronx. "I always told you I was going to buy you a house when I was a little boy," he said to his mother. The annual charity fund-raising event at P.S. 68, where his third-grade teacher had told him he was going to be a bum, was now designated Randy Sandy Night. It was attended by politicians of varying prominence, up to the borough president of Manhattan.