SI Vault
The Baleful Look of a New Liston
Leonard Shecter
October 14, 1963
One recent day while Middleweight Rubin Carter {right) was preparing for his fight with George Benton, he stood in front of the gym at Ehsan's training camp in Summit, N.J., a .22-caliber rifle resting easily on his arm, and searched for a target on the sunny hillside that rises behind the camp.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 14, 1963

The Baleful Look Of A New Liston

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Altogether, his prison stay had what can only be called a beneficent effect upon Carter. He entered a hostile, aimless, angry youth, emerged a young man with determination to become a prizefighter, perhaps a champion. Considering what he had been before, this was a most laudable ambition. And the presence of a worthwhile goal had a remarkably uplifting effect. Reflecting on that subject recently, Marty Pettiford, a desultory light heavyweight and once Carter's sidekick (he spent 67 months in Jamesburg), remarked: "I can remember when Rubin would've hit you in the head with a brick just for laughs, because there was nothing else to do. But not long ago I seen him tell a kid, 'Don't do that. You'll hurt somebody.' "

Having your nose mashed regularly in a ring, apparently, is a gentling experience. Randy Sandy, a journeyman boxer who spars with Carter from time to time, puts it this way: "The more you know about fighting the less you realize you know. It makes you a nice fella. It's the guy who knows a little and thinks he know's everything what's dangerous."

Watching Carter "burn" a bird, it is not difficult to conjure up the man who was dangerous to meet on the street. But despite the fierce look he cultivates so assiduously, there are glimpses of gentleness. "He seems to enjoy things now," his father says. "Before, he was always wondering about his next move."

"I got a goal," Carter says. "I know what I got to do. I'm not a man to be messed with, but I'm not a man to be feared. Now, for the first time in my life, I'm happy. I'm...I don't know how to say it. I'm interdependent. I need the milkman. But I don't have to beg for anything."

"Inside the ring," says Manager Tedeschi, a man given to ornamental expression, "Rubin is a leopard. Outside he's a kitten with a heart of gold."

Not exactly. As he says, Carter is not a man to be messed with, especially when he's drinking, a form of recreation he has not given up, despite the trouble he has seen. "I don't believe drinking is bad," he says. "It's all in the mind. If you can do it moderately it's all right." Then he says defiantly, adding a little to the puzzle: "I smoke, too."

Carmen Tedeschi came on the scene when Carter decided to quit his first manager, a man who was, by profession, a prison guard. "He was money-hungry," Carter says. "To him $100 was like $1 million to anybody else. I remember I'd ask him, 'Buck,'—that was his nickname—'Buck, let me have $2 or $3.' I starved. I mean I starved. I didn't have anything to eat for two or three days. And he'd say he didn't have the money."

Carter blames his first losses as a pro, both of which were reversed, on his former manager who, he says, forced him to drink a dehydrating concoction. He was ready for a change when his uncle, who worked for Tedeschi, introduced them. "I used to kid his uncle," Tedeschi recalls. "I'd ask him 'When you going to bring me a champion?' I've always had champion pigeons. [Tedeschi has an elaborate coop in the backyard of his middle-class split-level in Saddle Brook, N.J. stocked with some 100 sleek, chesty birds he says are worth $100 each.] And I always wanted a champion fighter. Well, one day he brings Rubin around and says, 'Here's your champion.' "

The first thing that impressed Carter was Tedeschi's vast lack of knowledge about the boxing business. In the end, though, Tedeschi charmed him by being honest—even generous—financially. Also he got him fights. Tedeschi, rated a substantial citizen in the north Jersey area, knows a lot of people and sold a lot of tickets to Carter's fights. "I used to eat $250, $300 worth of tickets for every fight," Tedeschi says. "What did I care? I could tell Rubin was going to be a champion." (One of the ways he could tell is that his wife, Nicoletta, is an amateur astrologer. "I believe in the stars," Tedeschi says. "I'm also very superstitious.")

Like Carter, Carmen Tedeschi (pronounced Tedeski) is a puzzling figure. He is a short, fleshy man with slicked-back jet hair bearing the signs of new gray and, although he never has been a fighter, a light, hoarse voice of the kind Anthony Quinn affected in Requiem for a Heavyweight. His manner is so sincere it is dangerously close to oily. Yet there is no reason to suppose he is not what he says he is—a wealthy contractor, a fancier of racing pigeons, a man dedicated to building a champion in a business he knows almost nothing about. "I'm not looking for money," he said not long ago, as he tooled along behind the wheel of one of a succession of Cadillac convertibles he was delivering to camp for Carter's inspection. "I'm looking for honor. The only thing I ever took from Rubin was expenses. I think God is on my side. I'm gonna have a champion, and he's not gonna be broke."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7