James J. Beattie, 6 feet 9 inches in altitude, 240 pounds in avoirdupois, 22 years in age, hushed of voice and handsome as Marshal Dillon, stretched his long frame across a chair and a table and talked about his chosen craft. "Boxing takes more dedication than a normal man would put out. But I'm a nut. I like it. You've got to be obsessed and single-minded. You do this by continually remembering what the end result would be: fame and money, the things you want to do for your family. I want to better boxing. I'm a big white heavyweight. I'm not an ex-strikebreaker. I'm not a hoodlum. I'm not a black Muslim. I haven't even got a police record."
James J. Beattie is in training to be the heavyweight champion of the world. He was plucked out of nowhere by a group of boxing buffs who moved him from St. Paul to New York, put him in experienced hands, laid on a rigorous training schedule and did everything but anoint him with oil. The timetable calls for him to be a ranking contender in about two years and heavyweight champion in about three. The schedule may work out, and lightning may strike the church steeple, but there are no vast sums being bet on either possibility.
At a quick glance, Beattie does not even resemble a heavyweight prospect. He has markedly short arms for a man of his height; he is slope-shouldered and tends to thickness in the waist; his legs appear somewhat ornithoid for a man of his bulk. He has what his young lady friends in the Greenwich Village espresso shops like to describe as a "soulful" look. His face is unmarked, his nose unmashed. He is gentle and kindly in his ways, and so agreeable that making conversation with him is as relaxing as an hour in a sauna. He likes to discuss theology, philosophy, sociology and girls, but he also believes that the proper study of James J. Beattie is James J. Beattie, and he will discourse for hours on the forces that shaped him and the path he is taking. He lives in a small apartment next to Central Park in a section of New York not exactly famous for its masculinity, a fact that used to disturb him.
"When I first moved in here," he recalls, "I put on my gold sweater, slacks, dark glasses and tennis shoes and went out for a walk. Was I an attraction!"
He is not overly sensitive about his height, but he does not like the way certain New Yorkers, in a patronizing, superior manner, make audible remarks about him as he walks down the street. "One day when I first got here I was walking along the street, when here come three guys. One of them had per-oxided hair down to his shoulders and lavender toreador pants, and he wiggled like Marilyn Monroe. I figured he'd get some stares and then somebody would get a net and take him away. But he went completely unnoticed. People were too busy looking at me! And some guy said, 'Holy cripes, lookit the size a dat guy!' They don't know it, but I could have a tremendous complex about my size, I could be almost a sick boy, yet they say crude things like that. But that's New Yorkers. They're so smug. They think New York is the beginning and the end of civilization. They're the biggest hicks in the world, and New York is the world's biggest hick town."
Beattie the Heavyweight Hopeful is the creation of Gene Schoor, an energetic, enterprising New York City writer, restaurateur, public relations man, former amateur fighter and the general brain behind Kid Galahad, Inc., an organization which aims to clean up boxing, develop a new heavyweight champion and maybe even pick up a buck along the way. As Schoor explains it, the late President Kennedy provided the impetus for the project. Researching his book
Young John Kennedy
, Schoor spent a day in Washington with the President, and the conversation turned to youth, with Schoor complaining that too many people were shutting the door on youngsters and giving them no chance. "In five minutes this guy had his arm around me," Schoor says, his eyes sparkling over the pleasant memory, "and he told me, 'Gene, it's not true. Damn it, it's not true, because we have more opportunities for kids than ever in the history of this country. Look at the space business alone. We got millions of opportunities for kids. But they got to be shown, they got to be guided, they got to be helped. If you get the kids when they're young,' he said, quote, 'why, hell, the kid walking down the street could be the next astronaut.'
"And I said, 'Or the next President of the United States.'
"And he said, 'Yes, Gene, or the next heavyweight champion of the world.' "
"I was walking on clouds for days," Schoor goes on. "He put a bug in my head. Sitting at Johnny Johnston's restaurant one day—that's the restaurant my partners and I own—we were talking about what the President said, and one of my partners said, 'Why don't we do something about the state of boxing? Let's go out and look for a fighter.' "
Schoor went to
The New York Times
in January 1962 to place an ad in the sports section: