The following day emotion ruled, and it took off in all directions. Al Sherman of the Miami Beach commission said that the Colorado commission should be severely admonished, because its suspension of Liston was "unwarranted, illegal and in the poorest of bad taste." Eddie Bohn bounced up to the mike and thundered, "Who the hell are you to tell us we are to be censured, Mr. Sherman!...Anybody who says that was a real good fight, I say you must be on the payroll!" Sherman bounced back and yelled, "I don't have to stand here and defend my commission for a goddam thing!" Several delegates gasped, and one said, "No bad language, please." That ended the battle between Bohn and Sherman, and the delegates started to knock Clay and Liston around. "I haven't seen Liston on any Wheaties boxes, or Mr. Clay either," said Art Lurie of Las Vegas. "I know when I was a kid I could look at a cereal box and see my heroes." Bohn came to the fore again when he spotted a TV reporter with a tape recorder. "I'll take that tape or I'll punch you right in the nose!" he shouted, marching up to the front of the room. The reporter gave him the tape, and Bohn went back to his seat. J.Y. Jordan of Asheville, N.C. denounced Cherry. "He winds up offering us a bribe," Jordan drawled, referring to the percentage Cherry had mentioned. Jordan said that before coming to the convention he had had a long talk with Brooks Denby, the fine colored gentleman in charge of the locker room at his country club, and Brooks Denby had told him that " Liston was a disgrace to his race." Jordan was so struck by this statement he had gone back to Brooks Denby to get permission to quote him, and Brooks Denby had given that permission.
Two ex-fighters, Bobby Dykes of the Miami commission and Chuck Davey of the Michigan commission, argued for recognition of the fight. "It's a natural," Davey said. Other delegates disagreed. Dr. A.J. Wagner, a dentist who is on the Ohio Athletic Commission, said angrily that too many speakers had wandered off the point. "Let's discuss boxing," he said, and with that he began, "I'm a member of the Boy Scouts of America," which prompted another delegate to jump up and say that Dr. Wagner was supposed to discuss boxing. Dr. Wagner did. He said the Liston-Clay fight "stinks"—he did not make clear whether he meant the last one or the next one—and added, "Let's put Liston back where he belongs, in the gutter." He said that Clay should be condemned for joining the Muslims, and he concluded with, "Let's teach our kids how to be as crooked as these guys are," whatever that meant.
Robert Summitt, chairman of the Tennessee commission and a Democratic candidate for Congress, said, "I move that the World Boxing Association disapprove of the rematch of the fight, Liston vs. Clay." "I second that motion," said Jordan. Other delegates denounced the rematch. Bohn spoke for the last time. He said, " Liston was Santy Claus on the front page of Esquire."
Finally, Lassman announced the time had come for a vote. He got everyone thoroughly confused by saying that if a delegate voted yes he meant no on the fight, and if he voted no he meant yes. Lassman tried to straighten this out, but some in the room still appeared bewildered when he was through. The vote was taken, and 27 of the 29 city, state and foreign commissions present voted disapproval of the rematch. The two holdouts were Michigan and Kentucky, but they agreed to make the decision unanimous.
On the final day of the convention the delegates voted to strip Clay of the title the moment the site and date of the rematch are announced. Delegates talked about Clay's fighting Doug Jones, the WBA's No. 1 contender (or at least Jones was until he lost to an unranked last-minute substitute a few weeks back, a fact that some delegates were not aware of) or Eddie Machen (again, one commissioner did not know that Machen had lost to Patterson in Sweden). A decision was made to hold an elimination tournament to find a new heavyweight champion without discussion of who besides the WBA would accept Jones or Machen or Floyd Patterson as the real champ as long as Clay and Liston are around.
The WBA had an opportunity to do boxing a service. For one thing, it could—and should—have fined Inter-Continental for violating the rematch rule and, even though the WBA's rules have never been upheld in court, Inter-Continental probably would have been glad to pay. For another, the WBA could—and should—have looked into the stock ownership of Inter-Continental and the possibility of continued gangster control of the ex-champion. Sam Margolis, Blinky Palermo's old friend, certainly still owns shares. Finally, Liston is said to have transferred his stock to one C.J. Murphy of Denver, but no one in Norfolk knew who C.J. Murphy was. But instead of acting on these legitimate issues the WBA chose to solve the rematch question by eliminating the match and the fighters as well.
There are 13 states that do not belong to the WBA, and Cherry and Conrad now promise that the fight will take place in one of them in mid-November. "We'll have the fight," Conrad says. "Any organization naive enough to sit down and seriously pick the heavyweight wrestling champion of the world is certainly not qualified to decide the issue of the world's heavyweight boxing title. The situation is ridiculous."
The chances are the situation will become more ridiculous. Before adjourning, the WBA elected a new president, Merv McKenzie of the Ontario Athletics Commission. McKenzie is best known in boxing circles as the commissioner who forgot to license anyone—fighters, seconds, managers, promoter—for the Patterson-McNeely title fight in Toronto. Meanwhile, ex-President Lassman is off on a new junket to spread the word of the WBA's moral stand. "There is a World Boxing Council meeting in Venice, Italy September 14 through 17," he said. "I am attending. They are offering hospitality for four days, including hotel, food, sightseeing and transportation."