There are 18 countries besides the U.S. in the world of the WBA. Among the foreign authorities are the Philippine Islands' Games and Amusements Board, the Thailand Boxing Commission, Germany's Bund Deutscher Berufsboxer, the Japan Boxing Commission and a number of Latin American commissions. England is not a member, nor are Italy or France (although it was happily reported during the Reno convention that Guam had signed up).
To define the WBA properly, it is necessary to define athletic commissions and their commissioners. In general, such commissions have the power—as granted by a legislative or executive act—to approve or prohibit public sporting events through their authority to grant licenses to promoters, managers or professional athletes. The commissions also see to it that a nice healthy tax bite is taken from every promotion. That includes some boxing, of course, but not much. Nearly all U.S. members of the World Boxing Association find that their biggest draw in both crowds and cash comes from professional wrestling, a "sport" they view with wide tolerance and warm affection.
As a rule, commissioners get their jobs through old-fashioned political appointments. Some are paid several thousand dollars a year; some don't even get their expenses paid to the WBA convention. Athletic commissioners are an unusual, possibly even unique, breed of public official since they tend to combine the punch-loving tenacity of a ringside hanger-on with the pragmatic opportunism of a ward-heeling politician. Of course, not all commissioners fall so easily into such a stereotype.
The chairman of Pennsylvania's commission is an urbane Philadelphia Main Liner named Franklin B. Wildman Jr. He was appointed in 1963 by Republican Governor William Scranton, although Wildman affably admits: "The only boxing I ever saw was on television." And there is Edgar L. Lane, a Church Hill, Md. funeral director. He was made a Maryland commissioner by former Democratic Governor J. Millard Tawes, and when someone asks Lane what he is doing on a boxing board, he says candidly: "I have known Tawes for 25 years. I have done a lot of favors for him."
There are some old fighters in the WBA, too. Michigan's Chuck Davey, 41, a welterweight contender now turned insurance man, was chosen by Republican Governor George Romney a few years ago to replace a commissioner who resigned after he was caught using commission personnel to hang Goldwater posters. Nevada's Jackie Fields, now 59 and a hotel executive, was a former welterweight champion, and Wisconsin's Joey Sangor, 64 and a druggist, was a nearly great featherweight in the '20s.
But the WBA is diverse and within its bailiwick there are commissioners who are former football stars, newspapermen, liquor store owners, delicatessen proprietors, lawyers, real estate men, physicians, grocers—even a retired sign painter, a magician, the executive director of a synagogue and a lieutenant general in the Thailand police. It is a little like the Rotary Club with scar tissue.
The WBA president is a bouncy, Boost-Don't-Knock banker from Louisville named M. R. Evans ("Just ask anyone in Kentucky for Bob Evans and they'll know you mean me"). During the Reno convention, he was re-elected to a second one-year term, defeating a slate of officers presented by Latin American delegates. Short, paunchy and given to wearing bow ties and spouting cusswords, Bob Evans, 67, is right proud of being a "joiner," and he likes to say, "Ol" buddy, you name the club and, by God, I belong to it." He has chaired the Kentucky Boxing Commission for eight years and is also National Commanding General of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, as well as Democratic campaign treasurer for his state.
After he won the WBA presidency again in August, Evans stood at the head-table microphone and beamed at the hundred or so delegates sitting in the Garden Room of the not-quite-seedy Riverside Hotel. He removed his cigar and said with quite a bit of emotion: "I hope and I pray that, with God's help and yours, I can do the same good job I did last year. I think we have now put this outfit on a businesslike basis."
As a business, the World Boxing Association hardly ranks with U.S. Steel. Or even with one U.S. Steel worker. All last year, the total intake from dues (between $50 and $150 a year) was $4,647.50, just slightly less than the average weekly turnover in a normally busy Reno slot machine. When Evans came into office the treasury held $757.44; after a businesslike year the balance was up to a healthy $3,394.97.
The WBA has no national headquarters and not one paid employee, and its records are more or less filed in the vest pockets of a few officers. Its annual expenses go mostly for phone calls, various printings (a bulletin comes out spasmodically, and the ratings come out monthly) and postage. Evans protests, "It costs a buck-sixty every time I write a letter to the Orient out there." The WBA constitution says that the organization "shall provide championship belts or other suitable emblems" to its various titleholders, but it does not. "Hell," says Evans, "all we can afford is a certificate." The WBA spent $25 on those last year.