SI Vault
Jerry Kirshenbaum
July 21, 1969
A man of many moods and many faces, crafty Teddy Brenner mixes men, managers and money to make the big Garden matches
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
July 21, 1969

Boxing's Great White Hoopla

A man of many moods and many faces, crafty Teddy Brenner mixes men, managers and money to make the big Garden matches

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

The role of prosecutor happens to suit Brenner far better than that of defendant. When he sets his heart on a particular match he can be a dogged and insistent adversary, wheedling, sulking and threatening until the managers finally relent. Like a poker player bragging about an artful bluff, Brenner was unable to resist telling a newspaperman about the time he approached a manager whose fighter was accustomed to receiving $4,000 a bout. Brenner offered him one for $5,500—correctly anticipating that the manager would routinely ask for time to think it over. When the manager called back later that afternoon to accept, Brenner pretended that he had already found somebody else for the fight he originally had in mind. "But I do have another fight for you," the matchmaker quickly added. "It's only $2,500 if you want to take it." The manager, his previous indecision having taught him a lesson, took it.

It sometimes can be an asset in business to be unpredictable, just to keep the other fellow off balance, and Brenner gives the people he deals with vertigo. "Teddy can be all dripping with honey one minute," says a longtime associate, "and be cold as a latke the next." A couple of days before the Garden's recent Emile Griffith-Kitten Hayward fight, Maxie Shapiro, a pretty fair lightweight three decades ago, stopped by the matchmaker's office for tickets. Sitting down, Shapiro reminisced about the time he was matched with a young opponent everybody described as "inexperienced." It was Sugar Ray Robinson, and he finished off Shapiro in the third round.

Shapiro, now white-haired and 55, chuckled to himself. "I'll tell you why he was inexperienced," he said. "Up to that time he'd knocked everybody out in the first round." Brenner laughed heartily and paced the room, talking animatedly with the former fighter. Pausing by his desk, he suddenly began thumbing through a newspaper distractedly. Then he sat down and doodled on a note pad, rectangles and circles alike. He was utterly lost from the conversation, and Shapiro, at length, got up and left.

If Brenner sometimes seems like a caged cat, it is partly because his office, like those of other Garden boxing personnel, is cramped and windowless. But the simile is apt for another reason: he looks like a lord of the jungle, a solid 6-footer with a penchant for neat color combinations, right down to the pinkie rings he wears, a star ruby one for blue-gray outfits and a gold one, in the shape of a boxing glove with a small diamond in the center, to accompany yellows and browns. When he wears blues even his hair, graying, thinning but with uncanny blue highlights, seems to go with the ensemble.

Arriving at his office one Monday morning, Brenner confided: "I gave away 27 suits over the weekend. I just got tired of them." He soon left, not to return until midafternoon. "Look at these," he said, holding up a strip of assorted fabric swatches, blues and golds, plaids and checks. "I just bought 10 suits." If that left him 17 suits short, he still manages to appear presentable when he goes out in public.

In addition to his matchmaker's role Brenner was recently named vice-president of Madison Square Garden Boxing, Inc., the Garden's wholly owned boxing subsidiary. The new designation came after he approached the Garden's bosses for a $10,000 raise. Instead, Brenner reports, they gave him a $5,000 raise and made him vice-president. At the same time Harry Markson, previously director of the boxing operation, was named president.

Markson comes across as Brenner's precise opposite, a small, sallow man, mild-mannered and slightly rumpled. " Mr. Markson and Mr. Brenner are like night and day, believe me," volunteers Mary, the office switchboard operator. Yet the two men work well together. Markson has ultimate responsibility for the Garden's boxing shows and has to answer to management for profits and losses. He gives Brenner an important voice in areas of general policy and pretty much of a free hand in selecting the fighters and negotiating with them. The elder of the two, as well as the man who hired Brenner, Markson sounds like the permissive father of a gifted son. "Teddy knows boxing," he says. "He's a fine judge of talent and what we should pay for it."

Brenner's $5,000 raise puts his salary somewhere "above $25,000," which may impress Internal Revenue but is hardly a great deal of money for a man given to buying 10 suits at a crack. Some boxing people would have you believe that a man with Brenner's appetites, especially one with a discerning eye for athletic ability, could reap a small fortune placing side bets. "Teddy bets on football and basketball," Markson snitches, "but never on the fights." Ask the matchmaker himself, and there is that wave of the hand and another warning about not believing everything you hear. "When they talk about somebody making a $10,000 bet it's probably really $100 or even $10," he says enigmatically.

Not that Brenner is exactly shy about going into speculative ventures. During his 52 years—or 50, or 49, depending on who wants to know—he has been in business for himself on a number of occasions, both within boxing and outside. And some mornings he has been known to glance at the stock quotations even before turning to the sports page. There are obviously plenty of opportunities for a man to enrich himself. Besides, Brenner buys his suits wholesale.

From his comfortable three-bedroom brick home in Brooklyn, it took Teddy Brenner five minutes to drive one Saturday morning to the Coney Island boardwalk, where he was going out jogging. Having recently quit smoking at the urging of his wife, Judy (the Brenners have two married children, Richard, 26, a resident doctor at Stanford, and Marsha, 22, a French instructor at Berkeley), he loped along the boardwalk at a nice steady pace that would have been unthinkable a few months before. His 1968 Olds Cutlass was parked back at West 4th Street, and Brenner moved over the weathered planks, past the fishermen on Steeplechase Pier and out toward the Half Moon Hotel, where, in 1941, Abe Reles, the Murder, Inc. witness, either fell, jumped or was pushed to his death.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5