It is Promoter Aileen Eaton and her matchmaker Mickey Davies on the West Coast and the Brenner-Markson team in the East who have, more than anyone, kept boxing alive in recent years. The sport languishes almost everywhere else, with shows held occasionally, if at all, and the lack of action has a demoralizing effect on some fight people, Teddy Brenner among them. It is a rather hollow distinction to be a major league operator if there are no minor leagues, and Brenner sometimes likes to give the impression that the daily crises he endures in the course of his work are no longer worth the bother.
On the wall of his office is a framed newspaper clipping that he points to as an example both of the kinds of challenges he faces and of the kinds of responses he is routinely capable of making. It recounts the time that Doug Jones threatened to pull out of his scheduled 1963 fight in the Garden with Cassius Clay unless Brenner came up with some additional free tickets for him.
"Let me tell you something, Doug, my boy," Brenner told the fighter. "If you don't show up, Clay can shadowbox three rounds, recite poetry for 10 minutes and everybody will have a ball and go home happy. But if Clay doesn't show up, we can announce that you're going to fight a live gorilla and we'll have a riot from people demanding their money back."
His face a mask of weary forbearance, Brenner complains: "You get tired after a while of the way people are in this business. For example, they're always calling you up at 4 in the morning at home. Does a ballplayer bother his manager at 4 in the morning and say, 'Why did you send in a pinch hitter for me today?' But these guys call me up and say, 'Who do I have to see and who do I have to know?' Well, they have to see me, and they have to know me, but let me tell you something. They can see me at my office in the morning."
If they had stopped by one particular morning not long ago they would have found the matchmaker, his back to the door, hunched forward in front of an illuminated fish tank that occupies a corner of his office. "That's a smart fish, that blue one," he said over his shoulder. "Eats all the other fish, then hides behind the rocks when I get near." In one hand was a small net, which Brenner held along his side, as if to keep the fish from seeing it.
Sometimes in boxing's murky waters it requires no less stealth to make a match, and the matchmaker of Madison Square had better keep that net handy. "In matchmaking," Teddy Brenner says as he builds toward what, for a successful businessman, must amount to a painful confession, an expurgation even, "the art is to suggest a match and then show the fighter how he can win. If he loses, you can always say he didn't listen." And doesn't one fighter always lose? "Let's face it," Brenner shrugs, "it's a bit of a con."