He was a heavyweight fighter of rare, seemingly fantastic, talents. Even his name had certain stature: Sol (Bagel Boy) Nazerman. He began his bizarre career in small towns that had never dotted a map, little places like Mingo Junction, Ohio, and Pumpkintown, S.C., and nobody stood up to him for long. Certainly not Sweet Papa Finney, who fell in one round at Greenup, Ky.; not Wild Man Asher, Bagel Boy's 20th consecutive knockout victim, who was done in 13 weeks and 15 fights later. In fact. Wild Man Asher's own manager, Sam (The Knife) Rubin, admitted, "Nazerman is the hardest puncher I have seen in 30 years of boxing."
Bagel Boy was 26 at the time, and a sketch in Detroit's tabloid American Boxing News showed him to be strikingly handsome, with thick dark hair, sideburns and a pencil mustache, posed with a Star of David on his boxing trunks. Some promoters were intrigued: a handsome, talented, white Jewish heavyweight? Even more—controversy trailed Bagel Boy. On March 10, 1972 he knocked out Battling Young in one round at Irondequoit, N.Y., and the American Boxing News, whose editor, Elliott Harvith, had discovered Nazerman and given him his nickname, published an account of the bout. That part seemed particularly fitting since the News—and only the News—had followed all Bagel Boy's fights from the start. But then the New York State Athletic Commission took exception.
Commissioner Edwin Dooley wrote Editor Harvith that Nazerman had never applied for a New York State license, and he hinted that this may have been the reason there was no record of the fight. Soon others began to ask: "Who has Nazerman fought, anyway?" Harvith, whose growing success in publishing was not exactly unrelated to the rise of Bagel Boy, was concerned.
On the night of May 18, 1972 Bagel Boy knocked out seven men in seven rounds, bringing his total up to 40. There were four more quick knockouts in the weeks following, and then came the dreadful night of June 29, 1972. The world took no notice of Bagel Boy's activities that evening, but Harvith described them fully in his August issue. A front-page headline read: BAGEL BOY DEAD. The name of his last opponent—a Mack truck—somehow sounded like all the others. Nazerman had been driving his Volkswagen when the collision occurred, the story said. Harvith wrote: "Truly a waste and a sad end to the man who could whip any man in the world and was an easy cinch to defeat Joe Frazier in a few months for the world's title." He concluded: "As an everlasting tribute, a giant bagel with the number 44 inscribed on it will be placed on Sol's grave."
It is a giant bagel that no one will ever see.
The lead story in that August issue of American Boxing News was an obituary on Nat Fleischer, publisher-editor of The Ring magazine who had died at the age of 84, and Harvith wrote of him, "...no one ever served the game more honorably or gave as much to the game as he did...." The rest of the first page, two more stories, dealt with what Harvith calls "garbetch," his favorite word, or in this case a category of it: "stiffs."
One of the stories spoke of "five setups" on an East Coast fight card, boxers who left the ring with a combined record of 2-44-5, and of them Harvith wrote, "The promoter should have had at least the curtiousy [sic] to supply the auditorium with roughly 2,743 cans of Ban."
For the News that was pure Emily Post; it was a surprisingly tame issue. An obituary for a man who died had actually taken precedence over one for a man who had never lived. This came about despite a firm Harvith rule: "To make the top of the front page it's gotta be so rude, obnoxious and disgusting that even I can't stand it."
There were none of the usual News editorial asides about itself, such as, "ABN...is excellent for wrapping fish, lining bird cages, and training puppies, and is on sale wherever garbage is sold." There were no typical fan letters: "Cancel my subscription. Your paper stinks." The boxing commissioner of one large Midwestern state was not called "a drunken red-nosed lush," or "a comical buffoon," as he is in most issues. A well-known promoter, famous for his mismatches, was not called his usual "Mr. Garbage," and a publicity man for once was not referred to as "a fight-fixer, an ex-con, a writer disrespected by even his peers, a homosexual, a complete phony, a liar and a crook."
Elliott Harvith's stories are not the sort excerpted in journalism textbooks. In his pages Detroit fighters are "localities," aggressive fighters are always "crowd pleasing." Misspellings are the rule. Commas and periods are strewn about the News pages as if the typesetter had spilled them. Most of the cartoon drawings are "stolen," as Harvith puts it, from Mad magazine. And the News business cards read ALL THE GARBAGE THAT'S FIT TO PRINT.