Carl (Bobo) Olson, whose increasing durability as world's middleweight champion was demonstrated last week when he whipped the rugged French challenger, Pierre Langlois, is a laconic young man who wears his crown with the confident air of the successful street fighter. Bobo was one, and his experience as a bare-knuckle alley battler serves him well today in a business where the struggle for survival is sometimes decided not by the fittest fists but by the fastest bucks. In a racket-ridden climate and with the public taking an ever dimmer view of sad TV ring spectacles, Olson remains one of the few who provides satisfactory entertainment with his spluttering fists.
Bobo and his equally unloquacious manager, Sid Flaherty, can play it straight and tough because they occupy a unique position as independent operators. Recently chosen Fighter of the Year by the New York boxing writers, Olson is but one of a score of Flaherty fighters. Two others, Maurice Harper, a welterweight, and Eddie Chavez, a lightweight, are top contenders. The Flaherty stable, by far the biggest in the country, is also bountiful enough to write its own ticket?to a degree.
THE DEVIL HIMSELF
The degree, it seems, has a great big dollar sign in front of it. "We're fighting for only one thing?money," Flaherty says candidly. "Bobo's days of apprenticeship are over." And Bobo echoes: "If the devil himself wants to fight, and they'll pay enough, Sid and me will fight him."
A fortnight ago this remark, made somewhat earlier, gained a special pertinence. Despite Flaherty's fancy-free role as a big West Coast operator with enough boxers at all weights to provide top billing on several nationwide cards at once, he signed a three-year contract with James D. Norris Jr., president of the International Boxing Club (SI, Dec. 13), by which Norris will promote bouts for Flaherty in the Midwest and East.
As Flaherty explained it: "It's all give and take in this business, and in my book Jim Norris is an honorable man. I've signed this because it's good for both of us and in spite of any differences Jim and I have had in the past. Jim's friends are his personal business. That's got nothing to do with it. I've got a big stable and I need good relations with Jim Norris. This contract represents the International Boxing Club's recognition that California is virgin territory and that I can do Norris some good by arranging fights out here just as he can help me in the East. It's as simple as that. Jim Norris remains a top man with me."
Whether or not Flaherty will be able to use a long enough spoon when he sups with Norris and such friends of his as Frankie Carbo remains to be seen. Until now the Flaherty-Olson combination has seldom been beholden to anyone. As a businessman-boxer team, they have parlayed crowd-pleasing fights into a proper fortune.
Flaherty and Olson, to both of whom boxing has been strictly business from the start, are a truly scientific combination. Watching Bobo fight, with Sid in his corner, is not unlike observing a busy football coach and an even busier quarterback on the busiest Saturday afternoon. While Bobo flails away, tactically on his own as a boxer has to be, big, burly Flaherty, 6-feet 3-inches of lumbering authority, constantly flashes hand signals to him.
Olson's natural ring savvy is enhanced by what Flaherty calls the readiest "eye" in the business; a magnificent ability to see an opponent's thrust coming, defend himself against it, and then lash away inside. Strategically, however, Flaherty remains in charge, mapping the battle round by round.
Perhaps the best example of the kind of fight Olson and Flaherty put on was Bobo's victory last April over Kid Gavilan, then world's welterweight champion. Gavilan was trying to step up a notch and take Bobo's crown away. A seasoned, tricky and polished fighter in his own right, the Kid was outsmarted by a combination of Flaherty's corner cues and Bobo's close counterpunching. As Bobo himself explains it when he thinks he has fought well: "My legs and my arms, they work perfectly together tonight."