Witnesses of the week
Heavyweight Harry Thomas' sworn story in SI (Dec. 13) that it was Jim Norris, boxing's head man, who ordered him to throw his fights with Max Schmeling and Tony Galento produced reactions from near and far.
Reaction No. 1 came from Norris, in New York, who called the article "untrue, libelous and absurd." Then, several days later, in Chicago, he announced that he had advised his lawyers to sue for $5 million.
Arch Ward, Chicago
sports editor who broke the Thomas story in 1939, disclosed in his column how he got it: "One day we had a call from a former associate, Jimmy Crusinberry, who...for many years earlier had been a baseball reporter for the
.... He told us he had heard strong rumors that two or three professional boxing bouts involving widely known personnel had been faked.... It was Crusinberry who suggested that we contact Harry Thomas...we still don't know where Crusinberry got his tip."
In Arizona, Crusinberry spoke up to tell SI where he got his information: from Harry Thomas himself (see next page).
In Germany, Max Schmeling, apparently in some confusion as to what Thomas had said and when he said it, paid tribute to Thomas as a fighter and deplored his statement. "I had under-estimated Thomas, who was not considered a great fighter," Max told the United Press, "and I really had to fight hard to defeat him. He put up a good fight and the victory cost me lots of sweat." (Thomas' version was that he gave Schmeling a rough time of it in the early rounds until ordered to ease up.) Max denounced the Thomas story as "pure invention" and asked: "Why did it take Thomas all these years to claim that something was foul?" Thomas, of course, had made his original statement in 1939.
In his Orange, N.J. tavern Tony Galento gave thought to the matter and decided he had been insulted. "No bum like Harry Thomas had to quit for me," said Tony. In Galento's view Thomas was "the world's champion liar" and Norris "a swell guy."
The Illinois State Athletic Commission expressed the view that "any further hearings should be held in New York and Pennsylvania," where the Schmeling and Galento bouts were staged. But then Illinois' new-brooming Governor Billy Stratton, who had appointed all three members of the commission, said at a press conference that "in view of the nature of the charges the commission is warranted in looking into the matter although the events allegedly occurred more than 20 [sic] years ago." Norris ought to have an opportunity, he added, to explain the whole thing to the commission.
In an era when small fight clubs are vanishing from the U.S. scene and when boxing's name has fallen low, a chunky, 30-year-old Spokane, Wash. bachelor named Gus Cozza is working night and day to make a name for himself as a boxing promoter in his home town. He hopes to make a profit (though only in order to give the money to charity) but does not mind losing his own cash since he is impelled by an unusual though refreshing theory?that a man can enhance his own reputation as a public-spirited citizen and quite possibly his reputation as a good businessman by producing good, honest professional fights.