Owen's hardest task is to sell this safety concept to those who equate college boxing with the professional sport or dueling at Old Heidelberg. It's almost as hard, though, to persuade some people that college boxing, with 12-ounce gloves and protective headgear, is worth watching.
Well, Coach Owen believes it makes a better show than some recent TV bouts, and to back this up he notes that no pro card at Baton Rouge has drawn more than 500 fans in many a year, whereas L.S.U. averages better than 9,000 customers a home match. There is little of gore and bruises in college boxing, but Owen holds that few in a TV audience want gore, preferring action to the precautionary clinching which is tolerated in so much professional boxing.
He is cooking up a little scheme to interest the TV networks in his revival movement. If he succeeds, college boxing may come back with a rush.
The law and the profits
While the New York State Athletic Commission was wondering aloud last week whether it should hold just a hearing or, more sternly, an actual inquiry into the hoodlums' monopoly of professional boxing, the Supreme Court of the United States was being asked to let the Department of Justice take up the troubled question of whether the International Boxing Club of New York, Inc., et al., is a violator of the antitrust laws.
The Department of Justice contends that boxing, though a sport, is rightly subject to antitrust regulation. The IBC, according to the government, has sewed up the top boxers and the principal arenas where championship fights can be presented. It has promoted or participated in the promotion of all but two of the 21 championship bouts held in the United States since June 1949, when it took over the sports empire once ruled by Mike Jacobs.
Back in 1922 the Supreme Court ruled that baseball is a sport and not a business covered by the antitrust laws, a decision in which the IBC concurs heartily and which it would like to see applied to boxing. There is, apparently, only the dimmest possibility that the Supreme Court, if it rules against the IBC, would feel required to reverse its old decision on baseball because, it is pointed out, baseball grew up on the assurance that it was not subject to the Sherman Act. It developed its farm system on that assurance and a reversal would mean that baseball as we know it, if not civilization, would perish.
Only last year the Supreme Court upheld its 1922 decision in a suit brought by George Earl Toolson, a pitcher, against the New York Yankees. Toolson contended that the monopolistic magnates had deprived him of a happy, productive life in baseball by putting him on the ineligible list when he refused to report to Binghamton. Had Toolson won, baseball's reserve clause, which makes a ballplayer the slave of the club that owns him, would have gone out the window, rich clubs would have been able to buy all the good players and if you think the Athletics were lousy last year....
Well anyhow, Toolson lost. But the issue was raised again last week as the government argued that, baseball to one side, boxing was indeed an interstate business subject to the antitrust laws. There was no television in 1922, the government pointed out, and television is a mainstay of today's big-time boxing. A combination of TV and IBC, the government feels, has put boxing definitely into interstate commerce.
The IBC is a nice word for James D. Norris, who together with his associate, Arthur M. Wirtz, and Madison Square Garden Corporation owns 80% of IBC and is its president. Norris' presence in the situation, and stress laid by the government on TV, creates possible implications for hockey. Hockey is widely televised and Norris is a big man in that sport, too. He is chairman of the board of the Chicago Black Hawks. His sister, Marguerite, is president of the Detroit Red Wings. The Garden, in which the Norris family holds much stock, operates the New York Rangers.