The I.B.C., now openly hostile to Christenberry, hit back at the crusader where it hurt him most?in the New York State treasury. Promoter Norris announced that he was going to stage most of his important fights out of town. The I.B.C. now had its attacker on the defense, having maneuvered him into the embarrassing position, for a hotel man, of seeming to have driven boxing itself, and the tourist business it attracts, out of New York.
A glad-hander by instinct, Commissioner Christenberry suddenly lost his zeal for gangster-hunting. His public statements began to take on a more moderate tone. After he had been in office for a year, he said: "I've learned this: that everybody connected with boxing is not necessarily a rascal.... I am willing to admit there are many exaggerated ideas about the evil in boxing. They existed not only in my mind but in many others. But when I came into this, I found the field flooded with misconceptions and loose charges. We started tracing them down and found out they didn't add up."
ERCOLE AND CARBO
Shortly after this, the New York State Crime Commission turned its attention to the boxing racket and made public some transcripts of conversations its agents had overheard on tapped wires, which would have started Commissioner Christenberry worrying if by this time he hadn't adopted the policies of the three monkeys. A boxing manager named Anniello Ercole (known in the trade as " Mr. T") fell back on the Fifth Amendment when asked if Frankie Carbo called him his cousin and if Carbo had been instrumental in getting his fighter, Pat Marcune, bouts in Madison Square Garden, as the tapped-wire transcripts indicated. Ercole held a boxing license although he had a record of six arrests and had served time on Blackwell's Island for attempted grand larceny. Mr. Christenberry promptly suspended the license without explaining how the compulsory fingerprint law had failed to trap Ercole at license renewal time. At the same Crime Commission hearing, Carbo himself was called. After admitting his identity, he stared at the wall for 15 solid minutes, refusing to answer a single question.
However, to show his fearlessness and perk up his publicity, Commissioner Christenberry made a bold move at Madison Square Garden on the night of December 19, 1952. After a close fight between Billy Graham and Joey Giardello had been decided in Giardello's favor by a 2-1 vote of the judges, Mr. Christenberry, influenced by the angry reaction of the crowd, ordered the announcer to inform the fans that the decision was not official and would be reviewed by the commission. The chairman and Commissioner Clilan B. Powell adjourned to an anteroom, where Bob changed Judge Joe Agnello's card without his consent or even knowledge, so that instead of giving the fight to Giardello 6-4 the doctored score called the rounds even and gave Graham the edge on points.
The uproar that now went up made the first demonstration seem like hearty approval. The bettors who had backed Giardello and hadn't collected their winnings almost raised the Garden roof, and the bookies who had paid off on Joey and now were called upon to settle also with Graham's backers screamed like martyrs being flayed. The first reaction to Christenberry's unprecedented move was overwhelmingly in his favor, because television fans, many of them not too familiar with boxing's basic law that a decision handed down by officials appointed to judge a fight is irrevocable, thought it was about time someone had the courage to take such action.
Almost without exception, however, boxing writers, while agreeing that the original verdict appeared to be on the sour side, thought Christenberry's remedy was worse, since it broke one of boxing's commandments. This view was confirmed two months later in an 11-page opinion handed down by Justice Bernard Botein of the New York State Supreme Court. The opinion stated in essence that boxing commissioners are not appointed on their ex-pertness in judging prize fights but for their administrative capacity, whereas referees and judges are designated by the commission on the basis of their skill, experience and integrity, and that no facts had been furnished to indicate why the commission chose to override the decision of its acknowledged experts.
In boxing today, more than ever before, the important consideration is that the show must go on?the television show, that is. It is probably closer to the truth to say that the promoter, always with the best undercover advice, decides who is going to fight whom, and the commission?in New York and even more so in any other state?is little more than a collection of rubber stamps.
Commissioner Christenberry is the fanciest rubber stamp of the lot, however. Since being convinced by his own press agent's flowery praise that he has cleaned up boxing, Mr. Christenberry has employed various diversionary tactics to discourage suggestions that the mobsters are now more strongly entrenched than ever. One of Bob's biggest triumphs in this respect was the entente cordiale he brought about between the New York Commission and the congress of windbags known as the National Boxing Association. Down through the years, the New York Commission had treated this group with the contempt it deserved, as its territory had always been a haven for boxers and managers suspended for breaking the rules by the New York Commission. But Commissioner Christenberry saw the opportunity to pull a stroke of diplomacy by bringing the two bodies together.