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George Barton, then the newly installed president of the N.B.A., would have been a good man for Christenberry to sit down and have a talk with if he had wanted to find out the real score. Barton, ruggedly honest sports columnist of the Minneapolis Tribune, boxed as a professional in his youth, has been a referee and had served 10 years as chairman of the Minnesota Athletic Commission before taking over the presidency of the N.B.A. He threw up his hands in disgust at the meeting of his executive board in Detroit last May when his efforts to invoke federal aid in driving the criminal element out of boxing were blocked.
PAGING THE FBI
Wearied by the futility of his efforts, Barton said: "I am convinced that I am a chump for making an honest effort to bring about needed boxing reforms. Because of powerful groups like the I.B.C. and the I.B.M.G. controlling boxing, I have about the same chance of putting over my federal control program as I would trying to lick Dempsey, Louis and Marciano in a battle royal. The only man capable of eliminating racketeers from boxing...is J. Edgar Hoover." It is interesting to note that Mr. Barton told the N.B.A. executive committee that his four-point program for federal control of boxing had the approval of Commissioner Christenberry.
Christenberry has been playing footsie with the I.B.C., his original target, ever since Norris lifted his big-bout boycott on New York. After three world's championship bouts had been arranged for Battling Bob's jurisdiction? Rocky Marciano vs. Roland La Starza for the heavyweight title and Bobo Olson vs. Randy Turpin for middleweight honors in New York City, and Kid Gavilan vs. Carmen Basilio for the welterweight crown in Syracuse?business boomed for the State treasury again. Christenberry was seen often in the company of Harry Markson, director of boxing at Madison Square Garden, on whose advice he had come to depend greatly in difficult situations. On at least one occasion he allowed Markson to make changes in a statement he was about to give to the press.
However, Christenberry's most abject surrender was to the International Boxing Guild, often termed a house union of the I.B.C. When the I.B.C. was having trouble with the New York Managers' Guild over the split-up of television royalties two years ago, due to the power wielded by the small-time managers, it was decided to form a new group controlled by managers more amenable to I.B.C.'s interests. By means of the blacklist and agents provocateurs, the old Guild was wrecked in a few months, and the International Boxing Guild emerged. Charley Johnston, Jack Kearns, Bill Daly and Hymie Wallman are among the group of a dozen managers, some of them front men for Frankie Carbo and other behind-the-scenes pilots-without-port-folio, who run the I.B.G. as a faithful handmaiden for the I.B.C. These managers have a virtual monopoly on television shots for their fighters, and there's never any friction between the Guild and Norris. At its annual dinner last March, the I.B.G. called Mr. Christenberry to the dais and awarded him a plaque as the commissioner who had done most for the game.
Bob's plaque lost any trace of luster it might have had recently when rebellion broke out in the I.B.G. ranks. A number of managers, frozen out of a share of the TV spoils by the small group which hogs them for its own fighters, broke away and organized the Metropolitan Boxing Alliance. This group presented charges to the commission that its boxers were being blacklisted and its promoters coerced by the Guild into not booking them.
The Alliance managers also brought their troubles to Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan, who started an investigation last week. Hogan, like the complaining managers, wants to find out what becomes of the money the Guild collects as tribute from managers whose boxers work on TV and from promoters other than the I.B.C. whose shows are televised.
The commissioner is amazingly tolerant in viewing a long string of Garden bouts with weird betting angles. When Lulu Perez scored a none-too-convincing knockout over Willie Pep in two rounds after the betting had gone from even money to 4-to-1 on Perez, the commissioner was asked what he thought of the affair.
"Youth, you know, must be served," he said sadly to the Journal-American's Caswell Adams.
SKULDUGGERY AT THE CROSSROADS