I put this down on the raised-eye-brow page of my little black suspicion book. Was it an omen? Was Gavilan so confident of winning that he disdained the usual return-match clause? Or was he getting ready to abandon the welterweight class? The Pennsylvania commission explained that it did not permit a return-match guarantee in a title fight. But after the what-shall-we-call-it, when Gavilan flew into a dressing-room rage and cried robbery, Lopez insisted that there had been a return-match guarantee after all. A secret agreement between him and Blinky. Seems as if there were as many secret agreements surrounding this fight as there were around the Treaty of Versailles. But Commissioner Christenberry cracked his whip for Basilio, somewhat belatedly, and said Saxton would have to meet the free-swinging Syracuse No. 1 boy within 90 days if he wanted to be recognized as champion in New York.
Was Gavilan really jobbed out of his title, as he so tearfully claimed, and was it a Carbo-Palermo double play? Paul John (Frankie) Carbo (not unacquainted with murder and commonly described as the undercover owner of Gavilan and dozens of other high-ranking fighters) had worked with Blinky before. They have been pointed out as the background figures the night Blinky's Billy Fox "knocked out" Jake La Motta, said to carry the Carbo colors in the grand stakes. Christenberry, in a survey of boxing that will bear rereading, described Blinky as "next to Carbo the most notorious character in the combine." Why did Carbo and Palermo have dinner together at Dempsey's restaurant a few nights before the Gavilan-Saxton? And what was Paul John, alias Frankie, celebrating in a Philadelphia hotel after the Gavilan-Saxton?
KNIGHT IN TARNISHED ARMOR
These were some of the inevitable, unanswered questions as the song was ended but the aroma lingered on.
The fight itself was not fixed, in the opinion of this trusting soul. I can't get into the tail-chaser about who won which rounds because after the second I started scoring it with an N for nothin' happened. Saxton is a nothing-happen fighter who has perpetrated this sort of thing throughout his curious career. Two of his Garden fights were thrown out as no contests, although the Minelli mess somehow went into the record books as a KO for Saxton. Like this most recent fight, and the kazatzky before it with Johnny Bratton, the only beating was the one inflicted on the spectators.
Gavilan was an aging 28, weakened from weight making, rusty from a six-month layoff, rarely using his injured right hand and frustrated by a well conditioned and accomplished spoiler. The Cuban was no longer the flashy Keed who fought in theatrical but effective spurts, incredibly hard to hurt and almost always good to watch. In recent years the spurts were shorter, the coasting periods longer. Came a night when the good fighter couldn't fight, especially in there with a stiff who wouldn't fight. Kid couldn't; Johnny wouldn't?that's the story if you only had money enough for a four-word telegram. The fix didn't have to be in. The fates have put the fix in, helped along by the wiles of Mr. Blinky and the Gavilan piecemen when they conspired to match a no-longer-boring-in Kid with an always-boring Saxton.
If Pantaleo had been a real referee instead of what he was, he would have bounced them both out of the ring after eight rounds and advised the abused paying customers to ask for their money back. Gavilan didn't earn his 40Gs and Saxton didn't earn his championship of the world. If it had to be judged as a fight I would have called it for Gavilan because 1) you can have more fun in Havana than you can in Philadelphia and 2) Gavilan has been pretty great and deserves better than to blow his title in a home-town sleight-of-hand and 3) the Kid came on to win the last round in something like his old style, shaking Saxton up and providing the only real action in the fight. All the rest of the action was handled by the books, who were swamped with Saxton money throughout the day.
SCHULBERG DECLARES TITLE VACANT
I don't know about the other ruling bodies but the Schulberg Boxing Commission, which headquarters in New Hope, Pa. but has no working agreement with Frank Wiener, refuses to recognize Saxton as champion. It saw with its own eyes such welterweight worthies as Jackie Fields, Young Jack Thompson, Young Corbett III, Jimmy McLarnin, Barney Ross, Henry Armstrong, Fritzie Zivic, Ray Robinson?yes, and Kid Gavilan. In deference to these real champions, we declare the title vacant.
The Gavilan-Saxton turkey trot deserves a thorough airing. In fact, it may be time to ask again, as responsible sportswriters have been asking so long, whether boxing is going to be a legitimate sport or a dirty business? Jim Norris, the personable president of the IBC, as an honorable man and a true fight fan should welcome an investigation of the dark underside of boxing. It can destroy the sport as the Black Sox conspiracy might have ruined baseball if an effective commission had not been set up to protect our pastime from its inside jobbers. To say this is not to attack boxing but to attack the boxing racket.