He took this suggestion to Arthur Wirtz and James D. Norris. Wirtz was a Chicago real-estate man, sportsman, and impresario best known for his promotions of the Sonja Henie ice shows. Norris was an extremely rich man whose family holdings included the Chicago Stadium, the Detroit Olympia, and the St. Louis Arena as well as a sizable interest in Madison Square Garden. The two were close friends and sometime partners, and were in a position to supply the money, the promotional experience and the physical facilities to make Mendel's idea a reality.
After some discussion between Mendel, Louis, Norris and Wirtz, it was agreed that Louis should retire as champion and promote an elimination contest among the four leading heavyweights to find his successor; to this end, the heavyweights should assign to Louis the exclusive rights to their services. Louis carried out his part of the bargain, and when the smoke cleared, Wirtz and Norris had formed the IBC and taken over the elimination contest, in return for which Louis received a cash payment of $150,000 and a share of the IBC's stock.
For men with the talent and resources of Wirtz and Norris, the rest was not difficult. The exclusive contracts with the four contenders—among whom Ezzard Charles emerged as champion—gave them effective control of the heavyweight division, the most valuable by far in both money and prestige. With the last illness of Mike Jacobs and the disintegration of the 20th Century Sporting Club, there was no real competition in other weights except that of the Tournament of Champions, Inc.
That May, IBC bought out this organization and thereby acquired exclusive rights to promote boxing at the Polo Grounds in New York, as well as contracts between Marcel Cerdan and Tony Zale for a middleweight championship fight and between Ray Robinson and Kid Gavilan for the welterweight championship. In July, IBC added the Yankee Stadium to its network, meantime extending its control over Madison Square Garden and St. Nicholas Arena.
With all the nation's principal boxing arenas in hand, IBC was in a position to demand exclusive contracts with nearly all the leading fighters in all weights. In order to be given a title fight, a boxer had to agree that if he won the title he could defend it only under IBC auspices for three (sometimes five) years; that he would defend in a return bout, if IBC wanted him to, within 90 days; and that if he lost the title before the three years were up, he would have to fight at least twice more for IBC "or its designee."
If it occurs to the reader that this sounds like monopoly, he will be in good company. In 1952 " The United States of America, plaintiff, by its attorneys acting under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States," brought action under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to force the IBC to loosen its clinch on the boxing business. The suit was dismissed, however, on the grounds that boxing, like baseball, is not in "interstate commerce" within the meaning of the law, and that whether it is or is not a monopoly is consequently no affair of the U.S. Government. The Attorney General has appealed this opinion to the Supreme Court, where a decision was due as this article went to press.
Whether the IBC turns out to be a monopoly in the legal sense, it has long since proved itself to be one in a practical sense. Of the 51 championship fights in the U.S. since June 1949, 47 have been promoted by the IBC.
Of course, semimonopolies and attempts at monopoly are an old story in boxing, and apologists for the IBC can maintain with justice that Wirtz and Norris only succeeded in doing what "Uncle Mike" Jacobs could never quite accomplish with his more limited means. One can argue, too, that a monopoly such as IBC's is not per se bad: that it could work out for the benefit of boxers, managers, and the public, as the baseball monopoly (more or less) does. The answer is that it has not worked out that way. And the reason perhaps lies in the nature of the human beings who control it.
Arthur Wirtz is a man of substance in the Chicago business world and in the pleasant North Shore suburb where he lives. He is a knowledgeable man whose potential authority in the affairs of the IBC certainly equals, if it does not exceed, that of James D. Norris. He seems content to let Norris conduct its affairs publicly. Perhaps, with all his other interests, he does not know of the corrupting influences that surround the IBC; but that is unlikely.