SI Vault
Robert Coughlan
January 17, 1955
The biographer of Jack Dempsey (SI, Jan. 10) has made a careful examination of the fight game and its current custodians. Now he reports his findings in an article that makes clear what the shouting on the preceding pages is all about
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January 17, 1955

How The Ibc Runs Boxing

The biographer of Jack Dempsey (SI, Jan. 10) has made a careful examination of the fight game and its current custodians. Now he reports his findings in an article that makes clear what the shouting on the preceding pages is all about

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A result, as SI has already disclosed, was that he "fixed" one of them, Harry Thomas, to lose two important fights. He became a boxing promoter, arranging matches in the Chicago Stadium and other arenas controlled by his father—and finally, as we have seen, became cofounder and president of the boxing monopoly. En route, he found "good company" of an equally dubious sort. As a Harlem acquaintance has put it, "That Norris—he just seems to prefer the lower clien-teel of life."

For instance, Frank Carbo.

Norris has said, "Sure, I know Frank Carbo. Everybody knows Frank Carbo. I occasionally have had a cup of coffee or a beer with Carbo."

"Mr. GRAY"

But along "Jacobs Beach," as the dreary neighborhood around Madison Square Garden is called in honor of the late Mike, the name " Frank Carbo" evokes such tangled emotions of fear, awe, and desire that the denizens of that world have a hard time even saying it. If they manage to choke it up, it is usually in a raspy half-whisper, and with a sliding and furtive movement of the eyes. To them, as they talk among themselves, he is "The Gray-haired Guy," or even "Mr. Gray" (the name, incidentally, of one of Norris' horses). They fear him as the arbiter of their fortunes, the man they must "get straight with" if they are to make a living in the boxing business; moreover, as a man who knows how to enforce his point of view. They are in awe of him because they believe in his power and in his access to the highest commercial and governmental agencies in boxing. And they are filled with a desire to make the money which Carbo, properly placated, can send their way.

Who is this man who has been called "the overlord of boxing's underworld"? What is the source of his power? What is his relationship with Norris?

Frank Carbo, alias Paul Carbo, alias Frank Tucker, known in earlier times as "Jimmy the Wop," Number B-95838 on the New York Police records and Number 187972 in the files of the FBI, was born on August 10, 1904 in New York City and while still a child gave promise of his later success as a hoodlum, bandit and killer. He was first arrested at the age of eleven and dispatched to the Juvenile Catholic Protectory, where he was recommitted at the ages of 12, 13 and 14 successively. At the age of 18 he was charged with felonious assault, and at 19 with grand larceny. At 20 he killed an unarmed taxi driver named Al Weber, and after some delay was sentenced to Sing Sing. There he spent less than a year before being paroled. The following year he was wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of Mickey Duffy, a bootlegger. In 1933 he was wanted for armed robbery and for the murders of two beer racketeers named Max Greenberg and Max Hassel. In 1941, by now as a trigger man for Murder, Inc., he was indicted and tried for the Los Angeles murder of Harry Greenberg (no relation to his earlier Greenberg), a renegade from the Lepke mob. He was let off by a hung jury and a re-trial was scheduled, but William O'Dwyer, then district attorney of Kings County, refused to let the key witness make a second trip to California.

The evidence, of course, is incomplete, since men in Carbo's type of work tend to lack candor. How and when he entered the boxing business is not certain, but by 1936 on his own admission—following one of his arrests for murder—he owned part of the middleweight champion, Babe Risko. For some years he seems to have specialized in middleweights. Freddy Steele, the next champion, got his fight with Risko in Seattle only after Carbo had been cut in on his contract, and presumably the same leverage was used to give him a share in the next succeeding champions, Al Hostak and Solly Krieger. Gradually, however, Carbo branched out, and already by the mid-1940s was known as a man of substantial and diverse holdings among boxers. It was more than a business with him: he was a boxing buff, and a very well-informed one. And so, since initiative and hard work count for something in the underworld as well as in the world of legality, it was natural that in time he should become head of boxing in the Syndicate.


Like sin itself, the Syndicate can not be defined with precision, although law enforcement agencies spend a good deal of time trying to do so. The best opinion is that it is an outgrowth of the old Mafia, no longer limited to Sicilians and organized on a less formal and more flexible basis. It evidently is a sort of U.N. of crime, composed of sovereign but closely consulting groups, each with its own sphere of influence such as narcotics, numbers or waterfront rackets. Jurisdictional disputes are handled by consultation among the leaders and—it is believed—under the impartial offices of an unofficial secretary general. (Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello supposedly are past occupants of this office; the current one may be Vito Genovese.) Each group is autonomous yet answerable to the others and to the secretary general, a man trusted to have the basest motives at heart and desirous, naturally, of seeing men of unquestioned dishonesty in the various positions of responsibility. In the framework of this apparatus, under circumstances that remain obscure even to the police, Frank Carbo rose to become chief of the Syndicate's boxing section at about the same time as the birth of the IBC.

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