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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This is not to say that there was any direct connection between the two events. The coincidence, however, was to have its effects, and these were to be amplified by still a third coincidence. It was at this time that television began its tremendous growth. With free boxing at his disposal in the living room, the average boxing fan stayed home from the local arenas, and these soon began to wither away. To make any sort of living, boxers and managers found themselves increasingly dependent on a narrowing number of arenas, mostly those which had found TV sponsors. Excluding heavyweight title bouts (usually televised on a closed circuit) boxing's TV receipts are running at the rate currently of $2 millions compared with $1.5 millions from the box office; and whereas from 150 to 200 cities used to have boxing shows on a fairly regular schedule, the number now is down to about eight, with only about 25 boxing cards a week throughout the entire country.

Thus the times were especially favorable for the IBC to establish its legal domination and for Carbo and the Syndicate to establish their illegal one. The latter, of course, lacking the full protection of the law, could not be so complete; there still are fighters and managers who have evaded it. But Carbo has done very well. Unable to obtain a manager's license because of his criminal record, he operates instead through "fronts" or "piece-men" who have licenses: such men as Willie Friedenberg (alias Willie "The Undertaker" Ketchum), Hymie "The Mink" (or "The Weasel") Wallman, Al "The Vest" Weill and Angel Lopez. Other managers, although not "fronting" for Carbo and maintaining a good deal of freedom of action, must ordinarily make some accommodation with him. According to one of the highest law-enforcement officials of New York City, he dominates the International Boxing Guild, the principal association of managers, and is believed to have "pieces" of half the current champions and of a number of the contenders and top-of-the-card fighters. His associates in the Syndicate—some of whom operate from inside the IBC—own or control most of the others.

How can he do it? When a promising young fighter comes to New York, as all of them do, Carbo or one of his associates watches him in action. If he looks good, and unless he is already spoken for by one of the Syndicate's out-of-town gangster affiliates, a "front" manager approaches the boy's manager, sometimes with an offer to buy all or part of his contract, sometimes with a simple demand to be "cut in." For instance, last year "someone" at the Garden bought Hurricane Jackson from his managers for $7,500. Subsequently, it was announced that Lippy Breitbart had become Jackson's "sole manager." If the offer or demand is refused there is at least the threat of physical punishment, though it is seldom inflicted these days. However, as one prominent manager says, " Carbo is a killer. All the managers are afraid of him." Ordinarily the result is simply that the boy gets no more fights at important arenas. There are many examples to prove this point; but here, for the moment, it is more interesting to examine the sources of Carbo's authority. Since boxing cards are arranged by matchmakers, it will be useful to look, for example, at the Madison Square Garden matchmaker.

" Mr. BROWN"

Since August of 1952, when Al Weill resigned and acknowledged himself to be the manager of Rocky Marciano, the Garden matchmaker has been a squat, balding ex-prizefighter who calls himself Billy Brown but whose real name is Dominick Mordini.

That Brown should have been James D. Norris' choice for matchmaker may, by itself, indicate something about the latter's tolerance of a man's social connections, and a list of Brown's friends indicates how far—and in what direction—that tolerance stretches. Brown's daughter was married not long ago, and on this sentimental occasion the guest list included Vito Genovese, Frank Casino, Jimmy Plumeri (alias Doyle), Tommy Dio, Champ Segal, Eddie Coco and Tommy Eboli (alias Ryan), all notorious gangsters—and none other than Frank Carbo.

Is this guilt by association? Indeed it is. At former chairman Christenberry's request, the laws governing boxing in New York were revised in 1952 to give him the power to revoke the license of "anyone who even associates with criminals...[or] who in our judgment acts against the best interests of boxing or the public." Yet Brown was appointed head matchmaker at the Garden after this new law was passed. And the aforementioned sentimental convention of hoodlums took place only last October.

Can one believe that James D. Norris has somehow been innocently and naively victimized—that he is unaware of the criminal nature of the men who are his friends? For instance, could anyone in the boxing business fail to know that Eddie Coco, Rocky Graziano's former "manager," is a gangster and murderer? Yet, when Coco was first convicted in 1951 of the killing of a car washer in Miami, one of his character references was Norris, who wrote, "In my association with him [Coco] I have always found him to be a man of his word, well liked and highly respected by his many friends."

Among Coco's many friends is Frank Carbo who, in turn, has been heard to say, "One of the things I'm proudest of is my friendship with Jim Norris." Carbo and Norris are not seen together in public these days, but before the scandal of boxing attracted too much attention they could be found from time to time at a midtown New York restaurant that belonged to Eddie Coco. Carbo has visited at Norris' home in Coral Gables, Fla. When Norris' wife died a few years ago, Carbo—and other mobsters—attended the funeral.

One of the best-informed police officials in New York City has said, "When you're talking with Carbo, you're talking with Norris."

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