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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What Carbo stands to gain from this association is, of course, apparent. His "pieces" of important fighters add up to important money, and his ability to "fix" fights in which his fighters appear enables him and his friends in the Syndicate to make betting coups. It has been estimated that on a major fight the Syndicate's betting manager, believed to be Frank Casino, can place as much as $1,000,000 in bets—widely spread around the country, naturally, and in small amounts. The number of outright "fixes," in which one fighter has orders to "take a dive," may be comparatively small. But there are more subtle ways of building the odds to the gamblers' advantage: matching a boy a little beyond his weight or class, or matching him too soon after his last fight, perhaps when he is suffering from injuries which only a few know about, or deliberately overtraining or undertraining him. Fights can be and are "fixed" in such ways without either fighter knowing about it. The results, whatever the methods, have made Carbo a rich man who during one nine-month period was able to deposit $300,000 in the bank, although he has no visible means of support.

What could Norris gain by dealing with such a man? One clue may lie in his comment when asked recently to explain the Coco letter. " Graziano was the middleweight champion," he said, "and his fight with Zale set the indoor record at Chicago. Coco was licensed. And when I needed Graziano for a bout, I got him. Coco always came through. I was asked to write the letter and I did. It seemed like a good thing to do at the time, although I guess in retrospect it wasn't."

The Norris-IBC arena holdings and television contracts need a steady, reliable source of fighters and of managers who "always come through." In spite of the power of its own monopoly, how much simpler, how much more convenient and practical, the IBC may find it to deal with a Carbo and a puppet organization of managers—the I.B.G.—than with independent managers with their rapscallion and demanding ways. A Norris-Carbo alliance would make as much sense economically as the tie-ins between merchants and suppliers that are quite routine—and quite legal—in many fields of business.


To this, people who have known Norris add a psychological factor difficult to pin down yet perhaps of overriding importance. Certainly Norris, with his immense fortune, does not need the money he makes from boxing. As he said recently, "I make nothing out of this job. I get no salary and no expense account. If all these things they say were true, what would I have to gain?" The answer seems to be simply that Norris likes his associations with such people as Carbo, Coco, Golfbag Sam Hunt and similar racketeers, that he has a naive and half-juvenile admiration for gangsters and is gratified by being "on the inside." Raised in Chicago during the 1920s when gangsterism had a certain glamour, learning to gamble and "study the angles" at an early age, learning at his father's knee the difference between "wise money" and "sucker money," so rich that the only satisfaction in making money was to make it shrewdly, from the "inside," he perhaps has found a satisfying sense of power and self-esteem in becoming a man to whom the leading fighters and the toughest hoodlums defer.

On the record, Norris knows nothing about the seamy side of boxing. "It's not as bad as it's painted," he says. "I've never done anything wrong. If I thought there was some sort of dirty work with one of our bouts, I'd be the first guy to holler Cop. Everybody around who's interested in the good name of boxing knows that I expect them, if they hear of anything wrong, to come in and say to me, 'Jim, you'd better look into that fight next week.' We don't want any black eyes...We maintain a constant vigilance." As for Carbo having to be cut in on fighters who work at the Garden, Norris says, "I don't see how it could be done."

To which a reasonable answer may be a recent observation by Lou Stillman, proprietor of the famous muscle parlor near the Garden. Pausing to spit on the floor, Stillman commented, "As my old mother, may God rest her, used to say, 'When three people tell you you're drunk, it's time to go to bed.' "

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