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Three months ago a millionaire businessman named Blaise D'Antoni organized Louisiana Boxing Enterprises, Inc. to stage prizefights in New Orleans. In mid-May LBE's first promotion, a match between Lightweights Ralph Dupas and Frankie Ryff, drew $48,000, biggest New Orleans gate since Jim Corbett fought John L. Sullivan there in 1892. Last week D'Antoni, former president of the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company (a banana-importing firm founded by his grandfather, Joseph Vaccaro, with assets above $38 million in 1953) and now head of a banking investment house, came to Manhattan to spend some money, see the Moore-Olson fight, and meet the men who run bigtime boxing—notably, Jim Norris and Frank Carbo. SI Staff Writer Robert Boyle and Reporter Gil Rogin found D'Antoni relaxing in one of his two suites at the Waldorf-Astoria .
Call me Blaze or Dan—everybody does," said Blaise D'Antoni, a short, hefty man with tousled hair on both his head and his chest. "What are you drinking? I got anything. You want champagne? Have the best. I don't drink. A little sherry makes my head go round." D'Antoni, who was wearing only trousers and black silk socks, flung himself on a couch. Staring happily at the ceiling, he said:
"I'm promoting in New Orleans now. I love boxing. We got Maxim-Pastrano set for June 28. That fight should do $117,000. It's $25 for ringside. We just built a $25,000 gym—it's the only air-conditioned gym in the world—and a $40,000 cocktail lounge right next to that. I just paid $2,500 for three murals to put in the bar. One picture is the Dempsey-Tunney long count, another of Marciano beating Louis—I was at that fight—and then a picture portrait of me. All in oil.
"In three months," D'Antoni went on, "we're gonna break ground for a $3 million sports center that will seat 20,000. We're also gonna build a movable seat thing for outdoor fights. We're working on a Marciano title fight that should do $300,000. Spoke to Norris today. He called me Blaise."
"What about that contested split decision in the Dupas-Ryff fight?" one of his visitors interjected.
"Hell," exclaimed D'Antoni, sitting up with a start, "you get Ryff up here and if he says he won I'll give you a hundred dollar bill. A hundred dollar bill. Money's nothing to me. I love boxing. Just this morning I bought my little girl 15 leopards."
A bellboy entered the suite. "Where the hell you been?" D'Antoni asked, leaping off the couch. "I told ya to stay around and answer the door." The bellboy whispered something in his ear. D'Antoni reached into his pocket for a roll of bills. "Here's a five for your trouble," he said, and, with that, leapt back to the couch, collapsed on his back and resumed his monologue.
"I boxed nine years," he said challengingly. "It was a hobby. I boxed nine or 10 champs. I had the pleasure of knocking the famous Greb on his ear. He was training for a fight in New Orleans. That was in my gym next to my swimming pool. It was the only salt-water pool in the South. It cost me $100,000, but what's money? I feinted Greb with a right. I got Jack Dempsey to back me up. I also got two witnesses in New Orleans to back me up. I hit him right here. I gave him a tough time. Greb fought a draw in his fight, and when it was over, he said he had had it all taken out of him in the gym."
A little girl of about 11, wearing pajamas, strolled into the room. "G'wan, play with your leopards," D'Antoni bellowed. The little girl scampered off. "My daughter," D'Antoni said with obvious affection. A young man came in carrying a paper bag. He opened it and white collars and gold cuff links spilled on a table. "They're gold filled," the young man volunteered nervously. "That's okay," D'Antoni replied, dispensing a bill. "I'm just goin' to the Copa tonight. They'll be okay." The young man left.
He leapt off the couch again, barked, "Let's go down to my other suite," and left the room to clothe himself. He was back in an instant, his chest now covered by a gaudy sports shirt but his feet still innocent of shoes. "Come here," he said, bouncing out of the room, "I want you to meet my wife." Mrs. D'Antoni, a rounded brunette clad in a negligee, was standing in the foyer. "Honey," D'Antoni said, "say hello to the boys." Honey did. "See that," he said, pointing to a heart-shaped purplish gem pinned to Mrs. D'Antoni's bosom. "I gave her that purple heart for being married to me 16 years." Mrs. D'Antoni smiled shyly. "Honey, get that bracelet I got you," D'Antoni ordered. She disappeared into the bedroom and returned with a diamond bracelet that appeared to be almost the length of the Missouri's anchor chain. "Thirty thousand bucks. That's what I paid," D'Antoni said, taking the bracelet and passing it around to the visitors. "Feel that. Look at those diamonds. That thing is worth $50,000. I got it insured for that. But I only paid $30,000. I got it this morning." With that he wheeled out the door of the suite, his two visitors trailing in his wake. "Nice to have met you, boys," Mrs. D'Antoni called softly from behind the door.