BLINKY CARRIES ON
Among beneficiaries of the Basilio-DeMarco fight (see pages 26 and 45) were the former Welterweight Champion Johnny Saxton and his manager, Blinky Palermo. Palermo attended the fight and returned to Philadelphia with $12,500 of its proceeds, though his boxer's only part in the affair was to show a decent restraint in not insisting on an immediate rematch after losing the title to DeMarco, in saying nothing when Basilio was permitted to fight DeMarco (and thereby win the title) and in standing docilely aside while Basilio and DeMarco fought again.
For thus minding their manners, Saxton and Palermo were rewarded with a percentage of one of the best gates of the year and now Saxton will be signed to fight Basilio in February.
But not in New York. Last April Chairman Julius Helfand of the New York boxing commission let Palermo know that he was persona non grata and could not have a New York license. Palermo's background includes a police record, the numbers racket and long association with Frankie Carbo, the gray ghost behind many a boxing scandal. Down from Syracuse, where Basilio is a local hero, came alert young Norman Rothschild, promoter, to ask that Helfand permit him to put on a Saxton-Basilio fight in February. Palermo will get a license from him, Helfand said, "neither now nor ever."
"I would be putting the stamp of approval on gangsterism in boxing," Helfand said. He recalled the sworn testimony of Angel Lopez, former manager of Kid Gavilan, that Palermo had said Carbo's approval was needed to sanction a return match between Saxton and Gavilan. (Saxton had won the title from Gavilan with the help of a friendly Philadelphia decision.)
But in his home base, Philadelphia, Palermo is licensed as a manager, regardless of what New York thinks of him and his gangster associations, and so is free to operate there and in other states which respect a Pennsylvania license. From time to time, incidents arise which cast dim, flickering lights on his operations and reputation. Nothing has stopped him yet.
In the latest incident Coley Wallace, retired heavyweight who played the title role in The Joe Louis Story, was called before the Pennsylvania boxing commission and asked whether it was true that, while Blinky was his manager, he had been fed a "slow pill" just before he lost to Bob Baker at Cleveland in October 1954. His testimony was taken in executive session and at the insistence of Palermo's lawyer, Morton Witkin. The Philadelphia Inquirer had published a report that the commission was investigating the Baker upset and Blinky's part in it. Witkin demanded a hearing to exonerate his client.
After the hearing Witkin announced that Wallace had denied ever saying he had been drugged. The commissioners said only that the testimony—of Wallace, Blinky and others—would be evaluated while their investigation continues.
On another of the three main boxing investigation fronts, that instigated by Governor Goodwin J. Knight of California (SI, May 30), members of a four-man team expected to visit Pennsylvania and New York in a month or so. Their purpose: to find out how their brother investigators are making out and what they may have learned about California promoters and managers.