The guilt is
kilt. Jim Norris' announcement that he intends to continue promoting his Friday
night television shows at Madison Square Garden came as a crushing blow to the
International Boxing Guild, which had been encouraged by him to believe he
would back it in its all-out fight with Julius Helfand, chairman of the New
York State Athletic Commission. The second half of the one-two knockout
combination came when the Maryland State Athletic Commission withdrew its
sanction for the Guild to transfer its Monday night TV boxing show from New
York to Baltimore.
By this rapid
change of fortune the small group of monopolists are left on the furthermost
end of a limb that broke under the double blow.
With Norris on
the spot with Helfand and faced with the threat of a heavyweight championship
bout in New York next summer between Marciano and Floyd Patterson, promoted by
Al Weill, the head of the IBC quickly recognized the side on which his manna
was nectared and decided to change his party line. In this move he probably had
the approval of his chief strategist, a scheming gentleman whose plans are
experience in coping with boxing managers' guilds before. In 1950 he broke a
strike with the aid of his master strategist.
At that time the
Guild was a representative body, not a monopolist group allied with the IBC and
powerful boxing racketeers. The Guild had a war chest of $44,000 and a thriving
membership which represented every class of manager. Television was just
starting to make inroads on the box office of fight clubs, and the managers,
alert to the danger, voted to demand a 50-50 split of the TV revenue to
compensate them for shrinking gate receipts.
When Norris and
his undercover advisers were confronted with the Guild's ultimatum, they came
up with the answer so quickly that the guildsmen, taken by surprise, were
routed. The IBC announced that to break the strike it would put on a
middleweight championship fight between Jake LaMotta and Rocky Graziano. After
this subterfuge had served its purpose, the IBC staged a middleweight
championship match between Jake and Tiberio Mitri. How was Mr. Norris able to
beat the strike? Through the assistance of Frank Carbo, who controlled LaMotta,
and Eddie Coco, manager of Graziano and Mitri.
broken the Guild, the IBC and its saboteurs boring from within helped to hasten
its demise by creating an overwhelming sentiment among the small-fry managers
to vote for the distribution of the "war chest." Once this was carried
out, the rest was easy. A small group of managers, some of them front men for
Carbo, Coco and other hoodlums, operating behind the scenes, met at the home of
Hymie Wallman, where, according to Hymie's own admission, Carbo had been a
guest, and organized an ultra-exclusive body called the Board of Trade.
When the props
had been knocked from under the old Guild, Charley Johnston, president of that
body, was summoned by a phone call one night from a meeting of the old group
which he was conducting (i.e., to the cemetery)—and never came back. A few days
later it was announced that he had been named president of the newly organized
International Boxing Guild. There hasn't been an election yet. Honest William
Daly, another of the primordial papas, wound up as secretary-treasurer, with
Jack Kearns, another founding father, named as the veep.
The new Guild was
just what was prescribed by the IBC doctors. It was compact, it was made up
exclusively of managers who had agreed to "play ball" and it was
pledged not to cause any TV contract trouble for the IBC. In exchange for this,
the small group was to be protected from "unfair competition" from
those outside the group by getting all the TV assignments. Promising boxers on
the way up were steered to the right stables by mobsters who in most cases had
gained control of them. This arrangement has made the small group that really
constitutes the International Guild rich while pauperizing those outside the
Drunk with power,
the Guild brazenly defied Helfand when he started looking into its peculiar
ways of doing business. The Guild's decision to move the Monday night
television show from its privately operated St. Nicholas Arena to Baltimore
after Frankie Carbo had made the arrangements through his friend, Benny Trotta,
the Baltimore promoter, was the last straw for Helfand. After telling Norris
the facts of life he gave chapter and verse on the deal, which caused Gov. T.
R. McKeldin to intervene and the Maryland commission to withdraw the sanction
it had given the Guild. And the Guild's limb came crashing down!