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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 always flexible.
Norris had 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.
Having thus 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 pale.
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!