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Until the International Boxing Club ( James D. Norris, president) developed an appetite for Boston-baked fights, Sad Sam Silverman, the sorrowful promoter, was a highly successful man. He used to operate 13 weekly fight clubs in New England and promote as many as 500 boxing shows in a year, as many as three shows in different cities on the same night. He claims to be the only independent American fight promoter to stage a championship bout since the early days of the IBC. That was the DeMarco-Saxton fight. Thirty-one of Rocky Marciano's 49 fights were promoted by Sad Sam, he recalls.
The other night Sam Silverman was reduced to just one fight club, the Valley Arena in Holyoke, Massachusetts, which seats some 1,600 persons—a club so small that no seat is more than 60 feet from the ring. Every seat was taken, to see Ewart Potgieter, the South African giant, in his losing American debut with Jeff Dyer, and standing room was almost filled. A couple of nights later the IBC presented Miguel Berrios against Gil Cadilli at Mechanics Building, Boston, which seats 4,800. The IBC had 362 customers. Sam's fight was not televised. The IBC fight was televised.
"This is the only respectable weekly fight club in America," says Sam. "It's the only one that's not on TV."
It is Sad Sam's opinion, stated with a sigh, that presentation of the Berrios-Cadilli fight in Boston, where neither fighter is an attraction, was only the most recent step in an IBC campaign to put him out of business. He is a portly, ruddy-faced, blue-eyed man, somewhere in his 40s, and gives the impression that nobody knows the trouble he's seen. His speech is a soft moan with a broad A. He smiles quite often, when in pleasant company, and even has been seen to laugh in a restrained sort of way. But he has done little laughing recently. He regards himself as engaged in a death struggle with the IBC, and he knows what such struggles have meant to other promoters. Still, he expects to survive.
"I'm the last independent weekly fight promoter left in America," Sam says. "They've killed them all off but me. They'll never kill me off, though. I know how to promote fights. Norris doesn't. Nobody in the IBC does. Look at that Truman Gibson, a lawyer. All of a sudden he's the biggest matchmaker in the country. What does a lawyer know about matchmaking?"
But even now Sad Sam has a kind of offbeat optimism about boxing.
"The future of boxing? The future can't be any worse than what we have now. The future depends on what that judge decides."
"That judge" is Federal Judge Sylvester J. Ryan, who last spring heard the government's antitrust suit against the IBC. His decision may be handed down in a few weeks, and it can't come any too soon for Sam. If the government wins, the IBC may be cut down to size, and ex-promoters around the country will take heart. Some will even return to boxing. But the IBC has been acting in Boston as if it expected no setback whatever. If Sad Sam is finally removed from Boston boxing then the IBC will dominate that city just as it does so many others where it is a copromoter.
" Mike Jacobs wanted guys like me around, independent promoters, because we'd build up fighters for him—the way I built up Rocky Marciano. The small clubs are the incubators of boxing. The IBC doesn't want competition and it isn't developing any boxers. They're depending partly on fighters Mike Jacobs left them—like Sugar Ray Robinson. The IBC developed bums like Chuck Davey."