THE GUILTLESS GUILD
When Julius Helfand declared the New York chapter of the International Boxing Guild out of bounds for managers there was some feeling that the IBG could not long survive outside New York. It has survived, though it has not flourished. Last week it won a boost in the courts. It was found not guilty.
The federal antitrust division had brought a criminal action against the IBG in Cleveland, alleging conspiracy in restraint of trade by boycotting televised studio bouts and conspiring to fix TV fees for fighters. The case did not go deeply into such matters as had moved Helfand to find the New York Guild a "menace" to boxing. The Cleveland case against the Guild ended abruptly when Federal Judge James C. Connell granted a directed verdict of acquittal.
The Government had, in fact, attacked the Guild in an area where it has won a great deal of sympathy. Its ostensible reason for being has been that an organization was needed to protect managers and fighters against the encroachments of television, which killed off fight clubs by the score and never, until forced by the Guild, paid more than a pittance to its performers. Unfortunately, as has happened in some labor unions, the Guild was conceived by and dominated by a few men who hoped one day to be in a position to rule boxing to their own benefit. That was Helfand's beef. This aspect did not, concern the Government in the antitrust case.
Judge Connell, in throwing the case out, indicated that boxing's decline was very much in his mind.
"As has been said," the judge observed, "boxing may be a dying industry. It's a sociological problem. As people move to the suburbs, they want to go to college, and when guys think enough about their nose to put it in a book, they also think enough of it not to put it in the ring."
(Most boxing men agree with the judge that high prosperity and plentiful jobs have cut down the supply of fighters. And TV has eliminated most of the small clubs where they once would have learned their trade.)
"The more I heard," the judge said, "the more I found all the justice was on the side of the defendants. The television people know what they are going to take in and set a minimum. And nobody says to them, 'You're going to be indicted.' By expelling managers who put their fighters on studio shows without audiences, Guild members were trying to protect themselves. I don't know how else they could have done it. Expelling managers was the same as when other organizations expel bad lawyers or bad doctors."
Next day, ruminating on his decision, Judge Connell made a telling point about the ills of no-audience studio boxing from a sporting aspect.
"TV studio fights are bad psychologically," he said. "Men in boxing matches or any sport will do their best when they are cheered. TV eliminates the human element of encouragement."