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A SILVERY OLD EAGLE
The finest decade prizefighting ever knew was that of the '20s. Out of it this week there stepped the short, round figure of a septuagenarian wearing in his lapel the rosette of the Italian Legion of Honor and proposing to become The Promoter of the Sixties. He is Humbert J. Fugazy, which rhymes with crazy. But Humbert J., who is best known as Jack, is far from crazy. He has a record of shrewd, daring and mostly successful promotion behind him, a record deriving from a time when his competitor was no less than the formidable Tex Rickard.
To promote the return match between Heavyweight Champion Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson (see page 23), Fugazy was the chosen instrument of Roy M. Cohn, hitherto most controversially known as legal counsel to the late Senator Joseph McCarthy. Around Cohn and Fugazy there was formed a group of backers—businessmen with no special interest in boxing. This group bought the return-bout contract which had been the property of Vincent J. Velella, an East Harlem politician who is now under indictment for perjury, and Bill Rosensohn, whose matchmaker's license has been suspended. The contract may or may not have had binding value, in view of these developments and their relation to a morals clause Johansson had insisted on, but its possession did give the Cohn-Fugazy combine at least a psychological jump on their competition—mainly Joe Tepper, & former functionary of the New York State Athletic Commission who had made two futile flights to Sweden in an effort to close a deal with Johansson (SI, Dec. 7). This week Cohn and Fugazy, along with Fugazy's nephew, William D. Fugazy, and Thomas A. Bolan, a legal associate of Cohn, were in Stockholm with a similar idea in mind. Fugazy also brought along Tommy Loughran, the former light heavyweight champion, who is on friendly terms with both the Patterson and Johansson camps. They were there primarily to present their credentials to Johansson and his adviser, Edwin Ahlquist, both of whom have said that no final deal will be made until they have checked with the New York commission. This will be done later in January, when Johansson and Ahlquist come to the U.S. It now seems probable, however, that firm agreement will be reached by the end of January and that Jack Fugazy will be established as next June's promoter in New York.
"It was Cohn who put this whole thing in motion," Fugazy said as he prepared for the trip to Sweden. "He is a lawyer, but he will not just be counsel to the promotion. He will be an active participant."
Fugazy, who will be a spry 73 on January 28, would be the first genuinely professional promoter to handle a heavyweight championship fight on a risk basis from start to finish since Patterson won the title. ( Jack Hurley promoted the Patterson-Pete Rademacher fight for a riskless fee.) His last brief reappearance as a promoter was when he co-promoted the Sugar Ray Robinson-Charley Fusari bout for the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund in 1950. Engaged in the travel agency business with his nephew, he had retired from boxing after three deaths in his family disheartened him. That was during the '30s, but in the previous decade he had made a name for himself. In 1926 his light heavyweight title bout between Paul Berlenbach and Jack Delaney drew $461,789 and 49,186 fans into Ebbets Field—which is still a record for the division. On another notable Fugazy card Mickey Walker and Harry Greb fought for the middleweight title, while in the preliminaries Harry Wills met Charlie Weinert and Jimmy Slattery fought Dave Shade.
And some 18 years before then Fugazy was himself a fighter, though briefly, boxing in the membership clubs of New York. His dignified banker father put a stop to that after Fugazy's 11th fight.
Now he is back in boxing again, or hopes to be.
"It's a wonderful feeling," he said. "I love a good fight."
A GOLDEN YOUNG BLACK HAWK