It may only be coincidence, but it is interesting to note that the two governors who told their boxing commissions they didn't know their business and then peremptorily killed the Muhammad Ali-Floyd Patterson rematch are members of the Republican Governors Association and advocates of free enterprise.
Governor Paul Laxalt of Nevada said Clay couldn't lose, so it was a mismatch, but if Clay lost it would be a fix, and either way it would stink up Nevada—which may be some kind of tautology. If Laxalt was truly concerned about Nevada's reputation, he wouldn't have waited six days to rush to its defense. By then Promoter Al Bolan had received authorization from the Nevada commission to print tickets and sell them in seven locations. What took Laxalt so long? Who knows? But the timing was beautiful. The day he decided the fight would give Nevada "a black eye," a state-hospital scandal broke and he signed a bill increasing the sales tax. Guess what made the headlines?
Governor Raymond P. Shafer of Pennsylvania, after talking to Laxalt on the phone for "about five minutes," said, "If the fight isn't good enough for Nevada, it certainly isn't good enough for Pennsylvania." Which tells Laxalt where Nevada stands in the Union.
A prizefight is unlike any other sporting event. It doesn't owe its existence to the little old schedule. A fight comes into being because promoters believe people will buy it. And the people of Nevada or Pennsylvania should have had the right to stay away.
But the match made sense. Both the sale of tickets in Vegas and blasts at both governors in the local press indicated it. Patterson is a valid and honorable challenger, and as Charley Powell, who fought both Patterson and Ali, says: "Of all the heavyweights, Patterson has the best chance of beating Ali." This doesn't mean it's a very good chance, but Patterson deserves the opportunity to try as long as he isn't preempting any other worthy contender—and, at the moment, he isn't. And, although Muhammad Ali is a superfighter, he isn't a superman. By Laxalt's logic, Ali mustn't fight anyone until he slows up, the Mets shouldn't be allowed to play baseball, Jim Grelle can't run against Jim Ryun and the 1967 Masters field should have been limited to Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
What with all the fuss over the Ali-Patterson rematch, nary a word has been said about the Dick Tiger-Jos� Torres rematch at Madison Square Garden on May 16. After Torres lost his light-heavyweight title to Tiger last year, the New York State Athletic Commission put Torres on its "ill and unavailable" list because of his wholly lackluster performance (SI, Jan. 2). Since then there has been 1) no word that Torres was, indeed, ill, and 2) no word that, if such was the case, Torres is better. But—presto changeo—Torres is available.
Unlike Governor Laxalt, we do not presume to be a soothsayer, and the Tiger-Torres match may well be a hell of a fight, for they seem to be fairly well matched. Yet, the sport is not served by rewarding a fighter for not trying, or so it appeared—which, incidentally, can never be said about Patterson. If it had the interests of boxing at heart, the commission would have demanded that before Torres could fight again for the title, he first have another bout to determine whether he is willing and able.