The formation of the International Boxing Club in 1949


(Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, March 2, 1949)

By Frank Mastro

The newly formed International Boxing Club will not upset local arrangements
with Irving Schoenwald, Jack Begun, and Jack Hurley, promotional combination
which has presented shows in Chicago Stadium for the last seven years,
Arthur M. Wirtz, executive vice president and treasurer of the West Side 
arena, said yesterday in a telephone interview from Miami.

Wirtz said the new organization, composed of Joe Louis and James D. Norris,
executive vice president and secretary of the Stadium, in addition to
himself, will work to arrange only bouts of national importance. These 
matches, chiefly heavyweight eliminations or for the championship, will be 
promoted in Chicago, Detroit or New York City.

The Stadium owners also have controlling interest in Detroit Olympia, and
stock in Madison Square Garden, New York City.

Their first promotion will be a bout between Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe
Walcott in June. Wirtz said the site has not definitely been decided upon,
although originally announced as that it would be held in the Stadium. The
National Boxing Association's president, Flamen Adae, said he would
recognize the winner as Louis' successor as heavyweight champion.

Wirtz said Louis was to appear in an exhibition in Nassau, Bahamas, last
night and will box in Havana Friday before coming to Chicago with him March 
25 for further discussions of their plan.

He said Louis is equal partner with Norris and himself. Harry Mendel, Louis'
press agent, who has been a prominent factor in the big deal, will be
connected to the organization, probably as press officer.

Mike Jacobs, head of the 20th Century Club in New York, which has held
exclusive rights to Louis' services ever since he won the title from James
J. Braddock in Comiskey Park June 22, 1937, will not have anything to do 
with the new setup.

"Joe told Mike about his plan last Monday," Wirtz said, "and he wished Joe
well, although now I see that a different story about his feelings in the
matter has gone on the wire."

The Associated Press quoted Jacobs as saying, "I'm sorry to see Joe go into
the promotion business."

Wirtz indicated his organization intends to retain a permanent hold on the
new heavyweight title holder and subsequent successors to the ring's most
valuable prize.

"We're going to keep the champ active," he said. "All logical contenders
will get a shot at the title after the new champion is determined in the
impending Charles-Walcott match, contracts for which already have been 
signed and are in Louis' possession."

(ED. NOTE -- Word is thusly revealed in the Midwest about boxing's new
"octopus," a promotional combine that will eventually stir the government to
inaugurate a successful antitrust action and which made no bones, at least
in the beginning, about taking over where Mike Jacobs, and Tex Rickard before
him, had left off in terms of control of major boxing promotions in the
United States. Students of the game ought to be reminded that, for over 75 
years, one group or another has ALWAYS had a stranglehold when it came to 
promoting heavyweight title fights. Don King, Bob Arum and their like are 
just the latest in a long line of monopolistic promoters. In boxing, as in
most forms of human endeavor, there is nothing new under the sun only 
different people doing it. This same day in 1949, the Tribune quoted James 
Norris as saying: "We got tired of having Jacobs tie up all the fighters 
for New York." So Norris and Wirtz (Louis was only a figurehead and had 
"resigned" as world heavyweight champion the day previous.) subsequently 
tied up all the fighters for New York, Chicago, Detroit and not long after 
added St. Louis to their realm, in effect creating one of the most vaunted 
boxing promotional organizations in the long history of the sport. The 20th 
Century Sporting Club didn't just roll over and die, however, though the poor 
health of chief Mike Jacobs made it easier for the IBC to move in to a 
prominent role. The next day, 20th Century put out a release, saying it had 
exclusive rights to Ezzard Charles for yet another year. Jake Mintz, George 
Rhein and Dave Elkus were revealed to be partners in the Charles contract. 
Within a few more days, Cincinnati promotional interests were hollering foul 
to the NBA, claiming there should be open bidding for the right to stage the 
Charles-Walcott bout.

Rather than ruffle feathers, the IBC announced March 12, 1949, that 
Cincinnati was one of six cities being considered along with Detroit, 
Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Chicago. Two days after that, 
Jack Dempsey passed through Chicago on one of his refereeing tours and 
told Tribune boxing writer Mastro that (the IBC's) "bid for big bouts means 
that the monopoly enjoyed for the last twelve years by Mike Jacobs and the 
20th Century Sporting Club is ended." He was, of course, right but he 
neglected to mention that IBC would become the new monopoly. Almost 
immediately, Lou Viscusi Willie Pep's manager (and later Bob Foster's 
manager) announced he would seek the IBC's help in staging a featherweight 
title defense in New York's Polo Grounds during the summer of 1949. And 
Ray Arcel, manager of lightheavy "contender" Tommy Yarosz he had gone up 
a division after dropping a ten-rounder to Jake LaMotta in December, 1948  
went to the IBC for its help in gaining an elimination bout with Gus 
Lesnevich for the "American" title (Freddie Mills had, surprisingly, 
stripped Lesnevich of the world crown the previous summer). But wily old 
Jack Kearns would maneuver Joey Maxim into that spot, with the IBC's help, 
and Maxim would win American title recognition from Lesnevich at Cincinnati 
in May, 1949, before beating Mills in January, 1950, for the world 
championship. Yarosz never got anywhere near a title shot. And by the time 
Viscusi got a big fight in New York for his man Pep, Saddler was there
to strip him of the belt -- and Pep, after losing yet another to Saddler 
in their 1951 return, never got another smell of the title.

Charles and Walcott fought naturally, in Chicago in June of 1949, with
Charles winning the title via a 15-round decision. Although the fight did 
a reported quarter of a million and drew 26,000 to Comiskey Park, the two
principals settled for $53,000 apiece, including broadcast rights. And for
his first title defense, against old Gus Lesnevich in Yankee Stadium less 
than two months later, Charles received a mere 15 grand. Welcome to the 
IBC era . . . )


(San Diego Union-Tribune, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 1995)

By Don Freeman

"Boxing is the red-light district of sports," Jimmy Cannon once wrote in a
blistering indictment of a sport that he loved. Stark truth resides in those
words. This most primal of sports may be indefensible but it is also
irresistible. I will let the shrinks determine why this is so but the
evidence is undeniable. It is a part of our history.

It's said that the most exciting moment in all of sports occurs just before
the bell sounds in a legitimate heavyweight title fight. And for the highest
degree of heart-pounding tension you must have the fight in Madison Square
Garden or Yankee Stadium.

The heavyweights do not command the boxing skills of your average
featherweight but the big fellows still capture the public imagination. You
don't need a shrink to tell you why a heavyweight has danger in his
fists. He can end it with one pop. The heavyweights are the Patton of pugilism.

Boxing, in common with baseball, is blessed with the warming flavor of
nostalgia. We see the films of those grand fights of old and we are filled
with wonder. From these films the imagination is tantalized. In the pubs
where such matters have importance the questions are debated: Could Muhammad
Ali have beaten Dempsey? Could Ali have beaten Jack Johnson? Could Tyson
have taken Rocky Marciano?

It's reissued in paperback

Now, to the great joy of the buffs, a classic book on boxing by Peter Heller
has been brought up to the minute and reissued in paperback on the Da Capo
imprint. Several more interviews were added along with an introduction by
Muhammad Ali. The highest boost I can offer is that the book belongs on the
shelf next to A.J. Liebling's "The Sweet Science."

Titled "In This Corner . . . ! 42 World Champions Tell Their Stories," the
book first came off the presses in 1973. Heller had hoped for a good
response but the book did better than that it had a resounding impact.
The readers ate it up. The reviewers gave it their huzzahs.

Joyce Carol Oates, best known for her Gothic tales, is also an avid boxing
fan and she used the book as research. Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the
original "Rocky" movie, has said that in achieving the tone of his picture he 
relied heavily on the Heller book. Cus D'Amato, the storied fight manager, 
made the book required reading for his tigers.

As for Peter Heller, he is a longtime producer at ABC who, at the age of 12,
began watching the Friday night fights on TV. He became absorbed by boxing,
its history and lore. Then he came across an absolutely corking book by
Lawrence Ritter called "The Glory of Their Times," which is about baseball
as it was in a time when America was young.

Ritter had come up with this wonderful idea -- he would interview as many
oldtime ballplayers as he could track down. In the 1950s their ranks were
thinning but a number of the players from a bygone era were still around,
with their memories.

In terms of age, they were all playing the back nine, so to speak, but they
welcomed a good listener with a tape recorder, and they had tales to relate.

He heard a few stories

With a bow to Ritter, Heller began interviewing old fighters. For this book
he talked to a number of them, from Jack Dempsey and Willie Ritchie to Joe
Louis and Mickey Walker and Jake La Motta, from Jimmy McLarnin to Henry 
Armstrong and Billy Conn and Rocky Graziano and Sugar Ray Robinson and Willie 
Pep and so on. The stories he heard!

For example, there was the interview with Willie Pastrano, who was managed
by Angelo Dundee and gained the light-heavyweight championship. Pastrano
once entered the ring with the great Archie Moore, the "Mongoose," who had
previously held the light-heavyweight title.

Pastrano figured that Archie, who was along in years and had a gray thatch,
would be an easy mark. In the first round Archie went into his turtle
defense, and he kept saying, "You're looking good, kid. You're dancing
pretty." Well, Pastrano started believing Archie's con job. The words were
hypnotic. Later on, Archie said, "You're looking great, kid. Now stand
still." And for an instant Pastrano stood still. And Archie belted him and
the fight was over.

                         ROMANO PRESERVES CITY'S BOXING LORE

(Topeka Capital-Journal, Sunday, June 29, 1997)

By Bob Hentzen

When Joe Romano takes you down the stairs to his basement, the first thing
you see is an Elvis shrine.

There is Elvis memorabilia everywhere. That's wife Nadine's part of the

The adjacent room is Joe's. It is a virtual boxing museum -- loaded with
fight bills, autographed pictures and framed stories out of the paper. 
There are stacks of old Ring magazines in a bookcase.

Joe handed me a program, which cost a dime, from the fight card on Jan. 11,
1949, at the Municipal Auditorium. Yeah, Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber
himself, was on it.

Romano apologized for his collection of ring mementos not being complete. "I
lost a lot of stuff in the tornado in 1966," he said.

As you know, boxing is making a comeback in Topeka thanks to Olympian Albert
Guardado, Damon Reed and Andy Sample -- promising local fighters who have
displayed their wares at Remington's.

My reason for visiting Joe was to go back to an era, even before my time,
when boxing was a hot item here. "Little Joe" Romano, a featherweight, was 
in the middle of boxing's hey-day in Topeka.

"This was a good ol' fight town back then," Romano said. "We filled the
Auditorium a couple of times. A good crowd was between 3,000 and 4,000."

Joe ticked off the names of some of the fighters who brought fans out in
numbers. They included Pat McCafferty, Bobby Bickle, Billy Sudduth, Oscar
Lee Wilkens, Jackie Wilson, Chief Alvin Williams, Nelson Levering, Bob 
Spaeth, Ray Augustas and Kenny "Red" Baston.

"Most all of them are gone now," said Romano, who kept in touch with most of
his fellow ring warriors.

"We'd fight regularly here, Kansas City and Wichita, sometimes three weeks
in a row. Max Yeargain was the promoter. He was a big man, known all over 
the country.

"He promoted wrestling, too. He brought in Two-Ton Tony Galento, Primo
Carnera, Gorgeous George and Lou Thesz."

But by the mid-1950s the bloom was off those local shows.

"TV came in and you could watch fights two or three nights a week," Joe
explained. "I'd go to the Capitol Hotel, by the post office, and sit in the
lobby and watch TV.

"Boxing dwindled down. There was not enough opportunity to make a living.
The fight game was not paying off then."

Romano was introduced to boxing as a kid in a CYO program in Ohio. Then he
boxed in the Air Force, where he was on a B-24 crew that flew 32 missions
during World War II.

It was the Air Force that brought him to Topeka.

"When I came back from overseas, I found I was not in good condition ... too
many good times," he said, chuckling.

But he resumed fighting as an amateur and, after six months, turned pro in
March of 1947 -- sort of by accident.

"Yeargain sent me to Memphis with Pat McCafferty for a card," Romano
remembered. "Since nobody knew me, I thought I could come back here and
still fight as an amateur. But I fought a six-round draw with a local
favorite in Memphis and got some publicity."

He still has the yellowed clipping of what was his pro debut.

Little Joe's pro record was 35-15-2. While not a headliner, he fought on the
same cards with big names.

"I was there with Sammy Angott, the former welterweight champion," he
reported. "I fought with Gus Lesnevich in Minneapolis, Joe Maxim in Wichita
and Sugar Ray Robinson in St. Louis.

"The most money I ever made for a fight was $450 or so, closer to $500. The
going rate at first was $35 for a four-rounder. Top dollar for a
four-rounder was $50 and $75 to $100 for a six rounder."

Thus, Romano combined fighting with working at the supply depot at Forbes.

After retiring from the ring, he stayed involved -- including promoting four
cards here in 1975 and 1976.

"I worked with kids at the Boys Club and community center until the last
eight years," said Romano. "The only reason I quit is that some kids just 
didn't want to train.

"I'd work out with the kids, too," added Joe, who turns 73 next month. "I'd
get in the ring when I was 62 and spar ... Nadine never knew it."

I thanked Romano, a true Topeka treasure, for accommodating me at a tough
time for him. He's been spending his days at the hospital and care center 
with Nadine, who suffered astroke.


(San Diego Union-Tribune, Friday, November 7, 1997)

By Don Freeman

Will Shakespeare, wise in the ways of time, wrote in "The Tempest" as
follows: "The past is prologue." From the past is also measured out memories 
that form the sweet music of nostalgia.

It is a heady wine, this particular nostalgia served with warmth and flair
on the Classic Sports Network. What they do on that hugely successful
operation, now in its second year (but only a few months in San Diego on
Cox Cable), is provide the storied sporting past with the russet glow of

And all of this is superior television.

Here is host Dick Schaap setting the scene for the films of the Archie
Moore- Yvon Durelle fight in 1958 in Montreal's Forum. What a fight that 
was! "The best fight I've ever seen," said the old champ, Joe Louis. Archie, 
a San Diegan since 1938 and a great fighter, then held the light-heavyweight
championship. In the first round Archie was pounded to the canvas four times
by the French-Canadian fisherman, who had a fierce wallop. And again, in the
fifth round, Archie got decked.

But the heady boxer that Jack Murphy labeled "The Mongoose" never had any
geezer in him ("geezer" being a term used to designate someone who quits).
In the 11th round Archie put Durelle down for the count. It was a comeback
for the ages.

`Something told me to get up'

Immediately after his triumph, Archie was interviewed on TV and he said,
calmly, engagingly, with typical Moore savoir faire: "I enjoyed the fight
very much. In the first round something told me to get up, get up." And he
did, just barely.

And the French-Canadian would say later, in awe: "I have fought smart
fighters but never anyone so smart as that fellow."

Well, of course. Not many fellows smarter in the ring than "The Mongoose."
Muhammad Ali, yes, as smart as they come, but, as the buffs will tell you,
Ali learned a few tricks in the time when he trained with Archie at the old 
Salt Mine near Ramona.

And now here is Schaap again, introducing with a smile: "The Sack of
Shelby." That means only one thing: Jack Dempsey vs. Tommy Gibbons on July 4, 
1923, in the Montana town of Shelby. "The Sack of Shelby" was the title 
John Lardner affixed to his brilliant piece of reporting on that historic 
event, which you can find in his book "White Hopes and Other Tigers." 
Dempsey won the nod in 15 rounds.

With irony and the most amiable and mischievous humor, writing in an
individual style that is impossible to emulate, Lardner told of the deeds of
wily Jack "Doc" Kearns, who was then Dempsey's manager (and later the
manager of Moore).

Years later, when Doc was engaged in conversation by several sports writers,
one of them said: "Remember Shelby, Doc? You and Dempsey broke three banks
in Montana."

Doc corrected the journalist. "We broke four banks," he said. And then they
blew town. Jimmy Cannon, in the New York Post, once suggested in a long-ago 
column that someone must write a song about Moore. "I don't mean big composers 
such as Harold Arlen or Duke Ellington," Jimmy wrote. "It should be a song 
that comes out of the back rooms of sloughed saloons on night-drowned streets 
in morning-worried parts of town."

And he wrote: "What Archie Moore is would be told in music because this is a
guy who understands the truth of jazz. It must be a small song, played with
a curfew-cheating stealth and sung in those butt-strangled voices the old guys

Jimmy wrote further: "It would have to be a hell of a song at that to grab
Archie Moore. There must be in it the embarrassment of decent people ducking
into pawn shops . . . It would have to catch sounds a man hears
lying in a flea-bag bed on a summer night in a slum."

And surely we would need a song about Doc Kearns. Perhaps the Frenchman Erik
Satie, already wrote the music, sly and witty, to suggest the glorious scam
that once sacked a town called Shelby.