WIRTZ REVEALS PLAN FOR NEW BOXING GROUP (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 . . . ) A HEAVYWEIGHT BOOK ON THE 'SWEET SCIENCE' (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 basement. 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. TIMELESS BOXING STILL PACKS A PUNCH (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 remembrance. 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 had." 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.