KEEPING ALIVE BOXING'S LEGENDS: CARMEN BASILIO by Bill Kelly His face bore the marks of a lifetime of the toughest fights there ever was. The bald streak slicing his right eyebrow, and the jagged scars were indisputable proof that it had been no easy trip. The Carmen Basilio log is incredible: 56-16-7, with 27 knockouts, Since turning pro in 1948, the Canastota, New York, onion grower won 18 of his first 22 matches and whipped the almost unconquerable Lew Jenkins in his first 10-rounder. In 1953 he shellacked ex-champ Ike Williams (who told me Basilio was the toughest man he ever fought) and then lost, won and fought to a draw with tough Billy Graham. Peering at his scared face, I asked Carmen, "Was it worth it?" "I just couldn't take working for wages for somebody else," he said. "I had to be my own man." His memorable battle with welterweight champ Kid Gavilan was fought on September 18, 1953. Carmen lost that one, but in the second round he dumped "The Keed" on his hind quarters. It was the first time the Camaquey sugarcane fieldhand had ever been down. "I thought I beat him," Carmen told me in our 1982 interview, but the judges gave it to Gavilan. The decision caused a big stink -- the tv fans thought I won." He never could get Gavilan back into the ring. The astonishing rise of Tony DeMarco's career started with a KO of Johnny Saxton in 14 rounds to win the welterweight crown. It ended two months later when Battling Basilio flattened him in 12. On November 30, 1955, they met again and the Boston Garden ran red with blood. One reporter wrote: It was the bloodiest 33 minutes ever seen by lovers of the Sweet Science." In this fight, Basilio had to call on all his reserves to survive a crucial seventh round. But the result was the same: those power-laden straight rights that wrecked havoc whenever they landed, had left the gallant DeMarco slumped on the canvas, trying to rise, straining the rippling sinews of his thick neck, a KO victim in round 12. Simply, we had tougher fighters in those days. Carmen Basilio hated Sugar Ray Robinson ever since he introduced himself to Sugar one day on the street and Sugar treated him like a leper. Carmen told his wife, "I'm going to kick his ass someday," Carmen would have to vacate his welter crown to fight Sugar for his middleweight crown because a rule (later changed) in those days stated a pugilist couldn't hold more than one title at a time. They fought twice, once in Yankee Stadium on September 23, 1957, and again in Chicago. A third fight never took place because Robinson, known for his greed, wanted the lion's share, leaving Carmen with peanuts. "Too bad," Carmen told me. "The third fight would have made us both rich." Among the 38,000 New Yorkers who paid $560,000 (at the time the second largest non- heavyweight gate in history) were Joe Louis, Gene Tunney, Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler, Ernest Hemingway, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and Archie Moore. "We'll lick him good," Robinson's manager, George Gainford, told reporters before the bout. "We'll stick him, feint, dodge, stick, stick..." Most fight critics agreed with him, after all, Hadn't the lanky, espresso chocolate Robinson accomplished everything asked of him? Since abandoning his song-and-dance act, Sugar had KO'd both Bobo Olson and Gene Fullmer in grueling matches. When Johnny Addie announced Sugar the ballpark rang with cheers. The roar for Basilio wasn't quite as jubilant, but starchy enough to linger in the outfield for a spell. At age 37, most scrappers had already passed their prime, Sugar Ray, the epitome of ring grace, still looked young. Carmen, on the other hand, entered the ring, not in a sleek velvet robe like Robinson, but in a plain, white cotton robe and a five o'clock shadow. "A fighter should look like a gladiator," he said, "Not a damn choir boy. These fancy-dan's today make me sick." It was a helluva fight because Basilio made it a helluva fight. As Gainsford had predicted, Sugar sticked, feinted, dodged, danced, and sticked, while the onion farmer peppered him with lightening speed wallops, pausing dramatically at the end of each bell to sneer in contempt at his rival. Basilio trounced Robinson, but at the end of the 15th bell, Carmen's face looked like Linguini. Angelo Dundee, who worked Basilio's corner, hoisted him up as they announced the winner. In Sugar's corner, Gainford was yelling "Robbery!" and complaining to referee Al Bert that Basilio' corner put chloroform in the Vaseline. A poll of 34 boxing writers showed 19 for me, 8 for Sugar, and 7 even," said Basilio. "But it was a helluva fight! When I went to my dressing room, I locked myself in and wouldn't see anyone. Robinson's left jab and quick hooks had done quite a job on my face and I didn't want anyone to see what a bloody mess I was." During one exchange, Carmen said, Robinson hit him low on purpose and asked, "Hurt you Carmen?" Carmen grinned insinuatingly at the "Harlem Hotshot" and sneered, "No, do it again and see what happens!" Six months later they fought again. A memorist called the Chicago fight "The Battle of the Shuttered Eye." Robinson, the sting-artist closed Carmen's eye in the forth and jabbed him until his head looked like raw hamburger. Sugar Ray won the decision but admitted to this writer that it was the toughest fight of his 202 fights, which included 110 knockouts. "I could have went another 15 rounds," Basilio whispered to me and my photographer, Dave Walton. Later, when we interviewed Robinson and told him what Basilio said, Sugar chucked, "Maybe he could have went another 15 rounds but not with me." Both battles are remembered as the most savage and brutal the ring has ever seen, even taking into account the Zale-Graziano and Pep-Saddler brawls. There wasn't a knockdown in 30 rounds of ferocious fighting. When Sugar lost his title on January 22, 1960 to a spoiler named Paul Pender, the NBA refused to recognize the new champion. Basilio was selected to fight Gene Fullmer, who had fought his way up the ladder, poleaxing the likes of Tiger Jones, Chico Vegar, Spider Webb, and Milo Savage. In their two classic wars, Fullmer's hamming fists were too much for the aging Canastota Clouter. For the first time, Basilio failed to go the distance, The first fight was stopped in the 14th, The second fight was halted in the 12th. They were classics. In his last fight, in 1961, the 34-year-old Carmen Basilio was little more than a punching bag for middleweight title holder, Paul Pender. When the decision was announced, Basilio sat on his stool, his face looking like he had run into a nest of angry bees. He hung up his gloves. The ring will never see his likes again.
TONY ZALE GAVE IT ALL HE HAD by Bill Kelly Facing Tony Zale in the ring was depressing, like sitting next to Don King in a life boat. Slugging it out with Zale was tantamount to being locked in a closet with a Doberman pinscher. He was the greatest charge of the light brigade to ever step into the ring. A fighter named Steve Mamakos paid Zale the ultimate accolade. He said being in the ring with Tony Zale was like being inside a volcano. Zale could be meaner than a peach orchard boar; he cleaned up the middleweight division like Wyatt Earp cleaned up Tombstone. He took to fighting like Carrie Nation took to bars. Most of his fights were as one-sided as a drive-by shooting. He was like a serial killer on a rampage. He was more savage than scientific. And yet, the record books might not have been polite to Tony Zale if it were not for his three unforgettable battles with Rocky Graziano. None of three private wars inside of 21 months went over six rounds. The punishment they absorbed finished them both as fighters. In Zale's case, his fight with Marcel Cerdan three months after he regained the title from Rocky on June 10, 1948, was his finale. Fifty-two years should be long enough to dim memories, but the pictures of their three furious assaults simply won't turn off. Quantrill's burning of Lawrence, Kansas was a standoff compared to these barn-burners. It is suffice to say that both Zale and Graziano would have vanished into the ring record books virtually unnoticed if they never would have faced each other in the ring. L Lucky for us, fate maneuvered them into one of the most exciting rivalries on the modern era, a feud comparable to Pep vs. Saddler, Robinson vs. LaMotta, Ali vs. Frazier, Ketchel vs. Papke. It put them on the map the way Knute Rockne put Notre Dame on the map. Or Bela Lugosi immortalized Dracula. Otherwise, they would have rode off into the sunset as forgotten as an abandoned puppy in an animal shelter. Tony Zale was not the best middleweight to ever step into the battle pit but he was a goring, stomping bull of a man who dodged no one. He walked the plank at a time when the middleweight division was known in boxing lore as "Death Valley." They controlled the battlefield: Rocky Graziano, Al Hostak, Billy Soose, Fred Apostoli, Steve Belloise, Georgie Abrams, Marcel Cerdan, Nate Bolden, Marty Servo, Solly Krieger. The twilight didn't belong to the gods, it belonged to these guys. Born Anthony Florian Zaleski on May 29, 1913, in Gary Indiana, Tony spent most of his time at the local amateur boxing club when he wasn't working in the steel mill. He developed a body as hard as a banker's heart. He won 50 of his 95 amateur bouts inside the distance losing only eight fights. An over anxious manager had him fight 28 times the first year. That sort of arithmetic would discourage Einstein. After losing five of his last nine scraps he lost interest and retired at age 21. Art Winch and Sam Pian, two renown managers convinced Zale to make a comeback. From 1937 to 1948, under their guidance, he ran up an impressible streak of wins, before fighting three murderous fights with the great Al Hostak. The first fight was held on June 29, 1940 in Chicago. Although Hostak was NBA middleweight champion, it was a non-title fight. Zale won a 10-round decision, which earned him a title shot in Seattle. Hostak was a powerful puncher who had racked up 47 kayos. Along the way he developed broken and cracked knuckles that proved a permanent handicap. Hostak piled up an early lead in the title scrap in Chicago on July 19, but Zale caught up with him in the 13th. Zale was middleweight champion to most of the world -- the New York Commission recognized Ceferino Garcia. Hostak and Zale fought for the last time on May 28, again in Chicago. Zale knocked out Hostak in two rounds. Garcia lost his title to Ken Overlin in 1940 and Overland lost it to Billy Soose a year later. When Soose moved up to the light heavyweight class, the New York Commission declared its title vacant. It was decided to match Zale with the No. 1 contender, Georgie Abrams, for the undisputed middleweight championship. The Zale camp studied films of Abrams and recognized him as a fighter with the speed of ocelots -- but no power behind his punches. He was taken as much for granted as a janitor. You imagine Buster Douglas felt like this. Abrams dropped Zale for the nine count in the first round. The Man of Steel staggered back to his corner like a drunk looking for a place to crash. His handlers were able to revive him between rounds. In the second round an accidental butt ripped Abrams' left eye open. To his credit, Abrams finished the fight and lost a close 15 round decision. Tony Zale was crowned World Middleweight Champion. On February 13, 1942 Zale moved up to the lightheavyweight division and lost a decision to Billy Conn. He served out the war as a petty officer keeping sailors in sharp while stationed in Puerto Rico. While keeping in shape, he remained inactive until his discharge in December 1945. Returning to the ring, he scored 6 fast knockouts over worthy opponents before defending his title against a fight-fan's fighter named Rocky Graziano on September 27, in New York. Rocky had made headlines by knocking out unbeaten Billy Arnold, Al "Bummy" Davis, Freddie "Red" Cochrane, Harold Green. and Marty Servo. Neither man had an intention of going 15 rounds. Zale told this writer, "We both knew it was the end of the line for the loser." The "Man of Steel" was thirty-two, with twelve years ring experience under his belt and a champion who hadn't defended his title since 1941. Graziano was twenty-four, a local brawler and favorite who had never been knocked out. Since turning pro in 1942 he had racked up 32 kayos in 54 bouts, losing six fights by decision. The excitement generated by the thirty thousand fans who had gathered at Yankee Stadium that night crackled like sparks on a San Francisco trolley wire. Rocky was magnificent during the early rounds. He dropped Zale in the second round and had the champion soaking up punches and holding on for dear life. It seemed impossible that Zale could survive rounds three, four, and five; bursting, bone-hurting punches carved up his face and Graziano built a bonfire in his ribs. The crowd was in an uproar as the clang of the bell signaled the start of the sixth round. Zale told this writer, "I came out in the sixth with a broken right hand. I knew I had to finish him or I was through." A desperate "broken" right hand to the breadbasket forced Rocky to drop his guard. A stunning left hook to the jaw sent Graziano kicking. The crowd went wild. They each received $78, 892.82 -- a record for a middleweight fight. "We earned every cent of it," Zale said. "Rocky hurt me plenty. It took me weeks to recover from that fight." The rematch was held in Chicago on July 16, 1947 in a scorching 105 degree heat. "Tony was the only fighter that had ever knocked me out," said Graziano. "I was there for revenge. It was no boxing match. It was a private war, and if there hadn't been a referee, one of us would have wound up dead. The fight lasted only 18 minutes, but I still get nightmares thinking about it!" Smothering punches came with blinding speed and neither man gave ground. The heat was so intense that by the fifth round, Zale said, the Vaseline used to protect his eyes had melted and "was running into my eyes." Tony floored Rocky but New York's favorite delinquent bounced up without a count and waded into another barrage. It was Pier Nine- like punishment. Between rounds, the referee wanted to stop it. Rocky pleaded for one more round. That's all he needed. The two sluggers beat one another until the older Zale couldn't raise his arms to defend himself. Zale's eyes were globs of creole gumbo. Graziano's face looked like the inside membrane of eggs. Tony was hanging over the ropes as helpless as a tackling dummy on chains. The referee stopped it. Zale's seven year reign as champion was over. Eleven months later, on June 10, 1948, Zale and Graziano fought for the last time. They fought in Newark, New Jersey. No one since Stanley Ketchel had ever regained the m middleweight championship from the man to whom he lost it. But after three rounds of fighting in the tradition of Basilio-Robinson, or Hearns-Hagler, Graziano went down for the count. Following their mind-boggling series, Graziano continued to walk through minor opponents before being knocked out by Sugar Ray Robinson in his last hurrah. He was elected to Boxing Hall of Fame in 1971, 13 years after Zale received the same honor. Zale, meanwhile, defended his crown against Marcel Cerdan. But, as Zale admitted to me, the Graziano fights had taken everything out of him. On September 21, 1948, in Jersey City, the Frenchman hammered Zale around as if he were a bean bag. Before the start of the 12th round, Zale pitched forward off his stool and hit the canvas. Marcel Cerdan was the new middleweight champion of the world. Zale said he had not given himself enough time to recover from the Graziano series before fighting Cerdan only three months later. "Or I would have beaten the Frenchman easily." Tony Zale died on Thursday, March 20, 1997, leaving behind a record of 67-18-2 with 44 knockouts. I asked Zale what his most memorable fight was. He said it was his rubber match with Graziano, when they drew 21,497 fans and $335, 646. "I can't think of any fights where I didn't give the fans their money's worth," he said. And I couldn't either.
BUMMY DAVIS DIED A HERO by Bill Kelly My dad's heroes were Tony Galento and Al "Bummy" Davis. He admired them because they were brawlers, guys who proved their superiority through brute strength and endurance, rather than scientific finesse. He never forgave Gene Tunney for beating Jack Dempsey. He would have thought there was something chicken about Mahammad Ali's style of retreating and relying on his rope-a-dope generalship and superb science. He would have liked Mike Tyson's bulldog style of boring in and hammering away doggedly until he or his opponent fell. He would have admired Auturo Gatti's skill and courage. He liked sluggers who fought with gallantry and spirit. Dad was drinking with Bummy in the back room of Dudy's bar the night Bummy died a hero. He reveled me with stories about Bummy Davis. I promised Dad that someday I would write a story about Bummy based on his recollections. Here it is, the most tragic tale that ever gripped the human heart. You see, Bummy never had much schooling and he had trouble holding an intelligent conversation with a mule. A fighter of mediocre talent, his idea of training was long nights of carousal with his Cowboy Gang cronies. So what did Fritzie Zivic expect him to do when he thumbed Bummy and slashed his eyes with the laces of his gloves? Bummy went crazier than a duck in thunder. Henry Armstrong told me, "Me, and a few others took Zivic's dirty tactics, or complained to the referee, but not Bummy. It wasn't in him to do that. He snapped." Zivic had all the better of the milling that November night in 1940. Sighting danger ahead, in the second round, Bummy hit Zivic low some thirty times. When the referee tried to intervene, Bummy gave him a swift kick. Bummy's suspension became the talk of Brownsville, the home of Murder, Inc., which is where he lived. Dad met Bummy in Charley Beecher's poolroom, on the corner of Georgia and Livonia. Bummy used to train ( occasionally) in a gym behind the poolroom. Guys who were raised on the Depression-torn streets of Brownsville were so tough they ate shredded wheat without milk. The cops gave this section of town a wide berth. "For seventeen years I was in business," Charley said. "They stuck me up seventeen times." Bummy had two older brothers. Their street names were Little Gangy and Duff the Dip. Gangy's unconscionable behavior landed him in prison. Dad never knew what happened to Duff the Dip. When Bummy was a shaver his father owned a candy store. The boys would stop by for a little nip from his pocketed spirits. One day the cops came, and, as pre- planned, little Bummy grabbed the bottle and scrambled out the back door and down the street. In his haste, Bummy dropped the bottle and it broke. The little fellow watched the precious alky trickle into the gutter. He laid on the sidewalk bawling and pounding his fists on the pavement until they bled. Passerby's looked on in amazement. The word got out that maybe this Davidoff kid wasn't dealing with a full deck. Abraham Davidoff was his real name. In Yiddish they made Abraham into Ahvron and from Ahvron they made Boomy. The neighborhood called him Boomy. Johnny Attell called him Bummy. The name stuck like a zipper even though Bummy hated it. Johnny Attell promoted the fights at the Ridgewood Grove, a smoke-filled fight joint in Brooklyn. A great majority of the old-time fighters got their start there; Ruby Goldstein, Tony Canzoneri, Johnny Huber, Danny Terris, Kid Rash. Lew Burston took Bummy under his wing. When Johnny Attell made up the fight card for Bummy's first fight on May 22, 1937 against Frankie Reese, he put in large print: Al "Bummy" Davis. Bummy saw the card in a downtown window and went storming into Attell's office. "Calm down," Attell told him, "You want to make money fighting don't you? People like to come to fights to see b bums get their brains knocked out." For his entire career, people came to see Bummy Davis get his brains knocked out. Bummy learned to fight on the corner of Blake Avenue where he sold fruit and vegetables from a pushcart at age fifteen. There were dozens of push-cart vendors on Blake Avenue and Bummy had to fight every day to keep his corner. Bummy seldom bragged about his boxing career, but he seldom passed up an opportunity to say, "I was the best tomato salesman who ever lived." If the press wasn't dazzled by Bummy's fighting they were by his following. Every time he fought in the Grove he brought along a hundred guys who'd cheer for him and raise the roof when his name was announced. Everybody else would holler for the other guy because Bummy was Jewish and the Grove was in a German section of Ridgewood. This was a time when Adolf Hitler was coming into prominence. Bummy's first test of actual battle came on July 21, 1938 against Bernie Friedkin. Bummy's victorious march onward was just beginning to catch on at the grove and Friedkin was the pride of the Broadway Arena and they were neighborhood enemies. Friedkin was three years older than Bummy, so much above the intellectual level of his contemporaries that they called him "Schoolboy." It was a perfect neighborhood match. A few days before the anticipated fight Bummy was hanging out in his dad's candy store when a couple of fellows whispered to him that Schoolboy was bragging around the neighborhood that his kid sister could whip Bummy. They told Schoolboy the same thing about Bummy. The two had to be separated on the street several times after that, with Bummy offering to fight Schoolboy for nothing then and there. But Schoolboy told him to save it for the ring. Bummy never understood guys like that, because he fought simply because he loved to fight, not for money. Lew Burston had his hands full keeping Bummy away from Schoolboy before the outdoor fight at Dexter Park could be staged by Johnny Attell. Showcards were advertised all over the neighborhood and Bummy's old man and Friedkin's father had to be pulled apart on the corner of Blake Avenue. The fight was on everybody's lips in every pool hall and saloon in town. Bets were heavy. It was so big that when the scrap was rained out six times, Attell sold the card to Mike Jacobs who thought the fight was worthy of Madison Square Garden. For weeks Lew had trouble keeping Bummy in the gym. "I don't need no training to knock that bastard out," Bummy said. But Lew stayed on him and kept him banging the heavy bag. On the night of the fight, Lew took Bummy aside in the dressing room: "I can tell you exactly how that other corner is thinking. They've got Friedkin eating and sleeping with your left hooks for weeks. I want you to go out there and I don't want you to throw one right until I tell you. If you throw one right before I say so I'll walk right out on you." Bummy did exactly what Lew told him to do. For the first three rounds he hooked with his left and Schoolboy blocked nearly every punch. The fight was hard-fought throughout, but Schoolboy was clearly ahead on points. Before the bell rang for the forth round, Lew says, "Okay, go out there and feint with the left, then throw the right and put dynamite behind it." Bummy walked out and feinted his hook. When Schoolboy moved his head, Bummy lanced a right and Friedkin crumbled like yesterday's pastry, amid the aroused cheers of Bummy's followers. Bummy's knockout of his arch enemy gained him recognition in Brownsville. The top newspaper writers were saying he was the best thing since Charlie White. Bummy had money in his pockets for the first time in his life. He got fourteen hundred clams for bombing out the Schoolboy. When he walked down the street kids followed him and he bought them candy, baseball equipment and ice cream cones. Bummy was approaching twenty and was sitting on top of the world. One day he and a friend were driving around and his pal wanted to visit a sixteen year old neighborhood girl who was in the Kings County Hospital. When she got out of the hospital the three of them began hanging out together. One day Bummy's friend suggested that Bummy and the girl get married. Why not, said the girl. Okay, said Bummy. And that was Bummy's introduction into the rocky world of romance. Meanwhile, Bummy beat Al Ragone in 6, kayoed Young Chappie in 3, drew with Jack Sharkey Jr. in 6, then beat Ragone again in 8. He added to his 1938 laurels by knocking out Dom Colon and Jimmy Lancaster. In 1939 he won six straight fights before he was matched with Tony Canzoneri in the Garden. That was the fight that got everybody hating Bummy worse than Hitler. Canzoneri had gained prominence as a former featherweight and lightweight champion who had fought the best of his time. His fans were violently partisan. On November one the spectators crowded the Garden and partisan feeling ran high. When Bummy knocked Canzoneri out in the third round it was the only time Tony had been kayoed in a hundred eighty fights. Fight fans reacted with bursts of venomous outrage. They took indescribable pleasure booing Bummy every time he fought after that. Bummy was heartbroken. Bummy surprised everybody by knocking out highly-regarded Tippy Larkin in five. He was undefeated when they matched him with Lou Ambers on February 23, 1940, in the Garden. One day after Bummy started training for the Ambers fight he stopped off at the candy store to see his dad. A guy named Fred Mersky came in and told Bummy that Ambers would make quick work of him because he was a lousy fighter with the brain of a retarded clam. Bummy beat the bejabbers out of him. An ambulance took Mersky to the hospital. A friend of Mersky's was standing by with a camera and took pictures. It was a set-up. The cops were called. With an eight-state alarm out for him, Bummy went on the lam. The newspapers went crazy. The cops couldn't find Bummy but Attell did. He and Gangy drove out to an abandoned farm house, went in, and there was Bummy, drinking beer and playing cards with four or five guys, including my dad. "Are you crazy?" Attell asked Bummy. "What the hell are you doing?" "Playing poker," Bummy answered coolly. "And I'm winning." "The god-damn cops are looking all over for you," Johnny said, "You'd better come with me." Attell took him downtown, got him spruced up and called Mike Jacobs. Jacobs told Attell to take Bummy to Police Headquarters, that Sol Strauss, Mike's attorney, would meet them there. Sol got an adjournment until after the Ambers fight. The night Ambers gave Bummy a terrific battering to take the decision, Mersky was sitting at ringside bandaged up like the Invisible Man and wearing sunglasses. A wildly cheering crowd loved watching Bummy take a licking. Even more than the beating Ambers g gave him, Bummy chagrined to the jeers and insults the crowd gave him as he walked back to his dressing room, where he cried like a baby. "I quit," Bummy told Attell in the shower room. "I'm through with this crazy racket." Attell evidently didn't believe him because the next day he met with Jacobs to match Bummy with Tony Martelliano. Bummy refused to train. Worried, Attell drove out to Bummy's house to have a talk with him. When that proved futile, Lew Burston stopped by for a chat with Bummy. "I don't want to fight no more," Bummy said. "Everybody hates me. I want to be left alone. All I want is my family and to hang around with the Cowboys on the street." "He'll get over it," Attell told Jacobs, and they proceeded to advertise the fight. When Bummy saw a fight poster in the window of his dad's candy store he stormed into Jacob's office: "Listen you old toothless bastard - I'm not going to fight !" So Bummy was suspended and Attell was out of the Garden and back in the Ridgewood Grove. When Bummy heard what had happened to Attell he stopped by to see him. "Okay, Johnny," he said. "I'll fight. "But you tell those people to stop booing me." So Bummy was forced to apologize to Jacobs for calling him a "toothless old bastard," and the Marteliano fight took place on September 20, 1940. This time the gods were good to Bummy and he took a hard-fought, ten round decision, thus bringing new life into the career of Al "Bummy" Davis. After Bummy kayoed Johnny Rinaldi in 3 heaps, he saw Fritzie Zivic beat Henry Armstrong for the welterweight title. He told Attell to get him Zivic. It was a bad match for Bummy because Zivic taught the maw-maws how to fight dirty. Bummy came out of the first clinch with Zivic's thumb prints in his red-swollen eyes. For once, the crowd was with Bummy and they booed Zivic. Zivic elbowed Bummy and thumbed him repeatedly throughout the round. When Bummy returned to his corner he was told his handlers, "That sonofabitch is trying to blind me!" When Zivic did the same thing in the second round, Bummy lost it. People in the fourth row could hear him: "Okay, you bastard, if you want to fight dirty - let's go!" He started belting Zivic below the belt. He didn't even try to hide it from the referee - - ten, fifteen, twenty - thirty times! The crowd started throwing chairs and a free-for- all followed. The referee disappeared. The cops tried for twenty minutes to break up the rowdyism of the mob. Bummy was fined $2,500 and suspended from boxing in New York for life. Outside the ring, Bummy was like a fish out of water. Attell told him, "Why not join the army?" So he did. The photographers had a ball and in December 1940, Ed Van Every wrote the story in the New York Sun. Attell thought maybe the army would teach Bummy some discipline and get him back in shape to fight when everything blew over. The army's idea of discipline was to ship Bummy to Camp Hulen, Texas, and have him clean latrines with a toothbrush. Bummy wrote Attell: "You better get me outta here before I slug one of these officers!" Attell got Jacobs to pull a few strings and get Bummy a leave to fight Zivic again in the Polo Grounds for Army Emergency Relief Fund. At 147 pounds Bummy was at his best. When he came home on leave he weighed nearly 200. Taking off so much weight so quickly left Bummy as weak as a rained-on bee. "You look sharp in that uniform, Al," Zivic taunted at the signing of the fight. "Glad you like it," Bummy snapped, "You put me in it." That July 2, 1941, at the Garden, Bummy wanted to whip Zivic more than anything, but he couldn't dodge the battering ram wallops that lumped his eyes until he couldn't see. The referee stopped the slaughter in the tenth. Bummy went AWOL after the fight. The Military Police tracked him down and took him back to camp. Soon afterwards, the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. The army figured they had enough trouble without Bummy so they sent him packing. 1942 was Bummy's best year fighting. He ran up a streak of seven wins, knocking out guys quicker than chloroform. He fought in places like Holyoke, Philadelphia and Boston. He hated fighting outside of New York but there was nothing he could do because New York City wouldn't give him his license back. When the Republicans regained power in New York, Fritzie Zivic put the word out that it was probably his fault because he egged Bummy on. The newspapers played it up and Bummy got his license back. After knocking out Buster Beaupre in one round, they matched him with "Bobcat" Bob Montogomery. No one gave Bummy a chance against the Bobcat when they clashed in the Garden on February 18, 1944. The Bobcat was as slick as an eel. He had just knocked out Ike Wiliams in January, and after his fight with Bummy, Montogomery won the New York World Lightweight Title by decisioning Beau Jack in 15. Bummy was sitting in his dressing room clad in a terrycloth robe and he had his gloves on waiting to go. The sweat was rolling down his face. Suddenly he fell flat on his face. Attell and Freddie Brown rushed over and picked him up. They stretched him on a rubbing table and threw water on him to bring him around. They weren't worried anymore what Montgomery would do to him, they were worried whether they could get him into the ring. When the bell rang Bummy was so terrified that he walked right out and threw a devastating hook that sent Montogomery down. When he got up, Bummy clobbered him again and it was all over. The Bobcat was ten to one favorite and not even Johnny Attell could believe it. Bummy got fifteen thousand dollars and he had put the touch on Mike Jacobs for fifteen hundred and the following afternoon when Mike paid him off he told Bummy to forget the loan because it was worth it to see him do the impossible. Bummy threw it back in his face. "You know damn well if Montogomery would have kayoed me like you predicated you would have taken the grand and a half - so take it!" Agog sportswriters who crammed into Bummy's dressing room didn't want to hear about how great of a tomato salesman Bummy was .. but that's what they got. "You go over to Jersey and get them yourself," he told them, "then you don't have to pay no middleman. You don't put them in boxes, because it looks like you're getting ready to lam. When you only got a few it looks like you can't get rid of them, so you gotta pile them up and holler, "I gotta get rid of these. I'm gonna give 'em away!" The sports writers didn't want to write about tomatoes, so Bummy's surprising knockout over the Bobcat went virtually unnoticed in the morning edition. Bummy was living high on the hog and like most fighters, he thought the well would never run dry. He got thirty-four thousand clams for losing a 10-round decision to Beau Jack on March 17th. He won four straight by knockouts before Henry Armstrong stopped him in two rounds. He got fifteen thousand for that fight bringing his total ring earnings to a quarter of a million simoleons. He bought a saloon and placed a gigantic picture of himself standing over Bob Montogomery over the bar. He bought a couple of racehorses and loaned a lot of money to friends who never paid him back. Finally his money-crammed wallet was empty. Bummy was out of shape and was tired of fighting but he took the fight with Morris Reif because he needed the bucks. He knew he couldn't beat Reif so he didn't train. He was sitting in the backroom of Dudy's bar drinking beer with my dad and a few cronies when he happened to peer through a latticework that gave a view of the bar. He saw four guys brandishing guns. "What the hell is going on?" he said, and before dad knew it, Bummy was off and running. He stiffened one gunman with a mighty left. When Bummy went after another fellow, the bandit ripped half his neck away with a wild shot. Blood spouted from Bummy's neck. The three hoodlums dragged their pal out the front door. One of the guys present, stuck a handkerchief into the hole in Bummy's neck to stop the flow of blood. Holding the handkerchief with one hand, Bummy raced out the door in pursuit of the robbers. Guns blazed away and Bummy spun in mid-air and dropped to gutter, dead. People were yelling hysterically. An off-duty cop who had been drinking beer with Bummy ran out the rear exit and blazed away. A bullet pierced the spine of one hoodlum. He died in the hospital. Another robber was hit in the arm. The wounded man carried the slug around for days, afraid to go to a doctor. Finally a street snitch told the cops about a guy who was walking around with a "Bummy Davis bullet in his arm." The guy was picked up. He sang, and his cronies were arrested in Kansas City. They all got lengthy convictions. Bummy's funeral was the most lavish in the history of Brownsville. Attell and Lew Burston footed the bill. Everybody in Brownsville followed the hearse to the cemetery. The newspapers called Bummy a hero. There were plenty of flowers, and one small wreath among the deluge was labeled, "From Jack Kelly." *****