JOE LOUIS IN STRANGE SPECTACLE (Associated Press, January 29, 1937) MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, New York -- Before a howling, near-capacity crowd of 18,000, Joe Louis, minus his fistic bombs, outpointed Bob Pastor, nimble ex-college boxer, tonight in a ten-round pursuit match that presented one of the strangest heavyweight spectacles witnessed in the Garden's battle-pit in many a harvest moon. Entering the ring on the short end of 10 to 1 odds, Pastor spotted Louis nearly twenty-five pounds, then put on a reverse brand of footwork with such success that he weathered the limit of ten full rounds without once being seriously damaged, much less knocked off his feet. Baffled by his opponent's back-pedaling, swift-circling tactics, Louis not only failed to explode any of the punching dynamite for which he is famous but actually was hard-pressed to gain anything like a decisive margin on points over the artfully dodging former New York University fullback. On the Associated Press score sheet, Louis was credited with only five of the ten rounds -- the first, fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth. Pastor took the second, third, sixth and tenth while the seventh was registered even. Referee Arthur Donovan and the two judges, George Le Cron and Charley Lynch, scored unanimously for Louis. The crowd, officially put at 18,864 customers, with gross gate receipts of $111,570.60, booed the verdict lustily and jeered Louis as the obviously crestfallen Brown Bomber left the ring. Pastor, who emerged unscathed as the first heavyweight to go the limit with Louis since the latter's knockout last June by Max Schmeling, didn't even lose the plaster patch that he wore over his left eye when the bout started. Louis, slow, wild and completely baffled by his rival's tactics, showed the effects of Pastor's punches around the region of the ribs and kidneys, besides a sore nose that bled throughout the last five rounds. Ringside critics, almost as completely wrong in their speculation over the outcome as they were in the Louis-Schmeling bout, quickly circulated reports of a "clean up" by Broadway betting men. Plenty of money had been wagered, it was said, against the chances of Pastor going the limit. Louis, although always seemingly dangerous with either fist, failed to land anything resembling a knockdown punch. The Bomber's lefts jarred Pastor at intervals, including the fourth, fifth and eighth rounds, but he missed more blows than he connected. Shufflin' Joe looked so slow at times as he tried to match his smaller rival's speedy footwork that he resembled a cigar-store Indian trying to swap punches at long range with a jumping jack. Pastor blocked many of the punches and ducked or side-stepped others, and scored on his own account with lusty clouts to the head and body. Taken as the whole the match was more of a novelty in footwork than it was exciting or damaging to either party involved, but Pastor earned credit for outsmarting Louis at nearly every turn and showing sufficient aggressiveness in spots to make the negro look bad. The result, while disappointing to most spectators, looking for some blood and thunder, was nevertheless a blow to the prestige of the Brown Bomber. Louis, scaling 203 1/4 to Pastor's 179, started slowly and finished the same way. Pastor, plucky as well as resourceful, actually swapped blows with his bigger, heavier-hitting foe without giving ground int he final round and won the crowd's favor by his brisk finish. (ED. NOTE -- Two and a half years later, while heavyweight champion, Louis knocked out Pastor in the eleventh round of a title defense.)
BRADDOCK LURED INTO JACOBS FOLD (Associated Press, February 2, 1937) NEW YORK -- Heavyweight champion James J. Braddock, lured on by the prospect of getting a half million dollars for defending his title against Joe Louis in Chicago, joined Promoter Mike Jacobs' gilt-edged colors today by agreeing to two warm-up bouts at Uncle Mike's Hippodrome. As Jimmy Johnston of Madison Square Garden, holder of Braddock's contract to risk his title against Max Schmeling next June, stuck in his trenches with unusual silence, the heavyweight champion agreed to box two opponents for Jacobs February 15. Braddock will meet Eddie Kotwisca, former New Jersey amateur heavyweight champion, and Eddie Cook, a big negro from Havana. Unless the New York State Athletic Commission insists each fight be four rounds, in accordance with present regulations, Braddock will box two rounds with each. Under New York state law, the matches cannot be billed as exhibitions, although that's all they amount to. The reason for the two bouts, to be fought on the same card, quite plainly is to test the contract held by the Garden for Braddock's services. Anyway, it's an open challenge to the Garden, which said it would think about it when the time came for the Hippodrome fights. Promoter Jacobs flew in fron his Chicago conferences last night. He spent a busy day with Joe Gould, manager of Braddock, and lawyers. In fact, the day's statements resembled a run-around. "It's up to Gould," said Jacobs. "If he wants to toss a half million dollars out of the window, he's foolish, and I don't think he's foolish." "We're holding our fort," said Johnston. "We know our legal rights and we'll stop any Louis-Braddock fight until Schmeling has had his chance June 3." "We're going to fight Louis in Chicago, positively, contract or no contract," shouted Gould. Johnston exchanged telegrams with Max Baer, former heavyweight champion, whom he wants to match with Bob Pastor, "the man who stayed 10 rounds with Louis," for a Garden show either March 12 or 19. Promoter Homer Rainault of Holyoke, Mass., attempted to get a match for Unknown Winston, negro heavyweight, against Louis at the Springfield, Mass., Coliseum, but Jacobs rejected it. Promoter Rainault was asked to dig up another fighter as, strangely enough, Louis won't fight negroes. (ED. NOTE -- Max Baer did not fight Bob Pastor. Max Schmeling did not fight James J. Braddock. Joe Louis fought Braddock, in Chicago, on June 22, 1937, and put him to sleep in the eighth round, thus winning the heavyweight championship of the world.)
FEDERAL PROBE TARGETS NEW JERSEY (Boston Globe, Sunday, March 14, 1999) By Ron Borges NEW YORK - A major shakeup in big-time boxing may have begun quietly last week with the resignation of attorney Pat English from Main Events, Dino Duva's New Jersey-based promotional company. It is the start of a move by Duva and his sister, Donna, to buy out sister-in-law Kathy Duva, who along with her children controls about 40 percent of the company trust started by her late husband, Dan. As the family Duva began these negotiations, English opted to resign from Main Events's board after a 17-year association because he is also Kathy Duva's family attorney and would be involved in the negotiations of a financial settlement, if one can be reached. But changes at Main Events, one of the sport's biggest promotional companies, may not be the biggest boxing story to come out of New Jersey this year. A federal grand jury investigation into the sport's often questionable business practices has begun and may delve into the inner workings of the New Jersey-based International Boxing Federation and its president, Bob Lee, sources say. Lee's organization is not the probe's only target, however. Word is, the government is asking questions about promoters Butch Lewis and Cedric Kushner, fight manager Marc Roberts -- who ran a stock deal that sold $10 million worth of shares in a management company whose biggest asset was heavyweight prospect Shannon Briggs -- head of the New Jersey state athletic commission Larry Hazzard, and other boxing figures. Promoter Bob Arum has voluntarily testified in front of that grand jury, although he denied Friday that he had cut an immunity deal. ''There's no reason to give me immunity,'' he said. ''I haven't done anything. You make an immunity deal if you need immunity from something. Other than that, I don't know anything about it.'' Arum refused to discuss the investigation, but another boxing insider said it was a far-ranging one and several others in a position to know insisted that Lewis may make his own immunity deal in exchange for testimony against Lee, with the hope that Lee eventually will crack and give the government another shot at indicting promoter Don King, who has defeated three efforts to convict him on various charges. The issues under investigation reportedly involve extortion and bribery surrounding the selling of rankings and the title shots those rankings produce, a scenario not unlike the one in the famous boxing film, ''The Harder They Fall.'' The grand jury reportedly is also looking into questionable judging in New Jersey that appeared to favor certain fighters and whether the managers of those fighters had financial connections with boxing officials. Said a source, ''A lot of time and effort is going into this and I think it will lead somewhere, although I don't think even the feds know where yet. Without any question [Arizona Sen. John] McCain is involved in this. Just how, I can't say, but I think his committee has turned over a lot of information to these guys.'' Sen. McCain has been trying for years to clean up the sport's business practices and protect fighters from unscrupulous promoters. He filed the Muhammad Ali Boxing Bill, which forces state commissions to honor suspensions and rulings of other states, and has has held several rounds of hearings on the sport. The probe, which included interviews with FBI agents involved in an investigation of an unnamed boxing promoter that began more than 10 years ago, is nothing new for boxing. Managers and promoters have had repeated run-ins with the government dating back to the days when the Mob ran the sport at the behest of Frankie Carbo and Jim Norris through an organization known as the IBC. In those days, ratings were manipulated, fights were fixed in exchange for future title shots, and the rackets controlled most everything that happened in the ring. Things may be more sophisticated as the dawning of the new millennium looms, but boxing's address on the shady side of the street seldom seems to change for long. If that is where it is again, it won't be long before you'll be hearing about it from a New Jersey courthouse.
THE PAY-PER-VIEW BUSINESS (New York Times, Monday, March 15, 1999) By Richard Sandomir You're a man making a lot of money tonight," Lou DiBella, the senior vice president of HBO Sports, told Don King before Saturday night's Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis fight. "I sure hope so," King said. "It's sweet and getting sweeter. I worked the vineyard. I made lemonade. I had no Tyson and two fighters who were no ticket-sellers." Indeed, the promoter had a greater incentive than ever to promote as he's never promoted before. In his deal with TVKO, HBO's pay-per-view arm, his profit was to kick in after 850,000 purchases, at $50 each. So with TVKO's tracking of cable systems indicating buys of 1.1 million to 1.4 million, King could pocket up to $6 million. "Hopefully it will be a pole vault, not a high jump over a million," said Seth Abraham, the president of HBO Sports. At 1.4 million viewers, it would have equaled the Holyfield-George Foreman fight in 1991, but would have exceeded it in revenue because the earlier bout sold for $35.95. Never one to relinquish credit, King said he masterminded Holyfield and Lewis's uncharacteristic war of words this past week. (Never mind the possibility that both men recognized that manufactured animosity might push ticket sales and pay-per-view buys.) If not for King, King said, Holyfield might not have predicted a third-round knockout or Lewis might not have taunted Holyfield as a religious hypocrite for fathering five children out of wedlock. "They don't like each other," King said. "They can like each other tomorrow." Jim Lampley, the TVKO announcer, said Holyfield had "gone wacko" by predicting the early knockout, and that Lewis held a psychological edge going into the fight. "I picked Holyfield to win in Ring magazine and I would have picked him a week ago," Lampley said between undercard fights. But as the heavyweight unification bout drew nearer, he said he had changed his pick to Lewis. "I've never seen him this calm." But, he added: "I'm discomfited by having made such a prediction. Now you worry whether it can happen, whether my fight call will be hostage to my opinion." Foreman, the analyst on the fight with Larry Merchant, dismissed Holyfield's prediction as well as the impact of Lewis's considerable weight advantage. "He's a sports hero, and sports heroes do things like that," Foreman said. "Babe Ruth pointed to where he'd hit his home run; Joe Namath predicted he'd win the Super Bowl. It's time he started doing things like that. He beat Tyson. Now he's feeling his Cheerios." The Garden's Impact Does Madison Square Garden truly matter as the fight site? Do enough boxing fans care about its place in history, or is it no different from any temporary facility or auditorium in Las Vegas, Nev.? The HBO/TVKO contingent insisted that the site propelled ticket sales into a sellout and "provides the Good Housekeeping seal of approval" in pay-per-view. "It means the fight is worth your time and money," said Marc Taffett, TVKO's senior vice president. Foreman fought his first professional fight at the Garden in 1969 on the undercard of the Joe Frazier-Jerry Quarry main event. But he recalled most vividly his victory in the Garden over George Chuvalo. "This place is very special to me," he said. "Afterwards, Miles Davis came into my dressing room and said, 'That was so-o-o-o cool, the way you fainted that dude.' " Then, autograph seekers thronged around him outside the arena. "If you're from the old school, the Garden gives you chills," he said. "If you know the history, the hype is right." Lampley added, "You just can't overstate the impact of calling a fight at the Garden." In the end, whether the fight's promotion overstated the impact of the Garden, the onetime boxing mecca, may have been determined by the fans' reaction to the fight. "If you hear thunder from the crowd, it wasn't overhyped," said Ross Greenburg, the executive producer of HBO Sports, who produced the fight. "If it's a dog fight, and people boo, we'll have to tell that story." Too Costly on TV? At $50, the fight is TVKO's most expensive. Conceivably the bout could have sold for $40 or $45. After all, DirecTV is charging satellite-dish owners $39 for the N.C.A.A. men's basketball tournament games that viewers of CBS's broadcasts cannot see in their local markets. So isn't $50 too much? Besides, with 38 million cable subscribers and satellite dish owners in the pay-per-view universe, couldn't TVKO charge $20 or $25 and lure many more potential buyers? "Fifty dollars felt right," said Abraham. "We felt that the price was equal to the value of the fight." Consumer research, he said, has found that "unless you charge a ridiculous price, like $100," the pay-per-view price is not relevant. "Pay-per-view buys are not sensitive to the price if the value is right," he added. Not to be forgotten in setting the price is that TVKO invested $22 million in the purses for the fighters and several million more for marketing.
MEDIA: JUST SAY NO MAS (New York Post, Friday, March 19,1999) By Phil Mushnick All right, we've had a full week of Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis aftershock. The media's outrage and indignation have been deadly accurate. But now I have a question for my brethren in the media. If there's a rematch, are you going to cover it? I'm addressing everyone here, ESPN, WFAN, USA Today, network TV and its local affiliates, Sports Illustrated, MSG, CNN, the New York Post. After the latest week of pointing the finger of scandal at boxing in general and Don King in particular, you'll all be there for the rematch, won't you? You're going to jump right back in to provide aid, comfort and priceless promotion to the bad guys. What would happen if every sports-news entity, every newspaper, magazine, radio station and TV network that reported the Holyfield-Lewis decision as an unmitigated disgrace decided that it would totally ignore the rematch? Chances are, there'd be no rematch. I'm not suggesting a boycott. One need not declare a boycott of an event that's perpetrated by a fraud. One's news agency need only to decide, on the grounds of both empirical evidence and sound news judgment, that it chooses not to serve as an enabling party to an event born of fraud. For all the outrage in the wake of Holyfield-Lewis, we've been down this road before, especially after fights attached to the name, Don King. The warning was right there on the label. Yet, by random example, Ch. 4's Len Berman habitually promotes King's fights by airing same-day clips of his blustery press conferences. They always provide Berman and his on-air colleagues with a good chuckle. Is Berman, a fellow who promoted Holyfield-Lewis, then pointed to the decision as a disgrace, prepared to ignore the rematch? Is he, at long last, prepared to cease serving as a King enabler? If not, then he's a willing party to the same scandal that he spent this week reporting. Of course, a Holyfield-Lewis rematch would include a considerable advertising budget. That's the real hard part. Would the same media entities that damned the Holyfield-Lewis decision reject ads for the rematch? Or will they accept money to promote an event that they have branded and condemned as the residual effect of a fraud? There are other considerations, those born of conflicted corporate interests, for example. MSG would be forced to promote Holyfield-Lewis II. The network is owned by Cablevision, which would seek to maximize pay-per-view sales for the cable systems it also owns. Could SI turn down ads for the rematch? Could CNN refuse to cover the rematch? Not when their parent company, Time-Warner, owns HBO/TVKO, King's latest cable/pay-per-view confederate? Then there's just plain empty-headedness. Last year a guest column appeared in The New York Times that provided suggestions on how to clean up boxing. The column's author, by invite of The Times was Don King! That defies belief. The man who tried to have Mike Tyson declared the winner after he was knocked out by Buster Douglas, the man who brought you Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley, a first-round DQ on pay-per-view, the man who for 30 years has done endless dirt to boxers, boxing fans and boxing was extended a forum in the New York Times on how to cleanse the sport! We in the media want it both ways. We pander to the bad guys, breathe life into them, enrich them, then rip them because they're bad guys. Then we do it all over again. If there's a Holyfield-Lewis rematch it will provide the perfect opportunity to finally demonstrate the courage of our convictions. Could we ignore it? Sure we could. But would we? Fat chance.