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Nov 29th
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Home Boxing A Few Notable Suspicious Fights in Boxing History - Were We Sucker Punched?
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A Few Notable Suspicious Fights in Boxing History - Were We Sucker Punched?

thomas_mckay_trainerI am positive that most readers and my self included learned early on in life that P.T. Barnum, the great circus master, coined the phrase ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’ Our parents swore by it, some of our teachers mentioned it and it became legendary without much of an explanation.  However, it is false. Barnum never said such a thing. So no matter how long we have harbored the belief and continue to pass on the phrase to our own siblings, friends, or cohorts, it just isn’t true. The real truth of the matter is that Barnum had a competitor named David Hannum. Hannum was a banker and like Barnum, an opportunist. Both men would be part of the greatest hoax, or caper you prefer, of the Unites States 19th Century. In many respects, even they were in just a secondary school of charlatanism compared to one paleontologist, George Hull, the actual mastermind of the great giant fake which would fool the layman, church officials, and even his contemporaries.

In the late 1800’s eager evangelists were everywhere spreading the word that there were giants on earth. In 1868, Hull decided to make it bona-fide and traveled to Ft. Dodge, Iowa where he knew about a gypsum quarry. Once there, he had a slab cut that measured twelve feet in length, four feet in width and two feet in thickness. He then had wagons take his cut some forty miles to a railroad station and then delivered to him in Chicago. In the Windy City he hired stone cutter Edward Burghart to carve him a huge giant. All was done in secrecy with Burghart and his assistants likely paid well for the hoax to come.  Instructions by Hull to the cutters included making the statue appear to have died in severe suffering. And for more extraordinary suspense, he ordered them to place all organs and human anatomical details on the giant, including sex organs. Sulfuric acid and special inks were added for the giant to appear very, very old. Within months and after a deep burial at his cousin’s farm near Cardiff, New York, the final touches took place. The giant would be buried for a year.

Lady Luck was on Hull’s side within months as some other real fossil bones turned up at a nearby farm. He let six more months  pass and then he contacted his cousin William Newell and had him hire a couple of laborer’s to drill a well at the burial site and low and behold, surprise, surprise, the hired hands discovered the great giant who had turned to stone. The news spread quickly so Newell erected a tent around the giant and charged twenty five cents for visitors to see him. As more people arrived by stagecoach, he raised the fee to fifty cents. Expert scientists and clergymen came and none deemed the giant a hoax. After some ten days, a Syracuse Syndicate under Hannum bought two-thirds interest in the giant for thirty thousand dollars and took it to Syracuse. Hull and Newell must have celebrated their successful con game in great glee and joy.

Not to be outdone, P.T. Barnum sent one of his aides to Syracuse where the giant now resided and could be looked at for one dollar. With all the hoopla going on and the dollars flowing in as reported by his agent, Barnum attempted to buy the giant for fifty thousand dollars. Hannum coldly turned him down. However, Barnum knew how to get what he wanted. He had figured the giant was a fake so he had a duplicate made while at the same time exclaiming that Hannum had sold him the giant. Hannum got angry as people went to see Barnum’s giant and exclaimed, ‘There is a sucker born every minute.’ He sued Barnum for faking the original. In court, the judge ruled that evidently both giants were fakes and threw the lawsuit out.

A long introduction I agree. Yet let us consider the possibility that some claims of historical noteworthy boxing matches being tainted are well founded, or not.  Now who or whom would be devious enough to want to defraud the boxing public with a fix or arrangement that deprived boxing fans of the true outcome of a fight? Who or whom made suckers out of the boxing public for sinister reasons?  In the forties and up through the seventies the Mafia definitely had influence in the outcome of many bouts. Other larcenous persons may have chimed in for monetary or personal gain or fame. The following selection of boxing matches may or may not have suspicious criminal circumstances. You the reader can decide if the public was suckered.

First off, let us take a look back at the quickest professional fight knockout. According to some sources, the quickest KO in a fight with the ‘Ten-Count’ happened on September 23rd, 1946 when Al Couture knocked out Ralph Walton of Canada in fourteen seconds in Lewiston, Maine. Nothing too suspicious here as Couture did have power. In early 1950 he captured the USA Maine Middleweight Championship by beating a very tough Bob Stecker who was 27-1-1 coming into the bout. In a fascinating fight, he knocked down Mike Saad 15-13-2 twelve times before the referee stopped the bout by TKO in the ninth round. Overall, he knocked out thirty eight of his opponents in sixty victorious bouts. He was a short stocky boxer and suffered forty one losses, being knocked out eleven times his self. His record also shows fourteen draws. In 1950 he lost to the excellent boxer Paul Pender at 162 pounds and in his final ring bout on August 25th 1950 he was TKO’d by the great Canadian Light Heavyweight, Yvonne Durelle. If you have never seen the fights between Durelle and Archie Moore, please do yourself a favor and check them out on the internet. You will be amazed.

The only strange match that doesn’t measure up in Couture’s so-so career is when he fought Mexico’s Regino Aguilar at the Legion stadium in Hollywood, California on November 9th, 1945. Couture came in with a record of 32-23-12 while Aguilar was only in his second professional bout, having been beaten badly by Memo Llanes in his debut. Yet when the fighters answered the bell it was Aguilar who took the fight to Couture and won by TKO in the third round.

Stranger things have happened in boxing but Aguilar never developed the tools or the mental swagger to be a good boxer. As a matter of fact, he only won seven of twenty three matches and was knocked out eight times by boxers of mediocre quality. Quickly looking back, Leon Spinks dethroned Muhammed Ali by split-decision in February of 1978. It was only Leon’s eighth professional fight and in the process of defeating Ali, won both WBA and WBC Heavyweight Championship belts. Back in the 50’s when Sweden’s Ingemar Johannsen KO’d Floyd Patterson my world nearly came undone.  I was a huge fan of Patterson’s and extremely excited when Floyd gained his revenge in the return bout with his own KO. Too, who can forget Buster Douglas’ sensational KO of Mike Tyson back in February of 1990? Though some boxing fans and experts think Tyson did not take the fight seriously and have since called the fight one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, not me. Douglas was a huge man with deadly punching power. He entered the championship bout with a 42-1 record. So remember, punching power counts and untalented and undedicated boxers with steel in their hands have and will in the future pull off a stunning upset here and there.

As for Ralph Walton, did he take a dive? Not from the information I have found. Even though he was getting knocked out regularly between February 27th 1946 till his last bout on May 4th , 1948, many factors contributed to his losses, foremost being the cold hard fact that he was allowed to fight shortly after being knocked out. Before Couture KO’d him 09-23-46, he was knocked out in the 3rd round by Bill Tordiglione in Halifax, Canada on 08-29-46. He would subsequently be KO’d by Morris Reif on 11-19-46, Hermie Freeman on 02-12- 47, Paddy Young on 01-03-48 and finally Eddie LeBouef 05-04-48.  The medical profession must not have had much clout in those days. This poor soul was having his grey matter smeared all over his cranium from what little information I have gathered. He was rather small too and said to be a dirty fighter, using his knees, head and committing other type of fouls. His final record of 24 wins, 34 losses and 11 draws isn’t impressive. However, his birth date is not listed in the boxing records I have studied and there was a long spell back in the early forties when he displayed decent fighting skills. In 1940 he beat Roger Bechard, Charlie Butters, Jean-Paul Green, Frankie Ross, and was disqualified in his first fight against Al Couture (27-22-10), in the 7th round for dirty tactics December 29th, 1944. In January of 1945 he beat Al Freda and Rajah Sabu before fighting legendary hall of fame boxer Willie Pep.

The big event occurred on January 23rd 1945 at Hartford, Connecticut. Walton went ten rounds with the great Pep - who was 83-1 at fight time - and lost the decision. He rebounded well winning his next two fights before hitting the skids and calling it quits in 1948. In my opinion he fought too often and suffered too many KO’s to be allowed to fight nearly every week. When Couture took him out in fourteen seconds, it has been written that he came rushing out and let loose a lazy left while Couture just countered with a right to the jaw flooring Walton and the ref picking up the count. I consider the KO a fact and that all was legitimate. The record is safe, In my opinion, Walton just got sucker punched.

Likely the most famous case of a fight being rigged was the Jake LaMotta fiasco against Billy Fox. The alleged fixed match took place at Madison Square Garden on November 11th 1947. LaMotta held a 64-11-3 record coming into the fight and had a six pound weight disadvantage. Fox, entering the ring with a splendid record of 42-1-0 would not only be the favorite in the match but came out winging punches and crowding LaMotta for four furious rounds before LaMotta tanked in the 4th round, losing by TKO with referee Frank Fulam stopping the one-sided bout. The howls and hooting of the LaMotta crowd was deafening. His New York and Bronx devotee’s surely didn’t believe Jake had been at his fighting best and rumors circulated quickly that Jake, aka ‘The Raging Bull’ might have taken a dive. The New York State Athletic Commission also received information about a possible fix. They summoned all the participants of the fight they could contact. They also made sure the purse money was withheld and LaMotta suspended pending his appearance before the Commission. Perhaps the loyal fans of LaMotta had been suckered and thousands upon thousands of dollars bet on him lost and his image tarnished forever. Perhaps!

First up for LaMotta was an appearance at the District Attorney’s office where he supposedly gave his version of the fight and possible influences that may have dictated the outcome. Upon exiting, LaMotta was greeted by reporters who asked him if the match had been fixed. LaMotta replied that he had nothing to say other than “All I know is I fought the best I know how and I was in fine shape.” He was then asked if he had had a pre-fight conference with his opponent’s manager, one Mob connected Blinky Palermo, LaMotta replied, “I read about that. All I can say is it’s a dirty lie.’

Then there was the statement from the Commissions office after LaMotta’s appearance. They were investigating the possibility that he might have been guilty of conduct detrimental to the best interests of boxing. From those sources they concluded that testimony from all the persons involved in the contest had led them to believe that the evidence presented established without any serious dispute that LaMotta sustained an injury to his left side during the training for the bout and that he was advised by his physician to refrain from engaging in such contests. Moreover, the Commission had not received prior information about those facts by LaMotta or anyone on his behalf. As a matter of fact, LaMotta testified that his opponent, Billy fox, had struck him in the area where he had previously sustained the injury and as a result that from then on he was materially incapacitated. Ring Magazine, the boxing authority of the times under Nat Fleischer, did an independent investigation of its own and concluded that there was no proof of a fix.

As for Billy fox, he had to spend a life of humiliation after the bout that he felt he had won fair and square. Sources, including Sports Illustrated July, 11th, 1960, printed his account of the bout with LaMotta. Basically fox tells them that LaMotta was strong but noticeably slow, that if had been a wrestling match he wouldn’t have had a chance.  His strategy therefore was to keep LaMotta moving and that caused LaMotta to go for the knockout. However, Fox kept jabs in LaMotta’s eyes and nose, some five at a time until LaMotta was forced to pull his hands up for protection. Fox then took the opportunity to go to the body with great force and accuracy, even feeling bone on one terrific shot. Fox then believed he had broken one of LaMotta’s ribs and seeing a hurt expression on his foes face, dug in with machine gun combinations knowing full well he had the advantage if he didn’t get outpunched, that punching was his defense. Fox also remembers that LaMotta backed off on a huge counter-punch when he pushed fox off balance yet didn’t unleash the punch. Though Fox does remember some boos from ringside he didn’t know why the punch was held back. It certainly could have been because of the pain LaMotta was suffering and he was suffering by his own account of the fight. Still, Fox would have to eat ‘Crow.’

Fox bought a paper the next morning and the headlines blared out, ‘Fix, Fix, Fix.’ He was broken hearted and eventually got in touch with his manager, the shady character, Blinky Palermo. Palermo insisted that he did not fix the fight even swearing on his wife and children that LaMotta didn’t take a dive. That wasn’t good enough for Fox, everywhere he went the word on the street and in the media was that the fight had been rigged and Jake had dived. He learned the hard way that if something is repeated often enough then some people believe it to be fact.

Before the LaMotta fight, Fox knew that some of his victim’s were the same fighter using an alias. He cited one Larry Kellum who fought him twice, the second time under the name of Andy Holland. He made these claims in Sports Illustrated July 11th, 1960. His record had been suspiciously bloated by Palermo but then again, he had beaten some pretty damned good boxers. He won by TKO in the 2nd round over Leon Szymurski 15-5-0 on November 30th 1945, Nate Bolden 60-30-4 by KO in two, Shelton Bell 13-6-0 by KO in five, Johnny Walker 27-12-1 by a first round KO, and Reedy Evans 21-12-0 to gain a Light-heavyweight championship bout with Gus Lesnevich 54-11-5 on February 28, 1945 at Madison Square Garden.. He put up a decent fight against the great champion Lesnevich and was knocked down in the 10th round during a furious exchange of power punches. He got up groggy and the referee, Johnny Burns, stopped the fight. He still showed promise as this was his first ever defeat. He had demolished thirty six boxers in a row by KO and now he had to gather his own wits after being defeated by TKO.

Not one to despair, Fox went on a rampage after the loss to Lesnevich taking out George Kochan 37-13-10 by a 7th round TKO on April 11, 1947, Tony Gillo 22-48-10 by KO in six on May 28th of 1947, Artie Levine 47-11-5 by 3rd round TKO on June 27, 1947, Billy Cooper 37-27-6 by 2nd round KO on July 22nd 1947, George Kochan again by TKO on August 8th 1947  and finally Agostino Guedes  11-8-2 by 8th round TKO on September 2nd 1947 before that fateful strange day, November 14th when he would dispose of LaMotta in the fourth round of a scheduled ten rounder. His KO percentage was the tops of the century, over ninety per-cent knockouts. Just how impressive is that for any fighter? By comparison, LaMotta had a career KO record of a little over 28%. And another hard cold fact: How many fight fans realize that LaMotta was at his best when he outweighed his opponents, sometimes by a huge margin?

When Fox whipped LaMotta, he weighed 173 to LaMotta’s 167. Checking further into LaMotta’s career, we discover that in the fight before Fox, he actually lost to journeyman Cecil Hudson 57-21-4 in a ten rounder. Hudson methodically hung tough despite being outweighed by ten pounds. A rarity for LaMotta who had a series of fights with the many great fighters, including world champions Sugar Ray Robinson and Fritzie Zivic,  and contenders Jimmy Edgar, Vern Lester, Robert Villemain and Gene Hairston, all of whom he outweighed. The most noticeable weight differences occurred in his numerous bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson.  LaMotta’s first bout with Robinson was when he sported a 25-4-2 record. It was November 2nd, 1942 at Madison Square Garden. Sugar Ray was 35-0 at the time but only weighed 145 lbs to LaMotta’s 157 ¾ lbs. Sugar dazzled his way to an easy victory, the weight of the dangerous LaMotta being no factor in the fight. On February 5th, 1943, the two met again in Detroit, Michigan. LaMotta came in to the bout at 160 ½ pounds to Sugar Ray’s 144 ½. Still Sugar Ray out-boxed him and danced to a unanimous decision over ten rounds.

Unbelievably the men met again just three weeks later, February 26, 1943 again in Detroit. Sugar Ray entered the ring at 145 pounds and Jake was over 15 pounds heavier at 160 3/4. I can’t help but wonder about the disparity in weight, like what is going on? Anyway, Robinson loses in the ten rounder for the first time in his outstanding career. However, the bar had been set high and Robinson, much lighter than LaMotta, would nevertheless make rematches with the Bull a personal vendetta. On February 23rd, 1945 his next chance came at Madison Square Garden. Sugar Ray was now up to 148 ½ pounds while LaMotta checked in at only 158 pounds. With only a nine and a half pound advantage in weight to overcome, Sugar Ray used his explosive hand speed and quick feet to completely dominate the slower and evidently weaker LaMotta, winning by unanimous decision.

The epic battles between the two boxers continued on September 26, 1945 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Sugar Ray weighed in at a surprisingly high 150 and LaMotta hit the scales at 159 pounds. The twelve rounder ended with both men standing and Robinson gaining a hotly disputed split-decision. One wonders if Sugar Ray might have stayed leaner and won easier as the fight result was hotly disputed. Or maybe LaMotta should have stayed heavier as was the case so often.

It would be a long time before Sugar Ray and LaMotta would meet again but the undersized Sugar Ray would prove to be even more efficient on February 14th, 1951 when the two met in Chicago for the World Middleweight title. Sporting a record of 120-1-2 and weighing in at 155 ½ pounds Robinson was only giving up 4 ½ pound to the middleweight champion LaMotta who weighed in at 160 pounds.  LaMotta had only weighed 158 ¼ pounds when he took the title from France’s Marcel Cerdan on June 16, 1943 by a 10th round TKO in Detroit. He defended it at even weights against Tiberio Mitri 48-1-3 in Detroit on July 12th 1950 by unanimous decision over 15 rounds and by a 15th round KO over Laurent Dauthuille 35-8-3 at even weights in Detroit on September 13, 1950. 

The championship fight was tough early on but Robinson completely outclassed the ‘Bronx Bull’ and in the 13th round, Referee Frank Sikora stopped the bloody affair at 2:04 into the round. Robinson had finished off a somewhat lighter LaMotta by TKO. In the process, the media dubbed the blood-let ‘The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre’ citing the complete slaughter by Robinson over the ‘Raging Bull.’ For the record, LaMotta would stay up in weight in future fights.

Being heavy was not always a positive for LaMotta, especially against good fighters who didn’t spot him a bunch of pounds. In his first bout after losing to Robinson, he fought Bob Murphy 58-5-1. Murphy weighed in at 175 ½ pounds to LaMotta’s 175. LaMotta suffered a devastating loss, beaten so bad that he couldn’t get off the stool in his corner to answer the 8th round. Officially, he was stopped by RTD in the 7th round. After another loss to Norman Hayes 22-7-1 and a draw with Gene Hairston 44-10-4, LaMotta did get a measure of revenge over Murphy in June of 1952, winning a unanimous decision at Detroit over ten rounds in a fight he was outweighed by five pounds.

Other interesting weight advantages paid off for LaMotta. When he beat California Jackie Wilson in 1943, he outweighed Wilson 161 to 145 pounds for a point’s victory. His four bouts with the great champion, Fritzie Zivic, were classics with a couple of outcomes quite controversial. His first meeting with Zivic, who was eight years older than LaMotta, was Octoberr 6th 1943 in Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. In a bout that the Associated Press gave to Zivic by a 7-3 margin, referee Al Grayber gave his vote to LaMotta who won by split decision. LaMotta outweighed the older Zivic by five pounds. Their next encounter was again at Forbes field and this time it was Zivic who won the ten rounder by a split decision. He gave up four pounds to LaMotta. Those matches were so tight and popular that another was arranged for Madison Square Garden November 12th 1943. In another highly protested unpopular decision, LaMotta gained a split decision win as one of the judges, Jack Goodman, had Zivic the winner by a 7-3 margin. A major factor in this fight is that the older Zivic came in at only 149 ½ pounds to LaMotta’s 161. Wow! That was some 12 pound advantage for LaMotta.

The final episode of their four fight epics took place at Olympia stadium in Detroit on January 14th, 1944. Zivic was back up in weight to 151 ½ while LaMotta hit the scales at 159, still a 7 ½ pound weight advantage. When all was said and done LaMotta gained a unanimous decision. Yet it was in the 2nd and 4th rounds where the fight was won. LaMotta resorted to dirty tactics and was penalized for low blows in those rounds. Zivic had hurt his right hand early and though it was a good fight, the old man just couldn’t withstand the pressure from LaMotta, especially after the consequences of the low blows.

A few other meaningful fights by LaMotta wherein he had a distinct weight advantage certainly helped enhance his sometimes illustrious career. In March of 1944 LaMotta came in at 162 pounds and barely won a split decision in Chicago over Lou Woods 18-2-0 who topped the scales at 155 ½ pounds. In 1945 at the Boston Garden he weighed 160 ¼ while besting Bert Lytell 18-4-2 at 153 pounds by a mere split decision.  Two months later he tipped the scales at 161 over Tommy Bell’s 148 pounds. Bell 31-6-2 made all ten rounds losing a unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden. They repeated the performance in 1946 with LaMotta having a near eleven pound advantage and even again in 1947. For purposes here, let us finally mention Vern Lester 24-19-12. Lester took on LaMotta at the Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn, New York on October 18th, 1948. Lester was just a decent journeyman but he gave LaMotta fits and the cagey veteran was lucky to escape with a split decision. Guess what though? LaMotta weighed in at 167 pounds to Lester’s mere 153 ½.

So what has all this to do with Billy fox, the black boxer Billy Fox, who outweighed LaMotta by near seven pounds and won by TKO? For fans who might have been suckered? So much so, this superb boxer puncher has been maligned for decades, personally sinking into a dizzying tailspin deep into the abyss of hopelessness after the fight what with the press, public, and public officials decrying a possible fix that has never been authenticated; that misadventure which has become so-called common knowledge yet was deemed only alleged by the investigating authorities of those times. Why? Simply put because some thirteen years later, in 1960, LaMotta sings a different tune, one that will change his fortunes forever and leave Fox with a permanent stigma by many of the pundits who write boxing history.

LaMotta wasn’t singing much in 1957 when he was convicted of corrupting the morals of a minor in Miami, Florida. He had owned a nightclub and liquor store on the beachfront and evidently had a teenage girl he supposedly pimped for.  He denied the charge on the basis that he thought she was at least twenty one. He spent a few months in prison and is said to have worked on a chain gang. After his release from jail in 1958 he moved back to New York City. A few years later, his luck turned for the better. For whatever reason, economic or otherwise, LaMotta decided to ‘Spill The Bean’s’ about his boxing career, marriages,  and especially confessing that he threw the 1947 fight to Billy Fox, that he took a dive.

It all started in 1960 when he did a three hundred and sixty degree turn about while testifying before a United States Sub-committee under Senator Estes Kefaufer that was supposedly interested in the Mob’s influence concerning boxing. LaMotta testified that he had thrown his fight back in 1947 with Billy Fox. Right, thirteen years later he is touting any all investigating authorities and the boxing world that he took a ‘Dive’ so that the Mafia could then arrange a title fight for him down the road. He even testified that he had hit Fox with a couple of jabs and Fox’s eyes went glassy. He further told the committee that he knew then he was going to have a difficult time losing; that he panicked and might have to hold his opponent up in order to lose the fight. Furthermore, he claimed that anyone watching the fight would have to be dead drunk if they didn’t know what was happening. To make his possibly absurd claim even more authoritative to the committee, he said that instead of getting paid a hundred grand bribe money from Bill Daley and Blinky Palermo, he took a dive to obtain a future championship fight. However, he later testified later that he didn’t know who put up the bribe money, that his brother Joey had passed that information on to him. Joey naturally took the 5th Amendment. Yet it appears LaMotta is concluding before the Senate Investigating committee that he took a dive even without a bribe; oh sure he did. Then we have his story that he had to dive, that he had to come up with twenty grand to French Champion Marcel Cerdan’s American representatives, Leo Burston and Sam Richman, in order to get a title fight. LaMotta’s 360 came as a huge revelation to the committee and the boxing community. This former pug, not long out of jail, was for some strange obscure reason suddenly believable.

In my opinion, it has been Hollywood and the media who have brought forth some of their best stars and writers to portray the Mafia in a manner that has hypnotized millions of us and established a Mob Pop Culture. Some gang bosses have even gained the status of reverence because of Hollywood’s lack of morality. Just think ‘Godfather’ and you get the gist of the situation.

A decade after his testimony, LaMotta’s new song and dance had fortune written all over it.  His celebrated autobiography, ‘Raging Bull:My Story’ became a sensational success in 1970. Fans in America and around the world were just fascinated by the brutality and the confessional. A few years later, film director and producer, Marin Scorsese obtained the books rights and with popular actor Robert DeNiro playing the part of LaMotta, hit the markets in 1980 and became a gigantic success. The movie, one damned good movie, was nominated for many Oscars with DeNiro wining the top award as best actor. As movies go, no matter how influential, they usually stray from the truth in many ways and ‘Raging Bull’ was no exception. For those who saw the movie, LaMotta is depicted in some scenes whipping up on his brother Joey as he believed his manager/brother had an affair with his wife Vicky. Pardon me but it was more likely his dear friend Pete. As for Vicky, Joey introduced her to LaMotta. She was only fifteen when they met and she married him three months later. When his popularity soared with the release of his book and subsequently the movie, she knew how to capitalize on a good thing too.

Talk about giving credit where credit is due, Vicky took center stage herself in approaching Playboy Magazine executives and tantalizing them with her extremely curvaceous body and good looks even though she was fifty one years of age. She won them over and ‘Bingo’, in the November 1981 issue, she graced a few pages with sensuality and sexuality unparalleled in Playboy history for an older woman. Now that my dear reader is what in past decades we called ‘Moxie.’ As for LaMotta, he was on wife five or was it six?

Okay boxing fans this one is a tough call. Were we suckered? Contrary to my own belief that most people sided with LaMotta, I was surprised in my research to discover that in lieu of all the publicity and finger pointing about a true fix that there was and is a huge percentage of hard-core boxing authorities who do not subscribe wholly to LaMotta’s late blooming story. One such person was Paul Clinite.

My late friend Paul Clinite had first hand knowledge of the Mob’s boxing shenanigans. He grew up as a numbers runner for the Mob and had some dealings with the rascal Blinky Palermo. He was hungry, couldn’t find work and did what he had to do to survive. He proved to be one of the best at his game and therefore, in later years when he became a boxing trainer and promoter, he had enough influence to gain some good fights for his boxers and given the courtesy of handling some closed-circuit television fights, especially those involving Muhammed Ali. When George foreman decided to make his comeback, it was Clinite who got the managerial nod. Unfortunately, he had contracted severe cancer and with death looming, he arranged for Ron Weathers to take over those duties and as the world knows, Foreman pulled an extreme shocker by whipping Michael Moore in 1994 and the old rotund fighter, once a svelte built Olympic Champion of 1968, was once again the professional heavyweight champion of the world. Clinite would have been proud. There was no fix, no loaded gloves, just a great victory.

Clinite used to gab a lot about the Mob and boxing. He mentioned many questionable fights that may or may not have been fixed; even suggesting that Liston went down to Ali not because of the Mob but rather because of Muslim threats. For Clinite, the Mob rarely fixed a fight. ‘After all’ he would say, ‘The Mafia owned, managed or co-managed most top ranked fighters. A boxer had no choice but to sign with them if he wanted a top-flight career. They certainly arranged matches and in many cases had total influence over a referee, judge or judges’. ‘Why would they jeopardize a shooting conflict with other Mob families when the big money was paid by boxing fans and sponsors?’ He would go on to say that when television arrived and the public could see their heroes twice a week the Mafia was raking in major bucks. Yes indeed, to the tune of over ninety grand a week. Yet some shaky members were rubbed out for attempting to interfere with their profiteering, especially when it involved the betting line.

As for claims by LaMotta that he threw the fight to Fox, Clinite doubted it. He knew the people involved and he also knew that LaMotta was seriously injured going into the bout…against his physician’s orders. Moreover, he remembers Fox beating LaMotta to a bloody pulp before the ref finally stopped the match. As for LaMotta getting a hundred grand to dive, Clinite used to call that ridiculous, if in those days a fighter received five grand for a dive it would be a huge payday. He knew LaMotta had hit hard times and had his ups and downs in life but still praised him as a great boxer, one who never took a dive.

It is perplexing to get a valued take on LaMotta’s later claim of a fix and that Fox was a zero fighter. There were even reports that Frank Sinatra and Frank Palumbo were in on the fix. It was rumored because LaMotta’s manager, Al Silvani, was Sinatra’s bodyguard and Polumbo, a Philadelphia philanthropist, was supposedly co-managing fox with Palermo. Nothing ever came of the rumors.

I personally believe Fox needs a little historical boost in perspective of his accomplishment as a boxer and his sensational win over LaMotta. The Mob associates of both boxers were never convicted much less tried for fixing the fight. Palermo and Carbo were convicted of extortion in 1959 along with Truman Gibson Jr., a lawyer and vice president of the IBC, Joe De Sica and Luis Dragna. They had conspired unlawfully to gain control of welterweight champion Don Jordan. Blinky served seven and half years in lock and lived until July 19th, 1996. He was ninety-one when he expired. Carbo served fifteen years of a twenty five year sentence and passed away in prison.

A couple of notes of interest: First, there were common opponents that Fox and LaMotta both faced. The surprising outcomes of these bouts fully negate LaMotta’s 1960 confessional that Fox couldn’t even take a jab. The facts speak for themselves. LaMotta won over a tough Johnny Walker by a second round technical knockout on November 11th, 1943. Fox stopped Walker by first round knockout September 17th, 1946. LaMotta really had to work feverishly on three occasions to better a good boxer - puncher, George Kochan. On September 29th, 1944 Kochan 25-5-10 fought LaMotta on even terms until he was stopped in the 9th round by TKO. In the rematch on March 11th, 1944 LaMotta prevailed by points in a competitive ten rounder and on September 17th, 1945 LaMotta finally got to Kochan for a 9th round TKO.

Fox stopped Kochan three times: On December 17th, 1945 Fox gained a TKO win over Kochan in the sixth round. A rematch on April 11th, 1947 was stopped in the 7th round with Fox again winning by a TKO. The popular boxers met a 3rd time, August 8th, 1947 in Madison Square Garden with Fox hot as a pistol as he stopped Kochan 39-15-10  via a 4th round TKO. That was just three months before he took down LaMotta. There’s more. Another rugged journeyman, Ossie Harris, was a thorn in LaMotta’s side but a sucker for Fox’s explosive power. LaMotta and Fox rumbled together in Pittsburgh on March 30th, 1943. LaMotta took the victory with a narrow points win. Their second encounter was a ten rounder in Detroit, Michigan on January 28th, 1944. LaMotta barely edged Harris by a split decision over ten rounds.  The bouts were so close and entertaining that a third match was made for the Boston Garden less than a month after the second fight. On February 25th, 1944, in a fight that could have gone to either boxer, LaMotta again gained the split decision edge.

Fox met the cagey Harris on April 1st, 1946 in Pittsburgh and knocked him out in the 10th round. Harry Pittler, Harris’ manager, said they tanked because of threats by the Mafia. A rematch was set quickly for the Convention Hall in Philadelphia May 10th 1946. Fox again ripped up Harris and knocked him out in the tenth and final round. Pittler and Harris would again claim that Ossie lost because of Mob threats. If true, why did he fight for ten rounds in each bout before taking his scheduled ten - count? A lot of his suffering could have been avoided by an earlier exit. I guess there are a few boxing pundits that would have me believe that both LaMotta and Fox had most of their fights fixed, even in wicked sparring sessions in the gym. No way, LaMotta would prove to be the better man over the long haul but Fox had his number on November 14th, 1947.

Historically and because of the Mafia connections, the fight can be labeled as suckering the public. But not so fast, I personally have a difficult time believing LaMotta, a convicted criminal and in many family and friends cases, a louse. I do not believe any Mafia family would give him a hundred grand to throw a fight and that later he would have to pay twenty grand to World champion Marcel Cerdan’s American Representatives to get a title fight that only paid him less than twenty grand. I do believe that he was a fighting freak who would never take a dive and according to his own testimony until altered thirteen years later, did not take a dive. I certainly believe his physician who deemed his injury too risky to fight. I believe his jail time made it necessary to grasp any opportunity in the future to help him financially and to ensure his legacy. I believe that Nat Fleischer’s own investigation by Ring Magazine was factual.  I believe that Billy Fox was a much better fighter than given credit for and that in my own curious way of deciphering things, I am giving him some needed slack. Keep in mind that a white man’s testimony over a black man in those times was a given.

Note well that the Mob was only too gracious to make more legal money than illegal money, especially with the advent of television and millions buying sets to catch Wednesday’s Pabst Blue Ribbon’s fight card or Friday’s Gillete Razor’s usually exciting bouts. Both weekday bouts were controlled by the IBC (Mob) in concert with major television networks executives.

Second, if there is a boxing fan, manager, trainer, or even boxer out there today who doesn’t believe that the ruling bodies of boxing and their ranking systems don’t encourage bloated records in this very age and set up championship bouts based on those figures, then just what is up with you? As Paul Clinite told me, the outcome is actually in the arrangements and match ups, only a few actual fixes go down. He even claimed that there are more dives taking place in modern boxing than back in the days of the Mob. I have a hunch that he was right.

From way back in the forties and fifties, when the State and Federal authorities began investigating the ‘Bad Boys of Boxing’ and their possible Mob connections, from Senator Estes Kefaufer to John McCain, most of the legislation has been for naught. The present ‘Boxing Beat’ with Bosses Bob Arum, Don King, and Jose Sulieman, etc., in control is no better or worse then when the Mafia was in control under Carbo and Palermo.  The sad truth is that boxing is slowly ebbing away while new generations of superb athletes are seeking their lofty goals in MMA, Soccer, Football, Basketball, Cycling, and in Xtreme sports. Besides, if you know the Mafia evolved out of a secret society, what do you have to say about boxing keeping the score of each round a secret? About boxing organizations that have more titles then contenders? That shouldn’t happen even if we were living in the Stone Age. Talk about control and the basis for a fix, here it is. Old P.T. Barnum and David Hannum would understand.

Speaking of ages, our 21st Century is witnessing a new angle in fixing bouts, entertainment executives intentionally duping the public with celebrity boxing. I am sure that most readers already have heard the news……..

Thomas ‘the Wizard’ McKay


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I know of several fights that were fixed. I know for certain, and they involve the biggest names. I will give details if you're interested.
I'm so confident of what I'm contending, that I would wager my house against 50 cents. I know of 7 fixed fights for absolute certain, and, as I said, the very biggest names are involved.
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Anvil  - re: To be continued |
Ponce De Leon made Escalante look like a rank amateur. He punched his lights out way too easy.
Like Barnum, there are men of the cloth out there who are charlatans as well. They can fix a spot in forever if you have the money...or so they guarantee. I believe it was Ben Franklin who exclaime.'Lighthouses are more helpful then churches.' Now that is something I can believe in.
Blackie  - KO or Fallout |
Timely article. Did you catch the Escalante-Ruiz bout? Ruiz and PaPa sure didn't bring their A-Game.
Ruiz didn't have his heart in the fight. I believe we were suckered. Tony hadn't even warmed up. His last wo pucnhes equalled one medium left to the body and a missed right to the head as Ruiz just turned down and away and to the canvas. PaPa even yelled for his to stay down. Tony had a moment of surprise on his face too. He needed work and instead he gets a fall out.
The hype by local radio and tv led fans to believe that Ruiz's NABA belt wa on the line. Not true.

Tony deserved better. He is trying to build to a wolrd championship bout. Ruiz certainly didn't oblige.He can retire as he was quoted, or like in his past, he can defend his tilte later on and possibly win as he did against Bone Adams.
Sure nuff, we fans, especially those who forked over a hundred greenies were suckered.

I don't think I have ever witnessed a fall out in MMA.
JAWBONE  - To be continued |
This story is to be continued......
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