In a recent account of the Saxton-Gavilan Waltz Me Matilda, this corner suggested that, since the IBC had organized promoters from coast to coast and fight managers had a brace of warring guilds, maybe it was time the fans got into the act with an APPPFF, pronounced exactly the way it's spelled, with the middle P silent, as in Palermo when he is called upon to testify under oath. The APPPFF, you may remember, stands for the Association for the Protection of the Poor Put-upon Fight Fan. The banner of this new association is a coarse, white, rubdown towel, trimmed in red, symbolizing both the gore spilled by the gladiators for our enjoyment and the trimmings they get inside the ring and out. In the center is a cross, with an extra line transecting the horizontal. Any resemblance between this and a symbol of the old double cross is exactly what our own Betsy Ross had in mind. In the upper left-hand corner is a hand, and in the lower right corner another hand, signifying that reassuring Golden Rule of Eighth Avenue: "Never let your right hand know what your left hand is doing and vice-a-voisa." Our anthem is that stirring marching song, How Come You Do Us Like You Do, Do, Do? Our musical director is working on a zingy choral arrangement of this for 40 million voices, to take the place of the individual, discordant squawks every time the beer outfits and that up-and-coming razor company palm off a turkey on us (like Olson-Panter) that no self-respecting fight fan would be caught dead at. And if that preposition is dangling, so are your fight fans.
SORRY, FELLOWS, IT'S NOT DEDUCTIBLE
Before our APPPFF gets out of hand and starts holding conventions and issuing resolutions, the founder would like to get in early with the warning that this is one organization that is, not going to hold meetings, issue membership cards, elect officers, or charge dues. Sorry, fellows, you can't put the APPPFF down as a deductible item. We hope this won't come as a disappointment to those eager souls who have been writing in (they really have) expressing wholehearted agreement with a fans' protective society and wanting to sign up.
Well, it's deceptively easy to join the APPPFF. You simply go to fights or watch them on TV, search your hearts, consciences and knowledge of the game, and decide that you are an APPPFFer. The first requirement of an APPPFFer (it gets easier to say this after you've been one a few minutes) is that he has to be a true fight fan. He thinks boxing is not only the most exciting and dramatic but also the most exacting and perhaps most scientific sport we have. He knows there is something about two well-conditioned men facing each other on the square, fairly matched in punching power, courage, endurance and skill, that makes fist fighting the most basic, compelling and suspenseful game of all. When the science and punching power are merged in one fighter—Benny Leonard, Ray Robinson—you have greatness in the ring, boxing as it is meant to be.
In other words the last F in the APPPFF stands for fan, in a big way, a die-hard lover of the sport who doesn't want to see it outlawed and abolished, as some six readers have urged upon learning of the touching Carbo-Palermo friendship and the way in which "rival" fighters are controlled by individual piecemen, encouraged or tolerated by promoters and boxing commissioners. An APPPFFer believes that fist fighting is so deeply in our blood or in our culture that its prohibition would have no more effect than that hectic experiment of Mr. Volstead in the gin-kissed 20s. Some of the old parties in the APPPFF even recall that boxing was officially abolished in New York until the Walker Law did for boxing what the 21st Amendment did for another great American indoor sport. Forty years ago bootleg boxing flourished in fistic equivalents of speak-easies. You went up to a window at the Denox or the Pioneer (or a score of others) and you purchased not a ticket, but a one-night membership in the club which happened to have on its agenda that night a program of boxing. Purses were paltry, receipts were swiped, 16-year-old featherweights were tossed in with tough middleweights, medical care was considered an unnecessary refinement, and hoodlums exerted a direct influence on the proceedings. One boxer I know of staggered back to his drafty dressing room to discover that he had been stabbed in the back on his way out of the ring.
BACK-STABBING IS MORE SANITARY
Of course boxers are stabbed in the back these days too. But in a more sanitary way. Sidetracking the logical contender (Basilio today, or Archie Moore five years ago) in favor of a ballyhooed stiff is the bloodless sort of back stabbing at which the modern fight game excels. It may be an improvement on the old uncontrolled, blood-pit days. But an APPPFFer asks more. At the risk of being called a dirty name, like na√Øve, he says:
"If you're going to sell this to us as a sport, run it as a sport. No one says don't run it for money. There's plenty of the mazuma to be made legitimately in our great American professional sports—baseball, football, horse racing. Today, when arena boxing is vanishing from the American scene, there is a television public of unprecedented millions eager to embrace the sport. Razor companies and brewers wouldn't give their public faulty blades or sour beer. They should be careful not to sponsor boxing matches which are the equivalent of flawed products."
Since state athletic commissions are inevitably stacked with politicians, maybe a federal boxing administrator is in order. New York's Senator Irving Ives and Commissioner Bob (I-thought-I-cleaned-'em-out) Christenberry are among those who have spoken up for this reform. The APPPFF isn't for more organizations and investigations just for the sake of those big black headlines. It has seen investigations and investigators come and go, leaving behind them the same old mud-holes. The APPPFF doesn't care how it's done, but it wants to believe in its champions, as ball fans believe in and—let's say it—are inspired by the pure, professional play of a Willie Mays, a Peewee Reese. When tempted to applaud the off-again-on-again Lightweight Champion Jimmy Carter for relieving Paddy De Marco of his title in a sharp performance last week, the APPPFF can't quite erase his previous lackluster evenings against Paddy and Lauro Salas, a couple of ordinary boys to whom he blew the title on nights when he wasn't in the mood. He wins it back each time with an ease that makes us wonder.
The APPPFF is for photogenic Jim Norris devoting himself to some fistic hygienics in the interests of the fans who do not, in the strict sense, support him but certainly further enrich him. And if that is too much to ask, we invoke our friend Jimmy Cannon's open letter to Tom Dewey, who may be remembered as having run for office, sometimes successfully, on a number of occasions. Jim, a charter member, maybe even a founding father of the APPPFF, Uninco, wrote the Gov. as follows:
"I'd set up a special commission to go right to work on the fight racket—if it's going to be sanctioned I think it should be run properly. It can't be unless you step in and order it ransacked by trained investigators."
Investigations, federal action—why not? But, meanwhile, when you watch those fights, good, bad and indecent, you might harken to the advice of Henry Thoreau, a fellow who never subscribed to Ring Magazine (thereby missing a good deal), but still had something to say to the APPPFF:
A citizen should never resign his conscience to the legislator.
The APPPFF welcomes new members. But remember now—no dues, no membership certificates, no funny hats—all you have to be is a fight fan who thinks the game is ready for its bicentennial delousing. Members are expected to provide their own spray guns and to go into action at their own risk.
THE BANNER OF THE APPPFF, WITH STIRRING SYMBOLISM, FEATURES THE DOUBLE CROSS ON BLOOD-MARKED TOWEL
MEMBERSHIP CARD, which Founder Schulberg isn't issuing, might look like this.
"I always thought the first round was just for feeling each other out."