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The Hartford Tourant

Columnist Bill Lee pays sincere tribute to Dinny McMahon of Connecticut, an honest boxing man

Dinny McMahon, the one boxing commissioner in the U.S.A. for whom two governors went to bat within a period of two months, is now in an almost impregnable position from which he can be hurt only by friends.

A month or so before leaving office, Governor Lodge called McMahon into his office to keep a promise he had made two years before to allow Dinny to remain as chief inspector of the State Athletic Commission for an additional two years beyond retirement age.

This week Governor Ribicoff designated McMahon to be State Athletic Commissioner for the next four years.

McMahon's nomination pleased the boxing people of Connecticut, the promoters, matchmakers, boxers, managers and handlers. No state in the country has a more experienced or better-informed commissioner. Dinny has a deep understanding of the devious methods of the fight mob.

The first time I ever saw Dinny McMahon was in the summer of 1921 at a little outdoor boxing arena in Bridgeport. He was working in the corner of a chunky Jewish fighter named Kid Kaplan of Meriden against a tough body belter introduced as Lieutenant Earl Baird of the Army. My seat in the press row was close to Kaplan's corner and I heard everything McMahon, the Irish trainer, said to Kaplan, the Jewish fighter. I remember how I had been struck by the obvious fondness of the older man for the fighter he was handling. It was almost as though Louie Kaplan were Dinny McMahon's son.

It's been that way between Kaplan and McMahon ever since. They won a world championship together and the relationship never wavered. They had to cut in a New York manager in order to make progress and they had to fight underworld mobs before they won, but they got there, won the championship and parted with it without doing anything that reflected the slightest discredit on either man or the business they were in.

Everyone by this time has heard the story of how Kaplan, after a brief tenure, no longer could make 126 pounds. McMahon was propositioned to "sell" the title to a certain featherweight. There would be $50,000 in it for Louie and Dinny, and remember that 50 grand at that time of a far lesser tax bite must have been something like $100,000 would be today. McMahon and Kaplan turned the bribe down, marched to the New York Boxing Commission and laid the featherweight championship of the world on the table.

"You made it possible for us to win this title and now we can't make the weight any more, so we're turning it back to you," McMahon told the commission.

The payoff has been a long time coming but it's so fine and clean and wonderful that McMahon's picture should be hung in every boxing office in the country. Dinny hasn't minded waiting.