Morality hangs over the City of Toronto like smog over Los Angeles. On Sunday no newspaper publishes there, the movie houses are closed and it is not possible, if one were so minded, to brighten the cheerless day by buying a drink. Perhaps as a result of this seventh-day suppression of profane desires, the norms of entertainment value are distorted, at least in the sporting fellowship, so that a fight which might attract 374 persons to Madison Square Garden was able to draw 5,200 in Toronto last week.
It was a 12-round affair between James J. Parker, a personable, but by no means terrifying, young heavyweight from Saskatoon, and Johnny Arthur, the apartheid heavyweight champion of South Africa. The fight was billed as for the championship of the British Empire, and its major effect was to split the Commonwealth on yet another issue. The billing had the approval of the Canadian Boxing Federation but not of the British Boxing Board of Control, which really seems to care and insists that Don Cockell, for all his seeming retirement, remains Empire champion.
THE LOGIC OF IT ALL
The logic which set Parker and Arthur against each other for the Empire belt went something like this: Parker had fought a draw with the Canadian champion, Earl Walls, who then retired, and another draw with the freakishly inept but tree-top tall Ewart Potgeiter, who also retired. Thus Parker had drawn no less than two men into retirement. Nino Valdes had beaten both Parker and Cockell. Cockell had beaten Arthur.
It was all too clear. The winner of this fight must surely be a British champion, or Alice in Wonderland was writ by an Albanian.
The Alice motif became even clearer when the two fighters doffed their robes in the ring. Each had a roll of fat hanging over his belt and Arthur confessed later that he had done no road-work. He had been afraid of catching cold, he said. He had done roadwork once before a fight and he caught cold. No more roadwork for him.
Furthermore, Arthur fought in a style which goes back to the original Marquess of Queensberry rules. They called for a "stand-up" fight and none of this ducking, bobbing and weaving. The only weaving Arthur did was purely involuntary. In the sixth round Parker, who had early displayed some knowledge of the jab, the hook and the cross, clopped him a right. It set Arthur down for a mandatory eight-count. Arising, he fought back in dismay and a daze but Parker could not finish him. Parker did not need to. He won a unanimous decision.
After the fight, Honest Bill Daly preened his lavender shirt and insisted that some day Parker would fight Rocky Marciano. Honest Bill manages Parker and it may be that his mind was a little unsettled by news of what was happening to the International Boxing Guild, of which he is the much-sought treasurer. Parker is in Marciano's class only in that he has an uncontrollable tendency to hit after the bell. He drew a few boos for this, but it seems unintentional.
The best fight of the day took place at the weighin, where a little man in a dented gray Homburg strode about ordering the fighters onto the scales when it came their turn. (Toronto weighing are held privately in an anteroom and the press is given no opportunity to check on the accuracy of the scales or the eyes of the examiners.) The Homburg man was adamant that black trunks and white trunks would be worn. If two opposing fighters protested that they owned only black trunks, he made them toss a coin to see which would buy a white pair.
"Even in New York," he told them, "when they have a fight one fighter has to wear black trunks, the other has to wear white trunks. It's for contrast."
But there was one manager who said his preliminary boy didn't have any white trunks and wasn't going to buy any, either. A pair of trunks costs a fighter $6.50 and that is quite an item in a prelim boxer's budget.
The manager and the Homburg man faced each other on the issue.
"It's for contrast," the Homburg man said again, but you could see he was weakening.
"My boy's got purple trunks," the manager said. "Anybody can't tell purple from black shouldn't be at a fight."
The Homburg man quit cold.
"All right," he said. "Purple. That's a contrasting color."
"Smeeg has such a devoted following."
ABOUT BUDD SCHULBERG
SI's first boxing columnist, Budd Schulberg, whose writings in this magazine won him the Notre Dame award last spring, recently moved to Florida where he is busy with book and motion picture commitments. As a consequence, he will no longer be able to conduct SI's boxing column, although he expects to contribute special articles from time to time.