In the issue of November 1, 1954, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reported a boxing match between Johnny Saxton and Kid Gavilan so unsavory and so sadly representative of the low estate to which boxing had fallen that it seemed the right time to call for a thorough investigation of the whole "dark underside of boxing." Since then SI has pulled no punches in exploring and exposing the elements which have brought discredit to a great sport. In recent weeks it has been able to report, and with satisfaction, more and more evidence of successful efforts in New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere to cleanse the sport.
But it goes without saying that SI enjoys most telling the tales of the fighters who have come to the top without being compromised by boxing's dirty business.
Such a story was last week's CONVERSATION PIECE by Joan Flynn Dreyspool on Rocky Marciano. Such a story is this week's article by Associate Editor Paul O'Neil on young Floyd Patterson, the fighter generally regarded as Marciano's eventual successor as heavyweight champion of the world.
Editor O'Neil spent six weeks assembling facts for his story; he interviewed matchmakers, members of Patterson's family, his friends and schoolteachers, passed extensive hours and days in the company of the fighter and his manager. The reward for his work was the gratifying discovery of one case in which professional boxing has served to give character and a certain dignity to a boy whose beginnings were anything but promising.
Paul O'Neil, who grew up in Seattle, far from Patterson's Brooklyn, attended the University of Washington, and went to work as a newspaper sports reporter in Seattle; he became a general assignment reporter and wrote some magazine fiction. In 1943 he joined the staff of TIME. There as a contributing editor on National Affairs he authored more than 30 cover stories, earned an enviable and deserved reputation as a witty, imaginative and sensitive writer.
It is a reputation which has grown even stronger since he came to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; and his Floyd Patterson piece this week is one more reason why. For this is more than simply a sports story. It is an adventure in journalism, a human document which reveals boxing in the bright and good light which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED hopes before long will destroy its dark underside.
SI'S PAUL O'NEIL