Skip to main content
Original Issue


About to lose his boxing monopoly, Jim Norris loses his first heavyweight title championship

Little more than a year ago Cus D'Amato was proclaiming foolishly that his obscure fighter, Floyd Patterson, would win the heavyweight championship of the world despite all the power the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president) could range against him. Patterson then had not even fought Hurricane Jackson. Everyone, with a few exceptions (SI, Jan. 30, 1956), thought Cus was pretty silly.

About the same time the United States Department of Justice was proclaiming that the IBC, Madison Square Garden and some others were engaged in a conspiracy to monopolize boxing. Just about everyone, save for some who bothered to read the charges and examine the law, thought the IBC would beat the rap easy.

Little more than a week ago, Cus D'Amato was proclaiming foolishly that an obscure onetime promoter, Emil Lence, would promote the next heavyweight championship fight—none other than Floyd Patterson vs. Hurricane Jackson—despite all the power the IBC could range against him. Just about everyone, save for a stubborn few who knew what stubborn stuff Floyd's manager is made of, again thought Cus was pretty silly.

A year has gone by since Cus's first proclamation and Floyd Patterson is champion of the world, the IBC has not beaten the rap and it has not beaten Cus D'Amato either. Just about everyone has now come to the conclusion that the white-haired, grim-jawed Cus is the smartest, toughest fight manager to come along in many a year.

The Justice Department's antitrust division looks smart and tough, too. The IBC has been found guilty of the monopoly conspiracy, and it is only a question of time and the mind of Federal Judge Sylvester J. Ryan as to when the monopoly will be broken for sure and for good. As for the Patterson-Jackson fight, under some urging from New York's boxing commission chairman, Julius Helfand, against the reluctance of Jackson's IBC-beholden manager, it has been signed for the week of July 29, a more definite date to be set when television commitments are made. Likely date: Tuesday, July 30. Likely TV viewer: Jim Norris.

This week Cus D'Amato, relaxing in an electrically operated vibrating lounge chair, spoke an electrically vibrant metaphor:

"If they got Jackson they have a fight. I'm just sitting down as a bystander awaiting the results."

From here on out Cus can afford to sit down as a bystander and let Pro-motor Emil Lence carry the ball to Newcastle.

So there are two big cracks now in the IBC dam against competition, but even so there is no need for anyone to run. This flow is water pouring into a drought-stricken land, restoring life, not taking it.

Some of the most vital restoration work will be done in a week or so, when Judge Ryan hands down his decree. Now he is taking advice—well, he's listening to advice—from defense and Government lawyers who have ideas about what his decree should be.

The IBC advice is interesting. It would leave the IBC pretty much where it is now—in charge of all that is important in boxing save Cus D'Amato. It proposes that the IBC be limited to promotion of but four championship fights a year and at the same time retain its control over the two weekly TV shows. At first blush this looks as if the IBC was chastising itself quite severely in the matter of championship bouts—they have averaged 10 a year in the U.S. since 1947, though only six were fought last year—but a second blush discloses that the IBC made no mistake at all, or perhaps a very clever mistake. For under this arrangement it could actually promote as many championship fights as it wished. It could promote four title fights in the United States and for the rest adjourn to Canada, using a Toronto or Montreal station to feed either the ABC or NBC TV network.

It was quite clear to the government lawyers that if the IBC continues to control two weekly network shows it will control the march of all young fighters toward the championships. The government proposal would, in essence, separate Madison Square Garden, which owns IBC-New York, from Chicago Stadium, which owns IBC-Illinois. Norris and his partner Arthur M. Wirtz would have to abandon their interest in the Garden and confine themselves to the Stadium. The independent Garden would then run one network show and the IBC Stadium would run the other. Norris and Wirtz would be reduced to one network and one arena.

Judge Ryan indicated that he would not force Norris and Wirtz to dump their Garden stock (219,000 shares out of 563,000) on the market, to the detriment of other investors, but he is considering a plan whereby they would turn their stock over to a trustee and thus relinquish control over the Garden management.

Kenneth C. Royall, onetime Secretary of War under President Truman, now chief spokesman for the IBC defense, declared then that in event of a trusteeship and no voice in Garden management, Norris and Wirtz "would prefer to give up all boxing activity."

Judge Ryan was not appalled.

"That," he said, "would be a decision for them to make."

The judge, who has enjoyed a few Garden fights in his time, responded to a threat that boxing might be abolished in the Garden with an answer that had been suggested in the testimony of Julius Helfand, who was subpoenaed by the defense.

Though some of Helfand's testimony favored some aspects of the IBC case-he believes the Garden can and should be both promoter and landlord—he did express the opinion that the Garden "should be thrown open for rental to other promoters." Next day Judge Ryan concurred and announced he was thinking of ordering that very thing—at fair rentals to be fixed by the court, if necessary. He is thinking furthermore of limiting the Garden to the functions of a landlord, as far as boxing is concerned, with promotion provided from the outside.

No one knows what his final thinking will be. It would be futile to guess. The mind of a judge in a case like this is as hard to see as the edge of a television sponsor's blade held sideways to the camera. It's a fair assumption, though, that the IBC will never be the same again.


CRUMBLING MONOPOLISTS of IBC and Garden pose on courthouse steps. Left to right: Norris, IBC president; Truman Gibson, IBC secretary; Charles Sawyer, IBC counsel; Arthur Wirtz, Norris' vice-president; John Reed Kilpatrick, Garden board chairman; Ned Irish, Garden executive vice-president; and Harry Markson, IBC managing director.


BEAMING INDEPENDENT Promoter Emil Lence announced signing of first independently promoted heavyweight match since Joe Louis defeated Jim Braddock in 1937.