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Original Issue


At the end of the second phase of Senator Estes Kefauver's continuing ventilation of boxing's dank cellars, two members of state boxing commissions, both of which had tried for years to clean up the sport, told him the states alone cannot do the job. They need federal help.

It appears that the states may get it, though the more brazen crook-coddlers among them won't like it and will surely fight against it in Congress. But Kefauver, as deceptively mild in an Old Sleuth hat as ever he was in a coonskin cap, is personally fond of boxing as a sport and angry about its degradation. He has been shocked by the revelations of an investigative staff led by the meticulous John G. Bonomi and he is determined to do something about them. Bonomi's mass of evidence, and the opinions of expert witnesses, point to a federal solution for boxing's evils—or the abandonment of the sport.

Kefauver's present inclination is toward this form of federal control:

1) A temporary (three-year) federal boxing commission with authority to license all participants in interstate boxing matches. This would include network and, particularly, closed-circuit television promoters. After three years, he thought, the hoodlums might be out and the states might be in a better position to resume control.

2) Criminal penalties for undercover participants in fights.

3) Criminal penalties for attempted bribes.

None of this will miraculously resurrect boxing from its self-dug grave, restore the talent that the IBC-TV-Carbo mob destroyed or make the fights on your TV screen look any better in the next few years. But boxing's soil is so rotten now that some sterilization is needed before it can be fertilized, before the sport can flourish again. The states, competing for fights, have for too long tolerated the hoodlums who know how to fix even a sovereign state. But the Federal Government won't care what state a million-dollar fight is held in or what perquisites are held out to make it available.

In witness of this Commissioners Harry Falk of California and Alfred G. Klein of Pennsylvania, neither of whom desires federal intrusion into matters the states control, testified that the states do not now control boxing's hoodlums. Both made it clear that some commissions are so "hungry" for fight revenues that they ignore hoodlum participation. And the aggressively decent states have, in turn, been boycotted by the racketeers.

Eloquent nontestimony on this score was given by two of the hoodlums, the eminent Frankie Carbo and his aide, Blinky Palermo, who took the Fifth Amendment all the way home. Carbo, no longer his ruddy, portly self but sallow and slim after months in jail as an undercover manager, ended his refusal to testify with a jovial, and insolent, compliment to Senator Kefauver on his reelection. Frankie was in a good mood, detectives said, because he was glad to be out of a Riker's Island jail cell, if only for the day.

Kefauver recommended that Carbo and Palermo be cited for contempt.

The committee also heard Ike Williams, former lightweight champion who was managed by Palermo, tell how he had made a million dollars in the ring and now, penniless, must work for $46 a week. Blinky, he said, deprived him of his share of two fight purses, about $40,000, but he has never tried to collect. Indeed, he paid income taxes on this money he never received. He is a circumspect fellow and clearly to this day has no wish to anger Blinky. Thus, though he told how Blinky brought him offer after offer to throw fights for bribes as big as $100,000, he insisted that Blinky advised him to turn the offers down. It was a fatherly picture but it did seem out of character.

And so with Sonny Liston, the No. 1 heavyweight contender, who testified that he knew no evil in his relations with John Vitale, St. Louis mobster, or with Carbo and Blinky, who, the evidence indicates, are his undercover managers. Liston's manager of record, Pep Barone, went into deep melancholia after being subpoenaed to testify and could not appear because he is in a Pennsylvania hospital undergoing shock treatments.

Barone is not the only fight figure who is troubled in his mind after long association with Blinky. Three of Blinky's former fighters—Johnny Bratton, Johnny Saxton and Billy Fox—are in mental institutions, abandoned and penniless. They, too, became melancholic.

And a glum, if not melancholic, man is the once-arrogant Bernie Glickman, who buddied up to Carbo, Palermo and Vitale, came to manage Virgil Akins to the welterweight championship and is now in the process of seeing his once-prosperous $3 million, solely owned awning business through liquidation.

"I have paid a very severe penalty," Glickman told the committee, after not telling it anything helpful, "with my reputation, my business, my family."