Subj: The BAWLI Papers No. 78
Date: 99-04-30 13:32:39 EDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (J Michael Kenyon)
The BAWLI Papers
(Boxing As We Liked It)
Edited by J Michael Kenyon
Issue Number 78
Thursday, April 29, 1999
New York City, New York, US of A
IN THIS ISSUE: RATING THE TOP TEN HEAVYWEIGHTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY
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VINTAGE FIGHT COLLECTION TO ESPN
(Philadelphia Daily News, June 4, 1998)
By Stan Hochman
Bill Cayton owned the first fight film ever made. Thomas Edison made it.
Hired James Corbett and a guy named Courtney in 1894, stuck them in a garage
blackened with tar paper, a small hole in the ceiling providing the
"Took him eight hours to film a four-round fight," Cayton said. "He had to
keep moving the ring as the light moved. Called that studio the Black
Cayton owned that historic fight film. Owned every Jack Dempsey fight film.
Owned every Joe Louis fight film. Owned the brittle film of Jack Johnson
against Jess Willard, the one that ended in the 22nd round with Johnson
sprawled on the canvas, his right arm shielding his face from the harsh
Havana sun. The arrogant gesture of a guy who'd quit?
"No," Cayton said bluntly. "If he was going to take a dive he would not have
fought all-out for 22 rounds, trying to beat Willard. He just ran out of gas
and Willard caught him."
They were all part of Big Fights Inc. library. And now Cayton has sold all
those films to ESPN, fodder for the insatiable maw that is television
programming these days, prime stuff for Classic Sports Network, solace for
the fight fan who would rather watch film of a sleek George Foreman losing
to Muhammad Ali in Zaire than an old, blubbery Foreman fight a butter-soft
Larry Holmes on pay-per-view. Cayton says the deal adds up to $100 million
and includes a million-dollar-a-year paycheck for his services for the next
12 years. He says he spurned offers from Wall Street to take the company
public, because he didn't want partners. Makes it clear the late Jim Jacobs
was an employee, not a partner.
Says he hired Jacobs in 1961, 12 years after he had produced "Greatest
Fights of the Century."
"Jim was a fight-film collector," Cayton said. "He wanted to trade fight
films. He was an engaging guy, a great athlete. I hired him for $150 a week
as an editor."
Jacobs got Cayton involved in managing boxers, a path that led to the
no-brakes roller-coaster ride with Mike Tyson.
"Teddy Brenner called from Madison Square Garden," Cayton recalled. "He said
he had in his office Gregory Benitez, father of Wilfred. He was looking to
sell Wilfred's contract for $75,000. Said he needed an answer that
"Jim made an all-out pitch, and he finally talked me into it. The deal wound
up at $85,000 and we owned our first fighter. He had a checkered career, but
we won four titles for him and made him $7 million.
"We wanted to be different from other managers. We decided we would build a
trust fund for Benitez that could not be invaded. Brought his father, his
mother, his sister, his brother and his trainer to New York, plus the head
of the largest bank in Puerto Rico.
"Created an agreement for a trust that could not be invaded until a year
after he retired. We put in $200,000 and everyone signed it. Three weeks
later, I got a call from the bank president. Wilfredo and his father were in
his office and they wanted $25,000 of their money.
"I said they couldn't do it and hung up. The bank president called back,
said they were screaming. I said he could not give it to them and hung up.
The next day, he called back, said they had an entourage in the bank,
blocking operations. I told him to call the cops.
"He called back, saying the bank was at a standstill, the cops wouldn't do
anything. I said, 'Do what you have to do.' He gave them the money, and over
the next six weeks the entire amount was gone.
"The experience made me realistic. Fighters can't be protected from
themselves, even though I had provided what I thought was the ultimate
Years later, Tyson defected, Cupid's arrow quivering in his massive chest.
"He was a very different fighter when we had him, in and out of the ring,"
Cayton said. "He was a role model. He was doing commercials
for Kodak, for Diet Pepsi. He did a recruiting message for the New York
Police Department that generated more interest than anything
they'd ever done. They had Tyson saying, 'It takes a tougher man than me to
be a policeman in New York.' "And then he met Robin Givens and her mother,
Ruth. He lost his judgment."
Tyson heeded Don King's siren song. Did time on the rape verdict. Lost to
Evander Holyfield twice. Will soon apply for reinstatement under new
management. Meanwhile, Cayton has sold all those precious fight films to
ESPN, a marriage made in fistic heaven. It all started in 1948, when Cayton
owned a promotional agency that set up distribution deals for products,
getting them on the shelves.
The Vaseline Hair Tonic folks were looking for ideas for programming on the
magic box that was television.
"Baseball and football, the players looked like ants," Cayton remembered.
"Boxing filled the screen.
"I produced a pilot, the Dempsey-Willard fight. Took a projector and a
screen and showed it to the advertising agency. They loved it. Then we
showed it to the board of directors of Cheesebrough Manufacturing. "Big
table, stern-faced men, wondering, who is this guy? We started showing the
film, and they were yelling and screaming. It was an exciting fight and they
"They asked me to show it again. And then, the chairman of the board came
out into the corridor, and without asking the price, said, 'We're buying the
show.' " It ran for years. Cayton retained the foreign rights, sold it to
countries before they had a TV station up and running.
Does he have a favorite, of all those slam-bang fight films?
"Dempsey-Willard," he said, chuckling. "Because that's the one I sold them
"But there were other truly great fights. Zale-Graziano was one. And Sugar
Ray Robinson against Jake La Motta, two great fighters in a great fight.
They have lasting appeal.
"Today's real fight fans grew up with their fathers or grandfathers watching
'Greatest Fights of the Century.' So, they're very, very
nostalgic. And then, what they're seeing is the best, the creme de la creme
de la creme."
DON KING, THE MANIPULATOR
(New York Daily News, April 27, 1999)
By Bob Raissman
. . . Even by his own standards, Don King stooped to a new low during an
interview with Andrea Joyce following Showtime's Saturday boxing card. King
basically said Muhammad Ali is mentally impaired and being manipulated into
supporting a boxing reform bill. Ali may be physically impaired, but his
mind is still sharp. And it tells Ali boxing is in need of reform. King's
statement showed his hypocrisy. When King promoted Ali, he spent a lot of
time and energy trying to manipulate the champ.
MARCIANO DOCUDRAMA GETS IT WRONG
(New York Times, Friday, April 30, 1999)
By Richard Sandomir
Toward the end of "Rocky Marciano," a coming Showtime docudrama, the retired
boxer flies to Denver on the final day of his life to visit Joe Louis in a
psychiatric hospital. When he leaves, Marciano hands the hospital
administrator a bag full of cash to upgrade Louis's care.
Heartwarming and dramatic, but false. It could not have happened. The Denver
bedside encounter between the two heavyweight champions was concocted for a
docudrama that only occasionally lets truth stand in the way of the story.
Louis was committed to the Denver hospital in May 1970, suffering from
emotional problems. Five months later, he returned home. But Marciano died
on Aug. 31, 1969. The fictional scene serves as a counterpart to the
docudrama's re-creation of Marciano's emotional post-fight talk in Louis's
dressing room after Marciano knocked out his idol.
Marciano died in a single-engine airplane crash in Newton, Iowa, en route
from Chicago to Des Moines. But the film never mentions Iowa.
In the film's version of his last day, Marciano is seen in New York, then
Chicago. He plans to make a detour to Las Vegas for a $25,000 appearance fee
rather than go home to Florida. But he heads for Denver when he sees Louis
interviewed on television as he enters the hospital. "He definitely did not
do a press conference," said Joe Louis Barrow Jr., who was with his father
Real life is often inadequate in docudramas. Fitting Marciano's nearly 46
years into 100 minutes required omitting a lot, including his beating Jersey
Joe Walcott for the heavyweight title, but what remained was still
compelling enough to be nonfiction.
The film portrays Marciano's Dec. 30, 1949, fight against Carmine Vingo,
whom he pummeled into a coma, as his first bout at Madison Square Garden
("Gardens," in a false marquee shot), but a simple fact check reveals that
he defeated Pat Richards in the arena 28 days earlier.
In the film, Marciano cuts short his honeymoon after his manager arranges a
fight with Louis three months hence. Actually, Rocky and Barbara Marciano
were married on Dec. 31, 1950, and he won six times in 1951 before beating
He discovers his punching power in the film when he decks a boss who stiffed
him on his pay for shoveling coal. In real life, his skills became most
apparent in the Army.
The film's version of his amateur career makes him look like a pathetic
Palooka -- "the furthest thing from the truth," said Everett M. Skehan,
author of a Marciano biography. In one loss, he said, Marciano was
disqualified for kneeing Henry Lester, but the film shows Marciano fleeing
Lester like Groucho Marx speed-walking.
The film places Marciano in the vise of Frankie Carbo, who pulled many of
organized crime's boxing strings in that era. Marciano's son, Rocky Jr.,
said his father knew mobsters and socialized with them, but he was not their
ring dupe. Michael Gilbert, who represents the Marciano estate, added: "The
Italian mob was proud of Rocky. Carbo was told to lay off Rocky."
The docudrama turns Marciano's cash obsession into comic book silliness. In
one scene his eyes light up at the sight of a quarter on a floor. The film's
last image reeks of simple-minded symbolism: a sodden $50 bill lying on an
"Just about every scene was fictional, or the chronology was wrong," said
Rocky Marciano Jr., whose father died when he was 17 months old. "It makes
him look like a money-driven, rude, second-rate fighter. It was very hard to
Yes, said Rocky Jr., his father was parsimonious and mistrusted banks. But
that was not the sum of a life he has learned about from his older sister
and grandmother, who raised him after his mother died when he was 6. "He was
gracious, and adored by a lot of people," he said.
Rocky Jr. said his family was not consulted on the project by Columbia
Pictures, or by MGM, which acquired the project from Columbia and produced
it for Showtime. Boxing officials at Showtime were not asked to check the
script for accuracy by MGM or the Showtime entertainment unit. Marciano's
brother, Lou, refused a fee to help Showtime promote the film once he saw an
advance copy of it, Rocky Jr. said.
But one need not know of the Marciano family's ire to conclude that the film
makers failed at storytelling by not checking basic facts and altering the
truth when it did not conform to their revision of the life.
MGM did not explain its tactics in a statement, but insisted the film, which
will have its premiere on May 15, "captured the extraordinary spirit and
accomplishments of Marciano's personal and professional life."
AIRWAVES -- Don King unleashed a vile tirade against Muhammad Ali last
Saturday, accusing Ali of being manipulated to support Federal boxing
reform. "He knows not what he doeth," King said after a Showtime boxing
card. "He don't have a clue about what's going on." . . .
THE TOP TEN HEAVYWEIGHTS ALL-TIME
(Boston Herald, Friday, April 30, 1999)
By George Kimball
The most wonderful aspect of compiling ratings like this is that the moment
you've committed it to paper, the guy sitting on the next barstool is
convinced he has a better one. There is no pretense that this is the list to
end all lists. My Top 10 might not be your Top 10, but of this much I am
confident: It's better than Jose Sulaiman's.
One night nearly two decades ago, I was having dinner with Archie Moore and
Bert Randolph Sugar, the legendary boxing editor raconteur. Bert, who has
never met a list he didn't like, had just finished compiling one which was,
I believe, entitled "The 100 Greatest Boxers of All Time.''
Archie, who was rated a creditable 23rd on the list, glanced at the book for
a few moments and shoved it back across the table.
"I'd have beat him,'' he said quietly, referring to Sugar Ray Robinson, who
was tops on the list.
Attempting to objectively codify boxers of different eras is bound to
inspire debate. While I have chronicled boxing for more than a quarter of a
century, I personally covered only half the men on this roster. What I know
of Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis was gleaned mostly from film,
books, and recollections of those who did see them in action. Others, like
Rocky Marciano and Sonny Liston, I saw box on television but not in the
If there appears to be a bias toward the modern era it is not accidental. I
think it's fair to say that in boxing, as in any sport, athletes have grown
bigger, stronger, faster. Jesse Owens was a remarkable athlete, but he
wouldn't beat Carl Lewis in a foot race.
And some selections were tougher than others. Some may see the omission of
Mike Tyson as a glaring error, but in this view, Tyson slipped out of the
Top 10 with his performances in the two Evander Holyfield fights.
1. Muhammad Ali
In the opinion of most boxing experts, including his own, Ali was indeed
"The Greatest. ''Possessing the speed of a middleweight, he defined a poetic
style in the ring never before seen in a big man. He won the heavyweight
title on three dramatic occasions, the first two by stopping the most
fearsome heavyweights of their eras, Liston and George Foreman, and the
third, at the advanced age of 36, by outpointing a man nearly 12 years his
junior. Ali had two distinct careers, separated by a three-year gap of
enforced inactivity when he was banned from his profession for his
anti-Vietnam War views in what should have been his prime. He won two of his
three wars with both Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, and fought more
championship rounds than any heavyweight in history.
2. Jack Johnson
As menacing, disdainful and contemptuous of opponents in the ring as he was
of (white) society outside it, Johnson may never have been seen at his best.
Boxing in the Jim Crow era, Johnson was 30 by the time he tracked down and
cornered Tommy Burns to force a world title fight in Rushcutter's Bay,
Australia, and by all accounts toyed with the heavyweight champion like a
boy pulling wings off a fly. (The torture became so apparent that when the
bout was finally halted by the intervention of Sydney police in the 14th
round. Johnson's ring mastery gave rise to the phrase "Great White Hope,''
as, spurred by the likes of Jack London, horrified caucasian fight
aficionados scoured the globe hoping to find someone to beat him.
Society finally accomplished what opponents could not. Johnson, whose
partiality toward white women was legendary, was imprisoned for allegedly
violating the Mann Act -- and continued to knock out opponents within the
walls of Leavenworth. Johnson was still fighting at age 50 -- and boxed a
pair of exhibitions at the age of 67! How good was he? Nobody, including
Johnson, knew for sure, but there have been suggestions -- including
Ali's -- that if anything, his ranking on this list might be too low.
3. Joe Louis
The man born Joseph Louis Barrow would earn a significant ranking on
longevity alone. Louis ruled as heavyweight champion for a dozen unbroken
years, from 1937 through his retirement in 1949, and while many opponents
were collectively described as his "Bum of the Month'' club, he fought all
comers, twice beating light-heavyweight champion Billy Conn and twice
starching Jersey Joe Walcott, who would be one of his successors. Louis as
sociological phenomenon was even more significant. In an era in which black
athletes still struggled for mainstream acceptance, he was, in the words of
Jimmy Cannon, a credit to his race -- the human race. His atonement for an
earlier knockout loss to Max Schmeling by knocking out Hitler's favorite
heavyweight in one round was of enormous consequence on the eve of World War
II, as was Louis' enlistment for wartime service from 1942-46. "We're going
to win,'' he said in another widely quoted pronouncement, "because God is on
4. Jack Dempsey
He had fewer fights than James J. Braddock, fewer knockouts than Max Baer,
and fewer wins than Primo Carnera (to name just three of his
less-than-illustrious successors), but William Harrison Dempsey was, in his
pre-television and pre-Pay-Per-View era, the greatest box-office draw in
boxing history. With a style nurtured in the saloons of the West and
post-Gold Rush Alaska, and Barnumesque manager DocKearns, Dempsey helped
usher in what came to be known as the Golden Age of American Sport.
Possessing blazing speed then unprecedented for a heavyweight, Dempsey
spotted Jess Willard 58 pounds -- and broke the champion's jaw in seven
places, and held the title for seven years therafter.
5. Larry Holmes
He lacked the charisma of Ali (whom he once served as a sparring partner)
and the firepower of Tyson (by whom he was KO'd in an ill-advised comeback
fight), but during his seven-year championship reign, Holmes successfully
defended the heavyweight title TWENTY times. He was one victory away from
joining Marciano at 49-0 when he was upset in a controversial decision by
Michael Spinks, and his loss in the rematch was as dubious as the first. A
big (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) heavyweight, Holmes possessed a piston-like jab
and a chin of granite. Wobbled by the likes of Mike Weaver and Earnie
Shavers, he got up off the canvas to beat them both, and his 1982
come-from-behind victory over Gerry Cooney was the biggest heavyweight fight
of the 1980s.
6. Rocky Marciano
How can a champion who went out undefeated (49-0) be so lightly treated? The
principal arguments are twofold: First, Marciano was smallish even by the
standards of his day, and would be absolutely dwarfed by today's top
heavyweights. (Were The Rock campaigning in the modern era, in fact, it
would likely be as a cruiserweight.) Second, virtually all of Marciano's
significant opponents were well on the downside of their careers when he
caught them: Louis was 37 when he fought Marciano. Walcott was 38 and 39 for
their two fights, Ezzard Charles 33, and Moore 41.
7. Joe Frazier
But for the unfortunate juxtaposition of his career with those of Ali and
Foreman, Smokin' Joe might have gone down as one of the greatest
heavyweights who ever lived. Fearlessly burrowing ahead behind the best left
hook any heavyweight ever owned, Frazier was the first Olympic heavyweight
champion to ascend to the world title (a feat subsequently duplicated by
Foreman) and, of course, a convincing victor over Ali in their 1971 "Fight
of the Century.''
8. George Foreman
A decade of inactivity spanning his first and second careers stops Foreman
from moving any higher on this list, but at the same time it makes his
achievements all the more intriguing. In his first go-round, Foreman was the
most fearsome heavyweight of his day, utterly demolishing the likes of
Frazier and Norton before being outwitted by Ali in Kinshasha. In his second
incarnation as the affable punching preacher, his knockout of Michael Moorer
to regain the title at age 45 ranks as one of the more remarkable
accomplishments in boxing history.
9. Sonny Liston
Were it based on his performance in championship bouts alone, Liston
probably wouldn't rate a sniff on this list. He fought only four of them,
twice overwhelming a terrified Floyd Patterson and twice losing to Ali under
circumstances which remain at best mysterious, but that Liston was the
dominant heavyweight of the post-Marciano, pre-Ali era remains beyond
dispute. With a meanness cultivated in reform schools and prisons and a
jackhammer jab, he was for years the man the champion ducked. Consider: in
1959 and '60 alone, when Patterson was confining his activity to splitting a
pair of fights against Ingemar Johannson, Liston fought and beat a veritable
rogue's gallery of heavyweights that included Mike DeJohn, Cleveland
Williams, Nino Valdez, Willi Besmanoff, Howard King, Williams again, Roy
Harris, Zora Folley, and Eddie Machen -- and was still not deemed worthy of
a title shot!
10. Evander Holyfield
Joining Ali in winning the heavyweight championship three times, Holyfield
moved up from the cruiserweight ranks to win his title by beating "the man
who beat the man'' -- Buster Douglas, regained it by winning the middle
fight of a memorable trilogy with Riddick Bowe, and capped it off with two
smashing victories over Tyson -- the second at the cost of one of his ears.
More than compensating for what he lacked in size with a courage perhaps
unmatched in boxing annals.
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From: "J Michael Kenyon"
Subject: The BAWLI Papers No. 78
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1999 13:16:52 -0400