Athletes from all sports take supplements to boost everything from endurance to vitality, but for boxers, supplements that have the potential to guard the brain against the effect of repetitive concussive and subconcussive impact can be vital. A 2018 study published in the journal Sports Medicine found that, unlike medication, nutritional supplements such as creatine and Omega-3 essential fatty acids can boost brain health in multiple ways. If you are a boxer wishing to obtain this type of protection, a consultation with your doctor is always key to ensure you are taking the right supplements in the right amount. It may be particularly beneficial to discuss the following supplements with them, since a small group has been found to help stave off the effects of impacts to the head.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
This supplement, also sourced from foods such as fatty fish, walnuts, and extra-virgin olive oil, has been found in various studies to maintain the structure and function of the brain. Since it possesses anti-inflammatory effects, it is often used as a supplement to protect the brain and preserve memory. Omega-3s (EFAs) can also play an important role in preserving boxers’ brain health, In the Sports Medicine study mentioned above, scientists pointed to the loss of key Omega-3 fatty acids following injury. In lab studies, having low levels of these crucial acids is linked to greater cell death, slower recovery of motor function, cognitive deficits, and greater anxiety. By contrast, Omega-3 supplementation has been found to enhance resilience to traumatic brain injury, making it an important ally for boxers to have around.
Curcumin and Cognitive Functioning
In the same study, lab tests showed that mice supplemented with curcumin performed better at post-traumatic brain injury maze tests than control mice. Another study showed that the protective benefits of both Omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin could be enhanced by combining both. In the study, this combination of nutrients and nutraceuticals resulted in higher levels of DHA (a long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids). DHA is not only linked to better brain health, but also to improved heart health and vision, and a reduction in inflammation. Many people enjoy curcumin as a fragrant spice to add to their meal. This ingredient works wonders in curry, soup, and stew dishes.
Phosphatidylserine for Brain Cell Protection
It is vital for boxers to take a proactive stance when it comes to their brain health, since having brain injuries increases the risk of dementia and other long-term mental concerns. As stated in the book Nature's Brain Booster, having just one concussion injury can increase the risk of dementia fourfold. Moreover, in a review on repetitive brain trauma published in the journal Brain Pathology, one small study in which phosphatidylserine was combined with other supplements (including ginkgo to enhance blood flow and Omega-3 for memory and mood), there was better circulation in the brain.
Creatine Against Traumatic Injury
A study published in the Wiley Online Library showed that creatine — one of the most relied upon supplements by athletes of all types — provides significant neuroprotection after traumatic brain injury. Lab tests showed that this compound could reduce damage by around 36% in mice and 50% in rats. The mitochondrial (energy powerhouse) membrane of cells were increased and harmful oxygen species were reduced. The scientists concluded that the supplement may be useful against both acute and delayed brain issues following an injury.
Any boxer wishing to protect their brain against the effects of impacts and injury should see their doctor first to obtain whether or not they can obtain the nutrients they need through a healthy diet. Studies indicate that some nutrients and nutraceuticals can be of aid in preserving brain health and memory following head injuries. These include Omega-3 essential fatty acids, phosphatidylserine, curcumin, and creatine. Some studies suggest, in fact, that combining Omega-3s and curcumin could enhance the ‘power’ of both. Many of these nutrients and nutraceuticals can be sourced naturally from food. Salmon and other fatty fish, for instance, are optimal sources of Omega-3s, as are walnuts and extra-virgin olive oil. Testing should indicate the extent to which your doctor may deem you a good candidate for supplementation.
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
The sport of boxing has been on the canvas for weeks as the dreaded novel coronavirus continues to spread in 210 countries and territories. Major fight cards are postponed as the host countries struggle to contain the deadly virus. While fight fans are reminiscing about classic fights at home, the powers that be are discussing the various scenarios where boxing can make a comeback.
That will depend first of all if the efforts to “flatten the curve” will actually succeed. It is not just sports, but entire governments want to reopen and go back to the way things were. But every day, when we turn on the news, we find that we are still far from getting back to normal.
The President of the WBO, Paco Valcarcel, has said that the WBO has withdrawn sanctioning of bouts through the month of June as well as freezing their rankings. A couple of weeks ago, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said that for fights to resume, even behind closed doors, strict protocols should be in place for the fighters and their teams which include “having fighters and their teams isolated for at least a month in the areas where the function would take place and during that period, they would have to do the laboratory medical tests to make sure everyone is healthy."
The website of the WBA has an article stating that its president, Gilberto Jesus Mendoza and the members of the directorate met virtually to discuss having boxing events behind closed doors. Last April 17,the IBF lost Board member and former referee Eddie Cotton, who passed away and was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the hospital.
A couple of weeks ago, Top Rank’s Bob Arum said he was in no rush to get fighters back into the ring. One of the high profile bouts postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic is the bantamweight unification between John Riel Casimero and Naoya Inoue. Arum recently said that the fight is unfortunately now in the backburner. Matchroom Sports’s Eddie Hearn has also been talking about fights being held behind closed doors and smaller venues.
The low income boxers will be severely affected by the pandemic. They may wind up not having any fights and purses for several months, even until the end of the year.
So how can boxing make a comeback? These are the few scenarios that crossed my mind:
Boxers will obviously need to be tested negative for the novel coronavirus before they are cleared to fight. Then we will have to test the cornermen and the boxing officials. I would not be surprised if even the ring girls need to be cleared as well.
Then we will have to screen the spectators. Temperature checks as well as having them seated at least six feet apart. Masks would have to be required for everyone in the venue who is not fighting. Fewer spectators would mean less ticket sales and could very well mean that plans for big fights could be put on hold.
This will still be a worrisome scenario without a vaccine or cure.
What are the medical scientists doing in the race for a cure?
An article posted on the BBC website stated that more than 150 different drugs are being researched around the world. Most are already existing drugs that are being tested against the virus. Many research centers around the world are attempting to use the blood of patients who recovered from the virus as a treatment. The results of the various drug trials will be available in the next few months.
Human trials for vaccines have started last month. Usually, it takes years to develop a vaccine but desperate times call for desperate measures and the race for an effective vaccine against Covid-19 has been fast-tracked. The most optimistic experts say it will be available by mid-2021.
There are countries like Sweden that are using a herd immunity strategy, Herd immunity happens when enough people have immunity to a disease, in this case through exposure and natural immunity, to make it difficult for the virus to infect new victims.
The situation remains an uphill battle. Any of the major sports will be different without the roar of the crowd. Not just from a profit standpoint but also if you view it from the drama or lack of it when no cheers can be heard when a boxer gets knocked down.
The bottom line is the safety of the participants. No one will be taking a risk of staging an event where people could catch a potentially fatal illness. For that to happen, a cure and a vaccine are needed to be widely available.
But fans should not lose hope. Medical science will find a way to save not just boxing but the entire planet.
By Samson Iu, Professional Boxing Commission Executive Director
Let’s talk about what is a professional boxing license and why all commissions should enforce the licensing system.
Licensing for professional boxing is very important, in order to maintain the health of the industry. Commissions will issue licenses for different roles in the industry, surely for boxers, as well as trainers, managers, promoters and boxing officials. I will give a brief introduction of key roles, but before that I’m giving a general idea why a boxing license is important,
Besides having a good control of the industry within an area or country, boxing licenses also act as an important reference when a boxer is fighting overseas, not only for boxers, but also for boxing officials and trainers, in order to make sure the safety of the fight and fairness of the fight.
Boxer’s health is always the main concern in the sport, in order to keep boxer safe as much as possible, issuing license is require by
a. Sparring test in some countries and written test to make sure of a boxer’s quality and understanding of boxing.
b. Yearly CT scan and blood test before renewing license.
c. To control the suspension period before boxers could fight again as a safety measure.
Trainer / Manager License
Trainers and managers spend most of their time with their boxer who is fighting in the ring. Therefore issuing them a license would be required by:
a. Written exam to make sure trainer understand how to take care of their boxers.
b. Commission could review bout contract to make sure terms are fair for both parties.
Boxing Officials is another key role to make sure safety of a bout, in order to do so, providing license to all officials will help:
a. Making sure officials will attend require seminar / training on new rules / new recommendation in the sport.
b. For overseas commission as a reference when overseas official is required.
All items mentioned above are a standard protocol for mature boxing countries like Japan, Philippines, Europe and the US. However, this is still a starting point for the new professional boxing developing countries like China, India, etc.
But since 2019, more and more countries in Asia are following this protocol to avoid conflict with commissions and as well as to avoid unnecessary injuries.
Photo – the author during the WBO Convention. Samson Iu is the executive director of the Professional Boxing Commission. The boxing commission originated in Macao six years ago and has since officiated and sanctioned bouts in mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, UAE, Vietnam and Cambodia.
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has left the entire sporting world on the canvas. Professional boxing’s big fights are rescheduled and the Tokyo Olympics – with boxing as one of the events - moved to next year. One of the high profile postponements is the highly anticipated bantamweight unification match between WBO champion John Riel Casimero and Naoya Inoue, who has the WBA and IBF titles.
Casimero (29-4,20KO’s) has been training in the U.S. since February for what would have been a Las Vegas megafight on April 25. But when the coronavirus started to spread in the U.S, the fight had to be put on hold. Casimero’s Miami training camp had strength and conditioning guru Memo Heredia and Cuban coach Pedro Roque. Inoue was reported to have tapped popular Filipino contenders Albert Pagara and KJ Cataraja as his sparmates. Inoue (19-0,16KO’s) was reported last month to be the betting favorite at 7-2.
Team Casimero transferred their training camp to Las Vegas and he remains focused despite all the distractions. With community quarantine and social distancing now becoming the new normal, Casimero is training in relative isolation in a house in Vegas with new equipment bought by Sean Gibbons, who heads MP Promotions.
“I’m okay, Sir Sean bought the equipment we need to continue training,” Casimero told this writer in a short chat. “I am still focused. They told me the fight will happen in June or July, so I always ready.”
“Las Vegas doesn’t have many cases, so it’s ok.” Casimero stated, “I will just continue to train. My conditioning is fine. So, when they call me, I am ready.”
Casimero has been very vocal on social media about his chances and even posted on his new facebook page that he is an underrated boxer who will soon become unified champion. Inoue of course, will have something to say about that. It seems the fighter who will maintain his conditioning and focus during the rescheduling period will have an advantage.
Photo - Casimero with trainer Nonoy Neri- from video courtesy of John Riel Casimero
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
The fight for the vacant WBO world flyweight title between Giemel Magramo (24-1,20KO’s) of the Philippines and Junto Nakatani (20-0,15KO’s) of Japan is one of numerous fight cards that have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The fight, which was set for April 4 in Tokyo, was for the title vacated by Japan’s Kosei Tanaka last February.
Magramo is no stranger to disappointing situations. Last year, he was scheduled to face Thailand’s Eaktawan Krungthepthonburi on September 7 in an IBF eliminator set in Metro Manila. The winner was supposed to be the next challenger of IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane of South Africa.
But, the Thai boxer was reported to have succumbed to food poisoning and Magramo had to face substitute Richard Claveras and stopped him in three rounds. That fight however, was not the final step to a world title showdown that Magramo had hoped.
But last February, Magramo, who is now the number one flyweight contender of the WBO, was reported to be facing the number three Nakatani for the title.
This will be the first world title shot for both boxers. Magramo remains in high spirits in the midst of all the uncertainty. He is based in Paranaque City in Metro Manila, which is now in a state of lockdown due to the coronavirus.
“I am safe, I am feeling good.” Magramo told this writer in a short chat. “I was told we could be fighting on June 6. So, I am still training at the Elorde Gym.”
Nakatani was reported by asianboxing last March 18 to have left his training camp in the United States and returned to Japan. The report stated that due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., Nakatani has had cancel sparring with Luis Nery and that he will resume training back in Japan rather than taking time out of the gym to relax.
Nakatani’s last two opponents were Filipinos – Philip Luis Cuerdo who was knocked out in round one and former IBF world junior flyweight champ Milan Melindo, who was stopped in six.
It was reported that all shows set until April 30 were cancelled or postponed by the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) and the JPBA (Japan Professional Boxing Association). The World Boxing Organization (WBO) has posted on their website that due to the current situation worldwide caused by Covid-19, the WBO has postponed all boxing events through June 2020.
It is still in doubt as to whether the situation will improve in Asia a couple of months from now but everyone in the boxing industry are hoping.
World title fights in the United States involving Asian boxers are also affected by postponements notably the unification fight between WBA/IBF bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue of Japan and WBO champ John Riel Casimero of the Philippines as well the IBF junior bantamweight title defense of Filipino Jerwin Ancajas vs Mexican Jonathan Rodriguez.
File photo – Giemel Magramo in Suzhou, China January 2019
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
A couple of weeks ago, Filipino boxing fans on social media were buzzing with excitement when photos surfaced of world ranked featherweight Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo hitting the mitts with the legendary trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym.
Magsayo had a short chat with this writer about this interesting development in his career.
“My wife is now handling my business affairs. I am currently choosing the best promoter for me.” Magsayo told this writer in a short interview, “My wife was the one who contacted Roach, I was very surprised.”
Magsayo is still undefeated. But he is still star struck even when he has visited the Wild Card Gym in previous years. “Very surreal for me, until now I can’t believe it. It is one of my dreams to be trained by a legend.”
“I am learning a lot of things now, realizing my mistakes in the ring and Coach Freddie is correcting all of them. I am like a kid who is going to school again which is great for me. I am not perfect and I have been wanting to learn from someone like this. It is my goal to be better all the time to be a champion, and I am on the right track now with Coach Freddie as my head trainer.”
Magsayo turning pro in 2013 was covered in the local papers. He was a sought after amateur prospect, a teen phenom who won four national amateur titles in the Philippines.
He did not disappoint with his all-action style. Even as a sophomore pro, he was mentioned as the next Manny Pacquiao. He began winning regional belts and climbed up the world rankings.
His biggest win on local shores was in 2016, a scintillating shootout against American Chris Avalos, a former world title challenger. Magsayo rose from the canvas to stop Avalos in six rounds on the undercard of Nonito Donaire’s title defense against Hungarian Zsolt Bedak. This card drew the biggest live crowd in the history of Cebu City with estimates exceeding 30,000.
Magsayo was the WBO number one contender in 2017 and a title shot was already within reach. But then came his well-publicized split with ALA Promotions which led to his inactivity for the whole of 2018. Magsayo signed with a Malaysian manager and NOW Boxing Promotions and came back in 2019, scoring wins against Indonesian Erik Deztroyer in Singapore and Thai former WBO world champ Panya Uthok in Magsayo’s home island of Bohol.
Magsayo (20-0,14KO’s) told this writer that he has been in the U.S. since January 22. He is not dwelling on the fact that he lost one year of his career, “I am only 24 years old,” He said. “I wanted to fight Oscar Valdez but he moved up.”
He is currently ranked number six by the WBC. He is thinking of a future fight against Gary Russell or any of the world titleholders at 126 lbs. “I am also ranked now number 15 by the IBF and number 11 by the WBA, I want to fight any champion, I want to win a world title.”
Photo- Mark Magsayo
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Froilan Saludar (31-3,22KO’s) will return to Japan to defend his WBO Asia Pacific junior bantamweight title against Japanese Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4,11KO’s) on February 14. Saludar won the vacant title last September by eighth round TKO against another Japanese, Tsubasa Murachi at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. His defense against Fukunaga will be at the same venue.
Trainer Jojo Palacios told this writer in a short chat that Saludar is now at 90 percent in terms of reaching his peak form for the bout.
“He is now at 118 lbs, so there will be no problem making 115 lbs for the fight,” Palacios stated, “He went through 120 rounds in sparring against Aston Palicte,Raymond Tabugon, Jayson Mama, Glen Porras and Dave Apolinario.”
Team Saludar will leave for Manila on February 10 then fly to Japan the next day.
“If he was in this kind of shape in the Kimura fight, he would have won the world title.” Palacios declared.
During the early part of his career, the 30 year old Saludar was considered one of the bright prospects here in the Philippines. But, he came up short in big fights: In 2014, he was stopped in two rounds by Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo in an IBF title eliminator and in 2018, he was stopped in six rounds by then WBO world flyweight champ Sho Kimura of Japan.
The win against Murachi gave Saludar’s career a new lease on life. Murachi entered the fight a 4-0,3KO’s record and figured to make Saludar a stepping stone to fast track his career. But Saludar had other plans.
It would be interesting to see if Saludar can make the most of this career rejuvenation. His brother, Vic Saludar already won and lost the WBO world mini-flyweight title and is also on the comeback trail.
Fukunaga is a southpaw who has gone 1W-2L in his last three fights. He lost in his first attempt a regional belt,the OPBF Silver super flyweight title, by unanimous decision in Thailand to Jakkrawut Majoogoen.
Photo - Froilan Saludar
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Pedro Taduran remains the IBF world minimumweight champion after a four round technical draw against Mexican challenger Daniel Valladares. This was the southpaw Taduran’s first defense and he had to do it on the road at the Jardin Cerveza Expo in Guadalupe,Mexico.
Both boxers came out firing right from the opening bell. But in what is a common unfortunate mishap in southpaw vs orthodox match-ups, an accidental clash of heads happened in the last minute of round one.
Valladares sustained an ugly cut above his right eye. The ring doctor allowed the fight to continue and it did not slow down the action. Both continued to trade hard shots.
In the second, Valladares went head-hunting while Taduran targeted the body. The action remained fast and sustained at close quarters. Taduran pressed the action in the third and the heavy exchanges continued in the fourth. Both boxers were showered the Mexican’s blood and the ring physician was called once again. He told the referee he will let the fight go but when the fourth round ended, the fight was finally called to a halt.
The scores were 39-37 Valladares, and two judges had it 38-38.This allowed Taduran, from Albay in the Philippines, to retain his title.
This was a close fight fougth on even terms but Taduran’s manager, Art Monis, told this writer after the bout that if the fight was not stopped, he was confident that Taduran would have knocked Valladares out in the fifth.
Taduran is now 14-2-1,11KO’s while Valladares is 22-1-1,13KO’s.
Taduran won the vacant IBF world minimumweight title against countryman Samuel Salva last September in Taguig City. Salva knocked down Taduran in the first but a fiery attack from Taduran made Salva fade and capitulate before the bell for the fifth round.
There will be two more Filipinos who will be fighting for world titles this month. On the distaff side, on February 8, Carleans Rivas (8-6-2,0KO) will challenge IBF Female world minimumweight champion Yokasta Valle (19-2,8KO’s) of Costa Rica in the champion’s home turf.
Rivas is well-travelled but has lost in Japan to the likes of Tamao Ozawa,Chaoz Minowa, Tenkai Tsunami and Yumemi Ikemoto. Valle will be making the first defense of her belt that she won from Spain’s Joana Pastrana. Valle had previously lost in her attempts to win world title belts with the WBC and WBO.
Then on February 22, Jeo Santisima (19-2,16KO’s) will face his most accomplished foe in the person of Mexican Emanuel Navarrete (30-1,26KO’s) the WBO world junior featherweight champion.
Navarrete burst upon the scene when he dethroned Isaac Dogboe of Ghana by unanimous decision in New York. In their rematch, he stopped Dogboe in the twelfth in Tucson. He would defend three more times which included a 4th round TKO win over Filipino Juan Miguel Elorde in Las Vegas.
One of Santisima’s best career wins was a sixth round stoppage of Marco Demecillo in Cebu City. This was when Demecillo was still considered by local pundits as a dangerous puncher. In 2018, Santisima beat Mexican Uriel Lopez by unanimous decision in Cebu City for the WBO Oriental junior featherweight title. He is currently ranked number 4 by the WBO.
Santisima, who fights out of the ALA Gym of Cebu, has not lost since 2014 but will be fighting overseas for the first time. This will be on the undercard of a huge card, the rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in Las Vegas.
Photo – Pedro Taduran
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Pedro Taduran (14-2,11KO’s) of the Philippines will be defending his IBF world minimumweight title in Mexico on February 1 against Mexican challenger Daniel Valladares (22-1,13KO's).
This will be the first defense for Taduran, who captured the vacant IBF world minimumweight title against fellow Filipino Samuel Salva last September in Taguig City. Both Taduran and manager Art Monis had a brief chat with this writer regarding their preparations.
“My training is going well, I will be maintaining my conditioning until the day of the fight.” Taduran stated, “I have sparred with Toto Landero, Ronald Alapormina, and Jerome Baloro.”
Taduran said he will be in good shape for the fight. He will just avoid getting caught early and promises a good fight. One of his sparmates, Landero, is a former world title challenger, losing to WBA minimumweight champ Thamanoon Niyomtrong by unanimous decision two years ago in Thailand. Three year ago, Landero beat a future world champ, Vic Saludar, by split verdict.
Monis is also upbeat about the fight. “Taduran trained for two and a half months. We already got our visas for Mexico, we will leave on January 24. It will be long flight from the Philippines to Japan then to Mexico.”
“Taduran is now winding down in his sparring but he will still have two six round sessions his week. He needs to be in excellent condition to be able to match the Mexican’s punches. He will not back down if necessary.” Monis stated, “Tacy Macalos is training him and will be in his corner during the fight.”
Macalos held the IBF light flyweight world title in 1988. Macalos also trains Filipino bantamweight contender Michael Dasmariñas.
In closing, Monis requested Filipino boxing fans for their prayers and support for a successful defense.
Valladares, whose ring moniker “Cejitas” means eyebrows, suffered his lone career loss to Genaro Rios in 2016 by majority decision. He had previously beaten Rios by split verdict. Valladares also previously held the WBC Silver light flyweight title. Last September, he scored his biggest career victory against the previously undefeated Filipino Christian Araneta in an IBF light flyweight eliminator held in Monterrey, Mexico. It was a fun, action packed fight but Araneta, however, decided not to continue due to a right shoulder injury, going into the fourth round.
The fight will be held at the Gimnasio Cedereg, Guadalupe, Nuevo León, Mexico.
By Eric Armit
I suppose I am not the only one of a certain age (don’t ask) who longs for “the good old days”. The days when there were only eight weight divisions and only one world champion in each division and Ring Magazine effective decided who was the champion. There were no “sanctioning bodies”-well there was the North American Boxing Association-but no one paid any attention to them. Title fights were held over fifteen rounds and national titles were prized by fighters as second only to world titles. Tobacco was the addictive substance of choice and if people had heard the word testosterone they probably thought it was the name of an Italian-American baseball player. Oh happy days!
That’s the rose tinted spectacles view because back in the 1950’s and early 1960’s there was evil lurking at the very heart of boxing in America.
In the 1950’s America was boxing. Current major boxing nations such as Japan and Mexico played little part at world title level and there was still a tendency in America to attach the label “horizontal” when describing British heavyweights.
Madison Square Garden (MSG) was the boxing equivalent of Mecca. Television was becoming a force through twice-weekly shows at the Garden and an organisation known as the International Boxing Club (IBC) headed by Jim Norris as President and his partner Arthur Wirtz was the most powerful outfit in boxing.
Businessmen Norris and Wirtz formed the IBC in 1949 along with lawyer Truman Gibson and Joe Louis but Norris was President and held 80% of the stock in IBC. Norris came from a family that controlled the grain market in Chicago and was personally rich. He was involved in ice hockey and horse racing.
In 1949 an ailing Mike Jacobs, through his Twentieth Century Boxing Club, owned the rights to promote at the Garden but the Garden organisation bought those rights from Jacobs for $100,000 and turned those rights over to their silent partner Norris who had exclusive leases on the Garden, Yankee Stadium, New York Polo grounds and other stadiums in Chicago and St. Louis. Norris had the stadiums but he needed fighters to fill them.
The fledgling IBC saw the heavyweight title as an obvious target but they were still finding their feet and did not “own” then champion Joe Louis. With the end of his career looming, and with the help of Gibson, Louis had moved to ensure himself of some post-retirement income by convincing the top four heavyweights Ezzard Charles, Jersey Joe Walcott, Lee Savold and Gus Lesnevich to give Louis exclusive rights to their services. One of the IBC’s first moves was to pay Louis $150,000 to retire and for him to also to assign to IBC the exclusive rights to Charles, Walcott, Savold and Lesnevich allowing the IBC to promote a tournament to fill the vacant heavyweight title and control the future of the heavyweight division.
IBC had the stadiums and the TV outlets and for the boxers they would need they turned to Frankie Carbo.
Since the early 1940’s Frankie Carbo had been building his position of power acting along with his No 2 Frank “Blinkey” Palermo as a promoter, matchmaker and undercover manager for many top level fighters with Palermo bringing to the table Ike Williams, Johnny Saxton, Clarence Henry and heavyweight Coley Wallace who would later portray Joe Louis in a film.
Carbo himself had his claws into most of the top lightweights, welterweights and middleweights and was behind the notorious Billy Fox vs. Jake LaMotta fixed fight where LaMotta was stopped in four rounds by the vastly inferior Fox. Although La Motta denied the fight was fixed he eventually admitted he threw the fight in return for a promised shot at the middleweight title. This was just one example of the power Carbo wielded.
Norris and Carbo began to work together with the urbane Norris the velvet glove and Carbo the iron fist and the real power man in the duo.
To obtain fighters IBC used the commercial approach along the lines of your fighter will not get a title shot or appear on a big TV show unless we get exclusive promotion rights and a share of your fighter. Carbo’s approach, usually channelled through Palermo, was more physical. Sign with IBC and give us a piece of your fighter or get hurt and very few had the courage to withstand those threats when the man behind them Carbo was a former member of Murder Inc
Naturally some of those left out in the cold complained over the monopoly that the IBC had established and hinted at some dark forces behind Norris and the IBC claiming that Norris was just a front for Carbo. The influence of Carbo in owning fighters and fixing fights was known to much of the press but only hinted at. Some State Commission also knew or strongly suspected the power and presence of Carbo but shutting out the IBC would mean the loss of the huge dollars that big fights could generate in hotels, clubs and businesses in their cities and stadiums.
As early as 1952 the Department of Justice set up a jury to investigate the claims that the IBC and MSG were exercising an illegal monopoly but action was stymied by the lawyers for the IBC and MSG claiming that professional boxing was not subject to the anti-trust laws as enshrined in the Sherman Antitrust Act. The IBC pursued their case all the way to the US Supreme Court but finally lost their case in 1955 with Norris estimated to have incurred $500,000 in legal fees,
In 1955 the New York State Athletic Commission decided to hold hearings into the allegations of mobster’s involvement in boxing and called Norris to give testimony. When questioned over his links to Carbo Norris stated that his meetings with Carbo were few, accidental and entirely unrelated to boxing. That was a lie as even at that time Carbo was using threats and actual violence to coerce boxers and managers to do business with the IBC.
The whispers of a criminally supported monopoly enjoyed by the IBC/MSG consortium grew to a point where action was taken in a US District court in 1957 to challenge the IBC’s monopoly. Norris had tried to forestall the case by resigning from IBC which was then bought by MSG but the court was unconvinced and ruled that through their control of the promotion of championship fights and control of major stadia IBC constituted a monopoly as shown by the fact that in the period from May 1953 and the case being heard in 1957 the IBC had an “interest” in 36 of the 37 championships fights held in the United States. The judgement limited the MSG for a period of five years from promoting more than two championships bouts in each calendar year and also placed the same limitations on Norris and Wirtz who were ordered to dispose of whatever stock they held in MSG. The court also ordered that the IBC be disbanded and that the Garden and other stadiums that had worked exclusively with the IBC must be leased for a reasonable rent to independent promoters effectively erasing one part of the empire of evil that had reigned for so long.
That ruling dealt with the IBC and MSG but what of Carbo? His undercover part in the IBC was being uncovered and he was the next one in the court’s sights. For him the beginning of the end came in 1958 when to avoid a trial where the extent of his role would become public he pled guilty to the derisory charges of managing boxers and acting as a matchmaker without a licence. He served two years in Riker’s Island prison and was released in 1960.
Unfortunately for Carbo in the same year as he was released a Senate Subcommittee led by Senator Estes Kefauver had been set up to investigate ties between organised crime and professional boxing and that turned the spotlight on Carbo, but who was this guy Carbo, often referred to as Mr Grey, who was being described as the Czar of Boxing?
Paolo Giovanni Carbo was born in Sicily on 10 August 1904. His family emigrated to America and Carbo quickly settled into a life of crime being sent to a reform school before he was even in his teens. He graduated from there to a variety of street crimes and protection rackets. He committed his first murder when he was twenty when he killed a taxi driver who refused to pay off the organisation Carbo was working for. Carbo pled not guilty and in the end through plea bargaining he was sentenced to two to four years but was released after twenty months.
The advent of prohibition boosted Carbo’s career and eventually he was recruited by Murder Inc who acted as enforcers for the Italian-American and Jewish Mafia and were suspected of over 500 contract killings. By the end of the 1930’s Carbo had been charged with more than eight murders but none of the charges stuck due to the reluctance of witnesses to come forward. Not surprising since after Carbo was charged with the murder of Murder Inc. informant Harry Greenburg one of the former members of Murder Inc who had also agreed to testify against Carbo suspiciously fell to his death from a window of a hotel whilst under police protection. Carbo was also a main suspect in the murder of Ben “Bugsy” Siegel who had overseen the building of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas for the Mob.
With the end of prohibition Carbo moved into boxing and the threats and coercion tactics he had applied in every business he had been a part off worked well for him in boxing and the extent of his influence only became apparent during Kefauver’s investigations.
The testimony came from others as Carbo pled the Fifth Amendment i.e. the refusal to incriminate himself, 25 times and Palermo did the same. The lid was lifted by boxers and managers who felt with Norris stripped off any influence and the US Senate looking to nail Carbo it was time to talk-and they did.
Former lightweight champion Ike Williams explained how Palermo had fleeced him of much of his ring earning. Another witness stated that Rocky Marciano’s manager Al Weill refused to allow Harry Matthews, the top rated heavyweight who had a long unbeaten streak, a fight with Marciano until finally Carbo approved it. By which time Matthews had been unbeaten for nine years building a run of 51-0-1 but being frozen out. Outstanding future middle weight champion Joey Giardello was another fighter frozen out. Giardello always claimed that he would have received a title shot much earlier if he had been managed by the mob but it was not until he had had been a pro for eleven years and had 106 fights that he was allowed to challenge for the middleweight title.
Carbo once claimed he had controlled the welterweight division for 25 years. An illustration was presented with regard to Johnny Saxton. A Carbo/Palmero fighter Saxton lost the welterweight title to Tony De Marco another Carbo owned fighter. Palermo managed Saxton so of course there was a return bout clause. However there was pressure within boxing for Carmen Basilio to get a title shot as despite a run of good wins he had been avoided. Even though Basilio was not owned by Carbo he was given a title shot. Saxton was told to waive his right to the return bout with De Marco and assured that he would get his title back. Basilio complicated matters by beating De Marco to win the title and beat then him again in a defence. Saxton got his promised chance and regained the title with a unanimous decision over Basilio a result that was universally condemned with two judges having Saxton winning by seven points. A promise kept but the decision caused such a stink that this time it was Basilio who had to be given a return and he beat Saxton inside the distance.
Top managers such as Jack (Doc) Kearns, Lou Viscousi and Willie Ketchum all worked with the IBC and Carbo. Typical of the deals was when Viscousi managed lightweight champion Joe Brown before Orlando Zuleta was approved to challenge Brown the promoter, a non-Carbo man, had to pay Carbo $5,000 and if Zuleta won Viscousi would get a piece of Zuleta.
A St. Louis police detective stated that Sonny Liston was owned by Carbo and others with Liston’s manager John Vitale and Palermo each having a 12% share, two unnamed others also having 12% each and Carbo 52%. Carbo made decisions that affected the careers of Jake LaMotta, Willie Pep Tony DeMarco and many many others. To get a title fight or fight on a TV card the fighters needed the approval of Carbo and Norris and that approval was conditionally on the fighter signing a long term exclusive contract with the IBC so even if they slipped up and a non-Carbo fighter such as Basilio won the title they still owned him through the IBC.
Incident after incident was revealed where Carbo and Norris decided the fate of boxers whilst sitting around a table at restaurant just across the road from the Garden and how Norris climbed on the gravy train taking cuts and shares from their dealings.
Due to illness Norris was allowed to give his evidence to the Senate committee in private. Norris was forced to admit that the testimony he had given to the New York State Athletic Commission in 1955 about his “rare” meetings with Carbo was a lie. He could afford to do so as the statute of limitations on perjury was five years and the Senate hearings were held more than five years after he gave his testimony in New York. With the dissolution of the IBC Norris was no longer involved in boxing but the revelations of his working relationship with Carbo seemed of little consequence. Norris had been part of a consortium that purchased the Chicago Blackhawks in 1946 and was chairman of the team when the club won the Stanley Cup in 1961 leading to Norris being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962. He had suffered from heart trouble for some time and died in February 1966 when his reported net worth was $250 million a contrast to fighters he helped screw such as Ike Williams who died penniless. True to his IBC business practices to the end just before his death Norris arranged for a National Hockey League franchise to be awarded to St Louis even though no one from St. Louis had applied for the franchise-and Norris just happened to own the St. Louis Arena.
The Kefauver hearings did not finish Carbo. Carbo had still owned the welterweight title now in the hands of Virgil Atkins. A proposal was made for Atkins to defend against Don Jordan in December 1958. It looked a safe match for Atkins as Jordan had lost to Dave Charley and had looked unimpressive in beating Gaspar Ortega twice on split decisions with one of those fights labelled a world title eliminator. Jordan was managed by Californian Don Nesseth who had no ties to Carbo and was being advised by Californian promoter Jackie Leonard, again not a Carbo man. Just to cover themselves in case of an upset Palermo contacted Leonard and Nesseth and told them that Carbo wanted 50% of Jordan or the fight would not go ahead. Nesseth was reluctant to agree to this. Leonard was aware of Carbo’s reputation so he called Truman Gibson Jr. who was associated with Carbo and Gibson advised Leonard to pretend to agree to the proposal but not to go through with the deal. Leonard mentioned Carbo’s reputation but Gibson assured Leonard that the days of gangsters and Carbo-like enforcers were a thing of the past. On that basis Leonard flew down to Florida and told Carbo it was a done deal. Jordan won the title and Nesseth refused to sign Jordan over to Carbo. An angry Carbo ranted over the telephone to Leonard saying “Just because you are two thousand miles away, that’s no sign I can’t have you taken care of”. Leonard was given police protection after his home was fire bombed. He then made the mistake of going out without his police protection. When he returned as he was closing his garage door he was attacked with a piece of lead piping, beaten and hospitalised.
This was one piece of brutality too far. The Californian State Commission and the Los Angeles Police Intelligence unit decided to go after Carbo. It is not clear how much success they might have had but they had a powerful ally. In November 1957 outside the small town of Apalachin in New York local and State law forces had stumbled on a meeting of Mafia bosses from all over the USA. The raided the meeting and more than sixty of the Mafia bosses had been detained and indicted. Before this there had been some doubts as to whether there was a nationwide criminal organisation. Now the FBI knew otherwise. The FBI was looking to build on that success in Apalachin and Carbo was an obvious candidate. In 1961 Carbo, Palermo, Truman Gibson Jr and two of Carbo’s enforcers were arrested and charged with extortion and conspiracy against Don Jordan. Gibson was only charged with conspiracy his part in the affair being his assurances to Leonard that it was safe to dupe Carbo.
With a young US Attorney General Robert Kennedy handling the prosecution Carbo was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison and Palermo to fifteen years. Carbo was initially incarcerated in Alcatraz but later switched to prisons in Washington State and then Illinois. He was eventually granted early parole due to ill health and died in Miami Beach in 1976. Palermo served just seven and a half years. He returned to his previous base in Philadelphia and for a while it was rumoured that he had a share in the earnings of heavyweight title challenger Jimmy Young but he was never a force again and died in 1996 at the age of ninety-one. The final chapter in the story of the attempt by Carbo and Norris to monopolise boxing. The good old days-I don’t think so. Take off the rose coloured spectacles Eric.
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