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A FAN FIGHTS BACK
Budd Schulberg
October 11, 1954
In TV boxing, says this ringsider, there's too much turkey on the menu and someday wised-up fans may just turn off their sets
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October 11, 1954

A Fan Fights Back

In TV boxing, says this ringsider, there's too much turkey on the menu and someday wised-up fans may just turn off their sets

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In this corner you find an incorrigible fight fan. My wife knows what a struggle it is to keep me away from a fight—I mean a good fight. I've flown from coast to coast—and wish I could again—to see Louis and Conn, or Armstrong and Ambers. But now and then, for all my 30 years of enthusiasm, I wonder if the boxing business isn't doing its best to discourage me. And when I say me, I may be talking for a whole school of fight fans who can tell the difference between a genuine match and a television turkey given away free with the cynicism that too often accompanies the gratis article. When you get a turkey for nothing you can't very well come back to the counter and tell the man the meat was a little tough or the bird a day too old. Boxing is rapidly being revolutionized into a television business—with approximately one paying customer to every 25 armchair TViewers—and sooner or later they are going to need a spokesman or a champion to do battle for them against some of the mismatches that are palmed off on them as "fights."

THE TV TAPEWORM

One of the problems of television is that it is so much with us. It is not only a hungry giant but a Gargantua with an oversized tapeworm of an appetite. It devours comics and dramatic plots until the supply has got to run thin. And this same insatiability can result in fights which are hastily arranged between two men who have no business (except the beer business) being in the same ring together.

The first time Paddy DeMarco sprained his back or bumped his funny bone (or whatever it is he keeps doing every time he is about to fight that return match with ex-champion Jimmy Carter) they threw a stopgap into the ring with Carter in the person of Charley Riley. Now Riley is a pretty fair little featherweight who went about as far as he is going when he got knocked out by Willie Pep for the feather title back in 1950. Since then he has been knocked out by Percy Bassett, the featherweight contender, and George Araujo, a clever lightweight now ranking 10th in his (and Carter's) division. Charley is no longer ranked even as a featherweight and to put him in with Carter—the hardest punching lightweight around when he wants to be—was inartistic, inhuman and indefensible. And the felony was compounded by TV and radio commentators shilling for the house and leaning the weight of a carefully censored ring record book on millions of innocent come-lately fight fans who haven't yet learned (but they may, Mr. Pabst, they may) to discriminate between a nine-and ten-dollar fistic bill.

When the DeMarco-Carter fight recently cancelled out for the second time, the show went on with Carter in a star role and Freddy (Babe) Herman tossed in as a last-minute understudy for the vanishing DeMarco. Babe Herman, a willing substitute on the I.B.C. list, qualified as an opponent for Carter by winning six of his 16 fights last year. He's been knocked out by Gordon House, Ramon Fuentes, Phil Kim, Art Aragon (twice), Sandy Saddler, Oscar Reyes. Oh, yes, and by Baby LeRoy (twice). Earlier this year—I think in his only fight of '54—he was knocked out in three by Carmen Fiore. That one had to be stopp d because Freddy, in his familiar role as a human sacrifice, "was visibly in distress...his right side temporarily paralyzed."

In the Carter fight this boxing bag with legs was almost knocked out in the first round, but either Babe is becoming increasingly immune to punishment or Jimmy, a surprisingly merciful man on occasion, remembered the Riley fiasco and decided to give the fans a show for their money (or in this case their time, since there were only 800 lonely souls in the enormous San Francisco Cow Palace). Anyway Jimmy pushed on to what the UP called "a methodical 10-round decision" with Carter having "the situation under control all the way."

Just because they are given away free, TV fights don't have to be turkeys. Teddy Brenner on his Monday night and Ray Arcel on Saturday have come up with consistently good matches and some sorely needed new talent, viz. Carmelo Costa, Cisco Andrade, Floyd Patterson and Frankie Ryff.

BLOODY FOR CAUSE

Boxing was never intended as a sport for the tenderhearted. But as long as there are going to be bloody eyes and mashed noses, let them be mashed in legitimate contests. The kind of workout that Jimmy Carter and some others have been paid for lately belongs in the gym. The other day I was asked point-blank what line I was going to take on boxing, for or against. Naturally, I'm for. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here. The only thing is, I want boxing to be for me—and for the millions who, incorrigibly or corrigibly, want to see it flourish on TV as a sport and not as a begloved substitute for the rasslers.

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