In past columns, I've attacked everything from unscrupulous boxing promoters (Dung
King-----Bullshit Bob Arum), to incompetent and biased boxing judges (take your pick), to
haughty boxing honchos (Seth "Shrimp" Abraham of HBO). But now I'm going to give you
boxing fans some insight into the inner workings of the Boxing Writers Association, an
organization almost seventy years old, who for years have done nothing for boxing but to
give out questionable awards, sometimes to their own members.
The Boxing Writers Association (once more properly called The New York Boxing Writers
Association) was formed in the middle 1920's, and some of it's illustrious early presidents
were Nat Fleishcher of the "Bible of Boxing" Ring Magazine, and boxing writer Ed
Sullivan, who later changed hats and gave black and white TV viewers a "Really big shew"
every Sunday night at eight pm.
In the late 1970's, I was a wide-eyed neophyte boxing writer doing a full page of boxing
every Monday for the News World in New York City. In fact, I was the only full- time
boxing writer employed for any daily newspaper in the city of New York. So, I summoned
the courage and applied for admittance into the hallowed Boxing Writers Association.
The old fogies in the Boxing Writes Association probably thought if your name is Joe
Bruno and you were born and raised in Mafia territory in Little Italy, I had to be somehow
connected to "The Boys." They had already rid boxing of Frankie Carbo and Blinkie
Palermo( two paisans who ran boxing with an iron fist and steel bullets for many years, and
went to prison for their troubles), so accepting another vowel-ending member was not on
the top of their list of important things to do. Yet, after careful consideration (and maybe
the fear of having their knees broken), I was reluctantly issued my Boxing Writers
Association membership card.
My heart fluttered, as I not sat down and broke bread with my early sports writing
heroes---Red Smith and Dick Young. But I was soon shocked and dismayed to find out that
the majority of the members of the Boxing Writers Association were not boxing writers at
all, but in fact public relations people, most working for various boxing promoters
throughout the country.
Sure, their were crack boxing scribes like Mike Katz, then of the New York Times, and
Eddie Schuyler of Associated Press, but the men who carried most of the weight and made
all of the decisions were the late Murray Goodman (PR person for Don King), Irving Rudd
(Bob Arum), Boxing Writers recording secretary Tommy Kenville (Madison Square
Garden) John Condon (Madison Square Garden), Trish McCormick (Madison Square
Garden), and independent PR persons-for-hire Rich Rose, Irvin Rosey, Eddie Pitcher,
Harold Conrad, Howie Dolgen and Patti Dryfus. There were more boxing press agents who
were also voting members of the Boxing Writers Association, but their names and faces
now escape me.
The secretary-treasurer of the Boxing Writers for as many years as any one could
remember was the intensely disliked Marvin Kohn, who's claim to fame was that he was
Sophie Tucker's press agent sometime in the Roaring Twenties. Kohn was also an
influential long-time commissioner at the New York State Athletic Commission, and he
used his power there as a lead weight to beat into submission anyone who dared to
challenge his clout in the Boxing Writers Association. (As treasurer, Kohn hoarded the
Boxing Writers monies accumulated throughout the years, and at every meeting Dick
Young demanded an accounting of the funds, and was never given one. Young died in
1987, and Kohn died a few years later, and as far as I know, the mystery of the Boxing
Writers riches died with him)
The private interests of the powerful press agents became evident when we held our yearly
luncheon to nominate people for our prestigious awards presented at our yearly bigwig
Boxing Writer's Dinner held in some hallowed hotel in New York City. Nominations were
taken for Fighter of the Year, Manager/Trainer of the Year, TV media person of the year,
Boxing Writer of the Year, and other illustrious awards such as the James J. Walker Award
for "long and meritorious service to the sport of boxing." (Why such an important award
was given in the name of a New York Mayor who was so disgraced he resigned from office
and fled the country before he was arrested was never explained to little old me)
The procedure for accepting nominations were thus: You raised your hand and named
anyone you damn well pleased. Such name was immediately accepted into nomination, and
when five or six names were compiled, the nomination was closed. Secret ballots were sent
out weeks later, and votes were counted, but since some of the press agents did the actual
counting, the ballots were hardly secret at all.
I got my first whiff of a possible conflict of interest when Murray Goodman nominated his
boss Dung King for the James J. Walker Award in 1981. King's "long and meritorious
service to boxing" at that time was a whole five years, but when you were as old as Murray
was, I guess you lose track of time.
The following month during the winter holiday season, King threw a holiday extravaganza
at a famous New York City nightclub. Invited were certain boxers, trainers and managers,
but the main recipients of King's largess were the fifty or so member of the Boxing Writers
Association who would vote for the awards right after the first of the year. The dinner was
more lavish than most weddings I've attended in New York City. There was an open bar
from six pm to midnight, and the dinner consisted of Prime Ribs and Lobster tails. But the
biggest hint that King wanted bang for his buck was when after the dinner Murray
Goodman went around to each member of the Boxing Writers Association and handed us a
gift, saying, "When you vote next month for the James J. Walker Award, don't forget to
vote with your conscience."
I tugged open the holiday wrappings and came face to face with a huge silver platter with the King's name and logo stuck smack in the middle. This platter had to cost close to five hundred dollar in 1981 money. I was so shocked by the offering and the innuendo, and I couldn't figure out what to do with the damn thing anyway, I almost handed the platter back to Murray. But more on that later.
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