The Black Murderers’ Row, White Fighters and the Truth

By Sembello C. Hasson on July 28, 2014
The Black Murderers’ Row, White Fighters and the Truth
By the end of the World War 2, fewer whites returned to or entered boxing as a profession.

Although the insinuation is that few white boxers would fight the members of the “Black Murderers’ Row” the numbers prove otherwise…

A few years back, Springs Toledo wrote an outstanding series on some great black fighters who never got their deserved shots at a title. The only problem, though, in stating his case Mr. Toledo left out some facts that didn’t fit the agenda.

In telling the story of Cocoa Kid, he seems to really pick on Jimmy Leto, who was one of the most rugged and craftiest contenders in history. First the innuendo is that the light hitting Cocoa could have knocked out Leto in the eighth round of their first match but held back to allow Jimmy to recover. This is the same Leto that was only stopped three times in his some 150 fights against the hardest hitters of his era. And then to make his point he mentions that Paul Gallico “insisted” that eight out of ten matches between blacks and whites were “tainted”. This is the same Gallico who disliked boxing, was never seen at a club show, only at a high profile, world-class match to be seen and give his “expert” commentary. Gallico only real contribution to boxing was allowing his name to be used to inaugurate the “Golden Gloves” Tournament. I’m not sure what Gallico’s observation has to do with the first Cocoa Kid-Jimmy Leto fight.

Still not done with Leto, Toledo then tells how Leto’s manager Lou Viscusi tried to intimidate Cocoa into losing the rematch. I do believe his account of this incident, but most of the powerful managers in boxing at the time were incorrigible gamblers who were always looking for an edge. Fritzie Zivic, who was white, relayed a similar episode to writer Myron Cope (BOXING YEARBOOK, 1959). He said degenerate gambler Eddie Mead, manager of (Black) Henry Armstrong, “called me up to an office in the RCA Building. I went up to the office with three friends… They waited outside the office while I talked to Mead.

“‘You know you can’t win this fight,’ Mead says to me, and I says, ‘What do you mean, I can’t win this fight?’

“He says, ‘Well, Armstrong will probably knock you out and you’ll get all busted up and cut up and you won’t get too much money anyhow.’

“I says, ‘What do you expect me to do? …Anyway, I think I can lick him in spite of what you say. What are you getting at?’

“Well, he says he will give me $15,000 in small bills the day before the fight, just to make sure I don’t hurt myself in trying to win. ‘Nobody will know anything about it,’ Mead says…”

Jimmy Leto ended his series with Cocoa Kid at Baltimore (Nov. 11, 1940) by flattening the Kid for the first ten-count of his career in the third round of an important welterweight elimination bout.

The Cocoa Kid was truly a great fighter and when he was at his prime ranking at welter Henry Armstrong was the champ that dodged a title match with him. Izzy Jannazzo and Jimmy Leto were the ones that risked their high ranking to fight the Cocoa Kid.

Although the insinuation is that few white boxers would fight the members of the “Black Murderers’ Row” the numbers prove otherwise. In 245 bouts in his career Cocoa Kid engaged in 155 matches against white fighters. World War 2 changed everything. With so many white boxers serving, most of the promoters panicked and tried to preserve what was left of the top white fighters still around. And by the end of the war with incentives like the GI Bill, fewer whites returned to or entered boxing as a profession.

It appears that is wasn’t until the heavy war year of 1942 that things drastically began to change. Holman Williams boxed 58 whites before the war and only boxed nine the rest of his career. Charley Burley boxed 30 white opponents pre-war. Lloyd Marshall met only two black foes in his first 42 matches before boxing Eddie Booker on Sept. 28, 1942. Booker, too, had only engaged a literal handful of black fighters in his previous 70 bouts.

Bert Lytell was, indeed, sidestepped by white opponents (and many black ones as well) but as far as we know, he didn’t begin until 1944. Springs’ incorrectly stated that after meeting LaMotta he could not get a top ranking white fighter in the ring. His fights with Popeye Woods were after the LaMotta match. Walter Woods is really a strange case, if Frankie Carbo was his protector, as Springs’ article alluded to, he had a strange way of showing it. Woods had always taken on all comers (black and white) and was a terrific drawing card in New York before temporarily retiring in 1939. When he made his comeback in 1944 he was froze out of New York and seemed to be in the same boat as the feared black boxers of the era and only boxed three white fighters in his last 24 matches (one being LaMotta) and every fight on the road.

I am not trying to diminish the accomplishments and the tribulations that these great black boxers endured, only trying to get people to respect many of the impoverished sons of immigrants and hard white men of the Depression who took on all comers in order to provide for their families. Check the records of Maxie Rosenbloom, George Nichols, Al Ettore, Lou Brouillard, Ken Overlin, Lee Savold, Teddy Yarosz, Gus Dorazio, Melio Bettina, Buddy Knox, Bob Pastor, Shorty and Big Boy Hogue, Wicky Harkins, Joe Curcio, and so many more and tell me what black fighters these courageous warriors hid from.

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  1. Kid Blast 03:05pm, 03/11/2015

    Holy moley! I’m just proud to be here

  2. ch. 08:46pm, 02/02/2015

    the number of black fighters that Eddie Booker met in his first 70 bouts should be nine, not (5) “a literal handful.”

  3. lamac66 06:46am, 12/22/2014

    Come on now, these fighters were widely avoided. Everybody got the benefit of the doubt over black fighters that were avoided. Back then German POW’s were treated better than black men. Put this into it’s proper perspective.

  4. Tex Hassler 05:27pm, 08/09/2014

    This article does make you think. Those who do not know boxing history will not understand much of it. I agree with Mike Silver.

  5. Pete The Sneak 06:48pm, 08/01/2014

    ch…Totally enjoyed this article…Keep em coming…Springs Toledo, also appreciate you trying to set records straight…I don’t see any racist overtones here, just boxing passion, which is why I visit this site consistently…Peace.

  6. nicolas 12:18am, 08/01/2014

    Interesting when we look at the American boxing scene today, no white fighters who mean any thing. Yet Great Britain, still does produce them, and of course you do have the Eastern Europeans. Any American white fighters of any meaning appear to be in MMA.

  7. Eric 07:11pm, 07/31/2014

    I don’t recall the Bill Murray skit on SNL, but I had quit watching SNL years before 1982, however, I have heard that story before. But SNL HAD to eat sh*t after all the fun they had poked at Bobick in ‘77. Kind of like poetic justice or some much needed karma. I regret Norton was the knockout victim, should have been one of the ones poking fun at Duane. Have to say that Norton was a class act in both situations. Norton always handled winning and losing equally well. RIP, Mr. Norton.

  8. nicolas 03:47pm, 07/30/2014

    I also remember when Cooney ko’d Norton, it was not only front page sports news of the San Francisco Chronicle sports page as was when Cooney ko’d Lyle, but it was actually on the front page of the Chronicle period. There was certainly a desire to see a white American fighter become heavyweight champion. In many ways I felt the Rocky movies were really a desire for that wish.

  9. FrankinDallas 03:00pm, 07/30/2014

    Poster below stated that Duane Bobick was made fun of by losing to Norton but Norton was not abused when he lost to Cooney. NOT TRUE! Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live news showed Norton-Bobick ko saying ” this is what happens when a black man fights a white man”. After Cooney-Norton, he shows the ko and said “this is what happens when a white man fights a black man!”. The studio crowd went crazy because of course Cooney was from NY.

  10. nicolas 12:26pm, 07/30/2014

    ERIC: Harry Wills was at the top of his game when fighting at the time. the film footage of Wills fighting Firpo does not make him look impressive, but Dempsey not fighting Wills was a detriment to the career of Dempsey. Dempsey himself said the roughest fight he had was with Johnson (can’t remember the first name’, in 1916, when he got his ribs broken. and that fighter was not considered one of the best black heavyweight around). Hard to say how Dempsey would have done against Wills, when they did not fight. As for Marciano against Valdez. Valdez beat Charles, yet Charles got the title shot. Charles nearly took Marciano’s title in the second fight, because of the cut nose. Valdez was a big man for the time, number one for nearly two years by ring magazine. He certainly deserved the title shot more than Don Cockell or Charles. Very Possibly Marciano would have beaten him, and the evidence I would use his Marciano’s victory over Joe Louis who weighted more than Marciano, and though while past his prime, was still very formidable at the time.

  11. Eric 07:35am, 07/30/2014

    I found Mr. Hasson’s article very refreshing. After years of reading how “white fighters” would’ve been slaughtered had they had the temerity to step into the ring with not only Sam Langford & Harry Wills, but their sisters too. Never mind that Harry Wills was made to order for Dempsey. Big, slow, and not very mobile = manslaughter when fighting a prime Dempsey. Seems like every story was parroted the same with maybe a slight variation here and there. It got so bad that we were told that even the great Marciano avoided the mediocre Nino Valdez. There was a video of Kid Norfolk on Matt McGrain’s all time top heavys list recently. Had always read that Norfolk was all that and a bag of chips. To be honest, the guy didn’t look that good at all, and the match he had with some big fellow made the Tyson-Bonecrusher Smith fight look exciting.

  12. Clarence George 02:33am, 07/30/2014

    Absolutely, Chuck, me auld warrior—you gotta share that phenomenal boxing knowledge with the rest of us.  That’s what is all about.  As far as most other boxing sites are concerned, the vast pugilistic universe comprises Floyd Mayweather Jr. and, well, Floyd Mayweather Jr.  As for the occasional set-to…the spice of life.  Why, I myself recently had a disagreement with Springs.  Personally, I found it invigorating and entertaining—just the right combination of testiness and humor.  I won’t speak for He of the Samson Hair, but I imagine he feels the same way.

    We’re boxing writers.  Compared to us, female opera stars don’t know the meaning of “prima donna.”  Do what I do—revel in the divaism.  See that?  I just made up a word…and damn proud of it, too.  Every word out of my mouth or pen is gold, pure gold.  That’s true of you, too…isn’t it?

  13. ch. 01:54am, 07/30/2014

    Thanks Clarence, your kind words have reinvigorated me. I may even try this again.

  14. Mike Silver 10:56pm, 07/29/2014

    If I may take the role of referee in this minor set to between Springs T. and Chuck H., two outstanding historians and writers who I greatly respect and whose words about this sport I eagerly devour. When you have as much knowledge as these two there is bound to be some disputes when it comes to dissecting the sport’s history, intrigue and corruption. Whether one agrees with everything either of you write or not is less important than reading what you both have to say which never fails to be both thought provoking and informative. Now shake hands and go back to your training camps to prepare for the next round.

  15. nicolas 01:18pm, 07/29/2014

    I think there is a lot of truth in a lot that has been written by both men. I think it is fair to say that quite often we denigrate the accomplishments of many of the white fighters back in those days. Can anyone dispute that Willie Pep is one of the greatest featherweight fighter of all time, if not the best. Yes he did lose to Sandy Sadler 3 out of 4 times, but he was never he same after the plane crash that he suffered. Also remember that he beat many black fighters and fighters of other races at the time. I don’t think he ducked anyone. However if we go to the light heavyweight division, I question the reign of Guss Lesnevich, Freddie Mills especially, and Joey Maxim. Did not Lesnevich avoid fighting Moore or Charles. looking up Mr. Springs Toledo, I came across an article, and a correspondence he had with a gentlemen regarding the myth of only one champion in the past. The State of Ohio apparently had a 15 round fight between Charles and Moore for a Ohio Version of the light heavyweight title, because of a possible refusal of Lesnevich to fight Charles in defense of his light heavyweight title. Charles would even defend this title against Maxim. If we look at the lighter weights of this era, not including the flyweight division which in the 40’s seemed to be an exclusive ownership by British fighters, but the Bantamweights, and lightweights, boxing between non white fighters seems to have been the reality of those years. Mr. Hasson is correct that WWII had a big impact on the decline of the white fighter. Many aftr the war through the GI Bill, and other programs allowed whites to find other opportunities for the American dream, more so than minorities. While the decline of boxing’s popularity was also perhaps due to the over exposure on television, and the decline of the fight clubs I don’t think it can be argued that this was also due to the fact that many white Americans could maybe not relate to the fighters of color that took their place. Boxing promoters were probably aware of this, though maybe the public was not as at least in the 50’s they had the reign of Rocky Marciano. Curious of course, the ‘great sport’ of ‘professional wrestling’ continued with a practically whites only club.

  16. Eric 11:12am, 07/29/2014

    Patricia Neal was great in the movie, “Hud.” Always associate the movie, “Hud,” with another good film, “The Fugitive Kind,” starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani. I have no idea why I lump them together. Maybe it is the same scenario where a outcast drifter romances a lonely older lady.  Both good movies. Don’t make them like that anymore. Those old black and white movies are numero uno by far. Arrivaderci.

  17. Clarence George 10:10am, 07/29/2014

    Concede defeat?  Good heavens, Chuck, what an idea.  Your article is challenging, thought-provoking, and iconoclastic, as I observed earlier—all of which quite befits  Set-tos are par for the course around here—thrive on them; don’t be discouraged by them.  Standing fast, with humor as both lance and shield, is all that’s required.  As I said before…much look forward to your next one.

  18. Damn The Torpedos 09:56am, 07/29/2014

    @Irish…I didn’t make the Neal/Cash connection till the other day. I was thinking Neal favored actor William Smith. Smith was best known for his muscular arms and playing villians like the character, Falconetti, in Rich Man, Poor Man. Then damn, it hit me. Neal looks like a female Johnny Cash, instead of William Smith. I’m still searching for a female who looks like Tom Petty. Now that will take some work. Forget the meds my friend. If you’re crazy, just go with it, most doctors are crooks.

  19. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:38am, 07/29/2014

    Mr. Fuji-I really like the way your mind works…..reminds me of myself….your association/mind connection of Tosh Togo/Toru Tanaka to Patricia Neal/Johnny Cash literally made me lightheaded…..which reminds me….my morning meds!

  20. ch. 09:32am, 07/29/2014

    Springs: I am an old “Ital-rish” guy who came up from the streets. And I am now wise enough to know when I have had enough. I concede defeat.
    Eric + Irish, thanks for the nice words.

  21. Springs Toledo 08:56am, 07/29/2014

    PS/ Chuck Hasson “came across” as a second-rate critic, but that doesn’t make him one. I take that back too.

  22. Springs Toledo 08:52am, 07/29/2014

    I’ve read your previous work, Chuck, and enjoyed it, but I don’t care if you won the Pulitzer Prize, you were looking for a fight when you wrote this article and you got it. You’re criticisms of “Just Watch Mah Smoke” are way off. If they weren’t, I’d gladly concede (I’ve found mistakes in it since it was published and am not too proud to correct them).
      The “assumptions” in the first fight were not about Leto but about Cocoa Kid. Leto would likely not have been in on it and you as a boxing historian should know that. I go on to point out his manager’s attempt to bribe and intimidate Cocoa Kid. Leto was not there that night and probably would not have known about that either. You have a problem because I didn’t include the last fight where Leto KOd him? Well, guess what, I didn’t include the third one either which was the only one Cocoa Kid won. So where did I “hammer” Leto? Be responsible and either make a real case or concede the point.
        You -came across- as harboring racially-motivated resentments from your title on down. If that was offensive, then I take it back. I’d be shocked if you were in any way a “racist.” Anyway, you seem upset that I didn’t share Cocoa Kid’s spotlight with Jimmy Leto. What about Battling Battalino, Mike Frattini, Saverio Turiello, and other white fighters he had problem with? —-See the point?

  23. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:45am, 07/29/2014

    ch.-I thought this article was timely, well researched, and thought provoking…...I don’t believe even for a minute that you are a “second-rate critic with racially-motivated resentments”. I hope you will contribute other great pieces to

  24. Eric 08:20am, 07/29/2014

    @ch…I thought your article was very fair. However, according to the PC police, fair is deemed “wayciss.” I knew that WWII had to have somewhat of an impact on boxing, but never took into account that it mostly effected the white fighters. Kind of hard not to offend someone in today’s uber-sensitive society. The religion of political correctness isn’t very tolerant, especially to Christians. teehee. Great article in my opinion.

  25. ch. 07:53am, 07/29/2014

    To the many visitors to BOXING.COM, I apologize to anybody who is offended by my article. After reviewing what I wrote I can’t find anywhere where I denigrated any fighter (Black or White). Calling Cocoa Kid “a truly great fighter,” seems fair. My purpose was to counter the popular myth that hardly any white fighter would tangle with the “Row,” and I think I proved it by by showing the numbers before “World War 2 changed everything.”
    I resent, only, having my racial motivations questioned when I believe I presented a fair representation.
    I don’t blame Springs for being annoyed but I did start out the piece calling his series “outstanding.” I just had problems with a couple of the episodes he described in his otherwise very well done, voluminous, and important report.
    Sembello C. Hasson

  26. Clarence George 07:53am, 07/29/2014

    Didn’t know Tanaka boxed.  Interesting, that.

  27. Eric 07:47am, 07/29/2014

    Just did a search and both guys were from Hawaii, and both very similar in build and size. Oddjob was a former Olympic weightlifter, while Toru Tanaka played college football, and actually had 5 professional boxing bouts in the fifties. Toru finished with a 3-2, 1 knockout ledger. Two interesting characters.

  28. Clarence George 07:33am, 07/29/2014

    Right you are, Mr. Fuji—Oddjob was indeed portrayed by Tosh Togo (Harold Sakata), who bore a strong resemblance to Professor Tanaka.  Always loved the way Tanaka rubbed the “sacred” salt in the eyes of his hapless opponents.  The other actor up for the Oddjob role was Milton Reid, who wound up disappearing in India.  The supposed resemblance between Neal (whom I never liked) and Cash is thought-worthy.

  29. Mr. Fuji 07:19am, 07/29/2014

    I always get Oddjob, who wrestled under the name Tosh Togo, confused with Toru Tanaka. I’m not saying they all look alike, but that these two burly wrestlers looked very similar. Two other people that look similar are actress Patricia Neal and Johnny Cash, well at least they could pass for brother and sister. Neal, looked like a female version of Johnny Cash.

  30. Clarence George 07:12am, 07/29/2014

    Cocoa Kid had a foot in both camps—a famed Puerto Rican fighter who was also a member in good standing of Black Murderers’ Row.

  31. Eric 07:03am, 07/29/2014

    Wasn’t the Cocoa Kid a Puerto Rican? Someone needs to write a book or an article on the Puerto Rican-Mexican rivalry in boxing. It is one of sports biggest rivalries, right up there with Steelers vs. Ravens, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Giants vs. Dodgers, etc. And the article or book wouldn’t be infected by the white man’s religion/disease of political correctness. Both Puerto Rican and Mexican fighters are highly nationalistic and full of ethnic pride, which make for great bouts between these two groups of warriors. Wilfredo Gomez, the original Mexicutioner, vs the likes of Lupe Pintor, Carlos Zarate, or Salvador Sanchez. Sanchez vs. Laporte, or Chavez vs Camacho or Laporte. Benitez vs Palomino, De La Hoya vs Camacho, De La Hoya vs. Trinidad, Margarito vs Cotto, Rosario vs Ramirez, etc. You watch a bout between a Puerto Rican fighter and a Mexican fighter and the disease/religion of political correctness never enters each respective fighter of fan’s mind.

  32. Clarence George 06:58am, 07/29/2014

    I won’t enter that fray, Irish, if only because I don’t deem myself sufficiently knowledgeable.  The closet I came was with “Joe Louis and the Magnificent Seven,” a characteristically wonderful article, as I’m sure you recall.

  33. Clarence George 06:36am, 07/29/2014

    If the sorely neglected Nathan Mann did indeed serve as Big Lou’s muscle, I’m far more impressed than distressed.  I’ve always had a thing for henchmen, who tend to be much more interesting that the guys in the bespoke suits.  Compare, say, Abe Reles to Lepke Buchalter.  As true in fiction as in real life—Oddjob, what with that fantastic bowler of his, is certainly more intriguing than the pompously pontificating Goldfinger.

  34. ch. 06:31am, 07/29/2014

    Springs : I apologize to you. Paragraphs 7, 8 and the last one were not directed at you and I should have been more clear. But I stand behind everything else I wrote. The last Leto- Cocoa Kid bout was one of the most important in Cocoa’s career. He had just lost to Jannazzo for the Maryland version of the “world” welterweight championship and was matched with Leto in an elimination match in order to face Jannazzo again for that title. I think it was unfair to Leto that you ignored it, after hammering him with assumptions that bordered on shoulda, woulda, coulda previously.
    Thanks for insulting me as far as my racial motivations. My work in archiving ethnic and racial boxing histories is well known and has been commended by many boxing historians. I do salute you for being such a vanguard in furthering political correctness in boxing.

  35. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:25am, 07/29/2014

    The real issue here is great fighters like Burley being denied title shots and not a dog vomit green false narrative of white fighters being too Goddamned cowardly to fight any black fighters let alone those that made up Murderers Row… least I hope it is….I’m but a fan but I challenge any of the historians who contribute to to prove that Ray Robinson fought more of the great black fighters of that era than Fritzie Zivic..

  36. Springs Toledo 05:53am, 07/29/2014

    Chuck, my agenda is to uncover the facts about Murderers’ Row and follow those facts wherever they may go. What is your agenda? You come across as a second-rate critic with racially-motivated resentments.   
        Here’s a fact—Leto’s manager tried to bribe and intimate Cocoa Kid in order to advance his fighter. There was talk that Leto was in line to face McLarnin in May. The motive wasn’t gambling, so why would you bring it up? It looks to me like your agenda is your bias. Leto had a corrupt manager and that corrupt manager was suspended as a result of his corruption; that may not fit into your image of Leto, but it’s the truth. Viscusi and Mead were especially close to Carbo, and despite your attempts to shade the issue, not every manager was.
        You missed the Emond’s KO because of carelessness. I didn’t include the Leto KO because I couldn’t possible cover every one of 250+ fights in Cocoa Kid’s career. Big difference, Chuck. My spotlight for the two (of the five) series you read is on Murderers’ Row. If you want to spotlight white fighters who struggled at the time, go for it. But the next time you hitch a ride on other people’s work, be responsible about it.

  37. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:20pm, 07/28/2014

    Mike Silver-Fritzie came close to stopping a “worn out” Armstrong in their first fight which he won and KOd a refreshed Henry three months later. Fritzie fought Charley Burley three times winning once and fought Eddie Booker as well, both charter members of the Murderers Row, neither of whom appear on the list of Jake’s opponents that you provided.

  38. ch. 09:37pm, 07/28/2014

    Mike, I do think that it is disputed that many white fighters fought members of the “Black Murderers Row.” I have talked to many boxing fans who expressed to me that whites would not fight them.
    Whether Armstrong was worn out or not, Mead still tried to guarantee him winning by bribing Zivic, according to Fritzie.

  39. ch. 09:25pm, 07/28/2014

    Thanks Clarence.
    Irish : as Mike Silver pointed out LaMotta met many of the dangerous black fighters because most of his early career he was a pretty much an independent contracter even though he came up during the war. Graziano was part of the promotional establishment and the only dangerous black he fought was Billy Arnold, which made him into a star.

  40. ch. 09:18pm, 07/28/2014

    Springs : I do have an agenda, just like you. So Leto got “spun around from a right hand.” I have seen that many times. With the grit and determination he showed throughout his career his chances of surviving against the Kid I believe are very good and maybe Cocoa thought the same thing.
    I said “most of the powerful managers of the time were incorrigible gamblers who were always looking for an edge.” That is far different from “everybody did it,” which you claim I said.
    I don’t understand your reasoning in saying Carbo was also a friend of Mead. Carbo was a “friend” (?) to many people in the fight game.
    I did miss the Harry Edmunds KO but I don’t remember you mentioning in your detailed story on Cocoa Kid the KO Leto scored over him in their important Baltimore match. Could there have been an agenda in leaving that out?
    And i guess I just misinterpreted your meaning of Carbo being “rumored” to owning a piece of Woods to explain Popeye’s second victory over Bert Lytell in a dull match. Maybe because both were dangerous, cagey fighters they were wary of each other which made for inaction, it happens all the time.
    Yea, I think we both have agendas.

  41. Mike Silver 08:05pm, 07/28/2014

    That many white boxers fought members of the “Black Murderers Row” is not in dispute. But there is no disputing the fact that not one of these great black fighters received a title shot against a white champion. One could chalk that up to economics (most would not draw as well as the white champion) but it was an injustice nevertheless.
    Irish Frankie: “The Bronx Bull” spent more time with those “Black Murderer’s Row” monsters than any other middleweight of his time. What other white fighter fought Lloyd Marshall, Bert Lytell, Holman Williams, Nate Bolden, Jose Basora, Marcus Lockman, Tommy Bell, Jimmy Edgar, Jimmy Reeves and even a young Bob Satterfield? Also, Henry Armstrong was worn out and not at his best by the time he fought Zivic, a great fighter in his prime. In the previous 23 months Henry had fought 22 times!

  42. Springs Toledo 07:47pm, 07/28/2014

    I’ll start from the top. I’m not preoccupied with race and therefore would not refer to Murderers’ Row as “Black Murderers’ Row” anymore than I’d refer to the Yankees 1927 line-up as “White Murderers’ Row.”  If you read my Murderers’ Row series carefully, you would see that I reserve my strongest rebukes not for white fighters the Row did or did not fight, but for the champions of whatever color who avoided them -especially Robinson. Unfortunately, you instead attack points I don’t make, and you do it behind disclaimers like “Springs’ innuendo or Springs insinuates/alludes…” I suspect this is only to further what you accuse me of furthering -an agenda. 
        Leto? I wasn’t picking on Jimmy Leto (I’m a fan of his), I was following facts with an open mind. I quoted an eyewitness at Leto-Cocoa Kid who watched Cocoa Kid lay off a stunned Leto after Leto damn-near spun around from a right hand. You have trouble with that because Leto was only stopped three times in 156+ bouts? Cocoa Kid dropped Robinson with that right hand when he was long-past prime, you think he couldn’t hurt Leto? The eyewitness who saw the shot land on Leto and saw Cocoa Kid lay off was Albert W. Keane, who wrote for the Hartford Courant. That’s the truth. Leto was a Hartford fighter. Your beef is not with me so much as Leto’s adopted hometown newspaper.
        Gallico’s statements about black boxers often being compelled to carry white opponents was included for obvious reasons that I’m afraid you missed. Cocoa Kid may have seen Leto hurt and laid off because he had orders. In other words, he may have carried him. That was not uncommon then, and I think you know that. The very next paragraph expounds on Gallico’s observations. It offers further possible explanation about why Cocoa Kid often shut-out white opponents. Forced to carry them, he may have sought to protect himself by ensuring that white judges wouldn’t rob him by winning every round. He couldn’t KO them, but he didn’t want to leave it in the judges’ hands either, so he dominated. That may partly explain some of your “light-hitting” observation. Leto’s manager, Lou Viscusi, tried to bribe Cocoa Kid before the rematch, but you wave that off with an “everybody did it” rationalization. Viscusi drove out to 20-year-old Cocoa Kid’s house in the dead of night -with muscle that included heavyweight Nathan Mann (nee Natale Menchetti)- in an effort to intimidate. Everybody didn’t do that. Viscusi was also connected more than most. That’s just a fact. The example you offer to prove that white fighters also struggled with corruption (which I don’t dispute) is Eddie Mead. You say that Mead was “a degenerate gambler,” but miss the fact that ruins your point—Mead was as much a friend of Frankie Carbo and company as Viscusi! 
        You end your defense of Leto (who I never indicted) by reminding us that Leto KO’d Cocoa Kid in 1940, but then say that Leto “flattened the Kid for the first ten-count of his career…” You’re wrong. Harry Emond knocked him out -“through the ropes for a count of 10” in 1932.
      Those aren’t the only problems with your article. “Springs’ incorrectly stated that after meeting LaMotta [Bert Lytell] could not get a top ranking white fighter in the ring,” you wrote. “His fights with Popeye Woods were after the LaMotta match.” That is a misquote. What I actually wrote was that Bert would never again fight a “nationally-known white fighter after LaMotta.” A “top-ranking white fighter” is not the same as a nationally-known white fighter.
        You also wrote that “If Frankie Carbo was his protector, as Springs’ article alluded to, he had a strange way of showing it…” Here’s what I wrote: “Carbo, it was whispered, owned a piece of Woods.”  A protected fighter is not necessarily the same as an owned fighter. Again, you distorted what I said to promote some point you want to make about white fighters. Who has the agenda, Chuck? 
        Circa ‘42, Nelson Algren wrote “He Swung and He Missed” and it’s a great short story. Your article brought that title to mind.

  43. Eric 06:06pm, 07/28/2014

    “impoverished sons of immigrants.” Poverty always breeds the best fighters. There are exceptions like Ali, but they are pretty rare. Dempsey, Frazier, Duran, the aforementioned LaMotta, all grew up extremely poor. I think a lot of the bias against the Klits and other Eastern European fighters is indeed because of their race. Boxing is one of the few sports that doesn’t favor a particular race. Whether people want to admit it or not, race does seem to be a factor in certain athletic events. It is highly unlikely that a white man will capture the gold in any race under 400 meters in the next Olympics. It is also highly unlikely that a black man will capture the gold in any swimming or diving event in the next Olympic games. I think the racial bias in our media was never more evident than when Ken Norton demolished “white hope” Duane Bobick. Poor Bobick was ridiculed over and over, and the video of Norton bashing Bobick was played over and over. Bobick was an instant punch lne. Fast forward just 4 years later and Norton is almost beheaded by Cooney. I don’t recall any fun poked at Norton by the media at all, and rightfully so, what kind of sicko takes joy in another person’s pain and embarassment.

  44. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 04:03pm, 07/28/2014

    Other than LaMotta’s never ending story with Robinson I don’t know if he spent much time on that Murderer’s Row on his way up or Graziano for that matter…..Fritzie Zivic was indeed one of “the impoverished sons of immigrants and hard white men of the Depression who took on all comers to provide for their families”......Armstrong may not have been part of Murderers Row at that time but he was at his best when Fritzie beat him to a Goddamned frazzle….yet many boxing historians act as if this fight never took place.

  45. Clarence George 03:03pm, 07/28/2014

    Delighted to have you aboard, Chuck.  And what a refreshingly iconoclastic perspective.  I applaud your grit in, as W.C. Fields would say, taking the bull by the tail and facing the situation on your maiden voyage with  Look forward to your next one.

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