The Boxing Writers Fiasco

By Joe Bruno on February 19, 2014
The Boxing Writers Fiasco
Don King grimaced, he growled, he gurgled, and then he spat out, "You guinea bastard!"

I got my first whiff of a possible conflict of interest when Murray Goodman nominated his boss Don King for the James J. Walker Award in 1981…

I was the Vice President of the Boxing Writers Association of America from 1982 to 1986, and a member until 1992. During that period the selection process for the yearly awards was a joke. I have had no connection with the group since 1992. I do not know if this still applies, but if I had to guess, I’d say it does.

In the past, I’ve attacked everything from unscrupulous boxing promoters to incompetent and biased boxing judges (take your pick) to haughty boxing honchos. But now I’m going to give you some insight into the inner workings of the BWAA, an organization that has done nothing for boxing but to give out questionable awards, often to their own members.

The Boxing Writers Association of America (once more properly called the New York Boxing Writers Association) was formed in the middle 1920s, and some of its illustrious early presidents were Nat Fleischer 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 8:00 pm. In the late 1970s, 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 BWAA.

Unfortunately, I was not met with open arms.

The old fogies in the Boxing Writers Association probably thought if your name is Joe Bruno and you were born and raised in the 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 BWAA membership card.

My heart fluttered as I 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 were not boxing writers at all, but in fact public relations people, most working for various boxing promoters throughout the country. Sure, there 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), BWAA 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 Dolgon and Patti Dreyfus. There were more boxing press agents who were also voting members, but their names and faces now escape me.

The secretary-treasurer of the BWAA for as many years as anyone could remember was the intensely disliked Marvin Kohn, whose 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 organization’s 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 BWAA 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 BWAA 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.)

The procedure for accepting nominations were like this: You raised your hand and named anyone you damn well pleased. That 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 Don 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 largesse were the fifty or so member of the Boxing Writers Association of America 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 6:00 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 BWAA 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 dollars 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.

Then, Murray and King made the rounds of all the boxing writers, and King offered each one of us his personal holiday greetings. By the time he caught up with me, I was wobbling at the bar near midnight banging down my second dozen scotch and sodas with TV sports maven Bill Mazer and New York Post boxing writer Mike Marley.

The “King and I” had our personal problems in the past, so I saw he was somewhat reluctant to shake my hand. But good old Murray, whom I actually loved dearly, basically prodded King into extending me his hand.

King towered over me and said something like “Happy Holidays and thanks for coming.”

I shook hands with the big lug. And after our hands disengaged, I looked up and timidly said, “Don, thanks for inviting me. This is one of the best parties I’ve ever been invited to. And next month when I vote for the James J. Walker Award, I WILL vote with my conscience. I’m voting for Eddie Futch!”

I next saw the same look King must have given poor Samuel Garrett before King stomped him to death on a sidewalk in Cleveland in 1966.

King grimaced, he growled, he gurgled, and then he spat out, “You guinea bastard!”

Murray jumped between us before The King and I went at it, and since I’m pretty good with my hands, and King obviously only with his feet, I had felt real good about my chances.

The next month, Eddie Futch won the James J. Walker Award in a runaway, and that was the last holiday party, not to mention the last silver platter, that to my knowledge, Don King has ever given to the members of the BWAA.

But let’s get back to the silver platter.

I immediately presented the platter to my Aunt Frances, who was given a little puppy for Christmas by her son, my cousin Johnny. Aunt Frances used the silver platter as a feeding dish for her new dog, who she fondly named “King.”

You can’t make up stuff like this.

Joe Bruno is the author of 17 books, including “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volumes 1-5” and “Whitey Bulger – The Biggest Rat.” Joe Bruno’s Amazon Author Page can here seen here. Also visit his blog, “Joe Bruno on the Mob.”

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  1. Oh my 10:28am, 02/21/2014

    More like Truman Capote

  2. Joe Bruno 10:25am, 02/21/2014

    Oh, my. Hauser’s not a tough guy. Far from it. A think a good description would be a preppie doofus.

  3. Joe Bruno 09:25am, 02/21/2014

    Bikermike, there’s one thing we all have control over; the way we spend our money. I made a pledge 20 years ago to never spend a dime on watching a boxing match. And this especially pertains to Pay-Per-View. And I’ve kept this pledge.

    If more people followed this rule, then maybe the best fights would be available on pay channels like HBO and Showtime, not on Pay-Per-View.

    And maybe fights now on a pay channel like HBO and Showtime, would be on ESPN instead, or God-forbid, NBC, CBS, and NBC, like it was in the old
    glory days of boxing.

    Boxing fans do how some control here. It’s time they exercised that control and just said no to Pay-Per-View.

    Talk about spitting in the wind. I wrote this 30 years ago, and nothing’s changed.

  4. Oh My! 09:24am, 02/21/2014

    Hauser is the type of guy that if he makes eye-contact with you, look out!!!!!

  5. Joe Bruno 09:18am, 02/21/2014

    Peter, Malcom “Flash” Gordon was one of a kind and a good friend. He wasn’t afraid to write anything about anybody.  But even he got tired of the hypocrisy in the boxing world.

  6. Joe Bruno 09:17am, 02/21/2014

    Kid Vegas, Tom Hauser was always a phony. I met him in the early 80’s at a Boxing Writer’s luncheon. Hauser is the type of guy that if he makes eye-contact with you, he think’s he’s doing you a favor.

  7. thresher 08:06am, 02/21/2014

    Jacob, yes

  8. bikermike 07:30pm, 02/20/2014

    Jeez…..what a bunch of castle intrigues

  9. bikermike 07:23pm, 02/20/2014

    Boxing is ...corrupt….because we line up to make it pay to be corrupt..and i’m right in there be in that line up

  10. bikermike 07:15pm, 02/20/2014

    HEY JOE…..kinda like finding out most publishings about finacial planning is bought and paid for…as pharma advertising……...cure baldness and give you a nine inch dick….provided you sign off on all the by product problems

  11. bikermike 06:59pm, 02/20/2014

    I take nothing away from the FIGHT WRITERS of today and before….
    We need a more concentrated effort to describe today’s FIGHT scene…....or….are today’s fight scribes bought and paid for….show me an honest well published fight scribe…PLEASE…...and btw….show me a very horny lady who likes fight videos…and tequila .......(I had a marvelous thing..but she died…..heart attack)

  12. bikermike 06:44pm, 02/20/2014

    still…..what the article reflects…is true

  13. bikermike 06:41pm, 02/20/2014

    When it comes to great FIGHT REPORTER\S…....

    GUYs like Jimmy Cannon come t mind….even Burt Sugar…..and…..of late….informed posters like Ted ...THE BULL   ...are good sources of information

    But…the New York Writers Association….is much like Canada’s Toronto group of onion pumpers….....narrow view
    Still….some of what they say is worth reflection

  14. Jacob 06:38pm, 02/20/2014

    Does BWAA stand for Writers Association of America?

  15. kid vegas 05:24pm, 02/20/2014

    I think the photo says everything we need to know. I also love the fact that Thomas Hauser did a 360 on King and began to sing his praises quite loudly. During one recent fight you could see Hauser in a fluffy lavender shirt and hair all over the place sitting next to the massive King in the pre-fight locker room. It was during the Cloud-Stevenson fight I think. It was sickening to watch as it was a study in who had the worse hair. Hauser also writes articles about King meeting his ancient mother who is 88, Eleanor, as if any one gives a crap. Check out Google. It’s enough to make you vomit in plain site.  Hauser goes after Steve Smoger and Lawrence Cole and others, but he grants Sainthood to King. Here is what he said about King-the double killer of two human beings: “Everybody is trying to do what I’ve already done,” King said three days before Hopkins-Cloud. “Ain’t nobody can touch me here, not in this lifetime.So for the moment, let’s put the bad aside and celebrate the excitement and energy that Don King has brought to boxing over the past 40 years.“You’ll never be able to replace boxing as a sport,” King has said. Boxing won’t be able to replace Don King either. He’ll leave a global footprint when he has gone. From 29,2013. Pass the puke pail

  16. Yed 02:36pm, 02/20/2014

    Paul, you have the beat

  17. Kurt 02:02pm, 02/20/2014

    With all due respect, Nat Fleischer would never have written enthusiastically about Adrian Broner

  18. peter 01:32pm, 02/20/2014

    @ Tex Hassler’s comment—“As far as I know boxing has no Nat Fleischer now.”  I believe there are two new Nat Fleischers. However, one is retired—boxing muckraker, Malcolm “Flash” Gordon. The other still has a lot of piss ‘n vinegar in him—it’s our erudite editor, Robert Ecksel of I can’t think of a better man to fit the job.

  19. Paul Magno 12:53pm, 02/20/2014

    General rule of thumb—when boxing writers get together, nothing good can come from it…It’s always about glad-handing, egos, and defending one’s own conflicts…

  20. Tex Hassler 12:42pm, 02/20/2014

    This was a fine article with a lot of insight that most of us do not have.  Thanks for speaking up. As far as I know boxing has no Nat Fleischer now. He kept a lot of things in the boxing world on track.

  21. Dr YouTube 10:08am, 02/20/2014

    Matt, it is diseased. We are looking for a cure.

  22. Thresher 10:00am, 02/20/2014

    The President of the BWAA, Jack Hirsch, is a solid guy IMO, but there is only so much he can do, What I would like to know is who are the members of the Membership Committee besides Cliff Rold who works for fellow member Rick Reeno at BoxingScene.? No conflict there, right? And how about Gerbasi who also works for Reeno? Is he on the Committee? How about Farhood who never writes or Graham who never writes? Fat Dan” Is he on it? Hauser? How about some disclosure and transparency?

    WHO ARE THEY????????????????

  23. Brenda Perlin 08:24am, 02/20/2014

    No, you can’t make this stuff up. It is too good. Love it!

  24. Thresher 08:13am, 02/20/2014

    Let them try

  25. Matt McGrain 07:55am, 02/20/2014

    Sounds diseased.  I guess it’s all but impossible that someone currently in it would speak up in this fashion.

  26. Ted 07:47am, 02/20/2014

    Paul has the beat

  27. Paul Magno 06:48am, 02/20/2014

    These days, although there are still paid publicists in the BWAA, most of the writers serve as publicists anyway…and since THEY control the narrative because they control the media, the truth doesn’t come out until after they’re gone…

  28. Thresher 05:47am, 02/20/2014

    I salute Joe for having the courage to challenge the BWAA and its myriad of conflicts. And we mustn’t forget the Pat Putnam scandal and the alleged Borges plagiarism fiasco. It gets worse and worse each and every year.

  29. Larry Link 05:35am, 02/20/2014

  30. Larry Link 05:34am, 02/20/2014

    Joe joins a growing list of those who are not afraid to speak up.

  31. NYIrish 05:27am, 02/20/2014

    New York’s a tough town. Even the writers get scar tissue.

  32. thresher 05:27am, 02/20/2014

    Retech Son, it’s worse now. It is bile-inducing.

  33. Kurt 04:34am, 02/20/2014

    I could never figure out what the purpose of the BWAA was back then. I was well aware of the great Nat Fleischer but who were the other guys.  Just a bunch of old white guys that never fought sitting in some restaurant in New York City handing out stinking awards.  Always sounded kind of pointless to me.  At least back then there was something to write about.

  34. The Rock 12:20am, 02/20/2014

    The BWAA now ONLY gives writing awards to their own members.

  35. Mateng 10:03pm, 02/19/2014

    Nice to hear that story, hoping there’s still a lot like you. But The way I see it , lots of writers are with somebody’s payroll… The way these writers embrace somebody’s alibis and excuses and gimmicks tells a lot. Not making a great fight happen and yet get the fighter of the year award? There is a mafia in boxing, but didn’t expect an active fighter can lead it.

  36. Retech Son 10:02pm, 02/19/2014

    This is the scenario in the 1980’s. What about now? Much better for worse? or exactly the same?

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