Why Not Referee’s Decision?

Damon Runyon

Salt Lake Tribune/February 12, 1916

Hint for Moran-Willard Bout

There was much noise around here not long ago over the question of decisions by referees in boxing bouts in this state.

Many fistic followers favoured permitting decisions. Many still favour permitting them. Just as many were, and are, opposed to decisions. Both sides have their arguments.

The boxing commission, as we understand the matter, is gifted with discretionary powers in the premises, and there was talk for a time that it would attach decisions to some of the more important bouts just by way of experiment. Nothing came of the talk, however, the commission finally deciding to rock along under conditions as they now exist.

If the commission is still looking for a chance to experiment, we would respectfully submit that a most fertile field presents itself in the Jess Willard-Frank Moran match, if it takes place in this city. It is the most glittering opportunity for experimental purposes that has bobbed u since the McFarland-Gibbons affair, and you would be amazed at the number of people who believe that that affair would have been all the better had a referee’s decision stared the young gents involved in the face, or faces.

If the commission should decide to attach a decision to the Willard-Moran thing, purely for experimental purposes, and for experimental purposes only, the result might be of vast benefit to the students of the fistic science. The decision in this case need not necessarily be a precedent for decisions in other bouts. It can all depend on the success or failure of the experiment. If it does not enhance or enrich the bout one way or another, the commission can dispense with further experimenting at once.

Jess Will Not Care

Surely no one connected with the bout can find any ground for objecting to the experiment. Jess Willard’s championship title is involved, it is true, but then Jess is getting nearly $18,000 more than the amount which he himself fixed as the risking price of that title for a bout twice as long as the one in which he will engage here.

Besides, Jess has stated that he will knock out Moran; and being cock-sure on that point, it cannot possibly make the slightest difference to the champ whether or not there is a referee’s decision. In fact, his declaration about the knockout is so absolute that we confident Jess will not evince the least interest in the decision matter.

Moran, of course, will gladely welcome the prospect of a decision. It increases his chances for a victory in case he finds himself, for any reason, unable to fulfil his promise to flatten the Pottawatomie cow-prodder with a few wallops. Sometimes a mans gets caught in a draught, or breaks a leg, or something, and cannot live up to promises of that nature; so the decision will find a strong booster in Frank.

The promoters are certain to greet the suggestion kindly, because a decision tied to that match would just about double its drawing power. The public would undoubtedly receive the prospect of a decision with loud cheers, for while there is not the slightest suspicion attached to the match, the decision would make assurance doubly sure.

No one can say that the plan would be unfair to Willard, in view of the price he is getting, his statements as to his ability, the fact that he is boxing a much smaller man, and the added fact that his handlers say he is booked for the summer with a circus at $500 a day, regardless of the outcome of the approaching contest.

Hurts the Game

We expressed the opinion some time ago that the big match, with its attendant bickerings and large money conversation, was not the best thing in the world for the boxing game and suggested that it would be a good scheme for the boxing commission to close the whole incident by raising the bars against the affair.

The commission has authority to do this, and we still hold that it should have been done at a time when no charge of discrimination could have been made. Since the match apparently is to be permitted, it might not be a bad idea to surround it with every possible insurance for success. A decision might be considered under that general head.

Somehow we have a vague hunch that the fight will never take place in New York, but it is only a hunch—that, and nothing more. We may be wrong. It would be nothing unusual—our being wrong. However, we desire to remark in a casual way that our hunch is not based on that faint, far-off cry of the old home town pack that comes drifting down the winter wind, gradually growing nearer and nearer.

We cannot sympathize with any attempt of the home boys to hamper the promoters just because they happen to be what the natives are pleased to term “outsiders.” We were opposed to that fight, but we are opposed to it on the broad ground that it will injure the boxing game, and not because of any of the men who were trying to land the match.

Everybody in that line of business had a crack at the match. The men who were successful won by talking in terms of blue chips, while most of the others were speaking of whites. We would not be surprised, nor would we be critical, if the winners finally decide that they do not like their company, and politely withdraw from the game, but meantime the losers and the impecunious members of the “gallery” who followed the play, so to speak, should not be querulous and small because they lost.

It Will Be Slow

We still hold to the opinion that we expressed in these columns when the match was first talked of—that as a ten-round, no-decision proposition—it will be a slow, lumbering, tedious bout. Anyone stepping up to the box office and paying money to see it may expect just that, and will have small right to squawk if he does not see something else.

We base that opinion on the fistic style of the men. Fighters change their style no more suddenly than a leopard changes its spots. Willard and Moran are both slow beginners. A year’s idleness has certainly not tended to speed up the champion or teach him any more about fighting than he knew before.

With everything to gain and nothing much to lose, Moran might be expected to battle like the proverbial wild man, but unfortunately experience teaches that the boys do not battle that way unless such be their ingrown habit.

It is even doubtful if the fact that a referee’s decision hung on the result would cause Moran and Willard to box differently from their respective customs, but it might. There is that chance.

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