Saving the Game

Damon Runyon

The Mornin’s Mornin’

New York American/February 6, 1917


We have been canvassing the fistic followers in a casual way of late on their ideas as to what is needed to save the ancient diversion. Most of them offered their suggestions on the premise that the game as we have it nowadays is glove fighting, a premise which is entirely correct, although the law legalizing the game in New York says something to the effect that a meeting of pugilists shall be a boxing “exhibition.”

Any time you offer some drastic plan toward the protection of the fight fans, such as withholding the money from a couple of hippodrome artists, someone always rushes forward with the bright thought that it cannot be done because the fakers are merely observing the law, and giving an “exhibition.”

All of which is unfortunately true enough, perhaps, but everyone knows that in this connection the term “exhibition” is a subterfuge. Everyone knows that what we expect, and what we get under the law as it now exists, is glove fighting, and no one wants anything else, so why beat around the shrubbery about it?

Not forty people would walk across the street to see a free boxing exhibition, and not five would cover the distance if they had t pay money to see it. So, then, when we are talking about the fight game, we are talking about fighting—about the attempt of one man to outpoint or knock another man unconscious per the Marquis of Queensbury rules, and legislation on the subject should be based on this premise, and not on “exhibitions.”

They Want Protection

Over half the fans we approached immediately said something about protecting the public from fakes and fakirs. It cannot be done as long as the game hides behind that “exhibition” screen, which in itself is a fake, and does not come for what it is.

Billy Roche once threw Jimmy Clabby and George Chip out of the ring at the St. Nicholas Rink because, in his opinion and in the opinion of nearly everyone else at the ringside, they were not trying, and an attempt was made to hold up their money. It did not succeed. Since then referees have merely been lay figures in the ring.

Many of the fans seem to think that longer bouts and decisions would help. They feel that there is little chance for improving the ten-round no-decision game as it exists today. Others thing that just as it stands the game can be rehabilitated and re-established, but not as long as the law and the interpreters of the law are handicapped as at present.

It is interesting to hear what the fans think of some of the so-called promoters. Several of these gentlemen, who have for years been sweating a living out of the fight game, are among those who are particularly vociferous in defending the pastime from the assaults of its traducers at this moment, but we gather from what the fans say that their defense is more of a knock than anything else.

The bloviating promoter, the industrious distributor of press material, who is indigenous to the modern game, has, it appears, been one of the most harmful of the factors that have contributed to its illness.

We present herewith, in haphazard way, some of the suggestions put forward by the fans, not all of which we favor, but most of which would certainly help some. A lot of these proposed rules are already on the books of the Boxing Commission, in spirit, at least, but they are rarely enforced.

 A Few Suggestions

Re-organization of the boxing commission, with a one-man power.

Salaried inspectors, with real authority.


Longer bouts.

Police co-operation.

Reduction of the number of permits issued so that no club shall have more than two permits a month.

Some arrangement to establish a little order in the audience.

Elimination of bouts between half-baked boys.

Cancellation of licenses to clubs occupying quarters generally unsuitable for the assembling of a crowd.

Cancellation of licenses to clubs where the management has demonstrated its inefficiency in the matter of handling crowds.

Cancellation of licenses to clubs where persons connected with the management are known to have made wagers on the results of bouts at the club.

Reduction of seconds in a fighters corner by at least half the number now permitted.

Elimination of smoking.

Cancellation of licenses to clubs where any persons connected with the management are handling fighters.

A few sets of honest scales for the weighing of fighters.

Strict adherence to the weight divisions.

Elimination of introduction of fighters, managers, promoters, etc., from rings, save in the case of the fighters actually participating in the impending contest.

Elimination of the ballyhoo of future events from the ring.

Prohibition of open-air boxing, and the compulsory closing down of the game between June 1 and September 1.

Prohibition of guarantees to fighters.

Elimination of fighters regarded as fakirs.

Working agreement with Boxing Commission of other states legalizing boxing to bar ring undesirables, and on rules in general.

Strict supervision by the Boxing Commission over every match arranged.

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