NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 15

BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 13 The noi’s attempt to enter the boxing business was blasted by sports writers, some of whom tolerated the exploitation of boxers by organized crime. According to Michael Ezra, in his book Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon, when the leaders of Main Bout, Inc., which had noi backing, complained that their efforts were being undermined by the mob, the sports writers dismissed the complaints. “Clearly,” he writes, “these sports writers weren’t reporting the whole story, because the Federal Bureau of Investigation (fbi) launched an inquiry into the failed promotion of a bout between Ali and Ernie Terrell that was supposed to occur in Toronto and be sponsored by Main Bout, Inc.” It suspected that Terrell withdrew not only because of financial concerns and because they couldn’t guarantee the two hundred fifty thousand dollar purse that they’d promised, but also because of death threats to him and Bernie Glickman by Chicago Mafia figures, which would no longer profit if the bout were moved to Canada. Investigators were unable to link the boycott to the mob, and no further federal examination of the fight took place. The Pittsburgh Courier sighed, “…as usual, the casting of light on supported underworld control of boxing still remains unfulfilled.” Wrote Robert Lipsyte, “To the underworld, the new organization meant only that a ‘rival gang’ had moved in and was in a position to ‘ace them out’ by not dealing with ‘trusted’ closed-circuit television operators or exhibitors as well as the other businessmen who normally get pay days from a title fight.” A United Press International (upi) writer added, “New York Mafia interests were enraged at the attempt of the Muslims to take over closed boxing through Main Bout, Inc.” BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE “When we lived in Venice, a postal worker asked whether I was Sugar Ray’s son; I said yes. He went to the back and brought out a photo of his uncle, Mr. Gambino, and my dad together. Mr. Gambino said that Dad was not to be bought and that he was crazy. Dad kept putting famous people out of the training camp, like Frank Sinatra. This was at Camp Greenwood Lake. Sinatra asked whether my dad could do a little something for some friends of his. My dad said no. He was also approached by Frankie Carbo. In those days, they wanted you to extend the fight a little bit, not to take a dive.” Muhammad Ali has been associated with criminals in and outside of the ring. But before he was managed by Don King, he was under the control of Herbert Muhammad and the noi (The Nation of Islam), which presented the mob with a competitor. King took the fifth when asked whether he knew John Gotti. At one point, King, slow in returning payments for a loan to mob figures, had to beg that a contract on his life be removed. The New York Times revealed on April 7, 2014 that Mr. Sharpton played down his involvement with Mafia figures, although “it has long been known that [Rev. Al Sharpton] worked with the f.b.i. in the 1980s in an investigation of the boxing promoter Don King.” The noi threatened the Gambino crime family after Muhammad Ali’s name came up during an fbi wiretap of a meeting that included members of organized crime. Learning of this, members of noi threatened that if any harm came to Ali they would go to the Waldorf Astoria and throw Frank Sinatra out of the window. This contradicts the image of black characters who appeared on the popular series The Sopranos, where they featured as inept and stupid, or the attitude of some Ali biographers who imply that the Muslims were cowards. Emboldened by their making organized crime back down, some rogue members of the noi took the Philadelphia heroin trade from it. 13 At least in the old days, v