Capitola, CAFrank Blinky Palermo died a month ago at 91 but it was 50-60 years too late for boxing. The convicted extortionist who, along with Frankie Carbo and three other less lights, went to Federal prison in the mid 50s, passed away in Philadelphia, his long time fief. Hardly anybody realized he was still living let alone dying and the list of mourners was blank. Those who found out later did not shed a tear.

Plain and simple, Palermo was an undercover fight manager, a fight fixer and gangland figure who got rich directing the careers of such as Ike Williams, Johnny Saxton, Coley Wallace, Virgil Akins, Billy Fox, Clarence Henry, Dan Bucceroni, in between operating the biggest numbers (illegal lottery) game in Philadelphia. With Carbo (allegedly the brains of the fight fixing practice) Blinkys stable of fighters would win or lose on command and the payoffs in betting were astronomical. And of course, there was the almost always mandatory rematch fight with surprising results., Blinkys biggest heist was the importation of his undefeated middleweight Blackjack Billy Fox from Philly into Madison Square Garden and subsequent knockout of Jake LaMotta in 1947. LaMotta was popularly known as “king of the middleweights and was a heavy early betting favorite. But shortly before the bell the air of a fix was in the air and the bookmakers refused to take any more bets. In the ring, Jake permitted himself to absorb countless punches from Fox without any retaliation. The referee stopped the bout with the customers convinced they had witnessed a fraud.

Years later, in front of a Congressional hearing into the evils of boxing, LaMotta admitted he took a dive. In the same hearing, former great lightweight champion Williams testified that Palermo had given him a short count on the purses and the fighter was barely getting existing on welfare checks.

While the Fox fight may have been Blinkys biggest coup, his failed attempt as one of five extortionists in 1959 to steal away welterweight champion Don Jordan from his legal manager in Los Angeles was his biggest mistake. Truman Gibson Jr., a vice president and lawyer for the reigning International Boxing Club monopoly, and two Los Angeles strong-arm guys Joe Di Sica and Louis Dragna were in on the plot together with Palermo and Carbo.

The FBI handled the case which involved beating of witnesses. All five were indicted, convicted, and sentenced to Federal prison. Blinky did seven and a half years and Carbo 15 years of a 25-year sentence, dying in jail. Their power had run out, but too many years too late.

Jacob Finkelstein, AKA Jack Fiske

Note: After 40+ years penning boxing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Jack retired in the early 1990s. This Hall of Fame (both) inductee finished up by penning columns thrice for monthly for Flash & Professional Boxing Update magazines. It was with these publications that my career got jump started. Jack passed in February 2006. We thank publisher Virgil Thrasher for allowing “exclusive” access to his archives.

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