"Good" fights were seen by a few, read
about by millions more. You could sometimes hear them on radio, less frequently
view action on TV, especially the big matches, where live ticket sales
mattered most. Priority was natural put on seeing punches land, and so came
post-match boxing films to show us what sport reporters described blow-by-blow.
Who knows but what our interpretation of action might be different from theirs?
Projected footage, sometimes in slow motion, brought combat closer after all.
"Better Than Ringside" was no empty claim: these
greater-then-live-size gladiators were better observed from theatre rows than
back-of-stadium with jack-in-box spectators constantly rising to block view.
Besides, the outcome was bynow old news, money from matches duly made and
bets paid off. Revenue from fight films was gravy, and got from seemingly every
gauge, 8, 16, and 35mm.
Home movie sellers counted glove action among
top sellers. Men's smokers and fraternal orgs ran such reels to ribbons, then
sent them on to brother clubs. Lots bought home projection just so they could
screen pugilists. When footage was freshest, it stood high on marquees, very
often above the feature. "Theatre TV" floated live broadcastsfrom
early in the 50's (as in the ad at right when Loew's Midlands in Kansas City featured Sugar Ray Robinson vs.
Carmen Basilio live on 9/23/57), and there would be closed-circuit matches
during the 60's. All the while, however, came heavyweight clashes rushed to
audiences while ink from ring reportage was still wet, and note how movies on
view are dwarfed in these ads. The Fox Capitol tendered Anchors Aweigh and
Barefoot Battalion as afterthought to Marciano vs. Cockell, though Anchors
Aweigh was admittedly a ten-years-oldie by this 1955 date where it played as a reissue
(highlights of the 5/16/55 match, probably the same stuff Capitol patronage
saw, is on You Tube). The Fox Crest put Marciano/Cockell over Kiss Me Deadly
for selling purpose, as would the Senator after Marciano met Archie Moore on
9/21/55. Were these proofs that sports trumped movies for a public's willingness to come in and spend?
UPDATE: 1:07 PM: Scott MacGillivray sent the above poster image for a 3-D boxing short, along with some fascinating info ...
John -- If I remember the 1953 trades correctly, UA had planned to release the
Joe Louis-Jersey Joe Walcott fight as a full-length 3-D feature. This had to be
revisited when the fight lasted only two minutes and 25 seconds. The picture
ultimately came out as a two-reel short, padded out with slow-motion replays.
(The referee was accused of counting Walcott out too quickly, so I guess UA
jumped on this to let the movie audience review the action.)