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Jacobs Beach

The Mob, the Fights, the Fifties
Jacobs Beach: The Mob, the Fights, the Fifties. Pegasus. Dec. 2010. c.320p. ISBN 9781605981239. $26.95. CRIME
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Professional boxing has long been like an umbilical to organized crime. Mitchell, the London Observer's chief sports writer, unfurls that sordid relationship, which culminated in the 1950s with ticket agent "Uncle" Mike Jacobs, whose digs across from Madison Square Garden were dubbed Jacobs Beach. The title is misleading as Mitchell thoroughly chronicles the mob's stranglehold on the fights through its control of the International Boxing Club and the Garden from the 1930s roughly through Mike Tyson's reign of terror in the l980s and 1990s. Each chapter is a who's who of the champs, palookas, ring men, and wise guys like Frank Costello and Frankie Carbo who controlled them. Some fighters/managers resisted, but it was a matter of mob up or shut up if you didn't get good-paying bouts. And you absolutely wouldn't make the Garden—boxing's mecca—without being connected. TV's destructive role (it lured spectators out of arenas and into bars) and Sen. Estes Kefauver's televised investigation into the mob are also covered in full.
VERDICT Rich with marvelous anecdotes, this is as much a history of 20th-century boxing as it is a true crime story; it will please fight enthusiasts and mafia mavens equally. Recommended.

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