Premium Issue Opinion

Sam Silverman – the most prolific promoter of them all

Sam Silverman
Sam Silverman was only ever concerned with competitive fights, not bums on seats, writes Michael Marley

REGIONAL promotional legend Sam Silverman gave me my first job in boxing. I didn’t realise it in my shallow youth, but I am well aware of this fistic fact 60 or so years later, that the rotund, fedora-hatted Runyonesque Bostonian is arguably the most prolific small hall promoter ever. It was routine for Silverman to stage three, sometimes four non-televised club shows in a single week, trying to avoid “free boxing” on the boob tube, the Friday Night Fights sponsored by Gillette.

Maybe there was a Monday show at the decrepit Boston Arena followed by a Wednesday evening card at Mechanics Hall in Worcester followed by Thursday night in Portland, Maine, usually topped by local ticket-seller Pete Riccitelli. I was age 13 and I was a PR assistant whose single chore of importance was getting cash-stuffed envelopes from the boss which I would walk over to the offices of the Boston Record American, the Boston Herald Traveler and the Boston Globe. Such payment obtained him “ink” in the sports section to hype his upcoming shows.

One time, a payola recipient asked me why he did not have three envelopes considering that he was going on vacation for two weeks. The promoter held firm, no plug, no payola.

Silverman had contempt for other sports, disliking tennis and had little time for the NBA, including world championship Celtics teams, calling them “giraffes.” He considered Harvard crews “college guys rowing backwards.” Somebody got Subway Sam a choice ticket to a 1946 Red Sox-Cardinals World Series game. He fell asleep at noisy Fenway Park. To Silverman, life offered diversions and distractions and what really mattered was copious amounts of Chinese food and “brain crackers” (martinis) and figuring out what matches he most wanted to see ofttimes regardless of the commercial value of the bout.

They say his true pleasure was soaking in a hot tub, unlit cigar and a pitcher of beloved “brain crackers” as well. For reading he had a stack of Everlast boxing record books…. ah, paradise.

An example of an excellent main event which I was lucky to witness came in 1965 in Boston when welterweight contender Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, seeming to be outpointed by Fate Davis, unleashed a classic left hook and, bingo, a one-punch KO victory with just 10 seconds remaining. I stood slack jawed at Philly fighter Hayward’s calm precision and Akron, Ohio, resident Davis’ resilience but wondered why less than 250 customers turned up. (As it turned out the show was not a Silverman offering but was staged by sometime ring announcer and Silverman irritant Nuno Cam.) Still, it was the kind of pairing Silverman would put on in Worcester, two out of staters such as Jimmy “The Cat” Dupree facing another contender, Herschel Jacobs. Those bouts often drew less than 100 cash ticket buyers, but Silverman – to his eternal credit – was more concerned with the competitive aspect, the finished product.

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