Monday, March 8, 2010

Fall Guys Chapter 21

Dog Fight

Danno at least proved to be a wise young man, possessed of something else besides brawn and no brains.

As the news scribes flocked into his dressing room after the epochal Shikat double cross, the Irishman was ready for them.

“I didn’t quit,” he told the Fourth Estaters. “I’ve been in more punishing holds. I was tired, though, because of my long three-hour match last Friday night in Boston with Yvon Robert, so I couldn’t do my best. When Shikat clamped the arm lock on me I went to the floor.

“Shikat then told Referee Bothner he would break my arm unless he stopped the match. Bothner asked me if I wanted him to halt the contest, and I said: ‘Don’t halt the bout.’ Well I guess Bothner misunderstood my brogue, for he then slapped Shikat on the back, as a sign he was the winner and pulled the German off of me.

“Bothner told me in the ring after the bout was over, that he thought I said ‘Halt the bout.’ Shikat is a good man and I hope to meet him again with a referee in the ring who can understand an Irish accent.”

While Danno was declared shorn of his laurels by the New York State Commission, his brogue alibi served to save some vestige of his prestige.

The story behind Danno’s defeat in itself far outfigures the plots of master fictionists.

Months before the Danno double cross, Shikat, inspired by a disgruntled member of the trust, announced his intention of returning to Nazi land, but before doing so, contacted fellow countryman Rudy Miller, Florida wrestling agent for the nationwide combination.

Miller came to New York and the tough Teuton vowed vengeance on the entire mat industry, and declared that upon his return from the Fatherland, he (Shikat) intended to await an opportunity to beat Danno O’Mahoney right in Madison Square Garden.

Miller acted fast. Al Haft, Columbus, Ohio, promoter, Detroit promoter Adam Weismuller, and onetime Mat Czar Billy Sandow, were apprised of Shikat’s intentions. They signified their willingness to talk business with Shikat after he beat Champion O’Mahoney.

Late in the fall of 1935, Shikat returned from Germany, and was pointed for the title match with O’Mahoney which culminated in the epochal March 2, 1936, Madison Square Garden double cross. Shikat was now in a position to even old scores with Joe “Toots” Mondt, Jack Curley, “Strangler” Lewis, Jimmy Londos and Ed White. Too, he was in the driver’s seat, and could erase some grudges Rudy Dusek, his sponsor, harbored against various parties. The gears in the well-oiled double cross began to grind slowly but surely, while other unsuspecting mat trusters remained in the dark. After winning his claim to the mat championship, the trust tried to talk business with Shikat. That worthy listened, but, prompted by his sponsor, Miller, decided to cast his lot with Haft and Sandow.

Shikat tried to interest Jack Pfeffer in the deal, but the wily leaping Litvak trusted Teutons, wrestling promoters, and grapplers as much as Al Capone trusts a cop, and refused to pool money in the deal, agreeing, however, to book Shikat in New York and protect him to the best of his ability. Which was like guaranteeing a baby that a Jack Dempsey wallop would not hurt him.

Surprisingly enough, it comes to light at this late date, that Shikat merely beat Danno to the gun in taking his title away. For out in the Midwest the Sandow-Haft group had already made a deal with O’Mahoney, to have him leave New York right after the Shikat bout and accept a bout in Detroit with Everett Marshall, which the latter would win. The terms of the deal are said to have been arranged by a New York newspaperman on one of the Irish-American newspapers, and only Shikat’s getting in ahead of Marshall prevented the plan from materializing.

Immediately after hearing of Danno’s defeat, Mondt took a transcontinental plane to New York, and by tying up the loose ends he was able to figure out the key man in the double cross. It took him time, and while Mondt worked like one of Edgar Hoover’s G-Men, Shikat was parading the country as champion.

Mondt made Shikat an offer to meet Vincent Lopez in Los Angeles, and agreed to post fifty thousand dollars as a guarantee for two bouts.

Shikat was holding out for the highest bidder. With the money of Haft and Sandow in his safety deposit box, he had decided to carry the double cross a little further, and double cross everyone.

As Shikat told this writer:

“My title is on the auction block. I’m going to get as much for it as possible. After the Browning match in Madison Square Garden, when I protested against Lewis losing the title to Browning without taking me in on the deal, Lewis and Mondt invited me up to the Warwick to talk it over, and instead, they beat me up. I waited a long time for revenge. I could have beaten Londos in Madison Square Garden on December 11th, 1934, after the big trust deal had been made with him and he was holding the fifty thousand dollars, and I was going to do so until I began wrestling with Londos in the Garden ring and sensed that this was just what Londos wanted so he could file his claim to the fifty thousand dollars and leave the country. “I decided right then and there to lose to Londos as programmed, and wait until later for revenge. I hated Londos as much as I hated Curley, Lewis, Mondt, Fabiani and Bowser, but I didn’t want to make Londos richer by double crossing the heels who had been in on the beating I took at the Warwick.”

“Why?” this writer asked of Shikat, “didn’t you come back and work with Mondt when you won the title back from Danno?”

“I was all ready to go back to Mondt or Bowser, because I felt they were the squares of the bunch, but I heard they planned to give me twenty-five thousand dollars for a return bout in Boston with Danno, and all agreed to this, but Lewis said: ‘Sure, we’ll promise him the twenty-five thousand dollars until after he loses to Danno, and then we’ll take him up to a hotel room and give him another beating,” responded Shikat. “So,” concluded Shikat, “those fellows should watch my smoke now. I’m on my own.”

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