The Harder They Fall - Vegas with a View
By Sunset Thomas, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 11, 2010)  

I love Reno and so does Frankie Gambino. Hey, it’s where we first met. The thing is, since my home is in Vegas I don’t get up there nearly enough. Frankie likes to call the whole area (Reno/Tahoe/Virginia City) “Vegas with a View!” And he’s right; it is a beautifully fun and fantastic getaway.

Whenever I’m in Reno I hit Casale’s Half Way Club for the best ravioli in Nevada. Frankie loves talking to Mama Casale—two old timers chatting it up. Inez is a huge fight fan and boy-howdy do they reminisce!

So after two platters of ravs and one of Mama Casale’s famous little pizza pies and tons of banter we headed down East 4th Street to our favorite little dive bar, Abby’s Highway 40. The proprietor, Donnie Schwartz is a good buddy and his place is conveniently located near the UNR boxing club gym (a place frequented by pros, amateurs and collegians alike).

While we were at Abby’s we ran into another old pal, Mike Martino (Mike is the UNR boxing coach, a member of the Nevada Athletic Commission and the interim Executive Director of USA Boxing). Frankie and I had heard of Mike’s involvement with the huge events being hosted in honor of “The Fight of the Century” which took place in Reno one-hundred years ago this 4th of July—the one that pitted Jack Johnson against the original “Great White Hope” Jim Jeffries.

See, Mike is working with boxing historian Gary Schultz and Terry Lane (son of iconic boxing figure Miles Lane). This trio is creating a mega-event to honor that historical bout.

Ironically, I first met Terry at Abby’s back when I was working with Chuck Travella on ESPN’s Xtra Point radio show—but that’s another story for another time. Anyways, we’re there with Mike and he calls Gary and Gary shows up and Donnie, is, well Donnie, and I’m feeling so much at home again and then they get to telling me and Frankie all about this three-day extravaganza (July 2nd, 3rd and 4th).

Frankie agrees that it’s high-time to honor what was not only a major bout but one with major social impact. Frankie always felt Johnson got a bad rap—jailed on trumped up Mann Act Charges. When Frankie mentioned that, Gary piped in. He was quick to point out that the event starts on Friday night with a Jack Johnson Pardon dinner. Gary explained that the conviction against Johnson was still on the books.

“With the recent passage of the Jack Johnson Congressional Resolution I’m hopeful big Jack will be cleared,” Gary said. “To that end, we’re hoping Harry Reid and even President Obama will attend—at least get involved to clear up this gross injustice that still haunts us today.” Martino was quick to interject, “We’re also expecting Foreman, Ali, Tyson, Holyfield, Frazier and Holmes—they’ve all been invited. We’re hopeful.”

Frankie piped in. “My only knock on Johnson was that he wouldn’t give Sam Langford a shot at the title. Ol’ Nat Fleischer ranked Langford one of the top ten heavyweights of all-time. I always felt Jack snubbed him.” We all nodded in agreement. Frankie continued…

“I gotta say though, that Johnson/Jeffries fight was landmark. It brought hundreds of thousands of folks to Reno—and frankly, not all had the best intentions. I mean it was a lot of white people hoping to see the ex-champ, Jeffries, return the title to the white race. Not so different from the second Max Schmeling/Joe Louis bout—bigots out to prove that cockamamie Aryan superiority crap—but the same thing happened both times—the good guy won!”

I was little surprised by Frankie’s outburst. I didn’t think he was such a humanitarian—he’s always busting balls, but I was proud of him on this note and added the Ali/Foreman fight as another example of a bout with social consequence.

I clearly remember when they were to fight, how most of America was very much in love with the patriotic Foreman. Everyone expected him to finally shut up the Louisville Lip—the old draft dodging, Muslim was supposed to get clobbered. That didn’t happen—and Ali (a great American in his own right) won!

So Gary and Mike and Frankie and me toasted Johnson, Louis and Ali!

Talk eventually got back to the business at hand. See, not only does the event open with the Johnson Pardon Dinner at the Reno Ballroom but throughout the 3-day celebration Wayne Rozen (who penned “America on the Ropes”) will be exhibiting a multimedia extravaganza titled, “Fighting for the Soul of America.” And that’s not all. Gary and crew have also assembled a mixed media bag choke-full of memorabilia and fight event keepsakes—the original bell for instance, fight tickets, rare photos and film—the whole shebang!

To loyal readers of Dog House Boxing, I hope you’ll all go to and search for Anatomy of an Adult Film, that’s my book—it’s doing well. Anatomy of an Adult Film is a fast-paced read and a sexy romp—I’m sure you’ll love it!
Frankie was getting excited. He just loves boxing history and he got into an animated side-bar conversation with Donnie. “You’re name is Schwartz,” Frankie said. “Ya know there have been a lot of great Jewish fighters—a very proud pugilistic heritage Donnie boy. Barney Ross, Benny Leonard, “Slapsie” Maxie Rosenbloom. Hell, Max Baer was a Heeb!” So much for Mr. Sensitive I thought, shaking my head. Donnie just laughed. With Frankie you just roll with the punches…

I wanted to know what else was on the agenda and I prompted the boys with another round. Gary was quick to point out that the festivities pick right up on Saturday morning with the Breakfast of Champions. There will be panel discussions, rare fight footage, training camp footage, book signings and an autograph session. And after that the tour starts!

That’s right, old-time Virginia City trolleys will shuttle fans to the actual fight site and the original training camps (Ricks’ Resort for Johnson, Moana Springs for Jeffries).

“It don’t get better than that,” Frankie toasted. “Heck if I wasn’t already dead, I’d like to be buried in one of those places!”

“Oh but it does get better,” Gary chimed in. “You see, Top Rank and Let’s Get It On Promotions are putting together a card—loaded with Heavyweights to coincide with the actually fight date—which of course was July 4th.

“Yep,” Gary continued, “We’re going to ring the bell, the original, out at the Johnson/Jeffries site at the exact time their fight started and then we’re gonna get it on big-time at the Events Center in downtown Reno with a Fox televised fight card that will be almost exclusively heavyweights—just like Johnson and Jeffries!”

Frankie Gambino beamed with pride—he’s old school, he’s patriotic and his oath to boxing is rivaled only, by say, Carlo Gambino’s oath of Omerta. The fact that such an event is taking place—celebrating the hundredth anniversary of, arguably, boxing’s biggest day, had him beaming with pride.

Personally, I plan on attending. Like I said, I have roots in Northern Nevada. And to see it regaining some of its past glory is simply grand. I hope to see all of you there. And if you need more info log onto

Also, to all you loyal Dog House Boxing readers, I have a real treat. My co-writer (the behind the scenes guy, Kent Wallace) has penned a novel. It’s called “Death’s Green Eyes” and it’s the best murder/mystery I’ve read—the main character is an ex-boxer to boot! I just know you’ll love it. So please go to and grab a copy!

To find out more on Frankie Gambino - Please click the link: The Harder They Fall: How I meet Frankie Gambino.

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