Suge Green: We’re bringing on the author of the very hot book JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula. Please welcome to On the Grind Boxing, Ade Makinde. Ade, welcome to On the Grind Boxing
Adeyinka Makinde: Hello, thank you very much
Suge Green: It’s a pleasure to have you here. We know you penned a very interesting story. A lot of people may not be up on these events because they’re not exactly current events. They go back into the past. A little bit of boxing history, a little bit of Mob history and a little bit of life in the old school of the boxing world. Tell us, what inspired you to write this story of Frankie DePaula?
Adeyinka Makinde: Well the roots of it all come from my previous endeavour which was a biography of Dick Tiger; a legendary figure in boxing. Tiger fought DePaula, who was basically a club fighter out of Jersey City, and it was the most exciting fight of 1968. In fact, it was anointed as the Ring magazine ‘Fight of the Year’ of 1968. Both fighters had each other on the floor on two occasions apiece. When I was promoting the Dick Tiger book, I had this website out with a section on Frankie DePaula versus Dick Tiger. And Frankie DePaula’s son noted that (and) got in touch with me and said, “I’d like you to write a book on my father or an article”, and I said, “An article maybe, but a book; I’m not so sure”, because I knew from my research that he died very early. He was just thirty one years old when he was gunned down in an alley in Jersey City. One thing led to another. I wrote the article and it got quite a number of great responses over the Internet over the following months and the subsequent years, and then around 2006, it went up another level. I decided that I wanted to write a book having made certain connections in Jersey City. I could then see that there was quite a story to this. He was a man who had sort of lost his way in life. He’d come from an environment where a lot of people from his background; Italian working class and Irish working class were moving up in the world, but some were being drawn backwards and he had that choice but was drawn back. It melds a bit of social history, along with boxing and as you said, with the Mob.
Suge Green: No doubt. That’s something that if it’s still around, even a remnant, it’s still in the background. We know that Las Vegas and boxing has gone very corporate in this day and age. But at one time Ade, the Mob and boxing were very intertwined, were they not?
Adeyinka Makinde: Absolutely. Inextricably. You couldn’t just even pin it on boxing. (It was) the whole society in America since the 1920s and Prohibition which the saw the rise of the Mafia. And after Prohibition, although the earnings from the bootlegging were going to go, they invested their money. This was the time when ‘Lucky’ Luciano re-organised the Mob into the National Commission; you know, the Mob that people in popular culture associate with ‘The Godfather’-type of mobster. They had their tentacles in all aspects of American society. They were like a fourth arm of government along with the legislature, judiciary and everything. They permeated the whole society and yes, in boxing, people are familiar with the story, for instance, of Primo Carnera which was immortalised in Bud Schulberg’s ‘The Harder they Fall’ and they had their fangs absolutely sank into the boxing environment. When you come to the 1950s, you had the I.B.C., the International Boxing Club, which was officially run by Truman Gibson and James Norris, but it was really the Mob in the background, Frankie Carbo and ‘Blinky’ Parlemo who were calling the shots. You couldn’t get a fight, you couldn’t be a manager, you couldn’t be a promoter unless you dealt with these guys, and if you didn’t dance to their tune, you were ostracised. And so this was the case round that time when DePaula was coming up. Although the I.B.C. was officially dissolved by a decision of the United States Supreme Court, it’s interesting that a lot of people felt that boxing had been cleansed of the Mafia influence, but that was not the case. I think there were reports even at the time; in the early 60s, that Carbo was still running the show in a number of areas from his prison cell. There was a report that the first Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson title fight was actually sponsored by Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Sarleno, who was later the head of the Genovese family. And one of the figure’s who is pretty prominent in this biography of Frankie DePaula is James Napoli, known as ‘Jimmy Nap’. He really is the man of that era. If we think about what happened after Carbo and Parlemo were put away and the I.B.C. was dissolved; what happened in the interim between that time and when we have the sort of baronish alphabet soup organisations and the promoters like Don King and Bob Arum and the corporate world of Atlantic City and Las Vegas; what was there in-between? It was ‘Jimmy Nap’ who basically controlled Gary Garafola who was DePaula’s manager. ‘Jimmy Nap’ was the type of guy who was basically an undercover manager. He was an undercover promoter. And that was the case even though officially it was Teddy Brenner, the matchmaker at Madison Square Garden and Harry Markson, the official head of boxing there. The Mafia were still in there. And they were not just making matches, they were having these bets on the side which figures prominently in the story about whether DePaula threw the Bob Foster (world light heavyweight title) fight in the first round or did he not? Well, the F.B.I. and N.Y.P.D felt that he did. Most people think not because DePaula was just a club fighter and Bob Foster was one of the greatest light heavyweights ever. But there’s a lot of evidence that things may not have been the way they appeared to be.
Suge Green: Well very impressive, your arsenal of information and facts; each one like a treasure in itself. Ade, on the subject, tell us: How did you get access to such sensitive information? Obviously this isn’t stuff that people are just dying to come out and talk about.
Adeyinka Makinde: I had to make some Freedom of Information Act requests; that’s under the Federal Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, as well as the New Jersey O.P.R.A., that’s the Open Public Records Act. So I gained access, for instance, to ‘Jimmy Nap’s’ files. Some of it was actually in the public domain. The wiretaps which picked up these references to the fact that the N.Y.P.D. and the F.B.I. felt that there was something fishy about the Foster-DePaula bout; excerpts were actually re-printed in the New York Times. And in fact, a lot of information wasn’t granted to me. Still very sensitive apparently. So I did get that information from government agencies. You know, he was murdered by the Mob, no question about it and after all these years, I managed to get certain people to open up in a way in which I doubt they’d have opened up ten, fifteen years ago. You know, the passage of time enabled me to access certain forms of sensitive information, particularly to do with the Mob in the New Jersey area; Hudson County actually: Hoboken, Jersey City, Union City which was controlled by certain figures who it’s widely believed ordered DePaula’s execution.
Suge Green: Wow, how unfortunate for boxing. As for the city, take us back to Jersey City. What was it like and why was Frankie DePaula a kid from the ‘Dead End’. What was the environment, what was the atmosphere like at this time?
Adeyinka Makinde: It was working class. It was largely Roman Catholic. Largely composed of the European tribes of Irish, Italian and Polish, with smatterings of people of Jewish origin and a black, African-American section. But it was dominated by Roman Catholic, working class European-originated families. It wasn’t a slum or an exemplar of the sort of urban degeneration that it became in the 1970s, and in a way, it still has that reputation in many regards. At the time he was growing up, he was in an environment where people were pretty close-knit. The communities functioned like an extension of the family unit. Everybody knew who the local priest was and there were lots of amenities around because the boss of Jersey City for over 30 years was a guy called Frank Hague and Hague was an example of the typical city boss who were peculiar to the American landscape. You know this thing about ‘Bossism’. A lot of them were the Irish Catholics grasping political power. They had been gerrymandered; being cast aside by the W.A.S.P. elite and they carved their own niche in their communities. Hague was a controversial man. He was known as Frank ‘I am the Law’ Hague. He had close links with President Roosevelt and with the New Deal, he was able to build up a pretty impressive infrastructure in Jersey City so it had lovely parks, functioning flower beds; city amenities like the Y.M.C.A. You had the Roosevelt Stadium where Tony Zale fought Rocky Graziano (sic. Zale fought Marcel Cerdan) once. You had the Jersey City Medical Center where Frankie DePaula ended his life in a charity ward; it was degenerating by that time, but at the time of DePaula’s birth, that was reputed to be one of the best hospitals in the whole wide world, not just in New Jersey or in America. He was born in a generation of upwardly mobile Roman Catholic Irish and Italians, so it wasn’t exactly all that bad, but that aspect of the ‘Dead End’ played a part. There (were) a lot of bad things in terms of role models that could lead these kids astray. That culture of corruption which the Hague administration brought like you had in Tammany Hall in New York and in Chicago; that began to permeate into Jersey City and you also had the rise of the Mafia. I spoke to a lot of people in his age group, some a little younger than him and one of them, she’s a municipal court judge; she was just a paralegal helping the defence team when it was a murder case when DePaula had been killed and she came from a lower middle class-working class background like DePaula. I spoke to another guy who became a colonel in the US military. So there was upward mobility but there were those avenues for kids to live out the sort of ‘Dead End’ kind of life and unfortunately Frankie DePaula was one of those. He went to reform school and he graduated from the youth detention centers around New Jersey to the adult penitentiaries such as Rahway and Trenton. And it was something that somehow he couldn’t escape from. He and quite a lot of others it has to be said. But that’s the dichotomy of the whole place. You had this avenue for people to grow up into the ‘Dead End’ mentality and ‘Dead End’ environment. But on the other hand, they had the chance not to be drawn into that kind of life.
Suge Green: No doubt. Tell us what made Frankie such an exciting fighter to watch Ade. Of course, there’s not a lot of video footage left for people to discover him now. I know one headline at the time in his career described him as a cross between Graziano and Marciano.
Adeyinka Makinde: I think the main thing was his punching power. You know, he could hit like a mule kicking. Or as Ron Lipton would say, he “hit harder than a winter on welfare.” I think the feeling is that he had more than that. He could have had more than that if only he’d put in the time into training because he was a good all round athlete: swimmer, football player, diver. He could do it all. But the main thing that the fans went to the matches for including luminaries like Frank Sinatra, who came from the neighbouring town of Hoboken and showbiz people like Lou Monte, Jimmy Roselli; they all liked the kind of action he provided and he was a guy who could take lots of punishment but somehow there were times when he could come back and knock the other guy out. And that’s what makes boxing very exciting. You mention Graziano there. I spoke to Al Certo who provided quite a lot of information on the boxing world and the Mob world for the book and he said that as an amateur, DePaula was like Graziano. He was even better. Pound-for-pound –Graziano was a middleweight and DePaula was a light heavyweight- Frankie DePaula hit harder than him and he could have even developed a better boxing style than Graziano; than just being a mere slugger. But it was that kind of excitement that brought the crowds out not just from Jersey City, but all the way to Pennsylvania and New England where he fought in this kind of club circuit.
Suge Green: No doubt. Ade Makinde is bringing so much knowledge, information and insight on a very exciting subject tonight. The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula. Mob involvement in boxing, a little boxing history, a little Italian history and a lot of history about how the two crossed. And now we have a lot of other members of the ‘On the Grind Boxing’ team who are dying to talk to Ade. Let’s go to the first lady of boxing Natasha.
Natasha Aiello: Hello Ade. Thank you so much for being on the show and sharing so much knowledge with us and congratulations on your new book. Is it out in the market now?
Adeyinka Makinde: Thank you. Yes it is. It’s available on hardback and paperback and you can purchase it from amazon.com or barnes and noble.
Natasha Aiello: Can’t wait to read it. Thank you so much. I have a couple of questions for you. Tell me; in your opinion do you think that the Italian Mob is still involved in boxing today?
Adeyinka Makinde: From what I can gather, I don’t think so. If they are it’s very minimal. I think if you look at the wider picture of things, the Mob has been greatly diminished, and the thing that basically decimated them –probably you can look at it at two levels. The first one was the institution of the R.I.C.O. laws which is the Racketeer Influenced Organisation legislation which cut off organisations en masse. It wasn’t just picking up this or that person who refused to speak and let his boss get away; as long as you could associate people together. So that was an effective law used, for instance, by Rudoph Guliani when he was the prosecutor in New York state, and they used it across the states and that greatly diminished the power of the Mafia. One of its effects obviously would be not just to be to remove that influence from certain areas of society but particularly in boxing. The other thing about it was the other ethnic groups sort of muscled in. But it’s one of those things, I think was it fifteen years ago, there was this allegation made by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano, John Gotti’s right hand man who ratted on him (Gotti) -the head of the Gambino Family at the time- there was this allegation that James ‘Buddy’ McGirt was controlled, or the Mob had an interest in him. That may or may not be the case. Business people will always invest in certain things including fighters, so that may or may not have been the case but in terms of the widespread manner at its peak in the 1950s, the 1960s; I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Las Vegas too. A lot of that has been cleansed of the influence of the Mob; the old Sands Hotel where there’d be figures like Meyer Lansky skimming off the profits etcetera -I don’t believe they have that much influence in boxing. Doesn’t mean, as we know, that there aren’t problems with boxing because you hear people use the analogy of the alphabet soup boys as being worse than the Mafia in their heyday. You know: “You could trust the Mob. They were men of their word” and all of that stuff comes in to play, but specifically the Italian Mafia, I don’t think so.
Natasha Aiello: Interesting. It sounds like you did a lot of research for this book in the field, out on the streets. At any point did you feel that your safety personally was in jeopardy?
Adeyinka Makinde: Not necessarily. That was one of the things I had under consideration before I made the plunge in around 2006 to decide to write a book, and I felt “Let me have a stab at it.” This isn’t the first time anybody’s written a book on the Mob or a suspected Mob slaying. People have written about Sonny Liston. People have written on sensitive issues like the Banco Ambrosiano scandal. You know about Roberto Calvi being found hanged at Blackfrairs Bridge in London and them pinning that to the P2 Lodge in Italy. But interestingly yeah, when I did go to Jersey City in 2007, one of the people over there who helped me quite a great deal in terms of getting contacts for the book, Jed Di Matteo, he was going to show me all around Jersey City –he’s a big one for the history of the city itself, and he was supposed to meet me later on in the afternoon about a day or two after I had arrived. I think it was the first day actually. But another guy, a friend of Frankie DePaula’s, a very close friend, who helped me a great deal with the book; he was going to meet me in the morning and he was going to take me around to the places DePaula frequented (like) the Rag Doll Nightclub where he was a bouncer, the alleyway where he was actually shot; gunned down, the pool room where he hung out and also his final resting place in North Arlington. And I was telling Jed this in the morning and when I wound it back, I felt that he was a bit suspicious because I had mentioned that this guy was going to take me to the cemetery; Frankie’s burial site. So when I finished with Frankie’s friend, our last port of call was Al Certo’s tailor’s shop in Secaucus, I went back to my hotel to kind of rest. I think I rested too much. I was supposed to ring Jed up, but I kind of delayed that and the next thing I hear is this large thumping on my window. And I must say I was a bit startled but I said, “If I’m going to go down before the barrel of a gun, I’m going to see what’s going to happen”. And I quickly went to the window and my heart skipped a beat, but I recognised it was Jed. He told his wife that “if I don’t find Ade in his motel room, I’m going straight to the police,” because he felt all the time that this might be some kind of inside Mafia joke. You know, some guy comes from England and he’s snooping around looking at what is essentially an unsolved murder case to this day, and maybe some guy’s making some kind of in-joke, “Yeah, we’re gonna take him to the cemetery”. So thankfully, that didn’t happen. Thankfully not. I just felt that I’d do what I need to do. I don’t think I need to be worried too much. I will obviously take certain precautions in terms of certain things I’ve said and have written –particularly in regard to other people when I’ve mentioned certain Mafia figures, one or two of who are still alive, albeit very elderly in age. It’s something that’s being at the back of my mind, but I take whatever precautions I need to take. Ultimately, I don’t let it fasten me down and paralyse me. I don’t think that’s helpful either.
Natasha Aiello: Well, thank you so much for the research and the time you’ve put into this. I personally cannot wait to read this book and I just want to thank you for your time.
Adeyinka Makinde: Thank you very much.
Suge Green: Ade, it’s been a great conversation tonight. Thank you so much for the book. We’ve loved talking to you and the On the Grind Boxing family worldwide has appreciated the discussion and we look forward to reading the book ourselves. Best of luck with it.
Adeyinka Makinde: Thank you very much. All the best to you at On the Grind as well.
Suge Green: Thank you very much Ade. On the Grind Boxing family, get the book JERSEY BOY The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula. Ade Makinde has put a lot of great research into this thing. It is a work. It is something you want to read. It’s got history, it’s got boxing. It’s got it all.