Chicago Tribune – April 9, 1933
By George Strickler
Bob Manogoff, who wrestled a one-hour draw with Jim Londos “somewhere in Iowa” twenty years ago and who as a referee on Friday night declared Londos the loser to Joe Savoldi by a fall in their match at the Chicago Stadium, yesterday designated Savoldi as the heavyweight champion of the world.
Manogoff, billed as the Terrible Turk during his wrestling days, was the only source of authentic information available in an all-day search for evidence calculated to clear up the surprising finish of the match, which left wrestling fans enmeshed in a maze of rumors alleging collusion.
“Londos’ shoulders were pinned to the mat,” Manogoff said. “He was down, and I called it as I saw it. As far as I am concerned, Savoldi threw him and is the champion. I made my decision without fear of partisan reprisals, so-called ‘combination’ interference, or personal gain. The rules say mine is the final word, and I say Savoldi was the better man. That goes.”
Manogoff’s statement came in the wake of Londos’ reiteration that he had not been thrown, Savoldi’s challenge to all comers, the state athletic commission’s promise to make a thorough investigation tomorrow at its regular meeting, and the National Wrestling Association’s refusal to recognize Savoldi’s claim to the championship.
Among the Greeks, Londos apparently had lost standing by being thrown by Savoldi, comparatively a newcomer to big time wrestling. The Greeks are said to have pooled their money to cover the wagers of Savoldi’s Italian followers, offering 5 to 1 that Londos would win. No large individual bets were made, but a considerable sum of money changed hands.
One loser, a restaurant man, expressed the general sentiment of his countrymen when he said: “If Londos lose to Stecher, O.K. Stecher is good man, smart wrestler. But Savoldi — TERRIBLE! Londos can throw him twice every hour.”
Greek leaders in the neighborhood of Halsted street and Milwaukee avenue, where Manogoff had an ice cream cone manufacturing plant ten years ago, were convinced there had been some “double crossing,” presumably, they thought, to build up a return match. The “double cross” explanation also was advanced by loop sport followers, who claim Savoldi, who has not been on the best of terms with the Londos-Ed White faction, will now jump to the Billy Sandow group, which includes Strangler Lewis, Jim Browning and Don George.
Savoldi, in a statement yesterday, expressed a desire to wrestle these men after he had taken a short rest at his Three Oaks, Mich., home. He would give Londos a return match, he said, but not until he had wrestled some of the better men he had not been able to meet up until now, naming especially Lewis, Browning, George and Gus Sonnenberg.
“They advertised this match for the championship,” Savoldi said. “I pinned Londos and that makes me champion. I’ll meet all comers and I won’t ask any $250,000 guarantee, either, like some of those so-called champions.”
Londos asked $250,000 to wrestle Lewis in a charity bout for the Illinois Emergency Welfare Relief commission last year.
Many close followers of wrestling expressed the opinion that Savoldi’s victory was a bit of strategy to reestablish Londos’ drawing power by interrupting his four year record of consecutive victories. His winning had become too much of a foregone conclusion, they argued, and it was beginning to affect the gates throughout the country.
Londos’ claim that Savoldi’s feet were tangled in the ropes and that he thought the referee was calling them back to the center of the ring, as provided for in the rules when one competitor touches the ropes, was denied by Savoldi and Manogoff. At the time the fall was declared, Savoldi was standing on both feet, holding Londos between himself and the ropes. It is on this point, however, that White, Londos’ manager, will make his protest to the commission tomorrow.
Manogoff, located in his apartment over a grocery store at 2557 West Division street, recalled that charges of dishonesty are not new to him. He said he was criticized for rendering a decision against Lewis in a 30-minute time limit match with Kola Kwariani at the Broadway armory three years ago.
“They said I got $500 for that one,” he said. “but, if it was as easy as that, I wouldn’t be living like this, drawing $17.50 a week as an assistant manager of the Division theater and picking up what I can acting as interpreter for Armenians in the courts downtown.” His fee for working on Friday’s card, on which he officiated in three bouts, was $50.
While his wife and daughter, Armen, the oldest of the four Manogoff children, plied the interviwers with refreshments, Manogoff recited bits of his career to substantiate his declaration that he was well qualified, technically and morally, to referee. In 1915 he broke Frank Gotch’s leg at Kenosha, Wis., in a bout.
“And the people booed,” he mused. “They said Frank was faking.”
He gave Strangler Lewis his ring name, he said. His right name is Bob Fredericks. Fredericks failed to show up at a match down south, and Manogoff, who had prepared to challenge the winner, took his place.
“The next week Fredericks came in to wrestle and we couldn’t call him by his right name because I had used it a week before,” Manogoff explained. “So I named him Strangler Lewis, because the original Strangler was dead. A short time later, in Lexington, Ky., I wrestled Fredericks. He was billed as Strangler Lewis and I as Bob Fredericks. I beat him. Have some more cake?
“Oh, Friday night’s match? Well, you can say for me Savoldi threw him and Savoldi is champion as far as I am concerned. And another thing: I didn’t run away from the Stadium. When reporters were looking for me I was in the boiler room. They made me dress down there.”
Manogoff exhibited a cut on the leg he received when Savoldi’s foot struck him in Friday’s bout and he will exhibit it to the commission if he is called when the investigation is opened tomorrow, he said.
Manogoff also read aloud the rule governing falls, in which the state code says a fall occurs when both shoulders are momentarily pinned to the mat. Rolling falls shall not count. By momentarily is meant, pinned for the referee’s silent count of three.
“That’s what I did. Counted silently for three seconds,” he explained.
It was expected tomorrow’s investigation will result in a wrestling vacation in Illinois, with the commission taking no formal action to ban the sport, but merely withholding sanction of shows for an indefinite period.