Wrestling Pays For Ex-World’s Champ

Wenatchee, Wash., Daily World – December 12, 1952
By Roy Snodgrass

How does it feel to be the heavyweight boxing champion of the world . . .

. . . To be wined and dined in all the big cities, and honored by all the important people?

. . . To be feted in Madison Square Garden before thousands upon thousands of avid fight fans?

. . . And then, 20 years later, to climb in the ring in every tank town in the United States as a wrestler . . . mixing sweat and sometimes blood with every Tom, Dick and Harry that comes along?

Primo Carnera, probably the only man in the Universe who could actually answer those questions, refused to do so here last night.

The 281-pound, six-foot-seven-inch mountain that walks, talks and fights like a man, encountered two over-averaged size opponents as the feature attraction on the Armory mat card here last night. We say encountered, because his size was enough to win, if there is any such thing as winning in the wrestling game.

Carnera now appears practically every night of the week in some city throughout the world as heavyweight title contender in the wrestling ranks, of which there must be thousands. He draws down, probably, a fantastic salary, more than he ever got as a boxing king when he held that title.

“Da Preem” won the coveted fight crown in 1933 from Jack Sharkey and lost it while taking a merciless beating from Max Baer a year later. From then on, he fought most anyone, anywhere, beating some, and taking poundings from most. His money dwindled away, what little he had after his many managers, handlers, agents and hangers-on took their cuts. So now he wrestles.

He enters a barren room in some city in the U.S. every night, dons a pair of trunks and some shoes, and makes a 20-minute appearance before a packed house – oh, yes, he’s still got name enough to draw the packed house – that’s why he’s still in demand, and will be until he dies, or people stop coming to watch him.

That’s the man we encountered at the Armory last night just before fight time.

We climbed the stairs and entered the room. In one corner three wrestlers were discussing foreign languages. In another, one was reading a super mystery book. Over against the wall was Carnera.

We strolled over and introduced ourselves. He held out a fist, which looked big enough to crawl into, and said, “Hi.”

“Mr. Carnera, how do you like this wrestling business?” we asked.

“What do ya mean, how I like dis wrestlin’ business? How you like your job?” he countered, starting at us out of glazed eyes.

“Oh, so, so,” we replied, “sometimes good, sometimes bad.”

“Dat’s da way I like heem, too,” he said. “Dat’s a silly question, ‘how I like wrestlin.’ Ha! Ha!’

“Well, do you like wrestling better than boxing,” we queried.

“Why you ask me silly question like that for? Dat’s da second silly question you ask me. How I answer silly question like that?”

The massive mauler continued donning his working togs, with us as interested but not very welcome guests, becoming quieter as the seconds ticked off. But finally he began to don his shoes and our naturally curious mind could be still no longer.

“How big are those shoes?” we asked.

“Wha’ a silly question. How I know how big dey are? Wha’ you keep askin’ me silly questions like that for? How can I answer silly questions like dat? Dat’s da third silly question you ask me.”

Three is a big number, so we slowly tipped our hat and made our exit, to become one of the packed house below who cheered lustily when this man who had reached the top came into view.

But we didn’t feel too sorry for Primo and all of his lost glory – after all, he probably makes more money than the President of the United States – without answering silly questions, either.

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