Time – May 2, 1932
Christopher Theophilus (“Jim Londos”), who considers himself the world’s champion wrestler and has a gold belt to prove it, last week advanced across a Manhattan ring and seized the left arm of Joe De Vito, a rubbery Italian with a pork-barrel torso and a door-knob ear. He gave the arm a vicious twist. De Vito, grunting with unreasonable surprise, retaliated by trying to pluck off one of Londos’s toes. For 21 min. 42 sec. the two groveled, grunted, snorted, glowered, slapped, twisted and oozed. Once De Vito bowled over Londos with a butt in the stomach. Finally Londos whirled De Vito around his head in an “airplane spin,” threw him down with a loud thud, sat on top of his chest until old fat Ernest Roeber, who used to be a professional wrestler and now referees many of Londos’s championship bouts, patted his back for winning.
The Londos v. DeVito match was the most surprising of the indoor wrestling season, not because Londos won but because his opponent belonged to a different “group.” Wrestlers in Japan recently divided themselves into two factions in order to make more money. Professional wrestlers in the U. S. are segregated, for similar reasons, into three loosely organized troupes. Each is controlled by a promoter who sees to it that his best performers do not risk prestige or popularity by wrestling against able members of a rival group. Each has a claimant to the world’s championship, several more or less high-grade contenders for it. De Vito hitherto has belonged to a group controlled by Paul Bowser, which operates in Boston and the Midwest. The Bowser group also includes Gus Sonnenberg, Jack Sherry, Don George, Henri De Glane (champion). Londos is champion for the most profitable of the three groups, operated by Promoter Jack Curley in Manhattan and the Midwest. Some of his stablemates are Richard Shikat, Jim McMillen, Leon Pinetski, Gino Garibaldi, Sandor Szabo. De Vito was allowed to wrestle Champion Londos because he professed to have severed connection with the Bowser group. Promoter Curley, sure that Londos could beat him anyway, was inclined to doubt this. He said: “I think he [De Vito] is a spy.”
A third group, specializing in wrestlers of more advanced age like Ed (“Strangler”) Lewis, Joe Stecher, the Zbyszko Brothers, John Pesek, is operated on the Pacific Coast by Billy Sandow, onetime circus strongman. Its champion, until recently, was Strangler Lewis, who last winter became an independent performer and engaged in a match against Champion De Glane in which he was disqualified for biting.
The elaborate way in which professional wrestling is organized, the elaborate and apparently unnecessary contortions with which most professional wrestlers discharge their duties, have often caused the honesty of the sport to be derided. In New York State it is permissible to advertise wrestling events as “exhibitions” but not as “matches.” Few wrestling critics, however, question the ability or sincerity of Champion Londos. His amazing agility, his wily endurance, his handsome appearance, have been largely instrumental in re-establishing wrestling as a well-patronized pastime in U. S. cities.
Now 34, Champion Londos is one of 13 offspring of a Greek olive picker. He got his nickname, for purposes of abbreviation, from a sportswriter who admired Author Jack London, when he started his wrestling career in San Francisco 17 years ago. During the winter, Champion Londos wrestles three times a week, makes about $250,000 a year. This season he has defended his title 207 times. He lives in St. Louis, eats enormously, maintains a library of 1,200 volumes, takes singing lessons, smokes a corncob pipe.