Good, Bad, Ugly: The Bull Talks About The Mob In First Interview Since 1997

John Gotti met and apparently argued with boxing promoter Don King prior to the crime kingpin's rise to the top of the Gambinos, which suggests that a past relationship may have colored Gotti's alleged decision to order the boxing impresario's murder.

Sammy taking the oath.

Or not, we readily admit.

Gravano talked about this, his testimony for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that was examining corruption in boxing, and other things in his first interview since Diane Sawyer in 1997. (Full interview posted below.)

This story is a continuation of a story published yesterday; it's not about the Sammy Gravano interview posted below.

According to an informant's report dated Sept. 20, 1982, King met with Gotti, then a capo in the Gambino crime family, at Patrissy's, a restaurant in Manhattan's Little Italy.

"Gotti and King dined together," the informant said.

Weeks later, on Oct. 2, 1982, the same informant reported learning about a meeting King had with Genovese capo Matthew (Matty the Horse) Ianniello at Abe's Steak House in Manhattan.

One month later at that same restaurant, Al Sharpton would later tell the FBI, Gotti met again with Don King. The topic of the meeting was not known to the informant (the informant's name is Al Sharpton, if you weren't paying attention and missed that slipped-in earlier reference, but then again this is not breaking news), though the informant did note that at one point King and Gotti had engaged in what was described as a "heated conversation" at Abe's Steak House.

When the FBI probed the fight game in the early 1980s in operation Crown Royal, disquieting links between the mob and the powerful promoter Don King were uncovered.

And the informant who did  the uncovering, it was revealed in April 2014, was the Rev. Al Sharpton, the outspoken civil rights activist, perennial presidential nominee, and television host.

Sharpton was outed by a lengthy report by The Smoking Gun, which declared that Sharpton had served as “Confidential Informant No. 7” in the 1980s, playing a prominent role collecting information on New York City’s most prolific mobsters.

Sharpton denied the claims, saying he wasn’t an informant but rather had cooperated with the FBI. “I’m not a rat, I’m a cat,” Sharpton reportedly said.

He added that the only shame he felt toward his past was centered on “those old fat pictures” that were shown in conjunction with reports about the Smoking Gun's story—which was based on interviews, court records, and hundreds of pages of documents obtained as the result of requests invoking Freedom of Information Act — claims that Sharpton worked for a joint FBI/NYPD crime task force that was primarily pursuing the notorious Genovese crime family.

Sharpton allegedly talked to mobsters with a bugged briefcase. The Smoking Gun website said that information he obtained led to the bugging of two Genovese family social clubs, three cars and a dozen phone lines approved by eight different federal judges.

It has long been known that Sharpton worked with the FBI in the 1980s to assist in an investigation against boxing promoter Don King.

He told the New York Daily News that he contacted authorities after Gambino family member Joseph Buonanno and others sent him death threats for trying to help African-Americans succeed on the business side of the music industry.

Sharpton served as “Confidential Informant No. 7” in the 1980s

In 1983, then-Colombo capo Michael Franzese had "begun promising (an undercover FBI agent, apparently working in tandem with Sharpton) that he would arrange a meeting between the agent and King for the purpose of setting up a co-promotion of a fight," noted then-FBI agent Joseph A. Spinelli, who would serve under Governor Mario Cuomo as the New York State inspector general.

Spinelli played a central role in Crown Royal (even coming up with the name, which he stole from the label of a bottle of booze). In 1991, he wrote about his experiences probing the Mafia for the Crown Royal op using his personal diary and recollections, tape recordings, FBI reports, interviews with scores of boxing figures, and debriefings of fellow law-enforcement officers and confidential informants.

Also read Mobster Brothers Christopher And "Chunk" Londonio Each Made A Mark On New York Underworld

As Spinelli noted in the report, "Sharpton, a pal of King's and an associate of Franzese's, had been enlisted by Franzese as a go-between for the meeting...." Of course, Al Sharpton is named but not identified as the informant in the case.

"Franzese, after weeks of delaying the meeting because he said he had to clear it first with "some of my cousins," was leading the FBI into boxing's interior...

Although no criminal activity on King's part was proved, evidence linking him to organized-crime figures kept popping up.
John in the day.

"King's associations with mobsters at the time of the Crown Royal investigation were consistent with his early history in Cleveland, his hometown. I contacted the FBI office there, and it sent me a report that said King had been involved in the numbers operations, kicking back part of his profits to organized-crime figure Tony Panzarella as well as to a street tough named Alex (Shondor) Birns.

Also read: Remembering When The Gambinos Sought To Muscle Their Way Back Into Boxing

"It was a violent world King lived in. In 1967 he was convicted of manslaughter and served four years in the Marion (Ohio) Correctional Institution. Birns, with whom King had clashed during his days in Cleveland, died in a car bombing in 1975, the year after King promoted the heavyweight championship fight in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman."

As the Crown Royal investigation grew, some of King's underworld contacts were sensing the squeeze and leaping for cover.

At various times, Franzese for the Colombos, a capo and a soldier for the DeCavalcantes and a soldier for the Genoveses had sought to set up meetings with Don King back in the 1980s.

"I remember one day thinking: King is not named Don for nothing."