Remembering When The Gambinos Muscled Their Way Back Into Boxing

"Take the gun out and shoot him right in the heard" if he says no...

That’s what former Gambino underboss Sammy The Bull Gravano (in first of two trailers posted below in this story) says he told a "street guy" intermediary representing him and Gambino boss John Gotti during negotiations with fight impresario Don King.

Don King.

(The names Renaldo Snipes and Francesco Damiani ring a bell, Sammy?)

Don King was once best buds with President Donald Trump back when Trump was a mere real estate developer-mortal with casino interests seeking to dip a toe in the boxing world. Trump has even credited King for his trademark coiffure, saying that King once told him that outlandish hair is the secret to great PR. 

In the late 80s, Trump hosted boxing invitationals in Atlantic City when Don King promoted Mike Tyson and Butch Lewis promoted Michael Spinks. “They’re very good businessmen,” Trump said of Don King and his then-rival Lewis in 1988. “I’ve found them both to be very honorable.”

John Gotti wanted fight promoter Don King killed, Sammy says, because King described himself as a tough guy who’d done time and didn't want to get involved with John Gotti in "that BS."

King flatly refused to “do what we want him to do,” as Sammy reported to John Gotti. King wouldn’t even discuss an arrangement to fix a fight for the Gambino family.

“I went in front of a grand jury for boxing,” Sammy recalled in the video teaser above, referring to his 1992 testimony before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which probed for Cosa Nostra links to boxing with the goal of creating a Federal regulatory body for the sport. The panel considered evidence of organized crime’s links to specific fighters.

Some 30 years after Senator Estes Kefauver concluded that professional boxing was "infested by racketeers and hoodlums," Senator William Roth wanted to see if that was still the case by investigating three active boxers—Bobby Czyz, then the WBA cruiserweight champion; James "Buddy" McGirt, who lost his WBC welterweight title less than a month prior; and Iran Barkley, who lost his IBF super middleweight title—for links to Cosa Nostra.

The then Federally protected Gravano, who spoke for about 60 minutes, wore a well-tailored gray suit and glasses when he made his appearance. (Prior, two German shepherds sniffed the hearing room for explosives and police officers flooded the third-floor corridor.)

At the time there was such a demand for Gravano’s services, Roth was forced to delay the hearing for several weeks until Gravano's schedule opened up. Gravano had done stunningly well in Gotti's racketeering-murder trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, completing nine days of testimony, including five days of cross. As Gravano exited the courtroom, Gotti mockingly wiped imaginary tears from his eyes. Gravano, one of the highest-ranking Mafia figures ever to turn informer, had remained confidently composed throughout his long, arduous testimony, which included admitting participation in 19 murders and implicating John Gotti in 10 of them.

“I trained with him in the gym,” Gravano (who is 74 now, he says, "74 pushing 75") says in the trailer. “I thought of a setup, but I can’t remember (the fighter’s name) now. I’Il get him to fight the champ in Italy – who had two brothers who were made guys in the mob.”

The Italian fighter would come to the US and fight Mike Tyson “for big money,” Sammy says, acknowledging that he doubted Tyson would ever duck a fight for money.

Gravano, who was an amateur boxer in the 1960s, told investigators that in 1989 he worked out at a Brooklyn gym with several pro boxers, including longtime heavyweight contender Renaldo Snipes. At the time, Gravano was trying to get the Gambino family back into boxing. Gravano wanted to set up a bout between Snipes and a champion from Italy (which we think refers to Francesco Damiani). He discussed how he had schemed to make a payoff to get Snipes a higher World Boxing Council ranking because it would make the fight with Damiani look better. Snipes would purposely lose. That would set up a second fight between the Italian champ and an American contender for a large purse - part of which the Gambino family would collect.

The plan fell apart when the Italian champ lost his title, so Gravano says he never actually discussed it with Snipes.

Three years later, Snipes was among the celebrities who packed the New York courtroom to watch Gotti's trial.

In any event, he says he has a “street guy” going to talk to Don King about arranging some kind of a fix, only: “He's not having a lot of luck. Don King stands up,” Sammy says. "He don't want no part of this thing." Mimicking Don King, he added: “I’m a tough guy, I went to jail for this and that, fck John, I’m not doing any of that BS."

“You tell him to mention my name?” Sammy says John Gotti asked him after Sammy told him what was going on.

"Yeah," Sammy recalled telling John, "he says he's a tough guy and he did time."


John Gotti came up with his own twist on the fix, Sammy said.

John Gotti tells Sammy: kill Don King.

“You want me to kill Don King?” Sammy says he asked John Gotti.

No, not you--" Notice the slight emphasis in Sammy's voice as he mimicked how John Gotti spoke to him? "No, not you, you fcking idiot," one can hear John Gotti sigh aloud to his exasperating underboss(?)

 No, not you – the kid,” Gotti snapped. 

Concoct a proposal and if he says no and gives you any of that shit, "take the gun out and shoot him right in the head."

"You want me to kill Don King?" the kid asked.

"The kid took off," Sammy said, after Sammy had given him the order to kill King. Sammy never saw hide nor hair of him again, he said.

Don King was no angel, which of course doesn’t mean we advocate for committing violence against him—or anyone else.

King, a Cleveland native, had once been a numbers runner. (Mike Tyson once said King “would kill his own mother for a dollar.”) King hadn’t been convicted since the 1960s, when he did time for stomping a man to death. But FBI and U.S. Senate investigators concluded that King had Mafia ties in various US cities, including Cleveland, New York, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City.

Mobsters “were looking to launder illicit cash,” as one investigator once remarked. “Boxing, of all the sports, was perhaps the most accommodating laundromat, what with its international subculture of unsavory characters who play by their own rules.”

In his 1992 testimony on boxing, Gravano tied then welterweight Buddy McGirt and his co-managers, Stuart Weiner and Al Certo, to the Gambino family and described how the family owned a piece of the welterweight. (Certo was there at the hearing, chuckling, shaking his head, and apparently giving Gravano the finger.)

“I should point out that the person who was with us was really Al Certo,” Gravano said in 1992 referring to himself and Joseph (JoJo) Corozzo as key parts of the us. McGirt was not part of organized crime, Gravano said.

McGirt denied knowledge of any mob connections to his managers, but admitted that he attended Gotti’s trial in 1989 (“really to see Bruce Cutler, who I think is a great lawyer”). McGirt also said he met Corozzo once when he was training for a bout (“he said, ‘Good workout’ “), and visited Gotti at the Ravenite Social Club.

Clip above Sammy talks about boxing trainer/fight commentator Teddy Atlas, who he calls out: "put the fcking gloves on," etc.

McGirt was asked by Senator William Roth, Republican of Delaware, whether he knew, upon meeting Eddie Sciandra after a particular fight, that Sciandra was the reputed acting boss of the Bufalino crime family.

McGirt cracked: “Honestly, I thought he was an old drunk.”

Gravano named lots of boxing figures at the hearing, including Marvin Hagler, Vito Antuofermo, promoter Don King, and trainer Lou Duva.

Duva, Gravano said, was "close to the Genovese family."