Teddy Brenner made matches based on two guidelines: Would he buy a ticket and was the public interested? This standard did not always endear him to managers who wanted their fighters to go up against easy competition, but it made for hundreds of exciting fights that fans willingly paid to see. Surviving boxing's power struggles and unsavory influences, Brenner arranged matches not only for greats such as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, but also for tyros in whom he saw championship potential.
Born in New York, Brenner got his start in boxing after World War II, arranging fights in New Brunswick, New Jersey for his close friend Irving Cohen. In 1947, Brenner began his off-and-on association with Madison Square Garden, working as an assistant matchmaker. When the Garden lost its booking rights in a dispute with the Boxing Managers' Guild, Brenner moved to Laurel Gardens in Newark, New Jersey as a promoter. When the International Boxing Club (IBC) took over promotion at Madison Square Garden, Brenner returned there to work as assistant matchmaker to Al Weill. Brenner booked preliminary matches at the Garden and cards at St. Nicholas Arena, also in New York. In 1950, Brenner left the IBC, alleging Weill had ordered him to make a match for a fixed fight.
Brenner ran operations at the Coney Island Velodrome and also worked for the Long Beach Stadium in New York. In 1952, Brenner became the matchmaker for the Eastern Parkway Arena in Brooklyn, site of the Dumont television network's broadcasts of Monday night fights. This arena became famous as the "House of Upsets" because of Brenner's good, even matches. It was here that Brenner gave Floyd Patterson and Gene Fullmer their first national exposure. Fifty-seven of the 156 television bouts made by Brenner at Eastern Parkway were later booked by the IBC as return matches in Madison Square Garden.
By 1955, Eastern Parkway was struggling with declining television ratings, and Brenner moved to St. Nicholas Arena for four years. In 1959, with the breakup of the IBC, Brenner moved back to Madison Square Garden, where he stayed as matchmaker for fourteen years. His bookings included Muhammad Ali's first fights in New York, the first fights in the new Madison Square Garden, the first Ali-Frazier meeting, Roberto Duran's first bout in the United States, and George Foreman's first fights. In 1973, when Harry Markson retired, Brenner assumed the presidency of Madison Square Garden Boxing, Inc. His boss, Sonny Werblin, fired him in 1978 because Werblin wanted to do business with Don King. In 1980, Brenner joined Bob Arum's Top Rank, Inc., where he stayed as an advisor after retiring from full- time matchmaking.
* * *
Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.