You heard of the Spink's jinx . . .
and the curse of the Bambino . . .
. . . but there was place in boxing
history that was truly a Jinx, a long time ago, referenced as the
"Graveyard of Champions." In is the fact
that not one single champion entered that ring and came out holding his
championship belt. It was Long Island City, in the 1930's and the venue
was the Madison Square Garden Bowl.
The Madison Square Garden Bowl was the brainstorm of
“Tex” Rickard, the famous boxing promoter and founder of the New York
Rangers. Located on Northern Boulevard at 48th Street in Long Island
City, the 72,000-seat arena was built for $132,000. Ground was broken in
1929 and it was completed in 1932. Rickard died before its completion,
and the stadium was cursed from day one.
No champion who boxed there ever retained his crown,
from its first fight on June 21, 1932, when Jack Sharkey relieved Max
Schmeling of his title, to its last on May 28, 1938, when Henry
Armstrong won the welterweight championship from Barney Ross.
Though featured in the 2005 film “Cinderella Man,” the
stadium was gone decades before that. It was torn down during World War
II, its metal components melted down to make bullets and other war
materials, and replaced with an Army Postal Concentration Center to
Situated in Long Island City, the Madison Square Garden
Bowl was a roomy Depression-era spinoff of Rickard’s midtown Manhattan
branch, built in 1932 at 45th Street and Northern Boulevard, an immense
outdoor stadium that could seat up to 72,000 people. It was not a
regular venue but instead hosted big-ticket events during the summer.
The Bowl cost the Garden only $160,000 to build, designed for high
capacity if not longevity.
The Bowl hosted more than boxing, famously hosting
several vigorous midget auto races (that’s like NASCAR for really small
cars). “They had these midget auto races there and a lot of times the
fumes of whatever it was they used to keep ’em going would spill through
the entire neighborhood,” recollected
Yankees legend and neighbor Whitey Ford.*
“If the wind was blowin’ the
right way, we could get asphyxiated in our apartments if we didn’t keep
the windows closed.”
During World War II, the arena saw little use, and
Garden management soon gave up on it entirely, tearing it down in 1942,
to be replaced with a mail depot for the U.S. Army. At some point that
too was ripped down. Today the area is host to A Home Depot, a
Mall, and a Guitar Center.