Author Phil S. Dixon Looks at the Life of Boxer Tommy Campbell, Kansas City's Forgotten Lightweight Contender
November 5, 2013
Kansas City native Tommy Campbell was a contender, a boxer who in the late 1940s and 1950s won 50 professional fights and became the world's No. 2 lightweight.
But thanks to a run-in with organized crime, he is now all but forgotten in the town that nurtured him.
Author Phil S. Dixon tells Campbell's story in Tommy Campbell: Kansas City's Greatest Boxer? on Sunday, November 17, 2013, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
Dixon is the author of Tommy Campbell: A Boxing Bout with the Mob.
Nicknamed the "Chocolate Ice Cube," Campbell (1920-1969) was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and for three years was ranked among the top 10 lightweights. He won almost as many professional fights as Muhammad Ali and only a few less than Jack Johnson.
But in 1956 Campbell became the only fighter to testify in court about a decade-long effort by
mobsters, crooked matchmakers, and overzealous promoters to control the lightweight division. In a Los Angeles courtroom, he told of how mobsters muscled him into throwing one fight and of their unsuccessful efforts to have him throw others. Campbell named names and told a shocking story of deceit and betrayal.
His testimony ruined the mobsters' plans, and Campbell became one of the few men to double-cross the mob and live to tell about it.
In the words of Dixon, "He was a contender. He was somebody. Had it not been for the mob, he really would have been a world's champion."
Dixon, a resident of Belton, Missouri, is the author of The Monarchs: 1920-1938; John "Buck" O'Neil: The Rookie, the Man, the Legacy; Wilber "Bullet" Rogan and the Kansas City Monarchs; and The Ultimate Kansas City Baseball Trivia Quiz Book.
Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th and Baltimore.
This presentation is part of the Missouri Valley Sundays series, a program of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library. The series is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.