TYSON'S CO-MANAGER JACOBS DEAD AT 58

Tim Layden Staff writer
Section: SPORTS,  Page: D1

Date: Thursday, March 24, 1988

Jim Jacobs, co-manager of heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and a spiritual link between Tyson and his late trainer Cus D'Amato, died Wednesday at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York at the age of 58.


Jacobs died of pneumonia, but according to Bill Cayton, his business partner and Tyson's other co-manager, he had suffered from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. "Jim had leukemia for nine years," Cayton said. "He felt it was very personal and didn't want anyone to know about it." Jacobs had entered hospitals several times in recent months and was absent when Tyson successfully defended his title Sunday night in Tokyo with a knockout of Tony Tubbs. It was the first of Tyson's 34 professional fights that Jacobs had missed.


"He loved Mike like a son, like the child he never had," said Shelly Finkel, a boxing promoter and close friend of Jacobs.


"He was a great sportsman," said Dan Duva, a promoter who was both Jacobs' ally and rival in business. "From a boxing point of view, he was a great historian and as a manager, one of the best. He was a very tough businessman, but that's the way you have to be."


Cayton said Tyson was told of Jacobs' death late Wednesday morning by Camille Ewald, the 83-year-old Catskill woman who shared her home with D'Amato, and with Tyson. "Mike was terribly shattered," Cayton said. "He's not up to making any statements. He's totally distraught."


Born in St. Louis, Jacobs was first an exceptional athlete, running a 9.8-second 100- yard dash, earning an invitation to the U.S. Olympic basketball trials, and in 1955, starting a handball career which would make him the top-ranked handball player in the world.


Jacobs lived with D'Amato for 10 years in a New York apartment. He listened to D'Amato's theories and principles, and at D'Amato's urging, directed his energies toward business, and ultimately, toward boxing management.


"Jim was able to live for 10 years with Cus," said Steve Lott, Jacobs' and Cayton's assistant at Big Fights and Tyson's assistant manager. "With a guy like Cus, in 10 years, you get all of his information over and over again."


In 1960, Jacobs and Cayton began Big Fights, Inc. The company currently owns a library of more than 17,000 fight films, largest in the world. The venture was successful enough that both Jacobs and Cayton became millionaires. Jacobs also owned a collection of more than 500,000 comic books.


It was Jacobs who funded D'Amato's Catskill training camp, where, at age 12, Tyson was brought from the Tryon School by former boxer Bobby Stewart.


D'Amato died on Nov.4, 1985, entrusting Jacobs with the management of Tyson's professional career and the continued teaching of ideals to a fighter who was then only 19 years old.


"After Cus died," Lott said, "the only person with Cus's information was Jim. But what Cus had was character, and Jimmy had that same unwavering character. Whatever was proper, no matter what other people thought about it, was the right thing to do. And he would never veer from that."


"Five or six years ago," Rooney said, "Cus came to me and said, 'you can trust Jimmy.' When Cus told me that, I knew this guy was legitimate. He got his ideas from Cus, and Cus had total confidence in Jimmy."


The passage was a successful one, as Tyson formed a close bond with Jacobs, frequently spending entire press conferences with his arm around him and embracing him warmly often, in the ring after fights. "Michael was very close to Jimmy," Rooney said.


Cayton, who handles the business portion of Tyson's career, credits Jacobs with guiding Tyson through the early portion of his career, when he rose astoundingly fast to national prominence with 28 fights in his first 20 months as a pro.


"I don't think anyone ever realized how painstakingly Jim selected Mike's opponents in the ring," Cayton said. "Every one was carefully selected, but each one presented a new style, a different challenge. Mike was knocking them all out in the first round, but he was learning things, even though he didn't realize it."


Through the conduct of his business with Tyson, Jacobs earned both the respect and fear of others in the often unseemly world of high-stakes boxing.


While Cayton conducted many of the actual contract negotiations, it was Jacobs who often answered to the public and the media on the matter of Tyson's earnings, opponents and future. It was Jacobs who defended Tyson's honor, viciously, when he construed that Tyson had been insulted by rival trainer Lou Duva.


Still, there was uniform admiration for Jacobs Wednesday.


"The death of Jim Jacobs leaves an unfillable void in boxing," said promoter Don King. "In a sport like boxing, it is very rare to find a man like Jim Jacobs, a man of his word. I will miss him."


Mark Etess, executive vice president of Trump Plaza, which will promote Tyson's June 27 fight against Michael Spinks, said, "He was a pleasure to work with, incredibly precise, always a gentleman. I feel like I lost a good friend."


"People in this business," Lott said, "are very difficult to deal with. When Jim signed a deal, that's a deal. His word was his bond."


As an athlete, Jacobs won every match he played in United States Handball Association singles and doubles competition from 1955-69. He was four-wall doubles champion six times, four-wall singles champion six times, three- wall singles champion three times, twice AAU champion in four-wall singles and six times one-wall singles champion.


In a 1966 article in Sports Illustrated, Robert H. Boyle wrote, "There is no athlete in the world who dominates his sport with the supremacy that Jimmy Jacobs of Los Angeles and New York enjoys in four-wall handball."


"When he was playing in '55-'65," said Lott, also a handball champion, "he was 10 light years ahead of his competition."


Jacobs and Cayton also managed Wilfred Benitez, a three-time world champion, and lightweight champ Edwin Rosario.


He is survived by his wife, Lorraine, and his daughter, Dorothy.


Cayton said that Jacobs' funeral will take place Friday in Los Angeles; he will be buried there, next to his mother. A memorial service, Cayton said, will probably be conducted next week in New York.