Shadowboxing the Mob

This feature-length screenplay is based on the little-known but true story of Carmen Basilio, one of the greatest fighters of all time–and a personal friend of mine.

Tony DeMarco slumps to the canvas as Basilio wins the Welterweight title in December 1955

Basilio refused to join the mob-backed International Boxing Commission (IBC)–a decision that cost him plenty in terms of time, money and a shot at the title. But because Basilio put honor ahead of money and glory, he was key in busting up the IBC: Basilio testified before Congress; mobsters went to jail.

Despite this, Basilio still achieved his boyhood dream of becoming a world champion in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions.  He remains one of the most popular—and best-loved fighters in boxing history. (WGA: 1226176)

The story was first made public in a 1999 ESPN documentary for which I served as a consultant and on-camera interviewee.

  •  California Film Awards, Best of Category Award (Drama) Winner (San Diego, CA)
  • Best Unpublished Screenplay Competition, Independent Filmmakers Showcase (Los Angeles/Santa Monica, CA)
  • The Nevada Film Festival (Las Vegas, NE)
  • The New York International Film Festival (New York, NY)
  • The Moondance International Film Festival (Boulder, CO)
  • The Buffalo-Niagra Film Festival (Buffalo, NY)
  • Independent Film Quarterly Festival (Hollywood, CA)
  • The Philadelphia Screenplay Competition, Philadelphia, PA
  • The Charleston International Film Festival (Charleston, SC)
  • The FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards (West Hollywood, CA)

Shadowboxing the Mob has been optioned by Ridgerock Entertainment whose executives were behind Black Mass starring Johnny Depp.
Screenplay Excerpt (PDF)

Pray April Comes Early This Year

Teddi Mervis
Teddi Mervis

Writer. Film script based on the author’s book, For the Love of Teddi. Contracted by Camp Good Days & Special Times. Under review.

The oncologist told her parents that if she made it to April, without any disturbances, her cancer might be cured. She was twelve years old. Once a beautiful young lady—a cheerleader and bubbly popular, she was now grotesque looking. Obese. Two brain operations. Blind. Hearing loss.

Yet she wanted to be baptized. She wanted to ask permission to die. Teddi told her mother that a young boy, with a beautiful face and kind, wanted her to go with him. Her mother told her to invite him to dinner, that all little boys love spaghetti. But Teddi wasn’t in a place for humor. Her mother then asked, “Do you know the little boy’s name, Teddi?” There was a long silence, she told me, and from the dimly-lit room she heard her daughter say, “It’s Jesus, Mommy.”

Teddi with her Dad
Teddi with her Dad, Gary Mervis

Based on a true story, and my book (in its third edition), the movie script takes us back to a time when the word “cancer” was seldom said out loud as if doing so would beckon the dreaded disease to one’s door. And even more awful, childhood cancer was something that was seldom talked about, and children kept in isolation. Family, friends, and neighbors thought they could “catch” cancer.

The story was a breakthrough one, told from many points of view, including her parents, siblings, doctors, nurses, schoolmates, teachers, and friends. In particular three of her closest friends. It’s the story of how the Camp Good Days organization got started, and why. It’s about volunteers, young and old. It’s about turning tragedy into something very good.

NY State Assemblyman
New York State Assemblyman Mark Johns (center, left) and his fiance (far left), joined by Gary Mervis and the author, Lou Buttino (far right)

The story is about a modest hope—as if anything could replace the loss of a child. Her father, Gary Mervis, kept at it until he had built the fourth largest organization in the world for all manner of childhood afflictions, from disease to gun violence.

Though everyone, especially her Dad, wanted April to come earlier than what the calendar said, her mother knew they couldn’t wait any longer, and she had to return to the hospital for her final days.