Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo was a gem

Richard Carter | 8/24/2011, 3:39 p.m.
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Ali's "phantom punch." The problem is that Sonny was a bad actor, which was proven by his pathetic swoon from a laughable love tap.

Neil Leifer's famous magazine cover photo of Ali standing over his fallen foe perpetuated the myth of the event, which I saw via closed- circuit TV on a big movie screen in downtown Milwaukee. And I clearly recall the words of the legendary Joe Lou- is, a ringside analyst. Said Louis, "That punch was like throw- ing corn flakes at a battleship."

In agreement was the late New York boxing expert Art Rust Jr., author of five books on Louis, who spelled it out in a Dec. 6, 1987, Daily News column headlined "Did Liston fall for Clay?" The fighter converted to Islam before the bout to become Muhammad Ali.

But Ali would never own up to the phoniness. When I interviewed him in Milwaukee at Muhammad's Mosque No. 3 two weeks later and asked him point-blank about the so- called "phantom punch," he deadpanned: "I hit that chump hard." Uh-huh. This is some of what I recalled when I learned of Gallo's death in White Plains Hospital Center from pneumonia. I also think of his graciousness as I introduced him to Susan, my present wife, during a 1995 visit to the Daily News, then still at 220 E. 42nd St.

I also think back to 1990, when he was a guest on "Show- down"-the nationally televised talk show on CNBC I co-hosted with the late Morton Downey Jr. After I asked him about doing the show; he laughed heartily and replied, tongue-in-cheek, "I'd love to. But you'll have to protect me from Mort. He comes on like a wild man."

I assured him the wild man thing was simply Downey's TV persona and he really was a very nice guy. "You'll love him," I said, which Gallo did during our lively back-and-forth on his star-spangled news career and boxing, which, like me, Downey also loved.

At the time of Gallo's passing, current Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman, said, "From the time [Gallo] arrived at the Daily News as a fresh-faced kid determined to make his mark in the city and the world, to the very end when he battled his final illness with grit, courage and grace-rarely skipping a cartoon or a col- umn-Bill was a class act."

Gallo lived in Yonkers with his wife, Delores. Other survivors include a brother, Henry, two sons, Bill and Greg, and four granddaughters. Greg is former sports editor of the New York Post, proving that being a talent- ed journalist runs in their family.

I feel privileged for having known Bill Gallo. His graciousness, good nature and easy way helped make me cherish many of my days at the Daily News. I can't say that about everyone I've known in the news business, but Gallo was one of a kind. Rest in peace, old friend.