Bill Cayton

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Class of 2005
Non-Participant Category
Hall of Fame bio:click

William D. Cayton (June 6, 1918 - October 4, 2003), best known for helping to manage and promote Mike Tyson early in his career, was also famous for preserving much of boxing's legacy through his efforts as a film historian and producer. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.


Born in New York City, Cayton graduated from the University of Maryland in 1937 with a degree in chemical engineering and founded his own advertising agency, Cayton Inc., in 1945. He became involved in boxing in 1948 when he created and produced the TV program titled "Greatest Fights of the Century" to promote Vaseline Brand Hair Tonic. Television was then in its infancy and Cayton felt that boxing was the sport that lent itself best to the tiny black and white screens of the time.

To create the program, and many others that followed, he licensed, then later acquired, rights to vintage boxing film footage, and for nearly fifty years amassed and restored a collection of thousands of films going back to 1897. These films featured such legendary boxers as James J. Corbett, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Wilfred Benitez, and Kid Gavilan. Cayton even acquired rights to the first boxing film ever made, a sparring session filmed by Thomas Edison in 1894. His effort in collecting, restoring, and maintaining these films, many of which were rapidly deteriorating, is credited for preserving modern boxing's heritage and history.

Bill Cayton's company, Big Fights, also produced numerous boxing features including academy award-nominated "a.k.a. Cassius Clay", "Jack Johnson" and "The Legendary Champions." The latter film was directed by Harry Chapin, who would go on to become a famous singer-songwriter in the 1970s.

In 1960 Cayton was joined by boxing historian and film collector Jim Jacobs. The pair subsequently went into managing boxers, guiding such fighters as Wilfred Benitez, Edwin Rosario, and Iron Mike Tyson to world titles. Following Jacobs death in 1988, Cayton managed world champions Tommy Morrison, Vinny Pazienza, and Jeremy Williams.

Cayton sold his film and tape library in 1998 to the Walt Disney Company, which shows many of the titles on its ESPN Classic network.

Cayton's career extended well beyond boxing. His advertising agency remained active until well into the 1970s. In 1957, working with director and writer, Fred Ladd, Cayton produced a very successful short animated feature film entitled "The Space Explorers" followed shortly thereafter by "The New Adventures of the Space Explorers," which were popular both as features and as TV episodes. Many additional cartoons and natural history films produced by Cayton were marketed under the names "Cartoon Classics," "Animatoons," and "Jungle." Cayton is also credited with reviving professional pool on television in 1977, producing showcase events which included, among others, the legendary Minnesota Fats - Willie Mosconi title bouts.