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William D. Cayton (June 6, 1918 – October 4, 2003) was a boxing promoter. He helped to manage Mike Tyson early in his career, and acted as a film historian and producer to preserve boxing's legacy. 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 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 Jim Corbett, Jack Johnson (with a soundtrack by Miles Davis), Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Wilfred Benítez, 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 "a.k.a. Cassius Clay" and academy award-nominated films "Jack Johnson" and "The Legendary Champions." One of Cayton's hires in the 1960s was a then-unknown Harry Chapin, who was assigned a film editor's position, and who worked on "Legendary Champions". It is said that Cayton had to fire Chapin numerous times for missing work, or coming in late due to his pursual of a musical career, only to re-hire Chapin each time due to his endearing personality.
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 Benítez, Edwin Rosario, and Iron Mike Tyson to world titles. Following Jacobs's death in 1988, Cayton managed world champions Tommy Morrison, Vinny Pazienza, and championship contenders Jeremy Williams, Michael Grant, and Omar Sheika among others.
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. In addition, Cayton was given the title of boxing coordinator for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" show, which experienced a resurgence in ratings and the level of competition shown due to Cayton's influence.
Cayton's advertising agency remained active until well into the 1970s. In 1957, working with director and writer, Fred Ladd, it began marketing Russian animated films from the 1940s and 50s, especially those of the famous Soyuzmultfilm studios (well-known titles included The Firebird, The Frog Prince, Beauty & the Beast, The Space Explorers, and Twelve Months). The films were dubbed, sometimes re-titled, partitioned into chapters and distributed to TV stations. He also released a partly re-filmed a version of the Czech animated feature Cesta do pravěku (Karel Zeman, 1955), replacing the opening and closing scenes with new footage and marketing it as Journey to the Beginning of Time. These films proved 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.