Though having Irish roots Owney was from England. He was a member of and later the leader of the Gopher gang in Hells Kitchen. He spent some time in prison until 1923 and then got into business with his friend Larry Fey running booze from Canada to NY. He got involved in hijacking the booze from Big Bill Dwyer - who decided to make Madden a partner rather than make war with him.
He and Big Frenchie DeMange partnered in buying the Cotton Club in Harlem, one of the hotttest nightclubs in Manhattan.
1931, shortly before the end of Prohibition, Madden got out of bootlegging and entered
into partnership with boxing promoters "Broadway"
Bill Duffy and George Jean "Big Frenchie"
DeMange. Between them, they controlled the careers
of several boxing champions, including Max Baer and Primo Carnera. As Carnera's
manager, Madden arranged fixed fights that led eventually to Carnera's winning
the NBA World
Heavyweight Championship in 1933.
Carnera held onto the title for nearly a year, until reporters' suspicions
about fixed fights led Madden to desert the Italian strongman, setting up
Carnera's famous defeat at the hands of Baer on June 14, 1934.
In 1932, Madden was involved in the murder of Vincent "Mad Dog"
Coll, who had been extorting
money from several mobsters, including DeMange and Madden. After being
arrested for a parole violation that same year, Madden began facing greater harassment
from police and encroachment on his territory by Italian Mafia families, until
he finally left Manhattan,
New York City in 1935.
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