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Barney Ross


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One of the greatest least talked about boxers today was and is Barney Ross. During his long and illustrious career, he won the world lightweight title once, world junior welterweight title once and the world welterweight title twice. He beat fighters like Jimmy McLarnin, Tony Canzoneri (both of them twice), Billy Petrolle, Ceferino Garcia and Sammy Fuller. His career wasn't long by old time standards, but he retired with a record of 72 wins and only 4 losses, scoring 22 stoppages. Ross was a technically able and tough guy who had a great chin and was never stopped. He was an original inductee into the IBHOF. Here is his story.

 

He was born as Beryl David Rosofsky, 23 December 1909, in New York City, in a Jewish family. His father was originally from Brest Litovsk in Belarus and was a Talmudic scholar. They moved to Chicago while Barney was small, where his father Isidore became a rabbi. He also planned to become a Talmudic scholar, but his plans got changed forever when his father got shot in attempted robbery of his grocery store. His mother suffered a nervous breakdown after that and his younger siblings were put in an orphanage, which left the 14-yearold Beryl (or Dov-Ber in Hebrew) on his own. He began running around with local toughs, one of them being the young Jack Ruby, becoming a street brawler, thief and money runner. At one point, he was employed by Al Capone! He then turned to boxing in order to earn enough money to reunite with his family. He soon changed his name into Barney Ross, as so not to "sully" his father's name by boxing, for that went against his principles. He grew into a strong and fast 5'7 guy and won the Chicago Golden Gloves and Intercity Golden Gloves as a featherweight, in February and March 1929, respectively. He then turned pro on 31 August that year, winning on points against Ramon Lugo. With the rise of Nazism and anti-Semitism in Germany in the early 30's, he soon became a hero and a symbol of strength and resistance to American Jews and used this to fight for the cause of his people. He won his first 11 pro fights before losing to Carlos Garcia on points in April 1930-one of only a few losses he would experience as a pro. He became a lightweight and lost for the second time against Roger Bernard in March 1931, on points of course.

 

He had to fight a long slate of lesser opponents before fighting the noted contender Billy Petrolle 22 March 1933 in Chicago. It was a tough fight against the aggressive Petrolle, but Ross outboxed him to win the majority of the 10 rounds and win by UD. On 23 June that year, he faced the lightweight and junior welterweight world champ Tony Canzoneri at Chicago Stadium. Canzoneri had watched his fight against Petrolle and was impressed. It was a very close fight, but Ross' left jab and excellent defense won him the fight after 10 rounds, by majority decision. Thus, he was suddenly a two-division world champion! They had a rematch on 12 September at Polo Grounds in NY and this time, Canzoneri lost three points for low blows and that cost him the decision, Ross retaining his titles by a split decision after 12 rounds. Before that, Barnwey defended the 140-pound title against Johnny Farr and won by TKO 6. Ross then vacated the lightweight title and concentrated on defending the jr welter one. In his third defense, he beat Sammy Fuller, who earlier briefly held the world title, by MD 10 in Chicago. He made four more defenses, one in a draw against Frankie Klick, before fighting against Jimmy McLarnin, another hall of famer, for his welter title on 28 May 1934, at Madison Square Garden. Against the odds, he overcame McLarnin by SD 15 to become a three-time, three-division champion. In the rematch on 17 September however, McLarnin got the nod after a brutal 15 rounds, also winning by a split decision. Ross returned to defending his old title, which he still had, and made three more defenses, beating Bobby Pacho, Frankie Klick and Bobby Woods, all on points. He then finally vacated the title on 15 April 1935, having made 10 defenses. He signed to fight McLarnin for the third and last time, again on 28 May, exactly a year later after their first fight. He was victorious by unanimous decision this time and thus won that trilogy-becoming the only fighter to defeat McLarnin twice.

 

He had many non-title fights before his first defense, beating Ceferino Garcia twice on points in 10 rounds, before finally defending against Izzy Jannazzo on 27 November 1936, at MSG. Ross knocked Jannazzo down in the second and fifth round and went on to win decisively on all scorecards, while Jannazzo was penalized for a low blow once. On 23 September next year, he faced Ceferino Garcia again, this time in a defense of his title. Ross again put on a boxing masterclass and even though he broke his left hand during the fight, he went on to win by UD against the hard-hitting Filipino. That would be his final great performance. After winning two non-title fights, his downfall came when he faced the equally old Henry Armstrong, on 31 May 1938 at MSG. He went the distance again, but was dominated by Armstrong and lost by a landslide on the scorecards. It was a very brave performance, as Ross suffered a really bad beating but refused to go down or quit and lasted 15 rounds. He retired after this debacle, aged 28.

 

He joined the Marines in 1942, enlisting for the world war 2. The Navy wanted to keep him somewhere stateside and use his name to boost morale, but he insisted on fighting in the war. He hit an officer who called him an anti-Semitic word and was court-martialed, but the judge released him. He fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific and just like in the ring, displayed great bravery there, single handedly fighting a dozen Japanese soldiers and killing them all and also rescuing a fellow American soldier by carrying him to safety. He was awarded a Silver Star for his heroism. He was also wounded in that battle and was administered morphine for the pain, which he then became addicted to. His habit got so bad that he spent 500 dollars a day for a while, but later he went into rehab and defeated his addiction as well. After the JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald killings, he testified on his old friend's Jack Ruby's behalf at his trial for the Oswald murder. He died of throat cancer at the age of 57, on 17 January 1967. He was inducted into both the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, World Boxing Hall of Fame and Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. Still, I have a feeling not enough people today know who Barney Ross was and how good he was.

 

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