Menu JTA Search

Slants on Sports

Download PDF for this date

The contest to select the “Greatest Jewish Prizefighter of All Time” came to a close last Friday. Benny Leonard, retired undefeated light weight champion of the world was chosen by an overwhelming majority of Jewish Daily Bulletin readers as the winner and new champion.

Benny still holds sway in the hearts and minds of the boxing fans, old and new, as “The Jewish Idol of All Times.” For, despite the fact that the great Benny has not been in the ring since the night he was beaten by “Poison” Jimmy McLarnin on October 7, 1932, he more than doubled the number of votes received by that singing, dancing, and clowning king of fistiana, Maxie Baer, the present heavyweight champ of the world. Surprisingly, too, Leonard’s achievements in the rosined arena in the past outshone the great achievement of Barney Ross on May 28 when the Chicago fighter beat the once Jewish nemesis to gain possession of two pugilistic titles at one time.

The record of Benny Leonard, from 1912 to the time he retired as light weight king in 1924 was more replete with thrills, color, action, and that inimitable personal touch to the minds of the fans than the fact that Barney Ross is the holder of the lightweight title and the welterweight crown at the same time—a feat never before accomplished by any way in the history of pugilism.

Nearly all of the fans who voted for Leonard remarked on the fact that Benny’s glory in the ring will live on forever, gaining in legendary and color as the years roll on. The old-timers who had seen the great Benny in action are adamant in their statements that Leonard was a natural fighter, a gentleman and a master boxer. The new generation who had to be content with listening to and reading about the splendid achievements of a master ring gladiator have placed him in an inaccessible niche in the hall of boxing immortals.


When informed of the fact that he was selected as the “Greatest Jewish Prizefighter of All Time,” Leonard replied that he “was thankful to all those who participated in this contest.” The master of ring technique said, “I am very happy that I have been selected as the Greatest Jewish Prizefighter of All Time.”

Leonard told your sports commentator that he had always striven to fight clean and fair. In his long reign as King of the lightweight realms he had sidetracked many tricks and had kept clear of the shady side of the boxing game. Sportsmanship, the spirit of fair play, and loyalty to one’s teacher, race, and self, enabled him to reach pinnacles in the boxing Himalayas that have been scaled by only a select few after him.

Loyalty to one’s race should come before any consideration for one’s self and this was Leonard’s contribution to the Jews of the world. The champion is of the opinion that all Jewish men who are in the limelight no matter what their calling, should be mindful of the fact that their racial allegiance and loyalty ought to overshadow their personal acts.

“I was schooled by the late Nathan Strauss who helped me more than any other man to reach the pinnacles of boxing succes and the lightweight championship,” said Leonard. “Strauss often remarked to me, ‘Benny, you have to lead a clean life for the sake of American youth. Be a gentleman and a sportsman in every thing you do. Always remember that you are a Jew and a champion. The eyes of the world are upon you and anything you may do to mar your splendid reputation will reflect upon Jewish life throughout the world.”


First prize for the best letter to select the “Greatest Jewish Prize fighters of All Time” goes to Sam Delinsky, 2278 Eighty-fifth street, Brooklyn. Mr. Delinsky will receive two ringside tickets for the Ross-McLarnin battle the night of September 6 at Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City.

Mark Alexander, 926 President street, Brooklyn, will receive two ringside tickets for the Coney Island Velodrome for Tuesday, August 7. Mr. Alexander submitted a very interesting letter on Benny Leonard.

Herman David Barshay, 1711 Dahill road, Brooklyn, who also sent in a short, terse, letter on why he thinks Leonard is the greatest Jewish prizefighter of all time is awarded two ringside tickets for the Fort Hamilton Boxing Club for Tuesday, August 7.

The following will receive notification of their having won ringside tickets to the Bronx Coliseum, the Coney Island Velodrome or the Fort Hamilton Boxing Club: Leon E. Seltzer, 4738 Forty-fourth street, Woodside, Long Island; Harold Mandelbaum, 87-48 114 street, Richmond Hill, N. Y.; Michael Lapidus, 1110 Intervale avenue, Bronx, and Morris Salter, 101 Calm court, Brighton Beach.

This corner would like to express its appreciation and thanks to the great number of entrants in this contest.


Sam Delinsky wrote as follows:

“To my mind Benny Leonard is the greatest Jewish fighter of all time. In the ring and in life Benny Leonard was mindful of the fact that above all he was a Jew. He was a master ring technician, a powerful hitter with a deadly punch and a fast pair of legs that carried him through the years. Cool at every stage of the game he was never ruffled or panicky in a pinch or when the activities became tough. First and last Benny Leonard was a sportsman and a gentleman at all times.

“Measuring the greatness of a fighter like Leonard must be done with a sense of relativity. However, I have seen Leonard fight when he was a youngster in his prime. I was there in 1917 and I was at the ringside again in 1932. Throughout all the years Benny was the same fighting machine—a synchronization of muscle, brain, and brawn that Baer is not. Leonard’s was the skill, the boxing science and cunning that Ross is picking up these days.

“Maxie Baer is a fighter; he is not a boxer. Ross still has much to learn. The Jewish champs who tried to fill the great Leonard’s shoes, Goldstein, and his ilk, found them sizes too large and lost them in the shuffle.

“Leonard, the proud possessor of a boxing record stretching through the years from 1912 to 1924, never failed the fans at any time. He had color and each fight added a new lustre to the rapidly growing legends about Leonard the master boxer. His was a natural fighting instinct. Benny Leonard was a symbol of fighting perfection, a thing that no other fighter, past or present, has achieved. That is why I consider him the ‘Greatest Jewish Fighter of All Time.’

(Signed) Sam Delinsky.”


Herman Barshay says, “Leonard symbolizes Jewish achievement in the athletic world. We salute one who has brought much honor and glory to his people and his profession.”

Mark Alexander writes, “the laurels deservedly belong to Benny Leonard, the master boxer and fighter extraordinary.”


Benny Leonard today is not inactive. It was his coaching from the sidelines that enabled Barney Ross to win over Jimmy McLarnin on May 28 last. Leonard had lost to McLarnin and knew what all the shooting was about. He knew what Jimmy’s strong points were and what were his weaknesses. Had he the punch and legs that won him the championship in 1917 and that were his in 1924, McLarnin would have been a beaten man October 7, 1932.

Jimmy McLarnin fought two men May 28. He had to contend with the fast-stepping, hard-hitting, youngster, Barney Ross and he had to fight against the brains of the immortal Benny Leonard whose spirit was hovering over the ring in the Bowl last May.

Then again, Benny is still the symbol to American Jewish youth that he once was as champion. Today, Benny is chairman of the boxing advisory board of the United States Maccabi Association. We believe that it will be Leonard’s stratagems, coaching and ability that will place this branch of the Maccabi movement in a class by itself.

We congratulate Benny Leonard on his contributions to Jewish life, and to the boxing profession as a gentleman, a sportsman, and a fighter. We salute you Benny, the Jewish idol of all time and the greatest Jewish prizefighter of all time.


Fort Hamilton Post—Boxing

Tomorrow Night

Yale Okun, Jewish heavyweight, has been signed to fight Corn Griffith, stablemate of Steve Hamas, at the Fort Hamilton Arena tomorrow night. They are slated to go ten rounds in the main event.

Twenty-eight rounds have been scheduled to complete the boxing bill featuring such fighters as Joe Pennino, Jack Moran, Frankie O’Brien and Mug Bertallini.

Other boxers on the card are George Chip and Young Zellette.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund