In an effort to link the past with the present, The Jewish Boxing Blog will present monthly a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.
Morris Reif, who turned 88 years old last month, was recently honored by the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame. Reif was a well-regarded boxer in his day, known for his left hook and his knockout power.
Isidore Reif was born on February 16, 1923. Known as Izzy, Reif grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, which was then a tough Jewish neighborhood. Reif began boxing as an amateur at a young age. In those days, the winner of an amateur match would receive a watch and then pawn it for money. This was a practice Reif was able to repeat often.
Reif turned pro at the age of 17 though the legal minimum age to become a professional boxer was 18. In order to get around the law, Reif borrowed the birth certificate of his older brother, Morris, and assumed his name. The new Morris Reif scored a second round knockout in his debut on June 7, 1940.
Reif's career began with a bang. He won his first 18 fights, eleven by knockout. He even had the unique pleasure of knocking out Snow White, or, at least, a boxer by that name. Reif, a southpaw, developed his deadly left hook after breaking his right hand during a fight. That win streak came to an end against Mickey Farber, a quality local Jewish fighter, in 1941. The 5'7" welterweight seemed to have trouble when he faced tougher competition. All of Reif's losses were to fighters with winning records, including Danny Bartfield twice.
By 1945, Reif, nicknamed "The Blonde Bomber," was being touted as the next Bummy Davis. In fact, according to Ron Ross, the two men, who had sparred together, were apparently training for one another when Davis was tragically shot and killed during a robbery. The following year, Reif fought Beau Jack, one of the greatest fighters of all time. Jack had passed the lightweight title back and forth with Bob Montgomery during their series of bouts, the last being in March of 1944, a fight which Jack lost. Five months later, he beat Montgomery in a higher weight class. Two fights later, Jack faced Reif.
Reif was knocked out in the fourth round against the legendary foe. The Brooklynite came back to win his next seven contests, six by knockout. Reif next lost three in a row and his career was soon over, his last fight taking place on January 6, 1950. With the help of legendary trainer Charley Goldman, Reif amassed a career record of 51-12-1 with 34 KOs. Reif became friends with Rocky Marciano, who was also trained by Goldman.
Reif and his wife Beverly had three children. After he retired from the ring, Morris trained youngsters in boxing in addition to working in a variety of fields. He now resides in Florida.
Lilly, Christina. "Former boxer, 88, honored by Hall of Fame." Sun Sentinal. February 24, 2011.
Ross, Ron. Bummy David vs. Murder, Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Mafia and an Ill-fated Prizefighter. 2003.