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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Look Back: Bruce Strauss

In an effort to link the past with the present, The Jewish Boxing Blog will offer monthly a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

Bruce "The Mouse" Strauss was never a world champion. "I never aspired to be a world champion or even a contender for that matter. I just wanted to be an opponent. See the world, make some money, and have a good time," he once said. Strauss will be remembered as one of the all time characters in the sport of boxing.

Born on February 6, 1952, Bruce Strauss grew up in New Milford, New Jersey. He earned a wrestling scholarship to the University of Nebraska, but dropped out of school following his sophomore year. He then became a truck driver for Allied Van Lines.

The origin myth of Strauss's boxing career is that one June evening in 1976, an inebriated Strauss filled in for a boxer who had cancelled at the last minute and Bruce actually won his first pro bout without any experience. Incidentally, Strauss fought in Kansas the next night and won that one too.

In reality, Strauss had 15 amateur fights and won silver at the Maccabiah Games. Tired of getting hit in the head without pay, Strauss turned professional. His dream was to be a professional opponent; the guy who takes on the hometown fighter. He knew he lacked experience, so he traveled the country collecting losses under fake names while he learned how to fight a bit. "In order to even get to be an opponent, you have to start out with a good record," Strauss explained. "If I had had a 2-30 record I could never have become an opponent. It wasn't until I was good enough to win preliminary fights that I started fighting under my own name."

Strauss has won plenty of fights under his own name, but he's far more famous for his numerous losses. The Mouse has bragged that he's been knocked out on every continent except for Antarctica, forgoing that continent because he doesn't like the cold. He fought over 200 times, was knocked out three times in one week, and twice in a night. After being knocked out in a preliminary bout, Strauss begged the promoter to let him replace a last-minute cancellation in the main event. Strauss fought under a pseudonym and was stopped in the third round.

Strauss perfected a formula to make a nice living as an opponent. "I have a little bit of a trick. I punch as hard as I can for as long as I can." Strauss contends that his opponents would pace themselves for ten rounds while Strauss had enough to go about three. After three rounds, Strauss says, "I run out of gas and look for a soft spot on the canvas." Not a mere punchline, the Mouse would actually investigate the ring before the evening's fights commenced looking for that elusive soft spot. Strauss had another shrewd ploy. "I don't train... If I train, I'm going to be in shape to go more rounds. If I go more rounds, I'm going to have to sustain more punishment," he said tongue-in-cheek.

The Mouse is a great storyteller and has the quick wit of a man who has been knocked unconscious only half as much. He was knocked out by contender Bobby Czyz in 1980 on a televised card. He fought the next night and, as he was making his way to the ring, someone in the crowd yelled out, "Is that the bum I saw get knocked out last night on TV?" Bruce shouted his response, "No, that was the Moose. I'm the Mouse!"

At about 5'6", Strauss was a natural 154 pounder, but to get more fights, he fought in many different weight classes. Whenever he fought someone larger, he utilized a pair of trick pants and hid weights in them to help him reach the minimum weight. During one weigh in, Strauss waited in vain for his opponent to arrive. It was only later that Strauss realized the opponent's name was one of his own pseudonyms.

During a 1981 bout against Jimmy Baker, Strauss perched himself in one spot on the ropes over commentator Al Bernstein for the entire six rounds. He won a decision victory. Bernstein later asked Strauss about his motivation for staying on the ropes the entire fight. Bruce answered back, "To be honest, I didn't want to miss any of your commentary. I could hear it from that spot."

Among the many aliases Bruce used were the names of people he disliked. He'd fight under their name, get knocked out, and mail the despised person the newspaper clipping.

Things often got rough for the Mouse in the ring. During one bout, a hometown referee blatantly favored Bruce's opponent to the point where he would dig his nails into Strauss's chest when breaking the two fighters. The ref drew blood with the maneuver. Strauss knew under the circumstances that he had to go for the knockout. He loaded up with a big right and landed the punch.. The unconscious referee hadn't seen the punch coming.

During a fight against a prolific middleweight in Africa, Strauss dropped to a knee in order to take an eight count and recover from some punishment he had just received. "While I was on one knee," Strauss explains, "he pushes the referee away, winds up, and the last thing I remember thinking was: This is really gonna hurt." He woke up a half hour later in the locker room.

Despite his notoriety and constant travel, things were rough out of the ring too. He often hitchhiked to fights and would sleep on park benches or in homeless shelters to save some money.

Not everyone found Strauss's antics amusing. In a congressional hearing edited by Senator John McCain, sportswriter Jim Brady argued, "Bruce Strauss profanes the prize ring. He is a diver." Strauss has claimed on many occasions that he never took a dive. "If I could beat a guy, then his manager and promoter should know about it. Then they can stop putting money into him as a prospect."

But, Bruce admitted, "I don't go down from a shitty punch. I go down from the right punch. If the crowd buys it, I stay down. If the crowd doesn't buy it, I get up and keep fighting. I never disappoint a crowd. They never boo when I lose."

Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Strauss earned a record of 77-53-6 with 55 KOs under his own name. His overall record- regardless of the name he used- is unknown. Strauss gave up the sport of boxing in 1989 when boxing commissions turned to computerized methods of keeping track of fighters. A movie called The Mouse based on  Bruce's life was released to mixed reviews in the mid 1990s.


Bibliography
Bernstein, Al. 30 Years, 30 Undeniable Truths about Boxing, Sports, and TV. 2013.
Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Late Night with David Letterman. 1986.
United States Senate. "Oversight of the Professional Boxing Industry: hearing before the Committee on Commerce , Science, and Transportation." 1997.

1 comment:

  1. Ring 10 of NY would love to get in touch with Bruce. Please email any contact information to Ring10ny@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete