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Friday, July 3, 2020

Ostroumov Sarts Career with a Win

Super middleweight Mikhael Ostroumov won his professional debut last Saturday against Karen Avetisyan at USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia. Ostroumov won by second round TKO.

A baby-faced 22 year old southpaw from Israel, Ostroumov had an experienced amateur career. In his first prize fight he came out throwing big shots and consistently attacking Avetisyan's body with right hooks and straight lefts. Avetisyan was convinced early to mostly cover up. Two minutes into the fight, he remembered he was in a boxing match and fired the occasional telegraphed punch from that point onward.

Mikhael Ostroumov continued to treat the 36 year old Avetisyan's body like a heavy bag into the second round. After three minutes and 34 seconds of watching Ostroumov pound away on Avetisyan, referee Alexey Kozlov decided he wanted to do something else and stopped the fight in a quiet moment. Outwardly, Avetisyan looked puzzled, but inwardly he was likely relieved and pretty sore.

In the United States Karen is almost exclusively a woman's name, but Avetisyan is undoubtedly a man, and a tough hirsute one at that. Born in Armenia, he moved to Russia for a professional boxing career that began in 2006. He has now lost his last 17 fights and hasn't had a win in 30 bouts. But this, his 47th fight, was only his sixth stoppage loss. He even went to six-round distance with Sergey Kovalev in 2010. Avetsyan's record falls to 9-34-4 with 4 KOs.

Ostroumov showed two noteworthy flaws in an otherwise impressive debut. He lunged forward too much when throwing the jab and he also found himself squared up right in front of his opponent on a couple occasions. Avetisyan wasn't an opponent who could take advantage of those flaws, but Mikhael will meet someone in the future who can. Nevertheless, Ostroumov showed a good level of boxing intelligence with his body punches, his varied combinations, and his ability to change levels within a combination. After he was announced as the victor, Mikhael backflipped in celebration.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Introducing David Alaverdian

David Alaverdian is a super flyweight who recently turned 27 years old. Born in Israel, he now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada in the U.S. Alaverdian embraces his Jewish and Armenian heritage.

David represented Israel as an amateur boxer. Listed at 5'5", he had a notable amateur career participating in multiple world championships as a flyweight. He also took part in the World Series of Boxing, a tournament that straddles the line between professional and amateur boxing. Alaverdian officially turned pro earlier this year.

On February 29, Alaverdian defeated Gustavo Javier Chavez Cordova by TKO in the first round of their bout at Gimnasio Juan Francisco Estrada in the city of Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico. Referee Octaviano Lopez stopped the fight after two minutes. Chavez Cordova was 0-6-1 at the time of their bout, but he has been in tough so far in every fight of his career. It was the fifth time he has been stopped and the second time in the first round.

Alaverdian is a good body puncher, an attribute that is less common in the amateur ranks than in the pros. His best punch is a left hook to the body.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Lazarev to Fight in July in Albania

Lightweight Igor Lazarev is scheduled to fight Kristian Bejko on July 25 in Vlore, Albania. Of course a global pandemic, coronavirus-2019, continues to impact sporting events worldwide. Currently, Albania has about 2,500 cases of the virus and 62 people have died as a result. Daily infection rates have increased in the country in the last two weeks.

Lazarev (6-0, 2 KOs) is a 34 year old resident of Ashdod, Israel. A pressure fighter who attacks the body, Lazarev has fought in Albania twice before. In his last fight, he defeated Stefan Nicolae by majority decision in Kashar, Albania.

Bejko (3-4) is 20 year old  native of Tirana, Albania. He has quicker feet and hands than one might suspect of a 3-4 fighter. Bejko is a counter puncher who looks to land big punches. He doesn't display a lot of nuance in his game. Defensively, he keeps his hands low and relies on his foot-speed to avoid incoming fire. Occasionally he'll try to slip and duck under the punches, but his preferred method is to pull straight back in a haste. That could play right into Lazarev's hands. Igor doesn't possess the fastest hands, but if he follows Bejko when the Albania flees backwards, Lazarev could be in for a big night.

All of Bejko's seven fights have gone the distance. He has power, but doesn't have much imagination when it comes to initiating offense. His best idea thus far has been to try to land a loaded shot from the outside using his foot and hand speed. He rarely jabs and doesn't focus on the body much. He has shown a good chin.

All three of Bejko's wins have come in Albania. In his pro debut, he beat Leandro Xhelili by majority decision in 2018. Lazarev beat Xhelili by split decision last October although the one card that favored Xhelili smelled like home cooking. All four of Bejko's losses have come outside of Albania. Two took place in Italy, one in Denmark, and the other in the Netherlands. His opponents were a combined 4-0 when he faced them with two making their debuts against the young Albanian.

Bejko's flaws seem to play into Lazarev's strengths, but he's no pushover. He has the quickness to land big counters. This contest is slated for four rounds.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Kaminsky Loses Bruising Split Decision

Super middleweight David Kaminsky lost a bloody six-round battle to Clay Collard tonight inside "The Bubble" at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada tonight. Collard, an awkward pressure fighter, outworked the more skilled southpaw.

Both fighters established their game plans in the opening round. Collard rushed forward with his left leg often crossing in front of his right. He fired punches without concern for proper technique or aesthetics. Meanwhile, Kaminsky kept his hands down, aspiring to showcase his blazing hand speed. Even when the 19 year old Israeli-native landed his quick counters, Collard brushed them off and kept charging. Late in the round, Collard threw a straight right, and the wrist of the glove scratched the skin near Kaminsky's left eye drawing blood in the process.

In the second, Kaminsky managed to time Collard's rushes a bit better and Clay's nose oozed out blood. It was a close round as Kaminsky's hard blows may have overtaken Collard's sheer work-rate. Collard inexplicably stayed on the outside for much of the third round, and Kaminsky shrewdly began attacking the body of the 27 year old from Utah.

Collard snatched the fight back in the fourth. His pressure was relentless, and he managed to punctuate many of his unorthodox combinations with his hard skull. As a result, Kaminsky's face looked like that of an automobile accident victim. Referee Vic Drakulich should have warned Collard about the butts. Kaminsky managed to land an effective body shot in the round, but if an indomitable will determined success, Collard would be a world champion. The fifth and sixth rounds were more of the same. Kaminsky slipped in a nice body shot  here and there and threw eye-catching head punches, but Collard's offense was unceasing.

Two judges saw the fight 58-56 for Clay Collard while one judge saw it Kaminsky's way by the same score. The JBB scored the bout 58-56 for Collard.

The JBB mentioned that this was a potential trap fight for Kaminsky, who falls to 6-1 with 3 KOs. Collard, who is now 7-2-3 with two KOs, has everything in an opponent a young fighter should avoid. He is a winning MMA veteran who fought in the UFC; he is very awkward, very tough, and unrelenting; and he has beaten or drawn with a number of prospects, including southpaws.

This loss could be a turning point in David's career. The fear is that the loss could damage his confidence. In reality, it was just the wrong fight for him, and it presents an opportunity to learn. Making weight appeared to be an issue, understandable considering the limitations created by COVID-19. In the ring, David needed to move subtly to either side when Collard rushed in, instead of trying to time him or moving straight back. At that point, Collard would be out of position and Kaminsky could land with out worrying about Collard's head. Kaminsky also started his body attack too late in the fight. Collard is now 6-1 in his last seven fights; that lone loss was to Olympic medalist Bektemir Melikuziev, a southpaw who established center ring early and then finished Collard with a body attack in the fourth round. Kaminsky seemed to try to follow Melikuziev's path, but once it wasn't working in the first round, he needed to shift his strategy.

In defeat Kaminsky would do well to remember something an old Jewish trainer, Whitey Bimstein, once said, "Show me an undefeated fighter and I'll show a guy who's never fought anybody." Kaminsky now has fought someone.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Kaminsky to Face Collard on Thursday

David Kaminsky is scheduled to battle Clay Collard on Thursday, June 18 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. There will be no fans in attendance as a measure to stop the spread of Coronavirus-19.  The bout will air on ESPN as part of the Jose Pedraza-Mikkell LesPierre undercard.

Collard is not your average 6-2-3 boxer from Utah. The 5'11" 27-year old is a veteran MMA fighter with a winning record in that sport who has participated in the UFC. Since becoming a professional boxer three years ago, Collard has been in tough. Counting Kaminsky (6-0 3 KOs), his last eleven opponents will have entered the ring against Clay sporting a combined 65-3 record, which reveals his 6-2-3 mark to be quite impressive.

Collard only won one of his first five boxing matches, but he has improved a ton since. His balance is better and he found his identity as an iron-faced volume puncher. He has won five out of his last six boxing fights. His most impressive win came last September when he hurt and knocked down Gerald Sherrell in the first round on his way to capturing a six-round unanimous decision victory over the Pittsburgh prospect. Sherrell had participated in the latest version on The Contender and KOed Quatavious Cash in the competition. Sherrell was coming off of a win over veteran Morgan Fitch.

Kaminsky is a southpaw, but Collard has faced several quality lefties. In his last fight back in February, Collard hurt hot prospect Raymond Guajardo, a southpaw, in the first round with a sneaky counter left hook, the same punch that floored Sherrell in the opening round of their bout. After Guajardo was counted down again when his gloves touched the canvas, he came back with a snapping left that put Collard down. Collard rose and in the second stanza kept landing to the head and body. With blood pouring out of Guajardo's nose, the fight was stopped and Collard had his second career stoppage victory.

The 19 year old Kaminsky hasn't fought anywhere near the level of competition as has Collard. This will be the eleventh fight for Clay since May 18, 2019 while Kaminsky has fought only twice in that span.

Collard is an awkward fighter. As is common among MMA fighters who switch to boxing, Collard's stance is a bit square and his right foot comes forward in front of the left when he shoots the right hand, an indication of poor balance. Collard will often stay as a southpaw when his right foot comes forward and is as effective from either stance, though he prefers fighting orthodox. Despite this flaw, his balance has improved since he started boxing for money. Collard throws a lot of arm punches just meant to keep on the pressure. He's adept at varying his punch speed and power.

Collard's defense consists of blocking punches with his cheeks. But Collard shrugs off head shots as if they're a summer's mist. 2016 Olympic medalist Bektemir Melikuziev,a southpaw, set the template for how to beat this improved version of Collard. The two-time World Championship medalist controlled center ring with his precise powerful pot-shots for the first three rounds. Then he went to the body and scored two knockdowns before the fight was stopped in the fourth. Collard was the heaviest of his career by far for the Melikuziev fight last November, which didn't help Clay.

Kaminsky didn't experience anywhere near the level of success as an amateur as Melikuziev did, but he has a similar style. This bout will be a true test for the Israel-native who lives in California. It is somewhat of a trap fight. With the unusual circumstances brought on by COVID-19 and Collard's unassuming record and awkward style, this bout seems like a bit of a high-risk low-reward endeavor for Kaminsky. But a win will show that he is a prospect with a very bright future.

The fight will take place at super middleweight, which is an advantage for Kaminsky. It's scheduled for six rounds, a distance in which Collard has fought three times. Kaminsky has never seen the fifth round as a pro as of yet.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Look Back: Kid Kaplan and Family

The Jewish Boxing Blog is continuing a series called "A Look Back" in an effort to link the past with the present through a profile of notable former Jewish boxers.

Click here to read part 2 or scroll down the page
Click here to read part 3 or scroll down the page

Before Vasiliy Lomachenko and the others of the 2012 Ukrainian Olympic team turned professional and rose to prominence, The Ring declared Louis "Kid" Kaplan the greatest Ukrainian boxer of all time. Kaplan never fought a bout in the country. In fact, he may never have even lived in Ukraine.

Louis Kaplan was born on October 15, 1901 in Kyiv, the current capital of Ukraine, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time. He immigrated to the U.S. when he was five years old. Or so the story goes...

New Information on Kaplan's Early Life
Leiser Kaplan was born to Abraham and Scheine Kaplan probably on October 15, 1902 . His twin sisters Basse and Feige were three years old when the third of eight children arrived. As of this writing it isn't known where Leiser was actually born, but it likely was not Kyiv. An article by Westbrook Pegler in the Atlanta Constitution on August 25, 1925 describes Kaplan's original hometown as Omsk, Russia. It could not be confirmed that Kid Kaplan spent his formative years in the Siberian town of 1,100 Jews (or 3% of the Omsk population in 1897) near the border of what is now Kazakhstan.

Pegler wrote on December 14, 1925 in The Washington Post that Kaplan "knew the name of the town where he was born but couldn't pronounce it because he couldn't play a saxophone." Explaining his roots, Louis told Pegler, "Somewhere in Russia- a hell of a name to say. The Cossacks come and the Kaplans take it on the leg when I'm about six years old." We know Leiser was three when his brother Hirsch appeared and another brother, Neach, came two years later.

The Kaplans' last permanent resident in Europe was Mazyr, which is now in southern Belarus near the Ukrainian border. It's possible that Leiser and his siblings were born in this small town of 5,600 Jews, which accounted for 70% of the town's population. Perhaps he was from an unpronounceable shtetl nearby. It's possible that the Kaplans were from somewhere else, perhaps near Omsk, and then moved to Mazyr after the alleged Cossack attack. We don't know for sure.

In the summer of 1912, Scheine and the kids traveled from Mazyr to Liverpool where they boarded the RMS Adriatic. A huge ship, the Adriatic had rescued some survivors from the Titanic back in April. A new baby, Muscha, joined her five older siblings on the voyage to the United States. Their father's immigration to America cannot be accounted for at this time, but he probably had already made the seven-to-ten day journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Scheine listed her husband "Abram" as her contact and Meriden, Connecticut as their destination.

Leiser, who of course became Louis, was nine years old when his family arrived at Ellis Island on August 16, 1912. Unlike his mother, who soon adopted the name Sadie, and his two older sisters, Feige (Fannie) and Basse (Bessie), Louis could neither read nor write. Nor could Hirsh (Isadore) or Neach (Noah). Musche (Mary) was not yet a year old that summer day.

In Meriden, Louis's dad found work as a junk dealer. The family was initially so poor that Louis wore his elder sisters' hand-me-downs. He briefly attended the Willow Street School until fifth grade when he got a job delivering fruit for five cents a day. Louie learned to fight when he was framed for stealing; he thrashed his framer so thoroughly that a police officer, who had come to arrest the true thief, suggested he should try boxing. Around 1914, Louis took the officer's advice and entered Lenox Athletic Club in town. His sister Frieda was born that year, and David rounded out the family in 1915. An amateur for four years, Louis began boxing professionally in 1918 under the name Benny Miller so that Sadie wouldn't find out. When he discovered his son's new trade, Abraham was more supportive than his wife.

Early Boxing Career
Louis was 15 years old when he stepped into the ring for the first time as a professional on March 7 at the same club in Meriden where he trained. His youthful age could also account for the fake name and for the discrepancy in birth years. It's possible Kaplan gave himself an extra year on Earth in order to be eligible to fight as a pro. He alternated between 1901 and 1902 as his birth year on official forms for the rest of his life.

Regardless of his age or moniker in the ring, Kaplan's performances were decidedly mediocre early in his career. "Benny Miller" was Willie Curry's sparring partner in 1919 and they fought each other in front of World War I veterans in July in Staten Island, New York. In the contest, Curry knocked down Miller, who was known for participating in boxing exhibitions around New England.

After fighting regularly for two years with mixed results, "Kid" Kaplan started to develop an effective style. He went on a 24-fight undefeated streak until losing on points to Eddie Wagner on June 9, 1922. He beat Wagner in the rematch as part of a seven-fight win streak before losing to the man who would become his most familiar rival, Babe Herman. Herman was an American of Portuguese heritage who at 5'4" stood two inches taller than his Jewish opponent. Kid would finish with a 2-1 record in seven battles with Babe; four were deemed draws. Each fight went the distance, 86 rounds in all.

Kaplan dropped their first meeting on December 18 but won the rematch on March 8, 1923. In that second bout, Kaplan scored a first round knockdown. Six days later, he lost a decision to Al Schubert. From June 2 to July 3, Kaplan and Herman faced off three times, all ending in hard-fought draws.

Meanwhile, Louis's brother Isadore also entered the pro ranks. He went by the name Izzy Kaplan- not to be confused with the noted sports photographer of the era. Izzy was 2-0-1 when he lost to the undefeated and more-experienced Sheikh Johnny Leonard, a rare sheikh from Warsaw, Poland. According to BoxRec, the fight with Leonard was his only contest from September 1921 until October 1924.

While Izzy stayed away from the prizefighting ring, Kid's career was gaining clout. He beat Allentown Johnny Leonard- who was not a Polish sheikh like his namesake but was from Allentown, Pennsylvania- and was robbed in Pittsburgh against Cuddy DeMarco in settling for a draw. He drew once with the Mexican Wildcat Bobby Garcia before beating him by decision on June 9, 1924. His brother Noah also mulled over making a living getting hit in the face, but no record has yet surfaced that the younger Kaplan followed through.

Part 2

The Tournament
Johnny "Scotch Wop" Dundee was the featherweight champion of the world in 1924. Kaplan accepted a fight for the title in June, but the champ backed out. Dundee suffered from ephebiphobia, which is a fear of children, but in Dundee's case was a fear of Kid. More than one newspaper at the time believes Dundee vacated his title because he was scared of Kaplan.

To crown a new featherweight champion, a tournament was devised and scheduled to be held in Madison Square Garden in the late months of '24. Kaplan was ready. He had spent five years perfecting his craft. Standing at 5'2", Kid was nicknamed the Meriden Buzz Saw, which gives an indication of his style in the ring. Kaplan fired wild shots from the outside which were designed not to hit the opponent but to confuse him long enough to allow the strong stout Jew to get inside. Once in close, Kaplan punched ceaselessly wearing down the other man. He had a thudding left hook and was a punishing body puncher. What set Lou apart was his training. He'd run ten miles and loved working the speed bag in the gym. Besides Kid, Mike Dundee, Bobby Garcia, Danny Kramer, Jose Lombardo, and Lew Paluso were also participants in the tournament with Babe Herman and Billy DeFoe waiting as alternates in case one of the first six missed weight.

Kaplan drew an old foe, Bobby Garcia, in the first round. The Mexican Wildcat was a U.S. soldier stationed in Maryland. Kaplan and Garcia fought the only interesting bout of the tournament's first round on November 21. Giving up four inches in height, Kid managed to control the bout and nearly knocked out Garcia in the tenth and final round. Lombardo beat Paluso and Kramer beat Dundee- both won by decision- but the evening was marred by Dundee's manager, Dick Curley. The newspapers agreed with the referee in awarding Kramer the decision, but that didn't convince Curley, who ran over and kicked referee Patsy Haley in the face as Haley was bent down talking to reporters. Curley was banned from New York boxing for life.

In the semifinals, Kaplan was selected to fight Lombardo, a native of Panama. Kramer initially secured a bye to the finals. Then the New York commission became hellbent on bringing back Dundee and Garcia to fight each other with the winner facing Kramer. The managers of the three first round winners threatened to boycott and possibly move the event elsewhere. The NY commission backed down. In the fight on December 12, Lombardo, who nearly called off the contest in the dressing room due to illness, bloodied Kaplan's nose in the first. He started out the second effectively too with a body attack. But Kaplan came back and won most of that round. By the third, Kaplan was in control. In the fourth, he landed a left hook that sent Lombardo down. The Panamanian champion rose at the referee's count of seven, but after eating a few more head shots, a short left hook put him through the ropes and out for the count.

By the time the finals rolled around on January 2, 1925, rumors were swirling than Danny Kramer, a Jew from Philadelphia who was backed by the mob, was going to be gifted a decision and thus the featherweight championship in the event the fight went the distance. Kaplan understood his mission: score a knockout to win the championship or lose. He launched hard left-right combinations on his way inside throughout the bout. It quickly became clear this was less a competitive match than a test of Kramer's courage. His left eye was cut and his right was closed. At least his eyes were in better shape than his nose. Fans started begging the referee to cease the slaughter in the eighth, but it took over a minute into the ninth round before Kramer's manager Max Hoffman threw in the towel, which was then used to staunch the blood pouring from the beaten fighter's face. Leiser, the diminutive illiterate from Russia, was featherweight champion of the world!

Featherweight champion
Kaplan's life changed in an instant. The famous promoter Tex Rickard triumphantly claimed Kaplan was the second coming of Battling Nelson, a legendary lightweight champion from Denmark. Louis took a vacation in Montreal before heading west to fight in non-title affairs. Meanwhile, Johnny Dundee sailed back from France to America to declare that he, not Kaplan, was still the featherweight champion. Dundee, who had held the featherweight and junior lightweight title concurrently, defended only the latter title. In his two years as 126-pound king, he never once fought as a featherweight. By this point though, he wasn't considered a serious threat to the featherweight crown at least and was ignored.

In his first defense of the championship, Kaplan met Babe Herman in Waterbury, Connecticut on August 27. Herman was at first ecstatic to get the chance. Gradually though, Babe's excitement dimmed. The ring was 12 by 12 feet, the perfect size for the shorter infighting champion and not exactly legal for a championship fight. The Connecticut Boxing commissioner, who happened to be a friend of Kaplan's, disagreed with the scale at the weigh-in and announced that his neighbor "weighs exactly 126 pounds!" The scale futilely argued for a higher number. Nevertheless, the fight went on and Kid came out flat. In the eighth he broke a finger on his right hand and couldn't punch with it anymore. It looked as if Kid's moment in the sun was done, but then the fight was shockingly declared a draw, allowing Kaplan to keep the title, and frustrating Babe to no end.

Nearly four months later, Kaplan gave Babe the rematch in Madison Square Garden. This would be the last time the two men faced in the ring. By all accounts, Kid was the deserving victor in a bruising yet uninteresting fifteen round match.

In 1926, Kaplan beat Billy Petrole on points. He was knocked down in the fifth round in Baltimore against Tommy Herman, a Jewish fighter who- like the unrelated Babe- adopted his surname for the ring, but won the fight comfortably otherwise. He also traveled to Montreal and KOed the reigning Canadian featherweight and future Canadian lightweight champ, Leo Roy. On June 28, Kaplan defended the featherweight title for the third and final time when he stopped a familiar dance partner, Bobby Garcia, in the tenth round. A week later, Kaplan relinquished the title because he could no longer make weight.

Before abandoning the belt, Kaplan was offered $50,000 by the mob to give up his title in the ring. They asked him to take a dive against a mob-controlled opponent. After all, they reasoned, he'd no longer have his crown either way. Why not make a lot of money in the process? Kaplan steadfastly refused. "Every time I fight, my friends bet plenty on me and what about their dough? I wouldn't do a thing like that for a million bucks," he allegedly declared.

Part 3

Lightweight Contender
After moving up to lightweight and decisioning Tommy Cello in back-to-back bouts, Kaplan suffered his first defeat in nearly four years. Billy Wagner, who fought out of Philadelphia, floored Louis four times in the fifth round of their December 2 fight in Cleveland. Kaplan was counted out following the fourth fall. He came back to win his next eleven fights, including a victory against a young Jackie Fields in June of '27 at the Polo Grounds. The Chicago teenager had been pro for only two and a half years when Kaplan won a slow bruising fight. Louis had been a vertically challenged featherweight; as a lightweight he was minuscule. Giving up nearly half a foot to Fields, Kaplan won with pressure and volume punching. Jackie's jab and right cross were his only weapons, but they failed to halt Kaplan's rush to smother the younger man.

On October 18, 1927, Kaplan- a newly naturalized American citizen- fought another legend, the future two-division world champion, Jimmy McLarnin. Kaplan scored a flash knockdown in both the opening and second rounds and broke McLarnin's jaw, but the Canadian came back to score a knockdown in the third and another in the fifth. In the eighth round, Kaplan was put down for the ten count, his second KO loss in a twelve month span. McLarnin, who faced the likes of Barney Ross, Tommy Canzoneri, and Sammy Mandell, would later call this battle with Kaplan the hardest of his career. Two weeks later, Kid won a twelve-round decision over Mike Dundee.

On April 15, 1928, Abraham Kaplan died. His gravestone in Meriden states he was 65 years old. Louis's heart broke at the loss of his father. But he had made a lot of money in the ring and invested wisely in the market to at least help with the finances of his family. He went 11-4 over his next 15 fights, a respectable record, but not at the level of his featherweight rise through the ranks. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed; Kaplan lost his fortune. He took out his frustration the next day on Eddie Wolfe in Chicago, rattling his teeth loose with a right uppercut in the seventh before Wolfe quit at the start of the eighth.

By 1930, Kid's younger brother Izzy was a decent club fighter who didn't travel much beyond Connecticut for a prizefight. The Sheikh Johnny Leonard fight in '23 would be his only bout scheduled for as many as ten rounds. He lived with his mom Sadie and his four younger siblings: Noah, Mary, Frieda, and David in a rented apartment for which they coughed up $50 a month. The family took on a 34 year old boarder named John White. Providing lodging would be a needed source of income for a family that had lost its patriarch one year and suffered from the onset of the Great Depression the next. Sadie had been listed as 35 years old in 1912 but was marked down as 60 in 1930. Between raising eight kids in a new country and suffering the personal and national tragedies of the late 1920s, she must have felt like she aged that fast.

Izzy spent the immediate aftermath of the stock market crash toiling for change in four fights in Florida. He came back to Connecticut in April of 1930 and fought four more times before taking a year away from the ring. In an incredibly prolific span, he fought five times beginning on September 4, 1931 and ending six weeks later. He posted an impressive 4-1 mark in that run. Izzy took ten months off before losing his last professional fight on August 1, 1932. The knockout loss to an unheralded pug convinced the welterweight to find other work. He finished with a record of 19-10-10 including 8 KOs, one newspaper decision victory, and two stoppage losses.

While Izzy's older brother was a heralded contender as a 135 pounder, successive champions steadfastly avoided Louis. It didn't help that once he started gaining momentum, he'd suffer a setback. He lost to a Jewish southpaw from Baltimore, Jack Portney, early in 1930 in Maryland. Having won six fights in a row since the Portney loss, Kid faced another Connecticut legend. Battling Battalino of Hartford was the good looking featherweight champion of the world and the favorite in a fight just over the 126 pound limit. Kaplan pulled the upset and won nearly every round in earning a decision victory. He followed up that impressive showing with a loss to the highly-regarded Justo Suarez of Argentina.

A year after his loss to Portney, Kaplan won the rematch in Connecticut. That started another ten-fight win streak which included a points win over the former lightweight champ Sammy Mandell. But on November 20, 1931, Louis ate a right from Eddie Ran in the first round that knocked him out. He finished his career fifteen months later on February 20, 1933 with a loss to Cocoa Kid, the second defeat in his final three bouts. Louis was something like 120-23-16 as a pro. He scored 27 KOs and was stopped just 3 times. For the latter part of his career, he couldn't see out of his right eye.

In 1958, Nat Fleischer ranked Kid Kaplan as the tenth best featherweight of all time. In Burt Sugar and Teddy Atlas's 2010 The Ultimate Book of Boxing of Lists, Mike Silver placed Kaplan as the fifth best Jewish fighter ever although Silver docked him two spots in his own book six years later.

Life After Boxing
After his boxing career ended, Louis stayed in Connecticut, specifically Hartford, with his wife Bessie and his young daughter Roseanne. He briefly tried his hand at selling insurance and then worked for the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. Kid moonlighted as a boxing referee in Connecticut until the late 1940s. Isadore worked for the Royal Typewriter Company after his boxing career and also lived in Hartford with his wife and son. He was active in social and political organizations including the Farband and the employees' union.

In 1940, Sadie- listed as 65 years old- still lived in Meriden with two of her sons, Noah and David. The family continued to take in boarders. In this year it was Sarah Abraham, a nonagenarian. Noah eventually moved out but remained in Meriden. He married a woman named Lucy and owned a cafe. David left for New Haven, married a woman named Flore and owned a hardware store. Older sisters Fannie and Bessie got married and stayed in Meriden. Fannie married a man named Julius Grossman. Bessie married Abraham Hurwitz. Mary moved to New Haven, Connecticut and was living with the family of her husband, Murray Kugell in 1940. She became a U.S. citizen in 1946 and worked as a clerk in a retail store. Frieda was the only sibling to move out of state. She lived out in Arizona and then Alabama, first acquiring the surname Brown and then Reuben.

Sadie Kaplan died on October 21, 1961. Her gravestone in Meriden says she was age 83. Bessie passed five years later. On her gravestone, her birthday is listed as December 15, 1898 while her twin Fannie's is recorded elsewhere as January 14, 1899, which is less than one month apart. Perhaps they spent a lifetime arguing over which birthday was correct or maybe they just wanted their own special days to celebrate.

Kid Kaplan remained in the public's consciousness after his career ended. First in the 1930s and '40s, when one of his fierce rivals retired, they invariably recalled the short strong Jew as one of their toughest battles. When some opponents died, Kaplan received a mention in their obituaries. He was adored in Connecticut sports circles and whenever local boxing hero Willie Pep made the papers, Kid Kaplan would too. Whenever the featherweight title was on the line, the names of the past champions, including Kid Kaplan's, would be revived.

In 1965, the state of Connecticut banned boxing. Jewish life in Mazyr, which had been so robust when the Kaplans lived there before sojourning to the United States in 1912, would've been unrecognizable to the family in 1965. By the 1920s, the town was firmly within the Soviet Union's orbit. Jews remained, but Jewish life disappeared from public life. The Jews of Mazyr suffered unimaginably during the Holocaust. On August 22, 1941 the Nazis took over the town and pushed the Jews into a ghetto. Five months later, all of the 1,500 Jews in the ghetto were killed, 700 by drowning in the Pripyat River. Jews had made up 70% of the town when Leiser Kaplan was born. In 1965, they were less than 10% of the population and unable to openly practice their faith.

Around this time, Louis developed lung cancer. By 1969, he couldn't speak or maneuver his limbs. When spoken to, he could only nod. An old friend said, "It hurts to see him this way." Louis died on October 25, 1970, ten days after what was probably his 68th birthday.

Louis's siblings were of hardy stock. Noah passed fifteen years later. Isadore joined him in 1989. Frieda followed in 1995. Mary was 90 when she died in 2000. Fannie lived through the birth of great-great-grandchildren, but at age 102, she did not live long enough to see her little brother who used to wear her old clothes make it to the boxing Hall of Fame. David, the youngest, died later that same year, 2001.

Louis "Kid" Kaplan was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003. His Hall of Fame profile incorrectly begins, "Born October 15, 1901 in Kiev, Russia, Kaplan and his family emigrated [SIC] to the United States when he was five years old..."

Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Brady, Dave. "Kaplan's Kind Hard to Find." The Washington Post. May 25, 1969. C4.
Kluczwski, David. "The Mediren Buzz Saw: Kid Kaplan Pulls Himself Up by His Boxing Gloves." Connecticut Explored. 2009.
Pegler, Westbrook. "Kaplan and Herman Battle Friday for Money and Glory." The Washington Post. December 15, 1925. pg. 15.
Silver, Mike. Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing. 2016.

Notes on sources: The sources listed here were invaluable, particularly the more recent ones. Kuczwski's article provides wonderful color to Kaplan's early years. Silver's book is like holding a beautiful jewel. Blady's engrossing book is the original far-reaching chronicle of Jewish boxers. It's indispensable. I've relied on it for nearly every "A Look Back" profile on this site. However, there were contradictions between these sources.

Most of the recent profiles of Kaplan state his birth as October 15, 1901 in Kiev and claim he immigrated to the U.S. when he was five years old. They make no mention of his birth name, Leiser. I was able to find his family's immigration form from Ellis Island, which casts doubt on this narrative. This took some fortuitous detective work. In attempting to research Izzy, whose real name is incorrectly recorded as Israel or Harry in some sources, I came across his obituary in the Hartford Current, which names his siblings. That allowed me to find the family in the 1930 U.S. census. In that census, their year of immigration is listed as 1912. "Izzie," Noah, and Mary (all born before 1912) were listed as born in Russia while the younger siblings (born after 1912) were listed as born in Connecticut.

I was able to find the Kaplan family's 1912 immigration form because of blessed Bessie. Bessie is the only Kaplan sibling whose new name somewhat resembles their old name in the old country. The ages provided on the immigration form match up with the ages of the Kaplans in the 1930 census and in their death notices within reason. To his credit, Blady lists Louis as "born in Russia sometime in 1902" which is correct. He does write that he was 69 years old when he died in 1970, which was the same age The New York Times reported Kaplan's obituary.

I don't know the origin of the Kyiv/Kiev myth. Mazyr is 150 miles from Kyiv, so perhaps Louis just told people he was from the closest recognizable city. Otherwise, I could only find sources published after 2000 claiming his birthplace as Kyiv. I don't believe he is from Kyiv.

I can't explain the myth that the Kaplans came to America when Louis was five. It dates back at least to Blady's book. Every profile thereafter mentions the same incorrect immigration date. Don't blame Blady. Trying to find the year the Kaplans- a very common surname- emigrated from Russia- a very big country- at Ellis Island in the 1980s would've been like trying to find a needle in a haystack, especially without their original first names. The 1930 census wasn't released to the public until well after his book was published. Izzy was still alive then.

Kluczwski mentions that Kaplan "took up boxing at the Lenox Athletic Club in 1919," which would have been after he had already become a professional prizefighter. Blady states that Kaplan was an amateur for four years, so I adjusted Kluczwski's date.

Finally, I mentioned Mike Silver ranked Kaplan as the fifth best Jewish boxer of all time in 2010 and seventh in 2016, a notable shift since all those involved in the shuffle have been dead for decades. The Mozambican author Mia Couto once wrote, “The history of any country is no more than a text of juggled paragraphs. Only the future will put them in any order, retouching their account.” As it is for ranking Jewish boxers. As we've gleaned from this profile, new information emerges, and thoughtful evolution should be encouraged.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Al Look Back: Tommy Herman

Since boxing matches have been postponed for the foreseeable future to staunch the spread of coronavirus-2019, The Jewish Boxing Blog is continuing a series called  "A Look Back" that initially ran from 2010-2013. "A Look Back" was an effort to link the past with the present, by producing a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

A lightweight and welterweight contender in the '20s and '30s, the transient and at times unintentionally controversial Tommy Herman faced multiple world champions throughout his career but never in a title bout.

Isaac and Dora Gilbert immigrated from Russia to the United States in 1905 with their two sons, 13 year old Philip and six year old Jacob. Their third son, Abraham Gilbert, was born on January 28, 1909 in Baltimore, Maryland. Abraham, who went by Albert, stayed in Baltimore with his parents while his older brothers relocated to Chicago at some point before 1920. Albert learned to box as a member of the Young Men's Hebrew Association. He won the AAU championship as a flyweight in 1923. A couple months later, at the ripe old age of fourteen, Albert Gilbert became a professional boxer assuming the alias Tommy Herman. It isn't known why he fought under a different name, but perhaps Albert- as was the case with many fighters of that era- was more afraid of his mother Dora finding out about his new trade than he was of his opponents.

Tommy Herman was quite the fresh-faced sensation in Baltimore when he started in the summer of '23. Undefeated after his initial twelve fights in Maryland's largest port city, a document was discovered in early February 1924 that showed Tommy- as did a lot of fighters in his day- had lied about his age. In Maryland, boxers had to be at least 17 years old. The Maryland Boxing Commission briefly banned him from the sport until he became of age. But Herman fought back and the 15 year old was quickly reinstated.

At the same time former lightweight Joe Tipman bought Tommy's contract from Max Prock for $500. Tipman quickly ran into a problem. One of Tommy's older brothers dragged him out of Baltimore to Chicago's West Side for an education at the expense of his nascent boxing career. Herman managed to slip in two fights in the Chicago area that spring before he was forced to take a year off. Tipman was out $500 with nothing to show for it.

Herman soon grew into a lightweight.  For public appearances, he parted his hair slightly left of middle, slicking it towards the back with his hair cut well above the ear. He took his thick legs and squat body type into the ring with Phil McGraw late in 1925 and while there was no official decision, the newspapers sided with the Greek immigrant based in Detroit because of his talent at infighting.

On January 18, 1926, Herman returned to Baltimore for the first time since his brother had schlepped him west. He had noticeably improved his game while in the Midwest. Meanwhile,  his would-be manager Joe Tipman continued to petition for his missing $500 but acknowledged Tommy deserved no fault in the matter. Considered a live dog before his bout with Bobby Garcia, Herman lost his first official fight that day to the Mexican Wildcat. Two months and four fights later, the 17 year old Herman was in tough with world featherweight champion Kid Kaplan in a non-title fight scheduled for lightweight. Kaplan swung wildly from the outside but dominated on the inside. Herman couldn't keep the 5'2" champ off him.

In the fifth, Herman launched a short right that landed on the champion's chin and Kaplan fell to the canvas. The Baltimore faithful exploded in delight! Herman captured momentum and kept landing the right over the next three rounds. But the wily champ took the last five rounds to win on points. In his career, Tommy would fight just twice more in his hometown of Baltimore, both resulting in wins in 1926.

Herman moved camp to Philadelphia where he briefly adopted the nickname of "Kid." He beat the Canadian featherweight champ, Leo "Kid" Roy first on points in July and then scored a second round KO over Roy, also the future Canadian lightweight champ, in the August rematch. Philadelphia remained his base until 1928. In February 1927, Tommy was knocked out in the tenth round in a rematch against Bobby Garcia. It was his first stoppage defeat. Four months later, Herman got his revenge with three knockdowns in the first round. Garcia managed to stay on his feet for the entirety of the second but then suffered ten knockdowns in the third. Finally, after hitting the canvas for the thirteenth time in under nine minutes of action, Garcia could no longer rise before the count of ten.

In August 1927, Herman traveled back to Chicago for one fight, a bout against the South American lightweight champion, Stanislaus Loayza. Lightweight champion Sammy Mandel, an Italian immigrant with a Jewish name, claimed to want a piece of the winner. Loayza punished Tommy on the inside, exposing a weakness Herman possessed against world class opposition. Bloodied by the third, Tommy came back to have a nice tenth, but he had been pulverized and lost his shot at the title. Despite the win, Loayza didn't get a bout with Mandel either.

Herman lost four of five fights at the end of 1927. He was trailing in his lone win when his opponent, Billy Petrolle, suffered a debilitating cut in the seventh round. Herman then all but disappeared from the ring, fighting only twice in fifteen months- both in July 1928 in Philadelphia. He resurfaced during the spring of '29 as a "chunky" and "well-built" welterweight in the South. After a swing through Florida, he traveled to Atlanta, Georgia where The Atlanta Constitution ran a profile of Tommy "Kid" Herman of Chicago.

The newspaper was led to believe that Herman was a 1924 Olympian in the bantamweight division. He wasn't, but the great Jackie Fields of Chicago was. An article in The Washington Post from 1924 claimed that Herman had turned pro after winning his 1923 AAU championship because he "would have been a 100-1 shot to go over to the [O]lympics as the American representative in his class." The Atlanta paper goes on to claim Herman returned from the Paris games and focused on his education refraining from boxing for a year, an assertion that contains only a sliver of truth. Furthermore, the article states that Herman was currently studying "physical culture" as a student at the University of Illinois where he also worked a janitor. The rest of the article accurately describes his previous ring battles.

Perhaps, the short stocky puncher with the powerful right hand did take off time from the ring to move back to Chicago and enroll in school. He was 19 years old when he took off most of 1928. He also stayed out of the ring from September 1929 until June 1930, which would leave him time to focus on his schoolwork. This second layoff happened to coincide with the onset of the Great Depression, however.

Tommy fought seven times in the second half of 1930 including against the now former world lightweight champ Sammy Mandel. Herman was floored in the first and Mandel coasted to an eight-round points win. After six more months off, Herman showed up in California. His first fight back came against future Hall of Famer Young Corbett III, a points loss in San Francisco.

Herman shifted his base once again, this time to Los Angeles, where he became a villain among Mexican-American fans through no fault of his own. He received a controversial points victory on June 30, 1931 against the Mexican welterweight champ, Alfredo Gaona, a former bullfighter who was creating buzz on the West Coast. In the rematch a month later, Herman earned a draw from referee Benny Whitman, who was later punished for his judging. Both decisions caused a near riot at L.A.'s Olympic Auditorium.

The decisions worried Herman's next opponent, David Velasco, a southpaw from Mexico City. His team made a stink about choosing the referee before the fight. It didn't help. Herman was awarded another disputed victory in his September fight with Velasco and then another questionable points win in the rematch in November. By this point, the Mexican-American boxing aficionados of L.A. were praying for justice against Tommy from a pugilist with roots south of the border. In Herman's next bout, Mexican-American Bert Colima prevented a riot with a points win at the Olympic. It was the first of three consecutive decision losses to fighters of Mexican heritage.

In March of 1932, Herman stopped future Hall Of Famer Ceferino Garcia in the tenth round of the first fight of their trilogy. Six months later, he defeated another future Hall of Famer named Freddie Steele in a four-round fight, only the second of Steele's five total career losses. But the Tacoma Assassin, who ultimately finished with 123 wins, won the ten-round rematch by decision. Herman next faced world welterweight champ Jackie Fields in a bout over the weight. There's no evidence that Fields knew of Herman's attempt to usurp his Olympic glory three years earlier in Atlanta, but Fields certainly beat him like he'd heard about it. The champ won by second round knockout.

Herman lost his last six fights, including two to Ceferino Garcia. He was stopped in three of his last four fights, all in 1934, including both losses to Garcia. Following the disputed fights with Velasco, Herman finished his career 6-14 in his last 20 fights including a points loss to Gaona in Mexico City on February 18, 1933.

According to BoxRec, Herman completed his career with a record of 55-30-9, including 15 newspapers decisions in which he went 10-3-2. He scored 21 knockouts and was stopped eight times. Tommy was ranked as the number five welterweight in the world by The Ring in 1932. Boxing historian Mike Silver rates him as a top ten all time Jewish boxer from Baltimore. Herman, of course, moved from his hometown of Baltimore at age 17, stationing in Chicago and then Philadelphia before settling in Los Angeles, where he lived after retiring from the ring at 25 years of age.

Keeping his adopted name, Tommy Herman played bit parts in boxing movies, sometimes as a fighter, but  mostly as a ref or another official. His first gig came in the 1934 film Personality Kid where he played a boxer. In 1936, he started as an amateur coach at East Side Arena in L.A. He soon went into business with actor Bert Wheeler; he trained a fighter the film star managed and served as his stand in on set. By 1940, Herman was am actual boxing referee. Only he, Benny Whitman, and a third ref passed a written test administered by the California commission for boxing referees in 1941. His name occasionally dotted the newspapers in the 1940s and 1950s as a referee and as a boxing judge of notable fights in California. Herman's last spot in a flick was in the film adaption of Budd Shulberg's novel, The Harder They Fall, released in 1956.

Tommy lost his eldest brother Philip in 1967. Albert Gilbert, better known as Tommy Herman, died on March 26, 1972 at the age of 63 in Hollywood, California.

"8 1923 Champions to Defend Titles in A.A.U. Tryouts." The Washington Post. April 2, 1924. S3.
"Herman Starts Training Here." The Atlanta Constitution. Sept. 15, 1929. A4.
Much of the information here comes from countless articles in the The (Baltimore) Sun, Chicago Daily Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. While many articles were unattributed, others were. Marco Polo for The Sun, Walter Eckersall for the Chicago Daily Tribune, and Kay Owe for the Los Angeles Times wrote multiple articles used for this post. These articles were accessed through the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database.
Family information comes from the 1910 and 1920 U.S. censuses.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

A Look Back: Ernie Fliegel

Since boxing matches have been postponed for the foreseeable future to staunch the spread of coronavirus-2019, The Jewish Boxing Blog is continuing a series called  "A Look Back" that initially ran from 2010-2013. "A Look Back" was an effort to link the past with the present, by producing a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

Ernie Fliegel was an immigrant who used boxing as a means to something greater.

Fliegel was born on May 11, 1904 in the eastern Romanian town of Barlad. His childhood home had a dirt floor, and there were no electric lights in town. Since the house didn't have running water, women went down to the river to wash their clothes. There were roughly 6,000 Jews living in the town which made up a quarter of the population. In Romania at the time, Jews couldn't attend public schools, had no political rights, and weren't considered citizens. An economic downturn hit Barlad just before Ernie was born. In 1907, antisemites destroy 80 Jewish shops in town. The Fliegels fled in 1910. They weren't alone; the Jewish population in Barlad had fallen to 5,000 when Ernie's family immigrated to the United States.

Fliegel was six years old when his family left for the U.S. After two weeks in steerage without any sunlight, the family arrived at Ellis Island. Speaking Romanian and Yiddish but no English, it took Ernie's mother six months to earn enough for the train ticket to Minnesota. The family settled in the Romanian Jewish neighborhood on 17th Avenue in Minneapolis. That's where Fliegel learned to fight. Bullies picked on his pudgy younger brother Joe, so Ernie learned to protect him. He became a newsie and had to fight to keep his corner.

Fliegel's father wasn't around that much, so little Ernie considered himself the head of the household that included his mother, sister, grandma, and Joe. His mother was illiterate because girls from Barlad didn't go to school. Ernie had to make money to support the family. After selling newspapers, he got a job working in a women's clothing shop, and that's when he started boxing. "We didn’t box because we liked to box," Ernie remembered years later, "We didn’t start to be professional fighters because we liked to fight. It was necessity."

Fliegel dropped out of high school when he was a sophomore, a decision he later regretted, "If I had an education, I wouldn’t have boxed." He turned pro in 1922 at the age of 18. At first he was moonlighting as a boxer. He made between $15-25 for a fight, which was about as much as he made in a week selling clothes. One day his boss gave Fliegel an ultimatum; he told Ernie that he couldn't come to work all bruised up, he'd either have to give up boxing or leave the clothing store job. Ernie responded, “I’m sorry! I’ll try not to get hit!” But he soon chose boxing.

BoxRec lists Fliegel as participating in only 32 fights beginning in 1923. Fifty years after his last fight, Ernie remembered it differently. He claimed to have boxed three or four times a week. He recalls starting his career in New York and fighting in Minnesota at the Gaiety Theater, the Elks Club, and the Athletic Club, none of which are listed in his BoxRec ledger. His fights on BoxRec mostly took place at the Kenwood Armory.

In his first fight listed on BoxRec, the 5'9" bantamweight scored two knockdowns in earning a points victory over Soldier La Boone at Fort Snelling in Saint Paul, Minnesota. During Fliegel's career, some jurisdictions didn't allow a decision to be rendered if both fighters remained standing after the scheduled rounds were completed. As a workaround, newspapers declared the winner. In 1924, Ernie split a couple of newspaper decisions with Jimmy Josephs, although the loss was disputed.

BoxRec doesn't have any fight listed from the second Josephs fight in March of 1924 until January of the following year for Fliegel. Ernie won three fights within five weeks in the winter of 1925 , before losing a disputed newspaper decision to Nick Olivia in a return bout. Ernie first fought in Denver that summer before continuing west to California. It was a successful road trip as Fliegel went 3-0-1 before returning to Minnesota for a fight in October.

By 1926, Fliegel moved up to the featherweight division. He drew with Pete Sarmiento of the Philippines in 1926 and with California Joe Lynch, who had also fought Ernie's old friend Dandy Dillon, who was also a Jew from Minneapolis. On August 23, Ernie finally lost a fight indisputably when Joey Sangor won a newspaper decision. Three months later, Ernie was stopped for the first and only time in his career, a fourth round technical knockout to Joey Clein. Two months after, Fliegel got his revenge with a  newspaper decision over his conqueror. In February. he beat Billy DeFoe and then Sarmiento again.  At this point his record according to BoxRec was 22-4-5.

Tuesday June 7, 1927 at the Municipal Auditorium in Minneapolis was billed as the "Greatest Boxing Event Ever Held in the Northwest" in that day's Star Tribune. The card featured "internationally known fighters." Tickets could be bought for $1.10, $2.20, or $3.30. Fliegel was to fight DeFoe once again in a ten-round featherweight affair. Ernie was disqualified in the first round because of what he euphemistically called "an accident. It impaired my eyesight." Fliegel apparently lost an eye.

In public pictures in his post-fight career, Ernie could unfailingly be seen donning sunglasses. Unable to box, he worked as a bootlegger for a bit. The 18th Amendment, passed in 1919, ushered in prohibition. Alcohol sales went underground. Fliegel's old trainer and buddy Benny Haskell was a big bootlegger whose enterprise was raided by officials. Haskell and some other bootleggers went legit after the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th in 1933. That year Fliegel and his partner Max Winter, who would later own the Minnesota Vikings, opened the 620 Club.

The 620 Club was a suave joint located at 620 Hennepin Avenue. While Fliegel never became a champion in the ring, his 620 Club did hold the title for most turkey sold in the United States. It eventually closed in 1965.  Fliegel also toiled as a boxing manager and promoter. He became longtime friends with former heavyweight champion  Jack Dempsey, who introduced Ernie to the woman who would become his wife. Another of Ernie's pals was Augie Ratner, a former middleweight boxer who owned a joint on Hennepin that welcomed Jewish gangsters as guests. Ernie was a silent partner with Winter in owning the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers. The sale of the Lakers that would initiate their move to Los Angeles happened at the 620 Club.

Ernie died of a heart attack on July 11, 1982. he was 78 years old.

HerĊŸcovici, Lucian-Zeev. Barlad. YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe.
Lewin, Rhonda G. Interview with Ernie Fliegel. May 7, 1976.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Look Back: The Joseph Brothers

Since boxing matches have been postponed for the foreseeable future due to precautionary measures to staunch the spread of coronavirus-2019, The Jewish Boxing Blog is reviving a series called  "A Look Back" that ran from 2010-2013. "A Look Back" was an effort to link the past with the present, by producing a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

Yankel and Moishe Josofsky didn't rise the level of world champions, but their stories provide a window into what life was like for Jewish immigrants to America during the early decades of the 1900s.

The brothers were born two and a half years apart in Grigoriopol, Russia. Now part of Moldova, Grigoriopol sits on the Dnister River and is just inside the Transnistria Autonomous region. The town, which is 30 miles east of Chisinau and 100 miles northwest of Odessa, was home to about 8,000 people when the brothers were born. A little over 10% of them were Jewish. Anti-Semitism was a reality of life. Anti-Jewish pogroms hit the area especially hard during the 1880s and during the first decade of the new century.

Yankel and Moishe's parents, Nathan and Eva, had seven children. Nathan and his eldest son Samuel left for the United States in 1910 to establish a new life and make some money in order to bring over the rest of the family. The remaining members came over the following year. Yankel and Moishe's names were changed to Jack and Danny Joseph in an effort to Americanize. Their primary language was Yiddish with some Russian thrown in. The family settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Though still a boy, Jack got a job as a newsie. Danny followed his older brother into the profession. The brothers learned quickly that selling newspapers was a rough game. The two small boys needed to scrap in order to maintain a profitable corner. Danny soon followed Jack into a boxing gym and the two fell in love with the sport.

At 5'7", Jack's weight tended to stay around 140 pounds. The junior welterweight division didn't come into existence until after Jack's death, so he fought as a small welterweight. His first professional fight occurred on January 3, 1919 when he was 18 years old. He fought under the name Jack Josephs.

Danny was an inch shorter but started out as a flyweight. He was known for his fast starts. A pressure fighter, he was also a volume puncher who tended to fade a bit towards the end of fights. His debut came a year after his brother's when Danny was only 16 years old. Danny had earned the nickname Dandy in the gym, not because he was dressed particularly well, but because he was viewed as a good prospect. His moniker became Dandy Dillon because his manager thought he looked like light heavyweight champion Jack Dillon.

Boxing was outlawed in Minnesota until 1915. Even after it became legal the only way to win a fight was by knockout. If a fight ran its course and both men were still standing, the fight was officially deemed a no decision. However, to get around this law, newspapers printed their opinion of who won and that was generally accepted although different newspapers didn't always agree.

During this time, fighters fought every couple of weeks or so. A two-month break was a long layoff. While records from this era are incomplete, it is believed Jack Josephs's career started slowly. In his first five fights, he was 0-2-3, according to BoxRec. Four of those were newspaper decisions and he was stopped in the fourth round against Johnny Noye, a veteran boxer and Austrian immigrant. Jack would avenge that stoppage loss two years later. Josephs earned his first victory, a third round KO before Dandy's career commenced.

Dandy Dillon's career got off to a much more auspicious start than did his brother's. He won his first ten fights. Most of his eight newspaper decision victories took place in Minnesota. His other two victories were by referee's decision: one in New Jersey on the undercard of a Battling Levinsky card and the other in Canada. After a draw, he won four more fights before drawing two in a row.

Dandy was 15-0-3 when he knocked out Percy Buzza on December 3, 1920 to capture the Canadian flyweight title. It is a peculiar bit of logic, one unique to boxing, that a Russian Jewish immigrant based in Minnesota would win the Canadian flyweight crown. After another win, Dillon was outboxed by the proficient veteran Frankie Mason for his first pro loss. Three months later, in May of 1921, Dandy Danny avenged the loss by newspaper decision in Iowa.

Meanwhile, from June 1920 until August 1922, Jack Josephs fought sixteen straight bouts without a defeat. Most of those fights took place in Minnesota. Josephs traveled to Seattle for a fight on August 23, 1922. In a bizarre bout against former Pacific Coast welterweight champion Travie Davis, Josephs was nearly knocked out at the end of the third round but was seemingly saved by the bell. The referee, however, didn't hear the bell and declared Davis the winner. Davis went back to the locker room and got dressed. The commission overruled the referee and called for Davis to come back, but his fans urged him not to. Davis was finally convinced to come back to the ring and eventually stopped Josephs (again) in the sixth round ending Jack's undefeated streak. From that point forward, Jack lost many more fights than he won.

On October 27, 1922, Dandy put his 23-1-5 record on the line against Joe Burgess in Denver, Colorado. Dillon pounded Burgess over ten rounds, but the judges gave the decision to man from Chicago. The crowd was so outraged they punched the judges in the face. Though the people around Dandy told him to shake off the loss and dismiss it as a corrupt decision, his confidence took a hit and his career wouldn't recover.

The brothers moved to Los Angeles, California to continue their boxing careers. While they enjoyed the weather, the West Coast produced better opponents than had the Midwest. Dandy was competitive against some quality fighters such as Frankie Garcia, Tod Morgan, and Vic Foley. Jack did a lot of losing to mostly solid foes. His best victory during that period was a four-round points win over Oakland Jimmy Duffy, who beat Jack in their next two battles.

Dandy was scheduled to fight on the undercard of Jack Dempsey vs. Tommy Gibbons in Shelby, Montana on July 4, 1923. Unfortunately for Dillon, the town of Shelby, Montana, and investors the gate was a total disaster. Dandy's fight was cancelled to cut losses and get the catastrophic event over as quickly as possible. Dillon was also scheduled to be on the first card at the newly built Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, but he came down with an illness and had to back out of the historic opening.

Jack retired from boxing in 1924 at the ripe old age of 24 with a record of 20-20-9 with three KOs. Dandy held out until 1927. He was 23 years old when he retired with a record of 34-19-13 with 9 KOs.

December 14, 1938 was Jack's 38th birthday. He had been suffering from debilitating headaches for some time when his brother called him to wish him a happy birthday. While on the phone, Danny heard his brother fire a gun at his own head and take his life. The event turned Danny against guns for the remainder of his life. Today, roughly two thirds of the approximately 30,000 annual gun deaths in America are suicides.

Danny married four times. At various times he ran a beer garden in Los Angeles, a restaurant in San Francisco, was a greeter at a casino, and drove a taxi. One of his sons, Daniel, wrote a book about his life. Dandy Danny died of a heart attack on February 28, 1968.

Joseph, Daniel P. Dandy: A Jewish Boxer's Journey from Russian Immigrant to Boxing Champion. 2011.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Kaminsky Fight Postponed

Middleweight prospect David Kaminsky was scheduled to fight on April 11 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on the undercard of Jerwin Ancajas-Jonathan Rodriguez. That card has been postponed indefinitely because of the global pandemic Coronavirus-2019.

Currently, there have been over 17,000 cases of the virus in the United States with that number rising rapidly today. There have been over 200 deaths due to the disease in the country. In Nevada, there have been 96 identified cases and one death thus far.

The number of reported cases are supposed to rise exponentially as testing becomes more readily available. The U.S. is behind other countries in terms of testing for the virus. Because the virus spreads so easily, there likely won't be any boxing matches in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Chilemba's Fight with Chudinov Postponed Indefinitely

Isaac Chilemba was scheduled to fight Fedor Chudinov this Saturday in Russia, but that fight has been postponed indefinitely. Chilemba had issues finding a flight to get over Russia because of coronavirus-2019. The fight was canceled however, because Russia banned foreign nationals from entering the country and canceled all major events including sporting ones.

Chilemba last fought in December, a unanimous decision over Alecander Kubich in Greece. The Golden Boy is 26-7-2 with 10 KOs.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Chilemba's Fight with Chudinov in Doubt

Isaac Chilemba's scheduled bout with Fedor Chudinov this Saturday in Russia is in doubt at the moment because Chilemba has been unable to get a flight from his base in South Africa to the location of the fight in Vladikavkaz, according to Mphatso Malidadi of The Times.

The global pandemic coronoavirus-2019 has forced airlines around the world to cancel numerous flights. Chilemba was originally scheduled to fly out Saturday night for the bout with Chudinov, but if he can't catch a flight within the next day or so, the fight will be cancelled. "I cannot fly in two or three days before the fight," Chilemba told Malidadi. "I won’t have time to recover from [an] 18 hours[-]plus flight and fight. I need more than four days to get rid of jet lag for the body to perform."

There are currently 62 known cases of coronavirus in South Africa. Yesterday the president Cyril Ramaphosa announced travel restrictions, a ban on large gatherings, and the closure of schools in the country starting on Wednesday in an effort to slow the progress of the disease which will infect exponentially more people if action is not taken.

The JBB will provide an update for the Chilemba fight as information becomes available.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Chilemba to Face Chudinov

Isaac Chilemba is scheduled to face Fedor Chudinov in a crossroads fight on Saturday, March 21 at Manezh in the southern town of Vladikavkaz, Russia near the Georgian border. While professional sports in the United States has been shutdown due to the global pandemic coronavirus-2019, the same measures have not been taken in Russia. Officially Russia has 63 reported cases although there are concerns that Russian officials are under-reporting the number of patients. The number is expected to increase exponentially regardless, which puts the fight in doubt at this moment.

Chilemba (26-7-2, 10 KOs) is just 2-5 in his last seven fights, but he has faced almost all of the best light heavyweights of the post-Ward pre-Canelo era during that span. Chilemba lost a disputed decision to Eleider Alvarez in 2015. He next fought tough against Sergey Kovalev, who was a pound-for-pound top ten fighter at the time. Chilemba then lost to future lineal light heavyweight champion Olexandr Gvozdyk after breaking his hand.

Chilemba came back a year and four months later to defeat Blake Caparello before losing to the talented Dmitry Bivol by decision. Last year, Chilemba lost a rematch against contender Maksim Vlasov and then beat journeyman cruiserweight Alexander Kubich; both fights went to the cards.

While Chilemba is a masterful defensive boxer, Chudinov (22-2, 15 KOs) is a pressure fighter and volume puncher who looks to get inside and hit whatever he can in the hopes of wearing down the opponent. In May of 2015, the Russian warrior beat Felix Sturm by split decision in Germany to win a world title strap. After one defense, Chudinov lost the rematch to Sturm by majority decision in what many observers describe as a robbery.

After a fifteen-month layoff, Chudinov returned to face George Groves in 2017 for a vacant world title belt. Chudinov's pressure seemed to break down Groves through the first five rounds of the contest. In the sixth, Groves landed some hard overhand rights as Chudinov stormed towards him. Chudinov was wobbled and eventually fell. He beat the count, but referee Steve Gray waved off the fight despite the protests of Chudinov.

The Russian super middleweight has won eight straight fights since the Groves loss. His best win in that span was against Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam in his last fight in December. Neither man was able to land too many clean shots, but Chudinov controlled center ring as N'Dam moved along the perimeter. Chudinov swept two of the judges' cards.

Chudinov, who is listed as 5'9", doesn't jab on his way to the inside. Except against Groves, he's shown a good chin and tests it as he makes his way in. Once inside, Chudinov throws wide shots around the opponent's guard.

Two strategies for neutralizing Chudinov's relentless pressure is for a taller fighter to use their jab at range or slip and counter. Ezequiel Maderna, who doesn't possess the fastest hands, managed to keep Chudinov at bay with his long jab for the first few rounds of their bout last July. Eventually, Chudinov landed a big right uppercut that forced Maderna down and out in the tenth round. Nadjib Mohammedi started slipping Chudinov's pressure in the middle rounds of their fight in 2018, but he didn't counter enough and lost a split decision.

Chilemba, who is four and half inches taller than Chudinov but only has a one-inch reach advantage, typically potshots and jabs at distance though he will get drawn into a fire-fight on occasion. The Malawian man tends to be more of a perfectionist with his punches looking for the eye-catching blow, and thus throws at a lower rate than Chudinov. Chudinov is there to be hit when he comes in, but once inside Chilemba will likely need to hold or escape. The Russian is more than just a crude pressure fighter, however. He can box; he just rarely does. Defensively, he prefers to parry punches rather than slip and counter like Chilemba.

Though Chilemba started his career three and half years earlier and has eleven more professional matches on his record, he's actually nine months younger than Chudinov. Chilemba is the naturally bigger man, having vacillated between the super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions while Chudinov is a career super middleweight. Chilemba was a career high 188.25 pounds in his last fight on December 13, so it could be a challenge to make the 168 pound limit comfortably as he hasn't done so in nearly ten years.

This fight is scheduled for ten rounds.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Sinakin Remains Undefeated

Light heavyweight Benny "Jewish Bulldog" Sinakin defeated veteran Leroy Jones by unanimous decision tonight at Bally's in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Sinakin dominated the fight. Jones was very defensive and fought ugly. He was deducted a point on two occasions, once in the third and another in the fourth, for excessive holding. Jones was hurt just before the final bell to end the third round.

The Jewish Bulldog often rushed in and threw hard combinations trying to find holes in Jones's tight guard. Sinakin wasn't afraid to attack the body. He didn't jab much on the way because he didn't have to. The few times Jones released his hands, he unintentionally warned Benny with a loud yell. Sinakin swiveled his hips from time to time to taunt Jones, who still refused to engage.

Sinakin swept the cards with each of the three judges scoring the contest 40-34. Sinakin is now 6-0 with three KOs while Jones, who still hasn't been stopped, is 3-8 with two KOs.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Yuri Foreman Could Return to the Ring

Rabbi Yuri Foreman is considering another return to the ring. Yesterday, he posted on Facebook that he hopes to share news about a comeback soon. Foreman has hinted before about potentially reinvigorating his boxing career in the past couple of years, but more telling is that he is currently enrolled in VADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. His enrollment is an indication of his seriousness in attempting a comeback.

Foreman held the WBA junior middleweight world title after defeating Daniel Santos on November 14, 2009. Seven months later he lost the belt to future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto in a bout in which Foreman earned tons of respect for fighting with a torn-up knee in the first boxing card at the new Yankee Stadium.

Foreman came back just nine months later and was flat against the talented pressure-fighter, Pawel Wolak. Yuri then retired. But after nearly two years out of the ring, he came back in 2013 and rattled off six straight victories.

Foreman's last fight was on January 13, 2017. He faced pound-for-pound great Erislandy Lara for a world title belt and was stopped in the fourth round.

The Brooklyn-based fighter will turn 40 this year. At his best, he was a lightning-fast master-boxer who was panned by the blood-and-guts crowd for being boring but thoroughly respected by those who appreciate the sweet science.

Incidentally, Foreman is the only athlete The JBB currently covers that is enrolled in VADA according to BoxRec.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Sinakin has a New Opponent

Light heavyweight Benny Sinakin is now scheduled to face Leroy "The Jackhammer" Jones this Saturday at Bally's in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Jones has the most experience of any opponent Sinakin has faced.

Sinakin is 5-0 with three KOs. He stopped Ferris Golden in the third round of his last fight in October.

Jones is 3-7 with two KOs. The Nigerian-born resident of St. Louis, Missouri has never been stopped, but he has lost seven of his last eight bouts. All three of his wins have come in the state of Kansas against foes who did not possess a winning record.

Jones, 29 years old, is seven years older than Sinakin, but he has a one-inch height advantage according to BoxRec. This bout is scheduled for four rounds.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Basin and Abramov Win

Nikita Basin and Artur Abramov each won by way of first round stoppage on a card in Holon, Israel on January 25. Basin won by TKO with thirty seconds remaining in the opening round against Mykhaylo Ihnatiuk.

Basin is now 4-0 with 4 KOs. Ihnatiuk, a Ukrainian who had a six-pound weight advantage heading into the fight, is winless in seven tries. He has been stopped in each of his fights, including against Nur Rabia last October.

Abramov, a 24 year old from Jerusalem, made his debut that night against Alaa Abu Naji. Both fighters came in over the cruiserweight limit of 200 pounds. Abramov landed a couple of overhand rights to score the knockout after two minutes and 45 seconds of action. Naji, a 23 year old from Nazareth was also making his debut.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Seldin Scores Fifth KO in a Row

Cletus Seldin beat Luis Eduardo Florez last night at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, New York by way pf seventh round TKO.

Seldin was aggressive early, but the veteran Colombian was able to counter in order to weather the storm. Florez suffered a cut that forced the end of the fight a minute and eleven seconds into the seventh.

This was Seldin's seventeenth fight at the Paramount, and his fifth straight stoppage victory since the lone loss of his career.

Florez, who had nearly a four-pound advantage, was a late replacement. The 33 year old doesn't have the most impressive record, but he has faced some quality fighters such as Regis Prograis, Jamell Herring, Miguel Berchelt, and Brian Ceballo to name a few. He stopped Berchelt in the first round of their 2014 fight for Berchelt's only career loss and Florez's only win outside of his native Colombia.

Seldin is now 25-1 with 21 KOs and Florez is 25-16 with 21 KO. This was the ninth time Florez has been stopped.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Lazarev Squeaks by for Sixth Win

Lightweight Igor Lazarev defeated Stefan Nicolae in a tough contest at the Stella Resort in Kashar, Albania last Saturday. Lazarev, a hard-charging body puncher, won by majority decision against his awkward switch-hitting opponent.

The judges' scores were 58-56 (twice) and 57-57. All three are inexperienced judges from Albania. Lazarev, a 33 year old,  is now 6-0 with two KOs. Nicolae is now 3-22-1 but hasn't been stopped in seven fights in a row.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sinakin Returns in March

Benny Sinakin is scheduled to return to the ring on March 7 at Bally's  in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The light heavyweight is slated to battle Francisco Ariri Neto in a four round affair.

Siankin (5-0, 3 KOs) has fought all of his pro bouts in his hometown of Philadelphia. The Jewish Bulldog fought four times in the sixth months he turned pro, but his career has slowed a bit since. Sinakin earned his fifth victory after a six month layoff. When March 7 rolls around, it will be five months since his third round TKO victory over Ferris Golden.

Neto is a month away from becoming a quadragenarian and cannot boast of a decent record. The Brazilian-born Massachusetts-resident is 1-8. His one win was a TKO victory almost a year ago, but seven of his eight losses we by knockout. In six of those losses, Neto didn't even last a round, including his last five fights.

Neto has a 17-year age disadvantage and a three and half inch height disadvantage against Sinakin. Neto has been as light as super middleweight and as heavy as cruiserweight. Two fights ago, Neto gave up 60 pounds to his opponent, Justin Rolfe. While Neto will certainly suffer from a talent deficit against Sinakin, the weight disparity won't be as unfair.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Lazarev to Fight In Albania Again

Igor Lazarev is scheduled to fight in Albania for the second time in his career on February 22. This bout will take place against Romanian Stefan Nicolae at Stela Resort in Kashar.

Lazarev (5-0, 2 KOs) is a pressure fighter who attacks the body relentlessly. The 33 year old Israeli resident beat Dmytro Kostenko last October. His first fight in Albania took place last September in Tirana and resulted in a split decision victory over Landro Xhelili.

Nicolae, a 28 year old from Romania, sports a rather unimpressive 3-21-1 record. He has one KO and has been stopped seven times. However, Nicolae hasn't been KOed in his last nine bouts and earned his one KO in that span. He has lost his last five fights, but four of them were against undefeated opponents.

The Romanian fighter has traveled all over Europe for his matches, but interestingly has never fought in Romania. Though younger and yet more experienced, Nicolae has some stark disadvantages heading into this contest. BoxRec lists him at 5'3", which is five and half inches shorter than Lazarev. Nicolae's last fight was at junior featherweight while Lazarev, a lightweight, fights three divisions heavier.

This bout is scheduled for six rounds. Nicolae has fought as many as six rounds eight times while Igor has gone at least six twice, included an eight round decision victory in his last fight.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Seldin to Fight This Month

Cletus Seldin is scheduled to fight on February 28 at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, New York. Humberto Martinez, a veteran from Colombia, is listed as his opponent.

This is a stay-busy fight for the 33 year old Seldin, who is coming off a TKO victory against Zab Judah last June. Cletus is 24-1 with 20 KOs and is known for possessing freakish power in his overhand right.

Martinez is a 36 year old with a 33-9-2 record. His ledger looks better than it is. Martinez has only beaten seven opponents with a winning record and none of them had particularly stellar careers. Colombia is a good boxing country, but the best boxers from the South American nation have had success elsewhere. Martinez has won only once outside of Colombia and that was a close decision victory over an 11-13 fighter in Mexico six years ago.

Colombian fighters are known for possessing punching power and Martinez has 25 KOs. But he has been stopped five times. He's 6-1-1 in his last eight fights, but only the only time he faced someone with a good record was in a loss last February to Zaur Abdullaev. While Abdullev later was stopped in the fourth round against hot prospect Devin Haney, Martinez hasn't been back in the ring.

Martinez has some disadvantages. Besides the three year age disadvantage and enduring a longer layoff, he's a natural lightweight while Seldin has hovered around the junior welterweight for most of his career. Seldin is three inches taller and has a longer reach by three inches as well. This will be Humberto's first fight in the United States.

The bout is scheduled for ten rounds.