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Monday, January 18, 2021

A Look Back: Al Singer

 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.

July 17, 1930
Al Singer stands across from the longtime world lightweight champion, Sammy Mandell, in a ring on a balmy Thursday night in Yankee Stadium. The "Rockford Sheikh" is an Italian immigrant who fights out of the "Screw Capital of the World" in northern Illinois. The 26 year old battles under a Jewish moniker, with an Arab nickname, and is of Italian heritage. He won the lightweight title four years earlier with a ten-round points victory over another Italian-American battler Rocky "Little Hercules" Kansas.

Singer only turned professional the year after Mandell won the championship. Born twenty years ago to a lady's garment entrepreneur and his wife, Abraham was one of five kids: four sons and a daughter. He spent his formative years living on Broome Street in New York's Lower East Side, before the family found a fancier place in Harlem. The Singers next moved all around the Bronx when his dad's business boomed and then settled in Pelham, a middle class neighborhood just south of Mount Vernon.

For his first title fight Singer had a good camp in Pennsylvania's Delaware Water Gap, about a hundred miles east of home. He broke camp two days prior, on Tuesday, after sparring two rounds each with eleven-year pro Lou Paluso, New York club fighter Jackie Schweitzer, and the unknown Sammy Bender before heading back home to the Bronx. Mandell trained closer to Yankee Stadium at Gus Wilson's Roadside Rest in Orangeburg, just north of New York's border with New Jersey on the west bank of the Hudson River. He last sparred four rounds with three undersized partners on Monday, and he nearly knocked out one, a youngster named Peter Gutherie. Mandell slid under the lightweight limit that day but stayed in camp until Wednesday.

Abraham's original plan wasn't to box for the lightweight championship. He planned to become a diamond cutter, but he was simply too good an athlete. His first love was basketball, but the sport didn't offer any financial stability in the 1920s even for the best players. It didn't help that if you rounded up, Abraham stood 5'5". He took to boxing like a natural and found fast success as an amateur. That's when he picked up the first name Al.

On Tuesday, Westbrook Pegler's article in the Chicago Daily Tribune brought up a curious allegation: Mandell's having trouble trimming down to 135 and this fight's a ruse in order to sell the crown to Singer. Mandell's manager, Eddie Kane, denies the charge. As does Singer's camp.

Singer's no stranger to talk of fixes. As an amateur, Hymie Caplan and Harry Drucker saw promise in Al and took over the reins of his career. According to Ken Blady, Singer later claimed that Drucker was taken from a restaurant in 1928 by two men disguised as detectives and was never seen again. The fall of 1927 was a bad season for guys named Harry Drucker from the Bronx. An affable garage owner by that name, who possessed no known enemies, was shot in September. The garage owner was supposedly a victim of gang violence but wouldn't help with the investigation. Another Harry Drucker was described as a criminal and murdered by Rubin Kaplan on October 7. Kaplan claimed Drucker squawked too much like a boastful canary. Men disguised as detectives convinced this Drucker to leave a restaurant and enter their car.

Despite the rumors, the Drucker saga likely didn't signify Singer's entry into an association with the mob. Rumors swirled that some of Al's early fights were fixed, but his brother Dan, not someone linked with the mob, took over the deceased Drucker's role. Regardless, Singer isn't worried about Harry Drucker or the mob in the ring. He's concerned about this unfamiliar "abdominal guard" that is supposed to render a low blow moot.

Two weeks earlier, the New York Commission changed the foul rule and clarified the new rule last week. Low blows had been cause for disqualification before the rule adjustment, but now the perpetrator would only lose the round. Last month- on June 12- at this same venue, the "Boston Gob" Jack Sharkey clearly outboxed Max Schmeling through nearly four full rounds when he whacked the German low with a left hook. Schmeling, who had been rushing forward, fell in a heap. His men had to drag him to his corner he was in such pain. Referee Jim Crowley actually missed it and conferred with judges Harold Barnes and Charles Mathison. Under this new rule, the referee couldn't ask anyone else. Since Crowley didn't see the lowblow, Schmeling would have lost by KO. The New York Commission would change the rule again in 1936.

Mandel is expected to outbox Singer just as Sharkey did Schmeling last month. Experts believe he has the fastest hands in the lightweight division and superior ring generalship. Agile with an educated left hand, Mandel had perhaps his best performance in masterfully outboxing Jimmy McLarnin two years earlier.

The champion sparred five impressive rounds on Saturday before peaking on Tuesday with his near knockout of Gutherie. Singer isn't credited with the all-around gifts of Mandell, but most experts pin his hopes on his power, particularly in his right.

On Sunday, The Washington Post ran a story on Singer's right hand. In Saturday's sparring, Singer used a "short powerful right which gathered all its speed in 8 to 10 inches." He was no longer slugging with his sparring partners, a necessary adjustment against the defensively slick Mandell. While Mandell looked good at the end of camp, there have been some worrying signs from the Rockford man in general. He lost two decisions to McLarnin in over-the-weight bouts within the last year. Back in '28, Sammy broke his collarbone in an over-the-limit fight against Jimmy Goodrich, resulting in a second round TKO loss and a four-month absence from the ring. Mandell hasn't made the 135 pound limit since his last title defense, a split decision win over Tony Canzoneri in Chicago about a year ago.

Singer's boxing ability is a bit underrated too. His nickname is the "Bronx Beauty" because he is from the Bronx and he is a handsome man. But he also boxes handsomely, moving gracefully. Senator Wild Bill Lyons wrote of Singer in The Ring, "He hits with the kick of a [Benny] Leonard, has the cunning of an [Abe] Attell, and combines the cleverness of both." Though many experts pick Mandell, Singer is a three to one favorite by the time the opening bell rings.

Mandell paws with the jab after hearing that opening bell. Singer initiates the violence with a lead left hook to the body. Mandell grimaces. After circling to their respective lefts for two full rotations, Singer feints and fires a lead left hook that crashes into the champion's chin. The Rockford Sheikh drops to the canvas. He unwisely rises at the count of two, and Singer pounces. Mandell retreats. The younger Bronx boy lands his left hooks and short rights as the ropes impede Mandell's backpedaling. The champ then collapses. No single punch does the trick; he has simply been pounded silly. He rises but after another left hook to the body, he can't keep his hands up anymore. Singer senses the title is his and refuses to relent. After a left hook that snaps Sammy's head back, Mandell falls a third time. Improbably, he gets up again, barely conscious. Singer lands a right and left combination that flings Mandell back into the ropes. He ricochets off the ropes and into Singer's short powerful right. Referee Arthur Donovan swings his arm by rote ten times while Mandell lays motionless. The former champion's corner men collect him and carry him to the corner.

The fight lasts only a minute and 46 seconds and is one of the shortest bouts ever in which the title changes hands. Al Singer, the light heavyweight champion of the world, is elated as are the Bronx faithful in attendance.

Check back tomorrow for part 2: August 7, 1930.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Ostroumov Off Today's Moscow Card

Southpaw super middleweight Mikhael Ostroumov was originally scheduled to fight tonight against veteran journeyman Konstantin Piternov at USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia.  While the card will go on, neither Ostroumov nor Piternov is scheduled to take part according to BoxRec.

Two weeks ago, Ostroumov won every round against Evgenii Tershukov. But an accidental clash of heads caused the fight to be stopped in the fifth round. Ostroumov won a technical unanimous decision to go 3-0-1 with one KO. Ostroumov, who turned 23 years old that same night, could be seen around Moscow sporting a bruised right eye from the bout.

Ostroumov turned pro on June 27. His lone draw came on September 4 against Ravshan Ergashev, who was 5-0 at the time. The JBB scored the fight for the Israeli-born fighter. Piternov would have represented an interesting challenge. The 37 year old from Russia sports a 22-25 record with 10 KOs. He started his career 12-0 before becoming an opponent for fighters on the way up. He is a fast starter, but often curiously bows out of fights due to injury.

Mikhael has shown an ability to box and also to apply pressure in his young career. He is an adept body puncher and has the look of a good prospect.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Three Jewish Boxers Win

Igor Lazarev rebounded from a second round stoppage loss in September- his first career setback- with a first round knockout of Hakan Ozdemir on a body shot. After his win in Istanbul, Lazarev is now 7-1 with 3 KOs. Ozdemir is now 0-2. 

Sagiv Ismailov, who fought on the same card as Lazarev, won his second pro fight by technical knockout. He scored three knockdowns in defeating Merdan Hudaykulyyev and is now 2-0 with 2 KOs. Ismailov landed two lefts from the southpaw stance to get the first knockdown. He landed a left hook from a right-handed stance to get the second knockdown.Hudaykulyyev was overwhelmed by Sagiv's hard blows when he fell a third and final time. Hudaykulyyev, who is listed on Boxrec, as a 20 year old resident of Turkey who was born in Turkmenistan, is now 1-2 with one KO.

Mikhael Ostroumov defeated Evgenii Tershukov in Vladikavkaz, Russia. The fight was stopped a minute and 23 seconds into the fifth round due to a cut caused from a head clash. Ostroumov won each of the five rounds on all three judges' cards to take a technical decision. He is now 3-0-1 with one KO. Tershukov falls to 0-11.