Barney Ross: Gangster, Boxer, Hero

Posted

Street gangster, prize fighter and war hero, Barney Ross’ greater than life story was unmatched inside and outside the ring. 

Born Dov-Ber Rosofsky in 1909, his dreams of becoming a Talmudic scholar were shattered when his father, a rabbi and shopkeeper, was killed in a robbery.  The family split up, home life fell to ruin, and the bitter and resentful fourteen-year old Dov took to the streets. 

He soon cavorted with Chicago’s underworld, becoming a brawler and picking up boxing with the hopes of earning enough to buy a place and reunite with his mother and siblings. 

One of his running buddies in the local mob was Jack Ruby, the future killer of JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.  Al Capone briefly employed the young pugilist and was even said to help out financially by buying up his fight tickets in the early years.  

Changing his name to Barney Ross, the hard luck kid fought his way up the amateur ranks to become the Intercity and Chicago Golden Gloves champion at age nineteen.  

Not known for knockout power, his fighting style would nevertheless be marked by great intensity, stamina and a solid chin. 

At his first shot for a title in 1933, Ross came away with two categories by defeating Lightweight and Light Welterweight belt holder, Toni Canzoneri.  A year later he earned a rare third Welterweight division title against fellow future Hall of Famer,  Jimmy McLarnin. 

In 81 career  fights, Ross won 72 including 22 knockouts. He was never TKO'ed himself.  

The final bout came in 1938 against world champion and all-time great, Henry Armstrong.  Relentlessly pounded for most of 15 rounds, Ross refused to go down despite pleas from his trainers and lost on decision. 

One explanation is that the Chicago tough saw himself as the embodiment of Jewish resistance in the face of adversity and was also a national hero to his people during Hitler’s rise to power. Years later he would tap mob contacts to supply arms for the new state of Israel.  

Though already in his 30's, the renowned boxer enlisted in the Marines following Pearl Harbor and was later awarded the Silver Star for extreme bravery at the battle of Guadalcanal. 

But Life back home did not come easy for the celebrity slugger. He fell to heroin addiction due to morphine treatments administered for his war wounds, though he eventually kicked the habit. 

Regarded by many as a national treasure, Ross died on January 17, 1967.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

Shop For Our Books & DVD's

WEEKLY SPORTS PUZZLE

View larger Puzzle archive


THIS WEEK

10 years ago

MOTOR RACING November 1, 2009  British car racer Jensen Button wins his first and last Formula One World Championship title after finishing 3rd at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the calendar year. Button clinched 6 GPs that season, including Monte Carlo, accumulating the most points at 95, or 11 ahead of runner-up Sebastian Vettel.

20 years ago

RUGBY November 6, 1999  Australia wins the 4th quadrennial Rugby World Cup championship after defeating France 35-12 in the Final. Wales was the official host to the tournament, which saw 65 national teams qualify for 20 spots at the 37-day event. The U.S. lost all 3 of its group matches, including a 53-8 crushing against Ireland, and was dispatched early.

30 years ago

BASEBALL November 3, 1989  Lou Piniella replaces Pete Rose as Manager of the Cincinnati Reds. It was Rose’s last year in professional baseball after being banned for life due to gambling activities in MLB games. Piniella stayed on for three seasons, leading the Reds to a World Series victory in just his first year as Manager with the mid-west franchise.

40 years ago

BASKETBALL October 30, 1979  The Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Chicago Bulls 111-105, winning a fifth straight game and posting an early season record of 7-2. In the first NBA season to implement the 3-point shot, they would go on to clinch the national Championship against the Philadelphia 76ers. Rookie Magic Johnson took home the MVP award.