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  April 20, 2008- Danica Patrick wins the Indy Japan 300, becoming the first ever female driver to win at an Indy car race.  In 2005, the Wisconsin native was named Rookie of The Year for the Indianapolis 500 and the Indycar series after taking three pole positions. She is the most successful woman in American open-wheel racing.

20 years ago

FOOTBALL  April 18, 1998- At the NFL draft, QB Peyton Manning is the first pick by the Indianapolis Colts.  Coming out of the University of Tennessee, Manning was the school’s all-time leading passer and also held the most victories in the SEC. He would go on to win 2 Super Bowl championships- XLI with the Colts and 50 with the Broncos.

30 years ago

BASEBALL  April 20, 1988- The Baltimore Orioles set the worst record in MLB for a season start, going 0-14. They would lose the next 7 games before finally turning a game. Manager Cal Ripken was fired after posting 0-6  and replaced by Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson.  The Mid-Atlantic franchise closed out the year at 54-107.

40 years ago

RUNNING  April 17, 1978- Bill Rodgers wins the 82nd annual Boston Marathon, crossing the finish line with a time of 2:10:13. It was the second victory for the Connecticut native who would go on to claim two more consecutive marathons in “Beantown”. The long distance running master also won the NYC Marathon 4 straight years in a row from 1976-79.