Holy Jewish Heavyweights, Batman!

By Clarence George on September 22, 2013
Holy Jewish Heavyweights, Batman!
Feldman (35-14-5, 15 KOs) fought Tony Galento, who stopped him by third-round TKO.

Feldman came to New York where he met Hymie Caplin, who became his manager. “He told me I was a fighter,” said Abe, “and that settled it…”

Stewardess: Would you like something to read?
Passenger: Do you have anything light?
Stewardess: How about this leaflet, “Famous Jewish Sports Legends”?
—Airplane!

As boxing’s cognoscenti know, the above-quoted joke is more amusing than accurate. Without diminishing, let alone dismissing, the mighty pugilistic contributions of a host of ethnicities, including Italians, Mexicans, blacks, and the Irish, Jews from Daniel Mendoza to Yuri Foreman have added tablespoons of tsuker to the Sweet Science.

The Jewish Boxing Alliance lists 26 “Gold Star Champs,” including Benny Leonard, Barney Ross, Maxie Rosenbloom, Battling Levinsky, Jackie Fields, Jack “Kid” Berg, Louis “Kid” Kaplan, and Abe Attell, subtly nicknamed “The Little Hebrew.” 

True, relatively few Jews have fought at the heavyweight level, but there are indeed worthy exceptions, including Max and Buddy Baer, Abe Simon, and Randy Neumann. A personal favorite of mine deserves more than casual mention: Abe Feldman. 

Born in 1912 in Salt Lake City, Utah (somebody obviously took a wrong turn at Hester Street), Feldman moved to Schenectady, New York, at the age of six. Leaving no cultural stereotype unturned, his parents wanted him to attend Syracuse University or the University of Pennsylvania, no doubt hoping he’d become a doctor. And if not a doctor-a-doctor, then at least a doctor-a-dentist. But Abe was otherwise inclined. He’d boxed while in high school, and came to New York City after graduation, where he met Hymie Caplin, who became his manager. “He told me I was a fighter,” said Abe, “and that settled it.”

Feldman (35-14-5, 15 KOs) fought from 1932 to 1939, taking on the light heavies and heavies of his time, including the tough and experienced “Bulldog of the Rhine,” Adolf Heuser, whom he beat by fourth-round TKO; Jimmy Braddock, who broke his right hand during the fight, resulting in a no-contest; Al Ettore, whom he beat twice on points; Bob Olin, against whom he drew; Steve Dudas, whom he beat two out of three (their third fight, which Abe won, was described as “slashing” by the New York Times); Rosenbloom, to whom he lost on points; Freddie Fiducia, who fought from fly to heavy, and to whom Abe lost on points; and Tony Galento, who stopped him by third-round TKO.

New Jersey’s answer to fat bartenders “followed his usual tactics of swinging both ponderous fists, and Feldman could fight back only feebly,” reported the Times. A precursor to George Chuvalo’s “What are you, nuts?” when referee Arthur Mercante stopped the George Foreman bout, Feldman “suffered a bad beating, but protested volubly,” the Times continued, when referee Davy Miller cried “Basta!”

Only one man other than “Two Ton” stopped Abe in his seven-year career—Leroy Haynes, by second-round KO.

The highlight of Feldman’s career came at Coney Island’s Velodrome on July 24, 1935, when he beat John Henry Lewis on points. Following his defeat of the future Hall of Famer (who would win the light heavyweight championship from Olin just three months later), the National Boxing Association ranked him second among light heavies, the highest ranking Abe would ever achieve, and fourth among heavies, behind Braddock, Joe Louis, and Max Schmeling.

Abe was never given a title shot.

Feldman, who died in 1980 at age 67, hasn’t been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame or the World Boxing Hall of Fame. He hasn’t even been recognized by his Hebraic brethren over at the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

What a shandeh!

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  1. Mike Silver 10:36am, 05/14/2014

    I have spoken to a daughter-in-law of Bob Pastor who confirmed that his father was Jewish but Pastor was raised as a Lutheran.

  2. Matt Cohen 08:48am, 03/15/2014

    I forgot. It now seems to be fairly well established that the Klitschko brothers had a paternal Jewish grandmother, so 25% ain’t so bad. (Hell, Robert De Niro is only 25% Italian) Anyway, it’s a little more convincing than Jake La Motta’s late in life claim that his mother was Jewish. Then again, who knows?

  3. Matt Cohen 09:01am, 03/14/2014

    First of all, Randy Neumann isn’t Jewish. I understand he once self-identified, but that was more a PR matter. No one has mentioned Bob Pastor, probably the second best Jewish heavy of modern times. He lasted 10 rounds against Joe Louis (was KO’ed the other), as did Natie Brown (also KO’ed the 2nd time). 
    As for Max and Buddy Baer, not all ethnic Jews got circumcised, especially if raised in a secular part Jewish home, Ray Arcel aside (something of a wiseass is my impression). Also, should mention Art Lasky, King Levinsky (not the joke some claim him to be), Roy Lazer, Bill Poland, Jack Gross, Erv Sarlin, Bill Weinberg and Dick Wipperman, all of whom were decent fighters. Early Brits included Joe Beckett, Jack Scales and Jewey Smith. Not an overwhelming lineup, but not exactly shabby either.

  4. Critical Beatdown 09:47pm, 09/25/2013

    Thanks, Norm, for illuminating a bit of why it’s so hard to say exactly who is a Jew and who isn’t. It’s not as nice and tidy a category as some would like to think. There’s genetics, culture, and religion (and various sects who usually disagree on the qualifiers) all mixed up in this equation. Was he Jewish? Well, to quote comedian David Cross quoting a fictitious rabbi, “well tell me this…was your mother’s vagina Jewish?” But really, if Feldman and his family said he was Jewish, then he was Jewish. That’s good enough for me. He boxed in an era when Jews were not yet considered white, and more often than not pegged as heathens. To say proudly that one was a Jew was more or less asking to get shit for it. It took chutzpah and I’d have dovened with him any day.

  5. bikermike 06:56pm, 09/24/2013

    Getting a shot at the Title is ...and always has been ...more than merit…
    Abe was a very tuff guy in a very tuff time…never got his shot…

  6. Clarence George 02:22pm, 09/24/2013

    Ha!  You’re right, Frank.  The nickname is indeed ambiguous, though I think we can safely guess the intended meaning.

    There was an almost completely unknown middleweight who fought in the ‘70s, Herbie Wilens, who went by “The Hebrew Hitter.”

  7. FrankinDallas 01:34pm, 09/24/2013

    I always thought “the Hebrew Hitter” was a great, albeit ambiguous, name for a Jewish boxer. Was he hitting Hebrews,
    or was he a Hebrew who hit other boxers?

    I believe Dana Rosenblatt, Vinny Pazienza’s nemesis, went by that moniker.

  8. Clarence George 08:26am, 09/23/2013

    Norm:  Thanks very much for the words of praise and for putting in your two cents (worth considerably more!) regarding Max Baer.

    You must have done some of your basic at Ribbon Creek.  Was Matthew McKeon still the talk of the town when you were in the Corps?

    Mike C.:  Beer, of course!  And ice-cold, not this room-temperature swill of which you English are so bizarrely enamored.  I won’t have it, sir!

    As for all this talk, gents, of the pricking of thumbs, or something, let’s baer (good one, Clarence) in mind that most men, Jews or not, are now circumcised.  Or so I’ve heard. 

    And speaking of men watching other men in the shower (my God, what’s happening to us?), enjoy this clip from “Seinfeld”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUoyb1bgSAo

  9. Mike Schmidt 07:17am, 09/23/2013

    Rather not think about the whole darn scene—I hear ya Norman—best to concentrate maybe on Elly May down at the Ceeeeeement Pond—yep. By the way Sirs—while I am here—just posted a comment on The Fearless Editors Fox/Tyson article—if you go over to Fox/Sports Website there is Tyson dropping into the NFL studio—good stuff

  10. Norman Marcus 06:47am, 09/23/2013

    Well Mike: All I know as an ex-Marine, is that if Ray Arcel looked around the shower room on Parris Island that way, he would have left minus a few teeth. I always look at a man’s face when I talk to him…

  11. Mike Schmidt 06:22am, 09/23/2013

    Well Norman I guess this begs the historical question of just what did Ray Arcel see in the shower. Arcel, the legendary trainer, must have based his opinion ON SOMETHING.  One could easily miss a pin prick when trying to see such a thing on a Heavyweight’s thing and therein lies the thing…probably, as an explanation. Much ado about SOMETHING.

  12. Mike Casey 06:22am, 09/23/2013

    Beer and buxom secretaries, eh Clarence? OK, pal, I’m in!

  13. Norm Marcus 06:13am, 09/23/2013

    A great article on Jewish fighters Clarence.
    By the way I’d like to brag a bit about my relationship with the Baer family in Livermore, Calif. I’m the guy who finally got Max inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. I did a book on Baer about 10 years ago and discovered that while all the Baer children were raised secular, they did have a 100% Jewish father. All the kids knew about their Jewish background. Now I don’t care who or what Ray Arcel saw of Baer in the shower, he lived his public life as a Jew. Not religious, but cultural as many Jews are today. God help the guy that made an anti-semitic remark in front of Max.  He would be right in their face big time. FYI men that come to Judaism later in life as reform Jews only need a symbolic pin prick (No pun intended) not a true circumcision.
    I got tired of all the misinformation about Baer’s Jewishness as I researched my book. I contacted Joe Sigman at the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, gave him some info to check out and Max was inducted the next year. Joe put the mistaken background info down to “lazy journalism” when a lie is repeated often enough so that it becomes fact.
    Max had a Jewish father and in the Reform and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism that is enough. Doesn’t have to be only the mother for them.
    A good corn beef sandwich can bind some Jews together better than the Torah sometimes. I share that with Max.
    Anyway, always proud that Max and I are from the same tribe!
    Clarence, again you hit this one out of the ball park.

  14. Clarence George 06:04am, 09/23/2013

    Perhaps Mike C. is right, Russell—not his official moniker, but called that by some in the media.

    Thank you for the kind words, Mike.  I think Choynsky, in addition to his skill and power, has to be one of the toughest guys, pound-for-pound, ever to set foot in the ring.  Ah, you and I as co-chairmen of the Two Ton Tony Fan Club.  Lots of work, which will require the assistance of several buxom secretaries.

  15. Mike Casey 05:57am, 09/23/2013

    He certainly was to many, although the nickname might well have been applied by others. The British Boxing News headline when Mike beat Galindez was, ‘The Kosher Butcher Strikes!’ I don’t know if that was the start of it.

  16. Russell 05:37am, 09/23/2013

    Mike Rossman never was known as the Kosher Butcher!

  17. Mike Casey 05:25am, 09/23/2013

    Lovely article, Clarence! Additional marls too for your comment here on the amazing Choynski. The mighty Jim Jeffries claimed that nobody ever hit him harder than Joe. Jeff marvelled at how such a comparatively small man could generate so much power. Choynski’s timing and distance judgement were superb. As for Galento, I read anything and everything on him as you do. What a fantastic character Tony was - and a damn scary man to fight!

  18. Clarence George 07:48pm, 09/22/2013

    Wasn’t Rossman also known as “The Kosher Butcher”?  Fantastic ring moniker.  Still, love the name DePiano.  Great name for a boxer…for anyone.

    “Chrysanthemum Joe”...funny nickname for someone as tough as Choynski.  Like Feldman, he never got a shot at the title.  But a true legend, and not only among Jewish boxers.  Glad he’s been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, as well as the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

  19. Mike Schmidt 06:08pm, 09/22/2013

    And thanks for the note Russell - very nice of you to drop on in

  20. Mike Schmidt 05:56pm, 09/22/2013

    Mike Rossman right hand bomb on Mike Nixon—still one of my all time fav knockouts!!!!

  21. Russell 05:28pm, 09/22/2013

    Mike Rossman’s mom was Celia Rossman, his dad was Jimmy DePiano.  Mike was raised as Michael DePiano.  When he turned pro, his dad changed his fighting name to Mike Rossman in an attempt to market him as the Jewish Bomber even though Mike never was raised Jewish in any way whatsoever.

  22. Stephen Gould 05:28pm, 09/22/2013

    I think it’s worth mentioning Joe Choynski, who was basically a MW, KO’d Jack Johnson (and then taught him the uppercut and defensive skills while they were in jail together after the fight.) So not a HW champ - but none too many Jews beat a HW champ past or future.  He also drew with Marvin Hart (who it’s rumoured may himself have been Jewish), and Jim Jeffries,

  23. Clarence George 01:31pm, 09/22/2013

    Ah, boyhood memories, gents.  Yes, I well remember finding that bit of rope holding up Elly May’s painted-on jeans…intriguing.  And can anyone doubt how much more palatable Granny’s possum stew would have been if Elly May had immersed herself in it?  Well, here’s hoping Jane Hathaway never succeeded in corrupting that delectable, er, innocent backwoods child with her degenerate big-city ways.  Yes, yes, Miss Hathaway appeared to be mooning over Jethro…but she wasn’t fooling nobody.

  24. Dash Riprock 01:00pm, 09/22/2013

    The things I could tell you that went on down by that CEEEEEEment pond would curl your toes.

  25. Mike Schmidt 12:45pm, 09/22/2013

    Elly May was hot- no question-bikini by the CEEEEment pond- yep yep yep

  26. Clarence George 10:16am, 09/22/2013

    Thank you, Matt, Mike, and Irish, for the words of praise.  I also wish to express my appreciation to Robert for his amusing, and no doubt correct, explanation, in response to Your Name’s question, for what Ray Arcel was doing in the shower with Max Baer, which brought to mind “Someone’s in the Kitchen With Dinah” and a whole new interpretation of the lyrics.  A tip of the hat to Eric for his Batman reference.  And thank you, Larry, for the interesting links. 

    According to Jew or Not Jew, Max is a “Borderline Jew.”  But I still think we should let our Jewish brethren have him.  Otherwise, their claim to the Heavyweight Championship of the World shrinks to, well, nothing.

    By the way, Jake LaMotta is also deemed a Borderline Jew, as his mother may have been Jewish.  Jew or Not Jew points out that four of his wives (married twice to one of them) were Jewish.  “What on earth was he thinking?” is their question. 

    I’ll close for now by observing that I always had a thing for Donna Douglas:

    http://darrenenns.no-ip.org:8000/dmenns/ellymay_clampett.jpg

    I won’t link to a photo of what she looks like today.

  27. Mike Schmidt 09:33am, 09/22/2013

    JewishBoxingBlog that is what it is

  28. Mike Schmidt 09:30am, 09/22/2013

    By the by Very entertaining read C.G. and for you lads that would like to follow the Jewish boxing scene I would refer you to “The Jewish Boxing Scene”—I think the last article was “Remembering Abraham Rosenberg”

  29. Mike Schmidt 09:27am, 09/22/2013

    “Don’t Make Waves” with Tony Curtis and a oh so lovely Sharon Tate wew She was also a hotteeeee in “Fearless Vampire—or Pardon Me are Those Your Fangs in My Neck” with Roman Polanski—filmed in the Domino Alps—the only scenes prettier than Sharon soaking away in an old bath tub. Gents on Jethro I would simply leave you with a google to “Jethro’s Casino” and leave it at that. And don’t even bother asking Fearless Editor—The Benefactor gets around the gaming industry!!!!

  30. Eric 08:20am, 09/22/2013

    Holy moly Caped Crusader, say it isn’t so. Just followed a link on Jethro’s ex-girlfriends and the one on Victoria Principal states that she was beaten up by Jethro aka Max Baer Jr. in 1970. If this is true, I won’t be looking at good ole boy Jethro the same way from now on. Never thought of Jethro as a woman beater, IF this is true, pretty disgusting.

  31. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:03am, 09/22/2013

    Clarence George-Good one!....which reminds me….DeMille was an Episcopalian and Baer was a Jew…I thought that was settled. It’s no small thing to undergo Bris as an adult especially if you’re not devout as Baer certainly wasn’t. Rossman was tough as they come…if only he were a couple of inches taller with the same physique.

  32. Eric 07:50am, 09/22/2013

    Mike Rossman was half-Jewish & half Italian, but wasn’t his nickname the “Jewish Bomber?” Man thanks for the link on Jethro, had no idea he dated the late Sharon Tate, Victoria Principal, and a pornstar. Chicks must dig brain surgeons.

  33. Larry Link 07:15am, 09/22/2013

    http://www.nndb.com/people/618/000089351/

  34. Larry Link 07:12am, 09/22/2013

    http://www.jewornotjew.com/profile.jsp?ID=231

  35. Robert Ecksel 07:08am, 09/22/2013

    Searching for the answer to Max Baer’s origins.

  36. Your Name 07:02am, 09/22/2013

    What was Ray doing in the shower?

  37. Matt McGrain 06:40am, 09/22/2013

    It’s really rubbish because this is a fascinating piece, but I scrolled down to add my voice to “The Baer’s?  Jewish?” cry also.  Those are the breaks, Clarence.  I once wrote an article about Devon Alexander and upon returning from a weekend discovered about sixty carefully typed perfectly formed bundles of vitriol…all exchanged between Pac and Money fans concerning who would give said subject the more brutal hiding. Que Sera, Sera.

  38. Clarence George 06:21am, 09/22/2013

    Good question about the Baers.  They certainly had Jewish blood, but were they Jews?  I once raised this issue with a Jewish boxing fan, who said:  “We’re claiming them.”  Hardly conclusive, I’ll grant, but I decided to go with it.

  39. Robert Ecksel 05:58am, 09/22/2013

    “He ain’t no Jew. I seen him in the shower.”—Ray Arcel on Max Baer’s origins

  40. Eric 05:55am, 09/22/2013

    Was Max Baer really Jewish? I had read something years ago about Ray Arcel commenting Baer wasn’t Jewish. I read Baer had some German in his background, and some say he might have played up the Jewish thing because of the times and that ethnic battles drew especially well during that period of boxing history. Even read that Arcel had commented to reporters he saw Baer in the shower and “believe me he ain’t Jewish.”

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