Julie Kogon: The Great Hebrew Hope

By Clarence George on May 22, 2015
Julie Kogon: The Great Hebrew Hope
Kogon three times beat a guy named Joe De Jesus, which can only be considered impolitic.

Most impressive is iron-chinned Julie being stopped only once over the course of 13 years and 143 fights (an average of 11 fights a year)…

“Picking fights in the bars, knowing they can’t lose”—Christmastime for the Jews

Once upon a time in the Sweet Science, there was no shortage of tough Jew boys. Guys like Daniel Mendoza, Joe Choynski, Benny Leonard, Barney Ross, Al Bummy Davis, Phil Kaplan, Corporal Izzy Schwartz…why, even Puerto Rican Pedro Montanez was rumored to be a “Spanish Jew.” Today? “Now if you tell a younger generation that there were Jewish boxers,” says Allen Ruff, author of Save Me, Julie Kogon, “they go, ‘What?’”

A lightweight from New Haven, Connecticut, Julie Kogon fought from 1937 to 1950, racking up a record of 85 wins, 38 by knockout, 38 losses, one by knockout, 18 draws, and one no contest (due to rain). Undefeated in his first 27 fights, Kogon was finally outpointed by Emil Cody at the Broadway Arena in Brooklyn on April 11, 1939.

One of them tough Jews, and no mistake, Julie took on the hard boys of his time. Not only guys like Aldo Spoldi, Jimmy Tygh, and Eddie Compo, but also going the distance with Bob Montgomery (twice in 1941 and once in 1947), Willie Pep, and Ike Williams. Kogon was particularly effective against Williams, hurting him in the sixth and seventh of a 10-rounder, but unable to close the deal. He did, however, beat the very good Lulu Costantino, outpointing him at the Arena in New Haven on March 17, 1947. He also outpointed Paul Junior at the Arena on September 16, 1940, and Petey Scalzo at Madison Square Garden on October 4 that same year, and stopped Pete Lello by 10th-round TKO at the Meadowbrook Bowl in Newark, New Jersey, on September 23, 1941. And let’s not forget tough Tony Marteliano. Although he fought guys like Fritzie Zivic and Al Bummy Davis over an 11-year career (1936 to 1947), he suffered only one stoppage in 63 fights. That was at the hands of Kogon, who took him out by fourth-round TKO at the Queensboro Arena in Long Island City, Queens, on June 6, 1939.

In late 1943, Beau Jack’s manager, Chick Wergeles, turned down an offer of $10,000 (about $140,000 today) from promoter John Attell for Jack to defend his NYSAC lightweight title against Kogon in New Haven. Wergeles claimed that he could get double that if the match took place in New York. Maybe, but it’s also possible that Wergeles didn’t want his boy to risk the title he’d just regained from Bob Montgomery against a guy who was coming off five consecutive knockout wins (over Angelo Callura, Sammy Rivers, Eddie Dowl, Jerry Zullo, and Lew Maxwell). It was on December 27 that Wergeles came to New Haven’s Arena to see Kogon in action. Maybe he didn’t like what he saw—Jewish Julie stopping Buster Beaupre by seventh-round KO.

Although never a world champion, Kogon won the New England lightweight title by outpointing Pat Demers at the Arena on January 6, 1947. He won it a second time by stopping Nick Stato via 12th-round KO at the Auditorium in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 9 that same year.

Most impressive, however, is iron-chinned Julie being stopped only once over the course of 13 years and 143 fights (an average of 11 fights a year). The honor belongs to Jimmy Carter, who retired Kogon in the seventh at the Century Stadium in West Springfield, Massachusetts, on July 26, 1948.

Says Julie’s nephew, Mel Zeidenberg, “The goyim used to come and say, ‘Kill the Jew! Kill the Jew!’” Well, Kogon wearing the Star of David on his boxing trunks was a dead giveaway. And three times beating a guy named Joe De Jesus can only be considered impolitic.

But all’s been forgiven: Kogon, who died age 68 in 1986, was inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.

As for his beloved Arena (where he fought 69 times)...torn down in 1974.

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  1. Clarence George 07:29pm, 05/25/2015

    Wonderful post, Mike, thank you. 

    I envy you seeing that fight.  The little-remembered Tommy Ciarlo didn’t have much of a record, but he was gutsy and tough, three times facing Kid Gavilan.

  2. Mike Silver 05:27pm, 05/25/2015

    Clarence, thank you for writing this article. It’s true Julie Kogon had a great chin but what made him even more difficult to knock out was his magnificent defensive skills. Julie had a beautiful stand up boxer style. He was thoroughly skilled and seasoned. How do I know this? I have seen film of Kogon’s 1947 bout with Tommy Ciarlo. Despite 142 professional fights his face was virtually unmarked.

  3. Clarence George 05:32pm, 05/23/2015

    Great nickname, Beaujack, that I didn’t know of.  I guess he more often went by “The Durable Dane,” which never did anything for me, despite the alliteration.

  4. Beaujack 04:30pm, 05/23/2015

    Clarence, Shakespeare wrote ” what"s in a name” ? But one name of the past fitted a fighter like a glove. It was “The Abysmal Brute”, describing
    Battling Nelson…

  5. Clarence George 12:30pm, 05/23/2015

    Delighted, Beaujack, and I share your admiration for Al Bummy Davis.  He was not only, arguably, the toughest of the Jewish fighters, but one of the toughest fighters, period.  I agree that Davis-Kogon would have been a helluva fight, with my money on Davis.  How is it that he’s not in the Hall?  Just a disgrace.

    Thanks very much, Bob.  You mean Gunboat Smith?  Yeah, I always liked him and his nickname.  But my favorite is Indian Benny Deathpaine.  How can you do better than that?  You can’t, though Benny foolishly tried via the ho-hum ring moniker of “The Aztec Assassin.”  He was a light heavy who fought out of New York (though born in Mexico) from the 1920s to the 1940s.  Hey, going to the Heidelberg tonight.  Haven’t been there in a long time.

    Thanks again, Laurena, for the very kind words.  And if I crossed your mind whilst (yes, whilst) purchasing a new pair of heels, we’re definitely on the right track.  I expect a photo.  And please use your own feet this time.  Thank you.

    Speaking of photos, anyone up to identifying the gentlemen in the one accompanying this article?

  6. Laurena 12:08pm, 05/23/2015

    Clarence- I am honored! And I must admit that you crossed my mind the other day when I purchased a new pair of heels. But in all seriousness, this is a fantastic story and the rave reviews are well deserved.

  7. Bob 11:47am, 05/23/2015

    Another treasure unearthed. I hate to be yearning for the past, but how could you not root for extremely active, hard-nosed fighters with names like Julie and Lulu and, my favorite, Guboat. Thanks for the history lessons, Clarence.

  8. beaujack 11:23am, 05/23/2015

    Clarence, how I relished your article on Julie Kogan. I who by a twist of fate, NEVER saw Julie Kogon ringside, but I saw DOZENS of his opponents box in the local small clubs in the NYC area. I would hear of his name as a tough lightweight though. Kogon fought every lightweight of note on the east coast, but the one contemporary of Kogon’s who would have severely tested his ruggedness was the neighbor of ours Al [Bummy] Davis
    who had the best left hook I ever saw from an orthodox stance., What a fight that would have been Clarence. Not to be redundant but I love your articles of unknown today, fighters of the long ago…

  9. Clarence George 09:00am, 05/23/2015

    I checked, Eric…so does Azteca, but Langford has five.

    Thank you, Laurena.  I wanted to dedicate the article to you, but Robert made a huge fuss.  I threatened to hold my breath until I turned blue, to which he snarled, “Send me a selfie.”  It took me too long to come up with an appropriately stinging riposte, and by then the article (sans dedication) had posted.

  10. Laurena 08:21am, 05/23/2015

    What an amazing story this is. Thank you, Clarence. Your work is always enlightening.

  11. Eric 07:54am, 05/23/2015

    The one and only Harry “F*ckin” Greb has 4 pages.

  12. Clarence George 07:31am, 05/23/2015

    Thanks, Peter.  I wonder who has the most pages on BoxRec.  Kid Azteca?  No, I’ll go with Sam Langford.

  13. peter 06:42am, 05/23/2015

    It’s the very, very rare fighter who warrants two pages on BoxRec to list his fights—and it’s the very, very, very rare fighter who has been stopped only once in the listing of those many fights. Thanks for shining light on this past Hebrew Hammer.

  14. Clarence George 03:04am, 05/23/2015

    Thanks loads, Irish.  Yes, very tough (you can’t go by “Julie” and not be).  His name deserves to come up more.  That’s why I wrote about him…because it doesn’t.

    Speaking of names…despite being of Greek origin, and a perfectly good saint’s (Catholic) name, the few people named “Julius” are almost always Jewish.  There exceptions, of course.  As someone once amusingly observed:  “Julius Erving has two Jewish first names in Julius and Erving.  The fact that he’s referred to as a doctor only adds to the deception.”

  15. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:36pm, 05/22/2015

    Clarence George-I second what beaujack posted….you bring these guys back to life! Just to think what a tough, hard nosed bugger Kogon was…..it boggles the mind.

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