The Truth About Maxie Rosenbloom

By Sembello C. Hasson on February 2, 2015
The Truth About Maxie Rosenbloom
"I didn't want to hurt nobody, just smack 'em around and let 'em know who’s boss."

He feared no man and took on ALL comers, black and white, and beat almost all of them with a smile and a “smack in the puss…”

“Slapsie Maxie” Rosenbloom, the name alone brings a chuckle to anybody that’s heard it. Even many boxing fans think that ol’ Maxie was some kind of a joke. BUT in my humble opinion I believe Rosenbloom may be the greatest light heavyweight of all-time! Some people look at his record with only 19 KO’s in 299 fights and discount his accomplishments for that reason alone. The facts prove otherwise.

Maxie was raised in Harlem and had little formal education, choosing to “quit school in the third grade ‘cause I didn’t want to pass my Fad’er, who was in the fort’th.” During most of his youth he knocked around the city, hustling and carousing and with a wise-cracking attitude he found himself in a few scuffles in which he surprised himself when he easily neutralized some “tough guys” who tried to shut his mouth.

Before long he tried the ring and amazed many by his unlimited stamina and his fearlessness in taking on all comers. After paying his dues and meeting the very best he easily won the title from Jimmy Slattery in 1930. As champion he maintained a whirlwind pace of fighting almost every two weeks all over the country. Claiming he never took a drink, Maxie was still the last to leave the cafes and dance halls at dawn, even on the days of a fight. Howard Dougherty, son of the ‘Baron” talked about Maxie showing up at the Colonial Hotel in Leiperville in a cab with two showgirls, for his bout with Popper Stopper, with no money and Howard had to pay the fare from New York, which he deducted from Maxie’s $1,000 dollar purse.

Maxie engaged in 107 matches from when he won the championship in June of 1930 until November 16, 1934, when they had to steal the title from him (against Bob Olin) because he was box-office poison. He probably would have kept the title for ten years if they would have been fair. At a time when many top boxers were ducking the best black fighters, Rosenbloom made a career (63 fights) of beating the greatest blacks of his era. Fighting anybody, anywhere, anytime in any hamlet or hick town where he was offered a purse, Maxie lost so many outrageous decisions that when negotiating with promoters he would use his famous line “if I win, can I get a draw?” Not coincidentally Maxie had 30 draws on his record.

In the ring Maxie made it look easy always appearing that he was having fun in there. He was stronger and faster than anybody and beat the best by slapping around the world’s most dangerous fighters, infuriating them as were unsuccessfully trying to take his head off. As he put it “I didn’t want to hurt nobody, just smack ‘em around and let ‘em know who’s boss.” Maxie had a chin of concrete, or so it would seem, being stopped only twice in his career, by Tommy Milligan in England (under fuzzy circumstances) and as a gift to his “pal” Jack “Doc” Kearns who was building Jimmy Adamick into a heavyweight sensation in 1937 at Detroit.

One of Maxie’s funniest night-club lines was “I quit fightin’ because Joe Louis was afraid to fight me, yea, afraid he woulda’ killed me.” That always brought laughter from the audience. The truth, though, was a bit different. Maxie constantly challenged Louis at every turn but Joe’s management team (Julian Black, John Roxborough, Jack Blackburn and Mike Jacobs) wanted no part of Rosenbloom, who could not be intimidated by Louis and figured Max would make Joe look awful and hurt his box-office appeal with a bad showing. Not to say Max would beat Joe but just that he had the tools to make it a miserable night for Joe Louis.

When rating Rosenbloom’s place in the light heavy division remember he fought one of the toughest campaigns in boxing history (as tough as Archie Moore’s), just check the record. He feared no man and took on ALL comers, black and white, and beat almost all of them with a smile and a “smack in the puss.”

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  1. Dr. George Leonard 12:13am, 12/09/2018

    Thrilled to find this. God bless the internet, huh? Slapsie Maxie was a hero of my Fifties youth (father had been a boxer)—it was heartening that he was Jewish, to someone who followed boxing after the day of the great Jewish champs was over. And as a kid, I loved his movies. Wish I could have found them to play for my kid while he was growing up. This is a fine, documented, factual article. Best wishes to all the experts who contributed.

  2. Gail 07:54pm, 07/01/2016

    This is an interesting forum!
    If anyone wants to read about Maxie Rosenbloom’s life and career in and out of the ring, please visit the above link. #SlapsieMaxieonFacebook

  3. ch. 02:19pm, 02/17/2015

    Henry Hascup, thanks for that great information.

  4. Mike McNamara 01:43pm, 02/17/2015


  5. Henry Hascup 12:06pm, 02/17/2015

    That was Kingfish Levinsky

  6. Mike McNamara 11:52am, 02/17/2015

    Isn’t he the fighter who, after he retired, tried to buttonhole customers on the street and sell them silk ties?

  7. Henry Hascup 11:35am, 02/17/2015

    When you say “he fought one of the toughest campaigns in boxing history” you’re right on. Since Ring Magazine started the rating system in 1925, Max has fought and beat more top 10 contenders then any other boxer in history, and it’s not even close. He fought a total of 172 fights that were against fighters that were rated in the top 10 at one time or another. His record was 106-39-26 (1 NC) = 172. That’s well over 60 more then any other fighters in history. He also fought well over 100 of these fighters when they were rated in the top 10, which is 50 higher then any other fighter.

  8. nicolas 11:19pm, 02/04/2015

    ERIC: I would have to have Michael Spinks the best of the lot that you mentioned, and have him in my top ten. It was a very exciting time for the light heavyweights, that is for sure, but can’t say for certain that Moore, Charles or Tunney would have lost to any of the except for Spinks. I do however think the Moore of the late 50’s was quite lucky that he did not have those men fighting him, and I also feel the same way about Foster.

  9. Eric 11:20am, 02/04/2015

    The light heavyweights you could mention from the late 70’s to early 80’s would hold up in any era. Great names and they gave us some great fights on NETWORK TELEVISION. Victor Galindez, John Conteh, Saad Muhammad, Mustapha Muhammad, Michael Spinks, Marvin Johnson, Yaqui Lopez, Dwight Qawi, etc. Even guys like Tunney, Moore, and Charles would have a defeat or two had they fought in this era.

  10. Beaujack 12:08pm, 02/03/2015

    There is one lightheavyweight that has not been mentioned with the greats. It is Jack Delaney, a master boxer, and potent sharp right cross puncher, when SOBER. Delaney was the only man ever to score three knockouts in two bouts over a Hall of Fame fighter..

  11. nicolas 01:57am, 02/03/2015

    BEAUJACK: From what I have read on the Rosenbloom Lewis fights, five in all, Rosenbloom won three of the fights, with one of them very disputed in Oakland CA. Most of these were very close fights, except for one I guess that Lewis won where he had Rosenbloom down quite a few times in the fight

  12. ch. 09:14pm, 02/02/2015

    Thanks for the input guys. My ratings aren’t set in stone. I give Rosenbloom a shot to beat any of the other greats on any given night. And Beaujack, I too consider John henry Lewis an under rated lightheavy great with many fine victories over good heavyweights as well.

  13. Eric 02:10pm, 02/02/2015

    You could easily throw in Bob Fitzsimmons. His light heavy tenure wasn’t as distinguished as his heavyweight reign. However, while a “heavyweight,” Fitz weighed well within the light heavy limits while taking on brutes like Jim Jeffries. Dwight Qawi, at his peak, would have been a match for any light heavy. Pretty short career at 175lbs, but he was an awesome force at 175lbs. I would put a peak Qawi right outside my top 10.

  14. Clarence George 01:43pm, 02/02/2015

    No love for Philadelphia Jack O’Brien?  I’d definitely have him among my top 10, and pretty high up, too.  And I think Joey Maxim is a worthy candidate, though much lower on the list.  Point well made on John Henry Lewis, Beaujack, and great reminiscence, as usual.

  15. beaujack 12:57pm, 02/02/2015

    A great piece on Slapsie Maxie Roisenbloom, built like a longshoreman who hit like a Joey Maxim. I think his greatest claim to fame was his whipping John Henry Lewis THREE times. No one above mentioned John Henry Lewis who was a truly great alltime LH heavyweight. It was because of John Henry Lewis, I became first interested in boxing as my family lived next door to a trainer of JH Lewis. Each night I would go next door and would “spar” with stablemates of Lewis, and would always eat a salad with olive oil, a practice I still observe today. I never saw JH Lewis, but was adopted by his stablemates…Years later as a young man I was with friends in a crapgame in the Catskills, and a slick older man cleaned us all out. He turned out to be the former LH champion Bob Olin who took the title away from Rosenbloom…

  16. Eric 11:52am, 02/02/2015

    Poor Gene Tunney. The victor over Dempsey & Greb, but never ranks above either. teehee. Granted that Greb gave Gene quite a beating in their first fight, and the second Tunney-Greb fight was a close and even disputed victory for Gene, but Gene nonetheless won the 5-fight series by a score of 3-1-1. The last fight between the two all time greats was dominated by Tunney. Can’t see placing Greb above true light heavies like, Spinks or Foster either. I would probably place Slapsie Maxie in the #11 spot.

  17. Matt McGgrain 10:44am, 02/02/2015

    I reckon something like:

    01 - Charles
    02 - Moore
    03 - Greb
    04 - Gene Tunney
    05 - Mike Spinks
    06 - Billy Conn
    07 - Bob Foster
    08 - Tommy Loughran
    09 -  Harold Johnson

    A bunch of guys I could put at ten, and Slapsie is defo one of them.

  18. Clarence George 09:23am, 02/02/2015

    I don’t know that I have a top 10 light heavyweight list, but I’m sure I’d have Rosenbloom on it, maybe as high as fifth place.

  19. Eric 07:35am, 02/02/2015

    Top 10 Light Heavyweights IMO
    1. Gene Tunney
    2. Ezzard Charles
    3. Archie Moore
    4. Michael Spinks
    5. Bob Foster
    6. Sam Langford
    7. Jimmy Bivins
    8. Roy Jones
    9. Billy Conn
    10. Harry Greb

  20. Clarence George 04:19am, 02/02/2015

    Chuck:  While I don’t consider Rosenbloom the greatest light heavy of all time, I certainly share your admiration.  I wrote about him myself once (though not here), and am damn glad to have done so.

    Jewish fans, in particular, should take him to heart.  When he fought Bob Olin, it was the last time two Jews fought for a world title.  Originally scheduled to fight Tiger Jack Fox between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, he postponed the bout until after those Jewish holidays.  While not a fan of Philip Roth, I like his, “In my scheme of things, Slapsie Maxie was a more miraculous Jewish phenomenon by far than Dr. Albert Einstein.”

    Remembered (if at all) for his comedic portrayals of punch-drunks, or just plain drunks, Maxie deserves a whole lot more.

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