Jews In Sports: Exhibit Page @ Virtual Museum

Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow
Page 155 of 457

Jews In American Sports


Benny Leonard

Immortal Lightweight 


The greatest single name in Jewish sports history is that of Benny Leonard. Happily, the name of Leonard is also the greatest in the annals of lightweight boxers in the world. Thus Jewish pride in the accomplishments of a sports star runs parallel with the reputation of the athlete concerned. For Benny Leonard is a legend in boxing. The outstanding lightweight of all time, Benny Leonard retired the undefeated champion of the world after eight years as titleholder. In two hundred and ten bouts he lost only four times; once on a foul, once after he made an ill-advised comeback long past his prime and twice when he was first learning the wisdom of the ring.

But Leonard goes past statistics. When he died, the newspaper reporters recalled the glorious days of the neat-haired, slim young master boxer who, at his peak, was the finest boxer and one of the most effective punchers in fighting history.

Benny Leonard passed away on April 18, 1947, the way he would have chosen to die - in the ring. While refereeing a minor bout in dusty, smoky St. Nicholas Arena in New York, Benny collapsed. A few minutes later he was dead, at the age of fifty-one, of a hemorrhage of the brain. Leonard often said, "I'll be in boxing until I breathe my