Nicknamed "The Ghost of the Ghetto," Terris' chief assets were fast hands and fast feet. There are some experts who rate those hands and feet the fastest of all time. A lightweight who fought all the great lightweights of his time, Terris never received a title shot, but fought seven world champions during his career.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. September 26, 1904 - d. December 1974
Terris had an outstanding amateur career, winning 50 straight bouts as a lightweight, and capturing the New York State, Metropolitan, and National AAU championships in a 10-month period. After winning the U.S. amateur title in 1922, he turned professional as a lightweight and in December 1923 faced future lightweight champ Sammy Mandell; the bout ended in a ten-round draw. 1924 proved to be a successful year for Terris and he became a contender for the lightweight title when champ Benny Leonard retired on January 15, 1925. Only two days before, Terris defeated fellow contender, Jimmy Goodrich in a 12-round decision, and seemed poised to fight for the title.
With Leonard's retirement, the lightweight title was vacant, and an elimination tournament took place to crown a new champion. In February 1925, Terris had a rematch with Mandell as part of the elimination tournament; Mandell, who would eventually win the title in July 1926, defeated Terris in a ten-round decision, thus ending Terris' chance at a title shot (Goodrich eventually won the tournament and the title). Despite the setback against Mandell, Terris continued to fight great boxers and only months later, on April 27, 1925, he faced Rocky Kansas. At 5'10", Terris towered over Kansas and dominated the fight until Rocky was disqualified in the fifth-round for a low blow (Kansas would become champion eight months later when he defeated Jimmy Goodrich). In 1925, Terris also defeated Hall of Famer Johnny Dundee twice (including the last fight ever held in the old Madison Square Garden), and beat Jack Bernstein twice (both decisions).
Terris fought consistently for the rest of the decade, but did not receive a title shot. He continued to face top competition though, and in 1927, he defeated his Lower East Side rival, Ruby Goldstein, but broke one of his hands in the process. Sadly, Terris was never afterwards the same in the ring. The following year, he was knocked out in the first-round against the legendary world lightweight champion, Jimmy McLarnin. Terris retired in 1931 with 85 wins in 101 career decisions.
New York City
Wins: 85 (12 by knockout)
No decisions: 6
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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co, 1965)