James Leslie Jacobs
A member of the Handball Hall of Fame, Jacobs is considered to be the greatest handball player in history. Jacobs came up with the famous handball term "sword and shield," a technique wherein one hand is used for defense and the other for offense. After his legendary handball career, where he was a six-time national singles champion as well as a six-time national doubles champion, Jacobs turned to boxing -- and became equally phenomenal as a manager, promoter, and film historian. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
Legendary boxing manager Cus D'Amato once said that only Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson carried the same aura of a champion as Jacobs. Jim's former handball doubles partner, Marty Decatur, observed that "Jim displayed a remarkable consistency in all aspects of his sports, business and personal life, while maintaining the highest degree of integrity, honesty and loyalty. These are the traits that characterized the man. Jim maintained his standards and brought class and dignity to sports."
Birth and Death Dates:
b. 1930 - d. March 23, 1988
Born in St. Louis, Jacobs was raised in Los Angeles and excelled in baseball, basketball, and football in high school. A member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Jacobs' status as the greatest four-wall handball player to ever play the game is indisputable. He did not lose a single match between 1955 and 1969. He won the American Handball Association titles in 1955, '56, '57, '60, '64, '65 and in 1960 and 1965 he won the doubles as well. When asked why he did not participate in the missing years he claimed to be "bored with the competition." He would have won more if not for a series of injuries and health related problems. His expertise were not limited to the four-wall genre, and he won the three-wall American Handball Association title on three occasions.
A remarkable all-around athlete who once ran a 9.8 100-yard dash, Jacobs is considered by many to be the greatest handball player in history. Offered a tryout by the U.S. Olympic basketball team in the early 1950s, Jim decided to concentrate on handball instead. From 1955-1969, Jacobs won every match he played. While competing around the world in handball events, Jim began to collect films of old fights not available in the United States (because of a 1912 law that banned interstate commerce of boxing films, most of the footage from the early decades of the 20th Century had been shipped overseas). In his travels, Jacobs gradually built up the largest personal collection of fight films in existence, and became one of the world's top boxing historians.
In 1961, Jacobs collaborated with Bill Cayton to restore and preserve those films. Their company -- Big Fights, Inc.-- produced over a thousand boxing features while housing the largest boxing film collection in the world. Their films were so outstanding that three of their productions were nominated for Academy Awards (Legendary Champions, The Heavyweight Champions, and Jack Johnson). Jacobs and Cayton also managed fighters. Jim's success in this field was as famously successful as his other accomplishments. His stable of boxers included three world champions, all of them outstanding warriors: Wilfred Benitez, Edwin Rosario, and the young Mike Tyson. In 1993, Jacobs was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Jim is also a member of the Handball Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (in Commack, New York).
St. Louis, Missouri
5'9", 185 pounds
Use links below to navigate through the boxing section of Jews In Sports.
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)