A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Tendler is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters who never won a world title. Called by Nat Fleischer, "the greatest southpaw (left-hander) in ring history," Tendler had the misfortune of fighting in the same era, and weight class, as legendary champion Benny Leonard. He fought three times for a world title, and against seven world champions during his career.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. September 28, 1898 - d. November 7, 1970
The son of Russian immigrants, Tendler was born in Philadelphia, and began fighting as a teenager when he was a newspaper boy trying to preserve his territory. In 1913, he was paid to step into the ring for the first time, facing veteran Mickey Brown in a six-round no decision. After winning his next fight on a fourth-round knockout, 37 of his next 39 fights ended in no decisions; at the time, decisions were banned by lawmakers with the intent that no decisions would eliminate corrupt judges and referees. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, Tendler moved up the ranks in the lightweight division, losing only twice while fighting 15-20 bouts per year. In May 1922, Tendler won the most important bout of his career, earning a 15-round decision over Hall of Famer Johnny Dundee (the no decision law was repealed in 1920). This earned him a match with the greatest lightweight champion of them all, Benny Leonard.
In July, these two fighters faced each other for Leonard's lightweight title. Tendler knocked Leonard to the canvas in the 8th round, but the champ recovered and distracted the younger fighter by talking to him in an uncomplimentary manner (Benny claimed it was a low blow). Instead of pressing his advantage, Tendler responded; and as the two exchanged words, Tendler lost his opportunity, and Leonard had time to recover. Tendler attacked Leonard furiously, but the bout ended in a no decision. The New Jersey (where the bout took place) "no decision" law stated that a champion could only lose a title by knockout, so Tendler left empty-handed. The fight caused great interest in a re-match, which was staged in 1923. In the second fight, witnessed by 60,000 people at Yankee Stadium (it was the Stadium's first title match), Leonard had learned from the first bout, and easily won a 15-round decision. Most experts agree that Tendler would have been lightweight champion in any era but Leonard's.
After the second Leonard fight, Tendler moved up from lightweight to welterweight, and in 1924 lost a championship fight to Mickey Walker in a 10-round decision. Manager Jack Kearns, whose fighters included Jack Dempsey and Archie Moore, said: "I wish that someone would drive up this minute and drop me off a carload of Lew Tendlers. I'd lick the whole world." He continued to fight until 1928, but did not receive another title shot. After retiring from the ring, Tendler spoke around the country about his career and opened a popular restaurant in Philadelphia called "Lew Tendler's" (he later opened a second restaurant in Atlantic City).
A member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Tendler was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.
Wins: 59 (37 by knockout)
No decisions: 94
No contests: 1
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)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co, 1965)