Arcel, Ray : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Arcel, Ray

A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Arcel was one of the most respected men in the history of boxing. During his long career, Arcel trained 20 world boxing champions, the first in 1924 (Abe Goldstein), and the last in 1982 (Larry Holmes). In 1934, five of his fighters won world titles!

Birth and Death Dates:
b. August 30, 1899 - d. March 7, 1994

Career Highlights:
Born in Indiana to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Arcel's mother died when he was only four years old. His father, a fruit and candy peddler, moved the Arcel's to the Lower East Side of New York following his wife's death and then to East Harlem, a primarily Italian neighborhood. Arcel, who graduated from prestigious Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan in 1917, said of multi-cultural Harlem, "You had to fight in those days. We were the only Jewish family there."

Arcel trained to be a boxer at Grupp's Gym, where he came under the tutelage of the great Dai Dollings, a transplanted Welshman who went back to the bare knuckle era. Dollings, who worked with champions such as Jack Britton, Johnny Dundee, and the great Jewish boxer Ted "Kid" Lewis. Dollings taught Arcel that each fighter was an individual and must be treated as such. Ray said," That was one thing he inspired me with...everyone's style is different."

Arcel also learned his trade from Frank "Doc" Bagley -- who managed Gene Tunney and handled Jack Britton -- who taught Ray how to be a successful "cut man" (closing the cuts of fighters during the one-minute break between rounds). In 1920, after the Walker Law legalized professional boxing in New York City, Arcel became one of the city's top trainers. In 1925, he struck up a partnership with Whitey Bimstein, which would last until 1934. Together, they handled countless champions, including Jackie "Kid" Berg, Lou Brouillard, and Sixto Escobar.

In 1925, Arcel performed one of his greatest training jobs. In order to make the weight for his bantamweight title challenge, Charley "Phil" Rosenberghad to lose 39 pounds in 10 weeks. Arcel worked with Rosenberg to lose the weight and said, "He hated me...He used to scream at me: 'You copper!' But he made the weight and went fifteen tough rounds..." On March 20, Charley defeated Eddie "Cannonball" Martin, to whom he had lost twice previously, to capture the world bantamweight crown.

Arcel first handled a heavyweight when he trained James J. Braddock for his bout with champ Joe Louis. Braddock lost the fight and Arcel then trained fourteen Louis opponents before finding one that could defeat him; the parade of Louis victims was called "The Meat Wagon." Finally, in 1950, Arcel trained Ezzard Charles when Charles won a decision over the Brown Bomber. During this period, Arcel guided many fighters in lower divisions to world championships, including Tony Marino, Billy Soose, and Tony Zale.

Trainer Vic Zimet said of Arcel, "I've known boxers who could not perform without Ray Arcel in the corner. Billy Soose wouldn't box unless Ray Arcel was in the corner. Boom Boom Mancini went into a blue funk...As far as being a corner man, he was supreme. He was super. Clean. Neat. His hands were like a surgeon..."

After apparently running afoul of organized crime in the 1950s, Arcel dropped out of sight after being hit on the head with a lead pipe in front of a Boston hotel. He returned in the early 1970s, and began an association with Roberto Duran. Arcel trained Duran to a victory in his first meeting with Sugar Ray Leonard; but Arcel broke with Duran after the second bout when Duran quit during the fight, uttering his infamous "no mas!"

In 1982, Ray became the first trainer inducted into Ring Magazine's Boxing Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Terre Haute, Indiana

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co, 1965)
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)