A smart, tough flyweight and bantamweight in the 1920s and early 1930s who fought in such diverse locations as Connecticut, Australia, and Cuba, Silverberg was knocked out only once in 78 fights and claimed the world flyweight title in 1927. When champion Fidel LaBarba vacated the crown in August to attend college, the division was thrown into chaos as the championship was broken into three versions -- the NBA (National Boxing Association), the New York Commission, and the IBU (International Boxing Union). In October, Silverberg faced Ruby Bradley and won when Bradley was disqualified in the seventh round of their bout. Following his victory, Silverberg claimed the NBA title and was recognized as champion -- he was awarded a belt in a ceremony a few days later. He was stripped of the title shortly thereafter, causing many historians to ignore Silverberg even as a title claimant of the era. The fact that he was recognized by the NBA Commission as champ, however, necessitates that Silverberg deserves a spot in history among boxing's world champions.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. April 5, 1904 - d. January 16, 1964
Born in New York City, Silverberg began his professional boxing career in 1920 at the age of 16 to help support his family in the Bronx (he had four brothers and two sisters). He fought once that year -- in September in Bridgeport, Connecticut -- against Young Pastoria; the bout ended in a 4-round draw. Silverberg fought exclusively in Connecticut, mostly out of New Haven, over the next three years, and was quite successful. He fought twice in 1921 (a knockout win and a decision loss), four times in 1922 (three draws and one win), and twelve times in 1923. By the time he faced Joey Russell in Passaic, New Jersey in 1924, Pinky had compiled a terrific record, losing only twice in 19 career fights.
Silverberg fought Russell on February 19, 1924 and the 12-round bout ended in a no decision. Pinky fought three more times that year, winning all three bouts in New York City, and then won both of his fights the following year. By the end of 1925, Silverberg still only had two career losses (in 25 fights), but he had yet to face top competition in the division. That changed in January 1926 when he fought flyweight contender Ruby Bradley in Bridgeport, Connecticut and lost an 8-round decision. Although Silverberg lost twice more that year (against contenders Willie LaMorte and Joey Eulo), he gained valuable experience in the ring.
On January 18, 1927, Silverberg was scheduled to fight Sammy Tisch in New York City in his first fight of the year. Because Silverberg (112 pounds) weighed nine fewer pounds than Tisch (121), however, he was not allowed to fight. In his place, Silverberg's 124 pound brother Herman (who fought under the name Kid Silvers), fought Tisch and won the bout. The following night, Pinky faced one of the top flyweight contenders, Black Bill, in a benefit for recently retired boxer Sam Langford (a Hall of Famer considered by many to be the greatest boxer in history to never win a title) at the Walker Athletic Club. Silverberg lost a 6-round decision.
Despite that loss to Black Bill at the beginning of the year, the step up in quality of competition proved a smart move for Silverberg. Following the loss, he won his next four and was considered a contender in the flyweight division. When world champion Fidel LaBarba suddenly retired in August 1927, the flyweight division was thrown into confusion. Silverberg, who had lost only 6 of 37 career bouts when LaBarba retired, claimed the title and was given a shot at the NBA crown. On October 22, 1927, Silverberg faced fellow claimant Ruby Bradley and defeated him when Bradley was disqualified in the seventh round for a low blow.
In a ceremony a few days later, Silverberg was awarded a belt and recognized as the NBA champion (see photographs for picture of the belt). Stripped of the title soon after his victory (it is unclear as to why Pinky was stripped of the title), Silverberg continued to fight the top boxers in 1928 in an attempt to regain the title (the flyweight division would not be unified until the mid-1930s). His reputation as a clever and skilled boxer cost him the opportunity to reclaim the title though, because many of the top flyweights refused to fight him. Silverberg was forced to fight heavier opponents, and he lost decisions to bantamweights Pete Sanstol, Archie Bell, and Kid Chocolate.
In 1929, Silverberg left the United States and travelled to Australia for a series of bouts. He fought three times, including a 15-round loss to future world featherweight champion Petey Sarron in May. Pinky returned to New York in November, but then went to Havana, Cuba in January 1930 to fight world bantamweight champion Panama Al Brown; he lost a 10-round decision. By then, Silverberg was a bantamweight contender and "ready to meet anyone in the world at the bantamweight limit." He also developed a rivalry with New York flyweight champion Midget Wolgast, and the two boxers fought three times between March 1930 and March 1931; Silverberg lost all three bouts on decision.
Over the next couple of years, Silverberg fought infrequently (twice in 1932 and six bouts in 1933), and after losing a four-round decision to Damasco Seda in February 1934, promptly retired. Pinky remained away from the ring for three years, but returned to fight Frankie Reese in March 1937 in New York City. Silverberg won a four-round decision and retired again, this time for good. He settled in Connecticut after his retirement, and worked for the defense industry, but remained connected to boxing. He promoted some fights, taught boxing as a volunteer at the local YMCA, and occasionally refereed local bouts in the 1940s.
New York City
5'4", 112 pounds
Wins: 29 (4 by knockout)
No decisions: 6
No contests: 1
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