Rosenbloom, "Slapsie" Maxie : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Rosenbloom, "Slapsie" Maxie

A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Rosenbloom was the world light-heavyweight champion from 1930 to 1934. During that span, he was the busiest titleholder in boxing history, fighting 106 times (8 bouts were title defenses), the equivalent of fighting one bout every 15 days. An exceptional defensive boxer, Rosenbloom began his career as a slugger, but because he was not a strong puncher, altered his style and became a hit-and-run (defensive) boxer, figuring it would prolong his ring career. A feature of this new style was slapping his opponents with open gloves, which unfortunately cut down on his punching effectiveness.

Journalist Damon Runyon, who wrote about Rosenbloom's colorful persona and unique open glove style of boxing, dubbed him "Slapsie Maxie," and it stuck. Many were not as forgiving of Rosenbloom's new style. Sportswriter Dan Parker concocted a parody of a popular song of the day called "To Love in Bloom", in which he wrote, "Can it be cheese that fills the breeze with rare and magic perfume? Oh no, it isn't cheese, it's Rosenbloom." New York Times sports columnist John Kieran noted that "anyone who gets into the ring with Rosenbloom is slapped with great frequency and a moderate amount of vigor. Whether or not this furious slapping is to be regarded as a high form of pugilistic artistry is another question."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. September 6, 1904 - d. March 6, 1976

Career Highlights:
Raised on the Lower East Side of New York City, Rosenbloom dropped out of school in the third grade and then served time in reform school. Apparently spotted in a street brawl by actor George Raft, he was encouraged to try boxing. Rosenbloom first fought professionally in 1923, winning all five of his bouts that year. By the end of 1925, Rosenbloom had fought 46 professional fights with only four losses. He rose through the ranks and quickly become a contender after fighting world champion Harry Greb to a 10-round no decision in July (the newspapers declared Greb the winner). In its year-end issue, Ring magazine ranked Rosenbloom the No. 10 contender in the middleweight division.

By 1926, Rosenbloom had developed his hit-and-run style and acquired the nickname "Slapsie." That year, he also began to fight tough competition on a regular basis and was quite successful. He defeated Welsh middleweight champion Frank Moody in February, top contender Dave Slade twice, and former world middleweight champion Johnny Wilson twice. He also battled current champion Tiger Flowers in October (Flowers won the title from Harry Greb). Rosenbloom won the bout (Flowers was disqualified in the ninth-round for a low blow), but did not win the title because it could not change hands on a foul.

In February 1927, champion Jack Delaney vacated the light-heavyweight crown and Rosenbloom, who was fighting in the division by then, fought for the vacant crown soon after. Despite losing to contenders Young Stribling, Leo Lomski, and Lou Scozza, Rosenbloom faced Jimmy Slattery for the vacant NBA (National Boxing Association) title; the New York Commission refused to recognize the winner as champion and the title was split for a short time. The bout was held in Hartford, Connecticut for the NBA world title, and Slattery, who had won both of their two previous meetings, defeated Rosenbloom in a 10-round decision.

Back in the ring less than two months after losing to Slattery, Rosenbloom fought Tiger Flowers for a third time (they fought on July 4) on November 9, 1927; they fought to draws in all three bouts. Less than two weeks later, he defeated contender Pete Latzo in a 10-round decision. Rosenbloom continued to fight at a rigorous pace in 1928 and 1929 (a 48 combined fights) and against top competition. Despite losing to Latzo in their rematch in February 1928, he defeated Hall of Famer Jack McVey in his next fight. In July, he then defeated the great Ted "Kid" Lewis (former welterweight champion) in Lewis' third to last fight.

In 1929, Rosenbloom defeated McVey a second time, and split decisions with Slattery. The following year, Slattery regained the world title after champion Tommy Loughran (who had taken Slattery's NBA title back in December 1927) vacated the crown. Given a title shot in June 1930, Rosenbloom made the most of it and defeated Slattery in 15-round decision in Slattery's home town of Buffalo to become world champion. Interestingly enough, this time Rosenbloom was recognized as champion by the New York Commission, but not the NBA; he would not be declared undisputed champion for another two years.

Rosenbloom did not rest much after winning the title, fighting again by August, and even gave Abie Bain a title shot in October; Rosenbloom won the fight with an eleventh-round TKO. Still only recognized as New York world champion, Rosenbloom successfully defending the title in August 1931 against Slattery in a 15-round decision. The division was finally unified in July 1932 when Rosenbloom fought NBA champion Lous Scozza and walked away with a convincing 15-round victory; he was declared the best light-heavyweight in the world.

Despite being the undisputed world champion for over two more years, Rosenbloom disliked training and was considered a playboy outside the ring. Yet, he seemed to be able to step it up as needed, especially in title defenses. On March 10, 1933, Rosenbloom successfully defended his title against German champion Adolph Heuser in a 15-round decision at Madison Square Garden. This victory, which took place less than two months after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, was considered an important factor in the Nazi decision to prohibit Jewish athletes from competing against German athletes. The Nazis were unwilling to risk their claim of "Aryan superiority" being made to look ludicrous when a Jewish athlete defeated a German.

After beating Heuser, Rosenbloom defended his title twice more in 1933. Two weeks after the Heuser fight, he won on a fourth-round knockout over Bob Godwin. Later in the year, he had one of his most notable victories when he won a 15-round decision over Hall of Famer Mickey Walker in a title defense. The following year, after retaining the crown on 15-round draw against Joe Knight, Rosenbloom was matched up with Bob Olin. The bout was held under New York Commission rules, which forbade Rosenbloom's open-handed hitting style. In a lackluster decision booed by the audience (of only 7,383), Olin was declared the winner, although many felt Rosenbloom had won; it was the last time two Jewish fighters faced each other in a title fight in any division.

Rosenbloom continued to fight through the 1930s, but retired in 1939 without ever receiving another title shot. A member of the Boxing Hall of Fame, the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Rosenbloom won an incredible 223 of 299 career fights. When asked why he had quit the ring, he responded, "I quit because Joe Louis wouldn't fight me. I guess he was afraid of me. Afraid he'd kill me." Following his boxing career, Rosenbloom turned to screen acting, and appeared in over 100 films. He once explained that he landed his first acting role because Carole Lombard wanted him to teach her to box "to help her in fights with Clark Gable (her husband)."

Leonard's Bridge, Connecticut

Physical description:
5'11", 160-188 pounds

Career Statistics:
Professional record:
Wins: 223 (19 by knockouts)
Losses: 42
Draws: 32
No contests: 2

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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)