Terence Crawford etches his name into the history books alongside boxing legend, Barney Ross
Terence Crawford is the first fighter to win Lineal World Championships at 135lbs, 140lbs and 147lbs, since Hall of Famer, Barney Ross, achieved the feat 89 years ago!
Barney Ross was born Dov-Ber "Beryl" David Rosofsky on December 23, 1909, 78 years before Crawford. He was an American professional boxer and decorated veteran of World War II, whose Jewish parents emigrated from Belarus.
His father was a Talmudic scholar, owner of a small vegetable shop in Chicago, and a rabbi. Dov-Ber was being raised to follow in his footsteps, but his life was changed forever when his father was tragically shot dead resisting a robbery at his small grocery store. His mother Sarah suffered a nervous breakdown due to her grief and his younger siblings, Ida, Sam and George, were placed in an orphanage or farmed out to other members of the extended family, Barney was left to his own devices at the age of just 14.
As recounted in Barney Ross: The Life of a Jewish Fighter, by Ross biographer Douglas Century, in the wake of the tragedy, Ross became vindictive towards everything and turned his back on the orthodox religion of his father. He began running around with local toughs, developing into a street brawler, thief and money runner; he was even employed by notorious gangster, Al Capone.
The wayward youngster's goal was to earn enough money to buy a home so that he could reunite his family. He saw boxing as that vehicle and began training with his friend Jack Ruby, an associate of the Chicago Mafia, who later murdered Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963, two days after Oswald was accused of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
After Intercity Golden Gloves and Chicago Golden Gloves tournaments in the amateurs, Barney would pawn the awards he won and set the money aside for his family. Plagued by his father's death and feeling an obligation not to sully his name, Dov Rosofsky took the new name "Barney Ross".
Ross was soon a champion in 1929 at the age of 19 and went on to dominate the lighter divisions as a pro.
At a time—the late 1920s and '30s—when rising Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was using propaganda to spread his virulently anti-Jewish philosophy, Ross was seen by American Jews as one of their greatest advocates. He represented the concept of Jews finally fighting back. Idolized and respected by all Americans, Ross showed that Jews could thrive in their new country. He made his stand against Hitler and Nazi Germany a public one. He knew that by winning boxing matches, he was displaying a new kind of strength for Jews. He also understood that Americans loved their sports heroes and if Jews wanted to be embraced in the U.S. they would have to assume such places in society. Though Ross had lost faith in religion, he openly embraced his role as a leader of his people.
Ross is unique in boxing as one of its few triple division champions—lightweight, light welterweight and welterweight. He was never knocked out in 81 fights and held his title against some of the best competition in the history of the sport. Ross defeated great Hall-of-Fame champions like Jimmy McLarnin and Tony Canzoneri in epic battles that drew crowds of more than 50,000.
His first paid fight was on September 1, 1929, when he beat Ramon Lugo by a decision in six rounds. After 10 wins in a row, he lost for the first time, to Carlos García, on a decision in 10.
Over the next 35 bouts, his record was 32–1–2, including a win over former world champion Battling Battalino and one over Babe Ruth (not the baseball player). Another bout included former world champion Cameron Welter. On March 26, 1933, Ross had his first world title bout when he faced world lightweight and light welterweight champion and fellow three-division world champion Tony Canzoneri in Chicago. In one night, Ross became a two-division world champion when he beat Canzoneri by decision in ten rounds. Ross also campaigned heavily in the city of Chicago prior to the fight. After two more wins, including a knockout in six rounds over Johnny Farr, Ross and Canzoneri boxed again, with Ross winning again by decision, but this time in 15.
Ross was known as a smart fighter with great stamina. He retained his title by decision against Sammy Fuller to finish 1933 and against Peter Nebo to begin 1934. Then he defended against former world champion Frankie Klick, against whom he drew in ten. Then came the first of three bouts versus Jimmy McLarnin. Ross vacated the light welterweight title to go after McLarnin's welterweight title and won by a 15-round decision, his third world championship. However, in a rematch a few weeks later, McLarnin beat Ross by a decision and recovered the title. After that, Ross went back down to light welterweight and reclaimed his title with a 12-round decision over Bobby Pacho. After beating Klick and Henry Woods by decision to retain that title, he went back up in weight for his third and last fight with McLarnin; he recovered the welterweight title by outpointing McLarnin again over 15 rounds. He won 16 bouts in a row after that, including three over future world middleweight champion Ceferino Garcia and one against Al Manfredo. His only two defenses, however, over that stretch were against Garcia and against Izzy Jannazzo, on points in 15 rounds.
In his last fight, Ross defended his title on May 31, 1938, against fellow three-division world champion Henry Armstrong, who beat him by a decision in 15. Although Armstrong pounded Ross inexorably and his trainers begged him to let them stop the fight, Ross refused to stop or go down. Barney Ross had never been knocked out in his career and was determined to leave the ring on his feet. Some boxing experts view Ross's performance against Armstrong as one of the most courageous in history. Some believe that Ross's will to survive every tough fight on his feet had to do with his understanding of his symbolic importance to Jews. That is, Jews would not only fight back, but they would not go down.
Ross retired with a record of 72 wins, 4 losses, 3 draws and two no decisions (Newspaper Decisions: 2–0–0), with 22 wins by knockout. He was ranked #21 on Ring Magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years.
Ross spent his last days using his celebrity status in promotional work for casinos and other businesses. He remained with his second wife, Cathy Howlett, although they never had children. He was happy he reached the two goals he had set: reunite his family and become a world champion in boxing. He wrote an autobiography titled No Man Stands Alone.
He also remained loyal to his friend Jack Ruby and testified as a character witness on Ruby's behalf at his trial for killing Lee Harvey Oswald, who was under arrest for the shooting death of Dallas patrolman, J.D. Tippit.
Ross died in his hometown Chicago of throat cancer at the age of 57.
He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. He was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2006.
Article sponsored by HÖRFA