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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Look Back: Al "Bummy" Davis

In an effort to link the past with the present, The Jewish Boxing Blog will present monthly a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

By the stroke of dreadful luck, Al "Bummy" Davis never fought for a title. He fought a number of champions, but the belt was never on the line thanks to the powers that be. Regardless, he is considered to have possessed one of the best left hooks in the history of boxing. In a 2003 list of the greatest punchers ever, The Ring ranked Bummy #54.

Bummy Davis was anything but a bum. Born Albert Abraham Davidoff on January 26, 1920 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Al Davis's name went through a peculiar evolution. From Vroomy, a nickname derived from his middle name in Yiddish, to Boomy, and finally to Bummy, Davis originally didn't appreciate his moniker, which was given to him by manager Johnny Attell when Davis began his professional career.

During Davis's childhood, Brownsville was a mob-infested ghetto. Though widely assumed to have been mob-tied, it now seems that Davis was able to rise above his surroundings. Even his brother Willie was a mobster. On several occasions, Davis crossed paths with noted gangsters, including Abe Reles, Louis Lepke, and Frankie Carbo. Bummy flirted with danger thanks to his quick temper and persistent sense of justice.

Bummy was a brawler who harbored no qualms with being punched in the face. Usually, his left hook would compensate for his defensive weaknesses. Davis's best win was a first round KO of Hall of Famer and world champion Bob Montgomery in 1944. Montgomery lost the championship three months before the fight and would win it back two weeks after.

After defeating local boys, Bernie Friedkin and Mickey Farber, Davis beat up former champion Tony Canzoneri and future champion Tippy Larkin at the end of 1939. That led to a non-title fight with lightweight champion Lou Ambers in which Bummy lost a unanimous decision. In 1940, Bummy faced welterweight champion Fritzie Zivic, who was a notoriously dirty fighter, in another non-title bout. After repeatedly enduring thumbs in the eye during the first round, Bummy went ballistic in the 2nd, hitting Zivic low more times than Larry King has had weddings. Davis was suspended for the blows.

During his suspension, Bummy joined the army in a bid to repair his severely damaged image. He returned to fight Zivic in a non-title benefit. Zivic pounded Davis over 10 rounds, but the Brownsville native was courageous in defeat. Bummy's next 15 fights were on the road as the suspension still held in New York until 1943. After the win over Montgomery, Bummy faced the recently-defeated former champion Beau Jack. Despite staggering Jack in the first, Bummy lost a unanimous decision.

Three months later, the legendary Henry Armstrong blasted Bummy inside of two rounds. The next year, in 1945, Rocky Graziano defeated Davis on a 4th round TKO. Rocky hit Davis after the bell signifying the end of the 3rd round. Bummy couldn't recover from the illegal blow and was stopped early in the next round. Davis finished his career with a record of 65-10-4 including 46 KOs.

Six months after the Graziano fight, Davis was present during a hold up of the bar he had just sold. Indignant at the robbery, Bummy chased the armed thieves, brandishing only his bare hands. In the chase, Davis was fatally shot, dying at the age of 25. He left behind a wife and son.

Bodner, Allen. When Boxing Was A Jewish Sport. 1997.
Ross, Ron. Bummy David vs. Murder, Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Mafia and an Ill-fated Prizefighter. 2003.

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