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Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Look Back: Al McCoy

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.

Al McCoy was the middleweight champion of the world from 1914-1917. He was the first southpaw ever to win a world title. Despite McCoy's extended reign atop the middleweight division, he wasn't quite an all time great in the ring though.

Al McCoy was born Alexander Rudolph on October 23, 1894 in New Jersey. His family, headed by orthodox parents, soon moved to Brooklyn, New York. His father was a kosher butcher in the tough Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Al had his first professional fight when he was only 16 years old in 1910. He took on the name McCoy so his parents wouldn't find out about his new career. His first few fights took place in New England before he made his Brooklyn debut late in 1910.

McCoy fought in an era in which boxing stradled legality. It was illegal to judge a boxing match based on points in certain states. For a winner to be declared, either a knockout needed to be scored or one fighter had to be disqualified. The sport attempted to get around this law by instituting newspaper decisions, where a writer would judge the winner. Significantly, a champ could not lose his crown by way of newspaper decision.

McCoy was considered a light puncher and relied on his superior defense to win. In February of 1914, McCoy was fought a good boxer named Joe Chip to a draw according to newspaper decision. The two were scheduled to engage in a rematch two months later, but Joe Chip became sick. The middleweight's brother George took the ill fighter's place. George Chip happened to be the middleweight champion of the world.

McCoy knocked George Chip out in 54 seconds of the first round to capture the middleweight crown. Though McCoy won the middleweight championship, he still couldn't garner respect. Ken Blady writes, "His one-punch knockout of Chip was called the most sensational accident since Columbus discovered the New World." McCoy was called "The Cheese Champion," a moniker meant to disparage its owner.

According to BoxRec.com, McCoy was 0-6-1 in title bouts as champion. For his opponents, the rub was that Al couldn't be knocked out, so McCoy repeatedly retained his title. He lost a newspaper decision to George Chip in April of 1915. Young Aheam couldn't get McCoy out of there in two ten-round bouts in which the champ lost by newspaper decision. Even in non-title bouts, McCoy lost more than he won.

McCoy had a less than stellar 13-23-7 record while holding the middleweight title. Twenty two of those losses came by way of newspaper decision, meaning that McCoy technically was officially undefeated as champ 42 fights into his reign. One of those losses was against Harry Greb, who easily won every round of their 1917 contest. On November 14, 1917, McCoy finally lost his title when Mike O'Dowd stopped him in six rounds.

McCoy retired a couple of times, the last in 1924. His final record was 32-11-4 with 27 KOs (41-38-29 in newspaper decisions) according to BoxRec.com. After his boxing career, Al lived in Los Angeles with his wife, playing small roles in movies and working in the boxing business with his brother Babe. He died on August 22, 1966.

Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Riess, Stephen A. Sports and the American Jew. 1998.

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