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Friday, May 13, 2011

A Look Back: Leach Cross

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.

Leach Cross had one the most colorful nicknames in boxing history, "The Fighting Dentist." But it was one of the least creative. He actually was an accomplished professional boxer and a practicing dentist- hence the moniker. The lightweight never won a title, but was well respected in the ring. In fact, Cross was the great Benny Leonard's idol.

Born Louis Wallach on February 12, 1886, he was raised in New York's Lower East Side. Wallach's parents were from Vienna and his father became a successful businessman in New York. But Wallach grew up in a tough neighborhood and was often forced to fight in the streets. Because of his father's success, Wallach was able to go to NYU for college where he studied dentistry. He only began boxing while in school to pick up a few extra dollars. In 1905, he fought his first fight in which he earned $6.

As a boxer, Wallach took on the name Leach Cross in the hopes that his parents would not find out about his alternative career path. On January 13, 1908, he knocked out Joe Bernstein in the first round and earned $100. After the fight, Cross's father was offered congratulations by an acquaintance. Mr. Wallach was thoroughly confused until the acquaintance explained that his son Louis had won his last fight. Cross's father was not happy, but the purse from the fight helped sooth his anger.

For a guy who eventually graduated with a degree in dentistry, the 5'7" Cross was not a particularly intellectual fighter. He fought out of a crouch and threw powerful right crosses and uppercuts. Against the crafty Packey McFarland, who he fought twice, once on October 21, 1908 and the other on March 23, 1909, Cross was unable to adjust to McFarland’s style.

During Cross's era, a winner of a match could not be determined unless there was knockout or a disqualification. To get around this law, newspapers declared a winner. In one such eventual newspaper decision which took place in December of 1911, Cross knocked out KO Brown's teeth. Brown then went to get his teeth repaired by Dr. Louis Wallach.

On November 10, 1913, Cross faced the scientific boxer and lightweight champion Willie Ritchie. Cross was taught a boxing lesson. After a few more years of relative success, Cross retired in 1916. He briefly returned five years later, but retired for good on November 7, 1921. Through it all he continued his dental practice.

According to BoxRec.com, Cross's record was 33-10-4 with 21 KOs which doesn't include his newspaper record of 56-28-13. Cross died in New York, New York on September 7, 1957.

BibliographyBlady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Century, Douglas. Barney Ross. 2006.
Riess, Stephen A. Sports and the American Jew. 1998.


  1. I have his 'Hassan brand Cork tip cigarettes' card from 1910,which lists his 'battles in 1909'
    on the back-one win,four no-decisions,one draw,and a loss to Dick Hyland after 41 rounds to Dick Hyland between patients.

  2. This is my great great grandpa, his great granddaughter is my mom. Kathy cross (now Kathy wills)

    1. He is my great uncle through marriage.

    2. Sam Wallach was his manager and my grandpa

  3. Hi Kathy - Leach Cross was related to some of my Sann cousins. Their ancestors were Mendel Sann and Rojza Wallach Sann. I'd be really interested in comparing notes. The blog says the family was from Vienna but like many Jews from eastern Europe (in the case of these Wallachs, Rymanow, Poland or a nearby village or town), they emigrated first to Vienna and later to the United States. I look forward to hearing from you.