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Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Look Back: Art Aragon

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.

Art Aragon wasn't technically a Jewish boxer having converted to Judaism after his boxing career had ended. But he was the "Golden Boy," named by actor William Holden who had starred in a movie by the same name. Aragon was a talented fighter with a big punch, but is more remembered for his colorful personality.

Art Aragon was born on November 13, 1927 in Belen, New Mexico. After bouncing around the country, he moved to East Los Angeles, California when he was 15. He became a professional boxer when he was 16 years old, admitting later that he lied about his age in order to turn pro. The dawn of his boxing career was quite successful. He had piled up 49 wins when he faced lightweight champion Jimmy Carter in a non-title bout on August 28, 1951.

Aragon earned a ten-round split decision over Carter, who was known to throw non-title fights in order to earn more money in the rematch when he bet on himself. When the two met three months later, Aragon was so drained after making weight, he later quipped that he was the only boxer ever to be carried into the ring. Carter won a 15-round unanimous decision. Aragon, who was notorious for making excuses when he lost, would never get another title shot.

The Golden Boy was popular in Hollywood. He was a friend of Marilyn Monroe's and dated Mamie Von Doren. Van Doren later recalled, "The 'Golden Boy' was a perfect title for him. His smile turned everyone on. His skin was golden. His floppy hair bounced so perfectly. He was just so sexy." But his romantic life wasn't always so enviable.

During the weigh-in before his bout with former welterweight and middleweight champion Carmen Basilio in 1958, Basilio innocently asked Aragon how he was doing. Aragon replied, "Not so good. Both my wife and my girlfriend are here."

The Golden Boy was perhaps the biggest draw in Los Angeles during his era. But, peculiarly, many fans came to boo the man donning gold. Aragon featured knockout power but struggled against boxers who utilized a tight guard. He also was no stranger to controversy. Opponents were fingered for throwing fights, Aragon was once accused of offering to pay an opponent to lose, and he won a heavily-disputed decision over Chuck Davey in 1954.

After the second Carter fight, Aragon won six fights in a row before falling to Billy Graham in 1953. Art started the fight with hard punches, but faded late, losing a ten-round unanimous decision. In 1956, Aragon avenged his loss to Carter, defeating the former lightweight champ at welterweight in a ten-round unanimous decision. That was part of a 15-fight win streak, leading up to the bout with Basilio.

Though Aragon had his moments, the bigger Basilio nearly beat the pants off of Art. Referee Tommy Hart called out to Aragon in the eighth round that if he didn't show something, Hart would stop the fight. Aragon responded, "What are you waiting for?" Basilio was awarded an eighth-round TKO when Aragon's corner threw in the towel.

Aragon finally retired from the ring in 1960. After his boxing career, he acted in several movies and worked in the bail bonds business. He counted Bob Hope, Jayne Mansfield, and Sophia Loren, among other celebrities, as friends. He converted to Judaism in order to marry one of his four wives, Irene. His son, Brad, asserts that Aragon was a proud Jew, although not particularly observant. He especially enjoyed Jewish food. He even had his conversion certificate shrunk so he could literally be a "card-carrying" Jew.

In summing up his life, when asked, with all of his accomplishments in boxing and in Hollywood, what is the best thing he's done, Art replied, "Divorcing my third wife."

Aragon died on March 25, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. He is buried in Mt. Sinai Memorial Park.

Jimmy Carter vs. Art Aragon
November 14, 1951
Los Angeles, California
Olympic Auditorium
World Lightweight Championship
part 1


Greenberg, Brad A. "'Golden Boy' Art Aragon keeps the faith." JewishJournal.com, May 1, 2008.
Golstein, Richard. "Art Aragon Dies at 80; Was One of Ring's Golden Boys." The New York Times, March 28, 2008.
Pugmire, Lance. "Colorful L.A. boxer in the '40s and '50s." Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2008.


  1. Art Aragon was also a close buddy with the late,great Benny Goldberg,who-depending where you look,won 2out of three or three out of four from the great Manuel Ortiz;he beat Ortiz in Ortiz's first pro fight-and lost their fight for Ortiz's bantamweight title(all of their fights were in LA/Goldberg was from Detroit).Goldberg's in at least one World Boxing Hall of Fame-and my uncle,Allen S.Rosenfeld(author of Charley Burley) finally got Goldberg into the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame,of which none of the
    Board ever heard of Goldberg...My uncle idolized Billy Graham-and got me an autographed photo of Carmen Basilio..

  2. Very cool, Brian. Thanks for sharing as always!