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Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Look Back: Benny Schwartz

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

Benny Schwartz was a two-time world title challenger. The bulk of his career took place during the 1920s when Jews were often seen inside the ring.

Benny Schwartz was born on May 4, 1903. He grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. To start his pugilistic career, Schwartz fought under the name Young Mendel, presumably to hide his fistic exploits from his mother.

Schwartz's boxing career got off to an inauspicious start. On January 22, 1920, Schwartz lost to Young Pal Moore of Baltimore. Schwartz won his next four fights before falling to Moore again. Schwartz then drew with Moore before beating him twice.

Schwartz was 29-5-6 when he faced Little Jeff Smith on May 8, 1922. Wearing dark trunks, Benny won by disqualification to take the Southern flyweight title. Schwartz put together a series of successful defenses before he faced Joe Lynch for the world bantamweight championship on November 24, 1922. At Memorial Hall in Springfield, Ohio, Joe Lynch knocked Benny Schwartz out in the fifth round.

Schwartz was considered to be an intellectual boxer. He didn't possess much pop and was criticized for refusing to brawl. But the perception of Schwartz changed after his second title fight. Schwartz returned to his winning ways following the Lynch debacle and earned a shot at the flyweight champion, Pancho Villa.

Schwartz, with his hair parted in the middle, and promoter Benny Franklin signed to fight Villa at the 5th Regiment Armory in Schwartz's hometown on October 12, 1923. Schwartz lost the 15 round decision, but earned respect. The Ring cooed, "[Benny] gained many friends by his willingness to mix it at all times and showed the local skeptics that he could take punishment without flinching."

Benny's career hit the skids after the loss to Villa. Including the title defeat, Schwartz would lose six out his his seven fights. One came at the hands of Little Jeff Smith for the Southern flyweight belt. Another was to former world champion Johnny Buff.

But Benny bounced back, showing incredible fortitude. He won 19 of his next 20 bouts, a span that ranged from 1924 until 1926. On January 3, 1927, Schwartz battled the bantamweight champion, Charley Phil Rosenberg, in a non-title affair. Rosenberg out-pointed his fellow Jewish battler in twelve rounds at the 104th Regiment Armory in Baltimore.

In 1927 and 1928, The Ring recognized Benny as a top 15 bantamweight in the world. But his stay near the top would not last long. Schwartz's boxing career meandered until 1933. The rest of it was mostly dotted with losses, including one to future world champion Panama Al Brown in 1928. Brown later defeated another Jew, Young Perez in 1937.

According to BoxRec, Schwartz's career record was 76-36-8 with six KOs. During his era, certain states, such as New Jersey, only recognized a victory if it came by way of knockout. So newspapers would help determine the winner. Schwartz was 10-2-1 in newspaper decisions. AinsworthSports.com rated Schwartz in the top 100 boxers in any weight class during the 1920s. He was ranked as the 85th best of the decade.

Benny Schwartz was inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame in 1981. He lived until the age of 80 and died in 1984.

Scharf, Thomas. Baltimore's Boxing Legacy, 1893-2003. 2003.
"Schwartz, Benny." Jewsinsports.org.

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