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Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Look Back: Georgie Abrams

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.

Georgie Abrams was an underrated boxer who fought for the middleweight title in the 1940s. He had a pension for facing and, in some cases, defeating former and future world champions, including a controversial decision loss to Sugar Ray Robinson.

Born on the day World War I ended, November 11, 1918, his full name was Georgie Freedom Abrams. The middle name came from his mother's fit of patriotism upon hearing that the war had ended. It would cause Georgie some consternation as neighborhood boys picked on him throughout his childhood.

That childhood began in Roanoke, Virginia. The family moved to Alexandria, Virginia, and eventually settled in Washington, D.C.  Abrams was a good athlete and a smart kid. He learned to box at the Washington Boys Club and won a local Golden Gloves tournament before turning pro in 1937.

During the first year of his pro career, Abrams won his first 17 fights. He mostly fought at Turner's Arena on 14th and W Northwest in the District and at Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators, on U Street. A wild right landed by journeyman Jimmy Jones on Georgie's jaw in his 18th fight sent him down for the count. Abrams won the return bout less than a month later.

Sandwiching his second career loss were two big wins for Abrams. On June 6, 1938, he defeated former world champion Teddy Yarosz by split decision. On June 20, 1939, he outboxed future Hall of Famer Lou Brouillard. A year later, he drew with Charley Burley, an all time great.

Abrams donned thinning hair, a hairy chest, and a wizened air in the ring. He was a classy and intelligent boxer who wore a Star of David on the right leg of his trunks. His defense was legendary, particularly his purposeful head movement. But he cut easily and had trouble breaking an egg with a straight right. He stood 5'9" and had a steel chin.

On November 28, 1941, Abrams had a shot at the world middleweight championship against Tony Zale. Abrams nailed Zale in the first round and Zale barely beat the count. But Abrams took hellacious punishment to the body from that point onward and lost a decision. Georgie fought once more before taking four years off during World War II.

Abrams went 4-0-1 in his first five fights after the war. Then, he lost a bloody duel against future world champion and one of the greatest middleweights of all time, Marcel Cerdan. Two bouts later, on May 16, 1947, Georgie took on Sugar Ray Robinson, arguably the greater fighter who ever lived. Robinson was awarded a split decision win, much to the chagrin of the crowd at Madison Square Garden. The two men engaged in an action-packed chess match that took place in the center of the ring. Sugar came away from the battle with a renewed respect for Georgie's skills.

Abrams lost three more fights, including two of his three career knockouts. The lone decision loss was to former world champion, Fred Apostoli. Though Georgie Freedom's skills had eroded, he managed to make the fight competitive with Apostoli thanks to a crisp educated jab and accurate counters.

Abrams retired from the ring in 1948 with a record of 48-10-3 and 9 KOs. Afterward, he tried his hand at several different professions, including being a salesman, entrepreneur, and a barkeeper, but none stuck. He was married several times as well. But, bizarrely, life after boxing did not provide him with the same stability as life in the ring had.

On June 30, 1994, Georgie died at the age of 75 after suffering a stroke in Las Vegas and battling Alzheimer's Disease.

Acevedo, Carlos. "Detour Ahead: Georgie Abrams and the Middleweights of the 1940s." The Queensberry Rules. April 6, 2010.
Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.

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