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Monday, April 22, 2013

A Look Back: Sauveur Benamou

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.

Sauveur Benamou was a boxer from Algeria who became the French lightweight champion during his brief career. Not much is known about his life out of the ring, however.

Sauveur Benamou was born on October 11, 1933 in Oran, Algeria. Lying on the Mediterranean Sea in the northwest section the country, Oran was resettled as a Jewish town in the late eighteenth century, two years after a devastating earthquake. One of the city's landmarks is the Great Synagogue, located in western Oran, where construction began in 1880. After Jews left Algeria, the synagogue remained a House of God, being used as a mosque since 1975.

The French occupied the city in 1831 and would maintain control over it until Algeria gained its independence in 1962. As a result of colonization and its relatively close proximity to Spain, Oran inhabited one of the largest European populations in all of North Africa. It currently is a modern city, boasting aesthetically-pleasing white buildings and palm trees.

Benamou began his boxing career in 1956 in his early 20s. He went 13-0-3 in his first 16 fights which took place from 1956 to 1958. These bouts mostly took place in Paris, France at the Salle Wagram, an establishment built in 1812 and still in operation after undergoing restoration.

Benamou sported a wide flat nose with relatively narrow cheeks. A handsome man, his torso could have been constructed by an ancient Greek sculptor. He typically wore dark trunks with white trim and sported a large white Star of David over his left thigh.

In 1959, Benamou caught a well-regarded French fighter named Edouard Ptak at the tail end of his career and stopped him in the second round. Benamou then drew and subsequently lost to Frank Garcia in Spain during two bouts in April of 1959.

Sauveur took six and half months off before losing to experienced French lightweight champion Fernand Nollet. Benamou's best win came a month later against the same Nollet. This time, the bout was fought in Benamou's hometown of Oran. The date was December 6, 1959. Benamou received a decision victory after fifteen rounds and won the French lightweight championship.

Benamou was known as a puncher and displayed the patient manner of a man looking for a single knockout blow. On February 23, 1960, that style hurt Sauveur against his British opponent, Dave Charnley.

Charnley was a Commonwealth lightweight champion and coming off of a sixth round stoppage loss in a world title challenge against Joe Brown two and half months earlier. Charnley would challenge Brown for the title again the next year in The Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year for 1961, and win the British and European lightweight titles during his career.

At the Empire pool in London, England, Charnley easily outboxed Benamou, who waited too long to land one concussive blow. Benamou was supposed to get a rematch the following January, but had to pull out of the fight five days before the fight due to an injury. He never fought again.

We can estimate Benamou's ring record at 17-3-4 with at least five KOs by combining what we know from The Ring and BoxRec. In 1962, Jews from Oran left their hometown and settled in the Paris region when Algeria gained independence after a bloody war with their colonizer, France. In 1993, he participated in a meeting of the Association of Jews from Oran in France, but little else is known about Benamou after his ring career.

"Charnley Scores Easy Victory." The Age. February 24, 1960.
"Charnley Cops Gresham Win." Pittsburgh Press. January 18, 1961.

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