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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Look Back: Al Friedman

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.

Heavyweight Al Friedman was something of a renaissance man outside of the ring. A contender, his life was tragically cut short.

Al Friedman was born on May 25, 1908 in Roslindale, Massachusetts. He lived most of his life in nearby Boston. Friedman turned to professional boxing at the age of 18 and the 5'10 1/2" fighter won his debut against Bull Mason on March 15, 1926 by second round KO. Al won his next six fights, all by knockout.

Four and half months after his debut, Friedman lost his first fight, a ten round decision against Joe Monte. Friedman had never fought passed four rounds before that fight. He dropped his next two fights, including a rematch against Monte.

On December 13, Friedman received a beating from 1924 Olympian Charles Peguilhan until the eighth and final round. Al needed a knockout to win and managed to knock Peguilhan to the ropes with body and head punches. The 1924 Olympian then fell to the canvas and couldn't beat the count. Friedman had won, but the price was his opponent's life. Peguilhan died the next day due to injuries suffered in the ring.

Friedman was initially arrested for manslaughter, but the charges were soon dropped. He wouldn't fight again for three months when he took on another Jewish heavyweight, Jack Gross. A southpaw from Philadelphia, Gross defeated his co-nationalist by way of six-round decision. Friedman faced contender Ernie Schaaf in two of his next three bouts and lost them both. He'd lose another three times to Schaaf, who beat the likes of Max Baer, James Braddock, and Tommy Loughran.

In addition to boxing, Friedman was an intellectual. He was a bible scholar familiar with Talmudic lore who was fluent in eight languages. In 1929, he defeated a man named Chuck Wiggins who had been arrested two days before the fight for driving drunk into a police car and then knocking down the arresting officer with a punch. It is rare to see two opponents of such different character.

That same year, Friedman won a fight against Tony Two-Ton Galento in the first of two bouts they would split. After a couple of years of limited success, Friedman fought for the last time in January 1932, a decision loss to Jack Roper.

According to Ken Blady, Friedman set the record for most fights in a one-year span with 54. But BoxRec has his record as 35-36-6 with 14 KOs and 3-6-1 in newspaper decisions, although his true record likely will never be known. Two years later, at the age of 26, Friedman was struck by a car in Los Angeles and died from his injuries.

Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.

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