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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Ostroumov Off Today's Moscow Card

Southpaw super middleweight Mikhael Ostroumov was originally scheduled to fight tonight against veteran journeyman Konstantin Piternov at USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia.  While the card will go on, neither Ostroumov nor Piternov is scheduled to take part according to BoxRec.

Two weeks ago, Ostroumov won every round against Evgenii Tershukov. But an accidental clash of heads caused the fight to be stopped in the fifth round. Ostroumov won a technical unanimous decision to go 3-0-1 with one KO. Ostroumov, who turned 23 years old that same night, could be seen around Moscow sporting a bruised right eye from the bout.

Ostroumov turned pro on June 27. His lone draw came on September 4 against Ravshan Ergashev, who was 5-0 at the time. The JBB scored the fight for the Israeli-born fighter. Piternov would have represented an interesting challenge. The 37 year old from Russia sports a 22-25 record with 10 KOs. He started his career 12-0 before becoming an opponent for fighters on the way up. He is a fast starter, but often curiously bows out of fights due to injury.

Mikhael has shown an ability to box and also to apply pressure in his young career. He is an adept body puncher and has the look of a good prospect.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Three Jewish Boxers Win

Igor Lazarev rebounded from a second round stoppage loss in September- his first career setback- with a first round knockout of Hakan Ozdemir on a body shot. After his win in Istanbul, Lazarev is now 7-1 with 3 KOs. Ozdemir is now 0-2. 

Sagiv Ismailov, who fought on the same card as Lazarev, won his second pro fight by technical knockout. He scored three knockdowns in defeating Merdan Hudaykulyyev and is now 2-0 with 2 KOs. Ismailov landed two lefts from the southpaw stance to get the first knockdown. He landed a left hook from a right-handed stance to get the second knockdown.Hudaykulyyev was overwhelmed by Sagiv's hard blows when he fell a third and final time. Hudaykulyyev, who is listed on Boxrec, as a 20 year old resident of Turkey who was born in Turkmenistan, is now 1-2 with one KO.

Mikhael Ostroumov defeated Evgenii Tershukov in Vladikavkaz, Russia. The fight was stopped a minute and 23 seconds into the fifth round due to a cut caused from a head clash. Ostroumov won each of the five rounds on all three judges' cards to take a technical decision. He is now 3-0-1 with one KO. Tershukov falls to 0-11. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Three Jewish Fighters in Action Tomorrow

Mikhael Ostroumov, Igor Lazarev, and Sagiv Ismailov are all scheduled to fight tomorrow, December 10. Lazarev and Ismailov will battle in separate bouts in Istanbul, Turkey. Ostroumov will fight in Vladikavkaz, Russia.

Super Middleweight Ostroumov is scheduled to face Evgenii Tershukov in  a stay-busy fight. Tershukov is a 5' 11 and a half inch 26 year old from Verhnya Pyshma, Russia. He is a ten-fight veteran, but all ten of those contests were losses. He has been stopped four times. He has only fought two opponents with more than three fights of experience. Ostroumov (2-0-1 one KO) has been in tough in his early career. His debut was against a 46-fight veteran while his second one was against a 5-0 prospect. The latter was scored a draw, but Ostroumov deserved to win. He is also scheduled to fight Konstantin Piternov, a 46-fight veteran, on December 24.

Lightweight Igor Lazarev is slated to fight Hakan Ozdermir, a 27-year old from Turkey. Ozdermir weighed 123 pounds when he got knocked out last February in his only career pro fight. Lazarev is coming off of his lone career loss, a second round stoppage at the hands of Binali Shakhmandarov in September. The 34 year old is 6-1 with two KOs.

Super Middleweight Sagiv Ismailov is penciled in to fight Merdan Khudaykuliyev, a native of Turkmenistan. Khudaykuliyev isn't yet listed on BoxRec, so it's possible this is his pro debut. A fighter by that name made it to the semis of the 2017 Turkmenistan Junior National Championships at a much lower weight. A Merdan Khudaykuliyev can be found on social media showing off his impressive biceps and is listed as 25 years old. But who knows? For his part, Ismailov, an 18 year old from Bnei Ayish, Israel, scored a second round TKO victory in his debut in September.

The two fights in Turkey are scheduled for four rounds while Ostroumov's bout is for six.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Yuri Foreman Wins Comeback Fight

Rabbi Yuri Foreman defeated Jeremy Ramos at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville tonight. The former world champion last fought nearly four years ago and earned his first win in four and a half years.

Foreman, who is 40 years old, showed impressive speed and quickness. He landed overhand rights from the outside and leaping left hooks throughout the fight. Ramos, who is seven years younger than Yuri, wanted to counter, but he couldn't catch Foreman. He soon changed tactics and tried to rush in with combinations every once in a while. Ramos, a Colorado resident, was lucky to merely miss; most of Jeremy's charges resulted in Foreman counters which were the Brooklyn resident's hardest punches of the contest.

The first round was as slow as you would expect when a mover and a counterpuncher meet. It served as the textbook definition of a feel-out round. Yuri found his timing and distance in the second. He feinted effectively and used his foot and hand speed to land a couple of eye-catching left hooks and overhand rights. He disguised his punches well. One punch looked like a left hook until it became something in between a hook and an uppercut before snapping back Ramos's head.

Yuri put on a boxing clinic in the third and fourth rounds. Ramos was unsure of what to do. He couldn't catch Foreman, so he bounced and swirled his hands defensively in center ring waiting to be hit.

The fifth and sixth were slower rounds. Ramos landed a left hook and a right in the fifth for two of his rare connects. He briefly switched to southpaw in the sixth which served to halt Foreman's offense.  While Yuri's punch output decreased in the sixth, Ramos continued to improve his activity. He caught Yuri on the ropes and landed a right in the stanza. Both rounds were close.

Foreman took the fight back in the seventh. He landed a nice counter right and a right from the outside in the round. Foreman took the eighth with his jab. His movement was crisp throughout the fight, forcing Ramos to miss until the end. Even at the end he looked fresh, and if his skills have eroded, you couldn't tell it in this fight.

Foreman won the eight-round affair by split decision. The judges' cards were 77-75 twice for Yuri while one judge had it 77-75 for Ramos. The Jewish Boxing Blog scored the fight 78-74 for Foreman. Simply put, the card for Ramos did not reflect the fight. The first, fifth, and sixth were close and those three rounds were the only ones that could conceivably go to Ramos. Ramos did try to steal some rounds in the waning seconds, but only a novice judge should have been convinced by the effort. Raashaan Myers and Haven Harrington, the announcers of the fight, scored it 79-73 for Foreman.

Foreman's record improves to 35-3 with 10 KOs. Ramos is now 11-10 with 4 KOs.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Yuri Foreman to Return Next Month

Rabbi Yuri Foreman is scheduled to fight Jeremy Ramos on December 5 at the Kentucky Center for  African American Heritage in Louisville. Foreman, who is unquestionably the best Jewish boxer of his generation, will enter the ring for the first time in nearly four years.

Foreman (34-3, 10 KOs) won the WBA junior middleweight championship in 2009. All three of his losses have been to world class competition. He lost his title in 2010 to future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto when Yuri tore his ACL. He lost to Pawel Wolak just nine months after that devastating injury. In his last fight, on January 13, 2017, he fell to Erislandy Lara. Lara held two junior middleweight belts and was considered a top ten pound-for-pound fighter at the time.

An old maxim is a boxer's punch is the last thing to go. Foreman, who turned 40 years old in August, is a mover not a puncher. Typically the best older fighters resemble Yuri's namesake, George Foreman, who punched like a mule and possessed a chin of granite on his way to capture the heavyweight championship of the world at the age of 45. Yuri doesn't have a style that typically lends itself to success at an advanced age, but these days 40 is the new 30 in boxing. Another Yuri, Yuriorkis Gamboa, relies on quick reflexes but as he pushes 40, he has remained competitive with some of the best in the sport. In December, Gamboa made it into the 12th against a top ten pound-for-pound foe Gervonta Davis, and last Saturday he went the distance with one of boxing's brightest young stars, Devin Haney. 

Jeremy Ramos is a barber that sports a record of 11-9 with 4 KOs. Yet the Puerto Rican native based in Colorado is much better than his record and alternate profession suggest. He's had a Dickensian boxing career thus far. After winning nine of his first ten bouts, he has lost eight of his last ten, including his last three. Recently, Ramos is the type of fighter who does just enough to lose nearly every round close. That's what he did last year against undefeated prospects Alex Rincon and the late Travell Mazion, who tragically died in car accident this summer. Ramos was competitive this summer against Shane Mosley Jr., the son of the legend, though he was shutout on two of the judges' cards.

Ramos, who is 33 years old, has fought against an opponent with a winning record in all but four of his 20 fights. His best win was his last one, a unanimous decision victory in March of 2019 against Neeco Macias. Macias, who was 17-1 at the time, was known for throwing hundreds of punches a round. Ramos sent the Rooster into retirement. In Foreman, Ramos couldn't face a fighter with a style more different than Macias. Macias stood in front of his opponents constantly firing shots without the slightest concern for defense. Foreman is the consummate boxer.  Yuri will try to avoid duplicating the performance of Jamar Freeman, the last pure boxer Ramos fought. In their 2017 clash, Ramos outhustled Freeman, who didn't do much more than offer the occasional jab in losing a unanimous decision to Ramos in Jamar's home state.

In his prime, Foreman would likely box circles around a game Ramos. But, even more than his age, Foreman's inactivity may prohibit him from returning to his peak. Ramos has fought six times with a 21-month layoff sprinkled in since Foreman last participated in a prize fight. In fact, Yuri has fought only three times in the past seven years. But he has been steadily training and has been enrolled in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association for the past couple of years- something every boxer should do- an indication of his seriousness in returning to the ring. Ramos is a perfect test for Foreman at this stage. Jeremy has only lost to fighters who are a level below world class, so if Yuri wins in impressive fashion, we'll know this comeback is serious. But it won't be easy.

The rabbi and the barber are slated to tussle in an eight round affair.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ostroumov Wins Grueling Bout

Mikhael Ostroumov defeated Vasily Shtyk be way of decisive decision last night at USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia. In a battle of southpaws, Ostroumov’s relentless pressure and volume punching carried the fight.

Shtyk, a 26 year old based in Russia, impressed in the opening round. In his previous fight against Shamil Khataev, Shytk boxed, but he stood his ground early in this contest. Shtyk connected with solid power jabs as Ostroumov came straight forward with his hands up. While the 22 year old Israeli-native bullied Shtyk and landed a solid left in the first, Shtyk landed the best punch of the round, a right hook that wobbled Ostroumov. Shtyk followed up with some additional clean punches but soon backed off.

The second round featured a similar flow as the first except Ostroumov was more effective. He continued to press forward and Shtyk spent most of the round with his back on the ropes. Ostroumov is a body basher, and his assault to the midsection wore down Shtyk and took away his will.

Shtyk rabbit punched incessantly beginning in that second round and continuing throughout the fight. Ostroumov landed a retaliatory low right, and Shtyk reacted as if he had forgotten his cup. It was a telling moment. Ostroumov never complained as he continued to eat headbutts, endure shots to the back of his head, and receive punches on the break. Instead, he stayed focus on the goal. Shtyk, on the other hand, wasn’t as stoic. He opened the third with a good jab as Ostroumov carelessly rushed forward, and a bit later he landed a check right hook, but that was essentially his last gasp.

Shtyk had another dramatic reaction to a low right in the third. In the next round, he lost a point for hitting on the break, which didn’t deter him from continuing to foul. Incongruously, Shtyk looked for a way out of the increasingly ugly beating he absorbed while remaining in the fight, taking his licks, and even fighting back, albeit to an ever-diminishing degree.

The final two rounds constituted a showcase for Ostroumov. He wouldn’t stop punching and he kept landing more crushing blows. His overhand left was particularly fetching. He threw powerful combinations, turned to another angle, and hit Shtyk some more. The referee was well within his right to stop the fight in the first minute of the final round. Though Shtyk resorted exclusively to illegal punches by the sixth, and the ref had to remind him to turn around and fight after a break, he was physically very tough, and survived the battering. His heart might not be made of iron, but his chin is.

The ring announcer declared Ostroumov the winner without reading the scores, but the The JBB had it 59-54, only giving Shtyk the first. Ostroumov is now 2-0-1 with one KO and Shtyk falls to 1-2 with one KO.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Ostroumov Scheduled to Fight Vasily Shtyk on Friday

Super middleweight Mikhael Ostroumov is scheduled to face Vasily Shtyk on Friday at USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia. Ostroumov is 1-0-1 with one KO while Shtyk is 1-1 with one KO.

Ostroumov is a 22 year old southpaw who fought to a disputed draw against Ravshan Ergashev, who was 5-0, on September 4. The JBB scored the bout for Ostroumov. All of the Israeli native's pro bouts have been held at this same arena.

Shtyk's shtick is boxing behind the stick. Though he owns an even record, he's no stiff. A 26 year old southpaw born in Belarus who fights out of town near Ikutsk near the Mongolian border, Shtyk was a decent amateur who had some success within Russia. Two years ago, Shtyk defeated Dmitriy Belykh in Irtusk by way of third round TKO. That has been Belykh's only pro fight.

Last month, Shtyk took on 3-0 Shamil Khataev, who had some international success as an amateur. In the bout, Shtyk used his jab to keep distance early. He doesn't possess the fastest hands or perfect punching technique, but he showed a potentially dangerous left hand. Vasily can loop the left and throw it straight down the middle effectively. He didn't throw any right hooks or uppercuts, he ignored the body, and didn't look to counter. Though only one judge gave him as much as a round, Shtyk was competitive during the first four rounds of an eight-round affair against Khataev.

Ostroumov is listed as three inches taller, and he is four years younger. Mikhael showed impressive skill and toughness in his last bout. Shtyk came apart a bit in the second half of his fight against Khataev. He didn't show the necessary mental toughness beginning in the fifth round. He often ignored the most important rule of boxing: protect yourself at all times. He constantly complained to the referee when he felt he was hit low, throwing his hands down and stepping back, leaving himself exposed. He suffered a bad cut by his right eye in the eighth round- fewer than two months ago mind you- and didn't handle it well. Shtyk spent the final round either running or holding. He turned his back to his opponent several times after breaks indicating he didn't want to be there.

This bout is now scheduled for six rounds. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Mikhael Ostroumov to Fight This Month

Southpaw super middleweight Mikhael Ostroumov is scheduled to fight at USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia on October 30 according to BoxRec. Ostroumov is a 22 year old Israeli-born resident of Russia. He is 1-0-1 with one knockout in his young career.

In his first bout in June, Ostroumov punished his veteran foe to the body. Karen Avetisyan was in survival mode early and the fight was waved off in the second round. Last month, Ostroumov fought 5-0 brawler Ravshan Ergashev. Ostroumov dominated early but faded late and received a questionable majority draw. The JBB scored the fight in Mikhael's favor.

This will be Ostroumov's third fight in the same venue. This bout is scheduled for six rounds. No opponent has been announced.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Lazarev Stopped, Ismailov Wins Debut

Lightweight Igor Lazarev suffered his first professional defeat in a bout against Binali Shakhmandarov in Tirana, Albania this past Sunday. After a close first round, Igor was stopped in the second.

Each judge scored the first round differently. One gave it to Lazarev, the other to Shakhmandarov, and the third scored it even. Just before the bell to end the round, Shakhmandarov landed a right which sent Lazarev down. The referee Marsel Dhima- who, incidentally, was clad in blue jeans- seemed to rule it a slip, but the damage was done.

Lazarev suffered the worst of his 31 professional rounds in the second. After a right cross stunned Igor, Shakhmandarov soon followed up with a flush right uppercut on the chin that led to an official knockdown. Lazarev rose, but a few punches later, he was down again. His corner then threw in the towel; Igor tried to kick it out in disgust before referee Dhima saw it, but it was too late and the casually-dressed ref called a halt to the contest a minute and 17 seconds into the second round. The 34 year old Lazarev is now 6-1 with two KOs. Shakhmandarov, a 21 year old Ukrainian-born resident of Istanbul is 1-0-1.

Sagiv Ismailov debuted impressively on the same card in Tirana, Albania on Sunday. He stopped a 17 year old Albanian debutant named Flori Hoxhallari earning a TKO victory. Sagiv showed is he an aggressive fighter while Hoxhallari spent most of the bout either retreating or switching stances. Coincidentally, Ismailov's fight was stopped at one minute and 17 seconds of the second round, the same second as Lazarev's fight completed.

Ismailov is an 18 year old super middleweight who worked in Tony Milch's Gloves and Doves program. According to Milch, Ismailov is from Bnei Ayish, Israel. The town is mostly made of Jews from Yemen and the former Soviet Union. Though Ismailov just turned 18 last month, Milch notes he is "good enough skill wise and now mature enough to box professionally."  Milch describes Ismailov as "very strong" for his age, but someone his team will build up slowly.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Ostroumov Saddled with Draw, Deserved to Win

The judges ruled Mikhael Ostroumov's fight with Ravshan Ergashev today at the USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia a majority draw. Both boxers kept their undefeated records. Contrary to the official result, Ostroumov deserved his second career victory in as many pro fights.

Ostroumov, a southpaw super middleweight, set the tone in the opening second of the fight with a straight left. He outboxed Ergashev using that straight left as the Russian-based Uzbek brawler rushed in. Nicknamed "The Babyface Assassin" Ostroumov effectively ducked Ergashav's wild left hooks.

In the second, the 22-year old from Israel landed a left that forced Ergashev to perform an impromptu chicken dance. Throughout the round, Ostroumov went to the body effectively with both hands. At the end of the stanza, he took a half step back to avoid an Ergashev onslaught and countered beautifully. By the third round, Ostroumov bullied his usually aggressive volume-punching opponent. Ravshan was visibly frustrated when the bell rang to signify the end of the third.

Mikhael was extremely impressive against a tough foe. He looked like a 15-fight veteran, not a novice in his second pro fight. Ostroumov boxed when he wanted and forced an ineffective Ergashev on the backfoot when he desired. Four of Ravshan's five wins have come against opponents with a winning record, but Ostroumov made him look like an amateur. But Mikhael, who looks like a real climber, needs to improve his stamina.

Ergashev is a rugged brawler. He often led with his head, which bloodied Ostroumov's nose in the second round. By the fourth, Mikhael showed signs of exhaustion, and he held much more than he had previously. Ergashev landed a nice short right and a right uppercut in the round. Ostroumov had a better fifth, but his body language was unmistakable. Weariness was his toughest foe of the night. Though he landed some nice straight lefts and controlled center ring for some of the round, Ergashev kept flinging his wild punches, outworking the Israeli southpaw.

Boxing judges are supposed to score clean effective punching, ring generalship, and defense. If they had done so, Mikhael Ostroumov would be 2-0. Instead, these judges scored the sixth by using the criteria of 1980s Hip Hop. A tired Ergashev waved his hands like he just didn't care and then he screamed. The sight of Ergashev wildly swinging his arms with no intent to land punches while shouting can only be described as bizarre. As the seconds rolled by, the 28 year old's plan became apparent: he was attempting to con the judges into believing he was fresh and busy. In reality, if he landed a punch in the last round, it was by accident. A visibly worn down Ostroumov landed clean straight lefts so regularly that blood trickled from around Ergashev's eye.

When the first score was read- Ergashev by a point- Mikhael was confused. When the next two scores were read- 57 even- he was disappointed. The Jewish Boxing Blog scored the fight 58-56 for Ostroumov, who is now 1-0-1 with 1 KO. Ergashev is 5-0-1 with 2 KOs.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Ostroumov in Tough against Ergashev

Israel-born super middleweight Mikhael Ostroumov is scheduled to face Ravshan Ergashev on September 4 at USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia. Russia has had nearly a million cases of coronavirus and 16,000 deaths. Over 4,000 new cases and 100 death were reported today. If it takes place, this will be a battle between undefeated fighters just starting their professional careers.

Ostroumov, a 22 year old southpaw based in Russia, won his pro debut by TKO in June against a journeyman. Ergashev is 5-0 with two KOs. Born in Uzbekistan, the 28 year old fought for Russia as an amateur.

Uzbekistan has been a hotbed for prospects recently producing Israil Madrimov, Bektemir Melikuziev, and Murodjon Akhmadaliev to name a few. Ergashev fought Madrimov in the amateurs. Madrimov outboxed a game and competitive Ergashev to win by decision.

Ergashev is an aggressive pressure fighter and volume puncher. In his five pro fights, he has shown an indomitable determination and a propensity to wear down his foes. He is far from the most accurate puncher, but his misses often set up his best shot, a chopping counter right. Defensively, he keeps a high guard when pressing forward, and bounces and wiggles his upperbody so he's not a stationary target. In his first four fights, Ergashev's opponents all entered with a winning ledger, combining for a 9-1 record.

The tough Russian has experience against southpaws as well. Madrimov, the amateur standoff, is one. In Ergashev's debut, Rustam Svayev switched stances, but Svayev had been worn down by the second round and spent most of the fight squared up. Ergashev's third opponent, Artem Sarbei, was a full-fledged lefty. In a tiny ring, Sarbei used the ropes to scratch his back for most of the fight, so Ergashev hasn't truly been tested by a southpaw such as Ostroumov in the pros.

Ergashev has his flaws which Ostroumov can exploit. In the fifth round of his fight against Cuban Raiko Santana, Ergashev became frustrated with Santana's movement and slipperiness. Santana's problem was he only occasionally threw a potshot or a counter. The Uzbek Russian has already been cut twice as a pro, once in his second fight against Ilya Baladin and again against Santana. Ergashev has a bad habit of yelling when he punches which requires him to open his mouth. That leaves him susceptible to a broken jaw if Ostroumov can land on the chin as Ergashev yelps.

None of Ergashev's opponents have targeted his body, the typical way to slow down a pressure fighter. A body attack is likely Ostroumov's best hope. He showed a willingness to punish the midsection in his pro debut. Though Ravshan has boxed 25 pro rounds to Ostroumov's one and change, he hasn't stepped in the ring for money in over a year and has fought just under three minutes in the past two years. Though he turned pro in 2017, strangely he has been active as an amateur boxer in the past year as the lines between pro and amateur continue to blur.

This bout is set for six rounds. Ergashev has fought two six-rounders and one eight-rounder, but he did fade late in two of those contests. Ostromouv has fought for a total of three minutes and 34 seconds.

Monday, August 10, 2020

A Look Back: Gary Jacobs

The Jewish Boxing Blog is continuing a series called "A Look Back" in an effort to link the past with the present through a profile of notable former Jewish boxers.

A British, Commonwealth, and European welterweight champion and world title challenger, Gary "Kid" Jacobs is an overlooked, underappreciated, and underrated fighter whose career was a story of promise, disappointment, and redemption.

It is August 26, 1995. Pernell Whitaker, the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world stands in a ring in Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Across from him is a curly-haired Jew from Scotland who isn't given a chance against the living legend. The Scot is little known in the United States, even among his Jewish brethren.

On the Way Up
Gary Jacobs was born on December 10, 1965 in Glasgow, Scotland. As a kid, Jacobs enjoyed playing soccer. Anti-Semitism wasn't a major concern of his childhood in the Scottish capital. At 15, he took up boxing at his father's urging. After twelve amateur fights in three years, he turned professional. "If I'm doing this, I'm going to get paid for it," Jacobs rationalized.

On May 20, 1985 in Glasgow, Gary "Kid" Jacobs earned £200 in defeating John Conlan in his pro debut. He had been working as a goldsmith. "I'm working all week for 50 quid," Jacobs explained to Ian Probert as to why he turned professional, "That was it for me."

A southpaw, Jacobs won his first nine professional fights before losing to journeyman Dave Douglas on June 24, 1986 for the Scottish welterweight title by half a point on the referee's scorecard. Jacobs knocked out his next two opponents before avenging his lone defeat on January 27, 1987. Jacobs grabbed the Scottish welterweight belt with a one-point victory over Douglas on the ref's card.

Jacobs kept winning, and his stock rose. A skillful fighter, Jacobs credits his work ethic for his success. "I loved training," Jacobs explains. "My thing was fear of getting hurt. And I knew the fitter [I am] the more punches I'm throwing and the less I'm getting hit. I never thought of myself as special."

On April 19, 1988 Commonwealth welterweight champion Wilf Gentzler traveled from Australia to Glasgow to defend his title against Gary. At that time Jacobs was a pressure fighter. In the fight, he was shrewdly aggressive and exhibited his two best punches for Gentzler, the straight left and the right uppercut. Gentzler could have done without the demonstration. The Australian was caught in between styles. He didn't lead but couldn't catch Jacobs on his way inside either. Once inside, Jacobs roughed up the champion. The referee's score was a bit too close, but Jacobs snatched away the Commonwealth belt.

That year, Jacobs moved to London to further his boxing career. Glaswegian crime boss Arthur Thompson, a friend of a Glasgow-based promoter, didn't appreciate the move. He ordered hitman Paul Ferris to cut up Jacobs with a razor. Ferris, usually a loyal enforcer, happened not to like the go-between Thompson had sent and ignored the order. Jacobs knew of the rumor and initially didn't realize he was safe. "Eventually on one of my visits [to Glasgow] a pal told me, 'You're all right now,'" he says.

In London, Jacobs entered the office of Mickey Duff hoping the famed Jewish manager would represent him. Working with Duff was one of the major reasons why he had moved to London. Mike Barrett shared an office with Duff, and Jacobs unintentionally signed with Barrett without realizing it. "I was just a lad," Gary recalls, " A novice. What did I know about people managing me?" During their partnership, Barrett would guide Gary to international acclaim in the welterweight division, but he also made some key managerial mistakes.

By that point Jacobs had dramatically improved his game. He was most comfortable darting forward, but he wasn't a face-first fighter. Never a one-punch knockout artist, Jacobs was one of the rare men to score more knockouts as his career developed and the opposition's ability increased. Scoring just two KOs in his first ten fights, Jacobs gradually learned to wear down his opponents. He scored 11 KOs in his next 16 fights and four in a row after the win over Gentzler. One of those KO victories came in September of 1988 against contender Javier Suazo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Suazo had knocked out future world belt-holder Vincent Pettway and gone the distance against 1984 Olympic gold medalist and current world champion Mark Breland. Gary's tenth round KO was a better result against Suazo than either champion could muster.

Around this time, Gary met Queen Elizabeth's husband at a function. Prince Philip asked the Jewish pugilist, "Did you get that nose from boxing?"
"No, I've had it all my life," Gary retorted.

On April 4, 1989, Jacobs was an underdog against a 35-0, 21-year old named George Collins. "That was a monster fight for me," Jacobs remembers. BoxRec lists Jacobs as 5'7" and Collins as 5"10". The younger, taller man not only had more professional boxing experience, he had more amateur fights than Jacobs as well. Jack "Kid" Berg, the legendary Jewish fighter from London who fought from 1924-1945 was in attendance to see Jacobs. In the fight, the new "Kid" was able to get on the inside against the younger Collins where he landed eye-catching right uppercuts and the occasional headbutt. Both actions served to frustrate the English prospect. In the twelfth and final round, George's eyes were badly marked when a straight left floored him. He got up, but Jacobs won the referee's decision.

Each victory added to Jacobs's confidence. "I think I'm the greatest thing," he told David Horovitz of the Jerusalem Post at the time, "I'm very quick. I don't take a lot of punches. I don't smoke, don't drink, and I don't have doubts."  He had a showcase bout scheduled in New York against journeyman Tyrone Moore which was to be a stepping stone to a title shot against Mark Breland. Edwin Rosario got hurt and had to pull out of a fight, so a replacement bout was concocted. Gary would face James "Buddy" McGirt.

The Fall
"Mike Barrett could have picked anybody, but he picked Buddy McGirt," Jacobs recounts. "He was a brave manager, but I was glad to take it." McGirt, a future Hall of Famer, was a very underrated fighter at the time. Before the fight, the Associate Press added 19 extra losses to McGirt's ledger, describing his record as 43-21. BoxRec lists him as 43-2-1 before the fight with Jacobs. The New Yorker had lifted a junior welterweight belt off a Frankie Warren and then lost it to Meldrick Taylor. He would later win a welterweight world title strap and later lose it to Pernell Whitaker in a disputed decision. For Jacobs's part, he claimed, "I'd never heard of McGirt."

Early in the fight, McGirt looked like the wrong choice of opponent. Jacobs couldn't get inside as McGirt was too crafty and Buddy possessed the quicker hands. Jacobs was competitive throughout, and landed his right uppercuts in the eighth and ninth rounds, but McGirt finished the fight strong. Barbara Perez and former junior welterweight titlist and Saoul Mamby conqueror Billy Costello had the fight 8-2 while the third judge scored it 7-3 for McGirt. "He was just too good for me," Jacobs admits, "but I gave him a fight. He had to be on his game."

The world title shot evaporated for the moment. Three months later, the Commonwealth belt disappeared too when Donovan Boucher of Canada won a decision in Scotland. On April 26, 1990 Gary stopped Pascal Lorcy in the second round on cuts. Jacobs would earn most of his knockouts by showing a propensity to induce lacerations above his opponents' eyes. Gary fought for less than a minute before knocking out his next foe in May. In October, Jacobs was cruising by Mickey Hughes, a solid fighter who was not on Kid's level. In the eighth, Jacobs succumbed to carelessness and was knocked out. It was his fourth career loss and his third in five fights.

Every announcer of Gary's subsequent fights referenced this moment as the low-point of his career. Something to come back from. His march to a title shot had seemingly vanished, and the question of whether Gary should even continue boxing became real. He decided to try to leave Mike Barrett, who had steered his boxing career into a wall. He had to pay Barrett  £30,000 to void the remaining six years on the contract. Years later, Gary was gracious. "I think he helped progress me," Gary says. "At the end of the day, it was all my choice. It was all part of my apprenticeship and it probably made me a better fighter."

Redemption, Part 1
Jacobs tapped Mickey Duff, the man he originally wanted to manage him, to guide his career. After a win over Chris Eubank's brother Peter, Gary faced Del Bryan in a rematch; this time for the British welterweight title. Also a southpaw, Bryan pushed forward and launched shots early in their second fight though many missed the target. Jacobs subtly slipped the in-coming fire. Gary was economical with his shots and landed the cleaner blows during the first half of the fight. A game Bryan came back to begin the second half of the bout, but Jacobs finished strong, cutting Bryan by the right eye in the eleventh. Gary won the British welterweight tile and would not relinquish it in the ring.

On October 16, 1992 Jacobs challenged undefeated southpaw Ludovic Proto for the vacant European welterweight championship in Paris. Even the French press described the split decision victory for the France-based Proto as "a miracle." The British simply called it a robbery. The EBU ordered a rematch for February 6, 1993 in Paris. Jacobs aimed to mute the judges. In the second stanza, Jacobs knocked down the champion with a right hook.  Proto also suffered a cut by his right eye in that round. Kid used smart pressure and skilled in-fighting to control the contest. A Jacobs's right hook in the eighth shook Proto to the core and forced him to question whether keeping the belt was worth this level of punishment. Jacobs smelled the leather strap and jumped on Proto. The man from Guadeloupe survived the round, but after absorbing a perfect right hook in the ninth, his corner threw in the towel.

Gary Jacobs had won the European welterweight championship. He later called it, "My finest hour in the ring... That was my greatest achievement."

Jacobs continued to improve. He was a fighting champion defending his title against deserving yet outclassed opponents including Daniel Biccchieray, Tusikoleta Nkalankete, and Alessandro Duran.  "The only thing I have yet to win is a world title," Gary told Damon Quigley. "I am at the stage of my career when I need incentives. Even defending my European title is insufficient motivation in some ways but I have to do it because I am still hungry for a world title shot."

He could have fought Northern Ireland's Eamonn Loughran, the holder of an alphabet organization's world title. Ultimately, the two would never meet in the ring. No one will ever know, but most boxing people felt Jacobs would have been favored to win the belt. "It was a joint decision between myself and Mickey," Gary says. Jacobs wasn't a championship belt chaser. He wanted to fight the best.

Mickey Duff went to work. He managed to position Jacobs to earn a title shot against the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Pernell Whitaker.

Fighting the Best
It is August 26, 1995. A Scottish Jew enters Convention Hall to the sound of bagpipes. He's nervous and tense but not afraid. Wearing purple trunks with a white Star of David on his trunks, Jacobs enters the ring with Mickey Duff. When referee Ron Lipton, an ex-amateur boxer, stops by to check Gary's gloves, the red corner holds 30% of a minyan, an exceedingly rare occurrence in boxing by the 1990s.

Gary holds a three inch height and reach advantage, and he's in shape. "I was super fit, unbelievably fit," Gary remembers. Michael Buffer bellows, "Let's get ready to rumble!" The bell rings.

Jacobs proves immediately he isn't scared. He's here to win. He pumps a jab to the body in the opening second of the fight. Jacobs isn't a jabber. Whitaker, a fellow southpaw, is one of the best jabbers in the history of boxing. Most of the first round is fought in close quarters. Jacobs targets the body, hoping to slow down the supremely speedy man nicknamed "Sweet Pea." Whitaker catches Jacobs with a couple of eye-catching straight lefts, but Jacobs shows a good right hook. More impressively, Gary is able to track and slip Whitaker's supersonic punches.

Jacobs lands over 40% of his punches in the first round against the defensive master. Though he lands four fewer shots, he connects at a greater accuracy than the sharpshooting champion. In the second, Jacobs continues to slip and work his way inside behind the jab. He follows the cliched advice to "jab with a jabber." But Whitaker's jab is quick and creates swelling by Jacobs's right eye. The world's best fighter lands a blur of a right hook. With twenty seconds remaining, Jacobs ducks a Whitaker left. Pernell trips and falls. Jacobs helps direct him down. "No knockdown," declares referee Lipton. Yet Jacobs has seen Whitaker tumble to the canvas, which serves to buoy his spirits after a close but lost round.

Jacobs is still landing over 40% of his punches, an unconscionable number on the great Whitaker. Kid opens the third with several quick jabs, a punch he is landing with astounding frequency. His right hook is doing damage on the inside. He even flings a lead left from the outside that smacks the target unimpeded. Two minutes in, Whitaker pulls Jacobs's head down and secures him in a headlock. He coyly flings his left glove behind his back and hits Gary with a thrilling but illegal behind-the-back punch. An embarrassment to be sure, but Gary wins the round on the strength of the those first two minutes.

According to The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists, Bert Sugar and Teddy Atlas rate Pernell Whitaker as the second best southpaw in the history of boxing at any weight class. They believe he possessed the eighth best footwork in boxing history. Individually, Sugar and Atlas each put Whitaker in their top 5 best lightweights ever, just behind Benny Leonard and Roberto Duran, and ahead of  Henry Armstrong and Barney Ross. They rank "Sweet Pea" as the second best defensive fighter of all-time. "I don't care who I'm fighting," Whitaker once theorized, "I don't care if it's G-d. If I don't want G-d to hit me, He's not going to hit me." Jacobs out-lands the legend in the third round by connecting over half of his punches. Gary isn't G-d, but he has better a right hook.

Jacobs starts the fourth with a left to the body. Most of the round is contested on the inside, and Jacobs is outworking the great champion. Halfway through the round, another of Gary's divine right hooks meets Whitaker's chest and forces Pernell to stumble backwards. Forty seconds later, Whitaker doubles up on his own right hook out of a clinch and nails the Scot's nose flush. At the end of the round, Whitaker grants Gary a subtle nod of respect, touching gloves on his way back to the blue corner.

HBO's longtime unofficial judge, Harold Lederman, has the bout even after four. So does the network's curmudgeonly announcer and veteran journalist, Larry Merchant. Jacobs throws an elbow in the fifth and receives a stern warning from Lipton. His right hook continues to be his best weapon in this fight, but Whitaker lands several telling blows in the final minute of the round. In Atlantic City, the tide is turning towards the American.

Whitaker's class is increasingly showing. His handspeed controls the sixth round. Halfway through the bout, Jacobs is still more accurate than Whitaker and is still landing at a 40% clip, but his workrate is dissipating. The seventh is bad for Gary, and the ninth is worse. Whitaker exhibits a masterclass in defense and begins to clown Jacobs. Jacobs's right hook reappears with a minute to go in the tenth, but Whitaker answers with a counter left immediately. Gary's corner is begging him to summon up something, anything to change the fight.

In the eleventh, Whitaker misses with a left as Jacobs rushes forward. Whitaker starts to fall and a right from Gary helps him down. Pernell pounds the canvas, distressed over mistiming his punch. Puzzlement overtakes his face when he realizes Lipton is counting. Jacobs has scored a knockdown against the pound-for-pound best! "It was a bit of a clip and a slip at the same time," Gary later remembers. "It wasn’t a fully blown knockdown. But I hit him, and he went down. I’m definitely claiming it!"

The twelfth turns out to be a disaster. Whitaker touches Gary at will. With one minute left in the fight, Lipton takes a point from Gary for holding. "[He's] the greatest fighter on the planet. How much help does he need?" the challenger wonders. Lipton mistakes in-fighting for holding the entire night but is perhaps too lenient on other fouls- rabbit punching, low blows, use of the elbow, and leading with the head- from both fighters. Whitaker smiles sheepishly, and the two men touch gloves. Sweet Pea scores two knockdowns, the first on an overhand left, in the last twenty seconds. Gary is hurt, but determined to finish the fight on his feet.

"I chased him all over the place, but he was so slick he makes you miss," Gary recalls. "The secret of boxing is to not get hit, to be elusive, and show good movement. When you get to the top level of boxing it’s not about how tough you are, that’s a given, it’s a human chess match. It’s about pinning your opponent down. And Pernell was brilliant at that.

"I don’t think the scorecards should have been as wide as they were. It was a competitive fight, it really was, the whole way through," Gary later said. After Whitaker passed away last year, Gary reminisced, "It was great for me to fight Pernell Whitaker. My legacy is that I fought one of the greatest fighters there ever was. I went the distance with him, and lost on points.”

The Whitaker fight gave Gary Jacobs a name in the sport, but at 30 years old his career was coming to a close. He had trouble making 147 pounds and fought only twice more at the weight, including an upset loss to Patrick Charpentier. He moved up and fought his last three bouts weighing over 155 pounds. In his final bout, he lost by unanimous decision to Russian journeyman Yuri Epifantsev. With a record of 45-8 and 26 KOs, Gary Jacobs retired at age 31.

The Nightmare
Boxing might be a metaphor for life, but it doesn't prepare a person for life outside the ring. "I've been... through the mill a wee bit since I stopped boxing. It was a nightmare for the first four or five years," Jacobs told The Scotsman in 2011.

In 1999, Jacobs opened a gym in Glasgow. By 2001, his debts had piled up too high, and he had to declare bankruptcy. He had a wife and three children. "We can't afford a family holiday, and we can't take the kids to the cinema," Gary told David Leslie in 2003. Things got worse.

When Jacobs was working as a boxing analyst for Sky Sports, he was booted out of two separate night clubs. One club said he was ejected for taking drugs in the bathroom, an allegation he denies. In 2003, he was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. He refused to take a breathalyzer test and was suspended from driving for a year. He went to court for possession of the drug Ecstasy and was found not guilty. All of the trouble was too much for the network and Gary lost his television gig.

That same year, Jacobs co-promoted a celebrity charity boxing event with fellow former boxer Paul Weir. The money was to go to sick kids at a hospital in Glasgow. Instead, Weir skimmed quite a lot of the funds for himself and only a tiny fraction made it to the hospital. Gary was angry and dejected.

Locals turned on him. When he was thriving as a boxer, his Judaism wasn't an issue, but things changed when he went through his nightmare. "I never experienced any discrimination during my career," Gary told The Scotsman in 2011. "Sadly I have to say I've come across some anti-Semitism in recent years."

"I am Jewish first and foremost, but not in a way that I ever pushed into people's faces," Gary explained.

In 2010, his wife Linda received a dreaded diagnosis. She had breast cancer, and all of his previous misfortune was put into perspective.

Redemption, Part 2
Gary isn't the only fighting Jacobs. Thankfully, Linda beat the cancer. Gary helped raise money by lacing up the gloves and boxing in an exhibition match for a cancer charity in 2012. This charity event was considered a success. He has been involved in other charitable endeavors as well. In 2010, Jacobs was inducted into the Scottish boxing Hall of Fame.

During his years away from boxing, he spent some time working with a maintenance and cleaning business in Glasgow. He missed boxing though. In 2015, Jacobs had returned to boxing as a trainer in his hometown. He has stayed out of trouble and avoided negative press.

From goldsmith to a hardworking professional boxing prospect. From mafia target to managerial switcheroo victim. From skilled British, Commonwealth, and European champion to gutsy world title challenger. From a nightmare beginning to his post-boxing career to redemption. Fifty-four year old Gary Jacobs has lived an eventful life.

Glen, Fraser. "Legendary Glasgow boxer Gary Jacobs is back in the ring..." GlasgowLive. April 4, 2016.
Halliday, Stephen. "Interview: Gary Jacobs, ex boxing professional" The Scotsman. July 15, 2011.
Horovitz, David. "Gary the Kid is Still Climbing." Jerusalem Post. November 28, 1988.
Leslie, David. "I can't event afford to take the kids to the pictures." News of the World. August 17, 2003.
Probert, Ian. "Gary Jacobs." via PressReader.com August 23, 2018.
Quigley, Damon. "Fighting on without fame." The Times (London). November 7, 1993.
Sugar Bert and Teddy Atlas. The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists. 2010.
Williams, Luke G. "Gary Jacobs Interview: 'Pernell was one of the all-time greats'" Boxing Monthly. July 17, 2019.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Zachary Wohlman Working with Ring of Hope

California native Zachary Wohlman moved to Texas last year to run the Ring of Hope Boxing Club in South Dallas, which aims to help at-risk youth find direction through boxing. He currently runs two programs with a third opening up in the Dallas area shortly.

You can click here to watch an inspiring video of Wohlman showing former world champion Paulie Malignaggi around the gym and explaining what the program is all about.

To learn more about Ring of Hope, click here for their website and click here for their Facebook page.

Monday, July 27, 2020

David Alaverdian is 2-0

Super flyweight David Alaverdian, an Israeli-born resident of California, is 2-0 as a professional. BoxRec just recently listed his debut, a first round knockout against Irvin Canela on December 7, 2019 at Gimnasio Mariano Matamoros in Tijuana, Mexico.

Canela, a 29 year old from Mexicali, Mexico, doesn't exactly possess an enviable record. Falling to 0-7 after the Alaverdian contest, Canela had been stopped in each of his bouts. Alaverdian was only the second man to stop Canela in the first round. The Mexican fighter's first four opponents were a combined 28-2 when he faced them. His fifth opponent was the same man as his fourth and his sixth foe sported a mediocre 6-10 record.

Alaverdian won his second fight on February 29 in Hermosillo, Mexico. Gustavo Javier Chavez Cordova threw wild shots that Alaverdian was able to avoid using his quick feet. Two minutes into the bout, Alaverdian landed a left hook to the body that paralyzed his opponent. Chavez Cordova rose  off the canvas before referee Octavio Lopez reached "diez" but Lopez wisely decided to wave of the fight anyway.

Chavez Cordova also sports an unenviable record. He is 0-7-1, but has only been stopped five times. The combined record of his opponents is even better than that of Canela's adversaries. Since his debut, a draw, Chavez Cordova's opponents were a combine 43-3-2 when stepping into the ring with him.

The coronavirus pandemic has naturally slowed the progress of Alaverdian's boxing career.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Lazarev Fight Canceled

Igor Lazarev was scheduled to face Kristian Bejko last night in Vlore, Albania. The entire card was initially postponed and now officially canceled due to the coronovirus restrictions. The weigh-in had gone on as planned the day before.

Albania currently has 1,866 open cases of coronavirus-19, and 134 people have died of the virus in the country. The prevalence of the virus has increased over the past month with the country averaging just under 100 new cases a day. Vlore county has had 191 total cases and four people have died.

Albania, along with most of the rest of the world, essentially went into lockdown in mid-March. Restrictions were gradually eased throughout the month of May. International travel into the country resumed on June 22. Some restrictive measures have recently returned since the surge of the virus. As of July 15, masks are required inside buildings. Nightclubs and bars were closed again on July 20.

Initially, there was a question if Lazarev would even be allowed out of Israel. Israel has experienced a total of 61,000 cases of the virus and 464 people in the country have died as a result. Daily cases and death have increased in Israel during July. Once Lazarev made it Albania, it seemed as if he had leapt the biggest hurdle. The last-minute cancellation is very disappointing for all the boxers who trained, made weight, and traveled to the venue.

Lazarev will return home tomorrow and hopes to fight again in September.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Local Police Postpone Lazarev's Fight

Igor Lazarev was scheduled to face Kristian Bejko today in Vlore, Alabania, but the entire event has been postponed and possibly canceled due to "technical reasons" according to Unioni i Boksit Shqiptar's Facebook page.

The weigh-in took place under normal conditions yesterday except there more masks than usual due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Lazarev registered at 131.4 pounds. Three hours ago, a post about the cancellation surfaced on the Albanian Boxing Union's Facebook page.

According to a co-promoter of the event, local police showed up with a restriction order. Negotiations between the promoters and officials lasted for several hours in an attempt to move forward with some part of the card, but ultimately nothing was decided. It is possible that the event in some form or fashion could take place tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Ostroumov Starts Career with a Win

Super middleweight Mikhael Ostroumov won his professional debut last Saturday against Karen Avetisyan at USC Soviet Wings in Moscow, Russia. Ostroumov won by second round TKO.

A baby-faced 22 year old southpaw from Israel, Ostroumov had an experienced amateur career. In his first prize fight he came out throwing big shots and consistently attacking Avetisyan's body with right hooks and straight lefts. Avetisyan was convinced early to mostly cover up. Two minutes into the fight, he remembered he was in a boxing match and fired the occasional telegraphed punch from that point onward.

Mikhael Ostroumov continued to treat the 36 year old Avetisyan's body like a heavy bag into the second round. After three minutes and 34 seconds of watching Ostroumov pound away on Avetisyan, referee Alexey Kozlov decided he wanted to do something else and stopped the fight in a quiet moment. Outwardly, Avetisyan looked puzzled, but inwardly he was likely relieved and pretty sore.

In the United States Karen is almost exclusively a woman's name, but Avetisyan is undoubtedly a man, and a tough hirsute one at that. Born in Armenia, he moved to Russia for a professional boxing career that began in 2006. He has now lost his last 17 fights and hasn't had a win in 30 bouts. But this, his 47th fight, was only his sixth stoppage loss. He even went to six-round distance with Sergey Kovalev in 2010. Avetsyan's record falls to 9-34-4 with 4 KOs.

Ostroumov showed two noteworthy flaws in an otherwise impressive debut. He lunged forward too much when throwing the jab and he also found himself squared up right in front of his opponent on a couple occasions. Avetisyan wasn't an opponent who could take advantage of those flaws, but Mikhael will meet someone in the future who can. Nevertheless, Ostroumov showed a good level of boxing intelligence with his body punches, his varied combinations, and his ability to change levels within a combination. After he was announced as the victor, Mikhael backflipped in celebration.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Introducing David Alaverdian

David Alaverdian is a super flyweight who recently turned 27 years old. Born in Israel, he now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada in the U.S. Alaverdian embraces his Jewish and Armenian heritage.

David represented Israel as an amateur boxer. Listed at 5'5", he had a notable amateur career participating in multiple world championships as a flyweight. He also took part in the World Series of Boxing, a tournament that straddles the line between professional and amateur boxing. Alaverdian officially turned pro earlier this year.

On February 29, Alaverdian defeated Gustavo Javier Chavez Cordova by TKO in the first round of their bout at Gimnasio Juan Francisco Estrada in the city of Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico. Referee Octaviano Lopez stopped the fight after two minutes. Chavez Cordova was 0-6-1 at the time of their bout, but he has been in tough so far in every fight of his career. It was the fifth time he has been stopped and the second time in the first round.

Alaverdian is a good body puncher, an attribute that is less common in the amateur ranks than in the pros. His best punch is a left hook to the body.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Lazarev to Fight in July in Albania

Lightweight Igor Lazarev is scheduled to fight Kristian Bejko on July 25 in Vlore, Albania. Of course a global pandemic, coronavirus-2019, continues to impact sporting events worldwide. Currently, Albania has about 2,500 cases of the virus and 62 people have died as a result. Daily infection rates have increased in the country in the last two weeks.

Lazarev (6-0, 2 KOs) is a 34 year old resident of Ashdod, Israel. A pressure fighter who attacks the body, Lazarev has fought in Albania twice before. In his last fight, he defeated Stefan Nicolae by majority decision in Kashar, Albania.

Bejko (3-4) is 20 year old  native of Tirana, Albania. He has quicker feet and hands than one might suspect of a 3-4 fighter. Bejko is a counter puncher who looks to land big punches. He doesn't display a lot of nuance in his game. Defensively, he keeps his hands low and relies on his foot-speed to avoid incoming fire. Occasionally he'll try to slip and duck under the punches, but his preferred method is to pull straight back in a haste. That could play right into Lazarev's hands. Igor doesn't possess the fastest hands, but if he follows Bejko when the Albania flees backwards, Lazarev could be in for a big night.

All of Bejko's seven fights have gone the distance. He has power, but doesn't have much imagination when it comes to initiating offense. His best idea thus far has been to try to land a loaded shot from the outside using his foot and hand speed. He rarely jabs and doesn't focus on the body much. He has shown a good chin.

All three of Bejko's wins have come in Albania. In his pro debut, he beat Leandro Xhelili by majority decision in 2018. Lazarev beat Xhelili by split decision last October although the one card that favored Xhelili smelled like home cooking. All four of Bejko's losses have come outside of Albania. Two took place in Italy, one in Denmark, and the other in the Netherlands. His opponents were a combined 4-0 when he faced them with two making their debuts against the young Albanian.

Bejko's flaws seem to play into Lazarev's strengths, but he's no pushover. He has the quickness to land big counters. This contest is slated for four rounds.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Kaminsky Loses Bruising Split Decision

Super middleweight David Kaminsky lost a bloody six-round battle to Clay Collard tonight inside "The Bubble" at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada tonight. Collard, an awkward pressure fighter, outworked the more skilled southpaw.

Both fighters established their game plans in the opening round. Collard rushed forward with his left leg often crossing in front of his right. He fired punches without concern for proper technique or aesthetics. Meanwhile, Kaminsky kept his hands down, aspiring to showcase his blazing hand speed. Even when the 19 year old Israeli-native landed his quick counters, Collard brushed them off and kept charging. Late in the round, Collard threw a straight right, and the wrist of the glove scratched the skin near Kaminsky's left eye drawing blood in the process.

In the second, Kaminsky managed to time Collard's rushes a bit better and Clay's nose oozed out blood. It was a close round as Kaminsky's hard blows may have overtaken Collard's sheer work-rate. Collard inexplicably stayed on the outside for much of the third round, and Kaminsky shrewdly began attacking the body of the 27 year old from Utah.

Collard snatched the fight back in the fourth. His pressure was relentless, and he managed to punctuate many of his unorthodox combinations with his hard skull. As a result, Kaminsky's face looked like that of an automobile accident victim. Referee Vic Drakulich should have warned Collard about the butts. Kaminsky managed to land an effective body shot in the round, but if an indomitable will determined success, Collard would be a world champion. The fifth and sixth rounds were more of the same. Kaminsky slipped in a nice body shot  here and there and threw eye-catching head punches, but Collard's offense was unceasing.

Two judges saw the fight 58-56 for Clay Collard while one judge saw it Kaminsky's way by the same score. The JBB scored the bout 58-56 for Collard.

The JBB mentioned that this was a potential trap fight for Kaminsky, who falls to 6-1 with 3 KOs. Collard, who is now 7-2-3 with two KOs, has everything in an opponent a young fighter should avoid. He is a winning MMA veteran who fought in the UFC; he is very awkward, very tough, and unrelenting; and he has beaten or drawn with a number of prospects, including southpaws.

This loss could be a turning point in David's career. The fear is that the loss could damage his confidence. In reality, it was just the wrong fight for him, and it presents an opportunity to learn. Making weight appeared to be an issue, understandable considering the limitations created by COVID-19. In the ring, David needed to move subtly to either side when Collard rushed in, instead of trying to time him or moving straight back. At that point, Collard would be out of position and Kaminsky could land with out worrying about Collard's head. Kaminsky also started his body attack too late in the fight. Collard is now 6-1 in his last seven fights; that lone loss was to Olympic medalist Bektemir Melikuziev, a southpaw who established center ring early and then finished Collard with a body attack in the fourth round. Kaminsky seemed to try to follow Melikuziev's path, but once it wasn't working in the first round, he needed to shift his strategy.

In defeat Kaminsky would do well to remember something an old Jewish trainer, Whitey Bimstein, once said, "Show me an undefeated fighter and I'll show a guy who's never fought anybody." Kaminsky now has fought someone.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Kaminsky to Face Collard on Thursday

David Kaminsky is scheduled to battle Clay Collard on Thursday, June 18 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. There will be no fans in attendance as a measure to stop the spread of Coronavirus-19.  The bout will air on ESPN as part of the Jose Pedraza-Mikkell LesPierre undercard.

Collard is not your average 6-2-3 boxer from Utah. The 5'11" 27-year old is a veteran MMA fighter with a winning record in that sport who has participated in the UFC. Since becoming a professional boxer three years ago, Collard has been in tough. Counting Kaminsky (6-0 3 KOs), his last eleven opponents will have entered the ring against Clay sporting a combined 65-3 record, which reveals his 6-2-3 mark to be quite impressive.

Collard only won one of his first five boxing matches, but he has improved a ton since. His balance is better and he found his identity as an iron-faced volume puncher. He has won five out of his last six boxing fights. His most impressive win came last September when he hurt and knocked down Gerald Sherrell in the first round on his way to capturing a six-round unanimous decision victory over the Pittsburgh prospect. Sherrell had participated in the latest version on The Contender and KOed Quatavious Cash in the competition. Sherrell was coming off of a win over veteran Morgan Fitch.

Kaminsky is a southpaw, but Collard has faced several quality lefties. In his last fight back in February, Collard hurt hot prospect Raymond Guajardo, a southpaw, in the first round with a sneaky counter left hook, the same punch that floored Sherrell in the opening round of their bout. After Guajardo was counted down again when his gloves touched the canvas, he came back with a snapping left that put Collard down. Collard rose and in the second stanza kept landing to the head and body. With blood pouring out of Guajardo's nose, the fight was stopped and Collard had his second career stoppage victory.

The 19 year old Kaminsky hasn't fought anywhere near the level of competition as has Collard. This will be the eleventh fight for Clay since May 18, 2019 while Kaminsky has fought only twice in that span.

Collard is an awkward fighter. As is common among MMA fighters who switch to boxing, Collard's stance is a bit square and his right foot comes forward in front of the left when he shoots the right hand, an indication of poor balance. Collard will often stay as a southpaw when his right foot comes forward and is as effective from either stance, though he prefers fighting orthodox. Despite this flaw, his balance has improved since he started boxing for money. Collard throws a lot of arm punches just meant to keep on the pressure. He's adept at varying his punch speed and power.

Collard's defense consists of blocking punches with his cheeks. But Collard shrugs off head shots as if they're a summer's mist. 2016 Olympic medalist Bektemir Melikuziev,a southpaw, set the template for how to beat this improved version of Collard. The two-time World Championship medalist controlled center ring with his precise powerful pot-shots for the first three rounds. Then he went to the body and scored two knockdowns before the fight was stopped in the fourth. Collard was the heaviest of his career by far for the Melikuziev fight last November, which didn't help Clay.

Kaminsky didn't experience anywhere near the level of success as an amateur as Melikuziev did, but he has a similar style. This bout will be a true test for the Israel-native who lives in California. It is somewhat of a trap fight. With the unusual circumstances brought on by COVID-19 and Collard's unassuming record and awkward style, this bout seems like a bit of a high-risk low-reward endeavor for Kaminsky. But a win will show that he is a prospect with a very bright future.

The fight will take place at super middleweight, which is an advantage for Kaminsky. It's scheduled for six rounds, a distance in which Collard has fought three times. Kaminsky has never seen the fifth round as a pro as of yet.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Look Back: Kid Kaplan and Family

The Jewish Boxing Blog is continuing a series called "A Look Back" in an effort to link the past with the present through a profile of notable former Jewish boxers.

Click here to read part 2 or scroll down the page
Click here to read part 3 or scroll down the page

Before Vasiliy Lomachenko and the others of the 2012 Ukrainian Olympic team turned professional and rose to prominence, The Ring declared Louis "Kid" Kaplan the greatest Ukrainian boxer of all time. Kaplan never fought a bout in the country. In fact, he may never have even lived in Ukraine.

Louis Kaplan was born on October 15, 1901 in Kyiv, the current capital of Ukraine, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time. He immigrated to the U.S. when he was five years old. Or so the story goes...

New Information on Kaplan's Early Life
Leiser Kaplan was born to Abraham and Scheine Kaplan probably on October 15, 1902 . His twin sisters Basse and Feige were three years old when the third of eight children arrived. As of this writing it isn't known where Leiser was actually born, but it likely was not Kyiv. An article by Westbrook Pegler in the Atlanta Constitution on August 25, 1925 describes Kaplan's original hometown as Omsk, Russia. It could not be confirmed that Kid Kaplan spent his formative years in the Siberian town of 1,100 Jews (or 3% of the Omsk population in 1897) near the border of what is now Kazakhstan.

Pegler wrote on December 14, 1925 in The Washington Post that Kaplan "knew the name of the town where he was born but couldn't pronounce it because he couldn't play a saxophone." Explaining his roots, Louis told Pegler, "Somewhere in Russia- a hell of a name to say. The Cossacks come and the Kaplans take it on the leg when I'm about six years old." We know Leiser was three when his brother Hirsch appeared and another brother, Neach, came two years later.

The Kaplans' last permanent resident in Europe was Mazyr, which is now in southern Belarus near the Ukrainian border. It's possible that Leiser and his siblings were born in this small town of 5,600 Jews, which accounted for 70% of the town's population. Perhaps he was from an unpronounceable shtetl nearby. It's possible that the Kaplans were from somewhere else, perhaps near Omsk, and then moved to Mazyr after the alleged Cossack attack. We don't know for sure.

In the summer of 1912, Scheine and the kids traveled from Mazyr to Liverpool where they boarded the RMS Adriatic. A huge ship, the Adriatic had rescued some survivors from the Titanic back in April. A new baby, Muscha, joined her five older siblings on the voyage to the United States. Their father's immigration to America cannot be accounted for at this time, but he probably had already made the seven-to-ten day journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Scheine listed her husband "Abram" as her contact and Meriden, Connecticut as their destination.

Leiser, who of course became Louis, was nine years old when his family arrived at Ellis Island on August 16, 1912. Unlike his mother, who soon adopted the name Sadie, and his two older sisters, Feige (Fannie) and Basse (Bessie), Louis could neither read nor write. Nor could Hirsh (Isadore) or Neach (Noah). Musche (Mary) was not yet a year old that summer day.

In Meriden, Louis's dad found work as a junk dealer. The family was initially so poor that Louis wore his elder sisters' hand-me-downs. He briefly attended the Willow Street School until fifth grade when he got a job delivering fruit for five cents a day. Louie learned to fight when he was framed for stealing; he thrashed his framer so thoroughly that a police officer, who had come to arrest the true thief, suggested he should try boxing. Around 1914, Louis took the officer's advice and entered Lenox Athletic Club in town. His sister Frieda was born that year, and David rounded out the family in 1915. An amateur for four years, Louis began boxing professionally in 1918 under the name Benny Miller so that Sadie wouldn't find out. When he discovered his son's new trade, Abraham was more supportive than his wife.

Early Boxing Career
Louis was 15 years old when he stepped into the ring for the first time as a professional on March 7 at the same club in Meriden where he trained. His youthful age could also account for the fake name and for the discrepancy in birth years. It's possible Kaplan gave himself an extra year on Earth in order to be eligible to fight as a pro. He alternated between 1901 and 1902 as his birth year on official forms for the rest of his life.

Regardless of his age or moniker in the ring, Kaplan's performances were decidedly mediocre early in his career. "Benny Miller" was Willie Curry's sparring partner in 1919 and they fought each other in front of World War I veterans in July in Staten Island, New York. In the contest, Curry knocked down Miller, who was known for participating in boxing exhibitions around New England.

After fighting regularly for two years with mixed results, "Kid" Kaplan started to develop an effective style. He went on a 24-fight undefeated streak until losing on points to Eddie Wagner on June 9, 1922. He beat Wagner in the rematch as part of a seven-fight win streak before losing to the man who would become his most familiar rival, Babe Herman. Herman was an American of Portuguese heritage who at 5'4" stood two inches taller than his Jewish opponent. Kid would finish with a 2-1 record in seven battles with Babe; four were deemed draws. Each fight went the distance, 86 rounds in all.

Kaplan dropped their first meeting on December 18 but won the rematch on March 8, 1923. In that second bout, Kaplan scored a first round knockdown. Six days later, he lost a decision to Al Schubert. From June 2 to July 3, Kaplan and Herman faced off three times, all ending in hard-fought draws.

Meanwhile, Louis's brother Isadore also entered the pro ranks. He went by the name Izzy Kaplan- not to be confused with the noted sports photographer of the era. Izzy was 2-0-1 when he lost to the undefeated and more-experienced Sheikh Johnny Leonard, a rare sheikh from Warsaw, Poland. According to BoxRec, the fight with Leonard was his only contest from September 1921 until October 1924.

While Izzy stayed away from the prizefighting ring, Kid's career was gaining clout. He beat Allentown Johnny Leonard- who was not a Polish sheikh like his namesake but was from Allentown, Pennsylvania- and was robbed in Pittsburgh against Cuddy DeMarco in settling for a draw. He drew once with the Mexican Wildcat Bobby Garcia before beating him by decision on June 9, 1924. His brother Noah also mulled over making a living getting hit in the face, but no record has yet surfaced that the younger Kaplan followed through.

Part 2

The Tournament
Johnny "Scotch Wop" Dundee was the featherweight champion of the world in 1924. Kaplan accepted a fight for the title in June, but the champ backed out. Dundee suffered from ephebiphobia, which is a fear of children, but in Dundee's case was a fear of Kid. More than one newspaper at the time believes Dundee vacated his title because he was scared of Kaplan.

To crown a new featherweight champion, a tournament was devised and scheduled to be held in Madison Square Garden in the late months of '24. Kaplan was ready. He had spent five years perfecting his craft. Standing at 5'2", Kid was nicknamed the Meriden Buzz Saw, which gives an indication of his style in the ring. Kaplan fired wild shots from the outside which were designed not to hit the opponent but to confuse him long enough to allow the strong stout Jew to get inside. Once in close, Kaplan punched ceaselessly wearing down the other man. He had a thudding left hook and was a punishing body puncher. What set Lou apart was his training. He'd run ten miles and loved working the speed bag in the gym. Besides Kid, Mike Dundee, Bobby Garcia, Danny Kramer, Jose Lombardo, and Lew Paluso were also participants in the tournament with Babe Herman and Billy DeFoe waiting as alternates in case one of the first six missed weight.

Kaplan drew an old foe, Bobby Garcia, in the first round. The Mexican Wildcat was a U.S. soldier stationed in Maryland. Kaplan and Garcia fought the only interesting bout of the tournament's first round on November 21. Giving up four inches in height, Kid managed to control the bout and nearly knocked out Garcia in the tenth and final round. Lombardo beat Paluso and Kramer beat Dundee- both won by decision- but the evening was marred by Dundee's manager, Dick Curley. The newspapers agreed with the referee in awarding Kramer the decision, but that didn't convince Curley, who ran over and kicked referee Patsy Haley in the face as Haley was bent down talking to reporters. Curley was banned from New York boxing for life.

In the semifinals, Kaplan was selected to fight Lombardo, a native of Panama. Kramer initially secured a bye to the finals. Then the New York commission became hellbent on bringing back Dundee and Garcia to fight each other with the winner facing Kramer. The managers of the three first round winners threatened to boycott and possibly move the event elsewhere. The NY commission backed down. In the fight on December 12, Lombardo, who nearly called off the contest in the dressing room due to illness, bloodied Kaplan's nose in the first. He started out the second effectively too with a body attack. But Kaplan came back and won most of that round. By the third, Kaplan was in control. In the fourth, he landed a left hook that sent Lombardo down. The Panamanian champion rose at the referee's count of seven, but after eating a few more head shots, a short left hook put him through the ropes and out for the count.

By the time the finals rolled around on January 2, 1925, rumors were swirling than Danny Kramer, a Jew from Philadelphia who was backed by the mob, was going to be gifted a decision and thus the featherweight championship in the event the fight went the distance. Kaplan understood his mission: score a knockout to win the championship or lose. He launched hard left-right combinations on his way inside throughout the bout. It quickly became clear this was less a competitive match than a test of Kramer's courage. His left eye was cut and his right was closed. At least his eyes were in better shape than his nose. Fans started begging the referee to cease the slaughter in the eighth, but it took over a minute into the ninth round before Kramer's manager Max Hoffman threw in the towel, which was then used to staunch the blood pouring from the beaten fighter's face. Leiser, the diminutive illiterate from Russia, was featherweight champion of the world!

Featherweight champion
Kaplan's life changed in an instant. The famous promoter Tex Rickard triumphantly claimed Kaplan was the second coming of Battling Nelson, a legendary lightweight champion from Denmark. Louis took a vacation in Montreal before heading west to fight in non-title affairs. Meanwhile, Johnny Dundee sailed back from France to America to declare that he, not Kaplan, was still the featherweight champion. Dundee, who had held the featherweight and junior lightweight title concurrently, defended only the latter title. In his two years as 126-pound king, he never once fought as a featherweight. By this point though, he wasn't considered a serious threat to the featherweight crown at least and was ignored.

In his first defense of the championship, Kaplan met Babe Herman in Waterbury, Connecticut on August 27. Herman was at first ecstatic to get the chance. Gradually though, Babe's excitement dimmed. The ring was 12 by 12 feet, the perfect size for the shorter infighting champion and not exactly legal for a championship fight. The Connecticut Boxing commissioner, who happened to be a friend of Kaplan's, disagreed with the scale at the weigh-in and announced that his neighbor "weighs exactly 126 pounds!" The scale futilely argued for a higher number. Nevertheless, the fight went on and Kid came out flat. In the eighth he broke a finger on his right hand and couldn't punch with it anymore. It looked as if Kid's moment in the sun was done, but then the fight was shockingly declared a draw, allowing Kaplan to keep the title, and frustrating Babe to no end.

Nearly four months later, Kaplan gave Babe the rematch in Madison Square Garden. This would be the last time the two men faced in the ring. By all accounts, Kid was the deserving victor in a bruising yet uninteresting fifteen round match.

In 1926, Kaplan beat Billy Petrole on points. He was knocked down in the fifth round in Baltimore against Tommy Herman, a Jewish fighter who- like the unrelated Babe- adopted his surname for the ring, but won the fight comfortably otherwise. He also traveled to Montreal and KOed the reigning Canadian featherweight and future Canadian lightweight champ, Leo Roy. On June 28, Kaplan defended the featherweight title for the third and final time when he stopped a familiar dance partner, Bobby Garcia, in the tenth round. A week later, Kaplan relinquished the title because he could no longer make weight.

Before abandoning the belt, Kaplan was offered $50,000 by the mob to give up his title in the ring. They asked him to take a dive against a mob-controlled opponent. After all, they reasoned, he'd no longer have his crown either way. Why not make a lot of money in the process? Kaplan steadfastly refused. "Every time I fight, my friends bet plenty on me and what about their dough? I wouldn't do a thing like that for a million bucks," he allegedly declared.

Part 3

Lightweight Contender
After moving up to lightweight and decisioning Tommy Cello in back-to-back bouts, Kaplan suffered his first defeat in nearly four years. Billy Wagner, who fought out of Philadelphia, floored Louis four times in the fifth round of their December 2 fight in Cleveland. Kaplan was counted out following the fourth fall. He came back to win his next eleven fights, including a victory against a young Jackie Fields in June of '27 at the Polo Grounds. The Chicago teenager had been pro for only two and a half years when Kaplan won a slow bruising fight. Louis had been a vertically challenged featherweight; as a lightweight he was minuscule. Giving up nearly half a foot to Fields, Kaplan won with pressure and volume punching. Jackie's jab and right cross were his only weapons, but they failed to halt Kaplan's rush to smother the younger man.

On October 18, 1927, Kaplan- a newly naturalized American citizen- fought another legend, the future two-division world champion, Jimmy McLarnin. Kaplan scored a flash knockdown in both the opening and second rounds and broke McLarnin's jaw, but the Canadian came back to score a knockdown in the third and another in the fifth. In the eighth round, Kaplan was put down for the ten count, his second KO loss in a twelve month span. McLarnin, who faced the likes of Barney Ross, Tommy Canzoneri, and Sammy Mandell, would later call this battle with Kaplan the hardest of his career. Two weeks later, Kid won a twelve-round decision over Mike Dundee.

On April 15, 1928, Abraham Kaplan died. His gravestone in Meriden states he was 65 years old. Louis's heart broke at the loss of his father. But he had made a lot of money in the ring and invested wisely in the market to at least help with the finances of his family. He went 11-4 over his next 15 fights, a respectable record, but not at the level of his featherweight rise through the ranks. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed; Kaplan lost his fortune. He took out his frustration the next day on Eddie Wolfe in Chicago, rattling his teeth loose with a right uppercut in the seventh before Wolfe quit at the start of the eighth.

By 1930, Kid's younger brother Izzy was a decent club fighter who didn't travel much beyond Connecticut for a prizefight. The Sheikh Johnny Leonard fight in '23 would be his only bout scheduled for as many as ten rounds. He lived with his mom Sadie and his four younger siblings: Noah, Mary, Frieda, and David in a rented apartment for which they coughed up $50 a month. The family took on a 34 year old boarder named John White. Providing lodging would be a needed source of income for a family that had lost its patriarch one year and suffered from the onset of the Great Depression the next. Sadie had been listed as 35 years old in 1912 but was marked down as 60 in 1930. Between raising eight kids in a new country and suffering the personal and national tragedies of the late 1920s, she must have felt like she aged that fast.

Izzy spent the immediate aftermath of the stock market crash toiling for change in four fights in Florida. He came back to Connecticut in April of 1930 and fought four more times before taking a year away from the ring. In an incredibly prolific span, he fought five times beginning on September 4, 1931 and ending six weeks later. He posted an impressive 4-1 mark in that run. Izzy took ten months off before losing his last professional fight on August 1, 1932. The knockout loss to an unheralded pug convinced the welterweight to find other work. He finished with a record of 19-10-10 including 8 KOs, one newspaper decision victory, and two stoppage losses.

While Izzy's older brother was a heralded contender as a 135 pounder, successive champions steadfastly avoided Louis. It didn't help that once he started gaining momentum, he'd suffer a setback. He lost to a Jewish southpaw from Baltimore, Jack Portney, early in 1930 in Maryland. Having won six fights in a row since the Portney loss, Kid faced another Connecticut legend. Battling Battalino of Hartford was the good looking featherweight champion of the world and the favorite in a fight just over the 126 pound limit. Kaplan pulled the upset and won nearly every round in earning a decision victory. He followed up that impressive showing with a loss to the highly-regarded Justo Suarez of Argentina.

A year after his loss to Portney, Kaplan won the rematch in Connecticut. That started another ten-fight win streak which included a points win over the former lightweight champ Sammy Mandell. But on November 20, 1931, Louis ate a right from Eddie Ran in the first round that knocked him out. He finished his career fifteen months later on February 20, 1933 with a loss to Cocoa Kid, the second defeat in his final three bouts. Louis was something like 120-23-16 as a pro. He scored 27 KOs and was stopped just 3 times. For the latter part of his career, he couldn't see out of his right eye.

In 1958, Nat Fleischer ranked Kid Kaplan as the tenth best featherweight of all time. In Burt Sugar and Teddy Atlas's 2010 The Ultimate Book of Boxing of Lists, Mike Silver placed Kaplan as the fifth best Jewish fighter ever although Silver docked him two spots in his own book six years later.

Life After Boxing
After his boxing career ended, Louis stayed in Connecticut, specifically Hartford, with his wife Bessie and his young daughter Roseanne. He briefly tried his hand at selling insurance and then worked for the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. Kid moonlighted as a boxing referee in Connecticut until the late 1940s. Isadore worked for the Royal Typewriter Company after his boxing career and also lived in Hartford with his wife and son. He was active in social and political organizations including the Farband and the employees' union.

In 1940, Sadie- listed as 65 years old- still lived in Meriden with two of her sons, Noah and David. The family continued to take in boarders. In this year it was Sarah Abraham, a nonagenarian. Noah eventually moved out but remained in Meriden. He married a woman named Lucy and owned a cafe. David left for New Haven, married a woman named Flore and owned a hardware store. Older sisters Fannie and Bessie got married and stayed in Meriden. Fannie married a man named Julius Grossman. Bessie married Abraham Hurwitz. Mary moved to New Haven, Connecticut and was living with the family of her husband, Murray Kugell in 1940. She became a U.S. citizen in 1946 and worked as a clerk in a retail store. Frieda was the only sibling to move out of state. She lived out in Arizona and then Alabama, first acquiring the surname Brown and then Reuben.

Sadie Kaplan died on October 21, 1961. Her gravestone in Meriden says she was age 83. Bessie passed five years later. On her gravestone, her birthday is listed as December 15, 1898 while her twin Fannie's is recorded elsewhere as January 14, 1899, which is less than one month apart. Perhaps they spent a lifetime arguing over which birthday was correct or maybe they just wanted their own special days to celebrate.

Kid Kaplan remained in the public's consciousness after his career ended. First in the 1930s and '40s, when one of his fierce rivals retired, they invariably recalled the short strong Jew as one of their toughest battles. When some opponents died, Kaplan received a mention in their obituaries. He was adored in Connecticut sports circles and whenever local boxing hero Willie Pep made the papers, Kid Kaplan would too. Whenever the featherweight title was on the line, the names of the past champions, including Kid Kaplan's, would be revived.

In 1965, the state of Connecticut banned boxing. Jewish life in Mazyr, which had been so robust when the Kaplans lived there before sojourning to the United States in 1912, would've been unrecognizable to the family in 1965. By the 1920s, the town was firmly within the Soviet Union's orbit. Jews remained, but Jewish life disappeared from public life. The Jews of Mazyr suffered unimaginably during the Holocaust. On August 22, 1941 the Nazis took over the town and pushed the Jews into a ghetto. Five months later, all of the 1,500 Jews in the ghetto were killed, 700 by drowning in the Pripyat River. Jews had made up 70% of the town when Leiser Kaplan was born. In 1965, they were less than 10% of the population and unable to openly practice their faith.

Around this time, Louis developed lung cancer. By 1969, he couldn't speak or maneuver his limbs. When spoken to, he could only nod. An old friend said, "It hurts to see him this way." Louis died on October 25, 1970, ten days after what was probably his 68th birthday.

Louis's siblings were of hardy stock. Noah passed fifteen years later. Isadore joined him in 1989. Frieda followed in 1995. Mary was 90 when she died in 2000. Fannie lived through the birth of great-great-grandchildren, but at age 102, she did not live long enough to see her little brother who used to wear her old clothes make it to the boxing Hall of Fame. David, the youngest, died later that same year, 2001.

Louis "Kid" Kaplan was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003. His Hall of Fame profile incorrectly begins, "Born October 15, 1901 in Kiev, Russia, Kaplan and his family emigrated [SIC] to the United States when he was five years old..."

Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Brady, Dave. "Kaplan's Kind Hard to Find." The Washington Post. May 25, 1969. C4.
Kluczwski, David. "The Mediren Buzz Saw: Kid Kaplan Pulls Himself Up by His Boxing Gloves." Connecticut Explored. 2009.
Pegler, Westbrook. "Kaplan and Herman Battle Friday for Money and Glory." The Washington Post. December 15, 1925. pg. 15.
Silver, Mike. Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing. 2016.

Notes on sources: The sources listed here were invaluable, particularly the more recent ones. Kuczwski's article provides wonderful color to Kaplan's early years. Silver's book is like holding a beautiful jewel. Blady's engrossing book is the original far-reaching chronicle of Jewish boxers. It's indispensable. I've relied on it for nearly every "A Look Back" profile on this site. However, there were contradictions between these sources.

Most of the recent profiles of Kaplan state his birth as October 15, 1901 in Kiev and claim he immigrated to the U.S. when he was five years old. They make no mention of his birth name, Leiser. I was able to find his family's immigration form from Ellis Island, which casts doubt on this narrative. This took some fortuitous detective work. In attempting to research Izzy, whose real name is incorrectly recorded as Israel or Harry in some sources, I came across his obituary in the Hartford Current, which names his siblings. That allowed me to find the family in the 1930 U.S. census. In that census, their year of immigration is listed as 1912. "Izzie," Noah, and Mary (all born before 1912) were listed as born in Russia while the younger siblings (born after 1912) were listed as born in Connecticut.

I was able to find the Kaplan family's 1912 immigration form because of blessed Bessie. Bessie is the only Kaplan sibling whose new name somewhat resembles their old name in the old country. The ages provided on the immigration form match up with the ages of the Kaplans in the 1930 census and in their death notices within reason. To his credit, Blady lists Louis as "born in Russia sometime in 1902" which is correct. He does write that he was 69 years old when he died in 1970, which was the same age The New York Times reported Kaplan's obituary.

I don't know the origin of the Kyiv/Kiev myth. Mazyr is 150 miles from Kyiv, so perhaps Louis just told people he was from the closest recognizable city. Otherwise, I could only find sources published after 2000 claiming his birthplace as Kyiv. I don't believe he is from Kyiv.

I can't explain the myth that the Kaplans came to America when Louis was five. It dates back at least to Blady's book. Every profile thereafter mentions the same incorrect immigration date. Don't blame Blady. Trying to find the year the Kaplans- a very common surname- emigrated from Russia- a very big country- at Ellis Island in the 1980s would've been like trying to find a needle in a haystack, especially without their original first names. The 1930 census wasn't released to the public until well after his book was published. Izzy was still alive then.

Kluczwski mentions that Kaplan "took up boxing at the Lenox Athletic Club in 1919," which would have been after he had already become a professional prizefighter. Blady states that Kaplan was an amateur for four years, so I adjusted Kluczwski's date.

Finally, I mentioned Mike Silver ranked Kaplan as the fifth best Jewish boxer of all time in 2010 and seventh in 2016, a notable shift since all those involved in the shuffle have been dead for decades. The Mozambican author Mia Couto once wrote, “The history of any country is no more than a text of juggled paragraphs. Only the future will put them in any order, retouching their account.” As it is for ranking Jewish boxers. As we've gleaned from this profile, new information emerges, and thoughtful evolution should be encouraged.

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Look Back: Tommy Herman

Since boxing matches have been postponed for the foreseeable future to staunch the spread of coronavirus-2019, The Jewish Boxing Blog is continuing a series called  "A Look Back" that initially ran from 2010-2013. "A Look Back" was an effort to link the past with the present, by producing a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

A lightweight and welterweight contender in the '20s and '30s, the transient and at times unintentionally controversial Tommy Herman faced multiple world champions throughout his career but never in a title bout.

Isaac and Dora Gilbert immigrated from Russia to the United States in 1905 with their two sons, 13 year old Philip and six year old Jacob. Their third son, Abraham Gilbert, was born on January 28, 1909 in Baltimore, Maryland. Abraham, who went by Albert, stayed in Baltimore with his parents while his older brothers relocated to Chicago at some point before 1920. Albert learned to box as a member of the Young Men's Hebrew Association. He won the AAU championship as a flyweight in 1923. A couple months later, at the ripe old age of fourteen, Albert Gilbert became a professional boxer assuming the alias Tommy Herman. It isn't known why he fought under a different name, but perhaps Albert- as was the case with many fighters of that era- was more afraid of his mother Dora finding out about his new trade than he was of his opponents.

Tommy Herman was quite the fresh-faced sensation in Baltimore when he started in the summer of '23. Undefeated after his initial twelve fights in Maryland's largest port city, a document was discovered in early February 1924 that showed Tommy- as did a lot of fighters in his day- had lied about his age. In Maryland, boxers had to be at least 17 years old. The Maryland Boxing Commission briefly banned him from the sport until he became of age. But Herman fought back and the 15 year old was quickly reinstated.

At the same time former lightweight Joe Tipman bought Tommy's contract from Max Prock for $500. Tipman quickly ran into a problem. One of Tommy's older brothers dragged him out of Baltimore to Chicago's West Side for an education at the expense of his nascent boxing career. Herman managed to slip in two fights in the Chicago area that spring before he was forced to take a year off. Tipman was out $500 with nothing to show for it.

Herman soon grew into a lightweight.  For public appearances, he parted his hair slightly left of middle, slicking it towards the back with his hair cut well above the ear. He took his thick legs and squat body type into the ring with Phil McGraw late in 1925 and while there was no official decision, the newspapers sided with the Greek immigrant based in Detroit because of his talent at infighting.

On January 18, 1926, Herman returned to Baltimore for the first time since his brother had schlepped him west. He had noticeably improved his game while in the Midwest. Meanwhile,  his would-be manager Joe Tipman continued to petition for his missing $500 but acknowledged Tommy deserved no fault in the matter. Considered a live dog before his bout with Bobby Garcia, Herman lost his first official fight that day to the Mexican Wildcat. Two months and four fights later, the 17 year old Herman was in tough with world featherweight champion Kid Kaplan in a non-title fight scheduled for lightweight. Kaplan swung wildly from the outside but dominated on the inside. Herman couldn't keep the 5'2" champ off him.

In the fifth, Herman launched a short right that landed on the champion's chin and Kaplan fell to the canvas. The Baltimore faithful exploded in delight! Herman captured momentum and kept landing the right over the next three rounds. But the wily champ took the last five rounds to win on points. In his career, Tommy would fight just twice more in his hometown of Baltimore, both resulting in wins in 1926.

Herman moved camp to Philadelphia where he briefly adopted the nickname of "Kid." He beat the Canadian featherweight champ, Leo "Kid" Roy first on points in July and then scored a second round KO over Roy, also the future Canadian lightweight champ, in the August rematch. Philadelphia remained his base until 1928. In February 1927, Tommy was knocked out in the tenth round in a rematch against Bobby Garcia. It was his first stoppage defeat. Four months later, Herman got his revenge with three knockdowns in the first round. Garcia managed to stay on his feet for the entirety of the second but then suffered ten knockdowns in the third. Finally, after hitting the canvas for the thirteenth time in under nine minutes of action, Garcia could no longer rise before the count of ten.

In August 1927, Herman traveled back to Chicago for one fight, a bout against the South American lightweight champion, Stanislaus Loayza. Lightweight champion Sammy Mandel, an Italian immigrant with a Jewish name, claimed to want a piece of the winner. Loayza punished Tommy on the inside, exposing a weakness Herman possessed against world class opposition. Bloodied by the third, Tommy came back to have a nice tenth, but he had been pulverized and lost his shot at the title. Despite the win, Loayza didn't get a bout with Mandel either.

Herman lost four of five fights at the end of 1927. He was trailing in his lone win when his opponent, Billy Petrolle, suffered a debilitating cut in the seventh round. Herman then all but disappeared from the ring, fighting only twice in fifteen months- both in July 1928 in Philadelphia. He resurfaced during the spring of '29 as a "chunky" and "well-built" welterweight in the South. After a swing through Florida, he traveled to Atlanta, Georgia where The Atlanta Constitution ran a profile of Tommy "Kid" Herman of Chicago.

The newspaper was led to believe that Herman was a 1924 Olympian in the bantamweight division. He wasn't, but the great Jackie Fields of Chicago was. An article in The Washington Post from 1924 claimed that Herman had turned pro after winning his 1923 AAU championship because he "would have been a 100-1 shot to go over to the [O]lympics as the American representative in his class." The Atlanta paper goes on to claim Herman returned from the Paris games and focused on his education refraining from boxing for a year, an assertion that contains only a sliver of truth. Furthermore, the article states that Herman was currently studying "physical culture" as a student at the University of Illinois where he also worked a janitor. The rest of the article accurately describes his previous ring battles.

Perhaps, the short stocky puncher with the powerful right hand did take off time from the ring to move back to Chicago and enroll in school. He was 19 years old when he took off most of 1928. He also stayed out of the ring from September 1929 until June 1930, which would leave him time to focus on his schoolwork. This second layoff happened to coincide with the onset of the Great Depression, however.

Tommy fought seven times in the second half of 1930 including against the now former world lightweight champ Sammy Mandel. Herman was floored in the first and Mandel coasted to an eight-round points win. After six more months off, Herman showed up in California. His first fight back came against future Hall of Famer Young Corbett III, a points loss in San Francisco.

Herman shifted his base once again, this time to Los Angeles, where he became a villain among Mexican-American fans through no fault of his own. He received a controversial points victory on June 30, 1931 against the Mexican welterweight champ, Alfredo Gaona, a former bullfighter who was creating buzz on the West Coast. In the rematch a month later, Herman earned a draw from referee Benny Whitman, who was later punished for his judging. Both decisions caused a near riot at L.A.'s Olympic Auditorium.

The decisions worried Herman's next opponent, David Velasco, a southpaw from Mexico City. His team made a stink about choosing the referee before the fight. It didn't help. Herman was awarded another disputed victory in his September fight with Velasco and then another questionable points win in the rematch in November. By this point, the Mexican-American boxing aficionados of L.A. were praying for justice against Tommy from a pugilist with roots south of the border. In Herman's next bout, Mexican-American Bert Colima prevented a riot with a points win at the Olympic. It was the first of three consecutive decision losses to fighters of Mexican heritage.

In March of 1932, Herman stopped future Hall Of Famer Ceferino Garcia in the tenth round of the first fight of their trilogy. Six months later, he defeated another future Hall of Famer named Freddie Steele in a four-round fight, only the second of Steele's five total career losses. But the Tacoma Assassin, who ultimately finished with 123 wins, won the ten-round rematch by decision. Herman next faced world welterweight champ Jackie Fields in a bout over the weight. There's no evidence that Fields knew of Herman's attempt to usurp his Olympic glory three years earlier in Atlanta, but Fields certainly beat him like he'd heard about it. The champ won by second round knockout.

Herman lost his last six fights, including two to Ceferino Garcia. He was stopped in three of his last four fights, all in 1934, including both losses to Garcia. Following the disputed fights with Velasco, Herman finished his career 6-14 in his last 20 fights including a points loss to Gaona in Mexico City on February 18, 1933.

According to BoxRec, Herman completed his career with a record of 55-30-9, including 15 newspapers decisions in which he went 10-3-2. He scored 21 knockouts and was stopped eight times. Tommy was ranked as the number five welterweight in the world by The Ring in 1932. Boxing historian Mike Silver rates him as a top ten all time Jewish boxer from Baltimore. Herman, of course, moved from his hometown of Baltimore at age 17, stationing in Chicago and then Philadelphia before settling in Los Angeles, where he lived after retiring from the ring at 25 years of age.

Keeping his adopted name, Tommy Herman played bit parts in boxing movies, sometimes as a fighter, but  mostly as a ref or another official. His first gig came in the 1934 film Personality Kid where he played a boxer. In 1936, he started as an amateur coach at East Side Arena in L.A. He soon went into business with actor Bert Wheeler; he trained a fighter the film star managed and served as his stand in on set. By 1940, Herman was am actual boxing referee. Only he, Benny Whitman, and a third ref passed a written test administered by the California commission for boxing referees in 1941. His name occasionally dotted the newspapers in the 1940s and 1950s as a referee and as a boxing judge of notable fights in California. Herman's last spot in a flick was in the film adaption of Budd Shulberg's novel, The Harder They Fall, released in 1956.

Tommy lost his eldest brother Philip in 1967. Albert Gilbert, better known as Tommy Herman, died on March 26, 1972 at the age of 63 in Hollywood, California.

"8 1923 Champions to Defend Titles in A.A.U. Tryouts." The Washington Post. April 2, 1924. S3.
"Herman Starts Training Here." The Atlanta Constitution. Sept. 15, 1929. A4.
Much of the information here comes from countless articles in the The (Baltimore) Sun, Chicago Daily Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. While many articles were unattributed, others were. Marco Polo for The Sun, Walter Eckersall for the Chicago Daily Tribune, and Kay Owe for the Los Angeles Times wrote multiple articles used for this post. These articles were accessed through the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database.
Family information comes from the 1910 and 1920 U.S. censuses.