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Monday, August 29, 2022

Tim Puller Dead at Age 52

Timothy Puller died on May 29 at the age of 52. The 6'6" heavyweight contender fought as "The Hebrew Hammer."

Puller was born on June 30, 1969 in Israel. His dad was Yemeni and his mom was a Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands. As an adult, Tim donned a tattoo of the Star of David and barbed wire on his left arm. "The star represents my mom," he told Rick Warner of the AP in 1996, "and the barbed wire represents the concentration camps. I don't want anyone to forget what happened during the war."

At 18, after graduating high school, he moved to Philadelphia in the U.S. Puller had no amateur career and learned his trade through sparring. In 1988, he moved to San Francisco and soon migrated over to Las Vegas. In 1990, he turned pro.

"I want to show Jews can fight," Tim told Warner in '96. He won his first six fights, half by KO. He avenged his first loss and on December 3, 1994 he fought for a minor sanctioning body's vacant heavyweight world title belt against Sherman Griffin. Puller stopped Griffin in the eighth to win the strap, but never defended the title.

He went into a 1995 fight with undefeated prospect Chris Byrd (11-0) sporting a record of 13-2. Stopped in the fifth, the Hebrew Hammer then fell to Tim Witherspoon and Lou Saverese, both second round TKOs. About the losses, he told Ira Berkow of The New York Times, "They were learning experiences."

Puller used the jab like a big man should, but his dearth of amateur experience contributed to his lack of fluidity in the ring. The massive man sure was intimidating though. He wore earrings and liked to show off his massive biceps. But there was another side to Tim. He told Berkow he read books "to keep my mind sharp, and to know what's going on in the world." He spoke Hebrew, Dutch, and English.

After a string of six wins against lesser opponents, he battled James "Quick" Tillis and pulled off the best win of his career on October 16, 1999. Tim had given away nearly 50 pounds to Tillis. But a stoppage loss to the much smaller and less experienced Marvin Hunt in his next bout essentially ended his career. He came back 13 years later, but lost that fight and finished with a record of 20-7 with 11 KOs. He was stopped five times.

Around the end of his career in 2000, he married. The couple had two children. Puller spent his post-boxing career in the auto industry in the Seattle, Washington area managing loans. In March of 2019, Tim shared a picture of him and his son on social media. With the picture, he wrote, "I miss my best friend."

Three months earlier, Tim's 16 year old son had taken a gun from a friend's apartment in an apparent attempt to impress a girl. Then, tragedy struck. Tim and his wife filed a missing person's report. When their son was found two weeks later, he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to serve ten years for, as the presiding judge described, "an act of stupidity and youthfulness." The judge concluded, "He certainly did not want to kill his friend."

The day after his son turned 17 years old, Tim wrote, "You spend your whole life as a father, as a parent, trying to do the best for your children. But you never know what life's going to bring. I love and miss him so much. Hold your kids tight, give them an extra hug and kiss this morning, tell them how much you love them because you never know what life brings you tomorrow."

By 2020, visits with his son became virtual because of covid-19. In September of 2021, Tim was hospitalized and flirted with death. He pulled through for the moment.

"Boxing took him all over the world," his wife of 22 years wrote after his death. "I know the last few years have been hard to watch, and I am confident this has something to do with the impact of boxing at 19 years old. Brain damage affected his health in ways that didn't manifest until later in his life." Tim's brain was donated to the Keene Lab at the University of Washington shortly after his death.

May Timothy's memory be a blessing.

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