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Friday, September 29, 2023

Chilemba-Obinna Postponed

Isaac Chilemba's bout against Obinna Mathew has been postponed, according to a report from the Nyasa Times. Chilemba was scheduled to battle tomorrow in a homecoming fight at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Chilemba suffered a rib injury in sparring over two weeks ago. He had hoped to fight anyway, but doctors did not clear Isaac for tomorrow's contest. Instead, he will undergo surgery to repair the injury that has nagged him since 2006. As a result, the fight against Mathew has been postponed indefinitely.

Chilemba has fought all over the world, but never in his home country of Malawi. As a teenager, he moved to South Africa around the time of his mother's passing.

Even without the main event, the rest of the card is set to take place. It marks a big moment in the history of boxing in Malawi.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Top 5 Jewish Dutch Boxers

 Erik Brouwer's Top 5 Jewish Dutch Boxers

An award-winning writer and journalist, Erik Brouwer has written for a plethora of Dutch publications. The author of nine books, his latest is called The Fighter of Auschwitz about the great Jewish boxer Leen Sanders, a Holocaust survivor who was forced to fight other inmates at Auschwitz. It's truly an incredible book that beautifully sets the Dutch boxing scene of the era (The JBB's full review can be found here.)

This terrific list includes both amateur and professional achievements. It should also be noted that Sam Kingley was born Samuel Glasoog.

1. Leen Sanders
2. Ben Bril
3. Sam Kingsley
4. Barry Groenteman
5. Isaac Brander

Other Top 5s
Jewish Boxers since 1960
Jewish South African Boxers
Jewish Londoner Boxers
Jewish French Boxers
Jewish Female Boxers
Jewish Israeli Boxers
Jewish British Boxers
Jewish Canadian Boxers
Jewish North African Boxers

Monday, September 25, 2023

Introducing Tomer Benny

Subscribers to the Jewish Boxing Newsletter already know Tomer Benny's name. Soon, the rest of the boxing world will learn it as well.

A native of Tel Aviv, Benny has recently been training in Las Vegas, Nevada. During his time in Sin City, he has gained some hard-earned experience, sparring with some tough pros. Jamel Herring, the former world champion, gave him some good work this past weekend.

A junior welterweight, Benny is in Vegas preparing for an amateur bout there before he fights in a tournament in Arizona. He's targeting the Under-22 European Championships in November.

The 18 year old prospect has big plans. "I'll try to qualify for the Olympics next year, and hopefully I'll turn pro right after," he told The Jewish Boxing Blog.

"His future depends on him, but his talent is definitely champ quality," David Alaverdian, an undefeated pro who has trained a bit with Benny, told The JBB. "And the kid works hard. That's for sure!"

Keep an eye out for Tomer Benny. He's one to watch.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Review of Stars and Scars

Stars and Scars: The Story of Jewish Boxing in London

By Jeff Jones
Amberley Publishing, 2023

Jeff Jones's noble mission in Stars and Scars is to show "the importance of Jews to sport" and to dispel "the perceived notion that their involvement was marginal." Through plenty of fascinating anecdotes, biographical sketches, and wonderfully illuminating information, Jones more than meets his aim.

He contends, "From Mendoza to Milch, 230 years of London Jewish boxing has witnessed some astonishing events." Jones recounts the enthralling lives of men like the colorful Cockney Cohen, the slick Harry Mizler, the elite Ted "Kid" Lewis, the incomparable Micky Duff, the whirlwind Jack "Kid" Berg, the veteran Sid Nathan, and many more.

A scattershot organization and the need for a good line edit prevent this book from being on the "Mount Rushmore" of Jewish boxing books, however. Everything from bareknuckle brawlers to stars, journeyman, promoters, referees, and venues are covered. There are chapters on boxing families and boxers who fought in war. The piecemeal stories of Berg, Mizler, and Lewis - to name a few- could have been more powerful if they had been weaved into a chronological narrative that provided clearer context for their careers. The terms "reasonable" and "useful" are overused to described serviceable fighters, admittedly a minor quibble.

The organization does serve to prove the author's argument: that Jews were featured in every nook and cranny of boxing in London for nearly 200 years. Though the wealth of information is vast and somewhat disjointed, it is eminently accessible, which makes Stars and Scars a great introduction for all readers to Jewish boxing in London. Its focus on breadth rather than depth makes it an appropriate jumping off point to learn more about these legendary Londoners. Experts and those with limited knowledge of the subject can't help but learn a ton while simultaneously being entertained.

Fans of Jewish boxing and of British boxing should have Scars and Stars in their personal libraries. The richness of boxing history within its pages easily outweighs any of its shortcomings. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Cletus Seldin’s Fight Postponed

Cletus Seldin was scheduled to fight Patrick Okine on Thursday at Sony Hall in New York, but the entire show has been postponed after several unfortunate happenings resulted in cancellations that left only three fights on the bill.

Boxing Insider, the promotional company, announced on Instagram that one fighter tested positive for covid, another failed the physical, and another just checked into a hospital. For the past week, Boxing Insider’s IG account has been posting cryptic stories about the difficulties of running a club show in New York these days. High costs from venue fees and medicals and NYSAC’s strict requirements for boxers’ licenses are two challenges.

Boxing Insider said the show will be postponed until October. Seldin said he heard October 5 as the possible date.

For Seldin, it’s another unfortunate postponement, a reality that has become all too common in recent years for the 37 year old junior welterweight.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Flying Hammer: An Interview with Cletus Seldin

Cletus Seldin's fight this Thursday at Sony Hall in  New York, New York likely won't be the toughest challenge he's faced recently. Seldin (26-1, 22 KOs), who is celebrating his 37th birthday today, described to The Jewish Boxing Blog how he spent his 36th birthday.

"Last year, I ran a marathon and jumped out of an airplane all before noon," Cletus, the Hebrew Hammer, said. The sky-diving complex was a mile from his parents' place, so when he and his unsuspecting girlfriend pulled into the parking lot, his girlfriend was shocked to discover that she wasn't in for a celebratory brunch with Ma and Pa Seldin.

Cletus has a fear of heights, but he told himself, "Just do it!" as he leapt out of the plane and hurtled back toward Earth. "It wasn't smart though. We were supposed to fast all morning and after jumping, I was so nauseous."

This year, he's preparing to take on Patrick Okine (21-5-2, 18 KOs) on a card promoted by Boxing Insider. Seldin watches all available video of his opponents. "The last few years, they keep giving me names and then they cancel, so I start watching video a couple weeks before the fight," Seldin told The JBB. "I watch to see his style."

Of Okine, Cletus analyzed, "He's a hell of a puncher. He throws big crazy shots. He throws his combinations and then waits. He's a one round fighter, though. After that first round is over, there's still seven more to go! I can fight the whole time at a consistent pace."

When Seldin enters the ring on Thursday, he'll be sporting Elvis Presley-style chops. His unique styles are often nods to pop cultural references as diverse as Dragon Ball Z and the Earvin Johnson Sr. character on the HBO show Winning Time. Cletus will be wearing his customary purple trunks, the same pair he's worn since his fourth pro fight. He gravitated toward purple because of the color's historical association with royalty.

The fight against Okine comes 23 months after Seldin's last bout. This has been the longest lay-off of his career, but it hasn't been his only one. Cletus admits, "Yes, I do feel ring rust." He notes, "This time is different because I was in the gym every single day. It's not the same as consistent competitive sparring or having the trainer work only with you on an individual basis. But I didn't have to switch up my training this time."

Seldin explains, "I probably have the most unique warmup of any boxer. If somebody was watching me warm up, they'd think I was a professional baseball player." He notes he has been focusing on his flexibility in recent years.

After a mutually amicable split with his former promoter, Seldin says he took this bout to shake off the ring rust. "I'm happy to be back."

This birthday, Seldin's hoping for another great experience. Last year, it was sky-diving. This year, he's looking to make the other guy do the falling.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Review of The Fighter of Auschwitz

The Fighter of Auschwitz: The incredible true story of Leen Sanders who boxed to help others survive
By Erik Brouwer
Cassell, 2023

Leen Sanders of Rotterdam, Netherlands was one of the best European boxers of the late 1920s and for much of the 1930s. He began as a featherweight and climbed through the lightweight, welterweight, and middleweight divisions. Known for his "double defense," Sanders was a short, stocky, and powerful man whose fighting style was- contrary to his stature- that of a technical boxer.

When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Leen's fortunes quickly took a terrible turn because of his Jewish heritage and his activities in the resistance. He and his family were eventually sent to Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazis' camps. Sanders's boxing prowess won him special treatment at the concentration camp. He used his relatively privileged status to help as many people as possible, but he couldn't save his family.

Erik Brouwer's The Fighter of Auschwitz is an incredibly written story. The descriptions and pacing before the war befit a classic novel. The author paints an amazingly vivid picture of the European boxing scene during the '20s and '30s. Because of Brouwer's considerable talent as a writer, the book would've been even better if Sanders's boxing matches had been detailed in depth. His engaging depiction of Leen's fight against Teddy Pietrzykowski for the all-weights championship of Auschwitz is an exception. Considering the situation, it's a remarkably extraordinary recounting.

Appropriately, the tone changes when the story reaches the Holocaust. Compared to many other books about the Shoah, The Fighter of Auschwitz is not quite as soul-crushingly sad. The privileges afforded to Sanders made his internment not as horrific as it could've been, and his selfless heroism while in the camp shows glimpses of human generosity in the face of utter cruelty. Brouwer also wisely pulls punches when it comes to the tragic ends of Leen's loved ones. In those instances, he foregoes unnecessary flourishes and thankfully avoids drawing out their deaths in an emotionally manipulative manner. The inmates' experiences in Auschwitz are detailed but not superfluously so.

A must-read for fans of Jewish boxing and for those learning about the Holocaust, The Fighter of Auschwitz should be read by everyone. In this moment of heightened anti-Semitism, this story has the potential to change minds for the better.

Other resources: The Jewish Boxing Blog's Holocaust Boxing page.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Mor Oknin Wins By Stoppage

Flyweight Mor "The Son of the Lion" Oknin won his third professional fight when his opponent quit after the second round at 3-33 Studio in Mexico City, Mexico tonight. "Ratoncito" Morales was a last-minute replacement.

Oknin- a flyweight from Netanya, Israel- climbed into the tiny ring as rain fell outside in Mexico City. The weigh-in for the event was on Saturday, but because Mor observes Shabbat, he weighed in this morning. Recovering quickly, he started the fight aggressively, but had issues with his timing and rhythm. He controlled center ring and worked behind the jab, gliding towards his opponent, but Morales ducked under Oknin's early power shots. "Ratoncito," however, hardly fired back and Oknin, who the announcer repeatedly called "Ortiz," carried the first round comfortably.

Morales actually threw punches in the second round, but they were merely meant to touch Oknin. They had no menace behind them. Oknin found the right uppercut early in the round. Morales landed a low blow late which sent Oknin to the canvas in obvious pain. After he arose, Mor kept throwing a combination featuring a right uppercut followed by a looping right to the body.

Oknin had won the first two rounds, but looked a little tired heading back to the corner. Perhaps the low blow had taken its toll or maybe the long trip from Israel to Mexico City or the same day weigh-in sapped his stamina. Just then, Ratoncito's corner pulled off his glove and cut his tape. Curiously, Morales had retired in the corner. A combination of taking the fight on short notice and Oknin's body shots may have been the culprit.

Oknin's record is 3-0 with 3 KOs although BoxRec will list his as 2-1 with one KO. It's a long story. Morales was probably a tougher opponent than the man he replaced, Pedro Rabio. Since Morales was such a late replacement, he is an unknown commodity; this article will be updated to include his record when it becomes known.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Josh Feldman May Make Debut in Mid-October

Junior middleweight Joshua Feldman might make his debut in mid-October according to his trainer Colin Nathan. Nathan told SA Boxing Talk, "We're planning on turning Josh pro... in mid-October."

Feldman, a teenager from Cape Town, South Africa, was originally scheduled to fight in June. Then a fight in July was ready to go, but Feldman reportedly suffered a nasty spider bite. He was going to make his debut in August, but the promoter, Boxing 5, had licensing issues. Nathan believes the boxing license for Boxing 5 will be sorted out by mid-October.

"Obviously, he's going to be a very big focus for us turning pro up here [in Johannesburg]," Nathan said of Feldman. "If he builds some momentum, why can't Boxing 5 come down to Cape Town and do a boxing event? We've spoken about it. We're about twelve months away as a company from doing shows in Cape Town."

Feldman is a talented southpaw who passed his boxing license test this past spring.