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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Review of The Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame

The Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame
By John DiSanto
Arcadia, 2024

The Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame is not an exclusive club. Started in 1958, the names of fighters with modest and even losing records sit beside those of former world champions. Rather than a reward for an elite career, the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame is a celebration of the breadth of the sport in the state. 

Author John DiSanto's dedication to keeping Pennsylvania boxing history alive as the head of PhillyBoxingHistory, curator of museum exhibits, and chairman of the PBHOF, is inspiring. His third book, The Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame, features fascinating pictures and brief biographies of about half of the many members in the Hall.

DiSanto begins with an illuminating introduction detailing the Hall's journey. From overwhelmingly white and primarily focused on a fighter's popularity, the author has helped guide the PBHOF to a more racially representative and merit-based institution.

The rest of the book is organized into five categories: world champions and International Boxing Hall of Famers, world title challengers, regional and state champs, local heroes, and non-boxers. Within each category, the Hall of Famers are organized alphabetically, which makes the book an accessible reference. The members could have been organized chronologically or by weight class, which would have made for a more cohesive narrative but diminished its value as an easily-useable resource.

Jewish world champions Benny Bass, Battling Levinsky, Harry Lewis, and Mike Rossman, along with IBHOFers Lew Tendler  and promoter Russell Peltz are among the greats that grace the first chapter. World title challenger Danny Kramer makes an appearance. So does local hero Harry Blitman. Harry "Kid" Brown and Benny Kaufman are noted simply in the complete list of members at the end.

The Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame is a terrific representation of the talent that has come out of the Keystone State, particularly the fighting cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The pictures of boxers from long ago- and not so long ago- are captivating. It's well-worth it for fans of Harry Greb, Joe Frazier, and the countless other notable boxers who have plied their trade just north of the Mason-Dixon line.

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