Newspaper Archive of
Post-Gazette
Boston, Massachusetts
Lyft
April 8, 2016     Post-Gazette
PAGE 16     (16 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
 
PAGE 16     (16 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
April 8, 2016
 

Newspaper Archive of Post-Gazette produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2017. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.




7 PAGE 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 8, 2016 ,r~_ "Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing" Mike Silver pegs the first four decades of the 20th Century as Boxing's Golden Age. It was a period where the sport was at its peak in both popularity and talented participants. The box- ers of the period were extremely well-schooled. Most trainers considered themselves teachers, and were comparable to college professors in the seriousness they brought to teaching the fine art of pugilism. Mr. Silver also considers this time in history a Golden Age for Jewish boxers. In his new book Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing (Lyons Press, 366 pages), he does a magnificent job of not only telling the story of the many great Jewish fight- ers, he also gives a concise and fact-filled history of the overall sport of boxing. The book is divided up into an introduction, six chapters, and an extensive appendix. The in- troduction along with chapters one and two give a wonderful overview of the sport along with setting the background of how Jews became such a big part of boxing. It is~ filled with such interesting facts as pointing out how Jewish boxers who held world rifles during the 1920s ranked only behind Italians, but ahead of the Irish, in numbers. There were close to 3,000 pro- fessional Jewish fighters active during the Golden Age. But make no mistake, Stars in the Ring is not just a compilation of statistics; it is a wonderful narrative of a very exciting time not only the history of boxing, but also of our nation. In the chapter entitled "The Melting Pot Sport," we learn much about the immigrant experience in America. The vari- ous ethnic groups that were at the lower rung of the economic ladder were proud of the fighters who shared their background. Often, matches pitted box- ers from the different groups against each other. Mr. Silver also discusses the Jewish fighters who took on Irish names, or a nora de box, when that became more advan- tageous to getting fights. There was another reason, perhaps more compelling, why young Jewish men would fight under an assumed named. VI1 quote the author, ~Jewish boxers were brave and tough, but they did fear one personage above all others -- their mothers." Benny Leonard was one such fighter. Leonard's real name was Ben- jamin Leiner, but he changed it to keep his parents from finding out what he was doing for a living. When a black eye proved to uncover his activity, he was quickly forgiven when he handed his father the purse from his evening's work. The book is filled with sto- ries like that, but that is just the beginning, Chapters three though six break the sport up by its various eras. Each chapter begins with an overview of the time period that is extremely fact-filled and interesting. These narratives then lead the reader into biographies of many of Benny Leonard Charley Goldman the fightl~r~{~e period that has just been discussed. A total of 166 such profiles appear in the book. There are also photographs of the partici- pants. You will meet the young Charley Goldman, who has an official record of 129 fights, but is believed to have participated in over 400 bouts. If the name sounds familiar, it is because Charley went on to become one of the great boxing trainers, teaching world champions Lou Ambers, Joey Archibald, Marty Servo, and a kid from Brockton, MA, named Rocky Marciano. There is also Georgie Abrams, whom Silver ranks as the great- est Jewish middleweight who ever lived. I think Sugar Ray Robinson would agree with that assessment as Abrams gave the great Robinson all that he could handle while losing a disputed decision to him. Sid Terris, Al Singer, middle- weight champion A1 McCoy (real name Alex Rudolph), Abe Simon, Ruby Goldstein, Saoul Mamby, The Fighting Dentist Leach Cross, Herbie Kronowitz, and Victor Young Perez, whose tragic story is both heartbreak- ing and inspiring, are just a few of the many fascinating biographies contained in this wonderful book. Mike Silver could have left it at that and had an outstanding work, but he went even fur- ther by interspersing vignettes throughout the book discuss- ing all sorts of boxing-related subjects from boxing trading cards to boxing in the movies to a piece about the Shanghai Ghetto. The story of the ghetto in China was new to me and in- credibly fascinating. You~l also learn about the boxing careers of entertainers Billy Joel and Woody Allen. To top the book off, Mr. Silver has compiled an extensive ap- pendix that contains, among many other things, his picks for the greatest Jewish boxers of all time. Given Mike's extensive knowledge of the sport, this list is one to be taken very seriously. I know I would not argue its merits with him. He also lists Jewish boxers that have com- peted in title bouts along with date, location, and results. A very interesting section lists the Madison Square Garden Main Events that featured Jew- ish boxers from 1920 to 2014. It is a very long list. The appendix is an encyclopedia that boxing aficionados will find themselves referring to time and again. I have to comment on the book as an object as well. When I opened the package it was mailed to me in, I was aston- ished to see how pleasing to the eye it is. It is not a book to be left on a shelf. It is beautiful to hold and look through. Copi- ously illustrated with hundreds of amazing photographs, it is a piece of art unto itself. Mike Silver, whose previous book The Arc of Boxing rates as one of the all-time great works on the Sweet Science (I consider it the best), has not let his read- ers down with Stars in the Ring. This is a book to be left out, so that friends may share it when visiting. I guarantee it will be the cause for hours of interesting conversation. You can pick it up and turn to any page and find something interesting to read. Mike Silver knows his boxing, he also knows how to write, and that combination (pun in- tended) makes this book a joy to own. If you are one of the many misguided souls who chuckle when you hear someone men- tion Jewish fighters, you will come away from this book with a healthy respect for the very tough and very honorable men who were Stars in the Ring. They were wonderful, they were grarid, and they were special. And why not? For the greatest from around the globe had come to Boston for one important week. A festival of seven days featuring camara- derie, competition and, yes, championships. For these were the World figure Skating Championships, the first hosted by the Hub in their long history. And while not everyone could leave with a medal, the powers that be in the world of figure skating all left with a positive impression of our region. Top level skat- ing in some form will be back, though perhaps not right away. While there are numerous com- petitions on professional figure skating's annual calendar, one person in the know said, ~We tend to save our big events for places like Boston." And so, as the people who are best on the blades take their leave of our community, there is an ex- tended afterglow that continues to brighten the horizon for the future. The individual skater that caught our attention was Men's winner, Javier Fernandez of Spain. His command of edges, fluid motion, musical interpre- tation, and synchronization was as absolutely mesmerizing to watch here in Boston as it has been overseas. The four-time European Champion (2013 thru 2016) would successfully defend his 2015 title as he cap- tured another gold medal to continue his reign as greatest male figure skater in the world. And, would you believe he did it on an injured heel? ~I couldn't skate [the day be- fore the free skate] and barely trained in the morning," re- vealed Fernandez, who has 1984 and 1988 Olympic Silver Medalist Brian Orser as his coach. ~I went to the medical staff here after my morning practice and they treated me very well. They gave me padding so that my heel didn't touch the boot. I didn't feel it during the performance: Thanks to them, I could skate." Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva captured the ladies' title, com- ing from third place after the short program to vault into the gold medal position. The USA's Ashley Wagner moved up from fourth after the short program to claim silver, while America's Gracie Gold, first after the short program (and winner of the 2014 U.S. Nationals at the Garden}, dropped to fourth after a sixth place finish in the free skate. Russia's Anna Pogorilaya took the bronze. One of the more outstanding statements came from Medve- deva: "One year ago, I was skat- ing in juniors. I left everything on the ice in my performance." In contrast, Gold felt she didn't measure up while Wagner was ecstatic. "It was a really unfor- tunate and sad experience," said a downcast Gold, who won the 2016.U.S. Nationals in Min- nesota back in January. "I feel really ashamed of how I skated and I want to apologize to my country and the crowd here." Wagner, onthe other hand, was a fountain of elation. "I was just so happy to have this moment in front of the home audience. I had two great programs. This was my favorite performance of all time. To be able to skate like this in front of an audience that was so supportive, I can't even find the words." Italy had a number of skaters competing and most saw their names on the leaderboard as they skated in the middle of the draw, only to be supplanted later when the eventual winners took the ice. "I was a bit upset," said Ivan Righini shortly after finishing his free skate long program that landed him in 124 place for the week. "I made such stupid mistakes [fall dur- ing a double axel], but I did my quadruple jump for the first time in competition and a triple axel. Next year, my goal is to be in the top six in the world and later, of course, to win an Olympic medal in 2018. That's everyone's goal." Skaters took the ice for warm- ups in groups of six and then came off the ice to return one by one to give their individual performances. While this is common, it may have affected Italy's Roberta Rodeghiero i-n the ladies' free skate where she came on last. Each performance is four minutes long. Throw in the rime for compiling the judges' marks and announcing them, and the minutes add up. Entering the free skate in 12~ place meant that Rodegheiro had the longest wait between warm-up and performance at 39 minutes. It was no different for many skaters during the week, but it may have affected her differently as she had re- ported feeling sick before her short program two days earlier. "I felt better. I just had a bit of a strange feeling during my jumps [in the long program]. I don't know why. I guess it was because I waited really long o~atside after the warm-up and I didn't have enough time to get into it again. After I go to the Team Challenge Cup [in Wash- ington State] in three weeks, VII take some time off before I start practicing again in Bergamo and Asiago." Italy also had two couples who placed in the top 15 in pairs skating: Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (2106 Italian National Champions), who finished 11th, and Valen- tina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek (2016 Italian National Silver Medalists), who finished in 14th position. "It was probably our best free skating program of the season," said a said satis- fied Nicole after completing the feature skate. "The points were maybe not what we had expected, but it was OK, it was our best performance. Next season we~l continue to work with our coach [Nina Mozer] when she comes to Italy." For Guarise, he admitted it was a challenge. "It was a fight from the first element, but we pushed through. We want to end the season with a clean program in the Team Challenge cup." After that, they'll start preparations for'the next season at Courch- evel during the summer. "I'm satisfied," said Valentina, who was once a ladies' singles skater. "Ondrej got sick a few weeks ago and we had to rebuild