Name: Barney Ross
Birth Name: Beryl David Rosofsky
Nationality: US American
Birthplace: New York, NY, USA
Hometown: Chicago, IL, USA
Age at Death: 57
Height: 5′ 7″
Trainer: Ray Arcel
Managers: Gig Rooney; Sam Pian & Art Winch (1929-30)
Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps at age 32, much over the draft eligibility limit, Barney Ross became a much-decorated veteran of Guadalcanal during World War II. Ross was awarded the Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action” and received the Distinguished Service Cross and Presidential Unit Citation from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (His war experience was portrayed in the motion picture Monkey on My Back.)
Beryl David Rosofsky was born in Manhattan, New York on 23 December 1909 and was raised in the heart of the Chicago ghetto alongside his five brothers and sisters. His parents arrived in the USA from Russia at the turn of the century and both worked hard in their grocery store which they kept open for 19hrs a day, 6 days a week.
The young Beryl’s destiny had been mapped out for him while he was still a boy, his father deciding he should become a Hebrew teacher. But when he was fatally shot in the family store in 1924 and his wife Sarah had a nervous breakdown the shop was sold and the family was split up.The three youngest children were housed in an orphanage whilst Beryl took to the streets running juvenile gambling rackets.
At that time Illinois state law was that amateur boxers must be 16 so when Beryl decided he would like to box he had to lie about his age. He also had to deceive his mother and did so by adopting the ring name of Barney Ross. Ross was fast and agile and when fights became tough he imagined that he was working over his fathers killers. He learned his trade in Kid Howard’s gym in Chicago where world class fighters such as Jackie Field – alias ghetto hero Jacob Finkelstein – Dave Shade, Sammy Mandell and Bud Taylor trained.
He rapidly developed into crowd pleaser who sold tickets and the highlight of his amateur career was in 1929 when he won the Chicago Golden Gloves and boxed in Madison Square Garden in the inter city championships. Although there was money in amateur fights Ross needed bigger purses and so he turned professional .”My object was simply to keep going till I could put away enough money to bring the kids out of the orphanage and support them until they were old enough to support themselves” .
From his early days Ross worked as a sparring partner for Jackie Fields, and when the world welterweight champion had a fight in Los Angeles Ross was given his debut in a show at main street gym. In spite of the nerves and the experience of his Mexican opponent – Ramon Lugo – he won a close six round decision, and picked up $75. A week later he was back in the same ring and earned $100 by beating Joe Barola.
Ross’s career looked to be moving in the right direction with an April 1930 points defeat to Carlos Garcia the only blot on his record. Gradually he went back to his old ways, running the wild streets long into the night and thus neglecting his training. Eventually, in spite of a warning by gangster Al Capone, Ross lost an eight round decision to Roger Bernard and his co managers, Sam Pian and Art Winch, threw him out of their gym.
It took a visit to the orphanage for Ross to see what he was throwing away. He returned to the gym and literally went down on his knees and begged to be taken back into the fold. Pian and Winch gave him one last chance and 12 days after losing to Bernard he beat “Midget” Mike O’Dowd to get back on track. Then on the undercard of a fight between Tony Canzoneri and Jack Kid Berg Ross stopped Lud Abella in two rounds. From that moment on he vowed to take his sort seriously and his mother, who suffered terribly at home when he was fighting, decided she would watch him at ringside. When his fights were on a Friday night – a time when orthodox Jews were forbidden to travel by car or bus – she would walk miles to watch her son.
As a fighter Ross could certainly punch although he did lack the finishing instinct. However he gradually learned just about all there was to know about his chosen trade, and kept on winning. He eventually achieved top of the bill status at the Chicago stadium in October 1932 against ex world featherweight champion Battling Battalino, and won on points.
In March 1933 he took a points decision against Billy Petrolle, who had boxed Tony Canzoneri for the world lightweight title in his previous fight. To Ross’s immense satisfaction victory over Battalino and Petrolle not only put him in line for a world title shot but the purses from those fights also enabled him to buy a family house big enough for Ida, Georgie and Sammy to be brought home from the orphanage.
Ross’s big night finally came in June 1933, in Chicago, when he beat Tony Canzoneri over ten rounds to become the world light and light welterweight champion on a majority decision.
Ross made the first defence of his light welterweight title in July 1933 when he knocked out Johnny Farr in six rounds in Kansas City. But it was his next fight with Canzoneri which he really had his sights set on. The fight was arranged for New York City in September and Ross, who was still upset by cynical observations that he had taken a hometown decision in the pair’s first meeting, insisted that the fight be in Canzoneri’s back yard so that this time there could be no false accusations..
In preparation Ross went to a remote training camp in Wisconsin, taking his faher’s religious books with him. His emotional roller coaster ride was coming to an end and after his wild years he was settling down and facing his past. Almost 40,000 people paid to watch this rematch and the pair slogged it out until the 13th when the champion was badly hurt and had his mouth piece knocked out. However, he fought back and by the final round he was on top and Ross took the majority verdict and was still champion.
Two months later Ross was back in Chicago defending the light welterweight title with a 10 round points decision over Sammy Fuller. It was the first of a string of battles that would earn him, along with personal appearances, exhibitions and endorsements about ú150,000 for the year. Sadly he did not manage money well and would give handouts to anybody with a hard luck story as well as many charities such as the Red Cross.
Ross continued his hectic fight schedule in early 1934 outpointing Billy Petrolle in a 10 round non title contest in January before beating Pete Nebo, in Kansas City, over 12 rounds in a light welterweight defence. He then returned to San Francisco for the first time since the early days of his career and drew a 10 rounder with Frankie Klick, in which his world light welterweight crown was at stake once more. He stayed in Calafornia to outscore Kid moro in a non title affair in Oakland before gaining a 10 round decision over Bobby Pacho in a light welterweight title bout in Los Angeles.
However the gambling bug was taking hold and after the Pacho fight he went to Santa Anita racetrack and lost $10,000. He was getting to the point where he was so much in debt that he needed a huge fight to get himself out of the whole. So even though h was no more than a few pounds over the lightweight limit he persuaded his managers to pair him with the world welterweight champion Jimmy McLarnin.
The fight was arranged for the long Island Bowl, New York, in May 1934 and Ross trained at Grossinger’s, a holiday resort in the Catskill mountains.But try as he may to bulk up at the weigh in he was only 137 ż lb. Around 60,000 packed the Bowl and saw Ross use his jab brilliantly to keep McLarnin of balance and prevent him using his short explosive right to the chin.
Ross was shaken once or twice, before being floored for the first time in his life in the ninth round. He got up before a count could be picked up and tore back into the fray and knocked a surprised McLarnin down for the count of two in the next attack. They slogged it out to the final bell. When Ross returned to Chicago 30,000 people gathered to celebrate as he was given a ticker tape parade. However while the McLarnin fight save him financially he still continued to gamble and lose.
In September 1934 he fought a return with McLarnin and this time lost a controversial split decision. By know Ross could not make lightweight any more and he relinquished the title in April 1935.He made three defences of the light welterweight crown against Bobby Pacho, Frankie Klick and Henry Woods. He the fought McLarnin in a third and deciding bout in which, despite breaking his thumb in the 6th round, won a unanimous verdict.
The following month he relinquished his light welter championship and embarked on a tour of non title bouts, but by the time he defended the title against Ceferino Garcia his debts were crippling. In one of his last sparring sessions he broke his right thumb but had no choice other than to go through with the fight. A shot of novocaine in the hand kept it free of pain for the early stages but once it wore off Ross was on his own. His trainer, Ray Arcel, later claimed Ross had won the fight because of his boxing rain.
Two more non title wins set Ross up for a welterweight defence against Henry Armstrong the world featherweight champion in may 1938 at the long Island Bowl. It was a horrible one sided slaughter in front of the 35,000 crowd. By the 6th round Ross’s legs were leaden, by the 9th one eye was shut and his nose bleeding. In the 10th the fans were yelling for the massacre to be stopped and after the 11th the Referee Arthur Donavon visited Ross’s corner and said “Sorry champ, but I’ve got to stop it”. Ross’s reply went down boxing folklore “No, let me finish. This is the last favor I’ll ever ask of you. I’ll never fight again.”
Donavon allowed him to go out the way he wanted, he lost on points, and true to his word never fought again. Ther were many offers but he stuck to his word and joined his father in law’s clothing business. He tried to make it work but he lost his money in a series of business ventures and then his marriage failed.
During the second world war he served in the US Marines but was wounded in action. He was given morphine to relive the pain and on his return to the USA he asked a doctor to continue giving him shots. As the pain and malarial fevers dogged him he needed more and became hooked. He died of cancer on 17 January 1967 and is buried in Chicago’s Rosemont Cemetery.
The Lethbridge Herald
29 May 1934
Barney Ross Wins Welterweight Title
Decisively Outpoints Jimmy McLarnin
Baby-Faced Irish-Canadian Proves No Match for
Ferocity of American Jew Who Draws Blood
Early in Fray and Continues Vicious
Attack—Both Scrappers Absorb Lots
of Punishment and Tire Near
Finish of Bout
(By Sam Robertson, Canadian Press Staff Writer.)
NEW YORK, May 29.
Barney Ross stood among the immortals of the ring today because of a tireless left-hand that might easily claim kinship to class one lightning. Directed by an agile, cool brain, that left drummed the welterweight crown off the brow of Jimmy McLarnin last night and made the lithe Chicago Hebrew the first fighting man ever to claim the lightweight and welter championships of the world as his own.
Some 65,000 sat under a starry sky in the Madison Square Garden Bowl on Long Island as the crafty and wrote the ring history other lightweight masters, Benny Leonard one of them, attempted and failed. They sat, almost silently, through slightly blood-spattered rounds as the Canadian's right with the cobra sting and Ross' left that crackles like a machine gun, turned the flow of battle this way and that
Then a tumultuous acclaim went up from that living sea of white faces for the boy who had dared and buried the banshee that so long accompanied the Vancouver Irishman in his personal war against Jewish ring men.
A sprinkling of hoots and Jeers greeted the announcement that McLarnin swelled to an unbroken line of nine the welterweight rulers deposed in their first title defence, but then the decision of the officials wasn't unanimous. One Judge voted McLarnin the victor; the other spoke just as strongly for Ross. Without hesitation Referee Eddie Forbes cast the decisive vote in favour of the product of Chicago's West Side.
Mainly Because he was out-sped, McLarnin lost the title that took 10 years In the winning. He had held one, inactive year. The inactivity seemed to enter into it, too, for
Jimmy saw more of his punches miss their mark last night than he had in his last 10 fights rolled into one.
He was shooting however at a target with the legs of a Percy Williams.Feline-like, Ross would attack with a flurry of lefts and rights, then either force an entangling clinch or dance out of danger's way. Jimmy's historic smile of battle was replaced by a look of grim determination as he sought a dancing, elusive chin to crush with his lethal right. But less than a dozen times could he locate it, and all but the once glancing blows followed.
As against the triumphant smile Ross, wore, there were tears in Jimmy's eyes as he hurried silently from the ring, shorn of his title. It was unlikely that he wept over the loss of Ills crown. It seemed more likely Jimmy's heart Just overflowed with chagrin because he had been unable to use the heavy ammunition that blasted his earlier path to the pinnacle.
In short he had been thwarted In a boxing match, and Jimmy is only at his best in a fight.
Lots of Tears
While Barney accepted the congratulations of hundreds and said, "It was grand fighting McLarnin, but he didn't hurt me," a little old lady sat weeping on a bench near his room. That was Barney's mother.They were tears of joy as she heard words of praise heaped upon the son she didn't want to be prizefighter.
Fifty yards from there, In McLarnin's quarters, there were tears of the other sort Many edged in to remind Jimmy of the fights ahead, but he hurried Into street clothes, unmindful of the consolation, and soon was away alone to a destination none would reveal.
Old "Pop" Foster, who spied the little Celt in a kids street corner fight and has managed him ever since, gently handled the well wishers. “Jimmy boy is alright” he said "But leave him alone. He doesn’t want to talk." Split decision or no, there was no word of dissent with the official verdict from Jimmy or Foster. In explanation, all' the veteran manager would say was "he shoulda kept fighting”
FIGHT BY ROUNDS
They met in the centre of the ring for instructions and went back to their corners, the bell rang and they came out fighting.
Ross felt for McLarnin’s head carefully with a long Left jab and Jimmy backed away. The Canadian ducked under Ross' left hand, missed with a left and right, and backed Barney ' slowly cross the ring. McLarnin dropped a short left hook on Ross' chin and Barney threw caution aside. He ripped into Jimmy with flurry of right and lefts to the body and then Fell back to a cautious crouch.
Ross backed to the ropes, flicking McLanin's head with lefts, and took two hard left hooks to the head and body. They loosened up then, and started swinging punches to the head. Jimmy dropped a hard right on Ross' neck and they slugged each other about the head, each with a right hand free, until the bell broke them and sent them to their corners.
Ross stabbed at Jimmy's head with his left and the Irishman bobbed underneath with a left hook to the body and a right cross to the chin that made the lightweight blink his eyes. McLarnin crowded the little fellow, roughing him with both hands, driving lefts and rights to the body. He drove Ross into a comer with a swift barrage of body blows, but Barney wheeled swiftly, pulled out, and stabbed Jimmy's head with lefts. McLarnin feinted and smashed hard right on Barney's Jaw. His ferocity slowly increasing, McLarnin smashed Ross to the ropes with a left and right to the body and nearly spilled him with a right high on the forehead. Desperately Ross fought back, catching McLarnin off guard with a swift two-fisted onslaught to the head, and he was driving McLarnln in before him at
McLarnin bored into Ross with two left hooks to the body, took a half-dozen left jabs to the face, then backed Barney across the ring with two more short lefts to the head. Ross flicked Jimmy's head with a nice left jab and they wrestled a moment in a clinch. McLarnin belted Ross with a right to the chin and merely set him punching mad. Ross swarmed into Jimmy with both hands, hooking lefts to the body, rights to the head, and as McLarnin backed away, hard pressed, he missed a terrific right to the head. Ross whipped after him, shooting three left hooks to the body and a right to the head and got Jimmy, flustered, missed a long right hand aimed for the chin. Barney was up on his toes, boxing prettily, stabbing in deadly fashion with his left Into McLarnin's face, as the bell rang.
McLarnin ducked, bobbed, wove under a stream of left hand jabs. A half-dozen caught his face, but he came up inside with a hard left and right, to the body. Jimmy hooked another left hard to the head before Ross standing up surprisingly well under McLarnin's heavy fire, tied up the welterweight champion in a Clinch. As they broke loose, Barney swiftly hanged two lefts to the body and he followed McLarnin into the ropes with -both hands pumping furiously to the Irishman's head and ribs. McLarnin caught him coming in with a hard right to the head, but he couldn’t stop the flashy Ross. A right drummed into Ross' body, but he shot back McLarnin's head with a crashing left hook that wobbled the Irishman's legs. McLarnin thundered both hands into Ross' s body again but Barney ripped two more left hooks into McLarnin's head. The bell rang and McLarnin went to his corner with blood trickling from his nose.
Fighting more cautiously, McLarnin stood in midring and tried to match right hands with Ross. But Barney had the swifter jab, and Jimmy was forced to block and duck away. Jimmy came back fast with a right that made Barney blink again, but Ross shook off the blow and flashed two rights into Jimmy's head. McLarnin threw a long right into Ross's side and Barney flashed back with both hands to the head, drawing fresh blood from McLarnin's nose. Ross chased McLarnin across the ring and rocked him with a crushing volley of rights and lefts to the head. Jimmy wobbled and the crowd roared. Jimmy got his guard up and was holding Ross off with a left at the bell.
Blood was still seeping from McLarnin's nostrils as he came out jabbing carefully at the bell. He pecked his left into Ross' head, dropped two left hooks on the challenger's chin and promptly was tied in a clinch. As they sparred in mid-ring, Ross hooked his left fiercely to McLarnin's head, drove him into the ropes and then stepped back as McLarnin's head was caught under the upper strand. The crowd cheered as McLarnin freed himself and Ross came-right back with a straight right that started a lump under McLarnin's left eye. Floundering uncertainly, his face blood smeared, McLarnin managed to throw two long rights into Ross' body. Barney danced around him, the head, until the bell rang.
McLarnin fought desperately to make an opening for his right hand as It became more and more evident that he now had to put Ross down in order to win. He thumped two lefts on the challenger's chin and drove a hard right into Barney's head but Ross bounced back. Jimmy smashed a right into Barney's side and a spot on the side of his glove glowed red as McLarnin's glove came away. Jimmy drove his challenger across the ring with three lefts to the head but missed again with a left and left himself open for another of Ross’s cutting, lightning fast left hooks. A right drove into Barney's body. Ross ripped into McLarnin with both hands, flayed him all the way across the ring, and drew fresh smears of blood from Jimmy's battered face. They slugged toe to toe on the ropes and were fighting so furiously as the bell sounded, they did not hear the gong and Referee Forbes had to pull them apart.
Jimmy pounded at Ross' body with a long left, striving to get Ross's guard down. He succeeded, but the left hook he flashed at Ross' head landed high on the challenger's temple. Much steadier now, McLarnin pumped two left hooks Into Barney's chin and they belted each other about the body in a clinch. Ross poured a stream of left jabs into McLarnin's head but Jimmy pulled back and drove a hard right to the Jaw.
Ross hammered right back at McLarnin with two left hooks to the chin and both missed rights and lefts to the head as they started swinging from their sides. Ross hit McLarnin five times on the chin while McLarnin retorted twice. Jimmy's face spouted blood again and he fell into a clinch is the gong rang.
Fresh apparently as though he were just starting out, Ross danced out behind his biting left hand and flicked McLarnin's soggy features. Jimmy tied him up and they pummeled each other's body In close. McLarnin drove in with a long right to the head but again the once stunning wallop in the Irishman's glove merely incited Barney to fury. Ross stormed back with both hands, into Jimmy's face, as the crowd howled as blood spattered all over his face. As they matched left hooks In mid-ring, McLarnin smashed a short belt to the
jaw and Barney was bowled off his feet. He came up without a count, and as McLarnin tore in, swinging with both hands, Ross lifted a left hook to the Irishman's jaw and Jimmy flopped over on his haunches. He came right up grinning and they shook hands. They were belting each other furiously again as the gong rang.
They came right out into a clinch, both quite weary, and with Ross freshened for the first time with the aid of smelling salts in his corner. McLarnin pushed Ross across the ring, driving one good right to the body. Barney came off the ropes with two thudding left hooks to the chin. A long right and a high on the temple shook Ross, but he put down his head and tore into McLarnin savagely with both hands flinging a stream of leather to the Irishman's jaw. McLarnin almost fell from weariness as he missed a left hook and a right cross to the head, and Ross ripped furiously with both hands to the Irishman's body. Jimmy danced in an effort to get the spring back in his legs, and they bounced into each other, winging long rights to the head that shook them both. They were both wavering slightly at the bell.
They seemed tired as they matched left jabs and Ross retreated all the way to the ropes Into McLarnin's glancing right to the body. Jimmy drove three rights to the body as they came off the ropes but Barney started blood streaming again from McLarnin's nose with a short, stabbing right. There wasn't much on their punches now as they loafed a moment in mid-ring but It was just a lull before the storm. Each loosed both hands simultaneously In two-fisted volleys to the head. They stood and swapped punches, full smashes, both teetering a bit in the blast. The crowd roared but the storm blew itself out and they leaned on each other, swapping lefts and rights in half hearted fashion, both very tired as the gong rang.
McLarnin stabbed the challenger's face with a long left jab and Barney answered in kind, neither landing effectively. McLarnin glanced a right off Ross' chin and pounded him into the ropes with both hands digging deep in the body. They wrestled clear, fell back Into another clinch, and Ross held as Jimmy sunk his heavy fists again into the challenger's ribs. Barney started to fight back but McLarnin caught him with another left hook and right cross to the head, and once more Ross held. Blood was seeping now from Ross' lips. Still concentrating on the body as Barney tired under the fusillade. McLarnin drove Ross into the ropes and kept up a drumming fire. Ross staggered from weariness as he missed a left hook to the head just as the gong clanged.
Ross boxed slowly and McLarnin pumped his head with left Jabs before he switched to the body with a hard left hook and short right. Ross tried to speed up, but McLarnin caught im with a left hook and right cross to the chin. Back came Ross courageously, shooting both hands In staccato fashion to McLarnin's head, but Ross savagely pounded his way out of three with a short two fisted attack inside to McLarnin's head. McLarnin was warned for hitting Ross low with a left hook but Barney took matters into his own hands, and flailed Jimmy with a short two-fisted rally. Ross hooked his left Into McLarnin's buttered face at the bell.
Referee Forbes signaled to the Judges that McLarnin had lost the last round because of a low blow. Ross danced out smartly, poking lefts Into Jimmy's face and they quickly fell Into slugging match In the centre of the ring. Ross beat McLarnin to the punch with three left hooks to the head but Jimmy landed one solid left smash on the challenger's chin. They leaned on each other In a clinch, banging each other on the back of the head with both hands. McLarnin speeded up and whipped two crunching left hooks into Barney's chin and Rom held on. He pulled loose quickly, buried both hands In McLarnin’s body in a furious exchange, wobbled for a second under a full right smash to the head, and then came back with mazing stamina to pummel McLarnin along the ropes He beat Jimmy consistently to punch with both hands from then until the bell rang.
McLarnin tore into Ross, chugging both hands to the body, but Barney met him with a counter fire. They slipped into a clinch and Ross held tightly while McLarnin sought to cave him in with body smashes. Jimmy shifted suddenly to the head and shot in three short Jarring left hooks but Barney stood toe to toe and slugged it out with him. Finally Barney ad to hold, the challenger wavered under a crashing right to the side. It was just for a second though, the challenger flew back furiously with both hands, belting madly at
McLarntn's head and sides. McLarnin staggered slightly as he missed a right, and they stood head to head, with a huge crowd yelling deliriously, wobbling and punching up to the final bell. They were so tired they had to hang onto each other for support until help came from the corner.