Abe Attell

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Abe Attell
Abe Attell LOC.jpg
Real name Abraham Washington Attell
Nickname(s) The Little Hebrew
Rated at Featherweight
Height 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m)
Reach 66 in (168 cm)
Nationality United States American
Born February 22, 1883
San Francisco, California
Died February 7, 1970(1970-02-07) (aged 86)
New Paltz, New York
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 172
Wins 125
Wins by KO 51
Losses 18
Draws 21
No contests 8

Abraham Washington "Abe" Attell (February 22, 1883 – February 7, 1970), known in the boxing world as Abe "The Little Hebrew" Attell, was a boxer who became known for his record-setting six-year reign as World Featherweight Champion. Said to be a friend of the gangster Arnold Rothstein, Attell was charged with game fixing in the Black Sox Scandal in 1919, but the charges were dismissed before trial. He also was implicated in other sports controversies.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Attell was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Jewish parents. Many sources give his year of birth as 1884, but in an article published in the October 1961 issue of Cavalier magazine, he stated that he had turned 78 that year. There also is an extant copy of his passport that gives his birth year as 1883. And the 1900 U.S. Census gives his age as 17. Growing up in a mostly Irish neighborhood, he was often involved in fights with neighborhood boys. He said as a kid, he sometimes had up to 10 bouts each day. After his father abandoned the family when Attell was 13, he sold newspapers to earn money. Selling at the corner of 8th and Market, where the Mechanics Pavilion was, Attell was able to see the fight between Solly Smith and George Dixon for the world's Featherweight championship. With that, Attell and his brothers Caesar and Monte became convinced that maybe they had futures in boxing.

Attell's first fight was at age 17 on August 19, 1900, when he knocked out Kid Lennett in two rounds at the San Francisco Athletic Club.[2] His mother, who strongly opposed his boxing, later became one of his staunchest supporters, betting on him to win. After these early fights, he was called by the nickname "The Little Hebrew".

Portrait of Attell

World featherweight champion[edit]

After winning 10 fights in a row by knockout, Attell moved to Denver, Colorado. At the age of 18, he fought with Dixon for the World Featherweight championship in 1901 and beat him by a decision in 15 rounds. He won again in 1904 by beating Johnny Reagan in 20 rounds. One year later, he lost the crown to Tony Sullivan but regained it in February 1906 with a decision over Jimmy Walsh.

Attell successfully defended his title for 18 fights in a row from 1906–1912. (This was a division record until Eusebio Pedroza surpassed it in 1985). Among other opponents, Attell beat Battling Nelson and Johnny Kilbane during that streak. He was then called "The Little Champ". From 1909–1910, his brother Monte Attell, called the "Nob Hill Terror", held the Bantamweight Championship, making them the first brothers to hold world titles simultaneously. Caesar Attell also fought and was called "Two and a Half," for always giving that amount whenever the hat was passed for charity at a boxing event, which he attended faithfully. During his time as world featherweight champion, Attell was allegedly involved with gambler/gangster Arnold Rothstein. According to some legends, they became good friends during this period.

Later career[edit]

Attell lost his world Featherweight title to Johnny Kilbane in 1912, losing by a 20-round decision. Kilbane claimed that Attell's handlers put a substance on the fighter's glove to blind him. According to witnesses, Attell tried an assortment of other illegal methods to win the fight.[citation needed] On July 4, 1913, Attell accidentally hit the referee on the face during a win against Willie Beecher. He finally retired in 1917. Attell managed one boxer, Marty Goldman. He coached him to a 33 Win (10 ko's), 11 Loss, 3 Draw record in 47 career fights.[3]

Black Sox Scandal[edit]

In 1920 Attell was accused of being the messenger between the gangster Rothstein and players of the Chicago White Sox baseball organization, during the planning stages of the fix of the 1919 World Series. Prior to the series, Attell had been approached by former fighter Billy Maharg and former Major League Baseball pitcher "Sleepy" Bill Burns in their bid to get Rothstein to financially back the fix. The Black Sox scandal was considered a major outrage in sports and Attell's name appeared in newspaper headlines related to the scandal. He and many White Sox players were formally charged with several counts, including fixing the event, however Rothstein was never charged. All were eventually acquitted at trial, but the Major League Baseball banned them from participating in any baseball activities at any level. Attell denied having been involved in any talks about fixing the series and convinced the jury that the wrong Abe Attell was accused.

Attell died in New Paltz, New York on February 7, 1970.[3]

Legacy and honors[edit]

Attell was inducted posthumously as a member of various halls of fame:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Arrange To Give Up Attel. Attorneys for Him and "Sport" Sullivan See Replogic as to Bail". New York Times. November 2, 1920. Retrieved 2010-12-16. Attorneys representing Abe Attel and John J. (Sport) Sullivan, indicted as members of the crooked gambling who bribed eight White Sox ball players to throw the ... 
  2. ^ Barry, Richard (March 1913). "Abe Attell, The Elusive Feather". Pearson's Magazine (New York: The Pearson Publishing Co.) 29 (3): 353–359. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Abe Attell". BoxRec. Retrieved 2010-12-16. After his professional boxing career ended Attell operated a shoe store in New York City, doing a good business selling to customers, fans and sporting people who came in to see him. He gave up the shoe business circa June 1916 to go into vaudeville. His name was linked to the infamous Black Sox baseball scandal of 1919. He was alleged to have been the bag man for gambler Arnold Rothstein and to have given $10,000 to several Chicago White Sox players. They had in return agreed to throw the World Series with Cincinnati. When the scandal broke in 1920, Attell went to Canada for a year to avoid being subpoenaed. Died at New Paltz, New York 
  4. ^ a b "Abe Attell". International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-16. Abe Attell held the World Featherweight Championship in 1903 and 1904 and from 1906 to 1912. The 54, 122-pound Attell won his title four months short of his seventeenth birthday, defeating Johnny Reagan in 20 rounds. He lost his crown to Tony Sullivan one year later but regained it in February 1906 with a decision over Jimmy Walsh. Attell successfully defended his championship 21 times during the nine years he held the title. ... 

External links[edit]

Title last held by
Young Corbett II
World Featherweight Champion
1902 – February 22, 1912
Succeeded by
Johnny Kilbane