Benny Leonard

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Benny Leonard
Benny Leonard.jpg
Statistics
Real name Benjamin Leiner
Nickname(s) Ghetto Wizard
The Great
Rated at Lightweight
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Reach 69 in (175 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1896-04-07)April 7, 1896
New York, New York, United States
Died April 18, 1947(1947-04-18) (aged 51)
New York, New York, St. Nicholas Arena
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Wins 183
Wins by KO 70
Losses 24
Draws 8
No contests 4

Benny Leonard (born Benjamin Leiner; Hebrew name דוב בער בן אברהם גרשון [Dov Ber ben Avraham Gershon]; April 7, 1896 – April 18, 1947) was an American professional lightweight boxer. Widely considered one of the all-time greats, he was ranked 8th on the Ring Magazine's list of the "80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years" and placed 7th in ESPN's "50 Greatest Boxers of All-Time."[1][2] In 2005, the International Boxing Research Organization ranked Leonard as the #1 lightweight, and #8 best pound-for-pound fighter of all-time.[3] Statistical website BoxRec rates Walker as the 3rd best lightweight ever while, The Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer placed him at #2.[4] Boxing historian Bert Sugar placed him 6th in his Top 100 Fighters catalogue.[5] Leonard is a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.[6][7][8]

Early life[edit]

Benny Leonard was born and raised in the Jewish ghetto, which was then located in the lower east side of Manhattan, New York City, on whose streets he learned to fight. He was the son of Minny and Gershon Leiner, who immigrated from Eastern Europe.[9]

Professional career[edit]

Leonard was known for his speed, excellent boxing technique and ability to think fast on his feet. He also was a hard hitter, who scored 70 KOs out of his 183 wins. Leonard was defeated 24 times and was held to a draw on 8 occasions. As was common in the era in which he fought, Leonard engaged in several no-decision matches and is believed to have fought 219 bouts.

Lightweight contender[edit]

Leonard debuted on a Saturday in November 1911—the exact date is unknown—losing in three rounds at the Fondon Athletic Club in New York when the fight was stopped because he was bleeding through the nose. He won 12 of his next 18 bouts (three were no-decisions), establishing a reputation as a good local fighter before meeting Canadian Frankie Fleming in May 1912. Leonard was knocked out for only the second time in his career. He lost a rematch with Fleming 16 months later. (Not surprisingly, Fleming got the first shot at Freddie Welsh, failing to unseat the lightweight champion in a May 1915 fight the newspapers awarded to Welsh.) Leonard’s next big test came when he took on featherweight champion Johnny Kilbane in Atlantic City in April 1915. Kilbane won six of ten rounds to win the decision. “Leonard might have beaten the champion if he had a little more confidence,“ the Chicago Tribune said, “but even when he was having the best of the going he shut up like a clam and clinched for all he was worth.”

World lightweight champion[edit]

Welsh vs Leonard 1917

Leonard then reeled off a string of 15 straight victories (interrupted by two draws), which earned him the chance to meet Freddie Welsh for the lightweight championship on March 3, 1916. Although newspaper reporters at Madison Square Garden believed that Leonard had won, Welsh retained his title in a bout that was officially recorded as a no decision. The two fighters met again four months later in Brooklyn, and this time Welsh won decisively, staggering Leonard and nearly putting him down with a right to the jaw in the sixth.

After winning 17 of his next 19 bouts, the 21-year-old Leonard fought Welsh for the third time in the Manhattan Casino on May 28, 1917. The challenger floored the champion three times in the ninth round before referee Billy McPartland stopped the bout, making Leonard the lightweight champion of the world. He officially defended the title seven times over the next eight years.

Besides being lightweight Champion, Leonard challenged welterweight Champion Jack Britton for his title on June 26, 1922. He lost the fight when he was disqualified for hitting Britton when Britton was down in the thirteenth round.

Retirement and comeback[edit]

Leonard announced his retirement from boxing on January 15, 1925, as the reigning World Lightweight Champion because his mother wanted him to. He lost most of his considerable fortune in the stock market crash of 1929, and embarked on an ill-advised comeback in 1931. Although described as pudgy and slow, the balding Leonard won 23 fights, albeit against nondescript opposition, before meeting a championship caliber fighter. On October 7, 1932, his career ended when he was TKOed in 6 rounds by future champion Jimmy McLarnin.

Notable bouts[edit]

Result Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes[10]
Loss Canada Jimmy McLarnin TKO 6 (10) 1932-10-07 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Win United States Lew Tendler UD 15 1923-07-24 United States Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York Retained World Lightweight Title.
Win United States Lew Tendler UD 15 1923-07-24 United States Boyle's Thirty Acres, Jersey City, New Jersey Retained World Lightweight Title.
Newspaper Decision
Win United States Rocky Kansas TKO 8 (10) 1922-07-04 United States Floyd Fitzsimmons' Arena, Michigan City, Indiana
Loss United States Jack Britton DQ 13 (15) 1922-06-26 United States Velodrome, Bronx, New York For World Welterweight Title.
Win United States Rocky Kansas UD 15 1922-02-10 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Retained World Lightweight Title.
Win United States Rocky Kansas NWS 12 1921-06-06 United States Federal League Baseball Park, Harrison, New Jersey Retained World Lightweight Title.
Newspaper Decision
Win United Kingdom Charley White KO 9 (10) 1920-07-05 United States Floyd Fitzsimmons' Arena, Benton Harbor, Michigan
Win United States Johnny Dundee NWS 8 1920-02-09 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey Newspaper Decision
Win United States James Red Herring TKO 6 (8) 1919-12-19 United States Southern A.C., Memphis, Tennessee
Win United States Johnny Dundee NWS 8 1919-09-17 United States 1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey Newspaper Decision
Win United States Johnny Dundee NWS 6 1919-06-16 United States Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Newspaper Decision
Win United States Willie Ritchie TKO 8 (8) 1919-04-28 United States 1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey
Loss United States Willie Ritchie NWS 4 1919-02-21 United States Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California Newspaper Decision
Win United States Johnny Dundee NWS 8 1919-01-20 United States 1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey Newspaper Decision
Draw United Kingdom Kid Lewis NWS 8 1918-09-23 United States Weidenmeyer's Park, Newark, New Jersey Newspaper Decision
Win United States Jack Britton NWS 8 1918-06-25 United States Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Newspaper Decision
Win United States Jack Britton NWS 10 1917-10-19 United States Harlem S.C, New York, New York Newspaper Decision
Win United States Johnny Kilbane TKO 3 (6) 1917-07-25 United States Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Win Wales Freddie Welsh TKO 9 (10) 1917-05-28 United States Manhattan Casino, New York, New York Won World Lightweight Title.
Win United States Johnny Dundee NWS 6 1916-11-15 United States Olympia A.C., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Newspaper Decision
Loss Wales Freddie Welsh NWS 10 1916-07-28 United States Washington Park A.C., Brooklyn, New York For World Lightweight Title.
Newspaper Decision
Draw United States Johnny Dundee NWS 6 1916-11-15 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Newspaper Decision
Win Wales Freddie Welsh NWS 10 1916-03-31 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York For World Lightweight Title.
Newspaper Decision
Draw United States Johnny Dundee NWS 6 1916-03-08 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Newspaper Decision
Win United States Rocky Kansas NWS 10 1916-02-28 United States Broadway Auditorium, Buffalo, New York Newspaper Decision
Win United States Joe Mandot KO 7 (10) 1915-12-17 United States Harlem S.C., New York, New York
Loss United States Johnny Kilbane NWS 10 1915-04-29 United States Federal A.C., New York, New York Newspaper Decision
Loss United States Johnny Dundee NWS 10 1915-03-02 United States 135th Street A.C., New York, New York Newspaper Decision
Loss Canada Frankie Fleming NWS 10 1913-08-16 United States Fairmont A.C., Bronx, New York Newspaper Decision
Loss Canada Frankie Fleming KO 4 (6) 1912-05-03 United States New Polo A.C., New York, New York

Life after boxing[edit]

Leonard holding back Harry Houdini, mock punched by heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey

After his boxing career was over, Leonard was a front man for National Hockey League owner Bill Dwyer of the New York Americans, who had secretly purchased the Pittsburgh Pirates of that league. Leonard was supposed to appear as if he owned the team. The team suffered both at the gate and on the ice. The team moved to Philadelphia for 1930–31 and then folded.

Later, Leonard became a boxing referee. After refereeing the first six bouts of the April 18, 1947, card at the St. Nicholas Arena in New York, Leonard was stricken with a massive heart attack during the first round of the next bout, toppled to the canvas, and died in the ring. He was 51 years of age.[11]

Film career[edit]

Leonard starred in the film serial The Evil Eye (1920) and a series of boxing related film shorts titled Flying Fists (1924 - 1925).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2014-04-11.
  2. ^ "50 Greatest Boxers of All-Time". ESPN. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  3. ^ "All-Time Lightweight Rankings". International Boxing Research Organization. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  4. ^ "All-Time Lightweight Rankings". BoxRec. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  5. ^ "Bert Sugar's All-Time Greatest Fighters". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  6. ^ Cyber Boxing Encyclopedia - Benny Leonard CyberBoxingZone.com Retrieved on 2014-04-30
  7. ^ "Jewish Sports Hall of Fame". Jewishsports.org. Retrieved 2014-05-17. 
  8. ^ "International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame". Jewishsports.net. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  9. ^ "American national biography - John Arthur Garraty, Mark Christopher Carnes, American Council of Learned Societies - Google Books". Books.google.ca. 2011-09-03. Retrieved 2014-05-17. 
  10. ^ Benny Leonard's Professional Boxing Record. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-18.
  11. ^ Monday, Apr. 28, 1947 (April 28, 1947). "Sport: Benny the Brain". TIME. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Achievements
Preceded by
Freddie Welsh
World Lightweight Champion
May 28, 1917 – January 15, 1925
Retired
Succeeded by
Jimmy Goodrich
Awards
Preceded by
Boxers of the
U.S. Armed Forces
Edward J. Neil Trophy
1944
Succeeded by
James J. Walker