Sammy Luftspring

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Sammy Luftspring
Real nameSammy Luftspring
NationalityCanada Canadian
BornMay 14, 1916
Toronto, Ontario
DiedSeptember 27, 2000(2000-09-27) (aged 84)
Toronto, Ontario
Boxing record
Total fights40
Wins by KO14
No contests0

Sammy Luftspring (May 14, 1916 – September 27, 2000) was a Jewish Canadian boxer. A former Canadian Welterweight Champion and highly ranked in the Welterweight class during his career, Luftspring was forced to retire from the sport due to an eye injury. He was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.[1]

Early career[edit]

Luftspring was born and raised in a low class residential area of Toronto. It was home to many Eastern European Jewish and Italian immigrants. He began his boxing career in 1932 out of Brunswick Talmud Torah, a local Toronto Jewish community and recreational centre. Throughout his career, he wore a Magen David on his trunks. Over the next four years, he fought 105 times (attaining a record of 100–5) and captured Golden Gloves Tournaments in various weight classes ranging from bantamweight to welterweight.[2]

By 1933, he was the Ontario amateur lightweight champion and regarded as one of the best amateur boxing talents.[2]

In 1933, he was involved in the infamous Toronto Christie Pits riot. A riot occurred at Christie Pits Park following tensions that occurred during a series of amateur softball games. Fighting broke out between a group of young Jewish and Italian men and the local Swastika Club, a group of Canadian Nazi sympathizers.

1936 Berlin Olympics boycott[edit]

Luftspring was named to Canada's Olympic team for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. At the encouragement of his parents, he refused to attend the Games in protest over the poor treatment Jews were receiving in Nazi Germany. He made his views on the subject public in a letter to the Toronto Globe. In the letter, he protested that "the German government was treating its Jewish brothers and sisters worse than dogs". He even went as far as to say that "the German government would exterminate Jews if they had the opportunity".[3]

Luftspring and another boxer, Norman "Baby" Yack, attempted to participate in an alternate event being hosted that summer, the People's Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.[4] The Spanish Civil War broke out prior to the Games' opening ceremonies. The event caused the cancellation of the People's Olympics. By the time Luftspring found out about the cancellation, he had already reached Dieppe, France.[4]

Luftspring, disappointed at not having a chance to compete, returned to Toronto.

Professional career[edit]

Luftspring began to box professionally in the fall of 1936. A year later, he fought Gordon Wallace for the Canadian welterweight championship. He lost to Wallace in a 10-round decision.

In 1938, Luftspring knocked out Frank Genovese in the 13th round to win the Canadian welterweight championship. This was Ontario's first-ever scheduled 15-round fight. Luftspring held the Canadian title for two years. That title fight was one of four times Luftspring defeated Genovese in his career. Their rivalry was extremely competitive and one of the dominant story lines of Toronto boxing in the late 1930s.

That same year, he was ranked the number three welterweight boxer in the world. He was subsequently offered a chance to fight world champion Henry Armstrong in 1940.

In a fight in New York on May 27, 1940, against Steve Belloise, Luftspring received an eye injury. The medical diagnosis was a detached retina, an inoperable condition, that resulted in significant loss of vision. The fight was intended to be a tune up for a potential championship bout against Armstrong. The injury forced Luftspring to quit boxing and ended his contention for the world welterweight title.

Details of his career record are unclear. Different reports have him winning 50 of either 55 or 56 pro bouts.[5] More detailed records list him as 32–8 with 14 knockouts.[6]

Life after boxing[edit]

Luftspring struggled to establish himself immediately after boxing. He became a taxicab driver and then a representative for a liquor company.[7]

Eight years later, he became an accomplished referee based out of Toronto. Some of the prominent and memorable fights he refereed include:

  • September 15, 1958 – The Canadian heavyweight title match between George Chuvalo and James J. Parker at Maple Leaf Gardens.
  • October 1, 1965 – The WBA heavyweight title match between George Chuvalo and Ernie Terrell at Maple Leaf Gardens.
  • January 27, 1970 – A bout between Humberto Trottman and Clyde Gray at Royal York Hotel in which an upset Trottman, thinking Luftspring was interfering with his style, took a swing at him. Luftspring responded with a bare-knuckle left hook off the side of Trottman's head, forcing Trottman's manager to race into the ring and intervene.[8]

Luftspring, along with three partners, Harry Eckler of the baseball hall of fame, Joe Krol of the football hall of fame and their friend Lou Cadsby, opened the Mercury Club on Dundas Street, near Bay Street, in Toronto. It was a successful club, which featured popular performers such as Henny Youngman, Vic Damone and Tony Bennett.[7]

After a lengthy illness, Luftspring died on September 27, 2000. He was buried at the Interment Slipia Synagogue Section of Dawes Road Cemetery in Toronto.

Career highlights[edit]

  • 1933 – Ontario Amateur Lightweight Boxing Champion
  • 1936 – Named to the Canadian Olympic Boxing Team (ELECTED NOT TO COMPETE)
  • 1938 – Canadian Welterweight Boxing Champion
  • 1985 – Inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

See also[edit]


  • Call Me Sammy – Sammy Luftspring with Brian Swarbrick, Prentice-Hall Canada Ltd., 1975—ISBN 0131126490


  1. ^ "Sammy Luftspring". Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Canada Sports Hall of Fame – Honoured Members: Profile". Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  3. ^ "Speaker Series – The Nazi Olympics". Archived from the original on September 2, 2007. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Uc_Hilal : Jews In Sports". Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  5. ^ "Canada Sports Hall of Fame – Honoured Members: Profile". Archived from the original on February 25, 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  6. ^ "Sammy Luftspring – Boxer". Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  7. ^ a b [1] Archived May 9, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ [2]

External links[edit]