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Barney Ross (born Dov-Ber "Beryl" David Rosofsky; December 23, 1909 – January 17, 1967) was an American professional boxer. Ross became a world champion in three weight divisions and was a decorated veteran of World War II.[1]

Barney Ross
Barney Ross 1934.jpg
Ross in 1934
Real nameDov-Ber Rasofsky
Light Welterweight
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Reach67 in (170 cm)
Born(1909-12-23)December 23, 1909
New York City, U.S.
DiedJanuary 17, 1967(1967-01-17) (aged 57)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Boxing record
Total fights79
Wins by KO22
No contests0 Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service1942–1944
RankUSMC-E5.svg Sergeant
UnitB Company,1st Battalion 8th Marines
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsSilver Star Medal ribbon.svg Silver Star

Early lifeEdit

Dov-Ber (or Beryl)[2] Rosofsky was born in New York City to Isidore "Itchik" Rosofsky and Sarah Epstein Rosofsky. His father was a Talmudic scholar who had emigrated to America from his native Brest-Litovsk after barely surviving a pogrom. The family then moved from New York to Chicago. Isidore became a rabbi and owner of a small vegetable shop in Chicago's Maxwell Street neighborhood, a vibrant Jewish ghetto akin to the New York's Lower East Side of the 1920s and '30s. Dov-Ber was being raised to follow in his footsteps.

The young Rasofsky grew up on Chicago's mean streets, ultimately ignoring his father's desire for him to become a rabbi and his admonition that Jews do not resort to violence. "'Let the goyim be the fighters,'" Ross later recalled being told by his father. "'The trumbeniks, the murderers—we are the scholars.'" Ross's ambition in life was to become a Jewish teacher and a Talmudic scholar, but his life was changed forever when his father was shot dead resisting a robbery at his small grocery.[3] Prostrate from grief, his mother Sarah suffered a nervous breakdown and his younger siblings—Ida, Sam and George—were placed in an orphanage or farmed out to other members of the extended family. Dov was left to his own devices at the age of 14.

As recounted in Barney Ross: The Life of a Jewish Fighter, by Ross biographer Douglas Century, in the wake of the tragedy, Dov became vindictive towards everything and turned his back on the orthodox religion of his father. He began running around with local toughs (including another wayward Jewish ghetto kid, the future Jack Ruby), developing into a street brawler, thief and money runner; he was even employed by Al Capone. Dov's goal was to earn enough money to buy a home so that he could reunite his family. He saw boxing as that vehicle and began training with his friend Ruby.

Boxing careerEdit

After winning amateur bouts, Dov would pawn the awards—like watches—and set the money aside for his family. There is speculation that Capone bought up tickets to his early fights, knowing some of that money would be funneled to Dov. Plagued by his father's death and feeling an obligation not to sully his name, Dov Rosofsky took the new name "Barney Ross." The name change was also part of a larger trend by Jews to assimilate in the U.S. by taking American-sounding names. Strong, fast and possessed of a powerful will, Ross was soon an Intercity Golden Gloves[1][4] and Chicago Golden Gloves champion[1][5] in 1929 at the age of 19 and went on to dominate the lighter divisions as a pro.

At a time—the late 1920s and '30s—when rising Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was using propaganda to spread his virulently anti-Jewish philosophy, Ross was seen by American Jews as one of their greatest advocates. He represented the concept of Jews finally fighting back. Idolized and respected by all Americans, Ross showed that Jews could thrive in their new country. He made his stand against Hitler and Nazi Germany a public one. He knew that by winning boxing matches, he was displaying a new kind of strength for Jews. He also understood that Americans loved their sports heroes and if Jews wanted to be embraced in the U.S. they would have to assume such places in society. Though Ross had lost faith in religion, he openly embraced his role as a leader of his people.

Ross is unique in boxing as one of its few triple division champions—lightweight, light welterweight and welterweight. He was never knocked out in 81 fights and held his title against some of the best competition in the history of the sport. Ross defeated great Hall-of-Fame champions like Jimmy McLarnin and Tony Canzoneri in epic battles that drew crowds of more than 50,000.

His first paid fight was on September 1, 1929, when he beat Ramon Lugo by a decision in six rounds. After ten wins in a row, he lost for the first time, to Carlos García, on a decision in ten.

Over the next 35 bouts, his record was 32–1–2, including a win over former world champion Battling Battalino and one over Babe Ruth (not the baseball player). Another bout included former world champion Cameron Welter. On March 26, 1933, Ross had his first world title bout when he faced world lightweight and light welterweight champion and fellow three-division world champion Tony Canzoneri in Chicago. In one night, Ross became a two-division world champion when he beat Canzoneri by decision in ten rounds.[6] Ross also campaigned heavily in the city of Chicago prior to the fight. After two more wins, including a knockout in six rounds over Johnny Farr, Ross and Canzoneri boxed again, with Ross winning again by decision, but this time in 15.

Ross was known as a smart fighter with great stamina. He retained his title by decision against Sammy Fuller to finish 1933 and against Peter Nebo to begin 1934. Then he defended against former world champion Frankie Klick, against whom he drew in ten. Then came the first of three bouts versus Jimmy McLarnin. Ross vacated the light welterweight title to go after McLarnin's welterweight title and won by a 15-round decision, his third world championship. However, in a rematch a few weeks later, McLarnin beat Ross by a decision and recovered the title. After that, Ross went back down to light welterweight and reclaimed his title with a 12-round decision over Bobby Pacho. After beating Klick and Henry Woods by decision to retain that title, he went back up in weight for his third and last fight with McLarnin; he recovered the welterweight title by outpointing McLarnin again over 15 rounds. He won 16 bouts in a row after that, including three over future world middleweight champion Ceferino Garcia and one against Al Manfredo. His only two defenses, however, over that stretch were against Garcia and against Izzy Jannazzo, on points in 15 rounds.

In his last fight, Ross defended his title on May 31, 1938, against fellow three-division world champion Henry Armstrong, who beat him by a decision in 15. Although Armstrong pounded Ross inexorably and his trainers begged him to let them stop the fight, Ross refused to stop or go down. Barney Ross had never been knocked out in his career[3] and was determined to leave the ring on his feet. Some boxing experts view Ross's performance against Armstrong as one of the most courageous in history. Some believe that Ross's will to survive every tough fight on his feet had to do with his understanding of his symbolic importance to Jews. That is, Jews would not only fight back, but they would not go down.

Ross retired with a record of 72 wins, four losses, three draws and two no decisions (Newspaper Decisions: 2–0–0), with 22 wins by knockout. He was ranked #21 on Ring Magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years.

World War IIEdit

In retirement in his early thirties, Ross enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in April 1942 to fight in World War II. The Marines wanted to keep him stateside and use his celebrity status to boost morale. Most of the athletes of the era, like heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, had ceremonial roles in the military, but Ross insisted on fighting for his country.

Before he was to go overseas, Ross physically assaulted a non-commissioned officer who had made an anti-Semitic remark. He was to be court martialed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. The other board members wanted to throw the book at Ross, but Captain Berthol E. Davis, who was also Jewish and knew of Ross's achievements, convinced the rest of the board to allow Ross to go overseas and avoid punishment. So, he was sent to the Pacific theater.

He served with B Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the South Pacific. One night, he and three other comrades were trapped under enemy fire. All four were wounded; Ross was the only one able to fight. Ross gathered his comrades' rifles and grenades and single-handedly fought nearly two dozen Japanese soldiers over an entire night, killing them all by morning. Two of the Marines died, but he carried the third on his shoulders to safety; the other man weighed 230 lb (104 kg) compared to Ross' 140 lb (64 kg).

Ross was awarded America's third highest military honor, the Silver Star,[1] as well as a presidential citation.[7] As one of America's greatest "celebrity" war heroes, he was honored by President Roosevelt in a Rose Garden ceremony. He was also awarded the Edward J. Neil Trophy as "the outstanding boxer of 1942" by the Boxing Writers Association of New York.[7]

During his time in Guadalcanal, Ross began a lifelong friendship with the famous Father Frederic Gehring, a wartime chaplain who wrote regular correspondences for Reader's Digest magazine. Gehring considered Ross a national treasure who defied logic when it came to bravery and the defense of principle. Ross was the only one capable of playing a temperamental organ on the tropical island. On Christmas Eve, before he and his fellow Marines were to go into battle, Gehring asked him to learn "Silent Night" and other Christmas songs for the troops. After playing them, Gehring asked Ross to play a Jewish song. Ross played "My Yiddishe Momma," about a child's love for his self-sacrificing mother. Many of the Marines knew the melody of the song because Ross always had it played when he entered the ring. When the Marines heard the lyrics, newspaper reports say they were all in tears.

Drug addiction and recoveryEdit

During his recovery at the hospital from his wounds suffered in that battle, Ross developed a habit for the morphine administered for pain. Back in the states, the morphine became heroin. This habit became so bad he would sometimes spend $500 a day on the drug. Ross went to a recovery center and beat his addiction. He gave lectures to high school students about the dangers of drug addiction. His struggle against morphine addiction is the subject of the 1957 film Monkey on My Back.

This story inspired the song 'Barney Ross', released in 2013 by the Spanish rock band Doctor Divago on his album 'Imperio'.

Final daysEdit

Ross spent his last days using his celebrity status in promotional work for casinos and other businesses. He remained with his second wife, Cathy Howlett, although they never had children. He was happy he reached the two goals he had set: reunite his family and become a world champion in boxing. He wrote an autobiography titled No Man Stands Alone.

He also remained loyal to his friend Jack Ruby and testified as a character witness on Ruby's behalf at his trial for killing Lee Harvey Oswald, who was under arrest for the shooting death of Dallas patrolman, J.D. Tippit.

Ross died in his hometown Chicago of throat cancer at the age of 57.

His relatives include Yuri Rasovsky, Solomon Rosowsky, Baruch Leib Rosowsky and Dana Sandra Wile.


Ross was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame[8] and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.[9] He was inducted into the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2006.[10]

The Aleph Zadik Aleph chapter located in Chicago's south suburbs (primarily in Flossmoor, Homewood, and Olympia Fields), is named in his honor.

Professional boxing recordEdit

Professional record summary
79 fights 72 wins 4 losses
By knockout 22 0
By decision 50 4
Draws 3
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
79 Loss 72–4–3   Henry Armstrong UD 15 May 31, 1938   Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island City, Queens Lost The Ring and lineal welterweight titles
78 Win 72–3–3   Bobby Venner TKO 7 (10) Apr 25, 1938   Shrine Auditorium, Des Moines
77 Win 71–3–3   Henry Schaft TKO 4 (10) Apr 04, 1938   Armory, Minneapolis
76 Win 70–3–3   Ceferino Garcia UD 15 Sep 23, 1937   Polo Grounds, New York Retained The Ring and lineal welterweight titles
75 Win 69–3–3   Al Manfredo NWS 10 Aug 09, 1937   Western League Baseball Park, Des Moines
74 Win 68–3–3   Jackie Burke KO 5 (10) Jun 27, 1937   Heinemann Park, New Orleans
73 Win 67–3–3   Chuck Woods KO 4 (10) Jun 17, 1937   Perry Stadium, Indianapolis
72 Win 66–3–3   Al Manfredo PTS 10 Jan 29, 1937   Olympia Stadium, Detroit
71 Win 65–3–3   Izzy Jannazzo UD 15 Nov 27, 1936   Madison Square Garden, New York Stadium, Washington Retained The Ring and lineal welterweight titles
70 Win 64–3–3   Phil Furr UD 10 Jul 22, 1936   Griffith Stadium, Washington
69 Win 63–3–3   Morrie Sherman KO 2 (10) Jun 22, 1936   City Auditorium, Omaha
68 Win 62–3–3   Laddie Tonielli TKO 5 (10) Jun 10, 1936   State Fair Park, Milwaukee
67 Win 61–3–3   Chuck Woods TKO 5 (10) May 01, 1936   Jefferson County Armory, Louisville Retained The Ring and lineal welterweight titles
66 Win 60–3–3   Gordon Wallace MD 10 Mar 11, 1936   Arena, Vancouver
65 Win 59–3–3   Lou Halper TKO 8 (10) Jan 27, 1936   Convention Hall, Philadelphia
64 Win 58–3–3   Ceferino Garcia UD 10 Nov 29, 1935   Chicago Stadium, Chicago Retained The Ring and lineal welterweight titles
63 Win 57–3–3   Ceferino Garcia PTS 10 Sep 13, 1935   Dreamland Auditorium, San Francisco Retained The Ring and lineal welterweight titles
62 Win 56–3–3   Baby Joe Gans KO 2 (10) Sep 06, 1935   Multnomah Stadium, Portland
61 Win 55–3–3   Jimmy McLarnin UD 15 May 28, 1935   Civic Auditorium, Seattle Won The Ring lineal welterweight titles
60 Win 54–3–3   Henry Woods UD 12 Apr 09, 1935   Civic Auditorium, Seattle Retained lineal light welterweight title
59 Win 53–3–3   Frankie Klick UD 10 Jan 28, 1935   Municipal Stadium, Miami Retained lineal light welterweight title
58 Win 52–3–3   Bobby Pacho PTS 12 Dec 10, 1934   Public Hall, Cleveland Retained lineal light welterweight title
57 Loss 51–3–3   Jimmy McLarnin SD 15 Sep 17, 1934   Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island City, Queens Lost The Ring and lineal welterweight title
56 Win 51–2–3   Jimmy McLarnin SD 15 May 28, 1934   Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island City, Queens Won The Ring and lineal welterweight titles
55 Win 50–2–3   Bobby Pacho PTS 10 Mar 27, 1934   Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles Retained lineal light welterweight title
54 Win 49–2–3   Kid Moro PTS 10 Mar 14, 1934   Auditorium, Oakland Retained lineal light welterweight title
53 Draw 48–2–3   Frankie Klick PTS 10 Mar 05, 1934   Civic Auditorium, San Francisco Retained lineal light welterweight title
52 Win 48–2–2   Pete Nebo PTS 12 Jan 24, 1934   Convention Hall, Kansas City Retained lineal light welterweight title
51 Win 47–2–2   Billy Petrolle UD 10 Jan 24, 1934   New York Coliseum, Bronx
50 Win 46–2–2   Sammy Fuller MD 10 Nov 17, 1933   Chicago Stadium, Chicago Retained lineal light welterweight title
49 Win 45–2–2   Tony Canzoneri SD 15 Sep 12, 1933   Polo Grounds, New York Retained The Ring and lineal lightweight titles
Retained lineal light welterweight title
48 Win 44–2–2   Johnny Farr TKO 6 (10) Jul 26, 1933   Convention Hall, Kansas City Retained lineal light welterweight title
47 Win 43–2–2   Tony Canzoneri MD 10 Jun 23, 1933   Chicago Stadium, Chicago Won lineal and inaugural The Ring lightweight titles
Won lineal light welterweight title
46 Win 42–2–2   Joe Ghnouly PTS 10 May 03, 1933   Arena, Saint Louis
45 Win 41–2–2   Billy Petrolle UD 10 Mar 22, 1933   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
44 Win 40–2–2   Tommy Grogan PTS 10 Feb 22, 1933   Washington Blvd. Auditorium, Chicago
43 Win 39–2–2   Johnny Datto KO 2 (10) Jan 30, 1933   Motor Square Garden, Pittsburgh
42 Win 38–2–2   Johnny Farr PTS 10 Nov 25, 1932   Auditorium, Milwaukee
41 Win 37–2–2   Goldie Hess PTS 10 Nov 11, 1932   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
40 Win 36–2–2   Battling Battalino UD 10 Oct 21, 1932   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
39 Win 35–2–2   Frankie Petrolle KO 2 (10) Sep 15, 1932   Coliseum, Chicago
38 Win 34–2–2   Ray Miller UD 10 Aug 26, 1932   Sparta Stadium, Chicago
37 Win 33–2–2   Henry Perlick TKO 3 (8) Jul 28, 1932   Sparta Stadium, Chicago
36 Win 32–2–2   Dick Sisk TKO 6 (8) May 20, 1932   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
35 Win 31–2–2   Frankie Hughes PTS 10 Apr 05, 1932   Armory, Indianapolis
34 Win 30–2–2   Nick Ellenwood PTS 10 Mar 02, 1932   Armory, Muncie
33 Win 29–2–2   Billy Gladstone PTS 6 Feb 18, 1932   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
32 Win 28–2–2   Micky O'Neill PTS 6 Feb 08, 1932   Auditorium, Milwaukee
31 Win 27–2–2   Jimmy Lundy PTS 8 Nov 18, 1931   Convention Hall, Kansas City
30 Win 26–2–2   Young Terry PTS 8 Nov 13, 1931   Moline Field House, Moline
29 Win 25–2–2   Lou Jallos PTS 8 Nov 04, 1931   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
28 Win 24–2–2   Glen Gamp PTS 10 Oct 02, 1931   Eagles Arena, Chicago
27 Win 23–2–2   Jimmy Alvarado PTS 8 Jul 30, 1931   Navin Field, Detroit
26 Win 22–2–2   Babe Ruth TKO 4 (10) Jul 15, 1931   Armory, Benton Harbor
25 Win 21–2–2   Billy Shaw PTS 8 May 13, 1931   Cicero Stadium, Cicero
24 Win 20–2–2   Jackie Dugan KO 2 (8) May 01, 1931   Moline Field House, Moline
23 Win 19–2–2   Lud Abella TKO 2 (6) Apr 24, 1931   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
22 Win 18–2–2   Midget Mike O'Dowd PTS 8 Apr 08, 1931   Moline Field House, Moline
21 Loss 17–2–2   Roger Bernard PTS 8 Mar 27, 1931   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
20 Win 17–1–2   Jackie Davis PTS 6 Mar 20, 1931   Cicero Stadium, Cicero
19 Win 16–1–2   Young Terry UD 10 Feb 20, 1931   Cicero Stadium, Cicero
18 Win 15–1–2   Henry Falegano PTS 8 Jan 14, 1931   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
17 Draw 14–1–2   Harry Dublinsky PTS 8 Nov 21, 1930   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
16 Win 14–1–1   Petey Mack KO 1 (8) Nov 06, 1930   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
15 Win 13–1–1   Sammy Binder KO 2 (6) Oct 14, 1930   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
14 Draw 12–1–1   Young Terry PTS 8 Sep 19, 1930   Jones & Baumrucker Park, Chicago
13 Win 12–1   Luis Perez KO 1 (6) Aug 02, 1930   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
12 Win 11–1   Eddie Koppy PTS 6 Jul 01, 1930   Michigan State Fairgrounds, Detroit
11 Win 10–1   Mickey Genaro PTS 6 Apr 25, 1930   Coliseum, Chicago
10 Loss 9–1   Carlos Garcia PTS 6 Apr 21, 1930   Coliseum, Chicago
9 Win 9–0   Eddie Bojack TKO 2 (4) Apr 08, 1930   Public Hall, Cleveland
8 Win 8–0   Jiro Kumagai PTS 4 Feb 24, 1930   Recreation Park, San Francisco
7 Win 7–0   Johnny Andrews PTS 4 Jan 24, 1930   Chicago Stadium, Chicago
6 Win 6–0   Al DeRose PTS 6 Dec 05, 1929   Chicago Stadium, Chicagof
5 Win 5–0   Joey Barth PTS 5 Nov 29, 1929   Guyon's Paradise Ballroom, Chicago
4 Win 4–0   Virgil Tobin KO 2 (4) Oct 21, 1929   State Armory, San Francisco
3 Win 3–0   Joe Borola PTS 6 Oct 12, 1929   Main Street Athletic Club, Los Angeles
2 Win 2–0   Joe Borola PTS 6 Sep 14, 1929   Main Street Athletic Club, Los Angeles
1 Win 1–0   Ramon Lugo PTS 6 Aug 31, 1929   Main Street Athletic Club, Los Angeles

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Barney Ross Loses Bout To Cancer; Dies at 57". Waco News-Tribune. Associated Press. January 19, 1957 – via  
  2. ^ The Yiddish name דוב-בער Dov-Ber literally means "bear-bear", traceable back to the Hebrew word דב dov "bear" and the German word Bär "bear". See p. 130 of Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781403917232 / ISBN 9781403938695 [1]. It is thus an example of a bilingual tautological name.
  3. ^ a b Barry Abrams (November 28, 2013). "Jack and Barney: An American story". ESPN.
  4. ^ "Chicago/New York Championships: Intercity Golden Gloves Championships". Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  5. ^ "Chicago Golden Gloves – History". Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  6. ^ "Barney Ross – Lineal Junior Welterweight Champion". The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia.
  7. ^ a b "Barney Ross Honored With Silver Star". The Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. November 23, 1943.
  8. ^ "International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on October 6, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  9. ^ "Jewish Sports Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on February 13, 2007. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  10. ^ "Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame: Class of 2006". Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 10, 2015.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Tony Canzoneri
World Lightweight Champion
June 23, 1933 – April 15, 1935
Title next held by
Tony Canzoneri
The Ring Lightweight Champion
June 23, 1933 – 1933
World Light Welterweight Champion
June 23, 1933 – April 9, 1935
Title next held by
Tippy Larkin
Preceded by
Jimmy McLarnin
World Welterweight Champion
May 28, 1934 – September 17, 1934
Succeeded by
Jimmy McLarnin
The Ring Welterweight Champion
May 28, 1934 – September 17, 1934
World Welterweight Champion
May 28, 1935 – May 31, 1938
Succeeded by
Henry Armstrong
The Ring Welterweight Champion
May 28, 1935 – May 31, 1938