Ben Bril

Barend ("Ben") Bril (16 July 1912 – 11 September 2003[note 1]) was a Dutch boxer who competed in the 1928 Amsterdam Summer Olympics in Flyweight boxing, and became an accomplished European boxing referee and judge in the 1960s.

Ben Bril
Bril in 1939
Real nameBarend Bril
NationalityNetherlands Netherlands
Born(1912-07-16)16 July 1912
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died11 September 2003(2003-09-11) (aged 91)
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Early life and careerEdit

Bril was born in Valkenburgstraat, a poor section of Amsterdam to Jewish parents Abraham Bril and Klaartie Moffie on 16 July 1912. He was one of six children of a struggling family supported primarily by their father's work as a fisherman.[1] Bril competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics at age 15 in his home town, finishing fifth in the flyweight class, just out of medal contention.[2][3] In his Olympic competition, after a first round bye, he defeated Myles McDonagh of Ireland, before losing to Buddy Lebanon of South Africa.[2]

Four years later he was barred from the 1932 Summer Olympics because the Dutch Olympic Committee was led by a member of the Dutch Nazi party. He later boycotted the 1936 Games in Berlin.[3]

In his boxing career before the war, beginning in 1928, he won the Dutch Amateur National Championship a total of eight times.[3] As a high point in his amateur career, he won a gold medal at the 1935 Maccabiah Games, held in Tel Aviv, Israel.[2]

Internment at Bergen-Belsen concentration campEdit

During the German occupation of the Netherlands after 1940, Bril, his wife Celia and son were forced to go into hiding above what was once his family's bakery, but were betrayed by a neighbor to the Nazis. Around 1942, he was first sent to the Vught Transit Camp, a concentration camp in Southern Holland with deplorable conditions, located Southeast of his home in Amsterdam. Once deported to Northern Germany and interned at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Bril was able to get a job, and then a promotion to the position of Blockälteste, which put him in charge of his barrack. Looking to survive, he was selected to box in the camp, where he let known German boxers defeat him. Four of his brothers and a sister died in the camps. All but one of the siblings were married with children. Ben, his wife, and his younger brother Herrie survived the war. Herrie Bril died in Rotterdam on 6 August 1966.[2][1]

Work as a refereeEdit

Bril in 1965
Bril in 1968

From 1963-74, Bril found fame working as a boxing referee for many important matches throughout Europe. Most of the fights he refereed were title fights for the European Boxing Union, that brought him to matches in Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, Paris, London, and throughout Europe.[2] Brill also refereed Olympic fights, overseeing the matches of George Frazier at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, George Foreman at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, and for Teófilo Stevenson a Cuban heavyweight, who competed in boxing in three Summer Olympics from 1972-1980. He also refereed boxing matches for the 1973 Maccabiah Games.[3][4]

Bril and his wife Celia had one child Ab Ben, who lives in Zandvoort with his wife Wilma. Ab Ben and Wilma have one son, Benno, who also lives in Zandvoort.[1]

Bril died on 11 September 2003, at the age of 91 at the Ben Shalom Retirement Home in Amsterdam, and was buried at the Jewish cemetery of Muiderberg.[2][5][1] He is still considered an heroic figure in the Netherlands. After his death, the Ben Bril Memorial Boxing Gala, which continues today, was inaugurated to honor his memory. The event features a series of boxing matches and is held every October in Amsterdam.[6]

In October 2006 Bril's biography Ben Bril - Davidsster als Ereteken, by Ed van Opzeeland was published. The English translation of the title is Ben Bril - Decorated with a Star of David. The Dutch swimmer Erica Terpstra handed out the first copy of the book to Ben's only son Albert Bril.

Select fights officiated by BrilEdit

Primarily EBU European Bouts, 1963-73[7]
Result Opponents Date Location Duration Notes
Aldridge Won Laslo Papp vs. George Aldridge 6 Feb 1963 Vienna 15 Round TKO EBU Eur. Middle Title
Rollo Won Minmoun Ben Ali vs. Pierro Rollo 19 Jul 1963 Madrid 15 Round EBU Eur. Bantam Title
Preberg Won Ivan Prebeg vs. Karl Mildenberger 15 Jun 1966 Frankfort, Ger. 15 Round EBU Eur. Heavy Title
Walker Won Billy Walker vs. Karl Mildenberger 21 Mar 1967 London, UK 8 Round TKO EBU Eur. Heavy Title
Swift Won Sandro Mazzinghi vs. Wally Swift 9 Sep 1967 Milan, Ital. 6 Round TKO EBU Super Welter Title
Zech Won Karl Mildenberger vs. Gerhard Zech 30 Dec 1967 Berlin, Ger. 15 Round EBU Europ. Heavy Title
Tomasoni Won Henry Cooper vs. Pierro Tomasoni 13 Mar 1969 Rome, Ital. 5th Round KO EBU Europ. Heavy Title
Duran Won Tom Boggs vs. Carlo Duran 11 Sep 1969 Copenhagen 15 Rounds EBU Europ. Middle Title
Bossi Won Yohann Orsolics vs. Carmello Bossi 9 Apr 1970 Vienna, Aus 15 Rounds EBU Europ. Welter Title
Fullmer Won Tom Bogs vs. Don Fullmer 11 Feb 1971 Copenhagen 10 Rounds
Duivenbode Won Ruddi Lubbers vs. Bas Van Duivenbode 17 May 1971 Amsterdam 12 Round Dutch Heavy Title
Duran Won Jean Claude Bouttier vs. Carlo Duran 9 June 1971 Paris 15 Rounds UD EBU European Middle Title
Bril acted as Judge
Legra Won Jose Legra vs. Tommy Glencross 17 May 1972 Birmingham, England 15 Rounds SD For Europ. Feather title[8]
Franco Zurlo Won Franco Zurlo vs. Johnny Clark 17 April 1973 London, UK 15 Round Vac. EBU Europ. Bantam Title


  1. ^ Bril passed away on 11 September 2003. His headstone death date reads "11-09-2003", where "11" is the day of the month and "09" is the month number. Wikipedia editors: PLEASE DO NOT incorrectly transpose the date to "Nov 9". See photo of his gravestone at: "Bril, Barend "Ben"". Retrieved 9 June 2019.


  1. ^ a b c d "Bril, Barend "Ben"". Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Ben Bril". BoxRec. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Obituaries, Ben Bril", The Newark Advocate, Newark, Ohio, pg. 4, 14 September 2003
  4. ^ "Mailbox: Boxing Incident at the Maccabiah Games", New York Times, New York City, p. 156, 2 September 1973
  5. ^ "Obituary", The Morning Call, Allentown, Pennsylvania, pg. 42, 13 September 2003
  6. ^ Silver, Mike (2016). Stars of the Ring, Published by Roman and Littlefield, Los Angeles, p. 99.
  7. ^ "Ben Bril Referee Record". BoxRec. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  8. ^ "Legra Retains Boxing Title", Calgary Herald, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, pg. 29, 18 May 1972

External linksEdit