Thursday, August 1, 2013
Video History Of Jews In Boxing And Tribute To My Grandfather's World Championship Bouts
A fascinating overview of the participation of Jewish sportsmen in boxing including fighters, managers, promoters and historians. The history goes a long way in overcoming the myth of Jewish feebleness which arose because of life in overcrowded ghettos and of course Nazi persecution. Viewers may remember Max Baer's son, interviewed in the video, who was in the cast of 'The Beverley Hillbillies"
The figures of the number of active Jewish boxers in the early to mid-twentieth century are astounding. However when put in the perspective of the "hardscrabble" life the recent immigrants faced it is understandable.
Later generations built on the income earned from such a hard profession to become prosperous doctors, lawyers economists, jurists amongst various other professions and subsequently many great donors and benefactors arose from these humble origins.
I can, proudly, point to a personal connection with this history. My grandfather based in Britain and fighting in America and France under the name "Alf Mansfield" fought twice for the world flyweight championship. He fought against Jimmy Wilde, recognized as one of the greatest pound for pound boxers of all time and acquitted himself outstandingly.
His life was "hardscrabble" indeed, the family lived in the poorest area of Manchester England and Alf eventually went blind after a long and hard boxing career but still helped raise two daughters. I have fond memories of him when I was a child re-enacting his bouts with Wilde round by round from memory when he was in his eighties.
From such a life his great grandchildren include two Phd's and a M.A. Hons and a nephew who became "Steven Berkoff" a significant actor (the villain in "Beverley Hills Cop" amongst many roles) and well know playwright, which reinforces the journey described above.
Here are a couple of photographs (the first a family souvenir which was a postcard) of him in his prime-one sent to me by the editor of "British Boxers pre-war"-it is amazing the interest people have in what is to others quite obscure things but I am very grateful for it in this case. Here is a book on the subject which includes a note that Alf Mansfield was "tied for tenth" amongst boxers;