Part of the Jewish Encounter series
Born Dov-Ber Rasofsky to Eastern European immigrant parents, Barney Ross grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood and witnessed his father’s murder, his mother’s nervous breakdown, and the dispatching of his three younger siblings to an orphanage, all before he turned fourteen. To make enough money to reunite the family, Ross became a petty thief, a gambler, a messenger boy for Al Capone, and, eventually, an amateur boxer. Turning professional at nineteen, he would capture the lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight titles over the course of a ten-year career.
Ross began his career as the scrappy “Jew kid,” ended it as an American sports icon, and went on to become a hero during World War II, earning a Silver Star for his heroic actions at Guadalcanal. While recovering from war wounds and malaria he became addicted to morphine, but with fierce effort he ultimately kicked his habit and then campaigned fervently against drug abuse. And the fighter who brought his father’s religious books to training camp also retained powerful ties to the world from which he came. Ross worked for the creation of a Jewish state, running guns to Palestine and offering to lead a brigade of Jewish American war veterans.
This first biography of one of the most colorful boxers of the twentieth century is a galvanizing account of an emblematic life: a revelation of both an extraordinary athlete and a remarkable man.
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Douglas Century is the author of Street Kingdom and, with Rick Cowan, of the New York Times best seller Takedown. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, among many other publications. Born and raised in Canada, he lives in New York City.From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. A powerful account of the career of "one of the two greatest Jewish boxers of the twentieth century," this third volume in Schocken's Jewish Encounters series delivers a short but fascinating account of life in Chicago's Maxwell Street ghetto in the 1920s and '30s: "a riotous dream of Jewish gunmen and bookmakers, fighting furriers and smashed-nose boxers." Barney Ross (1909–1967) was the son of Eastern European immigrants; his father was killed in a robbery just before Ross's 14th birthday. The teenage Ross started boxing to earn money to free his siblings from an orphanage and went on to earn three world championship titles. Century (Street Kingdom) evokes the atmosphere of Ross's youth in a notorious neighborhood, as well as his later professional battles, especially a trio of now legendary 1930s bouts with Jimmy "The Babyfaced Assassin" McLarnin: "As the fighters made their entrances, pearl-grey fedoras bobbed expectantly and wisps of cigar smoke swirled into the night sky." Century also charts the "second narrative" of Ross's life, including heroism at Guadalcanal during WWII, a highly publicized struggle with morphine addiction and running guns to Palestine to aid the Jewish fight for a state—to show how Ross's life "was everything the Diaspora tradition had warned Jews not to become, but a fulfillment as well of its secret fantasy." Photos. (Feb. 7)
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