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.
About the Author
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.
“Barney Ross’s life is a curious mix: a boxer with a religious streak who was haunted by the death of his own dad. Douglas Century has managed to deal with all of Ross’s contradictions and mysteries, when Jewish fighters were like gods of the ghetto. This is a deeply moving book.”
—Jerome Charyn, author of Savage Shorthand: The Life and Death of Isaac Babel
“Fascinating . . . A powerful account of the career of ‘one of the two greatest Jewish boxers of the twentieth century.’”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“If there is still a queue of writers mining the Depression Era for racehorses or prizefighters with inspirational stories that will resonate with today’s readers, Douglas Century has beaten them to the punch . . . Ross’s consummate boxing skills and toughness made him one of the last heirs to a largely untold tradition of formidable Jewish pugilists.”