Barney Ross was a professional boxer who swooped numerous boxing victories in the 1930s. A legendary fighter, he belonged to the elite circle of boxers who excelled in three weight divisions: lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight. Ross’ personal struggles and career highlights were so eventful that his life seemed to be written like a Hollywood script, complete with all the ingredients of a great sports drama.
Born Barnet Rasofsky on December 23, 1909 to a Jewish family, Ross initially wanted to take after his rabbi father’s footsteps; he planned to be a Hebrew teacher and scholar of the Talmud, the sacred text of the Jews. However, a family tragedy in 1924, when Ross was a teenager, radically changed this plan; his father was shot and murdered by two men right inside the family store. The family was broken apart by the tragedy. His mother suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be sent to a relative to recover, Ross and his brother Morrie were brought to a cousin, while the three youngest Rasofskys were sent to an orphanage. At that troubled point in his life, Ross vowed to reunite his family. He adopted the name “Barney Ross” when he started to box for cash, so that his mother wouldn’t know that he made a living as a boxer. After his stint as a successful boxing champion, Ross was able to fulfill his familial vow.
The most inspiring and most poignant boxing bout that Ross ever fought was his farewell fight against Henry Armstrong in 1938, when he refused to go down on the canvass even if it was clear he was being beaten to a defeat. The crowd cheered and cried over the last rounds as Ross remained standing toe to toe with his opponent, losing the match only as a true champion would.
Ross was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fameas well as the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. This legendary champion passed away January 17, 1967; he was 57 years old at that time.