Leonard held the World Lightweight Championship
from May 28, 1917, to January 15, 1925, retiring his crown
undefeated. His seven-year, seven–and–a–half
month reign is the longest in the history of the lightweight
One of the greatest boxers and punchers in any weight to
ever enter the ring, Leonard lost his first professional
fight and then went on to win his next 88 matches—68
by knockouts. In his first year as champion, Leonard defended
his title 14 times, beginning just one week after winning
Although he retired from the ring a millionaire, he lost
nearly everything in the stock market crash of 1929. After
a seven-year layoff, he attempted an ill-fated comeback,
retiring once again after losing to young Jimmy McLarnin
in October 1932.
Wrote veteran sportswriter Dan Parker: “Leonard [as
champion] moved with the grace of a ballet dancer and wore
an air of arrogance that belonged to royalty.” Said
Hearst papers editor Arthur Brisbane of Leonard: “He
has done more to conquer anti-Semitism than a thousand
textbooks.” Leonard was a key
supporter of the first Maccabiah Games in 1932 and the
Maccabiah Games of 1935.
After several years in the U.S. Maritime Service during
World War II, Leonard returned to boxing as a referee in
1943. Four years later he collapsed and died in the ring
while refereeing a match in New York’s St. Nicholas Arena.
Benny Leonard’s professional record: 213 bouts—won
180 (69 KOs), lost 21, drew 6, 6 no-decisions. He was elected
to The Ring magazine’s Boxing Hall of Fame in 1955
and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
When Sporting News published its seventy-fifth anniversary
issue in early 1997, Leonard was named Best Boxer of
the Last 75 Years.