Last NameSportCountryYear Inducted

Sport: Boxing
Inducted: 1979
Country: United States
Born: April 7, 1896 in New York, New York
Died: April 1947

Benny 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 division.

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 it.

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.

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