Benny Leonard: Mama’s Boy to World Champ

Benny Leonard: Mama’s Boy to World Champ

By John Jarrett

Benny Leonard was arguably the greatest lightweight champion of all time. With superb boxing skills and potent punching power, he fought over 200 times and suffered just five defeats. He spent his boyhood in a crime-ridden ghetto in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and was the greatest of a long line of Jewish boxers to emerge from the slums.

Leonard was still only 19 when he knocked out Freddie Welsh to become world lightweight king in 1917. He defended the title eight times and retired as undefeated champion in 1925, to please the only woman he loved, his mother. But the 1929 Wall Street Crash wiped out his fortune and he was forced to make a comeback at 35.

Leonard fought the best of his era: Johnny Dundee, Johnny Kilbane, Rocky Kansas, Jack Britton, Ted Kid Lewis and Lew Tendler among them. Apart from being a sublime boxer, Benny was a first-class showman who helped to put boxing on a higher plane. He died as he lived – in the ring – while refereeing a fight at age 51. This is the definitive account of his remarkable life and career.

Benny Leonard was one of the all-time greats of the ring, a magnificent boxer, a deadly puncher, a brilliant strategist and an extraordinary showman. Read The Great Benny Leonard and you will discover:

How Leonard stayed unbeaten for eight years and is considered by many to be the greatest lightweight champion of all time

An exploration of his extraordinary 20-year career, in which Benny suffered only five official defeats in 212 fights

How Leonard was the perfect embodiment of the sweet science – filled with finesse, fast thinking, with graceful movement and destructive fists

Benny the people’s champion – as a great public idol his appeal was universal, extending to rich and poor, young and old, and people of every faith and from every strata of society
Leonard’s big heart – he probably made more charity appearances than any other boxer and left the fight game because of his mother’s poor health

John Jarrett is the author of ten boxing books including The Sugar Ray Robinson Story: Boxing’s Comeback King, Rocky Marciano: The Brockton Blockbuster, Max Baer: Clown Prince of Boxing and Dempsey and the Wild Bull. He has written about the sport since 1951 for publications such as Boxing News, International Boxing and Boxing Pictorial. He was Northern Area secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control for 40 years.

To buy the book or read a free sample please visit

Hardback: 320 pages Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd (28 June 2021)

ISBN-10: 1785317865 ISBN-13: 978-1785317866 RRP: £19.99

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