New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Benny Leonard

Benny Leonard (Boxing. Born, New York, NY, Apr. 7, 1896; died, New York, NY, Apr. 18, 1947.) Benny Leonard’s pro career began and ended with knockout defeats, but in between, he reigned as world lightweight champion for eight years from 1917-25. Befitting a native New Yorker (born Benjamin Leiner), many of Leonard’s most famous fights were staged in New York, including his first and last. His pro career began in 1911, when he was knocked out in the third round by Mickey Finnegan at the Fairmont Athletic Club. On May 28, 1917, Leonard won his championship with a TKO at 1:15 of the ninth round over Freddie Welsh at the Manhattan Casino. The second of his eight successful defenses came at the second Madison Square Garden Nov. 26, 1920, with a 14th-round TKO over Joe Welling. Leonard was back at the Garden Apr. 14, 1921, for a six-round TKO of Richie Mitchell. Then came a three-fight series of wild bouts against Rocky Kansas, including a 12-round no decision at Harrison, N.J. in 1921, a 15-round decision at the Garden in 1922, and an eight-round TKO later the same year at Michigan City, Ind. Bouts with Lew Tendler at Boyle’s Thirty Acres in Jersey City in 1922 and Yankee Stadium in 1923 closed out his lightweight defenses. Leonard retired Jan. 15, 1925. In 1943, Leonard became a licensed New York State Athletic Commission referee and died in the ring at St. Nicholas Arena after refereeing a full card in the stifling little Columbus Ave. club.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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