The 10 greatest lightweights of all time

Tony Connolly, with his weekly column, this week asks Birmingham Mail boxing journalistic legend Mike Lockley to name the 10 greatest lightweights of all time

2. Benny Leonard

With his brilliantined hair and cameo silent movie appearances, including a Laurel and Hardy knockabout, Leonard – one of the great Jewish fighters – was the poster boy of Roaring Twenties boxing.

Born Benjamin Leiner in a Manhattan Jewish ghetto, the fighter combined craft with a ruthless streak during his 219-fight career (183 of them wins).

And it was Benny, not Ali, who introduced gamesmanship into the sport, often taunting opponents by hissing: “Is that the best you’ve got?” He grabbed the title by stopping Welshman Freddie Welsh in nine rounds in 1917 and made seven defences over the next eight years.

But Leonard lost his ring earnings in the Wall Street crash and was forced to make an ill-fated comeback in 1931.

He died of a heart attack in 1947 while refereeing a boxing match. He was only 51 years old.

His legacy has been somewhat sullied by his alleged links to the Jewish mafia – but what a fighter!

Benny Leonard


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