Abe Attell - Biography
Abraham Washington "Abe" Attell (February 22, 1884 – February 7, 1970), known in the boxing world as Abe "The Little Hebrew" Attell, was a boxer who became known for his record-setting six-year reign as World Featherweight Champion. Said to be a friend of the gangster Arnold Rothstein, Attell was charged (and acquitted) of game fixing in the Black Sox Scandal in 1919 and was implicated in other sports controversies.
Life and career
Attell was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Jewish parents. Growing up in a mostly Irish neighborhood, he was often involved in fights with neighborhood boys. He said as a kid, he sometimes had up to 10 bouts each day. After his father abandoned the family when Attell was 13, he sold newspapers to earn money. Selling at the corner of 8th and Market, where the Mechanics Pavilion was, Attell was able to see the fight between Solly Smith and George Dixon for the world's Featherweight championship. With that, Attell and his brothers Caesar and Monte became convinced that maybe they had futures in boxing.
Attell's first fight was at age 15 on August 19, 1900, when he knocked out Kid Lennett in two rounds. His mother, who strongly opposed his boxing, later became one of his staunchest supporters, betting on him to win. After these early fights, he was called by the nickname "The Little Hebrew".
After winning 10 fights in a row by knockout, Attell moved to Denver, Colorado. At the age of 17, he fought with Dixon for the World Featherweight championship in 1901 and beat him by a decision in 15 rounds. He won again in 1904 by beating Johnny Reagan in 20 rounds. One year later, he lost the crown to Tony Sullivan but regained it in February 1906 with a decision over Jimmy Walsh.
Attell successfully defended his title for 18 fights in a row from 1906–1912. (This was a division record until Eusebio Pedroza surpassed it in 1985). Among other opponents, Attell beat Battling Nelson and Johnny Kilbane during that streak. He was then called "The Little Champ". From 1909–1910, his brother Monte Attell, called the "Nob Hill Terror", held the Bantamweight Championship, making them the first brothers to hold world titles simultaneously. Caesar Attell also fought and was called "Two and a Half," for always giving that amount whenever the hat was passed for charity at a boxing event, which he attended faithfully.
During his time as world featherweight champion, Attell was allegedly involved with gambler/gangster Arnold Rothstein. According to some legends, they became good friends during this period.
Attell lost his world Featherweight title to Johnny Kilbane in 1912, losing by a 20-round decision. Kilbane claimed that Attell's handlers put a substance on the fighter's glove to blind him. According to witnesses, Attell tried an assortment of other illegal methods to win the fight. On July 4, 1913, Attell accidentally hit the referee on the face during a win against Willie Beecher. He finally retired in 1917.
Attell managed one boxer, Marty Goldman. He coached him to a 33 Win (10 ko's), 11 Loss, 3 Draw record in 47 career fights.
In 1920 Attell was accused of being the messenger between the gangster Rothstein and players of the Chicago White Sox baseball organization, during the planning stages of the alleged fix of the 1919 World Series. The Black Sox scandal was considered a major outrage in sports. Attell's name appeared in newspaper headlines related to the scandal. He and many White Sox players were formally charged with several counts, including fixing the event, however Rothstein was never charged.. All were eventually acquitted at trial, but the baseball association banned them from participating in baseball activities. Attell denied having been involved in any talks about fixing the series. He convinced the jury that the wrong Abe Attell was accused.
Attell died in New Paltz, New York on February 7, 1970.
Legacy and honors
Attell was inducted posthumously as a member of various halls of fame:
- 1955, Boxing Hall of Fame
- 1982, National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame;
- 1983, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
- 1985, San Francisco Boxing Hall of Fame;
- 1990, first class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame; and
- World Boxing Hall of Fame.
- His record of 92 wins, 10 losses, 18 draws and 45 no-decisions, with 51 wins by knockout, earned him a place on the list of Ring Magazine: "Fighters with 50 or More Knockout Wins".
- Bat Masterson, dean of the New York boxing journalists, considered Abe Attell pound for pound the best fighter, outside of Wyatt Earp, whom he had ever seen.
- List of select Jewish boxers
- Black Sox Scandal