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The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia -- Lineal Champion
(Abraham Washington Attell)
(the "Little Champ")
BORN February 22 1884; San Francisco, California DIED February 7 1970; New Paltz, New York HEIGHT.. 5-4 WEIGHT 118-133 lbs MANAGERS Al Lippe, Jack McKenna, Tim McGrath, Zeke Abrams, Ike Bloom, Lob Kohn, Billy Nolan, George Weedon, Jack Kearns, Dan Morgan, John Reisler
Attell was one of the outstanding fighters in ring history; He ranked among the greatest featherweights who ever fought, arguably the best ever; Abe knew every trick in the book - and then some; He was a clever boxer who relied more on his skills than his punching; He was slippery and elusive, also game and durable
On the bright side of his career, Attell won the Featherweight Championship of the World and defended his title 14 times; However, Abe was also suspected of "throwing" some of his ring contests along the way; Further, he was deeply involved in the "Black Sox" baseball scandel in which the Chicago White Sox supposedly "threw" the World Series in 1919 to the Cincinnati Reds
Charley Rose ranked Attell as the #1 All-Time Featherweight; Nat Fleischer ranked him as the #3 All-Time Featherweight; Herb Goldman ranked Abe as the #4 All-Time Featherweight; Attell was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1955, the Jewish Hall of Fame in 1982, the San Francisco Boxing Hall of Fame in 1985 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990
To My Friend ... Abe Attell
There's been fighters through the ages,
Many greats we all know well,
But the one who heads the pages
Is that little champ Attell.
There will never be another Abe Attell
The little Champs of Champs we all know so well.
Fought 'em here and over there
Licked them all, fair and square,
From the opening round until the final bell
Just like Dempsey he'll go down in history
In the boxing Hall of Fame his name will dwell
And to you, and you, and you I'm here to tell
There will never be another Abe Attell.
-- Author Unknown
Abe Attell, truly one of boxing's all time greats, is often called the best fighter in ring history, pound for pound. Standing at only five feet, four inches, and weighing in at 122 pounds, Abe fought featherweights, lightweights, welterweights, and middleweights, and "gloried in being small and whacking around bigger men" (Blady, 1988). Starting out as a knockout specialist, but then learning from two greats of his day the art of blocking, slipping, ducking and side-stepping, Abe became well known for frustrating and tiring out his opponents before moving in for the kill "with the greatest arm-to-body co-ordination in ring history" (Sugar, 1984). One can only wonder how much greater he could have been if it wasn’t for his habit of playing cards the night before a fight.
Abe Attell was born to a large Jewish family in the South of Market district of San Francisco on Washington's Birthday, 1884. Growing up in a predominantly Irish neighborhood, Abe often found himself going toe to toe with other local boys. "You can guess I used to fight 3, 4, 5, 10 times a day," he recalled (Blady,1988).
Coming from a poor family (Abe's father had left his wife alone with their many children when Abe was 13), Abe helped put food on the table by selling newspapers on the street, including at the corner of 8th and Market, where the Mechanics' Pavilion stood. It was here that Abe witnessed the Solly Smith-George Dixon featherweight title match in 1897, which convinced Abe to make a go of it as a boxer. Two of his brothers, Monte (the 'Nob Hill Terror') and Caesar ('Two and a Half '), also stepped through the ropes to make a living.
Abe's first professional fight took place on August 19, 1900, when he was pitted against Kid Lennett. Only after being promised by Abe that this would be his "first and last fight" would his mother allow him to participate. Knocking out Lennett in the second, Abe returned home with the $15 purse, which he gave to his mother. Abe recalled her reaction: "'You mean the fight is all over and you got this $15.00?' she asked. 'And you don't have no cuts on you at all.' I smiled and nodded my head.... She stood up and patted my head and in a slow voice asked, 'Abie, when are you going to fight again?'" (Blady, 1988) In later fights, not only would Mrs. Attell encourage her son's pugilistic pursuits, but would wager on him as well. "Bet a dollar on Abie for me," she would tell the reporters who took Abe to the arena (Muller, 1970).
Abe's second fight took place ten days later, when he scored another second round knockout. For a two month period that year, only once did an opponent survive Abe's attack past the second round. With ten straight knockouts under his belt, Abe moved to Denver, then the center of boxing, where he first claimed the featherweight championship. With a fifteen round victory over the immortal George Dixon (the two had fought to draws in two previous engagements), Abe claimed the title vacated by Terry McGovern, who was unable to make the 122-pound weight limit.
On February 1, 1904, Abe knocked out Harry Forbes to further legitimize his claim. However, Brooklyn Tommy Sullivan also claimed the title, and the two were matched up on October 13, 1904. Although Sullivan knocked out Abe in the fifth, Abe claimed that his opponent was over the weight limit, and the press agreed. On February 22, 1906, his twenty-second birthday, Abe defeated Jimmy Walsh.
By knocking out Sullivan on April 30, 1908, in San Francisco, Abe was finally crowned the undisputed featherweight champion. From 1909-10, Monte claimed the bantamweight title, the first time brothers had held world titles at the same time. Monte left the ring in 1913 when an eye infection led to blindness. Caesar had retired at about the same time Monte first entered the sport, due to their mother's insistence that two boxers in the family were enough. Despite the many years spent outside of the ring, Caesar always kept in excellent condition, still walking at least three miles a day at the age of 93.
From 1906 to 1912, Abe successfully defended his title 22 times. Often venturing out of his weight class when he ran out of worthy featherweights, his opponents during this time included Aurelia Herrera, lightweight (W-15), Buddy Ryan, welterweight (W-6), Benny Yanger, lightweight (L-19), Frankie Neil, who would later say that "Nobody ever came close to Abe in boxing science" (Muller, 1970), (W & W-13), Owen Moran (3 NDs and 2 draws), Battling Nelson, lightweight (Draw-15), Ad Wolgast, lightweight (ND-10), Freddie Welsh, lightweight (L-15), Matt Wells, lightweight (ND-10), Jem Driscoll, (ND-10), Georgie Pierce (W- 6), and Buffalo Eddie Kelly (W-7).
Early in his career, Abe thought that "the easy way was to knock 'em out." In fact, he had done just that to his first 24 of 28 opponents. However, watching the way James J. Corbett and George Dixon "slipped, blocked, ducked and side-stepped punches," Abe learned that "a fellow could be a prize fighter and not get hurt, provided he was smart enough" (Hawthorne, 1970). Developing a Fancy Dan style based on these two greats, Abe never forgot this lesson. It was still fresh in his mind in 1957 when he told a reporter that the fighters of the day were "right-hand- crazy amateurs" who tried only to "bomb the other guy out quick" (San Francisco Chronicle, 1970).
Having won/defended the title on his birthday in 1906, Abe become the only man to both win and lose the title on his birthday when he lost to Johnny Kilbane in twenty rounds on February 22, 1912, in Vernon, Los Angeles County, California. The two had met before on October 24, 1910, with Abe successfully defending his title in a ten round decision. While Kilbane saw the odds against him vary from 2 to 1 to 10 to 7, it was Father Time who was seen as Abe's real foe, and this defence would turn out to be one too many for the "veteran of a thousand mitt wars" (Sloan, 1912a). Sensing that he might be outclassed that day, Abe unveiled his darker side. The crowd of nearly 10,000 hissed his foul tactics, which included grabbing Kilbane's arm and bending it back. In the sixteenth, the referee suspended the fight to wipe an unknown substance off of Abe's body, which Kilbane claimed was placed on the champion by his seconds to make him groggy. "Abe Attell's biography will not be benefited any by the incidents that took place," wrote the Los Angeles Times (Sloan, 1912b). Abe retorted with the claim that whenever he would rush Kilbane, his opponent "would clinch and it took the referee to part us" (Sloan, 1912b). Abe lost the title, saying afterwards to a friend at ringside: "Well, I had to stand for it; I couldn't do any better" (New York Times, 1912). Despite his loss, the ex-champ still claimed a purse one thousand times greater than the $15 he received for his first professional fight only twelve years before.
With the better part of his ring career behind him, Abe then faced Harlem Tommy Murphy twice, the second being called "one of the goriest bouts in ring history ... You couldn't tell 'em apart for the gore" (Blady, 1988). Despite announcing his retirement following a match with Ollie Kirk in November of 1912, Abe returned to the ring three and a half months later to defeat Kirk in the third. On July 4, 1913, he fought Willie Beecher, accidentally smashing the referee the in the face while trying to stage some action for the unhappy crowd. Having ‘retired’ again after defeating Kid Callahan in 8 minutes on September 6, 1913, Abe again returned to the ring just eleven days later to defeat Sid Knott in six. Abe spent a third short term in retirement after the Knott fight, but decided to take one more bite at the cherry on January 8, 1917, losing to Phil Virgets.
Abe's name appeared in the papers in 1920 as the man behind the Black Sox World Series fix of 1919. However, he was never brought to trial as part of the conspiracy because he had convinced a New York jury that he was not the same Abe Attell that the Chicago Grand Jury investigating the fix was looking for. In response, the New York Sun rhetorically asked, "Is Abe Attell himself or is he somebody else?" (Asinof, 1987) In later years, he proclaimed his complete innocence, blaming the entire fix on Arnold "The Big Bankroll" Rothstein, who had kept Abe as part of his entourage.
After his first marriage had ended in divorce, Abe married Mae O'Brien, and the two of them managed a tavern in New York's East Side. He regularly attended fight cards at Madison Square Garden until he entered a nursing home. He died at the age of 85 on February 6, 1970 in Liberty-Loomis Hospital in Liberty, New York, and is buried in Beaverkill Cemetery near Rockland, New York He was survived by Mae, three stepchildren (Abe fathered no children of his own), his brother Caesar (who later that year would become the proud great-grandfather of the author), and his sister Sarah.
"Abe Attell Loses to John Kilbane." The New York Times 23 Feb. 1912.
Asinof, Eliot. Eight Men Out. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1987.
(It should be noted here that Abe Attell was not born with the name Albert Knoehr, as is it stated in this text.)
Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers' Hall of Fame. New York: Shapolsky Publishers, Inc., 1988: 38-48.
"Fighter Abe Attell Dies at 85." The San Francisco Chronicle 7 Feb. 1970.
Hawthorne, Mark. "Abe Attell Dies; Boxing Champion." The New York Times 7 Feb. 1970.
Muller, Eddie. "Cleverest S.F. Boxer: Attell." The San Francisco Examiner 9 Feb. 1970: 48.
Sloan, J. Alex. "Who Will Be Featherweight Champ Tonight?" The Los Angeles Times 22 Feb. 1912.
"Kilbane Wins Championship From Attell." The Los Angeles Times 23 Feb. 1912.
Sugar, Bert. The 100 Greatest Boxers of All Time. New York: Bonanza Books, 1984: 76-77, 202.
1900 Aug 19 Kid Lennett San Francisco, Ca KO 2 Aug 29 Kid Dodson San Francisco, Ca KO 2 Aug 31 Joe O'Leary San Francisco, Ca KO 4 Sep 18 Benny Dwyer San Francisco, Ca TK 4 -Some sources report "KO 3" Oct 4 Joe Hill San Francisco, Ca W 4 -Some sources report "KO 4" Oct 10 Eddie Hanlon San Francisco, Ca W 5 Oct 19 Dick Cullen San Francisco, Ca KO 1 Oct 25 Lew White San Francisco, Ca KO 1 Nov 2 Jim Barry San Francisco, Ca KO 1 Nov 8 Frank Dell San Francisco, Ca KO 3 Nov 18 Kid O'Neil San Francisco, Ca KO 1 Nov 24 George Brown San Francisco, Ca KO 2 Dec 4 Kid Jones San Francisco, Ca KO 1 Dec 8 Peter Carroll San Francisco, Ca KO 2 Dec 15 Kid Dulley San Francisco, Ca KO 1 Dec 20 Kid Powers San Francisco, Ca KO 2 1901 Jan 6 Jockey Bozeman San Francisco, Ca W 10 Jan 26 Mike Smith San Francisco, Ca KO 2 Feb 15 Kid Buck Denver, Co W 5 Feb 22 Kid Buck Denver, Co W 5 Mar 1 Kid Delaney Denver, Co KO 4 Mar 24 Kid Pieser Denver, Co KO 3 Apr 12 Scotty Williams Denver, Co KO 2 Apr 26 Young Cassidy Denver, Co TK 2 Jun 26 Jockey Bozeman Denver, Co KO 3 Jul 4 Kid Buck Denver, Co W 5 Aug 12 Kid Decker Pueblo, Co KO 3 -Some sources report "Denver, Co" Aug 23 George Dixon Denver, Co D 10 -Some sources report 8/24/01 Aug 28 Scotty Williams Denver, Co KO 1 -Some sources report 8/29/01 Aug 29 Johnny "Kid" Lewis Denver, Co KO 3 Sep 3 "Colonel" Jack Dempsey II Pueblo, Co W 20 Oct 20 George Dixon Cripple Creek, Co D 20 Oct 28 George Dixon St. Louis, Mo W 15 Nov 4 Harry Forbes St. Louis, Mo L 15 Nov 30 Kid Henry Denver, Co KO 3 1902 Mar 20 Ned "Kid" Broad St. Louis, Mo D 15 Apr 10 Ned "Kid" Broad St. Louis, Mo W 20 Apr 24 Benny Yanger St. Louis, Mo LT 19 Aug 25 Barney "Kid" Abel Chicago, Il W 6 -Some sources report "W 16" Sep 11 Barney "Kid" Abel St.Louis, Mo W 20 Oct 15 Aurelio Herrera Oakland, Ca TK 15 Nov 10 Harry Forbes Chicago, Il D 6 Dec 8 William "Buddy" Ryan Chicago, Il W 6 1903 Jan 29 Eddie Hanlon San Francisco, Ca D 20 -Some sources report "D 10" Feb 26 Dave Johnson San Francisco, Ca WF 6 Mar 12 Eddie Toy San Francisco, Ca W 20 Sep 3 Johnny Reagan St. Louis, Mo W 20 -Featherweight Championship of the World 1904 Jan 4 Harry Forbes Indianapolis, In D 10 Feb 1 Harry Forbes St. Louis, Mo KO 5 -Featherweight Championship of the World Feb 18 Kid Herman Chicago, Il W 6 Feb 27 Young Erne Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Mar 9 Patsy Haley Hot Springs, Ar KO 5 Mar 23 Morris Rauch Hot Springs, Ar KO 6 Mar 28 Aurelio Herrera Chicago, Il W 6 May 14 Young Erne Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Jun 2 Jack McClelland St. Louis, Mo L 15 Jun 23 Johnny Reagan St. Louis, Mo W 15 -Featherweight Championship of the World; Some sources report "W 20" Oct 13 "Brooklyn" Tommy Sullivan St. Louis, Mo LK 5 -Featherweight Championship of the World Nov 19 Young Erne St. Louis, Mo W 20 Dec 8 Tommy Feltz St. Louis, Mo W 15 -Some sources report 12/09/04 1905 Jan 28 "Harlem" Tommy Murphy Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Feb 3 Tommy Feltz Baltimore, Md W 15 -Some sources report 2/23/05 Feb 22 Abe "Kid" Goodman Boston, Ma D 15 -Some sources report "Chelsea, Ma" Feb 24 Eddie Hanlon Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 May 1 Jimmy Dunn Sharon, Pa D 15 -Some sources report "D 12" May 10 Harry Forbes Detroit, Mi W 10 May 22 Oscar "Battling" Nelson Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Oct 4 Young Erne Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Nov 1 Chick Tucker New York, NY ND 6 Nov 8 Tommy Mowatt Philadephia, Pa ND 6 Nov 16 Tommy Mowatt Baltimore, Md W 15 Nov 23 Kid Sullivan Baltimore, Md D 15 Dec 6 Barney "Kid" Abel New York, NY ND 3 Dec 20 Eddie Daly New York, NY ND 3 1906 Jan 15 Chester Goodwin Chelsea, Ma ND 15 -Some sources report "D 15" on 1/16/06 Jan 17 Tony Bender New York, NY ND 3 -Some sources report Attell fought "Ralph Linder" Jan 22 Billy Maynard Portland, Me TK 10 Feb 22 Jimmy Walsh Chelsea, Ma W 15 -Featherweight Championship of the World Mar 7 Tony Bender New York, NY ND 3 Mar 7 Billy Elmer New York, NY ND 3 -The previous 2 bouts were reportedly held the same date Mar 13 Artie Edmunds New York, NY ND 3 Mar 15 Tony Moran Baltimore, Md WF 3 -Featherweight Championship of the World Mar 17 Itsy Ryan New York, NY TK 2 Mar 19 Phil Logan Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 May 11 Kid Herman [Landfield] Los Angeles, Ca D 20 -Featherweight Championship of the World Jul 4 Frankie Neil Los Angeles, Ca W 20 -Featherweight Championship of the World Aug 15 Frank Carsey Grand Rapids, Mi W 15 Sep 3 Frank Carsey Davenport, Ia WF 3 -Some sources report "KO 3" Oct 30 Harry Baker Los Angeles, Ca W 20 -Featherweight Championship of the World Nov 16 Billy DeCoursey San Diego, Ca W 15 -Featherweight Championship of the World Dec 7 Jimmy Walsh Los Angeles, Ca KO 8 -Featherweight Championship of the World 1907 Jan 18 Harry Baker Los Angeles, Ca TK 8 -Featherweight Championship of the World Apr 3 Frank "Spike" Robson Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Apr 17 Tommy O'Toole Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 May 24 Benny "Kid" Solomon Los Angeles, Ca W 20 -Featherweight Championship of the World Sep 12 Jimmy Walsh Indianapolis, In W 10 Sep 21 Tommy Sullivan Alton, Il D 6 -Some sources report "D 8" Oct 29 Freddie Weeks Los Angeles, Ca TK 4 -Featherweight Championship of the World 1908 Jan 1 Owen Moran Colma, Ca D 25 -Featherweight Championship of the World; Some sources report "San Francisco, Ca" Jan 31 Frankie Neil San Francisco, Ca TK 13 -Featherweight Championship of the World Feb 28 Eddie Kelly San Francisco, Ca TK 7 -Featherweight Championship of the World Mar 31 Oscar "Battling" Nelson San Francisco, Ca D 15 Apr 20 Eddie Kelly Sound Beach, Wa TK 8 -Some sources report "Seattle, Wa" Apr 30 "Brooklyn" Tommy Sullivan San Francisco, Ca TK 4 -Featherweight Championship of the World Jun 20 Matty Baldwin New York, NY ND 6 -Some sources report 6/30/08 Jul 29 Eddie Marino Sandpoint, Id KO 10 -Some sources report "W 10" at "Boise, Id" Sep 7 Owen Moran San Francisco, Ca D 23 -Featherweight Championship of the World Nov 25 Freddie Welsh Vernon, Ca L 15 Dec 11 Ad Wolgast Los Angeles, Ca ND 10 -Some sources report "ND-L 10" Dec 29 Biz Mackey New Orleans, La KO 8 1909 Jan 14 Freddie Weeks Goldfield, Nv KO 10 -Featherweight Championship of the World Feb 4 Eddie Kelly New Orleans, La TK 7 -Featherweight Championship of the World Feb 19 Jem Driscoll New York, NY ND 10 Mar 1 Young Pierce Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Mar 10 Young Pierce Philadelphia, Pa KO 6 Mar 18 Patsy Kline Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Mar 23 Frankie Neil Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Mar 26 Frankie White Dayton, Oh KO 8 Apr 26 Biz Mackey Columbus, Oh TK 8 -Some sources report "W 8" Aug 18 Harry Stone Saratoga, NY ND 10 -Some sources report 8/19/09 Sep 6 Eddie Kelly Pittsburgh, Pa ND 6 Sep 14 Tommy O'Toole Boston, Ma W 12 Oct 5 Charley Miller Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 -Some sources report "Buck Twin Miller" Oct 8 Patsy Kline Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Nov 22 Johnny Moran Memphis, Tn W 8 Dec 6 Charley White Memphis, Tn W 8 1910 Jan 1 Ediie Kelly Savannah, Ga TK 5 Feb 24 Frankie Neil New York, NY ND 10 Feb 28 Harry Forbes New York, NY KO 7 -Some sources report "KO 6" Mar 18 Johnny Marto New York, NY ND 10 Apr 1 Owen Moran Bronx, NY ND 10 Apr 28 "Harlem" Tommy Murphy New York, NY ND 10 May 20 "Harlem" Tommy Murphy New York, NY ND 10 Jun 24 Owen Moran Los Angeles, Ca ND 10 Aug 22 Eddie Marino Calgary, Alta, Can KO 3 -Featherweight Championship of the World Sep 5 Billy Lauder Calgary, Alta, Can KO 17 -Featherweight Championship of the World; Featherweight Championship of Canada Sep 16 Charley White Milwaukee, Wi ND 10 Oct 5 Frankie White Milwaukee, Wi ND 10 -Some sources report 10/07/10 Oct 10 Jack White Winnipeg, Man, Can ND 15 Oct 24 Johnny Kilbane Kansas City, Ks W 10 -Featherweight Championship of the World Oct 27 Biz Mackey New York, NY TK 6 Oct 28 Eddie Kelly Amsterdam, NY KO 4 Nov 9 Owen Moran Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Nov 13 Frankie Conley New Orleans, La D 15 -Featherweight Championship of the World Nov 30 "Philadelphia" Pal Moore Bronx, NY ND 10 1911 Jan 9 Joe "Kid" Coster Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Jan 13 Patsy Kline Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Jan 23 Billy Allen Syracuse, NY ND 10 Jan 31 Tommy Kilbane Cleveland, Oh NC 4 -Some sources report "LT 4" on 1/30/11 Mar 31 "Jersey" Frankie Burns New York, NY ND 10 Sep 20 Matt Wells New York, NY ND 10 Nov 3 Herman Smith Buffalo, NY ND 10 Nov 15 Jack "Young" Cohen New York, NY ND 10 Nov 20 Willie Jones New York, NY ND 10 Nov 23 Leo Johnson New York, NY TK 5 Dec 1 Patsy Kline Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Dec 2 Willie Jones Brooklyn, NY ND 10 1912 Jan 18 Knockout Brown New York, NY ND 10 Feb 22 Johnny Kilbane Vernon, Ca L 20 -Featherweight Championship of the World Mar 9 "Harlem" Tommy Murphy San Francisco, Ca L 20 -Some sources report "Daly City, Ca" Apr 23 Jimmy Carroll Sacremento, Ca TK 7 Jul 4 Eddie Marino Tacoma, Wa W 10 -Some sources report 7/03/12 Aug 3 "Harlem" Tommy Murphy San Francisco, Ca D 20 -Some sources report "Daly City, Ca" Sep 13 Harry Thomas New York, NY ND 10 Oct 24 Jimmy Walsh Boston, Ma D 12 -Some sources report "L 12" Nov 27 Oliver Kirk St. Louis, Mo LT 6 1913 Mar 19 Oliver Kirk New York, NY TK 3 Apr 3 Jimmy Walsh New York, NY ND 10 Apr 15 Benny Kaufman Atlanta, Ga NC 7 Apr 20 George "K.O." Chaney Baltimore, Md W 15 -Some sources report 4/28/13 Jun 24 Walter Scott San Francisco, Ca D 10 Jul 24 Willie Beecher Rockaway Beach, NY ND 10 Sep 1 Bert Wetherhead Winnipeg, Man, Can KO 3 Sep 17 Sid Knott Winnipeg, Man, Can W 6 1914 -Attell retired from boxing (only to return later) 1915 Mar 20 Herb McCoy Melbourne, Vic, Aus L 20 Apr 10 Jack Clune Melbourne, Vic, Aus NC 19 Sep 6 Frankie Callahan Gloversville, NY KO 3 1916 -Attell retired from boxing (only to return later) 1917 Jan 8 Phil Virgets New Orleans, La LK 4
Record courtesy of Tracy Callis, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization
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