Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame

Barney Ross
Barney Ross
Class of 2006

Barnet "Barney Ross" Rasofsky. . . World Lightweight Champion (1933), World Junior Welterweight Champion (1933-1935), World Welterweight Champion (1934-1938). .1935 Fighter of the Year. . .International Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee in 1990...Silver Star Recipient. . .Born December 23, 1909, in Chicago, Illinois . . .Died January 17, 1967, at age of 57...

Career 72 4 3 22

Few men have displayed the bravery of Barney Ross. Whether he was fighting at Madison Square Garden or the beaches of Guadalcanal, Ross wore his courage on his sleeve.

B. RossBarnet "Barney Ross" Rasofsky was born in Chicago, IL on December 23, 1909. As a boy in Chicago, Barnet Rasofsky planned to become a Talmudic scholar and Hebrew teacher. In 1924, when Barnet was 14 years old, two men robbed the family grocery store and killed his father. Left with five children to support, Barnet's mother had a nervous breakdown and was forced to live with relatives. His three youngest siblings were placed in an orphanage while Barnet and his oldest brother went to live with their cousin.

In his grief, Barnet Rasofsky vowed to make enough money by whatever means he could to reunite his family. Barnet took up amateur boxing, pawning the medals he won for the few dollars they would bring. Sometimes, he took six fights in a week, growing tougher with each confrontation. At age 19, he turned professional and took the name Barney Ross so his mother, now back on her feet, would not find out about his boxing.

Ross was a gifted boxer who had an uncanny ability to take a punch. As shown in his record, he was knocked down only once in 81 professional bouts. He became just the third boxer in history to win world titles in three different weight classes.

After almost 200 fights as an amateur and more than 20 as a professional, Ross's big break came in 1933, when he fought "Tough Tony" Canzoneri in Chicago for the world lightweight and junior welterweight titles. Ross emerged victorious with a 12-round split decision and used the prize money from this fight to reunite his mother and three younger siblings

B. RossTo prove that his victory was not a fluke, Ross agreed to a rematch in Canzoneri's hometown of New York City. In front of a pro-Canzoneri crowd of 60,000, Ross won by unanimous decision. Shortly after the bout, Ross relinquished his lightweight title.

Ross entered the ranks of the boxing greats in a brutal series of fights against Jimmy McLarnin, who outweighed Ross by several pounds. McLarin was a hard puncher and had a reputation for brutally beating his opponents. In their first and bloodiest battle, Ross defeated McLarnin by a split decision. Five months later, McLarnin avenged the defeat in a vicious rematch. This was the only fight in which Ross suffered a knockdown. When they met for the third time at the New York Polo Grounds in 1935, Ross won by unanimous decision in the famed "rubber match."

Ross's most courageous prizefight was his last, in 1938, against Henry Armstrong. Armstrong is the only man to simultaneously hold three titles from different weight classes. By the time he fought Armstrong, Ross - although only 28 years old - had fought almost 300 times. Ross started strong, but tired after the fourth round and Armstrong pummeled him at will. After the twelfth round, the referee approached Ross's managers, asking them to throw in the towel, but Ross told them, "You do that and I'll never talk to you again. I want to go out like a champion." To Ross, that meant standing on his feet when the final bell sounded. Through rounds thirteen, fourteen and fifteen, Armstrong pounded away at the exhausted Ross, who would not go down. Voices in the crowd pleaded with the referee to stop the fight but he respected Ross's wish to end his career without ever failing to go the distance. In the last minute of the fight, Ross rallied and stood toe to toe with Armstrong, exchanging blows. The crowd was on its feet, many with tears in the their eyes, cheering for Ross, knowing they were in the presence of a true fighting champion

Ross retired after that fight with a professional record of 72 wins, 4 losses, 3 draws, and 22 knockouts. Shortly after his retirement, Ross opened a restaurant in Chicago.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Ross, who was beyond the draft age of 32, received a waiver and volunteered to join the Marine Corps.

B. RossAssigned to serve as a boxing instructor, Ross instead asked for combat duty and was shipped to Guadalcanal, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific. On patrol one night, a superior force of Japanese troops attacked Ross and three comrades. All three Marines were wounded. Ross gathered them in a shell crater and defended them through the night by firing over 400 rifle rounds. When he ran out of ammunition, Ross threw 22 grenades at enemy machine gun positions.

By dawn, with two Marines dead, out of ammunition and wounded in the leg and foot, the 140-pound Ross picked up his 230-pound surviving comrade and carried him to safety. Ross, whose helmet had more than thirty shrapnel dents, was awarded the Silver Star for heroism.

In March 1943, Ross would be promoted to Sergeant before being honorably discharged in April 1944.

While in the hospital recovering from his wounds sustained at Guadalcanal, Ross developed an addiction to morphine. After his release from the hospital, Ross toured military plants to raise morale among workers but couldn't shake his need for morphine. When his habit began costing $500 per week and his wife left him, Ross checked into a drug treatment facility. While few gave him much chance of succeeding, Ross went "cold turkey" and, after much withdrawal agony, emerged 120 days later clean of addiction. While he lived in constant pain from his wounds, Ross spent the remainder of his life speaking out against drug abuse. Hollywood later turned Ross' autobiography, No Man Stands Alone, into the movie "Monkey on My Back."

Barney Ross was regarded as one of the toughest champions in the history of boxing. Outside of the ring, his heroism on Guadalcanal and his victory over a narcotics habit brought him further recognition as a man who had never been knocked out and had never given up.

Sadly, Ross passed away at the age of 57 in 1967 from cancer. Years later Ross was enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.