Michael Strauss Jacobs (March 17, 1880 – January 1953) was a boxing promoter, arguably the most powerful in the sport from the mid-1930s until his effective retirement in 1946. He was posthumously elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1982, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Early life and career
Born in New York City in 1880, Jacobs came from a poor family and went to work as a boy, selling newspapers and candy on Coney Island excursion boats. Noticing that ticket purchases for the boats were often confusing to prospective passengers, Jacobs began scalping boat tickets. He then bought concession rights on all the boats docked at the Battery, sold train tickets to recent immigrants, and eventually ran his own ferryboats.
Jacobs then became a ticket scalper in New York, buying and selling theater, opera, or sports events tickets. He began promoting events himself, including charity balls, bike races, and circuses.
Jacobs met famous boxing promoter Tex Rickard in 1906 at the Joe Gans-Battling Nelson bout in Goldfield, Nevada, and eventually became Rickard's "money man" by the time of the 1919 Jack Dempsey-Jess Willard bout.
After Rickard's death in 1929, Jacobs then became a promoter of events at the Hippodrome in New York City's Sixth Avenue, and afterward, a promoter for Madison Square Garden – then the dominant New York City-area boxing promotion franchise – staging 320 shows there from 1937 to 1949.
In 1933, sportswriters Damon Runyon, Ed Frayne, and Bill Farnsworth of the Hearst newspaper chain arranged for Jacobs to stage Hearst's annual Milk Fund boxing benefit at the Bronx Coliseum; Jacobs promised the charity a substantially better cut of the proceeds than the event's prior promoter, Madison Square Garden. With this experience, Jacobs and the three sportswriters founded the Twentieth Century Sporting Club, a rival boxing promotion franchise to that of Madison Square Garden, later in 1933. Jacobs, as President of Twentieth Century Sports Club, at first used the Hippodrome in New York as his primary venue. The club’s initial bout was staged in January 1934 between Barney Ross and Billy Petrolle.
Jacobs' boxing promotion career changed forever in 1935, when he met with the management team of then up-and-coming African American heavyweight contender Joe Louis. Although Louis had black management at the time from his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, Jacobs promised the prospect of delivering a title shot to Louis, at a time when informal barriers still kept negro boxers from obtaining a world championship. Meeting at the Frog Club, a colored nightclub, Jacobs and the Louis team and hammered out a three-year exclusive boxing promotion deal.
Louis's first bout in Yankee Stadium grossed $328,655, while his fight with Max Baer grossed over $1 million. After Louis' unexpected loss to Max Schmeling in 1936, Jacobs convinced Joe Gould, manager for heavyweight titleholder James Braddock – contractually obligated to defend his title against Madison Square Garden's preferred opponent Schmeling – to instead defend his crown against young Louis. While a boon for Louis, Gould's price was onerous; Jacobs would have to pay 10% of all future boxing promotion profits (including any future profits from Louis' future bouts) for ten years. Louis defeated Braddock and remained World Heavyweight Champion for an even longer period of time, until 1949. Every fight Louis fought as a champion was promoted by Jacobs.
Leveraging his success with Louis, Jacobs' organization began to assert its control over other divisions. In August 1937, MSG leased Madison Square Garden's main facility as well as the outdoor Madison Square Garden Bowl to the Twentieth Century Sporting Club. In reality, this arrangement put MSG out of the big-time boxing promotion business, which Jacobs dominated from that time on. In 1938, Jacobs became the sole shareholder of the Twentieth Century Sporting Club, paying off Runyon and forcing the other two partners out.
Eventually Jacobs would come to control the championships of every weight division in boxing. In 1937, he originated the first paid radio sponsorship for a series of boxing matches, over 18 weeks, from the New York Hippodrome, heard on WHN, New York. Sam Taub was the blow-by-blow reporter. In September 1944, Jacobs secured the first commercial sponsorship of a television boxing match—the Featherweight title bout between Willie Pep and Chalky Wright. During World War II, he promoted a boxing extravaganza that realized $36 million in U.S. War Bond sales. Three times during his career Jacobs promoted million-dollar fights. His biggest championship fight gate was the Louis–Billy Conn rematch in 1946 that grossed $1,925,564.
Later career and death
Jacobs suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1946 but remained the head of the organization with his relative Sol Strauss operating the club on a day-to-day basis. When Louis decided to retire and then go into business with the group that became the International Boxing Club, the Twentieth Century Sporting Club ceased to function; Jacobs sold the Twentieth Century Sporting Club in 1949 to Madison Square Garden. Jacobs remained in ill health and died in January 1953. He was posthumously elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1982, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Was the Heavyweight champion from 1934-35. Fought with a Star of David on his shorts. Always some dispute whether he was really Jewish; or marketing ploy. It is known that his father was Jewish, but speculated that he was raised Catholic. Father of Max Baer, Jr. who played Jethro on Beverly Hillbillies.
is a Ukrainian-born Jewish-American boxer from Brooklyn, New York in the welterweight division. He is a practicing Orthodox Jew, and became so after he moved to Brooklyn. He does not fight on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays and follows Jewish dietary laws.
Was a major boxing promoter of the 20s and 30s. Began as a ticket scalper. Signed Joe Louis to an exclusive contract in 35. Put on major fights in the Garden. Died in 1953.
is a British-based Israeli heavyweight boxer, currently International Boxing Organization's (IBO's) Intercontinental heavyweight champion, with a 27–1 record. Greenberg has been nicknamed the Lion from Zion.
is a Belarusian-born Israeli professional boxer, based in the United States.He is a former World Boxing Association (WBA) super welterweight champion. Foreman turned professional in January 2002 in the Junior Middleweight Division and remained undefeated for 29 fights until June 5, 2010, in which he lost by TKO in the ninth round to Miguel Cotto.
Attell learned to fight growing up in an Irish neighborhood. He was featherweight champ for eight years (1901-08). Overall record was 171-9.
Hollandersky was known as the Newsboy. Possibly most prolific fighter of all time. Reputed to have fought some 1,309 bouts.
Levine was a middleweight (1941-1949) whose most famous fight was with Sugar Ray Robinson (11/6/46) in which he almost KOed Robinson in the 5th round. A long count might have saved Robinson. Robinson managed to rebound and knock out Levine in the 10th round, but he never could remember the fight after the 5th round. It has been claimed that Robinson said no one ever hit him harder than Levine did in the 5th round of that fight. Levine never got a title shot. His overall record was 50W(36KO), 6D, 15L.
Ross was a World lightweight champ from 33-35; welterweight 34;35-38. Grew up in an Orthodox home in Chicago, and his father opposed him going into the ring and wanted him to be a Hebrew teacher. After his fathers death, Ross became the familys support. He was a war hero and becamed addicted to morphine for his wounds. Successful fight back from addiction was made into the movie Monkey On My Back.
Probably the second best Jewish heavyweight after Max Baer (who is considered to be Jewish by some boxing historians and not Jewish by others), so maybe the best all-time Jewish heavyweight.