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Georgie Abrams (November 11, 1918 – June 30, 1994) was an American boxer who came very close to winning the World Middleweight Championship in November 1941 against Tony Zale and was a top contender for the title in the early 1940s.[1] In his unique boxing career, he fought eight former or future world champions. He was managed by Bo Bregman, and Chris Dundee. Abrams was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.[2][3]

Early life and career

Georgie Abrams was born the son of a shoemaker in Roanoke, Virginia on November 11, 1918. He was given the middle name "Freedom" for being born on Armistice Day.[4] His family eventually moved to Washington, D.C., where he was raised and began his ring career. A gifted athlete and top student in high school, he had to forgo completing college due to the economic pressures of the Great Depression, even though he was offered partial athletic scholarships by two colleges, Notre Dame and Catholic University, in swimming and boxing. He briefly attended Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana, having to leave for financial reasons.[5][6]

An outstanding amateur boxer, with a record of 62-3, he won the Washington, D.C. AAU Welterweight Title. Later, he took a Golden Gloves championship in Chicago in 1937 at 147 pounds.[7][4]

Turning professional in 1937, Abrams won his first 17 fights. He earned a shot at middleweight champion Tony Zale by defeating such contenders as Billy Soose, Teddy Yarosz, and Lou Brouillard.

Early career wins including middleweight champion Teddy Yarosz, July 1938

On June 6, 1936, Abrams defeated Teddy Yarosz in a ten-round split decision at the Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. In a July 5, 1938 rating of American middleweights, Yarosz was placed at tenth by the Cincinnati Enquirer.[2][8] Yarosz had previously taken the NYSAC World Middleweight Championship in September 1934 against Vince Dundee in Pittsburgh.

On April 11, 1938, he defeated Jimmy Jones in an eight-round points decision at Turner's Arena in Washington, D.C. Abrams had previously lost to Jones on March 21 in a fifth-round knockout that ended when Jones landed a wild right to his jaw.

On June 29, 1938, he defeated Phil Furr at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. in a ten-round Unanimous Decision. Furr was rated the number six welterweight in the country in a standing released by the National Boxing Association (NBA) the following month.[9] The fighting was fast, and Furr had Abrams down on the mat at one point in the match.[10]

On April 28, 1939, Abrams defeated Harry Balsamo in the main event at New York's Hippodrome in an eight-round points decision. Abrams, who may have taken every round, was on the offensive throughout, never giving Balsamo a chance to lead with his strong right. Balsamo may have not yet been in top condition having had an appendectomy several months prior to the fight, though Abrams' win was decisive.[11] Abrams was given seven of the eight rounds by most of the judges, and numerous facial cuts at the end, though Balsamo led 3 to 1 in the pre-fight betting.[12]

Win over former middleweight champion Lou Brouillard, June 1939

Lou Brouillard

On June 20, 1939, Abrams defeated Lou Brouillard in a ten-round points decision at Griffith Stadium at Abram's home turf in Washington, D.C. in a ten-round points decision. Brouillard was a former October 1931, NBA World Welterweight Champion, and an August 1933 NYSAC World Middleweight Champion against Ben Jeby, making Abram's win more significant.[2]

On October 28, 1939, he defeated Vicent Pimpinella in an eight-round points decision at Ridgewood Grove in Brooklyn, New York.[2] The Italian Flatbush native Pimpinella, also a New York Golden Gloves winner, fought such boxing greats as Lew Tendler, British born champion Jack "Kid" Berg, Billy Soose, and Fritzie Zivic, as well as sharing some of the opponents Abrams had fought including Phil Furr.

He defeated Ernie Vigh on March 26, 1940 in an eight-round points decision at the New York Coliseum in the Bronx. Both boxers fighting near 162, had a rough March bout before 8,000 spectators. Vigh was the victim of an accidental head butt in the second, and Abrams landed a hard left hook to the face of Vigh in the third. Vigh was known as a very hard puncher and was a top New York-based world rated Middleweight contender between 1941 and 1942, rising as high as second in some standings. Like Abrams, he fought champions Tony Zale and Billy Soose in his career.[13][2]

On July 29, 1940, he met the talented Black boxer Charley Burley in a rough ten round draw at Hickey Park in Millvale, Pennsylvania, close to Burley's hometown of Pittsburgh. Burley had the first two rounds taken from him because of low punches, but may have had a slight edge in the following rounds which ended when Abram's, rallying late with a flurry of punches, may have taken the eighth and ninth. Abrams appeared to have taken the third, but the bout was certainly close and the sharper blows may have been dealt by Burley.[14] The Pittsburgh Press and Post Gazette, though both were hometown papers of Burley, both wrote that Burley probably should have received the decision.[2]

Win over the Cocoa Kid, August 1940

On August 12, 1940 Abrams defeated the Cocoa Kid, a Black boxer from New Haven, Connecticut. The "Kid" was rated fifth nationally among Middleweights at the time.[6] The Cocoa Kid took the "Colored" Welterweight Title on June 11, 1937, and had previously held the USA New England Welterweight Title. Impressively, Abrams win over the Kid was the black brawler's first loss in forty six successive bouts.[2][15]

On September 9, 1940, lost to Polish boxer Henry Chmielewski at 160 pounds at the auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in a ten-round points decision. According to The Ring magazine, the decision was somewhat controversial as Abrams had fought in a more polished manner, and possibly thrown more punches.[6] On November 28, 1940, he defeated Chmielewski at 161 at the Riverside Stadium in Washington D. C., in a six-round Technical Knockout.[2]

Wins over Izzy Jannazzo, Jimmy Leto, and Coley Welsh

On December 12, 1940, Abrams defeated Izzy Jannazzo in a ten-round split decision at Carlin's Park in Baltimore. Jannazzo had previously held the World Welterweight Championship as recognized in Maryland in October against the Cocoa Kid. Though leading in the first two rounds, Jannazzo lost the third, being called for a low blow. In the late rounds, a strong attack by Abrams gave him the decision. Abrams dominated the infighting, but Jannazzo put on a more scientific and cautious defense.[16]

On January 20, 1941, Abrams defeated Jimmy Leto in a unanimous decision at Carlin's Park in Baltimore, Maryland. Leto lost the first and seventh due to low blows, though they may have been the only rounds in which he had an edge. Abrams scored with rights and lefts throughout the bout, probably having an edge in all but the first and seventh rounds.[17]

Boxing at 160, On March 7, 1941, he defeated Coley Welsh, a Polish middleweight, at Madison Square Garden in an eight-round points decision. The bout was at the important venue of the Garden and Welsh would take the USA New England Middleweight Title on March 21, 1941 and hold it for several years, but he would never contend for a World Middleweight title.[2]

Important win over reigning Middleweight Champion Billy Soose, July 1941

On July 30, 1941, Abrams defeated Billy Soose at Madison Square Garden in a ten-round unanimous decision. Abrams took a formal furlough from his Naval Reserve Station to attend the bout, already serving as a Boatswain's Mate prior to America's official entry into the WWII. Soose held the World Middleweight Championship recognized in New York and California, having previously taken it in May against Ken Overlin. Before he took the title, Soose had already lost to Abrams twice. One organization, "The American Federation of Boxing", recognized Abrams as World Middleweight Champion after his July 1941 win over Soose, but the organization lacked authority to sanction the title. According to the Decatur Daily Review, Abram's win was fairly decisive, though unfortunately for Abrams, Soose's World Middleweight Title was not on the line, probably since Soose was over the Middleweight limit at 164 pounds.[18]

Contending for the NBA World Middleweight Championship against Tony Zale

He met Gary, Indiana native Tony Zale in Madison Square Garden in a World Middleweight Championship match on November 28, 1941 before a crowd of nearly 10,000. Abrams was already serving in the Navy at an air station in Jacksonville, Florida as a boxing Boatswain's Mate under the invitation of Lt. Commander Gene Tunney, and required a pass to meet Zale in New York. Despite knocking Zale down in the first round, a poke in the eye from Zale's glove in the second left him with pain and blurred vision. From the fourth round on, he fought with his left eye nearly closed. Blood from a cut opened above his right eye in the third from an accidental head butt from Zale caused additional vision problems from blood that dripped from the wound. Despite fighting half blind, Abrams fought courageously for fifteen rounds, taking the sixth round due to a low blow from Zale, and the eighth when he staggered Zale with a hard right to the jaw.[19] The Associated Press actually placed Abrams with the win at eight rounds to Zale's seven. He lost in a somewhat close match, due to the incessant body attacks of Zale in the late rounds, particularly the ninth where he received a severe two handed attack to the midsection.[4][20]

Rushed to Polyclinic Hospital across the street from his bout with Zale, a doctor felt his eye injury was severe enough to consider surgery to remove it. The Abrams family declined, and Georgie recovered full vision. After recuperating for six months, he returned to boxing and defeated Steve Mamakos in a ten-round points decision on May 25, 1942.[6][2]

Hoping for a rematch with Zale, WWII intervened, and Abrams served in the Navy where he performed physical training for recruits and boxed in over 200 exhibition bouts.[4]

Win over Steve Belloise in August 1946

When Abrams was discharged from the Navy in 1946, he fought several tune up fights, though was slowed somewhat in his return to the ring by a kidney operation. On August 23, 1946, he defeated Steve Belloise in a ten-round match before nearly 10,000 fans at Madison Square Garden. Abrams won with fast left jabs and strong right crosses in a fast fight. Abrams won the early rounds with accurate punches, withstood a comeback attempt in the middle rounds. Belloise landed two strong rights to Abram's head in the fifth, opening a cut over Abram's eye which hampered him in the sixth and seventh. But Abrams showed more stamina and took the lead in the ninth and tenth rounds, taking a close decision at the end.[21]

Bout with French middleweight Marcel Cerdan, December 1946

Marcel Cerdan

Abrams next challenged the French middleweight Marcel Cerdan before 17,000 spectators at Madison Square Garden. Marcel would become a World Middleweight Champion in September 1948, after having held the equivalent title in France and Europe. Abrams lost a close ten round decision on December 6, 1946, though it was a unanimous ruling among the judges, who included Ruby Goldstein. The Des Moines Register agreed that the match was close, but that Cerdan put on a fierce display of punching in the closing rounds accounting for his victory. The Associated Press gave five rounds to Cerdan, four to Abrams, and one even. Cerdan had not lost a match on points or by knockout in 97 previous bouts and was considered to be the greatest European boxer of the era.[6][22]

Close bout with Sugar Ray Robinson, May 1947

Sugar Ray Robinson

On May 16, 1947, he lost a split ten round decision before a crowd of 15,000, against the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson, reigning welterweight world champion, at New York's Madison Square Garden. The shorter armed but heavier Abrams was able to maneuver inside of Robinson's longer reach keeping much of the fighting at close quarters. But Abrams was unable to land a knockout blow against the skilled Robinson.[4] Robinson received fouls for low blows in both the seventh and eighth rounds. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Robinson had tired somewhat by the late rounds, and may have been past his prime. Abrams staggered his opponent with hard rights in both the sixth and ninth. Robinson fought the match with a ten-pound weight disadvantage at around 150. The crowd voiced their disapproval of the final ruling, and the Associated Press gave Abrams a slight edge in the bout in contrast with the decision of the referees. Robinson once remarked that Abrams had given him his toughest bout.[23][24]

Second bout with Steve Belloise, July 1947

In a second match with Steve Belloise on July 11, 1947, Abrams lost in a fifth-round technical knockout at Madison Square Garden. He was down in the first and second rounds before the bout was stopped in the fifth. Abram's knockdowns were the first any boxer had scored on him in eight years, probably demonstrating that his reign at the top of contenders was ending. Belloise had served with Abrams in the Navy in 1941 as a Boatswain's Mate. The crowd of a little under 8,000 was a poor turnout for the Garden.[25]

Loss to former middleweight champion Fred Apostoli, November 1947

Fred Apostoli

On November 17, 1947, Abrams lost to Fred Apostoli, also a former navy veteran, in a close ten round mixed decision at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Apostoli was a former NYSAC (New York State) World Middleweight Champion from November 1938. In front of nearly 9,000 fans, Apostoli faced an more aggressive attack from Abrams than his typical scientific, cautious defense, but Apostoli slowed Abrams with a flurry of blows to the midsection in five rounds. The only knockdown was caused from a right to the jaw by Abrams, but it was brief occurring at the end of the fifth. The crowd seemed to be rooting for Abrams, though Apostoli was fighting in his hometown, and the decision for Apostoli was met with boos, and there was loud applause when Abrams left the rignt. Apostoli was cautioned on several occasions for low blows in the fifth and sixth rounds, and lost points as a result. Both boxers weighed in at 162.[26][27]

Retiring after bout with Anton Raadik, April 1948

Abrams lost to Anton Raadik in a tenth round Technical Knockout on April 21, 1948 at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois. He was down in the ninth, and twice in the tenth, and according to the United Press, he was battered around the ring so badly that his manager, Chris Dundee, announced he was through. Following the advise of his manager, Abrams never boxed in professional competition again.[2] Abrams had defeated Raadik the previous year in a tough battle on April 11, in a ten-round Unanimous Decision before a crowd of 13,000 at Chicago Stadium. The crushing defeat one year later was a disappointment to many.[28]

Life after boxing

After retiring from boxing in 1948, Abrams attempted unsuccessfully to make a living as an illustrator in Brooklyn, New York, drawing portraits. He had one exhibition of his paintings in New York in July 1947 while he was still boxing which was not a great success.[29] He worked at various times as an auto dealer, liquor salesman, and owner of a tavern. After living for a while in Florida in the late 1950s where he parked cars in Miami Beach, he eventually settled down in Las Vegas where he worked as a security guard at the Tropicana. He suffered a serious heart attack in the early 1980s. He married his third wife, Vicki Lee, a former singer in Tommy Dorsey's band, in 1984 and was previously married to Terrie Tumin when he lived in New York. Tumin, whose father was a merchant in Flatbush, married Abrams shortly after his return from the Navy in 1946.[30] By the 1980s Abrams was suffering from a progressive dementia common to boxers which affected him the rest of his life.[4][6]

He died on June 30, 1994 in Las Vegas after suffering a stroke.

He was posthumously inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.


  1. ^ Abrams came close to winning the fight according to the AP in "Zale, King of 160 pounders Licks Abrams", The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, pg. 63, 30 November 1941
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Georgie Abrams". BoxRec. Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "Georgie Abrams". Cyber Boxing Zone. Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Silver, Mike, Stars in the Ring, Jewish Champions, (2016) Rowman and Littlefield, Guilford, Connecticut, pg. 103-105
  5. ^ Attended Tri-State College in "Boxer Abrams Bares Patriotic Cognomen", The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 15, 26 June 1939
  6. ^ a b c d e f Blady, Ken, The Jewish Boxer's Hall of Fame (1988) Shapolsky Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, pgs. 253-257
  7. ^ Won Golden Gloves in 1937 in "Boxer Abrams Bares Patriotic Cognomen", The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 15, 26 June 1939
  8. ^ "Tony Galento is Ranked", Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, pg. 16, 5 July 1938
  9. ^ "Burley Boxes Furr Tonight", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pg. 12, 11 July 1938
  10. ^ "Burley Ill, Hickey Park Show", The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pg. 20, 11 July 1938
  11. ^ "Henry Balsamo Loses Decision", The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, pg. 8, 29 April 1939
  12. ^ "Balsamo Derailed", The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, pg. 13, 29 April 1939
  13. ^ "Georgie Abrams Decisions Vigh", Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, pg. 12, 27 March 1940
  14. ^ Burley may have had the edge in Welsh, Regis, Burley Wins, Gets Only Draw, The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pg. 17, 30 July 1940
  15. ^ Abrams, Al, "Sidelights on Sports", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pg. 13, 17 August 1940
  16. ^ "Abrams Defeats Izzy Jannazzo", Arizona Republic, Phoenix, Arizona, pg. 64, 13 December 1940
  17. ^ "Webb Wins Over Smith By a TKO", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, pg. 9, 21 January 1941
  18. ^ "Abrams Whips Billy Soose", The Decatur Daily Review, Decatur, Illinois, pg. 8, 31 July 1941
  19. ^ Conrad, Harold, "Zale is Champion With No Opposition", The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 9, 29 November 1941
  20. ^ Abrams came close to winning the fight according to the AP in "Zale, King of 160 pounders Licks Abrams", The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, pg. 63, 30 November 1941
  21. ^ "Abrams Rated Ace Contender", Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 6, 24 August 1946
  22. ^ "Cerdan Gains Nod Over Abrams in Bloodly Debut", Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, pg. 9, 7 December 1946
  23. ^ "Abrams Rep Rises in Loss to Robby", Brooklyn Daily Eagle, pg. 6, 17 May 1947
  24. ^ Associated Press disagreed with the verdict in Kelly, Dick, "Spotlight on Sports", The Daily Mail, Haggerstown, Maryland, pg. 7, 17 May 1947
  25. ^ "Steve Belloise Defeats Abrams in Fifth Round", The Times Record, Troy, New York, pg. 11, 12 July 1947
  26. ^ "Apostoli Gains Nod Over Georgie Abrams", Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, pg. 31, 18 November 1947
  27. ^ "Apostoli Defeats Abrams", Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz, California, pg. 4, 18 November 1947
  28. ^ "Fox T.K.O.'s Kochan in 7th", The Louisville Courier Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, pg. 12, 12 April 1947
  29. ^ Fraley, Oscar, "Jacob's Beach Critical of Georgie Abrams' Art Display", Dunkirk Evening Observer", Dunkirk, New York, pg. 10, 8 July 1947
  30. ^ "Wife Suffers When Abrams Takes a Beating", Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 20, 14 May 1947