Jack Bernstein, (November 5, 1899 – December 26, 1945) was an American boxer given the birthname John Dodick. He became World Junior lightweight Champion, on May 30, 1923 against Johnny Dundee at the Coney Island Velodrome in Brooklyn. When he lost the title to Dundee on December 17, 1923 in a fifteen round split decision at Madison Square Garden, many newspapers felt Bernstein clearly had the edge in the bout and should have retained the title.[1][2]

Early life and boxing career

John Dodick was born on December 5, 1899, in New York's Lower East Side, the second of seven children. He was compelled to drop out of elementary school to help his father, a fruitseller, support their large family. K. O. Brown, a leading lightweight contender, was reputed to be his first mentor at the Boys Club he attended, and a source of encouragement. According to one source, Dodick's third bout was with future lightweight legend Benny Leonard in a no decision six rounder. Dodick debuted in the New York fight clubs under the name "Young Kiddy" at the age of only fifteen.[3]

While stationed on the Mexican border after joining the army during World War I, he defeated Nick Gundy, Mexican Champ, in a tough twenty round match in El Paso. As victor, he was given the title Featherweight Border Champion.[3] Returning to his family's new home in Yonkers, Dodick continued fighting in local clubs, but discouraged, quit for a while to drive a truck. A new manager, druggist Lou Hirsch, took Dodick on, giving him the name Jack Bernstein, using the surname of the former local legend, Jewish featherweight contender, Joe Bernstein.[3]

Boxing peak and winning the Jr. Lightweight crown

Johnny Dundee, 1923 Jr. Lightweight Champ

A contender by 1922, Bernstein won fourteen of his sixteen bouts that year, and beat known contenders Solly Seeman, Pal Moran, Kid Wagner, and Babe Herman. Winning a string of bouts in 1923, he finally met Jr. Lightweight Champion Johnny Dundee on May 30, in the Velodrome, in front of a crowd of 15,000. Though an underdog, he won a unanimous fifteen round decision and took the title after coming back from a third round knockdown.

Seven months later on December 17, 1923, in only his first sanctioned defense of the title, Bernstein lost to Dundee at Madison Square Garden in a highly controversial split decision. BoxRec noted that several newspaper sources, including the prestigious New York Times, believed the judges made the wrong decision in the bout. Author Ken Blady wrote that several of the judges may have been influenced to vote against Bernstein. Not all papers believed the fight was a runaway win for Bernstein, however. Although the Milwaukee Journal noted that Dundee finished strong in the bout, and agreed with the decision they also noted "the sentiment of the crowd, based on the fighters' round by round showing, was that Bernstein had won easily." Typical of the strong language of the many papers that disagreed with the decision was the Milwaukee Sentinel, who wrote "By probably the worst decision in local boxing history, Johnny Dundee of Jersey City regained his Junior Lightweight championship from Jack Bernstein."[2][4][5][6]

In their third and final meeting Bernstein would beat Dundee decisively on September 15, 1924 in fifteen rounds in Queensboro Stadium in Queens.

Sammy Mandell World Lightweight Champ, July 1926 – July 1930

In 1924, Bernstein fought Sammy Mandell and Rocky Kansas to draws. Mandell would hold the Lightweight World Championship from July 3, 1926 – July 17, 1930. After first drawing with Mandell in the Garden on January 11, 1924 in fifteen rounds, he lost to Mandell on May 16, 1924 in Louisville and on November 27, 1924 at Madison Square Garden. He drew with Kansas on February 18, 1924 in Buffalo, previously having beaten him on October 23, 1923 in the Garden. Kansas would later hold the Jr. Lightweight title for the first half of 1926.

Perhaps more impressively he beat Jimmy Goodrich twice in both February and April 1927. Goodrich held the Lightweight Championship from July 13, 1925 – December 7, 1925. After defeating Goodrich, Bernstein had fought all three successors to Benny Leonard's lightweight crown, Mandell, Kansas, and Goodrich in competitive full length matches.

Decline and retirement

Feeling weak and exhausted, Bernstein sought medical treatment on the advice of his handler Hirsh at the Battle Creek Sanatorium in Michigan around 1927, taking four months off. He fought well for a year, and then began losing a number of fights, again suffering from exhaustion. Bernstein's extremely rare knockout loss to Bruce Flowers on December 1, 1928, influenced his decision to leave boxing. He retired as a competitor around the end of 1931, and promoted boxing around Westchester, New York, often benefiting philanthropic causes. On December 26, 1945 Bernstein died at only 46.


Bernstein, who was Jewish, was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.[7]

Preceded by
Johnny Dundee
World Jr. Lightweight Champion
May 30, 1923 – December 30, 1923
Succeeded by
Johnny Dundee


  1. ^ "Hoots". Time Magazine. December 24, 1923. Retrieved August 10, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "Jack Bernstein". BoxRec. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c The Jewish Boxer's Hall of Fame, Blady, Ken, (1988) Shapolsky Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, pgs.133-138
  4. ^ The Jewish Boxer's Hall of Fame, Blady, Ken, (1988) Shapolsky Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, pg.137
  5. ^ "Dundee is Champ Again, Wins Over Jack Bernstein", The Milwaukee Sentinel, pg. 25, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 18 December 1923.
  6. ^ "Dundee Again Champ of 130-Pound Boxers", The Milwaukee Journal, pg. 14, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 18 December 1923.
  7. ^ Jack Bernstein (John Dodick) at www.jewishsports.net

Further reading

  • Blady, Ken, The Jewish Boxers' Hall of Fame, (1988). Shapolsky Publishers, Inc, New York, ISBN 0-933503-87-3, Pgs. 133-138.