Friday, October 26, 2012

"Bummy" Davis - Brooklyn Legend

I first heard of this Brooklyn born Jewish boxer recently from fellow blogger Glen Slater on his blogsite Foot in the Bucket. Apparently there is a book about “Bummy” Davis; who happens to be related to Mr. Slater; titled “Bummy Davis vs. Murder, Inc.” by Ron Ross. It’s a novel based on the true life experiences of the boxer, who was killed in a barroom fight at age 25. Since the real story is always what intrigues me the most, I decided to go to Wikipedia and see what I could learn about him.

Born Al Davis, in Brownsville in 1920, “Bummy” was raised by his mother and father, who owned a candy store in the neighborhood, which was then one of the toughest sections of Brooklyn. According Wikipedia he was employed by his father as a lookout, hiding the fact that his father sold bootleg whiskey during the days of prohibition. This was “Bummy’s” introduction to the world which lay beyond his own doorstep, and ultimately into contact with the life which would someday claim his own at the age of 25.

Brownsville was known as the home turf of Murder, Inc., and Al’s two older brothers worked as collectors for them. Al, himself, was not part of that lifestyle, and is credited with having once stood up to Abe Reles, the man who would someday become famous for either falling; or being thrown from; the window of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island, where he was sequestered as a witness against Murder, Inc. It is widely believed that he was thrown from the hotel’s 4th floor by the police assigned to protect him.
He was raised in a typical Jewish home of the time, with his mother referring to him as "Vroomeleh," which is a play on his middle name;  Avrum;  or Abraham. He was often called “Vroomy” for short among his family and friends. The nickname “Bummy” was suggested by his manager when Al was a teenager. It too, is an Americanization of “Vroomy”. For obvious reasons, young Al was not altogether happy with his new moniker, but for the sake of drawing larger crowds to his fights, he accepted it.

“Bummy’s” big break came in 1939 when he defeated former lightweight champion Tony Canzoneri in 3 rounds. He was finally on his way to the big time. By the close of 1939 he would go on to defeat Tippy Larkin, dispatching him with a mighty left hook in the fifth round. That left hook was his trademark, and enabled him to amass the impressive record of 66 wins and 47 knockouts, with only 10 losses and 4 draws. He is still considered one of the greatest punchers of all time for his weight and class.
His career was marred by his utter distaste for the corruption that went along with the sport of boxing, as well as his own quick temper. His penchant for anger caused him to lose a bout with Lightweight Champion Lou Ambers in 1940. Also that year, he fought Fritzie Zivic, who knocked “Bummy” down in the first round, and continued to harass him in the 2nd round, gouging his eye with a thumb. “Bummy” went slightly ballistic in response, peppering his opponent with no fewer than 10 “foul” blows, causing him to be disqualified in New York for life.

By July of 1941, “Bummy” had been re-instated by the Boxing Commission and fought a rematch with Zivic, who scored a TKO against him in the 10th round. For the next 4 years “Bummy” continued to fight in the ring, with his last major victory being won in February of 1944 when he defeated Hall of Famer Bob Montgomery, whom he knocked out in the 1st round. After that it was kind of downhill for him, and he lost to former Champ Beau Jack in March, and went on to be defeated by another former title holder, Henry Armstrong, in June of that same year. His short, but storied, career seemed to be coming to a close when he lost to future Champ Rocky Graziano in May 1945, when Graziano scored a TKO in the 4th round.

In November of that same year, "Bummy" was enjoying an evening in Dudy's, a local bar which he had bought a few years earlier and just sold. Four armed men entered the bar, intent on robbing it. "Bummy" attacked them, knocking one out and taking 3 bullets for his trouble. While bleeding from his wounds he chased the other 3 men, who shot him a fourth, and fatal, time.  This episode landed him on the front page of the New York Times. The date was November 22nd, 1945, and "Bummy" Davis was only 25 years old.

For a great article about "Bummy" Davis, here is a link; provided by Mr. Slater; to a Sports Illustrated article about Mr. Davis. The article is dated October 22, 1962, which is 50 years ago last Monday.

And for more from Glen Slater at Foot in the Bucket, here is his link;      

No comments:

Post a Comment