Attell, Abraham Washington

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

ATTELL, ABRAHAM WASHINGTON

ATTELL, ABRAHAM WASHINGTON (Abe ; "The Little Hebrew," "The Little Champ"; 1884–1970), U.S. boxer, underworld figure; world featherweight champion for 11 years (career record 107–16–19, with 53 knockouts); member of Boxing Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame. Considered one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in history at 5ʹ4ʹʹ, 122-pounds, Attell was born February 22 – hence the middle name Washington – the 16th of 19 children to a poor family in San Francisco, and learned to fight as a kid on the streets of his Irish neighborhood. His father abandoned the family when Attell was 13, and he had to find a job selling newspapers to support his family.

Attell fought his first professional fight at age 16 on August 19, 1900, winning a $15 purse with a ko in the second round over Kid Lennett. He promised his mother it would be his "first and last fight," but after he came home with the $15, his mother encouraged his career and even bet on him. At-tell won his first ten fights by knockout, and 23 of his first 29. On October 28, 1901, Attell won the disputed world featherweight title by defeating George Dixon in 15 rounds, and won the undisputed world championship on his 22nd birthday in 1906, beating Jimmy Walsh in a 15-round decision. Attell lost a 20-round decision to Johnny Kilbane in 1912 on his 28th birthday – becoming the only boxer to win and lose championships on his birthday – ending an 11-year reign as world champion. He fought sparingly afterward for five years, with his final bout on January 8, 1917. Attell claimed to have fought 365 times, and although his official record indicates less than half that number, the little pugilist was known to have fought as often as three times a week, often giving away as many as 25 pounds to an opponent.

Attell's story does not end there. Involved with mobsters during his boxing career and part of the entourage of renowned gambler Arnold Rothstein, he allegedly was the bagman between *Rothstein and players of the Chicago White Sox in the fix of the 1919 World Series known as the Black Sox scandal. Attell was indicted after several Chicago White Sox players testified before an Illinois grand jury that he was involved in fixing the games. Attell claimed that it was a different Abe Attell, and the charges against him were subsequently dropped because of insufficient evidence.

monte (The "Nob Hill Terror"; 1885–1960), Abe's younger brother, fought from 1903 to 1916, winning the world bantam-weight title on June 19, 1909, when he defeated Frankie Neil. It was the first time brothers held world titles simultaneously. He fought and won seven more times in seven months following his title win, until losing the championship to Frankie Conley on February 22, 1910. Monte left the ring in 1916 because of an eye infection, which eventually led to blindness. He finished with a record of 24–20–17, with 10 kos. An older brother, caesar (1880–1979), fought from 1902 to 1906, compiling a record of 5–6–1 with three kos.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]