Benny Leonard (Benjamin Leiner)

Benny Leonard

Benny Leonard

He was the Lightweight Boxing Champion of the World from 1917 to 1925. Considered one of the greatest lightweight boxers in the history of the sport, he was feted as possessing superb boxing skills as well as potent punching power. He fought over two hundred times and suffered only four knockouts; three early in his career and the fourth in his final fight. Born on the East Side of New York City, New York, Leonard learned to fight in neighborhood battles and turned pro in 1911 at just fifteen years of age. In his inaugural bout he was knocked out in the third round. By 1915, he was working his way to the top of the lightweight ranks. A scientific boxer whose poise in the ring led observers to say fighting scarcely even mussed his hair, Leonard fought a series of no-decision bouts with Hall of Famer Johnny Dundee. He also performed well in no-decision matches with Hall of Famer Johnny Kilbane and lightweight champion Freddie Welsh. In 1917, Leonard challenged Welsh for the title. He fought Welsh skillfully, knocking him out in the ninth round. Leonard held the lightweight title for six years. In his first defense, he knocked out Kilbane, then featherweight champ, in three rounds. He also successfully held several other challengers at bay. In 1922, he set a goal of attaining the welterweight crown and challenged reigning champion Jack Britton. In a well-attended fight at New York City’s Velodrome, Leonard knocked Britton down in the thirteenth round, then in an uncharacteristic move, hit Britton again during the referee’s count, causing Britton to be declared the victor because of his foul. He fought left-hander Lew Tendler twice, first in a no-decision twelve-rounder in Jersey City, New Jersey, then in a rematch in 1923 in Yankee Stadium with nearly 60,000 fans looking on. In the fight Leonard outboxed his closely matched rival to win in fifteen rounds. He retired in 1925, but hard times brought him back to the ring in 1931. He won the first nineteen fights of his comeback before Jimmy McLarnin knocked him out in six rounds. Leonard then retired for good. In 1947, he died of a heart attack in the ring at St. Nicholas Arena in New York while refereeing a match.


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  • April, 07, 1896
  • New York, New York


  • April, 18, 1947
  • New York, New York

Cause of Death

  • died of a heart attack in the ring at St. Nicholas Arena in New York while refereeing a match.


  • Mount Carmel Cemetery
  • Glendale, New York

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