Belasco, Aby

Abraham Belasco

One of four boxing brothers, Belasco had the most success among his siblings. He began his professional career in 1817 and, according to the Pugilistica, "was in his day a boxer of superior talent, a master of the science, not wanting for game, not deficient in strength of an athletic make, a penetrating eye, and in the ring full of life and activity." Belasco and his brothers fought in the bare-knuckled era of "Broughton's Rules." Established in 1743 by Jack Broughton, considered the father of English boxing, the Rules stated that wrestling moves above the waist were allowed, but a fighter could not hit an opponent once he was down. In fact, knockdowns marked the division of rounds -- the downed fighter had 30 seconds to return to the center of the ring or he would lose. If the fighter, with the help of his handlers, made it to the center, the fights resumed in what was considered a new round. In this way, fights were recorded according to the number of rounds and amount of time. "Broughton's Rules" were replaced in 1838 by the Pugilistic Society's "London Prize Ring Rules."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. April 9, 1797 - d. unknown

Career Highlights:
An English boxer, Belasco's first fight took place in 1817, only three years after the founding of the London's Pugilistic Society (the first such boxing organization). In his first match, Aby faced a fighter named J. Hudson; he defeated Hudson in 1 hour and 30 minutes, for a prize of 10 guineas. In April of that year, Belasco defeated Jack Payne, winning 8 guineas in a bout that went 16 rounds and lasted 17 minutes. Aby's next recorded fight took place on July 23 against an Irishman named Reynolds; Belasco "gave in" after 66 rounds (1 hour and 20 minutes). On September 30, in his final fight of the year, Belasco fought the legendary Jack Randall for a prize of 50 guineas; Aby lost in 55 minutes, but only 7 rounds. In 1818, Belasco defeated the Whitcomb Man in only 12 minutes (for 20 guineas) and Joe Townsend in 24 minutes (for 10 guineas), but lost to Cy Davis on July 10 in 10 minutes (9 rounds. In July 1920, Belasco had a rematch with Hudson (whom he had defeated in 1817) in a "room fight" (at this time, most fights took place outside, whereas this bout took place inside). Belasco won the bout, which took 35 rounds, in 40 minutes -- and with it, the prize of five English pounds.

Belasco's greatest rivalry during his career was against a former button-maker in Birmingham named Phil Sampson. The two pugilists fought four times in a four-year span in the early 1920s, splitting the series. Belasco won a "glove fight" in nine rounds on February 22, 1820, exactly one week after the two fighters drew after 11 rounds in Essex. Then, in December of that year, Belasco gave in to Sampson after 12 rounds. Following their third fight, Sampson made insulting comments against Belasco and the Jewish community. Belasco answered in a letter, "Had Sampson challenged me in terms which one brave man usually addresses another, I should have contented myself with simply accepting his offer to meet me in the prize ring...within one or two months. As, however, he has been pleased to give vent to his impertinence, in his letter...by refusing to make the match with one of 'our people,' I feel called upon myself to state, that I consider it no disgrace to belong to a community which boasts of a [Daniel] Mendoza and a Dutch Sam, and ranks among its members of the present day, gentlemen in the sporting world, not less remarkable for their honorable and gentleman-like conduct than for their liberality to men in the prize ring."

On August 19, 1823, the two men finally came together at Crawley Hurst to fight for a fourth, and final, time. Although Belasco was knocked out in the 25th round (after 42 minutes), a contemporary account of the bout noted, "To speak of the Jew as he deserves...it is true Belasco has been defeated, but he stands higher in the estimation of his friends than ever; let no more slurs be thrown upon him...He had to contend against height, length, weight, and youth...He has not disgraced 'his people'...To the credit of both men it may be stated that they now shook hands and became friends." After retiring from the ring in 1824, Belasco became a second for Sampson and other fighters before getting into trouble with the law. According to the encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, Belasco died soon after his retirement.

Origin:
London, England

Physical description:
5'6", 147-150 pounds



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References:
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co, 1965)
Fistiana, or, The oracle of the ring : results of prize battles from 1700 to December, 1867 (London: W.H. Crockford, 1868)
Bare fists: the history of bare-knuckle prize-fighting, by Bob Mee (Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 2001)