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The adopted American stayed loyal to his coach and mentor Charles "Pop" Foster throughout his career. Indeed, when Foster died, in 1956, he left his former protege his whole fortune of $280,000.

Ross's mobility and unrelenting attack saw him remove McLarnin of the welterweight crown in New York on May 28 1934, only for McLarnin to gain vengeance four months later. Finally, on May 28 1935, Ross was adjudged the narrow points victor of their third and deciding fight, although a somewhat bitter McLarnin always maintained he had edged it with a immense effort over the conclusive three minutes.

"Boxing's a very hazardous business and I'd always felt that anybody who goes into it for fun has to be out of their entire cotton pickin' mind," McLarnin told one interviewer. "But then I started to make money; when I was 19 I had $100,000 in the bank, so all of a sudden I realised boxing was for me.".

McLarnin carried phenomenal power in both fists and his right was distinctly feared. Like most great punchers, he suffered hand injuries and became more of a boxer in the latter part of his career. He lost his first title shot against Sammy Mandell for the world lightweight title in New York on May 21 1928, although he subsequently beat him twice in the next two years. It would be five years until his next chance, during which he knocked out New York's top lightweights and welterweights, including Sid Terris, Ruby Goldstein and Al Singer.

"There was no romance in it," he said, recalling his fighting days. "It was a tough, tough ordeal, but as the years went by and I got to know boxing, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be." McLarnin finally won the world welterweight crown by knocking out Young Corbett III in just two minutes 37 seconds. Then came that epic series of fights with Ross.

McLarnin's powers did not decrease and he beat all-time greats Tony Canzoneri and Lou Ambers in his final fights. Nevertheless, he retired from the ring in November 1936 a wealthy man, having won 63 out of 77 contests, drawn three and lost 11. He opened a machine shop and also took up film acting, golfing and lecturing.

When the Great Depression came along, so did McLarnin, a fiery little one-man tonic for a generation of crushed souls who so desperately needed their spirits lifting. He drew enormous crowds to his fights, mostly poor Irish-Americans who would willingly save up their few pennies to watch the exciting, clean-cut kid who also carried the name of Baby Face.

McLarnin held New York City in the palm of his hand, racking up some astonishing attendance figures for his many thrilling fights. His debut there in February 1928 couldn.

The word quickly spread about McLarnin and the gates soared accordingly. He pulled in 18,000 to watch the Terris knockout, and his attendance figures thereafter were consistently staggering. In 1929 alone, combined crowds of nearly 80,000 came to pay homage to their boy in his fights with Ray Miller and Ruby Goldstein and in his two encounters with Joe Glick.

The Belfast Spider steadily began to swell his impressive ledger. Two fights later, he blitzed future welterweight champion Jackie Fields in two rounds at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, knocking Jackie down four times.

He sucked up the Mandell defeat, bested Sammy in two subsequent meetings and rolled on to greater things. Courageous to the core, McLarnin decisioned Young Jack Thompson at Madison Square Garden in 1930 despite suffering a broken hand in the first round.

McLarnin was close to the big bauble and he went to Wrigley Field in Los Angeles to collect. Yet still it was regarded as a major upset when he tore the welterweight crown from the great Young Corbett III in one sensational round, courtesy of one booming right. The oft-forgotten Corbett would lose just twelve times in his 157-fight career and was far from finished after McLarnin dropped the bomb on him, going on to scalp the likes of Billy Conn, Fred Apostoli, Mickey Walker and Gus Lesnevich.

Jimmy McLarnin, the adopted Emerald of New York City, was on top of the world. It was the spring of 1933 and he would cross swords with only one man over the next two years in a pulsating three-fight saga that would thrill New Yorkers and captivate the entire boxing world. He was about to do business with Beryl Rosofsky. Beryl, of course, always sounded much fiercer as Barney Ross.

To this day, they stick together like a more primitive version of Laurel and Hardy in the minds and hearts of historians. McLarnin and Ross, Ross and McLarnin. Any way you roll it off the tongue, it sounds smooth and warmly familiar. Look at various lists of the all-time great welterweights, and Jimmy and Barney are still locked together in similarly lofty positions. So they should be.

The two little titans drew 60,000 people into Madison Square Garden for their opening epic, when Barney took Jimmy.

Everybody wanted a fourth fight between the two wonderful magicians, especially the enthralled Irish and Jewish communities of New York. Jimmy kept busy in the only way he knew how, not by kicking a couple of tomato cans, but by seeing off a couple of gents with the resounding names of Tony Canzoneri and Lou Ambers.

But you look at the career of Jimmy McLarnin, you look at his determination and his fighting spirit, and you mix in his mettle as a man. He fashioned all those fine qualities out of hard work, common sense and a willingness to learn from his mistakes.


Jimmy McLarnin: The Emerald of New York City. (2014). Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from

Mike Lewis. (2014). Obituary: Jimmy McLarnin | Sport | The Guardian. Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from


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