Feb 22, 2009

King Levinsky

In 1964, a young Cassius Clay trained in south Miami Beach for his first fight against Sonny Liston. At that time, this section of the city was home to mostly retired Jews on fixed income. The hotels, decades after their prime, became pension rooming houses. Decades later, these same buildings would be restored to their art deco splendor, creating today's South Beach. As Clay trained, a middle aged punch drunk necktie peddler told him, "After Liston punches your head, you'll be selling ties with me." The street peddler was a fixture in Miami Beach. He didn't ask, he told people they were going to buy a tie. The future champ probably didn't realize that the heckler was none other than King Levinsky, legend of the 1930's, and veteran of over 118 heavyweight fights. Levinsky was born Harris Krakow in Chicago, and worked at his parent's fish market on Maxwell Street, the Jewish section during the roaring twenties. Although he never got a title shot, and weighed only 185, he fought all the leading heavyweights of his time, including the 265lb. giant, Primo Carnera. Managed by his sister Lena, he was known never to turn down a fight, including those against Max Baer.


Bernie O'Hare said...

Great post, Mike. I'm embarrassed to say I never heard of this guy until you wrote about him.

michael molovinsky said...

i never heard of him myself until several days ago when i was researching another jewish fighter. apparently "king" was a perpetual contender during the early 30's. perhaps because he was managed by his sister, instead of someone connected, he never got a title shot. i did spend part of a summer staying in miami beach during the early 60's, and visited the gym where clay would train and levinsky hung out. in the late 20's there was a light heavyweight champion named "Battling" Levinsky, I suspect that's why krakow changed his name to Levinsky, certainly not to Americanize it.