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Sammy Luftspring

LUFTSPRING, SAMMY (1915–2000), Canadian welter-weight boxing champion, referee, and member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Luftspring was born in Toronto. He began his boxing career fighting for the Toronto Brunswick Talmud Torah School and throughout his career fought with a Star of David on his shorts. Considered a contender for the Olympic Gold Medal, Luftspring was selected to represent Canada at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. However, Luftspring, along with Norman "Baby" Yack, another Canadian Jewish boxer, opted to boycott the Nazi Olympics, and to compete instead in the alternative games, the Workers Olympics to be held in Barcelona. While on their way to the Barcelona competition, the two learned that the games had been canceled with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Turning to professional boxing in 1936, Luftspring won the Canadian welterweight championship in 1938 by defeating Frankie Genovese. He held that title for two years and in 1940 was third in line to fight the world welterweight champion Henry Armstrong. However, before Luftspring could fight Armstrong, his career was tragically cut short during a fight against Steve Belliose. Luftspring took a thumb to his left eye, and was forced to retire after he lost all his vision in the eye.

After his injury, Luftspring turned to refereeing. He refereed more than 2,000 boxing matches over the span of his career and made the Guinness Book of World Records in the 1970s for his accomplishments. In addition, in 1940 Luftspring and several partners successfully went into the nightclub business in Toronto. Luftspring published an autobiography in 1975, Call me Sammy.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.