A new book “Fighting Back? Jewish and Black Boxers in Britain,” and Ghetto Warriors, a related exhibit at the Jewish Museum of London, offer a new look into British minority boxers’ fight for identity and acceptance, both in and outside the ring.
Inhabiting London’s East End, a neighborhood that reeked of poverty and despair in the early 18th century, Jewish and black boxers originally viewed their sport as a means of “fighting back” against the economic injustices and ethnic prejudices that plagued them. While Jewish fighters began to gain respect in the late 1700s through the victories of Daniel Mendoza, black boxers struggled: They were underpaid and barred from title matches until the 1940s. Over time, however, both Jewish and black fighters not only became sources of ethnic pride but also, through their triumphs, helped soften the lines of race and religion in British society. Edited by Michael Berkowitz and Ruti Ungar, “Fighting Back?” includes photographs and essays and is published by the department of Hebrew and Jewish studies at University College London).