Morris Reif, the last of a line of great Jewish fighters from Boxing’s Golden Age was laid to rest at the Star of David Cemetery in Tamarac, Florida on December 5th. A small gathering of family and friends came to bid farewell to the slugging left hooker from Brownsville, Brooklyn whose career record of 51-12-1 was highlighted by 34 KO’s . Reif was 91 years old and spent the last two years of his life in an assisted living facility in Tamarac, Florida.
Morris Reif was the embodiment of the spirit, the strength, the indomitable “chutzpah” of the second generation of Jewish immigrants – those who brought dignity and respect and honor to family, friends and religion.
He was the last of a breed that at one time was both commonplace and conversely, unique; feared by some, admired by others but never underrated or ignored. Fighting was their business and they were a rough-and-tumble lot, respected and acknowledged among the rulers of their domain, and all who knew them – unique because of a six-pointed Star of David adorning their trunks and a two-and-a-half square mile patch of asphalt jungle called Brownsville that was their home.
Maybe it was because they were the children of a generation of passive resistors, the sons of stoic, but non-combative fathers, tough, thick-skinned peddlers, farmers and merchants who tolerated their indignities with an almost incomprehensible resoluteness and strength of purpose that made fighting the natural evolution of their species. Fighting was what these second generation Brownsville Jews were about. Chins jutting, fists flying, they came to fight. It was their business, it was their lives. They were a new breed and they shocked a world that couldn’t conceive of Jewish battlers.
Morris Reif achieved greatness in what is known as the Golden Age of Boxing. He brought excitement, thrills and a left hook that leveled the best in an era of great fighters. He was the last living Jewish fighter to have fought a main event fight at Madison Square Garden when he defeated Pete Kennedy over 10 rounds on January 5, 1950. But his greatest achievement, that for which he will always be remembered for is that he brought respect and dignity to the Star of David that so proudly adorned his trunks!
And as tough and relentless as he was in that 20-foot roped enclosure, he was just as loving and gentle and caring with his family, friends and all who knew him.