Mysterious Jewish Boxer paved the way for Andre Ward
By Joseph Hammond
Long before Andre Ward, the Raiders, or the A’s, Hyman Gold won Oakland’s first ever sports championship.
Gold was a Jewish boxer who in response to the anti-Semitism of his day and also in a shrewd marketing ploy rebranded himself as “Oakland Jimmy Duffy.” His record compiled mostly at welterweight an astonishing 114-25-26 draws. Duffy was a light touch though scoring only 19 kos in a career which lasted from 1915(1914?) to 1932.
His ring record is probably incomplete. Like many elements of his lifer story little is known. Other than the fact he was Oakland’s first champion. Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame makes only passing reference to this boxing pioneer and some of the best information about his career comes from Latino press coverage of his fight with future World Boxing Hall of Famer Bert Colima.
Jimmy Duffy birth date is a bit of a mystery. Most likely he was born September 11, 1900 other sources say August 23, 1899. Either way he was most likely born in Brooklyn.
Jimmy Duffy’s career is hard to track down because he was a “have glove will travel” type of fighter. Jimmy Duffy mostly fought in the Bay Area and up and down the Pacific Coast. This is not uncommon for fighters of this era. Jack Dempsey’s career was similar. Jack Dempsey and Jimmy Duffy shared another thing in common they were both promoted at least for a while by legendary promoter Jack Kearns.
Oakland Jimmy Duffy became one of the most popular fighters in the Bay Area of all time. He drew thousands to his fights and they were heavily bet on affairs. Usually the money was on Duffy to win. His manager and trainer was Harold Broom who later worked with another popular East Bay fighter of the era: Earl Turner.
Following a run-in with the law in 1916, Jimmy Duffy was barred from boxing by a judge. Jimmy Duffy assumed that this only applied to the Bay Area and headed to the Pacific Northwest before returning to boxing in the bay in 1918.
Jimmy Duffy was known as the “King of the Four Rounders” long before Erick “Butter Bean” Esch. For Duffy this was a circumstance of his times rather than a question of Duffy’s stamina. From 1914-1924 only four round matches were allowed in California. After the end of the ban, Duffy fought many fights under the new standard (10 rounds) and was just as successful.
For fight fans the era of four rounders meant there was little waiting for rematches. On October 6th 1920 Duffy fought Dave Shade, An Irish-American fighter and top welterweight contender throughout the 1920s. Somewhat controversially the fight was declared a draw. The fans didn't have to wait long for a rematch: On October 13th they fought against this time with Duffy winning on points.
In 1922, Jimmy Duffy fought Travie Davis for the Pacific Coast Welterweight Championship. This marquee match-up was the first six rounder held in Seattle in 20 years. Davis was game but Duffy was unrelenting and took the title away. Duffy would hold the title until 1925. It was Duffy’s second title fight. As a fifteen year old he had tried and failed to win the Pacific Coast Bantamweight Title.
In 1922 Harold Broom was temporarily swept from Duffy’s corner manager and trainer. The Pacific Coast Welterweight champ ventured to the East Coast for a brief tour and to fulfill the dream of every boxer at that time: to fight at Madison Square Garden. This was the only time in his career he was without the services of Harold Broom.
New York authorities would not allow the raider from Oakland to fight the under the name Jimmy Duffy. Apparently two other fighters already used that nickname. So it was “Hymie Gold” who lost a fight on TKO when he refused continue after a foul in the 8th round at the Madison Square Garden. The fight left a bad taste in Duffy’s mouth for the East Coast and he soon returned home to sunny California.
It was also that year that mysterious Jimmy Duffy was also one of several men who claimed to by the Junior Welterweight Champion when it was legally created on January 22, 1922. Instead Boxing Blade magazine decided to hold a vote and named Myron “Pinkey” Mitchell the new 140 pound champion. A recent boxing writer called this a “democratic decision.” Though it should be noted that Mitchell’s brother was the editor of The Boxing Blade.
One of Duffy’s most legendary fights took place not long after this controversy. On July 4, 1923 Duffy fought Bert Colima.
Bert Colima was born Ephram Romero and was the first Chicano boxing champion. Romero was as tough as they come. He fought all-time great Micky Ward, won the Mexican Welterweight Title, and eventually was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Colima fought his last fight against an amateur making his professional debut: against Phil Brubaker. Brubaker went onto to fight Jack Sharkey and briefly become the number one White Heavyweight in the world.
That night in Oaks Ballpark in Emmeryville, California both men stood 5’8, Colima was clearly the naturally bigger of the two.
The July 4th match between them is remembered as a display of true fistic fireworks. Both men threw punches in bunches. Perhaps one of the greatest ring wars ever fought in California. The four round fight was declared a draw.
Somewhat mysteriously “Oakland” Jimmy Duffy had another nickname: “Airdale” who a tough fighter like Duffy earned a name linked to a show-dog breed of Terrier is unknown to us.
In 1932, Duffy retired from the ring only to return as a referee for the California State Athletic Commission into the 1940s. He refereed many fights in Oakland some featuring all-time greats like Archie Moore and Henry Armstrong. He also managed Duffy’s Gymnasium in Oakland well into the 1940s.
Jimmy Duffy's death is also a mysterious affair. Most likely his death was on July 26, 1979 or perhaps as late February 12,1994. Either way Duffy outlived many of his contemporaries. The spirit of winning he brought to Oakland lives on in Oakland’s newest champion: Andre Ward.