About Sammy Luftspring
Sammy Luftspring was born on May 14th, 1916 in "The Ward" in Toronto. His parents were working-class Jews who emigrated from Eastern Europe. Sammy began training as a youth at the Brunswick YMHA. He lived in Kensington Market and attended B'nai Brith summer camp as a youngster. In 1932 he started entering boxing matches. He competed in 105 fights and only lost five bouts, capturing the Golden Glove tournaments in the weight classes ranging from bantamweight to welterweight. Sammy became famous for his fighting prowess as well as his Jewish pride, always sporting a Star of David on his boxing shorts. By 1933, he became the Ontario lightweight champion, representing the Elm Grove boxing club. That same year, he took part in the Christie Pits riot. Because of his accomplishments in the ring and his contribution to his community, he became a highly respected athlete within the Jewish community. In 1936, he was selected for the Canadian team to take part in the Berlin Olympics that year. Although he was eager to compete, his parents and the community pressured him to boycott the games in protest over the Nazi's treatment of Jews in Germany. Luftspring and "Baby Yak", another famous local Jewish boxer, decided to participate instead in the alternate games in Barcelona, Spain, called the "People's Olympics". After making the trip to Europe by ship, the two faced the disappointment of having the event cancelled after the Civil War broke out on the eve of the opening ceremonies. After his return to Toronto, Luftspring began to box professionally. In 1938, he won the Canadian welterweight championship after a 15-round fight where he defeated Frank Genovese. He held the title for two years. During a fight in New York against Steve Belloise, Luftspring was poked in the eye, resulting in a detached retina. This injury left him blind in one eye, ending his boxing career. By 1948, he began a new career as a boxing referee. He refereed for several decades, overseeing some of the most celebrated fights of that time. He also ran a nightclub in Toronto called the Mercury Club with three partners. It attracted famous entertainers such as Henry Youngman, Vic Damone and Tony Bennett. He subsequently ran other nightclubs such as the Tropicana. In addition to his boxing career, Sammy was also a devoted family man. He married his wife Elsie in 1938 at the McCaul Street synagogue. Three hundred and fifty people attended and hundreds waited outside of the synagogue to wish them well. They had two children: Brian and Orian. His biography, Call Me Sammy, was published in 1975. Luftspring was given the great honour in 1985 of being inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. He passed away on September 27, 2000.