Harry Jeffra

Through the 1930s and 1940s, Harry Jeffra established himself as a tough contender and worthy champion in the bantamweight division.

Harry Jeffra made his pro debut at age 19 on September 21, 1933 and showed winning form as he paraded through 25 bouts without a loss. In his 26th bout, he was stopped by Danny London, who would not stop throwing punches. (Harry always claimed this lesson served him well for the future.)

For the next couple of years, as the level of his opposition was upgraded, Harry lost a couple of fights, but was mainly in the winning habit as he pounded out two wins over Sixto Escobar, the great bantam from Puerto Rico who had a stadium named after him in later years. Escobar was holder of the crown for both occasions.

By the summer of 1937, Harry was on a 19-bout winning streak and making lots of noise as one of the world’s leading bantamweights. Escobar was still the world champ, and Mike Jacobs, the prime mover of American boxing at the time, was in the process of putting together the greatest one-night fistic carnival since the advent of Queensbury rules. It was called the Carnival of Champions, a four title-bout card scheduled for New York’s Polo Grounds and Escobar would defend his title against the Pimlico Kid, Jeffra. The date was September 23, 1937 and for 15 rounds Harry bewildered Escobar with his superb footwork while using his left jab and left hook at optimum force to win the world bantamweight champion.

On May 20, 1940, at the Baltimore Coliseum, before a crowd of 5,200, Harry decked Joey Archibald twice in the second round, clinching the 15 rounder to win his second world championship. A couple of months later, on July 29, the new champion defended his crown against puncher Spider Armstrong at Carlins Park in Baltimore. Setting a fast pace on a hot night, Harry’s superb condition and smashing right hands at close range gave him the upper hand to retain his title after 15 rounds.

Harry was to have one more opportunity at the featherweight crown. On June 19, 1942, Chalky Wright, then considered champion by the New York State Athletic Commission, stopped Harry in 10 rounds at Baltimore. For five more years, Harry continued to ply this trade, winning more often than losing, but he retired early in 1947. He was inactive during 1948 and 1949 but returned for two bouts in late 1950, losing both. He compiled a lifetime record of 94-20-7 with one no contest.

He was elected into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1982 and was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.