On “D” Day former featherweight, lightweight and welterweight world boxing champion Barney Ross was remembered as one of the most decorated boxers in the history of the game.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ross enlisted in the US Marines and became a much-decorated veteran. He was 32-years-old and had to obtain a special waiver on the usual requirement that Marines be 30 or under.
Although he was assigned to work as a boxing instructor, he requested that he be sent into combat. He was sent to Guadalcanal Island, one of the most brutal U.S. military engagements against the Japanese.
On November 19, 1942, Ross and three comrades were attacked by Japanese troops while on patrol. His three fellow Marines were wounded and Ross shepherded them into a crater where he protected them throughout the night. He fired over 200 rounds of ammunition and was credited with killing seven Japanese snipers and ten probables. By the morning, two of his colleagues had died and though wounded, he managed to carry the sole survivor to safety. For his brave efforts, Ross received the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a Presidential Citation.
While recovering from malaria and his wounds in a military hospital, he developed an addiction to the morphine he was treated with. At the height of his addiction as a civilian, he was spending $500 per day. In September 1946, he voluntarily appeared in the U.S. Marshal’s office in New York and requested admittance to a federal drug treatment facility. Ross was admitted to the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital near Lexington, Kentucky, and was discharged by Dr. Victor M. Vogel in January of 1947. Doctors predicted it would take a year to get clean, but, though agonizing, he kicked the habit in four months.
The 1957 movie Monkey On My Back was about his life and addiction to morphine. Ross approved the script but was upset with the advertising. “The advertising makes it seem that I am still a narcotics addict and that defeats the whole purpose of the picture,” he said. He sued the producers for $5 million, claiming defamation of character, but settled out of court for $10,000 in 1960.
“Ross had style combatively and socially. His manners were impeccable; his generosity and thoughtfulness have become almost legendary.” Alan Ward (1967)
According to his 2013 autobiography, Anyone Who Had a Heart, p. 40, award-winning songwriter Burt Bacharach said that in the mid-1950’s while on a USO tour in Libya with the Harlem Globetrotters, he had Ross as a roommate. Bacharach describes a night with Ross when the former champion tried to pick a fight with a couple of Arabs in Tripoli after having a few drinks.
The above is taken from the website www.boxrec.com
Ross finished his career with a 72-4-3 record with 22 stoppages and was never stopped. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame and in 1990 he was inducted into the Old Timer category IBHOF.