Muhammad Ali may have been the Greatest but Abraham Hollandersky was the Most. Abraham who? Abraham Hollandersky, who fought under the name of Abe the Newsboy from 1905 through 1918. He had 1,309 fights, according to the Ring Record Book, which lists this as a high-water mark. And he also had 387 wrestling engagements.
The 1952 edition carried all this information under a sub-head, "Most Contest Fought." It read: "Abraham Hollandersky, known as Abe the Newsboy, a world traveller, engaged in 1,309 contests in every part of the globe and also in 387 wrestling matches between the years 1905-1918. Upon retirement, he wrote a book, "The Life Story of Abe the Newsboy." Most of his bouts were aboard naval vessels.
Not how, but 20 years ago this writer was a fact hound, not to be confused with a trivia hound. Facts were everything. The other guy might get the girl and the money, but if you wanted to know many homers Mickey Mantle hit rightie and how many leftie, step this way.
'The life Story of Abe the Newsboy" was privately printed, of course. It was published by the Abe the Newsboy Publishing Co. of Los Angeles, and it had gold stamping on the front cover, which you do not see much any more, even in the memoirs of ex-presidents going for $19.95. The legend included such sentiments as "Hero of a Thousand fights," "With U.S. Navy" and "God Bless America," plus a U.S. flag with 48 separate and distinct stars.Since Abe the Newsboy was opening and closing in the publishing business no expenses were spared.
It was published in 1930 and revised through 1944, and to get a copy the services of a book hunter had to be obtained. Book hunters scour old stalls on special orders and when they get what you want you pay list. The Seven Book Hunters submitted the book and a check for then-sizeable amount of $7.50, which was promptly.
Abe must have been something. He was born in 1888 in some God-forsaken Russian village and got out and went to England and then to the U.S. The family landed in New London, Conn., then as now an important base for the U.S. Navy, and Abe was Navy for the rest of the way.
He did not chip paint, or flash semaphores or prepare meals at a 40-degree angle. He sold the Navy newspapers and the boys had their reading matter aboard even if there was a hurricane blowing. Abe had a lifetime Navy pass for any ship anywhere in the world and he used it.
He fought a kangaroo in Australia and lost.(the kanga nailed him with his tail and broke a couple of things). He fought a muzzled bear and punched him on the snout, knocking him off the stage of the vaudeville house in which all this was going on. The bear fell into an expensive bass viola and busted it up, and the promoters wanted Abe to pay for it, instead of paying him for the bout.
And the fought human beings, lots of them, mostly on Navy ships. Somewhere, he got a record the way it's kept on important (and unimportant) fighters and it's only a partial list, filled mostly with people who had 'Young" for a first name . . . Young Ketchell, Young Gunboat Smith, Young Kid Thomas, etc. "Lots of "Kids," too. He was produest of the fact that he fought five champions, including Jack Ortega, who weighed 220 pounds and from whom he won the heavyweight title of Panama and South Amercian in the 19th round of a scheduled 45-rounder. Abe wasn't playing with kids then. And while he was in Panama he gave some sound advice to Teddy Roosevelt on the construction work going on for the Canal.
There are autographed pictures of Abe with some people you never heard of, plus people like Dempsey, tunney, Leonard and Fidel LaBarba. There's Chester Nimitz and Ernest King, and a lot of other admirals in those funny hats that Dewey wore at Manila, wishing Abe all the best.
Abe probably is presently dead, as Casey Stengel used to say, but he showed up the other day in my life in unusual fashion. And if he's around, like perhaps lobbying in Washington, or something, he might get in touch.
It seems that during one of those series of newspaper strikes in New York during the '60s I dug up Abe the Newsboy, brushed him off a little, and sold a story on him to Sports Illustrated. They bought it bought it probably half on merit and half on the awareness of my burgeoning debt at the local A&P. They did this wtih more than one writer and it was commonly accepted that once it disappeared into the large file it would never reappear.
But Abe showed up the other day in the form of a call from a researcher who wanted to check little things like whether it was a male or female kangaroo, and was it Andrew Mellon or Andrew Carnegie who slipped Abe a $5 gold piece for a copy of the New York Herald delivered to his yacht? And a lot of other questions, most of which a faithful attempt was made to answer.
But there was a stumper. "We have to know whether he's alive or dead. Do you know?"
No, I didn't. He'd be 90, and the Damon Runyons and Robert L. Ripleys and James Jeffrieses, and Tommy Ryans, and even the Gene Tunneys are gone. Also, Nat Fleischer, the Mr. Boxing who knew everything that was going on, crooked and otherwise, in the game from Bangor to Bangkok.
Unless someone comes forward pretty fast with information, either way, on Abe the Newsboy, the magazine is going to have to flip a coin to decide whether to describe him in the present or past tense.