Sport: Benny the Brain

It was the evening's tag-end bout in Manhattan's smoky St. Nicholas Arena, and the fans were paying less attention to the two indifferent welterweights than to the referee. He was Benny Leonard, onetime great lightweight, now a paunchy 51 but still an agile man in the ring. Dancing out of the fighters' way in the first round, he suddenly toppled to the canvas. Tripping over his own feet was something new for Benny Leonard; the fans laughed.

They stopped laughing when Benny lay still. Minutes later, in the dressing room, the ring doctor pronounced him dead of coronary thrombosis.

One of the most...

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