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Passion for Boxing Cards Uncovers Unbelievable Family Connection to Multiple Fighting Legends

PJ Kinsella in Consignor Stories

Jun 14 — 5 mins read

By Amar Shah

Luke Skywalker, Jon Snow, and Aragorn are the names that come to mind when we think of legendary protagonists discovering their family history and fulfilling their destinies. But what if I told you that another hero's passion for boxing cards led him on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery? Meet Adam Warshaw, a Burbank, California, real estate and construction lawyer. His story is not one of the Force, a dragon, or a ring but rather a card connection to a forgotten boxing legacy.

In his 20s, Adam Warshaw stumbled upon a card show in the pre-internet days that would change his life forever. Among the sea of cardboard, he discovered two gems—1948 Leaf boxing cards featuring the iconic fighters Barney Ross and Ben Leonard. However, the intriguing detail on Leonard's card fascinated him the most.

"It said on the back that he was Jewish," Warshaw said, "which I thought was interesting to put on a card."

He purchased the cards and showed them to his father. His father examined the Barney Ross card, and a stunning revelation unfolded.

"He said, 'I think my cousin Ray fought him,'" Warshaw recalled.

Warshaw wondered why his dad didn't tell him before.

"He just didn't mention stuff like that."

1920 W519 Boxing card of Hall of Famer Benny Leonard graded PSA Authentic

1920 W519 Boxing card of Hall of Famer Benny Leonard graded PSA Authentic

It turned out that one of his cousins was a boxer named Ray Miller, known for his devastating left hook, who was the number one lightweight contender in 1929. And he's the only man to have knocked out the Hall of Famer Jimmy McLarnin, according to Warshaw.

Unfortunately, Warshaw never had the chance to meet Miller, who passed away in 1987, a few years before Warshaw's realization. As Warshaw delved deeper into his family's boxing lineage, he uncovered yet another hidden gem—a cousin named Benny Berris. Berris, a fighter from Chicago, had also left his mark in the ring. This revelation sparked Warshaw's curiosity and set him on a quest to uncover his family's connection to the boxing world.

"I had no idea about these people in my family... of course, I never got to meet any of them."

Warshaw discovered that by 1931, one-third of all professional fighters were Jewish. He started collecting those and Jewish athletes in other sports. He got hooked on boxing cards.

1886 N167 Old Judge Boxing card of Hall of Famer Jack McAuliffe graded SGC GOOD 30

1886 N167 Old Judge Boxing card of Hall of Famer Jack McAuliffe graded SGC GOOD 30

Driven by a thirst for knowledge and a desire to share his discoveries, Warshaw delved deeper into the world of boxing card collecting. He found that existing resources were woefully inadequate—just rudimentary checklists and photos—prompting him to take matters into his own hands.

Instead of writing articles for publications, he sought to compile an extensive compendium documenting American boxing cards.

"I want to write an encyclopedia," Warshaw said of the ambitious project, "similar to what Lou Lipsett did for the baseball card encyclopedia."

Warshaw wrote 'America's Great Boxing Cards,' a boxing card bible that's been a mainstay for years and is in its 10th printing.

"From there," Warshaw said, "I started collecting more and more, picking favorite fighters, and then trying to pick up one of every type I could find. And it just snowballed from there."

Warshaw's collection was getting out of hand. His daughter just graduated from Columbia, and he's ready to let go of some of it. There are treasures coming up for auction, including a 1964 United Press International Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston Composite Photograph PSA/DNA Type III.

Warshaw bought it at an auction. 

"I was so drawn to the fact that it was just a beautiful shot."

However, he didn't know how big it was until he saw it.

"It's gigantic,” Warshaw said. "It is bigger than a record album. It kicked around in various boxes in my collection for a while. And I finally just said I can't keep this thing because I really have nowhere to store it. And no way to display it."

But the piece that was hardest to find and one that enchants Warshaw is the Marcel Cerdan Signed Photograph. 

"He's one of the best fighters France has ever produced, if not the best," Warshaw said. "His story is fascinating."

Cerdan was world-famous; he had a torrid affair with French actress Edith Piaf. Cerdan was tragically killed in a plane crash on his way to the US for a rematch with the “Raging Bull” Jake LaMotta. He had previously dropped his middleweight title to LaMotta, and he was coming back for a rematch and planning to refuel in the Azores when the crash occurred, killing him.

Signed 1930 Exhibits Boxing Jake LaMotta PSA/DNA GEM MINT 10. LaMotta was famously portrayed by Robert DeNiro in the movie Raging Bull.

Signed 1930 Exhibits Boxing Jake LaMotta PSA/DNA GEM MINT 10. LaMotta was famously portrayed by Robert DeNiro in the movie Raging Bull.

"When you talk about somebody who was killed young, as a major champion," Warshaw said, "you've got to find something from him that is signed, that's career-contemporary because his career ended with that plane crash. And then you've got to add that he's foreign, and you've got to get it from overseas."

Warshaw has a history with REA, including more than 200 boxing cards from the pre-war era into the 1960s and 70s. Some were consigned with REA last year while many are available in the June Auction that runs June 8-18.

Even though Warshaw is selling a portion of his collection, he still has a few precious items he's looking for.

"I'm always looking for interesting stuff that comes from obscure places," Warshaw said. "I mean, I'm always looking for more stuff on my cousin, anything I can find out."

The collecting Force is still strong with Warshaw.

Amar Shah is a multiple Emmy-winning writer and producer who has written for ESPN.com, NFL.com, The Wall Street Journal, The Orlando Sentinel, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Slam Magazine and The Washington Post. In the 90s, Amar was a teen sports reporter and got to hang out with the Chicago Bulls during their golden era. He even landed on the cover for Sports Illustrated for Kids with Shaquille O’Neal. His debut novel "The Hoop Con" comes out on February 6, 2024 with Scholastic. You can preorder here:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hoop-con-amar-shah/1143287376?ean=9781338840315

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