Mike “The Jewish Bomber” at Philly’s Ring One!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (May 27, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Phillyboxinghistory)
Bernard Hopkins
At Philly’s VBA Ring One, the oldest in the country, who shows up but former WBA light heavyweight champion Mike “The Jewish Bomber” Rossman. Looking about 10 years younger than his 54 with a dark Atlantic City tan he sat down with this writer and corrected his age.

“I was born in 1956 but had to say 1955 back then in order to turn professional. I had my last amateur fight in Asbury Park. I thought if I’m getting robbed I might as well get paid. I was only 17 and you had to be 18 to fight professionally in Jersey,” said Rossman.

As we went through all his fights he was telling ahead of time who, where, when and the result. Talk about the mind still being sharp. “I had 4 trainers in my career starting with Carmen Graziano. I had Willie O’Neill, “Slim” Jim Robinson and Jimmy Arthur,” said Rossman. He was from Turnersville, NJ, with a Jewish mother and an Italian father (Jimmy DePiano served as his manager). He changed his name from DePiano to Rossman when he turned pro.

Rossman won his first 7 fights by knockout turning pro in August of 1973 at Atlantic City’s Convention Hall knocking out Stanley Dawson in the second round weighing 151. He would find a second home in Scranton, PA, CYC Youth Center where he went 7-0. In June of 1974 he would fight in Madison Square Garden defeating Ray Hernandez, 14-12-1, over 6 rounds up to 160.

Rossman won his first 13 fights and in a return match with Nate Dixon would be held to a draw over 8 rounds at Philly’s Spectrum. In his next match he returned to the Garden and defeated Mike Baker, 16-3-1, over 8 rounds for his fifteenth fight in 11 months. He scored a knockout n his third fight with Dixon at the Garden. Over a 5 fight period 4 of them were at the Garden. He beat Mike Morgan, 14-2-2 and stopped John Pinney, 24-0-2 from June through November in 1974.

Rossman won back-to-back fights over the Trinidad champion Matt Donovan and would suffer his first setback in May of 1975 losing a split decision to Mike Nixon, 21-5, in Binghamton, NY, where Nixon was born though then living in CA, for his only appearance in Binghampton. “I rocked his world,” said Rossman. Knowing he wouldn’t get a fair shake there he would have a rematch in his next fight with Nixon in Las Vegas, scoring a seventh round knockout.

The following month Rossman was at the Nassau Coliseum, in Uniondale, NY, in the semi-windup to Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran’s lightweight defense against Edwin Viruet. He would lose to Mike Quarry, 51-7-3, in the first of 3 fights to Quarry. When asked later who was his toughest opponent he said it was Quarry due to his toughness though not a puncher. “What a pair of balls,” said Rossman.

Rossman would finish out 1975 in his last appearance in Scranton defeating Philly’s Al Styles, Jr., 8-1-2, over 10 rounds. Starting off 1976 Rossman fought a draw with Casey Gacic, 8-2-1, in Ownings Mill, MD, over 10 rounds in the semi-windup to Matthew Saad Muhammad. “Matt and I had many a war in the Juniper Gym, in Philly. I always wondered what kind of a gate we would draw if we ever fought but never did,” said Rossman. They joked about it at the dinner just who got over on who sparring.

In June he would travel to New Orleans and lose a majority decision to Tony Licata, 51-3-3. Licata was 48-0-3 when he lost to Argentina Ramon Mendez in Italy but defeated him in the rematch in New Orleans earning him a title fight with Carlos Monzon.

Steve Smith aka Flasher Ishibashi was next. Smith was from Philly and in the service in Japan and re-won their middleweight title in 1974 before coming back to the states. Rossman stopped him in 6 rounds in Atlantic City.

Rossman would be in back-to-back fights with Jersey’s Christy Elliott, 22-1-1, at Yankee Stadium on the undercard of Ali and Norton. Elliott had also drawn with Gacic. Rossman stopped Elliott in 3 rounds. For some reason 2 months later they are in a rematch in West Orange, NJ, where Ireland born Elliott lived in the area where his manager Lou Duva promoted. With Paul Venti as the referee, Rossman knew it would take another knockout to win. “I got robbed by all and ended up with a draw,” said Rossman.

The second Rossman-Quarry fight took place in Las Vegas a month later ending the year 1976 with a bang. Rossman took a majority decision over 10 rounds. The rubber match took place in May of 1977 at the Garden and for some strange reason was scheduled for 11 rounds. It was the semi-windup to Norton-Bobick. Quarry retired in his corner after the sixth due to a cut.

In March of 1978 Rossman took on tough Yaqui Lopez, 41-6, at the Felt Forum. Lopez had scored 3 straight knockouts since losing a 15 round decision to champion Victor Galindez. The winner was in line to meet Galindez in 60 days. “It was a time when I was reading my clippings from the paper and believing how good I was,” said Rossman. “I had him cut and beat for 2 rounds and was wondering why the referee (Petey Della) didn’t stop it,” said Rossman. In the sixth round Lopez put up an offense of his own. “The same referee waved the fight off that let it go in the second round,” said Rossman.

Rossman bounced back 2 months later stopping Lonnie Bennett, 29-5 and Matt Ross, 13-1, both in 2 rounds. Bennett had lost to WBC champ John Conteh on a cut. Then he won the NABF title. These wins earned Rossman his shot at the WBA champion Galindez, 53-6-4, at the Superdome, New Orleans, LA.

“It set an indoor record for attendance for that fight,” said Rossman. There were 4 title fights including the Ali-Spinks rematch. Galindez had defeated Lopez in May and this bout took place in September. Philly historian John DiSanto www.phillyboxinghistory.com who was sitting in with us asked Rossman what was going through his mind when he got the title shot? “This is it. One shot,” said Rossman. He mentioned he had the best cut-man in the business with him in Eddie “The Clot” Aliano, of Philly who traveled the world working corners. DiSanto, a big Rossman fan, said “you fought the perfect fight.” That he did in stopping Galindez in the thirteenth round to win the WBA light heavyweight title.

“That was in September. The following month Lopez was fighting Saad Muhammad in Philly. I went into the dressing room of Lopez before the fight and told him you’re next! As it turned out Saad stopped him in the eleventh round,” said Rossman. It would be 6 months later Saad Muhammad would stop Marvin Johnson for his WBC title.

Rossman’s first defense would be in Philly’s Spectrum 3 months later, the end of 1978 when he stopped the European champion Aldo Traversaro, 44-2-6, of Italy, on cuts in six rounds. In February just 5 months after defeating Galindez the rematch was set for Las Vegas. This would be one of the most unbelievable events and black eyes against boxing what happened that night.

Rossman entered the ring first though the challenger is supposed to do that. Since Galindez hadn’t come out, Rossman did. It didn’t help speed Galindez’s entrance because he refused to come out. Rumors were he wanted to put on “New Skin” to help protect from cutting and was weak from making the weight.

Either way Rossman claims he did not receive “a dime” and Galindez was not suspended or else he would not have been allowed to return 2 months later though in a different state of, LA, where their first fight took place. “I was told by my dad not to try to get any money from the promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank. I got a call from Philly lawyer Mark Stewart to try to get paid but nothing ever came of it. I went from loving boxing to hating boxing,” said Rossman.

This writer received some inside information that the management of Rossman got paid and even tried not paying the trainer “Slim” Jim Robinson. They were told to pay up or else and did. Rossman claims to know nothing about this. Top Rank did not reply to this.

It wasn’t the same Galindez or Rossman in April of 1979. Friend of the family and Reading, PA promoter (lived in Leesport, PA) Lou Lucchesse told this writer he advised Rossman not to give Galindez a rematch. Galindez would take the title back at the end of the ninth round when Rossman couldn’t come out due to a hand injury. Like Rossman said “he was never the same when the Galindez bout was cancelled in February.

This writer looked up Rossman and went to his Turnersville, NJ, home advising him not to get rid of trainer “Slim” Jim Robinson as rumored. Rossman had a cast on his hand at the time. Rumors were he hurt it before the fight and was pushed into fighting.

It would be 5 months later when Rossman returned to the ring against Mexican Ramon Ranquello, 13-6-2, fighting out of Union City, NJ. The fight was held in Giants Stadium with Rocky Lockridge and Gerald Hayes state title bout as co-feature. “I dropped him a couple of times but the referee (Paul Venti) didn’t stop it. In the seventh round when he hurt me the referee waved it off,” said Rossman. He seeked a rematch but couldn’t get it. Ranquello took a small fight and then Michael Spinks instead.

It would be 10 months before Rossman returned to the ring winning a pair of fights before meeting Luke Capuano, 19-2, in Chicago. “It was a packed house,” said Rossman. He would win by split decision in November of 1980 and again in the rematch with Capuano in his next fight over National television.

In May of 1981 Rossman took on future WBC Light heavyweight and WBA Cruiserweight champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi, 13-1-1, in Atlantic City. “The Camden Buzzsaw” had won 12 in a row including reversing his only loss to Johnny Davis. The future Hall of Famer was at the top of his game winning in 7 rounds.

It would be almost 2 years before Rossman came back in April of 1983 winning 4 bouts in a row all in Atlantic City thru November of 1983. “I got cut under the chin in training and the doctor said he couldn’t let me fight. I told him I can beat him anyway,” said Rossman. It would mark the last of Mike “the Jewish Bomber” Rossman’s career!

Rossman ended up 44-7-3 with 27 knockouts. He is in both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Hall of Fame’s. Between Philly (7-0-1), Scranton (7-0), MSG 9-0 and Atlantic City (10-1) he was 33-1-1.

“I owe a lot to Steve Traitz, Sr. I love the guy. He saw me and hired me on the spot for Local #30 roofers out of Atlantic City. Without him I wouldn’t have a pension,” said Rossman. Traitz has helped many people and many boxers having run the Montgomery County Boys Club, in Eagleville, outside of Philadelphia.

“I took my son to the gym and he did quite well one day with a professional. As I was taking him back to his mother’s he was staring at me in the rear mirror. I asked him what was the matter and he went on to tell me how he could kick my butt. I told him the next time when I pick you up we’ll spar. I gave him a whipping. After I dropped him off at his mother’s place. No sooner I got in the door of my place the phone was ringing. His mother was asking me what I did to her son,” said Rossman. I call that tough love.

Rossman joined us the following day at the PA HOF dinner. He stayed with former Philly boxer Billy Abel, Jr. the night before so he could make it on time! Rossman was a smash hit. He got announced by MC Nino Del Buono and the people would not leave him alone for autographs. Everyone wanted to talk to him.

Rossman got a group picture with 2 of the inductees, Jerry “The Bull” Martin, Richie Kates, and and former champion Matthew Saad Muhammad who was already an inductee along with Rossman. You would never know they battled each other in the gym or the ring! Vic deWysocki who filmed the event said “the man looks like a movie star!”

“I wanted to fight Jose Canseco in Atlantic City in July of 2008. I told the promoter Damion Feldman I could sell the ball park out. I would walk across the bridge from my house, knock him out and walk back home without breaking a sweat,” said Rossman. It seems Feldman took an “easier fight” against former Philadelphia Eagle and sportscaster Vai Sickahema who stopped Canseco in the first round. This writer was there. Speaking of Feldman, his father, Marty, was introduced as the first “Jewish Bomber” at the dinner and Rossman as the second. I can’t imagine what Feldman and Rossman would be worth if they fought on the same card today! Feldman and Rossman sounds like a pair of Jewish attorneys!

Rossman attended the unveiling of the Joey Giardello statue in South Philadelphia the following week-end on May 21st. The fans still never forgot Giardello who fought them all. He became middleweight champion beating Dick Tiger. He had fought a draw with Gene Fullmer and was robbed of the title that time.

Both Rossman and Matthew Saad Muhammad became champions and had many a sparring sessions at the Juniper Gym. Rossman and Muhammad would have packed them in wherever they fought. Both were given jobs with Local #30 by Traitz when they retired from boxing. Rossman learned his trade in the gyms of Philadelphia like so many champions (30) from Philly did. Rossman may have been called “The Jewish Bomber” but the Italian came out of him in the ring!

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