Former bantamweight champion dies in Paris, France

Former bantamweight champion of the world, Alphonse Halimi, died Sunday in Paris, France at the age of 74 from pneumonia. At the time of his death, Halimi was living in a residential home where he was supported in part by the French Boxing Federation.

The youngest of 18 children born to Orthodox Jews, Halimi was born in 1932 in Constantine, Algeria. When I was a boy, remembered Halimi, I had no bed on which to sleep. Nor did any of my brothers and sisters. We all had to sleep on the hard floor because our parents were poor. It was not until I turned professional that I really knew what it meant to have a square meal regularly and to sleep as most people do in a bed with a mattress and pillows.

Halimi ran away from home when he was ten and learned how to fight in the treacherous back alleys of the casbah. Two years later, Halimi was fighting in the amateurs and making a name for himself. He won the French Amateur bantamweight title in 1953, 1954 and 1955.

Following the lead of his countryman, the late, great Marcel Cerdan, Halimi, though only 5-foot-3, turned pro and compiled a record of 41-8-1 (21 KOs) during his decade long career.

He won the crown in April 1957 when he outpointed Mario d’Agata, a deaf mute from Tuscany, over 15 rounds.

His reign as the world champion came to an end two years later in L.A. when Mexico’s Joe Becerra scored a KO in the ninth.

Halimi won the European title from Freddie Gilroy in London in 1960, but the beginning of the end was fast approaching. Irishman Johnny Caldwell won the Euro belt from Halimi one year later.

Halimi regained the crown in 1962 in Tel Aviv, the first professional bout ever staged in Israel, by outpointing the Piero Rollo over 15 rounds, but lost the rematch to Rollo in Italy, signaling the end of his ring career.

Alphonse Halimi used to say he was married to boxing. After he hung up his gloves, he settled in Paris and worked as a swimming instructor. Halimi also managed a brasserie, a job awarded him by the French National Sports Institute.