While some athletes are known to be Jewish only because of their Jewish-sounding last names, others wear their Jewish identity on their shirtsleeves – or, in the case of Alphonse Halimi, on his boxing shorts. 

Born in Constantine, Algeria, on February 18, 1932, Halimi was the World Bantamweight* Boxing Champion from 1957-59 and 1960-61. He was the youngest son of a postal worker, and the family was extremely poor. A childhood runaway at the age of 10, Halimi ended up in Algiers and was eventually adopted (and apprenticed) by a tailor. His first fights were on the street with other boys. His natural talent was noticed, and he began to train at the Mouloudia Gymnasium.

When Halimi began competing in amateur matches, he was noted for the shorts on which he had sewn a red and green Star of David. His amateur successes gained him notice that brought him to France, where he won the amateur title in 1953, 1954 and 1955 (when he also won the title Champion of the Mediterranean Games). It was time to “turn pro.”

Nicknamed “la Petite Terreur” (little terror), Halimi won many championship matches across Europe and in America. In June 1962, Halimi participated in the first professional boxing match in Israel, when he fought and defeated Italian boxer Piero Rollo.

At the time of his retirement in 1964, Halimi had 41 recorded wins (21 by knockout), 8 losses and 1 draw. After concluding his professional career, he worked as a trainer and as a swimming instructor. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by Charles de Gaulle, and was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Halimi died of pneumonia on November 12, 2006.

*115 – 118 lbs

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