(WSYR-TV) — 1935. In Washington, FDR was working hard to bring America back from the Depression. In Syracuse, Central New York was welcoming its first world champion and one of its earliest cultural superstars.
He was pictured with people like Jean Harlow, Rude Vallee, Bert Lahr. He was a good looking specimen of a fighter. And people liked him. He was a good personality.Bill Prusinowski
Syracuse-born Eddie ‘Babe’ Risko won the World Middleweight Title in September of 1935 with a win over Teddy Yarosz in Pittsburgh. It was the pinnacle of a boxing career that started in the Navy, and then brought 65 wins with 12 knockouts in 103 professional fights.
Prusinowski still remembers his larger-than-life Uncle Babe, who died in 1957.
We come from a pretty big family, stuck together. The house that I lived in was the homestead for everybody, every time we had a celebration or get-together, family gathering of some kind. I was kind of like a fly on the wall. I was an only child, so I sort of could hone in on whatever I wanted to.Bill Prusinowski
Babe’s named faded after he died when he was only 45. That is, until a couple of years ago, when he was selected to be in the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.
Since then, Prusinowski has tried to keep the memories alive with a new book, “The Babe Risko Story.”
The aural tradition, very important with my mother and father. I guess a got a pretty good memory too because things started to come back as I was doing research.Bill Prusinowski
Like so many fighters of his era, Prusinowski says the Babe’s career was controlled in part by the mob, and it went on too long. But, he says that he got some perspective years ago from Billy Harris, a local legend who spent some 80 years around the game.
I realized there was almost a sort of reverence in his voice, but some admonishment too in his tone. It was like your uncle wasn’t just a fighter. When you’re the champ in boxing, you’re the champ.Bill Prusinowski