Young Perez: Tragic Tale of Boxing’s Youngest Champion

Victor “Young” Perez, a Tunisian Jewish boxer, etched his name in the annals of boxing history by becoming the youngest world champion at the tender age of 20. His meteoric rise to fame was marked by unwavering determination and an indomitable spirit that captivated audiences worldwide.

Born in 1911 in the French colony of Tunisia, Perez grew up in modest circumstances, honing his skills in the Makkabi organization alongside his older brother Benjamin “Kid” Perez. Driven by a burning desire to emulate his idol, the Senegalese champion Battling Siki, Perez left his homeland in 1927 and ventured to Paris, where his boxing journey truly began.

In 1931, Perez claimed the French Flyweight title, setting the stage for his most significant triumph. On October 24 of the same year, he faced the reigning American champion Frankie Genaro in a bout that would etch his name in boxing lore. With lightning-fast reflexes and relentless aggression, Perez delivered a devastating right hook that floored Genaro in the second round, securing the International Boxing Union’s World Flyweight crown.

Perez’s reign as the youngest world champion was short-lived, as he lost the title a year later to Jackie Brown in a hard-fought 12-round battle. Undeterred, he transitioned to the bantamweight division, but his athletic prowess waned, and he retired in 1938 with an impressive record of 92 wins, 28 knockouts, 26 losses, and 15 draws.

Tragically, Perez’s life took a devastating turn during World War II. In 1943, he was arrested in Paris and deported to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. There, he endured unimaginable horrors, forced to participate in boxing matches for the amusement of Nazi officers. Perez’s indomitable spirit shone through even in the darkest of times, as he became one of the mere 31 survivors out of the original 1,000 prisoners in his transport.

As the Russian forces advanced, the Nazis abandoned Auschwitz in January 1945, subjecting Perez and other prisoners to a grueling death march. On January 21, 1945, at the age of 33, Perez’s life was tragically cut short, either by a guard’s bullet or sheer exhaustion, his dreams and legacy forever etched in the hearts of those who witnessed his extraordinary journey.

Young Perez’s story is a poignant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of determination in the face of adversity. His legacy transcends the boxing ring, serving as an inspiration to generations of athletes and individuals who dare to dream against all odds.


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