The Survivor Harry Haft’s Boxing Career
The movie industry was one of the major victims of the pandemic, but in 2022 Hollywood came out swinging. Movie production is back at full speed, and we have already enjoyed some memorable releases as directors, producers and actors race to make up for lost time.
During the months of lockdown, when many of us spent extended periods of time at home, shielded from the threat of COVID-19, writers had plenty of opportunities to create and work on new projects. From rampaging dinosaurs to the highs and lows of online sportsbooks bonuses and betting, there’s something for everyone.
One of the year’s top releases is the uncomfortable tale of Harry Haft told in the HBO-produced The Survivor. A Jew who survived the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp before becoming a respected professional boxer, fighting for cash and the chance of a better life.
A hard-hitting true story
Even the distraction of the ring and prize fighting isn’t enough to help Harry banish the memories of their dark past. This haunts him into retirement when he is faced with a choice between keeping his demons bottled up and allowing them to break him or sharing the load with his wife and young family.
Directed by Barry Levinson, this biographical drama took the movie industry by storm, landing several respected awards. The Survivor, starring Ben Foster as Haft, Vicky Krieps as Miriam Wofsoniker and Billy Magnussen in the role of Dietrich Schneider, was celebrated at the Primetime Emmy Awards earlier this year, nominated for the Outstanding Television Movie of the year accolade.
The movie is a work of art and serves as a reminder that, in most cases, fact is stranger than fiction. The movie business has covered the horrifying stories of Auschwitz, and Hollywood loves the often ugly side of professional boxing. Tying the two together in Survivor will leave the viewer feeling like they have gone 12 rounds with world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, certainly emotionally. But who was Harry Haft, the boxer? Was he as good as the movie would have us believe, or have his glories been exaggerated for the movie? Read on as we forget The Survivor for now and investigate the facts and results of Haft’s time in the ring.
The Polish puncher’s record
Harry Haft was born in Belchatow, Poland, in 1925 with the name Herschel Haft. In his prime, he stood 5ft 9inches tall, had an orthodox boxing stance and compiled a professional record showing 12 wins against eight defeats, with seven victories coming by way of knockout. In Haft’s eight losses, he was stopped five times as he fought out of Pembroke Pines in Florida, United States, after emigrating.
Harry made his professional boxing debut in August 1948 when scoring a second-round TKO win over Jimmy Letty, an opponent who took that fight with his record of no wins from nine previous outings. Each of his first two bouts finished the same way, ending with victory in round two before he was tested over the distance, winning on points in his third bout over six rounds. Haft went unbeaten in his first ten bouts, winning five inside the distance with the other five wins earned on the scorecards.
Harry suffered his first defeat in fight 11 when losing to Pat O’Connor on points over eight rounds in White Plains. Despite heading into that contest with a 10-0-0 record, Haft was undone by the experience of his opponent, who had a CV consisting of 43 wins, 19 defeats and six draws. Despite winning his next bout by first-round stoppage, the loss to O’Connor was the beginning of a poor run of form, with Haft losing five fights on the bounce between February 1949 and April 1949. We last saw Harry in a professional boxing ring in 1949 when he was KO’d in round three by Rocky Marciano, who was 17-0-0 at the time. The Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence provided the backdrop, and fans in attendance couldn’t have known they were watching a future hall of fame fighter in Marciano and one of the sport’s most remarkable fighters in Jewish concentration camp survivor Harry Haft.