Jack Portney, 80, fighter, sports entrepreneur, dies

February 13, 1991

Services for Jack Portney, who retired from the sporting goods business after a career as a welterweight fighter in which he once had been ranked third in the nation, will be held at 9 a.m. today at Sol Levinson and Bros. funeral establishment, 6010 Reisterstown Road.

Mr. Portney, 80, a resident of the Belvedere Towers Apartments, died Monday at the Baltimore County General Hospital after a long illness.

He retired nearly 40 years ago from Jack Portney's Sporting Goods, which had evolved from a billiard and bowling supply company he bought in 1939.

He also had operated a chain of billiard parlors in the Baltimore area.

In 1938, he retired from the ring after a 12-year career, first as a lightweight, then as a welterweight.

In 1936, on his second trip to fight in Australia, he won that nation's welterweight championship.

However, he never got a chance for a title fight in the United States, though he had defeated six former champions and felt he could have won if given the chance.

He blamed it on the unwillingness of the champions to fight a southpaw and said in a 1965 interview that by the time he quit, he knew, "I never would get the opportunity."

To get a match at Madison Square Garden, he had to switch and fight right-handed, but he was popular in the Baltimore area, filling Old Oriole Park.

After leaving the ring, he trained other fighters and was licensed in 1956 as a promoter of boxing matches in Maryland.

A native of Horochow, Russia, who was reared in Baltimore, he was given an award at a 1960 sports boosters banquet.

Mr. Portney, who was admitted to the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976, also had been similarly honored in Florida.

He is survived by his wife, the former Berdie Merenbloom; a son, Nathan N. Portney of Baltimore; a daughter, Marlene A. Katz of Baltimore; two brothers, Sol Portney of Hallandale, Fla., and Samuel Portney of Baltimore; a sister, Tillie Tillis of Pikesville; and five granddaughters.

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