Abraham Sobel, 91, master plumber, boxer

December 08, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Abraham Sobel, a retired master plumber and noted amateur boxer, died in his sleep Wednesday at Overlea Garden Nursing Center. The longtime Pikesville resident was 91.

The son of Latvian immigrants, Mr. Sobel was raised above the family's bakery in Baltimore's Little Italy and educated in city schools.

As a youth, he would swim from Pratt Street to Federal Hill and back six times without stopping, according to Ray H. Leonard Jr., past president of the Veterans Boxing Association International Ring 101.

He said that Mr. Sobel would retrieve watermelons and cantaloupes that fell from Eastern Shore produce boats docked along Pratt Street and boat owners would pay him a nickel or a dime.

Mr. Leonard said that, on a dare, Mr. Sobel would climb the steeple of St. Leo's Roman Catholic Church or the Shot Tower and would walk on his hands for six or seven blocks.

Mr. Sobel became a boxer in the early 1920s and worked out at Freddie Barth's gym on Fleet Street.

He was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 95 pounds and was known for being "fast and shifty," Mr. Leonard said.

In 1926, Mr. Sobel had to fight four times in one night, beating Al Martin in the last fight to retain his championship.

"He was the toughest guy I ever fought. I was a little tired from my earlier three fights, but he had to do the same thing, so we were all even," Mr. Sobel told Mr. Leonard.

Mr. Sobel, who had a record of 18-1-1 when he stopped boxing in 1929, was a lifetime member of the Veterans Boxing Association. He was inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame in October.

He was a self-employed master plumber for 47 years and retired in 1983.

Mr. Leonard said that Mr. Sobel's philosophy of life was simple: "If you treat people with kindness, you will be repaid with kindness. Just keep smiling and don't be afraid to take a dare."

Mr. Sobel's marriage to the former Thelma Freedman ended in divorce. In 1938, he married Catherine Crisafulli, who died in 1989.

Services were held Saturday.

He is survived by a son, David Sobel of Baltimore; two daughters, Phyllis Webb and Shirley Bailey, both of Essex; a stepson, Paul Grey of Howard County; 16 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/08/97

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