Cletus Seldin, an up and coming Jewish boxer who picked the moniker ’Hebrew Hammer,’ has shown great promise since he launched his professional boxing career last year. The welterweight, who averages a 143 pound weigh in remains undefeated in eight fights. Remarkably, for a modern era Jewish fighter six of his wins came by way of knockout, two of which, including one last weekend, were executed in the first found.
Seldin was born in September 1986 to father Harry, nicknamed “the Iron Man,” in East Yaphank, Long Island. Seldin’s grandfather Lee owned a motorcycle club, the Dragons, in Brooklyn during the 50’s and was known around town as a strongman. “My grandfather was a tough Jewish kid; you never looked him in the eyes without him giving you trouble” said Seldin in an interview with The Algemeiner. “I’m the same height, same build as him; I definitely inherited his gift” added Cletus in a heavy and endearing New York accent.
Cletus is named after Clete Boyer, an ex-Yankee third baseman and a friend of his grandparents. The rare name often confuses people, strangers usually expect a southerner when they meet him for the first time. “I’m the only person not from south named Cletus,” he told The Algemeiner, laughing.
Now 25, Seldin started boxing in his early twenties, a late start for a boxing career. “Some kids start fighting at eight years old” said Cletus. “I played three sports in high school… As soon as it was over, I started working. I always wanted to be a professional athlete.” To help accomplish that goal, Cletus has surrounded himself with an all-star management team, most of which is Jewish. “My brother graduated from Columbia in Nutrition, so he has me covered in the food department, and my trainer Pete Brodsky is also Jewish” said Seldin. “My trainer is a boxing guru. At one point he trained over twenty pro fighters at one gym” said Cletus, adding “my manager is also Jewish.”
All of which influences his thoroughly Jewish persona. “I wear a Star of David on my trunks and my jacket, just like the old Jewish fighters” said Cletus, “and on the back of the jacket it says ‘Remember the Masada.’” He is referring to the legacy of the twenties and thirties, when New York played host to a golden age of Jewish boxing. Featuring such giants as Benny “The Great” Leonard, ranked by some as the #1 lightweight of all time, and Barney Ross, a world champion in three weight divisions. “In the city, Jewish boxing was huge, it was one of the top spots for the Jewish fighters” says Seldin. On this legacy, which he calls a “heritage with being tough,” Cletus bases his boxing style. “Put pressure on the fighter, working at my ability, always working to always put pressure, to wear the fighter down” says Cletus.
This juggernaut style sets Cletus apart from other big name contemporary Jewish fighters, such as Yuri Foreman and Dmitriy Salita, who fight with techniques considered modern. “Their style is complicated strategy, avoid punches… My style is old school, a rugged Jewish fighter from back then” said Cletus. “Win, lose, or draw, you fight as hard as you can and that’s what matters.”
That old-time doggedness and determined resilience has earned Cletus a strong following, who sometime dub him “the Throwback Kid” instead of “the Hebrew Hammer.” It has also impressed boxing experts, despite his relatively short career so far. Boxing sites have called Cletus’ knockouts “stunning” and praised his “tremendous right hand.” The icing comes from ESPN, who named Cletus “one to put on your watch list in the coming years.”
A video of Seldin’s latest first round knockout is posted below: