Becky O'Neill

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Born: Rebecca Ruth Birenbaum in 1924, Philadelphia, PA
Died: July 1, 2005, Philadelphia

"KO" Becky O'Neill was a boxing manager in Philadelphia, best known for working with WBA Bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler.

O'Neill was the daughter of Phillip Birenbaum, a Russian who fled Russia after his family of seven children had been killed in the Bolshevik Revolution. Birenbaum relocated to South Philadelphia, and started another family of seven children. Becky, who was dimunitive in size (4-7, 82 pounds), began working in vaudeville under the name "Tiny Barron." Working with comedians Al Fisher and Lou Marks, she toured the United States, and once won the National Jitterbug championship.

The advent of television brought upon the decline of vaudeville during the early 1950s, and O'Neill returned to Philadelphia. She then married Willie O'Neill, a boxing fan, who would introduce her to the sport that he loved.

In the mid-1970s a young Bantamweight with one career fight named Jeff Chandler was in need of a manager, after the disappearance of his original manager Arnold Giovanetti. Chandler asked his friend Willie O'Neill if he could come to his aid. Willie agreed to help Chandler, as his trainer and adviser. However, O'Neill had a criminal record. Realizing the difficulty he would face with the commission attempting to get licensed, he turned to his wife, Becky, to take on the role of Chandler's manager.

Chandler would go on to achieve great success under the tutelage of the O'Neills, capturing the WBA Bantamweight title in 1980. Becky O'Neill would often be seen at ringside wearing pigtails and carrying an oversized American flag. At weigh-ins, O'Neill would also serve up a special beef broth for Chandler and other Philly fighters like Matthew Saad Muhammad.

After Chandler retired in 1984, due to cataracts, O'Neill would remain a fixture at Philadelphia fight cards until the death of her husband Willie in 1994. In her later years, O'Neill became more reclusive, before dying in 2005 after a long illness.

Source: Philadelphia Daily News: July 27, 2005