By Dean Smith

As a young boy in East Baltimore, Phillip Levin got to know his grandfather, Benny Levin. Sometimes Benny, a cab driver who could barely make ends meet, would give his grandson a cigar band or a pull tab and tell him it was a ring.

“Stop giving him trash,” Phillip recalled his grandmother telling her husband. “He’s going to cut his finger.”

Benny Levin, who came from a large Jewish family, also told his grandson stories about his life as a boxer.

“He was the best of the worst,” Phillip Levin said. “He boxed on Exeter Street near the main post office. It was the Jew vs. the Italian. The Jew vs. the Irish guy. West side vs. east side. Everyone followed their ethnic group. The Jews were always the underdogs. Max Baer was a hero back then in Jewish Baltimore. It was entertainment — not everyone wanted to go to Yiddish theatre.”

Phillip Levin wrestled in high school, became an attorney and started a family of his own. He named his son Benjamin after Benny.

Ben wrestled at McDonogh and won a state title. He wrestled at Navy until a shoulder injury he suffered during his junior year ended his career. Now, he’s getting a new start in the world of MMA.

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