Born and raised in a working class family in Toronto’s immigrant Jewish neighbourhood, Sammy Luftspring aspired to a boxing career after seeing a match at the age of 9. Between 1932 and 1936, Lufspring fought 105 matches with only five losses. He won the Ontario amateur lightweight boxing championship in 1933, at the age of 17.
Luftspring dreamed of competing at the pinnacle of amateur boxing, the Olympics. In June 1936, Luftspring and another Jewish boxer, Norman “Baby” Yack, made it clear that they would compete in the Olympic trials in Montreal and go to Berlin if they made the team.
Within weeks after announcing his willingness to participate in the Olympics, Luftspring changed his mind. Under pressure from family and members of the Jewish community, he joined the boycott and convinced Yack to do the same. They announced their decision in a letter to The Globe on July 7, 1936: “We would have been very low to hurt the feelings of our fellow-Jews by going to a land that would exterminate them if it could.”