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February 6, 2019
February 6, 2019
Muhammad Ali

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AS 1967 began, world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was in the form of his life but two things were threatening his supremacy. One was the Vietnam conflict. His lawyers were fighting hard to save him from military service but it was a costly saga, and one that damaged his standing in the eyes of many in the late 1960s.

The other, more immediate, threat came in the form of 6ft 6ins WBA boss Ernie Terrell. Widely regarded as an imposter to the throne, the Chicago-born giant was an excellent fighter nonetheless. Before he claimed his title – stripped from Ali for fighting Sonny Liston in a rematch – Terrell had earned his stripes, beating the likes of Cleveland Williams, Bob Foster and Zora Folley. And his record in world title fights was none too shabby either with leading contenders Eddie Machen, George Chuvalo and Doug Jones all being outpointed. Put all those names together, and you have one of the most impressive heavyweight records of the 1960s.

But unfortunately for Terrell, the undefeated 25-year-old – two years removed from answering to Cassius Clay – was a different breed. None of this mattered to Terrell, who had not taken kindly to Ali’s stance on Vietnam, nor his new name.

Terrell, three inches taller, refused to address Ali by his name and promised to beat ‘Cassius Clay’ and unify the title.

But Terrell had known his rival f0r a long time. They had spent time together as amateurs, sparred in Angelo Dundee’s gym, and he had always been Cassius Clay. Terrell would later claim he was calling his opponent Clay out of habit, not disrespect.

Whatever the reason, Ali was outraged.

“You will eat those words, letter by letter,” promised Muhammad before their showdown, staged at Houston’s Astrodome. Terrell’s advantages in height and reach persuaded some that the underdog had a chance, but it was no contest at all. For the first eight rounds, Ali dominated from distance, and punished Terrell up close. A stoppage looked imminent such was Muhammad’s supremacy but he seemed to feed off his rival’s pain, and suspended the beating for the full 15 rounds, winning a lopsided decision.

“What is my name?” a maniacal Ali screamed at Terrell in the midst of combat. Punches, accurate and powerful, clattered off the beaten man. Ali stepped back. “Who am I?” he demanded, hatred roaring through his words. “What is my name, what is my NAME?”

Ali was roundly criticised for his pitiless behaviour and rightly so.

Terrell fought on until 1973 with mixed results, then found fame in retirement as the lead singer of soul band ‘Ernie Terrell & The Heavyweights’ before returning to boxing as a manager, trainer and promoter in the 1980s. He was involved in the development of world cruiserweight champions Alfonso Ratliff and Lee Roy Murphy, as well as heavyweight contender James “Quick” Tillis.

Unfairly, Terrell – a true gentleman – will always be remembered for his cruel loss to Muhammad Ali, but in one of the greatest eras in world boxing history, big Ernie stood tall.

What happened when Floyd Patterson refused to call Muhammad Ali by his name?

 

February 5, 2019
February 5, 2019
Sugar Ray Leonard

Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports

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1. SUGAR RAY LEONARD vs LUIS VEGA (Baltimore – February 5, 1977):

Olympic light-welterweight gold medallist Sugar Ray Leonard clearly outpointed Puerto Rican Luis “The Bull” Vega in his professional debut over six rounds.

Leonard impressed with his nimble footwork and fast punching. He shook Vega several times but the Puerto Rican kept on doggedly till the end.

2. vs FLOYD MAYWEATHER (Providence – September 9, 1978):

Unbeaten welterweight Leonard stopped compatriot Floyd Mayweather Snr in the 10th and last round to register his 14th successive professional win.

Leonard started cautiously before putting an impressive range of punches together. Mayweather was down twice in the eighth before a left hook to the chin finished the fight in the 10th.

3. vs RANDY SHIELDS (Baltimore – October 7, 1978):

Ray retained his unbeaten professional record when he clearly and unanimously outpointed white American Randy Shields in a 10-round welterweight match.

Shields held an amateur decision over Leonard gained in 1973.

Although Leonard dominated the fight he did not have the power to drop Shields at any stage of the fight.

Footnote: Shields would challenge Pipino Cuevas for the WBA welterweight title the following year and lose on points. He received another crack at the belt in 1981, when Thomas Hearns stopped him, on cuts, in 12.

4. vs ARMANDO MUNIZ (Springfield, Massachussetts – December 9, 1978):

The Olympic gold medallist hammered durable veteran Armando Muniz into defeat on a six rounds corner retirement in the scheduled 10-rounder at the Civic Centre.

Muniz, aged 31 and four-time world welterweight title challenger, was tempted out of retirement by a $40,000 purse for the nationally televised fight and said afterwards it was definitely his last contest.

He had been inactive since being decisively outpointed by Carlos Palomino in a WBC title bout in May and had tried unsuccessfully to get elected to political office in California.

Muniz (10st 11lbs) fought doggedly but always seemed to be waging an uphill struggle. Leonard (10st 9lbs) smacked left jabs with sharp right leads followed by left hooks.

The pattern was set in the opening round when Muniz stumbled after being made to miss with a right and was jabbed and counter-punched as he followed the fleet-footed Leonard around the ring.

By the sixth Muniz was looking bruised and puffy around the eyes. He still went forward but seemed to be having trouble with his left arm and Leonard opened up with a spectacular barrage that had the veteran backing off at the bell.

Muniz said afterwards he had been bothered by the pain in his left elbow during his career and third round against Leonard. He said he had wanted to go on but his corner decided otherwise.

5. vs ADOLFO VIRUET (Las Vegas – April 21, 1979:

The path through the welterweight ranks continued by comfortably outpointing Adolfo Viruet, the New York-based Puerto Rican, in their nationally-televised 10 rounds main event at the Dunes Hotel.

Leonard, from Palmer Park, Maryland, had moments of difficulty with Viruet’s southpaw awkwardness but dominated most of the fight with fast sharp punching. It was his 21st straight win. Judges Hal Miller and Dwayne Ford scored it 48-42 and 47-42 respectively in Leonard’s favour, while judge art Lurie had it surprisingly close at 47-44.

Leonard (10st 4 lbs) floored Viruet (10st 7lbs) for the first time in the Peurto Rican’s career in the fourth when a cracking right hand lead to the chin dropped him on the seat of his pants. Viruet seemed more surprised than hurt and was up at once to take the mandatory eight count on his feet.

By the eighth Viruet had a bruise and a swelling under his right eye, but he had his best round in the ninth, landing a series of right and lefts to the head.

Leonard slipped to his hands and knees but it wasn’t a knockdown. Leonard regained control in the last round, firing flurries of punches in an exciting finish, and Viruet was obliged to defend desperately against the ropes.

Footnote: Viruet had never been stopped. The previous year, 1978, he’d taken Roberto Duran 10 rounds and outpointed Bruce Curry, who would go on to win a ‘world’ light-welterweight title.

6. vs TONY CHIAVERINI (Las Vegas – June 24, 1979): 

Leonard unleashed a dazzling variety of punches to halt Tony Chiaverini on a fourth round corner retirement at a packed Caesars Palace in their scheduled 10-rounder.

It was Leonard’s 23rd successive win and former Olympic champion form Palmer Park, Maryland, plans to box twice more before he meets Wilfred Benitez at an undecided venue on December 1 for the WBC welterweight title.

Chiaverini, a southpaw from Kansas City didn’t go down but had been punched to a standstill. He had a cut and swelling under his right eye and the right side of his mouth was cut and puffy from Leonard’s sharp left jabs and foiled hooks.

Leonard (10st 11lbs) dominated every round of the nationally televised bout with his superior speed, classy boxing and stiff punching.

Footnote: Chiaverini was far more experienced than Leonard and had been stopped only once previously – in eight by middleweight Bennie Briscoe in 1978.

7. vs PETE RANZANY (Las Vegas – August 12, 1979):

Sugar Ray captured his first major pro title by hammering Pete Ranzany into spectacular defeat in the fourth round at a packed Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion to win the North American Boxing Federation welterweight championship.

Ranzany, the defending champion from Sacramento, was floored for the mandatory eight count by a dazzling sequence of punches in the fourth and Leonard hit him without reply until referee Joey Curtis halted the slaughter at 2-41 of the round.

READ this next: Why Leonard could not look himself in the mirror after challenging Wilfred Benitez

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February 5, 2019
February 5, 2019
Sugar Ray Robinson

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1. SUGAR RAY ROBINSON – or Ray “Sugar” Robinson as the International News Service called him at time – was a 3-1 favourite to repeat his victory over Jake LaMotta inside Detroit’s Olympia Stadium on February 5, 1943. The pair had fought in October the previous year, with welterweight Robinson using his substantial skill to deservedly outscore the bullish LaMotta over 10 rounds.

2. THE rematch was hosted by promoter Nick Londes at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium. The show was a sell-out with 18,930 fans attending to set a new record for the venue and Detroit’s biggest fight night since world heavyweight champion Joe Louis defeated Abe Simon two years before.

3. ROBINSON, based in New York, had never tasted defeat going into this contest, although the length of his win streak differs depending on the source. Ring Magazine had his run as high as 169 bouts (including 129 amateur bouts), although newspapers of the time recorded Robinson’s amateur record as 89-0 – making this bout his 130th.

4. LAMOTTA was naturally the bigger man and came in 16 pounds heavier than his rival at 160 1/2lbs. As well as being heavier, the underdog had won five since the loss to Robinson – including wins over California Jackie Wilson and Jimmy Edgar – that made some believe he could upset the odds in the return.

5. BUT former Detroit newsboy Robinson – who headed east to find fistic fame – was favourite for good reason. As an amateur and pro he had scored at least, depending on which source you believe, 56 wins in the opening round. At this point Robinson, chasing the welterweight title, was revered as much for his punching power as he was his exceptional boxing ability.

6. LIKE the first fight, the slick Robinson boxed well and at the halfway mark of the 10-rounder appeared on course to repeat his success.

7. BUT LaMotta refused to be denied and worked his way inside. At the end of the eighth, Jake broke through and knocked his opponent out of the ring. “Robinson lay sprawling out of the ring from a hard right to the body and a left to the head and the count was nine when the bell rang, saving the negro lad from a knockout,” The Miami Times reported.

8. ROBINSON fought back bravely in rounds nine and 10, going toe-to-toe with LaMotta over the final six minutes. But he ran into trouble again in the last seconds only for the bell to come to his rescue again.

9. LAMOTTA was rightfully adjudged the victor at the final bell with scores 52-47 (from referee Sam Hennessy), 57-49 and 55-45 all going in his favour. The Miami Times blamed Robinson’s machismo for the first loss in his career, writing: “He tried to slug it out with the bundle of dynamite from the Bronx and consequently had one of the most sensational winning streaks in the history of boxing rudely interrupted.”

10. ROBINSON would regain supremacy in their feud just three weeks later when he decisioned LaMotta (again over 10) at the same venue. The pair would clash six times in all, with Sugar losing only one. In fact, it would be eight years before Robinson would lose again when Britain’s Randolph Turpin stunned the world in July 1951 via 15-round decision. By then, Robinson had won and relinquished the world welterweight title before winning the middleweight championship (from LaMotta in their final meeting) in February 1951.

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February 4, 2019
February 4, 2019
Oscar De La Hoya

Action Images/Reuters/R Marsh Starks

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AN Olympic gold medallist and six-weight world champion from super-featherweight to middleweight, Oscar De La Hoya’s ring moniker of the “Golden Boy” well and truly befitted the man.

A Californian of Mexican descent, De La Hoya – born February 4, 1973 – is the highest grossing boxer in history, generating just short of $700 million in pay-per-view income.

After striking gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and winning well over 200 bouts as an amateur, the East Los Angeles resident picked up his first professional world title in his 12th outing, stopping the then-unbeaten WBO super-featherweight champion Jimmi Bredahl in 10 rounds.

World successes at lightweight and light-welterweight followed, before Oscar outpointed Pernell Whitaker in 1997 to claim the WBC welter crown. It was at this weight that De La Hoya suffered his first pro defeat, losing a disputed majority decision to IBF ruler Felix Trinidad in what was one of the biggest pay-per-view events in history.

Whilst operating at light-middleweight, the US Olympian contested a memorable world unification battle against the fiery Fernando Vargas. Oscar secured the victory with an 11th round stoppage after dropping his Oxnard rival with a thunderous left hook.

During the same year in which he defeated Vargas (2002), De La Hoya also established his own boxing promotional company; Golden Boy Promotions. Today, the outfit remains one of the premier corporations of its kind.

A move up to middleweight saw the “Golden Boy” secure the WBO title over Felix Sturm, although Bernard Hopkins wrested the belt from his grasp three months later with a savage body blow in round nine.

His final world championship win came at light-middleweight, where he returned from a 20 month lay-off to stop Ricardo Mayorga in six sessions. Despite subsequently losing to Floyd Mayweather Jnr (via tight split decision) and Manny Pacquiao (weight drained, he would be stopped after eight) in two monster box office bonanzas, De La Hoya’s golden legacy has lived on since he retired from the ring in 2009.

Oscar De La Hoya
De La Hoya vs Vargas

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February 2, 2019
February 2, 2019
Max Schmeling

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IT was the fate of Max Schmeling to illustrate to the world that no matter how hard an athlete tries, it is sometimes impossible to avoid the influence of world politics on sport.

Schmeling knew, following his 1936 knockout of Joe Louis, that his ambitions as a boxer were being railroaded by the Nazi Party, but what could he do about it? Very little.

Schmeling, who died on February 2, 2005 in his home town of Hollenstadt near Hamburg at the age of 99, withstood considerable pressure to sack his Jewish manager, Joe Jacobs, even explaining his case to Adolf Hitler at a private hearing.

Hitler was not amused. These were confused, hard-to-comprehend times, and it is far too easy for us to sit here in 2005 and judge ordinary men for their instincts of the moment in that bizarre, dangerous era.

However, it should not be forgotten that in 1937 Schmeling turned down the Nazis’ Dagger Of Honour… or that, while Jews were being herded into and starved in ghettos and concentration camps, Jacobs gave the Nazi salute during the anthem when Max beat Ben Foord in Hamburg in 1938.

From the moment Schmeling knocked out the unbeaten Joe Louis in the 12th round at Yankee Stadium in 1936 until their rematch two years later, he was the hero of the Third Reich.

Even before the end of his 124-second thrashing by Louis in their rematch for the title in June 1938, the broadcast of the fight to Germany was taken off the air and replaced by classical music. He was a non-person again.

Of course, the Schmeling story did not begin or end with the influence and shadow of the Nazis.

Max Adolph Otto Schmeling was born on September 28, 1905 in the village of Klein Luckow in the Uckermark region about 40 miles north of Berlin.

When he was a child, the family moved to Hamburg and by the age of 18 he was a professional boxer.

At 19, he was beaten in two rounds by Larry Gains, but by the time he was 22 he had won the German and European light-heavyweight, and German heavyweight, titles.

At 23, he was boxing in the United States. Following the retirement of Gene Tunney in 1929, Schmeling, who had stopped Johnny Risko in nine and outpointed Paolino Uzcudun to earn a reputation as a rising star, was matched with Jack Sharkey for the vacant championship.

Some tend to think of this era as a lull between the great days of Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis, and they have a point, but we should not underestimate the drawing power of men like Schmeling and Sharkey.

When they disputed the championship at Yankee Stadium, New York, in June 1930, almost 80,000 fans turned out to watch. They saw an unsatisfactory end, but history made.

In the fourth Sharkey hit Schmeling low and was disqualified. Max was carried to his corner as the new champion of the world. In the dressing room, initially, he did not want to accept the championship but was persuaded that he had won it within the rules and he did so.

The New York State Athletic Commission for a time withheld his purse and refused to inscribe his name on the Muldoon Trophy. Eventually, they relented under pressure and medical evidence – a doctor confirmed the bruising to Schmeling’s groin and former champions Tunney, Dempsey and Tommy Burns said the victory was legitimate.

Schmeling expected a rematch with Sharkey, or a fight with Dempsey, who had been boxing exhibition tours, but eventually defended against William “Young” Stribling in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1931. Stribling fought hard and rough, but Schmeling wore him down and stopped him with 14 seconds left in the 15th and final round.

Then he agreed to the rematch with Sharkey at the Long Island Bowl, the outdoor arena owned by Madison Square Garden, in June 1932.

Frankin D. Roosevelt, the Governor of New York, visited him in training camp, had a conversation with him in German and told him: “I love Germany, I know it well.”

After Roosevelt became president in 1933, they continued to exchange letters and gifts.

However, the second Sharkey fight was another controversial affair. Schmeling outboxed the American only to lose the decision.

Jacobs was furious and yelled angrily into the microphone: “We wuz robbed. We shoulda stood in bed!”

At ringside Tunney called the decision a scandal and a disaster for the sport. One writer said of 25 journalists he asked, 23 thought Schmeling had won.

He returned home and married the actress, Anny Ondra, a relationship that lasted more than 50 years. Six months after the Sharkey fight, Hitler became Reich Chancellor of Germany.

Schmeling stopped the amazing former world welter and middleweight champion Mickey Walker, who had been campaigning as a heavyweight, in eight rounds. However, a shattering 10th-round defeat by Max Baer in June 1933 put him out of the picture. A points defeat by Steve Hamas in Philadelphia dropped him further down the ladder and he returned to Germany.

A rematch with Uzcudun in Barcelona was drawn, but he beat Walter Neusel, Hamas and Uzcudun in Germany, during which the Nazis made their persistent but unsuccessful attempts to dissuade him from using Jacobs.

Then in June 1936 Schmeling returned to New York to box the precocious, brilliant, 22-year-old Louis before 40,000 fans in Yankee Stadium. The German was supposed to be the fall guy, the stepping stone, but he had watched Louis beat Uzcudun and noticed his tendency to drop his left hand when he doubled his jab.

Schmeling began cautiously, survived a bad third round and then lured Louis on to a clean right cross that hurt him. Another one shortly afterwards sent him staggering across the ring and a third put him down.

Louis stayed in the fight, rallied in the seventh, but had his knees buckled again in round eight. This time he didn’t recover and in the 12th, at the end of a systematic beating, right hands bounced off Louis’ unprotected head. One spun him around and he fell by the ropes, knocked out.

There were riots in Harlem but in his hotel suite Schmeling sat, surrounded by flowers, reading telegrams of congratulations from Marlene Dietrich, Primo Carnera… and Adolf Hitler.

He was flown home on the Hindenburg airship to a tumultuous welcome at Frankfurt airport. Within days he had met Hitler again, this time with his wife and moth- er, and together they watched the film of the fight, which Schmeling had brought home.

Amazingly, he held the overseas rights himself. Hitler had it made into a documentary, which included the full fight footage, which was screened in cinemas across Germany. This was also the year of the Olympic Games in Berlin, which the Nazis also used as a propaganda tool.

The Third Reich couldn’t help him get a world title fight. He signed to box the champion, James J Braddock, but the American instead opted to take a fantastic offer to defend against Louis, who of course beat him in 1937.

Schmeling didn’t get another fight until December 1937, when he knocked out Harry Thomas in eight rounds. Even Thomas got a world title shot before he did.

Back in Germany he beat Ben Foord and Steve Dudas, as Hitler annexed Austria and accelerated the rate of imprisonment in death camps of those who opposed the Reich or who were considered inadequates. In the same spring, British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, formed an agreement with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini that included recognition of Italy’s “annexation” of Abyssinia (Ethiopia).

“The clouds of mistrust and suspicion have been cleared away,” said Chamberlain. As I said, these were confusing times.

When Schmeling returned to New York for the rematch with Louis at Yankee Stadium on 22 June 1938, he found the atmosphere horribly changed. He was not, now, a boxer, but a representative of a political regime.

As the ship, the Bremen, docked in New York, protesters lined the harbour with placards calling him a Nazi and an Aryan Show Horse. If he left his hotel, he was taunted on the streets with mock-Nazi salutes. Hate mail arrived by the sack-load.

Louis also recalled that some members of the American version of the Nazis, the Bund, appeared at his train- ing camp to watch him work, and to laugh. Over an apparently unrelated issue, involving heavyweight Tony Galento, Joe Jacobs was barred by the New York Commission from working Schmeling’s corner.

Of course, Yankee Stadium was packed, a seething bowl of noise, with a capacity crowd of more than 70,000, paying more than $1 million. On the way to the ring, surrounded by 25 police officers, Schmeling was pelted with debris. When the bell rang, he seemed to freeze. Louis found him easy to hit, then took him apart with as ruthless a display of punching as any one could wish to see.

It was all over in 124 seconds. Schmeling was down three times and also severely injured by a left hook, which as he twisted around, landed on his back. Peter Wilson, writing for The Daily Mirror, said Max let out a scream that “razored through the surrounding din, half-human, half-animal.”

The punch had split a vertebra.

Before the fight Hitler had cabled Schmeling, addressing him as the new heavyweight champion. After it, his name disappeared from the newspapers. He was in hospital for 10 days, with among the few visitors a representative of the New York Commission, who wanted to know the exact nature of the injury because they were considering withholding his purse for lack of effort!

Schmeling returned to Germany on the Bremen, still confined to bed, and once home was unable to leave his room for six weeks.

He did box again before war broke out, winning the European title in one round against Adolf Heuser in Stuttgart, but then obviously everything went on hold. He was called up to war service, not as expected as a physical training instructor, but as a paratrooper. On his first landing in Crete in May 1941 he landed heavily in a vineyard and, not surprisingly, re-injured his back.

Photographs were published in Germany of him in full battle dress and he was awarded the Iron Cross.

In his autobiography he recounted the absurd story when, able to walk only with the help of two canes, he was given the job of taking a wounded English prisoner to a field hospital. When they had rounded the corner out of sight of his superiors, he said they joined arms to support each other on the journey, and on the way shared an orange.

He was released from the army in 1943.

After the war Schmeling was as broke as most people in the ruined Germany. He returned to the ring on his 42nd birthday in September 1947 and had five fights, but points defeats by Walter Neusel and Richard Vogt persuaded him to stop.

Even so, a career that began in 1924 and ended in 1948 had lasted almost double that of the “Thousand Year Reich”.

For a while he farmed, among other things, mink, and in 1957 was awarded the German franchise for Coca-Cola. In that single move he made a new fortune that made him secure for the rest of his days.

He sought out Louis and they became close friends. As Louis’ health deteriorated, Schmeling helped him out more than once. Eventually, Max retired to Hollenstadt and remained fit and healthy until the Christmas holidays just past, when he caught a heavy cold, and faded away.

max-schmeling-in-later-life

 

February 1, 2019
February 1, 2019
Floyd Patterson

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FLOYD PATTERSON had this left hook that would tear your brains out,” remembered Canadian tough-guy George Chuvalo.

In his long career he had fought the very best of an incredible era and he marked the Patterson bout out as his hardest, more gruelling then twice fighting Muhammad Ali or his encounters with Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

His slugfest with Floyd at Madison Square Garden on February 1, 1965 was explosive and even though the pace dropped later in the fight as both battled through exhaustion, they simply planted their feet and tried to take each other’s heads off.

Patterson scored a unanimous decision, 6-5-1, 7-5, and 8-4 and with a live gate of $166,423.00 and $ 600,000.00 from theatre TV, this, to date, was the richest non-title fight in history and Ring magazine’s fight of the year.

Floyd Patterson

 “I can take it much better than you gentlemen give me credit for,” 30-year-old Patterson told the assembled journalists after standing up to some ferocious punishment.

“Although both boxers took a severe beating they were well paid for their efforts in the richest non-title fight ever staged,” said Boxing News.

“It seemed in the sixth, seventh and eighth rounds that Floyd Patterson might possibly be stopped for he appeared to be tiring under the terrific pace. But in the ninth he came back and gave Chuvalo a boxing and punching lesson.”

The 28-year-old Canadian hardman, who stalked Floyd throughout, finished with his right eye closed, cuts above and below his left eye and in the middle of his forehead.

Technical difficulties meant that those who had hoped to watch the fight in parts of Canada were blacked out until the 10th round, with refunds given to more than 2,300 fans in Vancouver and another 1,400 in Victoria. Police were called in Vancouver to quell rows between angry fans.

January 31, 2019
January 31, 2019
Jersey Joe Walcott

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IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…

IN our July 11, 1951 edition, we previewed the third meeting between heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles and veteran challenger Jersey Joe Walcott: “If Jersey Joe Walcott never gets any further than having made five attempts to win the world’s heavyweight title, he will have established a record on that fact alone. Twice he has fought Joe Louis for the championship; twice he has gone in against Charles. Next Wednesday, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, he meets the ‘Cincinnati Flash’ for the third time over 15 rounds. This is Old Joe’s last fling – it must be. He will be 38 next January, whereas Charles is 29. The closest Walcott has come to winning the title was that first time when he met Louis.”

On that night, in December 1947, Walcott lost by split decision and “for the first time in his career, Louis left the ring amid boos.” We believed that “had Walcott stood in and traded punches in the final round he might have clinched the verdict. But he retreated throughout the session with Louis in hot pursuit and all he achieved was the distinction of making Joe miss more than he had ever done before.”

So convinced was the editor of Police Gazette, as we later reported, he went to the extreme of announcing that: “Jersey Joe is to be presented with a $2,500 diamond-studded belt, emblematic of the world’s heavyweight title.”

Louis won the rematch six months later, announced his retirement and relinquished his title. A year on, Walcott was matched against Charles for the vacant NBA title, but lost by unanimous decision. In March 1951, Charles outpointed him again, this time for the undisputed title. After 21 years in the ring it seemed Jersey Joe simply wasn’t destined to ever wear the real belt. Then on July 18, 1951, as yet again he challenged Charles, we were given a fairytale ending: “Before 28,000 fans, the wily old veteran tossed over a neat left hook in the seventh round and his dream had come true. The winning punch exploded against the champion’s chin and Charles dropped flat on his face. He tried hard to pull himself up and seemed to have been on the point of beating the count, then tumbled on his back in a neutral corner. As soon as the fight was over pandemonium reigned in the arena. The ring was flooded with officials, cameramen and ringside spectators, while Jersey Joe wept with happiness and the deposed champion sat on his stool in bewilderment.”

Jersey Joe Walcott

Walcott, whose real name was Arnold Raymond Cream, took the ring name Jersey Joe Walcott as a tribute to the welterweight Joe Walcott, the Barbados Demon.

Having become the oldest man in history to win the heavyweight championship, Jersey Joe then became the oldest to defend it, once again facing – and defeating – his old adversary and 3-1 favourite Charles. “Without any doubt,” we stated, “Walcott is a fistic wonder, not so much on his boxing skill, but on the fact of his age – he is 39 next birthday on his own admission – and his excellent physical condition.”
Walcott’s 23-year-long career finally came to an end following two consecutive knockout defeats by Rocky Marciano.

“Age doesn’t seem to matter with this clean-living athlete,” wrote BN editor Gilbert Odd. “When I talked to him in New York he maintained that it was the life we lead in our ’teens that dictates condition in middle age. There is no doubt that Walcott is an amazingly conditioned athlete. After 23 years in the ring, he can still go 15 rounds at a pace that outstrips many a younger man. Even his enemies have to acknowledge that he is the most astonishing of all the heavyweight champions.”

After his boxing career, Walcott worked as a referee until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. His most famous, and infamous, assignment was the controversial Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston rematch in Lewiston, Maine on May 25, 1965 that was an utter shambles from beginning to end.

He devoted most of his retirement days to directing special projects for the New Jersey State Department of Community Affairs, aiding handicapped and retarded children.


Jersey Joe Walcott, never forgotten.

Born: Jan 31, 1914, Merchantville, NJ, Died: Feb 25, 1994 (aged 80), Debut: Sep 9, 1930, Weight: heavyweight, Record: 51-18-2 (32)