Ezzard Charles

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Ezzard Charles
Statistics
Real nameEzzard Mack Charles
Nickname(s)Cincinnati Cobra
Rated atMiddleweight
Light Heavyweight
Heavyweight
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Reach73 in (185 cm)
NationalityAmerican
Born(1921-07-07)July 7, 1921
Lawrenceville, Georgia
DiedMay 28, 1975(1975-05-28) (aged 53)
Chicago, Illinois
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights119
Wins93
Wins by KO52
Losses25
Draws1
No contests0
 
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Ezzard Charles
Statistics
Real nameEzzard Mack Charles
Nickname(s)Cincinnati Cobra
Rated atMiddleweight
Light Heavyweight
Heavyweight
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Reach73 in (185 cm)
NationalityAmerican
Born(1921-07-07)July 7, 1921
Lawrenceville, Georgia
DiedMay 28, 1975(1975-05-28) (aged 53)
Chicago, Illinois
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights119
Wins93
Wins by KO52
Losses25
Draws1
No contests0

Ezzard Mack Charles (July 7, 1921–May 28, 1975) was an American professional boxer and former World Heavyweight Champion.

He defeated numerous Hall of Fame fighters in three different weight classes. Charles retired with a record of 93 wins, 25 losses and 1 draw.

Contents

Career

He was born in Lawrenceville, Georgia, but is commonly thought of as a Cincinnatian.[1] Charles graduated from Woodward High School in Cincinnati where he was already becoming a well-known fighter.[2] Known as "The Cincinnati Cobra", Charles fought many notable opponents in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, eventually winning a championship in the latter. Although he never won the Light Heavyweight title, The Ring has rated him as the greatest light heavyweight of all time.[3]

Charles started his career as a featherweight in the amateurs, where he had a record of 42-0. In 1938, he won the Diamond Belt Middleweight Championship. He followed this up in 1939 by winning the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament of champions. He won the national AAU Middleweight Championship in 1939. He turned pro in 1940, knocking out Melody Johnson in the 4th round. Charles won all of his first 15 fights before being defeated by veteran Ken Overlin. Victories over future Hall of Famers Teddy Yarosz and the much avoided Charley Burley had started to solidify Charles as a top contender in the middleweight division. However, he served in the U.S. military during World War II and was unable to fight professionally in 1945.

He returned to boxing after the war as a light heavyweight, picking up many notable wins over leading light heavyweight, as well as heavyweight contenders Archie Moore, Jimmy Bivins, Lloyd Marshall and Elmer Ray. Shortly after his knock-out of Moore in their third and final meeting, tragedy struck. Charles fought a young contender named Sam Baroudi, knocking him out in Round 10. Baroudi died of the injuries he sustained in this bout. Charles was so devastated he almost gave up fighting. Charles was unable to secure a title shot at light heavyweight and moved up to heavyweight. After knocking out Joe Baksi and Johnny Haynes, Charles won the vacant National Boxing Association World Heavyweight title when he outpointed Jersey Joe Walcott over 15 rounds on June 22, 1949. The following year, he outpointed his idol and former World Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis to become the recognized Lineal Champion. Successful defenses against Walcott, Lee Oma and Joey Maxim would follow.

In 1951, Charles fought Walcott a third time and lost the title by knockout in the seventh round. Charles lost a controversial decision in the fourth and final bout. If Charles had won this fight, he would have become the first man in history to regain the heavyweight championship. Remaining a top contender with wins over Rex Layne, Tommy Harrison and Coley Wallace, Charles knocked out Bob Satterfield in an eliminator bout for the right to challenge Heavyweight Champion Rocky Marciano. His two stirring battles with Marciano are regarded as ring classics. In the first bout, held in June 1954, he valiantly took Rocky the distance, going down on points in a vintage heavyweight bout. Charles is the only man ever to last the full 15-round distance against Marciano.[4] In their September rematch, a severely cut Marciano rallied to KO Charles in the 8th round, in a bout that was named The Ring magazine's "Fight of the Year." Financial problems forced Charles to continue fighting, losing 13 of his final 23 fights (He held a record of 83 wins, 12 losses and 1 draws before financial problems became a factor in his career). He retired with a record of 93-25-1 (52 KOs).

Charles was also a respected double bass player who played with some of the jazz greats in the 1940s and 1950s at such notable places as Birdland (jazz composer George Russell wrote the famous tune "Ezz-Thetic" in his honor). He was very close with Rocky Marciano and a neighbor and friend of Muhammad Ali when they both lived on 85th Street in Chicago.[5] Charles also starred in one motion picture: Mau Mau Drums, an independent (and unreleased) jungle-adventure film shot in and around Cincinnati in 1960 by filmmaker Earl Schwieterman.

Death

Ezzard Charles died May 28, 1975, in Chicago from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), aged 53, and was interred in the historic Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. In 1976, Cincinnati honored Charles by changing the name of Lincoln Park Drive to Ezzard Charles Drive. This was the street of his residence during the height of his career.[6]

He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

In 2002, Charles was ranked #13 on The Ring magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years.

Recognition

In 2006, Ezzard Charles was named the 11th greatest fighter of all time by the IBRO (International Boxing Research Organisation).[7]

The "Cincinnati Cobra" was a master boxer of extraordinary skill and ability. He had speed, agility, fast hands and excellent footwork. Charles possessed a masterful jab and was a superb combination puncher. He was at his peak as a light-heavyweight. His record is quite impressive. Against top rate opposition like Archie Moore, Charley Burley, Lloyd Marshall, Jimmy Bivins, and Joey Maxim he was an impressive 16-2 combined. Despite being a natural light-heavy he won the heavyweight title and made 9 successful title defenses. Nearly 25% of voters had Charles in the top 10. Half of the voters had him in the top 15. Two thirds of voters had him inside the top 20.

In 2007, ESPN online ranks Ezzard Charles as the 27th greatest boxer of all time, ahead of such notable fighters as Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes and Jake LaMotta.[8]

In 2009, Boxing magazine listed Ezzard Charles as the greatest Light Heavyweight fighter ever, beating the likes of Archie Moore, Bob Foster and Gene Tunney.[9]

Prominent boxing historian Bert Sugar listed Charles as the 7th greatest Heavyweight of all time.

See also

References

  1. ^ Cyber Boxing Zone - Ezzard Charles
  2. ^ Newsmakers Interview with Ezzard Charles Jr., WKRC Channel 12, Cincinnati, August 17, 2008
  3. ^ Detloff, William (September 2002). "The 20 Greatest Light Heavyweights of All-Time". The Ring 81 (10): 50 
  4. ^ Will Hammock. "The Champ: County to honor legendary boxer Charles today." Gwinnett Daily Post. June 5, 2010
  5. ^ Newsmakers interview with Ezzard Charles Jr., WKRC Channel 12 Cincinnati, August 17, 2008
  6. ^ Guide to 20th Century African American Resources, Cincinnati Historical Society
  7. ^ IBRO'S 25 Greatest Fighters of All Time
  8. ^ ESPN.com: ALL-TIME GREATEST BOXERS
  9. ^ The Greatest Light Heavyweights of All Time

Further reading

External links

Achievements
Vacant
Title last held by
Joe Louis
NBA Heavyweight Champion
June 22, 1949 – July 18, 1951
Succeeded by
Jersey Joe Walcott
NYSAC Heavyweight Champion
The Ring Heavyweight Champion

September 27, 1950 – July 18, 1951
World Heavyweight Champion
June 16, 1951 – July 18, 1951
Awards
Preceded by
Ike Williams
Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
1949, 1950
Succeeded by
Sugar Ray Robinson
Preceded by
Ike Williams
Edward J. Neil Trophy
(BWAA Fighter of the Year)

1949
Succeeded by
Sugar Ray Robinson