Harry Wills

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Harry Wills
Harry Willis 1916.jpg
Statistics
Real nameHarry Wills
Nickname(s)The Black Panther
Rated atHeavyweight
Height6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
NationalityAmerican
Born(1889-05-15)May 15, 1889
New Orleans
DiedDecember 21, 1958(1958-12-21)
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights103
Wins79
Wins by KO49
Losses10
Draws4
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Harry Wills
Harry Willis 1916.jpg
Statistics
Real nameHarry Wills
Nickname(s)The Black Panther
Rated atHeavyweight
Height6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
NationalityAmerican
Born(1889-05-15)May 15, 1889
New Orleans
DiedDecember 21, 1958(1958-12-21)
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights103
Wins79
Wins by KO49
Losses10
Draws4

Harry "The Black Panther" Wills (May 15, 1889 – December 21, 1958) was a heavyweight boxer who three times held the World Colored Heavyweight Championship. Many boxing historians consider Wills the most egregious victim of the "color line" drawn by white heavyweight champions. Wills fought for over twenty years (1911–1932), was ranked as the number one challenger for the throne, but was denied the opportunity to fight for the title. Of all the black contenders between the reigns of Jack Johnson and Joe Louis as world heavyweight champions, Wills came closest to securing a title shot.

Boxing career[edit]

Portrait of Wills taken in France

Wills fought many of the top heavyweights of his era. He defeated Willie Meehan, who had decisioned Jack Dempsey, Gunboat Smith and Charley Weinart. He also fought Luis Firpo in a match that ended in No Decision. Wills faced future heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey in 1926, and was being clearly defeated when he was disqualified. The next year, Wills was knocked out by heavyweight contender Paolino Uzcudun in a bout that signalled the end of his career as a title threat. His final record was 75 wins (with 47 knockouts), 9 losses and 2 draws. In 2003, he was named to the Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.

The top black fighters of Wills' era were forced to continuously fight each other, as many white fighters also drew the "color line". As a result, Wills fought the redoubtable Sam Langford 22 times. His record against Langford was 6 wins, 2 losses and 14 No Decisions, although the two losses were by knockout. He beat Langford three times for the colored heavyweight title, with Langford winning it back twice. (He was forced to vacate his third title when he fought Jack Sharkey in 1926 and was lost the bout due to a disqualification.) Wills also defeated colored heavyweight champ Sam McVey three times and fought two No Decision bouts with Joe Jeanette.

Title shot[edit]

Wills spent six years (1920–1926) trying to land a title fight with Jack Dempsey. Dempsey was willing to fight Wills and contracts for the bout were signed by both fighters. The fight, however, never took place because Dempsey did not receive a $100,000 guarantee from the promoter, after Wills received a $50,000 check, from George Barton's "My Lifetime in Sports". Instead, Dempsey met Gene Tunney, and was outpointed by the ex-marine.

The Dempsey-Tunney match was held in Philadelphia, as the bout could not be held in New York, due to litigation filed by Wills over Dempsey's breach of contract and the barring of the bout by then New York State Athletic Commissioner James Farley, an early champion of African-American equal rights.

Retirement[edit]

Wills retired from boxing in 1932, and ran a successful real estate business in Harlem, New York. He was known for his yearly fast, in which, once a year, he would subsist on water for a month. Wills admitted that his biggest regret in life was never getting the opportunity to fight Dempsey for the title. Wills was confident that he would have won such a match.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Sam Langford
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
May 1, 1914 - November 26, 1914
Succeeded by
Sam Langford
Preceded by
Sam Langford
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
January 3, 1916 - February 11, 1916
Succeeded by
Sam Langford
Preceded by
Sam Langford
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
April 14, 1918 - October 12, 1926
Succeeded by
George Godfrey
Won vacated title