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Luther McCarty (March 20, 1892 – May 24, 1913) was a heavyweight boxer who is considered by most to be the greatest of all the "white hope" fighters who fought during the time of Jack Johnson. Ironically, McCarty was largely believed to be born of both Irish and Native American descent, his father, who went by the name Chief White Eagle, sold healing potions as part of a traveling road show. His mother died shortly after his birth.
McCarty was tall and agile, standing 6'4", who used his 80" reach to throw his strong left jab to both his opponents head and body with equal accuracy. Though he was at his best controlling the action from a distance, he also possessed a powerful right hand, a devastating left hook, and a punishing uppercut that he would use when his opponents tried to fight him in close. In addition to his physical strengths, McCarty also had a cool fighting style, never appearing in the ring too nervous or affected by his opponents.
He was born on March 20, 1892 in Hitchcock County, Nebraska.
Luther (or Lute as he was known) made his pro debut at the age of 18 against Watt Adams on January 7, 1911, winning by 2nd round KO. He then went on to face legendary iron-chinned Joe Grim in his next fight, becoming one of the few fighters to beat Grim by knockout, a feat that McCarty accomplished in four rounds. McCarty finished 1911 with six more fights, winning all but one by knockout.
Continuing to fight in 1912, McCarty beat future heavyweight contender Carl Morris by way of a sixth round knockout in only his 13th fight. Almost instantly rumor spread of McCarty' talents. McCarty began to be a much talked about prospect and soon McCarty made his debut in New York City against the then local favorite Jim Stewart and future champion Jess Willard. Officially these fights were declared "No Decisions" with no clear winner or loser, though the New York Times gave their vote to both Stewart and Willard. Undeterred, McCarty fought four more times in 1912, beating two previous Johnson opponents, Al Kaufmann and Fireman Jim Flynn, by way of knockout.
Less than a month after beating Flynn, on New Year's Day 1913, McCarty beat current "World White Heavyweight Champion" Al Palzer by way of a TKO in the 18th round in Vernon, California. It would be a title he would hold for the rest of his life which would only be a short five months.
In April, soon after his win over Palzer, McCarty again beat Flynn, this time more decisively, and followed two weeks later with a win over Frank Moran. McCarty was gaining experience and becoming a better fighter each time out.
Less than a month after beating Moran, McCarty took a "stay busy" fight with Canadian heavyweight Arthur Pelkey while he waited to fight another top contender or perhaps Jack Johnson himself. During the first round of a fight billed as the World White Heavyweight Championship held on May 24, 1913 in Calgary, Alberta, McCarty collapsed after an apparent light punch over his heart and was pronounced dead shortly after.
A coroner's jury decided that McCarty's death was not a result from boxing, but an earlier injury most likely attributed to a horseback riding accident occurring in the weeks before the fight.
McCarty had only been fighting for just over two years, his only official loss occurring in his final tragic fight. McCarty was 21 years old at the time of his death. Later that year Johnson defended his title against Flynn, and the following year, Frank Moran. Two opponents soundly defeated by McCarty. He is buried in Piqua, Ohio.
Noted Los Angeles boxing instructor DeWitt Van Court in 1926 called McCarty "unquestionably the greatest young heavyweight prospect since the days of John L. Sullivan."
|Titles in pretence|
|World White Heavyweight Champion|
January 1, 1913 - May 24, 1913