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Gerald Early

Despite the considerable achievements of such important African American athletes as Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Wilma Rudolph, Jim Brown, and Jackie Robinson, the young brash prizefighter from Louisville, Kentucky, may very well have eclipsed their significance. He surely eclipsed their fame as, at the height of his career in the early and middle 1970s, Muhammad Ali was, without question, the most famous African American in history and among the five most recognized faces on the planet.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in 1942 (named after both his father and the famous Kentucky abolitionist), the gregarious, handsome, and extraordinarily gifted boxer garnered world attention by winning a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. He further stunned the sports world by beating the heavily favored Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight title in 1964 and shocked white America by announcing right after that fight that ...

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David K. Wiggins

Born as Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali first gained international attention when he won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Rome Olympics. In 1964 he captured the heavyweight championship for the first time in a surprising sixth-round technical knockout of Sonny Liston. Shortly after that fight, Ali announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), the black separatist religious group led by Elijah Muhammad. Ali's religious conversion provoked much controversy in America, especially among whites who abhorred his membership in a group that spoke of “white devils” and the superiority of the black race. He further infuriated many Americans when he refused induction into the armed forces in 1967, during the Vietnam War, on religious grounds. His stand resulted in the revoking of his heavyweight crown and conviction for draft evasion. In 1970 the U S Supreme ...

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John Gennari

As the dominant heavyweight boxer of the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali won an Olympic gold medal, captured the professional world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions, and successfully defended his title nineteen times. Ali's extroverted, colorful style, both in and out of the ring, heralded a new mode of media-conscious athletic celebrity. Through his bold assertions of black pride, his conversion to the Muslim faith, and his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, Ali became a highly controversial figure during the turbulent 1960s. At the height of his fame, Ali was described as “the most recognizable human being on earth.”

Ali's 1981 retirement from boxing did not diminish his status as an international public figure. Despite suffering from Parkinson's disease, Ali remained on the world stage as an adherent of the Nation of Islam an advocate of children and war victims and a proponent of international understanding ...

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Gerald Early

world champion boxer and political activist, was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, the eldest of two sons raised by Cassius Clay Sr., a sign painter and something of a frustrated artist, and Odessa Grady, a domestic. Young Clay began to take boxing lessons at the age of twelve because someone had stolen his bicycle and he was determined to exact revenge against the perpetrators. He never discovered who stole his bike, but he did blossom as a young fighter, taking instruction from the Louisville policeman Joe Martin. His brother, Rudolph Arnette Clay (Rudolph Valentino Clay in some sources and later Rahaman Ali), also took up boxing, but, lacking his brother's talent, never became a significant presence in the sport.

Clay became a gym rat feeling that he could succeed in boxing as he never could in school Although he showed no special ability in his ...

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Luther Adams

boxer, civil rights activist. Perhaps one of the most recognized people in the world, Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. to Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. and Odessa (Grady) Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named in honor of his father and the white Kentucky abolitionist Cassius M. Clay. Clay attended the all-black Central High School in Louisville, Kentucky, graduating 376th out of a senior class of 391. Ali has been married four times: to Sonji Roi, Kalilah Tolona (formerly Belinda Boyd), Veronica Porsche, and Yolanda Ali. He has been married to Yolanda since 1986, and has seven daughters and two sons, including Laila Ali, a boxer in her own right.

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Luckett V. Davis

boxer, was born Henry Jackson Jr. near Columbus, Mississippi, the son of Henry Jackson. His mother, whose name is unknown, was a full‐blooded Iroquois, and his father was of mixed Indian, Irish, and black ancestry. He was the eleventh child in a family of sharecroppers. When he was four years old his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his father and older brothers worked in the food‐processing industry. His mother died a few years later, after which he was reared by his paternal grandmother. Jackson graduated from Toussaint L'Ouverture Grammar School and Vashon High School, working during his school years as a pin boy at a bowling alley and becoming the inter‐alley bowling champion in midtown St. Louis. He gained his first boxing experience by winning a competition among the pin boys.

Lacking funds to attend college, Jackson worked at a series of unskilled jobs At the ...

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Maria Lucia Cacciato

was born on 18 December 1962 in Retén Magdalena (Colombia), the son of a family of humble fishermen. He attended school until the fifth grade, and as an adolescent he worked selling fish in a market plaza in order to earn a living and support himself as a boxer. After working hard to succeed in boxing and finding success on various stages in the Americas, he was crowned world champion in the flyweight division on 13 February 1987, after defeating the Panamanian boxer Hilario Zapata. Two months later he defended his title against the Irish boxer Dave McAuley. Bassa retained the world title only until 1989, when he was defeated by the Venezuelan boxer Jesús Rojas. Critics said he was a disciplined and brave boxer, although he had little technique.

After retiring from his athletic career Bassa worked selling books and he became a successful publishing entrepreneur The ...

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Anene Ejikeme

Nigerian world featherweight boxing champion, more popularly known as Hogan “Kid” Bassey, was born in the village of Ufok Ubet, Creek Town, Calabar, Nigeria, on 3 June 1932 He was one of five children born to his parents who were cultivators of modest means At the age of eleven Bassey moved to Lagos to live with a maternal aunt and to continue his education Sending a child often the eldest to live with a relative in a town or city with better educational opportunities and with the expectation that the child would later assume responsibility for parents siblings or other relatives was common practice It was in Lagos that Bassey encountered the sport of boxing As a youth he enjoyed school although he was not a great scholar sports however were his passion and he participated in soccer swimming running jumping and other athletics first at school then at ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born on 1 August 1954, in Norwich, Port Antonio, Jamaica. He started boxing in 1973, at the age of 19, and in 1975 he garnered the bronze medal in the heavyweight division at the Pan American Games in Mexico City, Mexico. At the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, Berbick lost to Mircea Şimon of Romania, the eventual silver medalist, in the first round. After the Olympic Games, he obtained Canadian citizenship and pursued a professional boxing career. On 27 September 1976, Berbick won his professional debut in a fifth-round technical knockout against Wayne Martin of the United States, in Shediac, New Brunswick, Canada. In 1979 he claimed the Canadian heavyweight title by defeating Earl McLeay by a seventh-round technical knockout in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada. He would defend the title four times before forfeiting it in 1984.

Berbick reached the pinnacle of his ...

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Thomas Edward Guastello

boxer and activist, was born Riddick Lamont Bowe in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, the twelfth of thirteen children of Dorothy Bowe, a factory worker. Little is known of Bowe's father, whose first name is believed to have been Jake, as he left the family when Bowe was very young. Brownsville was notable for its high crime rate and poverty, forces that affected Bowe directly. Several of his brothers spent time in prison, and his sister Brenda was assaulted and robbed of a welfare check, dying of injuries sustained in the incident. Bowe stayed clear of such troubles, and as a teenager began training at the New Bedford‐Stuyvesant Boxing Club. He married Judith (her maiden name is unknown) in 1986 and shortly afterward she gave birth to the first of their five children (Riddick Jr., Riddicia, Brenda, Julius, and Diamond He ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

music pioneer, musician, and singer, was born Charles L. Brown in Charlotte, North Carolina; his parents were migrant farmers about whom little information is available. In 1942Chuck moved with his parents to Fairmont Heights in Prince George's County, Maryland, a small suburban neighborhood just outside of Northeast Washington, D.C. As a boy Chuck worked odd jobs to assist his parents financially. He sold newspapers, cut logs, shined shoes, laid bricks, and could be heard singing “watermelon, watermelon” for the horse-drawn watermelon cart. Chuck's love for music began as a boy in North Carolina, replaying the piano and rhythms he heard in church of the bass drum, cymbals, and the snare over and again in his head. In Fairmont Heights at Mount Zion Holiness Church he played piano while his mother accompanied him on harmonica. Chuck studied piano with Sister Louise Murray who exposed him to ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Little is known about his early life or his parents, except that the family lived on the brink of poverty.

Brown worked a number of different jobs—carpentry among them—before beginning his boxing career in 1943 in New Orleans, winning a four-round decision. Almost immediately, however, his participation in the professional sport was cut short when he was drafted to fight in World War II. Brown spent nearly two years in the U.S. Navy—most of it in the Pacific Theater—during which time he continued to box, finally winning the All-Service Lightweight Championship before his discharge in 1945. Following his return to civilian life, in 1946 Brown threw himself back into professional prizefighting averaging from seven to twelve fights a year sometimes with only a week s rest between bouts Despite his enthusiasm and seemingly limitless energy his career did not get off ...

Article

Adriano Guerra

a boxer nicknamed “El Venado,” was born Bernardo Caraballo Rodríguez on 1 January 1942 in the town of Bocachica on the island of Tierra Bomba, off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia. Caraballo later moved to the crowded, historically Afro-Colombian neighborhood of Chambacú in Cartagena.

As a child, together with future fellow boxer Antonio Cervantes Reyes (a.k.a. “Kid Pambelé”), Caraballo worked as a shoeshiner in the Parque Centenario (Centenary Park) of Cartagena. For the youth living in the working-class neighborhoods in Cartagena, there were few ways to get out of poverty. So, at the age of 16, Caraballo began boxing, in part because he enjoyed it, but also because the sport required him to purchase less equipment than the region’s other popular activity, baseball.

In Colombia many famous boxers were of African descent and their efforts raised Colombian boxing to an elite international level and changed the attitude toward Colombian athletes ...

Article

Karen Carreño

was born on 22 December 1951 in San Basillo de Palenque, in the department of Bolivar, Colombia. He fought in the flyweight category (for boxers weighing between 109 and 123 pounds) of the WBC (World Boxing Council). His brother Ricardo was also a successful fighter.

Cardona represented Colombia in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where he lost in the first round to Rafael Carbonell of Cuba. Cardona made his debut as a professional boxer on 2 November 1973 in Barranquilla, Colombia, defeating Luis Ramos. This would begin an active and successful year of fighting, in which he won five of his first seven bouts by knockout. In September 1974 Cardona fought again in Barranquilla where his undefeated streak finally ended Two months later he traveled to Bogotá where he defeated Ben Villareal After losing a fight he journeyed to Caracas Venezuela for his first fight abroad facing Luis Reyes ...

Article

James S. Hirsch

boxer who was wrongfully convicted of triple homicide in two racially charged trials, was born in Delawanna, New Jersey, the son of Bertha, a homemaker, and Lloyd Carter, an entrepreneur and church deacon who stressed to his seven children the importance of family pride and unity.

The Carters moved to nearby Paterson when Rubin was six years old, and the youngster soon developed a reputation for brawling, rebelling against authority, and committing petty crimes. At seventeen he escaped from Jamesburg State Home for Boys, where he had been sentenced for cutting a man with a bottle, and joined the army. As a member of the Eleventh Airborne, he was sent to Germany, where he learned to box and won the European Light Welterweight Championship.

Discharged from the army in 1956 Carter returned to Paterson but was soon in trouble again The following year he pled guilty to robbing ...

Article

was born on 23 December 1945 in San Basilio de Palenque, in the department of Bolívar, Colombia. The names of his Afro-Colombian parents are not recorded, but Cervantes lived his childhood and adolescence in the town of his birth, which had been established by escaped slaves in the colonial era, and continued to be a vibrant Afro-Colombian community into the twentieth century. He later moved to the impoverished working-class neighborhood of Chambacú in Cartagena, Colombia, where he worked shining shoes and selling cigarettes to better the precarious economic situation of his family.

Cervantes began to box in 1964 at the age of 18 in order to earn a living He boxed in the streets and later in the gym but he was not well loved among boxing fans because of the perception that his style was dull and slow At the beginning of his career Cervantes was just another ...

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Skyler Boeding

professional bantamweight world champion boxer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Little is known of his early life, including the names and occupations of his parents or his education. At the age of 19 he walked into the Juniper Gym in South Philadelphia, owned by the O’Neill family, who were noted in the city for their success in training boxers. Managed by the legendary “KO” Becky O’Neill, a rare woman in the masculine boxing world, Chandler turned professional in 1976 after competing in only two amateur fights The experience of the O Neill team brought Chandler to peak physical and mental condition by the time of his first professional fight At 5 foot 7 inches he was relatively tall for a bantamweight under 118 pounds and this also gave him some advantages He won fights early and often when deploying his self described method of touching them lightly first ...

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Michael L. Krenn

boxer and former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion of the world, was born in Lawrenceville, Georgia, the son of William and Alberta Charles. His father was a truck driver; little is known about his mother. According to Charles, his unusual first name came from the doctor who delivered him, W. P. Ezzard. His early life before his boxing career is somewhat vague. What is known is that at about the age of nine, he moved from Georgia to live with his grandmother and great-grandmother in Cincinnati, Ohio, following the divorce of his parents.

He took up amateur boxing as a teenager, and while still in high school won the Amateur Athletic Union's national middleweight title. In 1940 just nineteen years old Charles turned professional and over the next three years fought thirty six times with thirty four wins one loss and one draw Charles did not shy ...

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Donna L. Halper

radio personality and advertising executive, was most likely the first black announcer in the history of broadcasting, on the air as early as 1924. His successful radio career would span four decades and make him a wealthy man. Cooper did not come from an entertainment background. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he was one of ten children of William and Lavina Cooper. Jack Cooper quit school after the fifth grade to help support his impoverished family. He held a number of low-paying jobs and for a time got interested in boxing, winning more than a hundred bouts as a welterweight fighter. But he found his calling on the vaudeville stage, where he became a singer and dancer, beginning in 1905 and continuing well into the 1920s. He was more than just a performer, writing and producing skits and entire shows, often in collaboration with his first wife Estelle ...

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was born on 5 January 1921 in the province of Chincha in Ica, Peru, an area with a significant Afro-Peruvian community. In 1931 his family decided to move to the working-class neighborhood of La Victoria in Lima, one of the urban areas that sheltered a new wave of workers, many of them immigrants, who worked in the capital city. Boxing had arrived in the Peruvian capital toward the beginning of the twentieth century, and its popularity grew rapidly among laborers and throughout working-class communities.

The Peruvian Boxing Federation was founded in 1924 In La Victoria near the Plaza Manco Cápac there was a tent that offered boxing matches a sport that José admired and for which he began training at the age of 14 Guillermo Peñaloza one of the most important coaches in the history of Peruvian boxing trained him Still an adolescent he won a match in Santiago ...