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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 ...

Article

Boxing  

Michael Ezra

Perhaps no sport has influenced African American culture and society more than boxing. Long before the sport was formalized, slaves worked as prizefighters, sometimes gaining their freedom if they earned their masters enough money and prestige through their exploits in the ring. The first American to compete for the world heavyweight championship was Bill Richmond, a black man and former slave, who took on and lost to England's Tom Cribb in 1805. The former slave Tom Molineaux, who gained his emancipation through pugilism, also challenged Cribb for the crown, losing bouts in 1810 and 1811. Long before their official participation in other professional sports, African Americans were making their mark in the prize ring.

Although boxing was the most popular spectator sport in the United States from the late 1840s until the Civil War blacks were excluded from the big money contests that captured the public ...

Article

Boxing.  

Elliott J. Gorn

Prizefighting began in England, where by the late eighteenth century it was acknowledged as the “national sport” but was also illegal. Boxers fought with bare knuckles, most forms of wrestling and hitting were permitted, and fights lasted until one or both contestants quit or could not continue. Tom Molineaux, a free black, was the first great American fighter. In two matches in England in 1810 and 1811, Molineaux came close to defeating the English champion Tom Cribb. Becoming famous in England, Molineaux remained virtually unknown to Americans, who initially showed little interest in the prize ring. This changed in the mid–nineteenth century as a modern working class, including many immigrants from England and Ireland, arose in American cities. A series of matches culminated with an 1849 championship fight, tinged with ethnic antipathy, between James “Yankee” Sullivan, an Irish immigrant, and the native-born Tom Hyer Hyer ...

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

Steven J. Niven

prison musician, was born to sharecroppers in Greenwood, Mississippi. The names of his parents have not been recorded. Like most children in the Mississippi Delta at that time, Carter assisted his family in bringing in the cotton crop, which was particularly precarious during the severe agricultural depression of the 1930s that drastically reduced the price of cotton. With little or no formal education, Carter left home at age thirteen, in 1939, in search of work. Not finding any, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II—some sources suggest he served in the U.S. Marines—and served on cruisers in the Pacific theater. He returned to Greenwood when the war ended. In 1947 he married his childhood sweetheart, a sharecropper's daughter named Rosie Lee whose maiden name is unknown. The couple had three daughters.

Work was no easier to come by after the war than it had been before ...

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

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

George Dixon was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, but was brought by his parents to Boston when he was eight years old. There he attended school and, in 1884, began working for Elmer Chickering, a photographer who specialized in making portraits of boxers. While working on a job assignment Dixon saw boxing matches at the Boston Music Hall and decided to pursue a boxing career. After a few amateur bouts he attracted the attention of Tom O'Rourke, a former boxer himself, who taught Dixon and managed him throughout most of his career.

Dixon became a serious professional boxer in 1888 and by the end of the year he was well known in the Boston area through a thrilling series of fights with a local hero Hank Brennan Weighing less than 100 pounds Dixon proved to be an extremely clever boxer good at defense and capable ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Boxer and ex‐slave from Tennessee, United States, who made a number of trips to England to fight. Dobbs was born into slavery in Knoxville, Tennessee, and picked cotton until he was 15. A slight man, standing 5 feet 8½ inches and weighing just 9 stone 9 pounds, he trained as a lightweight and welterweight. During his illustrious career he fought over 1,000 matches, not retiring until he was 60. In 1898 he made his first trip to England, where, in an infamous fight with Dick Burge he was offered a bribe by a bookmaker of £100 a huge sum in those days to lose the fight He agreed to the deal and was provided with laxatives before the match but switched with a friend who bore some resemblance to him and who was willing to take the medication Dobbs won the match On the same trip he knocked out ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

musician, primarily playing rhythm and blues on the piano, known professionally as “Champion Jack” Dupree, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents were killed when he was an infant, in a fire that burned their grocery store, and their names have never been established.

Dupree sometimes said that the fire had been set by the Ku Klux Klan. “All my life, from six years old” he later recalled, “I wanted to work and save up enough money and git enough ammunition and catch them in a meeting and spray them and let em spray me long as I could lay down dead in the field with a few of them I d be happy Norman p 130 Other times he said it was a spontaneous explosion Davis pp 52 53 a fire from an exploding kerosene container used for fueling lamps and the roof fell in Their names ...

Article

David Borsvold

boxing trainer who guided twenty-two fighters to championships, was born in Hillsboro, Mississippi, where his father was a sharecropper. His family moved to Detroit while Futch was still a child, and while growing up in the tough Black Bottom neighborhood he became a proficient athlete in boxing and basketball. In 1932 Futch won the lightweight boxing championship of the Detroit Athletic Association, and in 1933 he became the Detroit Golden Gloves lightweight champion. The five foot, seven inch tall, 135 pound fighter became friendly with the Motor City's future heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, then still an amateur, at the gym in the Brewster Recreation Center. Louis often sparred with the quicker Futch to improve his own speed and reflexes.

On the brink of his own professional career Futch was forced to quit boxing because of a heart murmur He began teaching boys to box enforcing a strict code ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

boxer. Joe Gans was born Joseph Gaines in Baltimore, Maryland. As with so many African American boxers of that time, relatively little is known about his early life, his schooling, or the names and occupations of his parents.

Gans was discovered by the Baltimore boxing manager Al Herford while participating in what was known as a “battle royal” at a local theater. This cruel form of sport involved throwing several young black men into a boxing ring to fight it out until only one was left standing. In 1891 Gans entered the ranks of professional boxing as a lightweight. During the 1890s Gans was virtually unbeatable, suffering just three defeats in more than seventy fights. In 1900 he got his first shot at the lightweight title against the white champion Frank Erne At Gans s request the fight was stopped in the twelfth round after Gans suffered severe ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born Cyril Quinton Jr. in Barbados, British West Indies. As is the case with many of the good black fighters of the early 1900s who were denied the chance to fight for world titles, little is known about his early life. The names of his father and mother are unknown, although it may be surmised that the father's name was Cyril Quinton Sr.

It is known that while Quinton was young he and his family moved to Panama and that his father passed away soon after. After a run-in with the law and a short stay in a juvenile detention center, Quinton turned to prizefighting as a way of making a living sometime in 1914 It was a good time for black fighters in Panama There was less racial prejudice there than fighters faced in the United States and the influx of canal workers sailors merchants ...

Article

Robert Janis

professional boxer and trainer, was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and moved to New York with his family, which included seven siblings, when he was thirteen years old. His father had abandoned the family prior to their move to New York and his mother had to leave the family to take a cooking job for the governor of Puerto Rico. His brothers and sisters were scattered to the homes of their mother's relatives and friends. Griffith was given to his Aunt Blanche. He hated living there and begged to go to Mandal, St. Thomas's home for wayward and orphaned boys where he was finally placed. As the oldest child he helped to reunite the family for its move to New York.

Once in New York his first job was working in a hat factory when he was sixteen years old He caught the eye of the ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

lightweight boxing champion, was born Sydney Walker in Waynesboro, Georgia. Little is known about his parents because shortly after his birth he was sent to live with and be raised by his grandmother, Evie Mixom, in Augusta, Georgia. It was from his grandmother that he acquired the nickname “Beau Jack,” a moniker that stuck with him for the rest of his life.

As a young boy in Augusta Jack worked a variety of small jobs including shining shoes He quickly discovered another way of supplementing his household s meager income entering the rough and tumble world of battle royals These sporting contests were organized by well to do local whites for their entertainment A group of African American men and often boys ranging from half a dozen to ten or more would be thrown into a roughshod boxing ring and made to fight until the last man was ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

world boxing champion, was born Arthur John Johnson in Galveston, Texas, the eldest son of Henry Johnson, a janitor and former slave, and Tiny (maiden name unknown). Johnson landed in many-schoolyard fights, usually returning home beaten, bruised, and crying unless his sister came to his defense. Only when his mother, the more dominant of his parents, threatened him with a worse whipping did he begin to fight back. After attending public school for six years, he assisted his invalid father and then drifted from one job to another, working as a horse trainer, a baker, and a dockworker, usually near Galveston, although his autobiography lists more exotic, far-flung locations. That memoir contains serial exaggerations and embellishments, many of which are repeated in the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize–winning stage play (1969) and later movie (1970), The Great White Hope.

Johnson also participated in battle ...

Article

Robert Janis

professional boxer, was born Gerardo Gonzalez in Gamaguey, Cuba. He was known as Kid Gavilan during most of his boxing career. Gavilan is the Spanish word for “hawk.”

Kid Gavilan started boxing when he was ten years old and had sixty amateur fights before turning pro. He made his professional boxing debut when he was only seventeen years old, defeating Antonio Diaz by a decision after only four rounds. He fought in Cuba until 1946 and also performed in Mexico. His American debut took place in November 1946 and resulted in a victory over Johnny Ryan. By the end of 1947 Kid Gavilan had a record of eleven wins, one defeat, and one draw and was making a name for himself among boxing fans, with Ring magazine ranking him as the seventh contender for the world welterweight title He continued to build up his reputation in a ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born William Ward. His precise date of birth and even the place of his birth are still matters of debate. Some boxing historians claimed that he was born in Norfolk, Virginia (hence his nickname), on 20 September 1895. In 2001, however, a birth certificate was located in Belmont, Trinidad, indicating that William Ward had been born on 10 July 1893 on Norfolk Street in Belmont The names and occupations of his parents are unknown As might be imagined from the confusion arising about his birthplace and date of birth accounts of Kid Norfolk s early life are contradictory Those who place his birthplace in Virginia tell of early years spent fighting in Battle Royals a brutal sport organized by whites in which several young black boys and men were put in a fighting ring often blindfolded and let loose upon one another in ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

boxing promoter, was born Donald King in Cleveland, Ohio, the fifth of seven children of Clarence King, a steelworker, and Hattie King. When Donald was nine years old, his father was killed in an explosion at the steel plant where he worked. His mother baked pies and roasted peanuts to supplement the family's meager income. Donald and his siblings assisted their mother by, among other things, inserting slips of paper with “lucky numbers” into each bag of peanuts like fortune cookies. Thus began his introduction as a minor player in the numbers racket, which operated in many impoverished neighborhoods as a quasi-legitimate part of the underground black economy. After class at Lafayette Elementary School, Donald also delivered live poultry to be slaughtered at Hymie's Chicken Shack.As a student athlete at John Adams High School Donald standing six feet three inches had a brief and unimpressive career ...