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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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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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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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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Luckett V. Davis

boxer, 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 on a job 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 who taught Dixon and managed him throughout most of his career.

Dixon became a professional boxer in 1888, and by the end of the year he was well known in the Boston area due to 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 of landing hard ...

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 ...

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Luckett V. Davis

world middleweight boxer, was born Theodore Flowers in Camilla, Georgia, the son of Aaron Flowers, a railroad porter, and Lula Dawson. When he was a small child his family moved to Brunswick, Georgia, where he completed six school grades and afterward held various jobs. In 1915 he married Willie Mae Spellars, and in 1917 they moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a subway laborer, later taking a job in the navy yard when World War I began. While in Philadelphia he received his first instruction in boxing.

After the war ended, Flowers returned to Georgia and, against the wishes of his parents, began to box professionally. He won a few fights in the Savannah-Brunswick area, and rumors of his boxing ability reached Walk Miller the owner of a gymnasium in Atlanta Miller contacted Flowers and became his manager and the two men established ...

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Michael L. Krenn

boxer and businessman, was born George Edward Foreman in Marshall, Texas, the son of J. D. Foreman and Nancy Ree. His father, a railroad employee and a heavy drinker, was absent for much of George's childhood. His mother worked several jobs, including as a waitress, to support George and his six siblings.

As Foreman describes it his childhood was marked by intense want and hunger and an anger that often exploded into fighting Even at a young age he was larger than normal and he used his intimidating size to bully his peers He had little love for school although football in junior high school proved attractive for its violence and aggression Foreman did not last long in high school however By the age of fifteen he was spending most of his time on the streets of Houston where his mother had moved the family when he was ...

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Patrick Stearns

professional boxer, actor, product spokesperson, and minister. George Edward Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas, to J. D. Foreman and Nancy Foreman. By the seventh grade he had dropped out of school, engaging in petty crimes, such as muggings. At age sixteen he enrolled in a Job Corps training program in Oregon. While working at a conservation camp affiliated with the program, Foreman found that he had a talent for boxing, and he won the Corps Diamond Belt Boxing Tournament.

In 1968 Foreman made the U.S. Olympic boxing team and won the gold medal in the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Vietnam War protests, the rise of black nationalism, and episodes of civil unrest in U.S. cities after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination earlier in the year were a sign of the times. The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City were also the scene ...

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Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Little is known of Foster's life before he began boxing. Foster himself admitted that he got into numerous fights as a child and a high school student and was once taken to court for fracturing the skull of another young man with one punch. With few options open to him and a close scrape with the law motivating him, Foster signed up for the U.S. Air Force in 1957, shortly after graduating from high school.

Foster's tremendous punching power soon became evident to his air force commanders during informal inter- and intra-unit boxing matches, and they put him on the service's boxing team. For four years Foster traveled with the team all over the United States and the world. He engaged in well over one hundred fights, losing only three. In 1960 he won the light heavyweight title at the ...

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Michael L. Krenn

boxer and former heavyweight champion of the world, was born Joseph Frazier in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of Rubin Frazier and Dolly. His father was a sharecropper who supplemented the family's income by making and delivering moonshine liquor. His mother worked a series of jobs in the fields around Beaufort and in some of the small food processing plants.

Frazier's childhood was marked by poverty, hard work, and a growing fascination with boxing. His early hero was Joe Louis and he spent his teenage years dreaming of becoming a successful and wealthy boxer He had little interest in school and by age thirteen had officially dropped out At the age of fifteen after a run in with a local white landowner Frazier decided that his future was not in Beaufort and took a bus to New York where he lived with one of his brothers for ...

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Joseph William Frazier, known as Joe Frazier, became professional heavyweight Boxing champion. His bouts with Muhammad Ali were among the greatest and most famous fights in the sport's history. At 5 feet, 11.5 inches and 205 pounds, young Joe Frazier seemed an unlikely candidate for heavyweight champion of the world. He grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he trained with Yancy “Yank” Durham. Frazier won thirty-eight of his forty amateur bouts, ending with his heavyweight triumph at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, where he won the gold medal. He turned professional the following year.

Frazier, known as “Smokin' Joe” or “Joltin' Joe,” launched his professional career with a string of knockouts. His first eleven opponents went down within six rounds. Frazier became the heavyweight champion on February 16, 1970, after knocking out Jimmy Ellis in five rounds The following year ...