Hall of Fame Friday: Ezzard Charles
THE RING magazine features a thumbnail biography of a ring great who has received the ultimate honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.
Birthdate: July 7, 1921
Date of death: May 27, 1975
Birthplace: Lawrenceville, Ga.
Nickname: The Cincinnati Cobra
Weight classes: Middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight
Record: 93-15-1 (52 knockouts)
Titles held: World and NBA heavyweight
Best performances: Joe Louis (W 15), Jersey Joe Walcott (W 15, W 15), Archie Moore (W 10, W10, KO 8), Charley Burley (W 10, W 10), Jimmy Bivins (W 10, KO 4, W 10, W 10), Gus Lesnevich (KO 7), Joey Maxim (W 10, W 10, W 15, W 12), Lee Oma (KO 10), Tommy Harrison (KO 9), Lloyd Marshall (KO 6, KO 2), Rex Layne (KO 11), Rocky Marciano (L 15, KO by 8).
Year of IBHOF induction: 1990
Background: Arguably the best light heavyweight of all-time ÔÇª Was born in Georgia but raised in Cincinnati ÔÇª Took up boxing as a teenager and went undefeated in 42 amateur bouts ÔÇª Won Chicago Golden Gloves and the national AAU middleweight championship before turning pro as a middleweight in March 1940, tallying a third-round KO of Melody Johnson in Middletown, Ohio ÔÇª A terrific boxer with outstanding footwork and a hard punch, he moved up to light heavyweight because he was unable to secure a title shot at 160 pounds ÔÇª Despite impressive victories over Archie Moore, Charley Burley and Joey Maxim at 175 pounds, he was also unable to get a crack at the light heavyweight title ÔÇª Although slightly undersized, he began fighting heavyweights in 1946 and continued to score solid victories ÔÇª In February 1949, he knocked out San Baroudi in Chicago. When Baroudi died of a head injury afterward, Charles was deeply affected and almost gave up boxing … When Joe Louis retired, Charles, riding a 15-bout winning streak, was matched with Jersey Joe Walcott for the vacant National Boxing Association (NBA) heavyweight title on June 22, 1949 in Chicago. Charles won a 15-round decision and made three successful defense before outpointing comebacking Louis to win universal recognition as world heavyweight champion ÔÇª Made four additional title defenses, including a rematch with Walcott ÔÇª Although he fought in Louis’ shadow, astute observers knew how good he was: “Someday, maybe, the public is going to abandon comparisons with Joe Louis and accept Ezzard Charles for what he was – the best fist-fighter of his particular time,” wrote Pulitzer-prize winning sportswriter Red Smith ÔÇª Lost heavyweight title to Walcott by a seventh-round knockout in their third meeting ÔÇª Also lost a fourth fight with Walcott, in March 1951 ÔÇª Continued to campaign with mixed results and garnered a shot at reigning heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano in June 1954. Marciano prevailed by a close decision in a bitterly contested fight that earned the challenger a rematch three months later ÔÇª Split Marciano’s nose in half in their second war but was stopped in the eighth round ÔÇª Fought on until September 1959, when he lost a 10-round decision to Alvin Green in his final bout ÔÇª After quitting the ring, he worked as a safety inspector, nightclub bouncer and a wrestler before falling victim to Lou Gehrig’s Disease and becoming wheelchair bound in the last years of his life, finally dying of the disease in 1975 ÔÇª In 1976, Cincinnati recognized Charles by changing Lincoln Park Drive to Ezzard Charles Drive ÔÇª THE RING’s Fighter of the Year in 1949 and 1950.