20-20 vision – The greatest fighter from Canada: Sam Langford
Most countries have produced at least one or two special boxers whose ring exploits have been etched permanently in our collective memory. That includes tiny nations like Puerto Rico and behemoths like the U.S. and Mexico, as well many in between.
In this feature, The Ring looks closely at 20 countries with strong boxing traditions and selects the best fighter from each.
The process wasn’t easy. First, we had to select the 20 countries, which proved to be painstaking. Some nations that have produced memorable fighters didn’t make the list. And, second, choosing a single boxer from the countries that did make the cut was easy in some cases – Panama, for example – but excruciating in others.
The countries will be rolled out in alphabetical order one day at a time at The Ring.
Notes: The “five more” listed at the bottom of each capsule were among other fighters in the discussion for each nation. … Some boxers lived in more than one country. We assigned each to the country where they spent their formative years. For example, a fighter who left one country as a small child was assigned to his second country.
Birthdate / place: March 4, 1883 / Weymouth, Nova Scotia
Death date: January 12, 1956
Years active: 1902-26
Record: 178-29-38 (126 KOs)
Major titles: None
Greatest victories: Tiger Flowers, Joe Gans, Joe Jeannette (12-3-6), Stanley Ketchel, Sam McVea (7-1-7), Jack O’Brien and Harry Wills (2-13-2). (Including newspaper decisions.)
Background: Langford was among a number of great black heavyweights who were denied an opportunity to fight for a world title because of their race, but students of boxing history smile when they hear the name Sam Langford. They know how good he was. Langford, only 5-foot-7, fought from lightweight to heavyweight, often beating much bigger men because of his boxing acumen, resilience and great punching power. In 1906, he gave away 29 pounds to future heavyweight champ Jack Johnson yet gave a good account of himself in defeat. Langford fought fellow black fighters numerous times because he had difficulty getting fights and generally got the better of the action, the one exception being the hulking Harry Wills. One fighter who never wanted to tangle with Langford a second time? Jack Johnson. Langford desperately wanted to fight Johnson when the latter was heavyweight champion but it never happened. Langford fought the last few years of his career with vision problems, reportedly keeping his opponents close at all times and using the ropes to guide him back to his corner between rounds. Ultimately, he would lose his sight completely and end up destitute. However, sports writers started a fund that allowed him to live comfortably until his death. That’s how much they thought of him.
Quote: “Sam Langford was the toughest little son of a bitch that ever lived,” Jack Johnson said.
Five more from Canada (in alphabetical order): Lou Brouillard, George Dixon, Jimmy McLarnin, Tommy Ryan, Billy Smith
Next up: Cuba
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