On this day: Jersey Joe Walcott shuffles his way to a world title win against Ezzard Charles
It was the third meeting between them. One was a champion, perhaps one of the most undervalued of all time in the light heavyweight division. The other one should have been a champion, had the meeting with the previous titleholder ended in a fair decision.
Ezzard Charles had picked up the heavyweight belt after the retirement of the great Joe Louis, in a vacant title fight against Jersey Joe Walcott, the same man who had tried and failed twice against Louis years before. Most observers had seen Walcott defeat Louis in their first meeting, but the decision went to the “Brown Bomber” both in the initial bout and in their rematch.
Matched against Charles for the vacant belt in 1949, Walcott once again came short, dropping a decision that allowed former light heavyweight champ Charles to finally pick up the big boy’s belt. A rematch in March of 1951 yielded a similar result, and in between those fights Charles managed to score a wide decision win over Louis, who returned to the ring for one more payday.
Only four months after their second fight, Walcott was given his fourth shot at the heavyweight championship when he took on Charles at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field on July 18. A chess match during the early going ended up suddenly when Walcott waltzed out of a clinch in a corner to land a hook-uppercut after his trademark “shuffle” (a slow walk that suddenly turned into a fast switch followed by a demolishing punch) to send Charles diving face-first to the canvas in the seventh round.
The picture-perfect punch became a classic, and Walcott, at age 37, became the oldest man to win a world heavyweight title, a record broken only by the ageless George Foreman half a century later. Walcott’s win was named The Ring’s Fight of the Year award, and after that fight they had a rematch won by Walcott and then both of them faced Rocky Marciano twice, with all four fights ending in defeats. But it was that night on that ring in Pittsburgh when both of them inscribed one of the best pages in heavyweight history together.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.
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