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jersey joe

Jersey Joe Walcott

[wawl-kuht, -kot]

Arnold Raymond Cream (January 31, 1914February 25, 1994), better known as Jersey Joe Walcott, was a world heavyweight boxing champion. He broke the world's record for the oldest man to win the world's Heavyweight title when he earned it at the age of 37.

Background

Walcott was born in Merchantville, New Jersey, the son of immigrants from St. Thomas. Walcott's father died when he was 13 years old, so he quit school and took a job working in a soup factory to support his mother and 11 sibilings; He also began training as a boxer. He took the name of his boxing idol, Joe Walcott, the welterweight champion from Barbados, hence his nickname, "Jersey Joe".

Boxing career

He debuted as a professional boxer on September 9, 1930, fighting Cowboy Wallace and winning by a knockout in round one. After five straight knockout wins, in 1933, he lost for the first time, beaten on points by Henry Wilson in Philadelphia.

He built a record of 45 wins, 11 losses and 1 draw before challenging for the world title for the first time. Walcott lost early bouts against world-class competition. He lost a pair of fights to Tiger Jack Fox and was knocked out by contender Abe Simon. But that would change in 1945 when Walcott beat top heavyweights such as Joe Baksi, Lee Q. Murray, Curtis Sheppard and Jimmy Bivins. He closed out 1946 with a pair of losses to former light heavyweight champ Joey Maxim and heavyweight contender Elmer Ray, but promptly avenged those defeats in 1947.

On December 5, 1947, he fought Joe Louis, at thirty three years of age breaking the record as the oldest man to fight for the world heavyweight title. Despite dropping Louis in round one, and once again in round four, he lost a 15 round split decision. Most ringside observers and boxing writers felt Walcott deserved the win, and so there was a rematch on June 25, 1948, when Louis prevailed once again, this time by a knockout in round 11.

June 22 of 1949, Walcott got another chance to become world heavyweight champion, when he and Ezzard Charles met for the title left vacant by Louis. Charles prevailed, however, by decision in 15 rounds. Walcott, disappointed but eager to see his dream of being a champion come true, went on, and in 1950, he won four of his five bouts, including a three round knock-out of future world light heavyweight champion Harold Johnson.

On March 7 of 1951, he and Charles fought once again, and Charles retained the world title with a 15 round decision. But on July 18, he joined a handful of boxers who claimed the world title in their fifth try, when he knocked out Charles in seven rounds in Pittsburgh, to finally become world's heavyweight champion, at the relatively old age of 37. This made him the oldest man ever to win the world heavyweight crown (a distinction he would hold until George Foreman won the title in 1995).

Walcott retained the title with a 15 round decision victory against arch-enemy Charles, then, on September 23, 1952, he lost his title to Rocky Marciano by knockout in round 13. The usually cautious Walcott came out fast, dropping Marciano in round one. He was ahead on all scorecards when Marciano landed his right hand, known as "Suzie-Q," knocking Walcott unconscious.

There was a rematch, on May 15, 1953, in Chicago, but the second time around, Marciano retained the belt by a knockout in the first round, when Walcott attempted to become the first man in history to regain the world's Heavyweight crown. Walcott retired after this bout, remaining retired for the rest of his life.

Post Boxing

He did not go away from the celebrity scene after boxing. In 1956, he co-starred with Humphrey Bogart and Max Baer in the boxing drama The Harder They Fall. In 1963, he tried professional wrestling, losing to Lou Thesz. In 1965, he refereed the controversial world heavyweight championship bout between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. Walcott lost the count as Ali circled around a floored Liston and Walcott tried to get him back to a neutral corner. Then Walcott looked outside the ring (presumably to the ringside count keeper) as Ali and Liston went at each other before Walcott instructed them to keep on fighting, then Walcott approached the fighters and abruptly stopped the fight. Walcott would never be appointed as a referee after this bout. It should be said, however, that most of the controversy surrounding this fight had nothing to do with Walcott, as this was the famous fight with the "phantom punch".

Walcott became Sheriff of Camden County in 1972 and then chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission in 1975 until 1984, when he stepped down at the mandatory retirement age of 70. Walcott was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota.

His record as the oldest man ever to win the world Heavyweight title was broken in 1994 by then 45 year old George Foreman.

References

In 1963 Walcott engaged in a boxer vs. wrestler match with legendary wrestling champion Lou Thesz. Thesz pinned Walcott in the fifth round, but has stated that Walcott knocked him (Thesz) down and most likely out in that fifth round. As he fell to the floor, he relied on instinct, grabbing Walcotts knees, taking him down with him and stretching him out for the pin.

See also

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