Tuesday night’s second lesson was “learn from the fight” where we reviewed highlights from Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott’s second fight and the entirety of their third clash.
Ezzard Charles versus Jersey Joe Walcott World Heavyweight Championship 07.03.1951
It had been two years since Walcott and Charles had last met to fight for the then vacant NBA heavyweight title. Charles had emerged the victor on a unanimous decision and then gone on to beat the man who had previously defeated Walcott for the undisputed title, Joe Louis. Therefore, it was unsurprising when Charles gave Walcott his rematch and fourth attempt at the heavyweight he was the 5-1 favourite.
Walcott had gone on to win five straight matches during these two years, including one of over future light-heavyweight champion, Harold Johnson, before losing a points’ decision to the fearsome Rex Lane who would also go on to beat Charles in years to come.
This fight was Ezzard Charles’s seventh NBA title defence and third undisputed title defence.
Round 1 – This was an even cautious exchange by the two boxers, both exhibiting they particular styles.
Round 4 – Walcott seemed to take this round, hurting Charles with shots to the head and body.
Round 9 – This round had an aggressive to and fro exchange, instigated by Walcott. Walcott pressed the advantage before getting caught by a left hook that sent him down for a count of nine. The technique was delivered with true timing, precision and skill, possibly influencing the judges in their final decision. Nevertheless, Walcott came back hard and even landed a good right hand.
Round 15 – Walcott should have clinched this one despite Charles’s superb performance. He caught the champion with some impressive shots.
The fight’s unanimous decision in favour of Charles was met by boos from the audience and this time, Walcott, who had suffered a similar result in his first fight with Joe Louis, did not hold his tongue in declaring he had been robbed.
Ezzard Charles versus Jersey Joe Walcott World Heavyweight Championship 18.07.1951
No doubt influenced by the verdict of their rematch, Ezzard Charles and his management agreed to another title fight with Jersey Joe Walcott. Between the second and third bout, Charles defended his title once against Joey Maxim who beat by a unanimous decision. Walcott hadn’t fought anyone and set his sights firmly on Charles. This time he would go in as the 9-1 underdog.
By now Walcott was used to knockbacks and disappointments. Just seven years previously he had given up boxing at least half a dozen times. In 1944 he was finding bit-part labour in shipyards and hauling rubbish trying to keep his wife and six children’s heads above water. It was James Braddock’s Cinderella Man situation except with the added disadvantages of the racial prejudices of the time. Walcott’s family were living in a dilapidated shack in Camden when bookmaker Vic Marsilo decided to resurrect Jersey Joe’s career. He believed had potential and put his best motivational speeches on to encourage his protégé to return to the ring. In the end he decided to put his money where his mouth was and went to his money man, promoter Felix Bocchicchio, to ask him to buy a ton of coal to bide the Walcott family over winter. After Marsilo turned up and personally shovelled the delivery into Walcott’s basement, the talented fighter was inspired to give the fight game one more chance.
This fight goes down in history as the first World Heavyweight Championship to be fought in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Walcott came out with more vigour than ever before. By round three he cut Charles’s cheek with a right hand. By the fifth and sixth rounds Charles was put on the defensive in a bad way, even for a counter-puncher. Before round seven Walcott was ahead on points and Charles knew he needed to mount the offensive. He backed Walcott into the ropes resulting in a clinch. After being separated by the referee, Walcott finished the fight with one of the most impressive single punch knockouts in boxing history. He casually walked into the centre of the ring and beautifully slipped a jab to deliver a timed left hook that sent Charles down for the count, shocking the boxing world in the process.
After 21 years of professional fighting, several times retired and four failed attempts, at long last Jersey Joe Walcott at age 37 became the oldest man in history to win World Heavyweight Championship. This would be a record he would hold for four decades before George Foreman broke it in 1994 aged 45.