The Return of Ezzard Charles (diary entry)

rex layne v charles 309.03.2022

My second lesson of Wednesday was “Learn from the Fight” where we picked up the career of former heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles. The last we had seen of Charles was his rematch and fourth fight with Jersey Joe Walcott, a loss by unanimous decision that had squared both fighters at two fights a piece ending their feud. Charles’s felt he had won their final bout and told the reporters so but was stoic in his composure. The Associated Press were on his side, believing that the he had edged it by a narrow margin and this had also been supported by a quick poll of ringside spectators. However, this irritation was nothing compared to what Charles faced in his next fight. This was another rematch. He previously stopped Rex Layne in round 11 only months after Walcott had taken his title in their clash with a stunning knockout. The rematch had seen Layne get a points-victory and the ire of the press. The fight had been entirely decided by the referee, former world heavyweight champion and beloved sports star, Jack Dempsey. He was accused of blatantly showing bias to Layne’s home state, Utah, where the fight took place. Ring magazine ruled it a draw, Salt Lake Tribune gave it to Charles and Rocky Mountain News thought the same. Ray Arcel, Charles’s corner-man and trainer publically stated, “Instead of adding dignity to the fight game, Dempsey has added disgrace.”

Charles’s next six fights were more successful. Four of them were stoppages, including a second round technical knockout over Bernie Reynolds. The other two were unanimous decisions. Now he was ready to face Rex Layne in a rubber match and begin paving the way to become the first man to reclaim the world heavyweight title.

Ezzard Charles versus Rex Layne 01.04.1953

Their third fight was held at the Winterland Arena, San Francisco. Despite intensive training, Layne came in at 203lbs and Charles, at the heaviest in fighting career so far, was 187½lbs. Rather bizarrely a retrospective title card on the footage labelled this a middleweight fight.

Round 1 – Charles immediately took to the outside and came in with aggressive leads. Layne, a fairly typical slugger, attempted to slow him down and began clinching.  Charles remained busy on the inside and then manufactured distance, landing jabs to Layne’s face. Layne continued to bull forward. Charles’s combinations found their mark when he did this, catching the heavier man in the body as well as the head. The camera panned up high at a particularly exciting volley of punches that wobbled Layne considerably who stumbled forward, landing on one knee and seemingly clinging onto his opponent to prevent a knockdown. It was described as a half-push/half-punch. The referee did not enforce the mandatory 8-count and therefore did not recognise it as such. Layne came back with a flourish of powerful rights that landed. Apparently he had worked hard on developing his left but this did not materialise.

Round 2 – Charles’s wicked left hook caught Layne several times. Layne’s nose was noticeably bloody. Charles picked up a warning for wrestling where he held and hit. Prior to the end of the round, Layne landed some hard shots on his opponent.

Round 3 – Charles began landing more body shots and Layne closed in to bully. Layne clearly saw his best option was to work on the inside, lean into his weight advantage and use his right, however, as he attempted to do this Charles caught him several times on the way in.

Round 4 – Layne tried to stiff-arm Charles a few time early on. Charles continued to score from the outside and Layne sought to burrow into the mid-section. Again, Charles became busy on the inside landing mainly head shots.

Round 5 – Layne began to land the odd jab to the head, but Charles still ruled from the outside. Charles landed a stinging one-two that stunned Layne momentarily. The fight kept busy with aggressive to and fro boxing. Layne began missing a bit more. Charles threw some vicious right hands including hooks. Layne picked up a warning for head-butting towards the end of the round.

Round 6 – Charles’s left hand gathered more steam and Layne’s right eye and nose demonstrated this fact. At the midway point Charles’s combinations got through and staggered Layne, almost knocking him down. He went in for the kill but Layne wisely clinched and leaned in. It was all Charles at this point with Layne doing his best to stay in the fight. Finally a right hook sent Layne down to one knee. Bedlam ensued! The referee wanted Layne to take the eight-count and then thought the bell had rung. It hadn’t. The fight continued and then bell rang 15 seconds ahead of when it should. The live commentator said that the noise was deafening during this fight and contributed to the confusion.

The commission doctor inspector checked Layne’s nose and eye, permitting him to continue.

Round 7 – Layne’s face was still very bloody and Charles came in very keen to finish the job. Again his heavy left and right hooks got through but Layne weathered the storm, fighting back hard. He ate more punches and was staggered before being knocked down to one knee, triggering the mandatory 8-count.

Round 8 – Layne was again declared fit to continue by the ring doctor. Layne looked tired if determined whereas Charles was slick as ever, working his left hook on his opponent’s damaged right eye. Layne went down again but it wasn’t ruled a knockdown. He continued to appear unsteady on his legs.

Round 9 – Charles continued to work Layne with his lead hand. Layne resumed his earlier strategy of driving into the mid-section with left and right hooks. He looked livelier and it was quite incredible to see how well he was working despite the punishment he had endured in the previous rounds.

Round 10 – Charles landed some sharp combinations to the head. Layne landed a powerful right, but it had no effect on Charles. Layne began to slow down at the two minute point. Here and there he showed bravery with attempted flourishes but Charles was landing all the punches now. He knocked Layne down who stumbled to his feet. The referee’s eyes were clearly off the slumping form trying to right his balance by leaning into the ropes. He turned to him to give the mandatory 8-count where it really should have been ruled a TKO. Instead Layne stumbled forward into Charles and the bell went, losing by decision.

Ezzard Charles versus Bob Satterfield 13.01.1954

Charles vs SatterfieldCharles clocked up two more victories – a unanimous decision and a fifth round knockout – before losing a unanimous decision to Nino Valdes from Cuba and a split decision to old Archie Moore rival Harold Johnson. Both these fighters were hungry up and comers with their stars on the ascent. Valdes victory had been considered a particular surprise with few realising the obscure fighter had already won the Cuban national heavyweight title almost a decade beforehand.

Bob Satterfield was born 9th November 1923 in St Louis, Missouri. In 1941 he won the Chicago City Golden Gloves Championship at 147lbs. He turned professional in 1945 and began fighting as a middleweight. His aggressive slugger style earned him a lot of fan support but he was also known for lacking stamina and not having a very good chin. In September 1946 Jake LaMotta knocked him out in the seventh round of their fight. He moved up to the heavyweights. In 1951 he knocked Rex Layne down in the first round for an eight count, but later was stopped in the eighth. By the time he came to face Ezzard Charles in 1954, his professional record was 33-14-2.

Charles came into the bout weighing 189lbs and Satterfield was at 180lbs.

Round 1 – Satterfield had a noted powerful left hook and it immediately came into play during round one. He also took on a more crouched stance. Charles looked like he was taking control from the beginning but a big miss with a left hook left him open for Satterfield to wade in, almost losing his mouthpiece. He recovered in the clinch and then had some heavy exchanges, but the first round was definitely Satterfield’s.

Round 2 – Satterfield had surprised everyone with the power he was now putting into his right hand. He came out in a similar aggressive fashion as we had last seen him, possibly sensing blood. However, Charles had his number and set up his winning combination. Charles set up his knockout punch with a pawing left jab, followed by a stiff right and then devastating left hook.

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