Ezzard Charles
Ezzard Mack Charles was an African-American professional boxer and former world heavyweight champion. He holds wins over numerous Hall of Fame fighters in three different weight classes. Charles retired with a record of 93 wins, 25 losses and 1 draw.


He was born in Lawrenceville
Lawrenceville, Georgia
Lawrenceville is a city in and the county seat of Gwinnett County, Georgia, in the United States. The Census Bureau estimates the 2008 population at 29,258...

, Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

, but is commonly thought of as a Cincinnatian
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located to north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The population within city limits is 296,943 according to the 2010 census, making it Ohio's...

. Charles graduated from Woodward High School
Woodward High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Woodward High School is a public high school located in the Bond Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. It is part of the Cincinnati Public School District.-Old Woodward Building :Woodward was one of the first public schools in the country...

 in Cincinnati where he was already becoming a well-known fighter. Known as "The Cincinnati Cobra," Charles fought many notable opponents in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, eventually winning a championship in the latter. Although he never won the light heavyweight title, Ring magazine has rated him as the greatest light heavyweight of all time.

Ezzard Charles started his career as a featherweight in the amateurs, where he had a record of 42-0. In 1938, he won the Diamond Belt Middleweight
Middleweight is a division, or weight class, in boxing. Early boxing history is less than exact, but the middleweight designation seems to have begun in the 1840s. In the bare-knuckle era, the first middleweight championship fight was between Tom Chandler and Dooney Harris in 1897...

 Champion. He followed this up in 1939 by winning the Chicago Golden Gloves
Chicago Golden Gloves
This amateur boxing tournament is considered by many boxing aficionados as one of the three most elite Golden Gloves titles, along with the Intercity Golden Gloves and the New York Golden Gloves. The tournament is also more formally known as the Chicago Tribune Charities Golden Gloves Tournament of...

 tournament of champions. He won the national AAU Middleweight Championship in 1939. He turned pro in 1940, knocking out Melody Johnson in the 4th round. Charles won all of his first 15 fights before being defeated by veteran Ken Overlin
Ken Overlin
Ken Overlin , was an American-born middleweight boxer who fought professionally from 1931 to 1944, compiling a record of 131 wins , 18 losses, and 9 draws....

. Victories over future Hall of Famers Teddy Yarosz
Teddy Yarosz
Teddy Yarosz was an American athlete in boxing. He held the world middleweight boxing championship during 1934-1935.-Personal life:Yarosz was born in Monaca, Pennsylvania. His brother Tommy Yarosz also became a boxer....

 and the much avoided Charley Burley
Charley Burley
Charley Burley was a boxer of the 1940s, compiling a record of 83 wins , 12 losses, and 2 draws with 1 "no contest"...

 had started to solidify Charles as a top contender in the Middleweight division. However, he served in the U.S. military during World War II and was unable to fight professionally in 1945.

He returned to boxing after the war as a light heavyweight, picking up many notable wins over leading light heavyweight as well as heavyweight contenders Archie Moore
Archie Moore
Archie Moore, born Archibald Lee Wright , was light heavyweight world boxing champion who had one of the longest professional careers in the history of that sport....

, Jimmy Bivins
Jimmy Bivins
James Louis Bivins, is a former American heavyweight boxer whose professional career ran from 1940 to 1955. He was born in Dry Branch, Georgia...

, Lloyd Marshall
Lloyd Marshall
Lloyd Marshall was a light heavyweight boxer who was inducted posthumously into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on June 2010.-Pro career:...

, and Elmer Ray. Shortly after his knock-out of Moore in their third and final meeting, tragedy struck. Charles fought a young contender named Sam Baroudi, knocking him out in Round 10. Baroudi died of the injuries he sustained in this bout. Charles was so devastated he almost gave up fighting. Charles was unable to secure a title shot at light heavyweight, and moved up to heavyweight. After knocking out Joe Baksi
Joe Baksi
Joe Baksi was a top heavyweight contender who defeated fighters such as Tami Mauriello, Lee Savold, Lou Nova, and Freddie Mills, while losing decisions to Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles.-Background:...

 and Johnny Haynes, Charles won the vacant National Boxing Association world heavyweight title when he outpointed Jersey Joe Walcott
Jersey Joe Walcott
Arnold Raymond Cream , 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 , a record that would be broken on November 5, 1994, by George Foreman, who...

 over 15 rounds on June 22, 1949. The following year, he outpointed his idol and former world heavyweight champion Joe Louis
Joe Louis
Joseph Louis Barrow , better known as Joe Louis, was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time...

 to become the recognized lineal champion. Successful defenses against Walcott, Lee Oma and Joey Maxim
Joey Maxim
Giuseppe Antonio Berardinelli was an American boxer. He was a light heavyweight champion of the world. He took the ring-name Joey Maxim from the Maxim gun, the world's first self-acting machine gun, based on his ability to rapidly throw a large number of left jabs.-Early career:Maxim was born in...

 would follow.

In 1951, Charles fought Walcott a third time and lost the title by knockout in the seventh round. Charles lost a controversial decision in the fourth and final bout. If Charles had won this fight he would have become the first man in history to regain the heavyweight championship. Remaining a top contender with wins over Rex Layne
Rex Layne
Rex Layne was born in Lewiston, Utah on June 7, 1928. He died on June 7, 2000-Background:According to the Oct. 29, 1949 Tacoma News Tribune, Layne was a Mormon who was a staff sergeant with an airborne division in World War II for 19 months, serving some time in Japan. He did not start boxing...

, Tommy Harrison, and Coley Wallace
Coley Wallace
Coley Wallace was an American actor and heavyweight boxer who outpointed by Rocky Marciano in a three-round amateur fight....

, Charles knocked out Bob Satterfield
Bob Satterfield
Bob "Bombardier" Satterfield , was a heavyweight boxer who fought from 1945-1957. Satterfield, who never fought for the title, retired with a record of 50 wins , 25 losses and 4 draws. He is in Ring magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time at number 58...

 in an eliminator bout for the right to challenge Heavyweight Champion Rocky Marciano
Rocky Marciano
Rocky Marciano , born Rocco Francis Marchegiano, was an American boxer and the heavyweight champion of the world from September 23, 1952, to April 27, 1956. Marciano is the only champion to hold the heavyweight title and go undefeated throughout his career. Marciano defended his title six times...

. His two stirring battles with Marciano are regarded as ring classics. In the first bout, held in June 1954, he valiantly took Rocky the distance
The distance (boxing)
The distance, in boxing, refers to the full number of rounds in boxing matches. It is frequently used in the expression "going the distance," which means fighting a full bout without being knocked out...

, going down on points in a vintage heavyweight bout. Charles is the only man ever to last the full 15-round distance against Marciano. In their September rematch, a severely cut Marciano rallied to KO Charles in the 8th round, in a bout that was named Ring Magazine's "Fight of the Year." Financial problems forced Charles to continue fighting, losing 12 of his final 23 fights. He retired with a record of 96-25-1 (58 KOs).

Charles was also a respected double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

 player who played with some of the jazz greats in the 1940s and 1950s at such notable places as Birdland
Birdland (jazz club)
Birdland is a jazz club started in New York City on December 15, 1949. The original Birdland, which was located at 1678 Broadway, just north of West 52nd Street in Manhattan, was closed in 1965 due to increased rents, but it re-opened for one night in 1979...

 (jazz composer George Russell
George Russell
George Allen Russell was an American jazz pianist, composer and theorist. He is considered one of the first jazz musicians to contribute to general music theory with a theory of harmony based on Jazz rather than European music, in his book, The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization...

 wrote the famous tune Ezz-Thetic in his honor) . He was very close with Rocky Marciano
Rocky Marciano
Rocky Marciano , born Rocco Francis Marchegiano, was an American boxer and the heavyweight champion of the world from September 23, 1952, to April 27, 1956. Marciano is the only champion to hold the heavyweight title and go undefeated throughout his career. Marciano defended his title six times...

 and a neighbor and friend of Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is an American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist...

 when they both lived on 85th street in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

. Charles also starred in one motion picture: "Mau Mau Drums", an independent (and unreleased) jungle-adventure film shot in and around Cincinnati in 1960 by filmmaker Earl Schwieterman.


Ezzard Charles died May 28, 1975, in Chicago from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a form of motor neuron disease caused by the degeneration of upper and lower neurons, located in the ventral horn of the spinal cord and the cortical neurons that provide their efferent input...

 (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, aged 53, and was interred in the historic Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois
Alsip, Illinois
Alsip is a village in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The population was 19,725 at the 2000 census. It is a suburb of Chicago.Alsip was settled in the 1830s by German and Dutch farmers. The village is named after Frank Alsip, the owner of a brickyard that opened there in 1885...

. In 1976 Cincinnati honored Charles by changing the name of Lincoln Park Drive to Ezzard Charles Drive. This was the street of his residence during the height of his career.

He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame
International Boxing Hall of Fame
The modern International Boxing Hall of Fame is located in Canastota, New York, United States, within driving distance from the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown and the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta...

 in 1990.

In 2002, Charles was ranked #13 on Ring Magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years.


In 2006, Ezzard Charles was named the 11th greatest fighter of all time by the IBRO (International Boxing Research Organisation).

The “Cincinnati Cobra” was a master boxer of extraordinary skill and ability. He had speed, agility, fast hands and excellent footwork. Charles possessed a masterful jab and was a superb combination puncher. He was at his peak as a light-heavyweight. His record is quite impressive. Against top rate opposition like Archie Moore, Charley Burley, Lloyd Marshall, Jimmy Bivins, and Joey Maxim he was an impressive 16-2 combined. Despite being a natural light-heavy he won the heavyweight title and made 9 successful title defenses. Nearly 25% of voters had Charles in the top 10. Half of the voters had him in the top 15. Two thirds of voters had him inside the top 20.

In 2007, ESPN online ranks Ezzard Charles as the 27th greatest boxer of all time, ahead of such notable fighters as Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson
Michael Gerard "Mike" Tyson is a retired American boxer. Tyson is a former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles, he was 20 years, 4 months and 22 days old...

, Larry Holmes
Larry Holmes
Larry Holmes is a former professional boxer. He grew up in Easton, Pennsylvania, which gave birth to his boxing nickname, The Easton Assassin....

 and Jake LaMotta
Jake LaMotta
Giacobbe LaMotta , better known as Jake LaMotta, nicknamed "The Bronx Bull" and "The Raging Bull", is a former American world middleweight champion boxer...


In 2009, Boxing Magazine listed Ezzard Charles as the greatest Light Heavyweight fighter ever, beating the likes of Archie Moore
Archie Moore
Archie Moore, born Archibald Lee Wright , was light heavyweight world boxing champion who had one of the longest professional careers in the history of that sport....

, Bob Foster, Gene Tunney
Gene Tunney
James Joseph "Gene" Tunney was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1926-1928 who defeated Jack Dempsey twice, first in 1926 and then in 1927. Tunney's successful title defense against Dempsey is one of the most famous bouts in boxing history and is known as The Long Count Fight...


Prominent Boxing historian, Bert Sugar, listed Charles as the 7th greatest Heavyweight of all time.

External links



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