Ezzard Charles reigned as world heavyweight champion between the golden ages of Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano though many feel he was at his best as a light-heavyweight. The Georgia-born fighter was a sleek and gifted practitioner of the noble art with a decent punch, but will never be ranked among the elite of heavyweight champions – yet as a light-heavy he was devastating.
Born in Lawrenceville, Georgia on July 7, 1921, Charles beat future world champions Joey Maxim and Archie Moore on three separate occasions, but - as is sometimes the case - was probably a little too good to secure a world title shot. Frustrated, but undeterred, Charles moved up to the more glamorous heavyweight division, despite a distinct lack of size by today’s standards. Success followed Charles up in weight and he outscored the wily Jersey Joe Walcott to win the NBA version of the title made vacant after the legendary Louis’ retirement.
He defended three times before outscoring a comebacking, but faded, Louis to earn full recognition as world champion and made four more defences before old foe Walcott shocked him with a seventh round knockout in Pittsburgh in July 1951. He lost on points to Walcott in a return in Philadelphia 11 months later.
Charles later made two brave bids to regain his former crown, but was thwarted both times by the bullish Marciano in 1954. Retirement followed a poor run of form in 1959 and Charles died from multiple sclerosis in Chicago on May 27, 1975.
Ezzard Charles: Fights 122, Wins 96 Losses 25 Draws 1 (Knockouts 58).
By Mark G. Butcher