The first thirty pages of James Curl’s fine biography on former heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott highlights the poverty and struggle Walcott faced from his earliest days.
Walcott was born Arnold Raymond Cream in 1914, the fourth of twelve
children. He fought for candy at the age of seven. He grew up idolizing
former welterweight champion “Barbadoes” Joe Walcott. When he turned
professional at 16, Cream took the name “Joe Walcott.” He inserted the “
Jersey ” as a reminder of his birthplace in Merchantville , New Jersey
The young Walcott was a fast learner. He met trainer, and former great
fighter, Jack Blackburn in 1934. Walcott figured Blackburn would train
him. Blackburn liked the idea and invited Walcott to join him in Chicago
. Sadly, Walcott missed this opportunity when he contacted a form of
Typhoid Mary. Blackburn , ventured on to Chicago without him to work
with a fighter named Joe Louis, which in essence left Walcott fighting
in the sticks for small purses. Walcott had four children by the time he
was 23-years-old. When he wasn’t fighting, he picked up work wherever
Walcott’s career changed when he met Felix Bocchicchio. In 1945, Walcott
was ready to retire. He was thirty-one years old and sick of fighting
for peanuts. Bocchicchio convinced him that he could pave his way to a
title shot. He recognized Walcott’s talent in a way that nobody else
had. Like Walcott, he carried baggage. Bocchicchio’s past included
stints in the Mafia and prison.
Still, the little man did as he promised.
In 1947, Walcott earned his first shot at the heavyweight title. His
opponent was an over-the- hill Joe Louis (both fighters were
33-years-old). Walcott fought well during the bout. He knocked Louis
down twice. His tricky moves had the great champion befuddled. The
author does a good job of giving a blow-by-blow description
of Walcott’s most important fights.
Walcott lost to Louis that night by split decision. The outcome was so
controversial that Louis and Walcott went at it again seven months
later. Walcott again knocked Louis down, but this time the legendary
Brown Bomber caught Walcott with a barrage of savage punches in round
11. Walcott went down and was unable to beat the fatal 10 count.
Walcott’s determination was admirable. He fought new heavyweight
champion Ezzard Charles in 1949 and 1951. He lost both bouts by
decision. Finally, in the summer of 1951, fighting Charles for what he
knew would be the last time, the 37-year-old Walcott put everything he
had into a left hook/uppercut. The punch twisted Charles’ face sideways
and knocked him out.
Walcott would lose the title fourteen months later to Rocky Marciano in
what many considered the fight of the year. Walcott looked to be on his
way to a victory until a powerful Marciano right crashed against his
chin. He fought one more time (another knockout loss to Marciano) and
Curl’s writing on Walcott’s post-boxing career is also very interesting.
The author explains in his introduction that he doesn’t consider
himself a professional writer. Some of his prose does feel forced at
times, but overall, the book is a very good read.
Ultimately, “Jersey Joe” Walcott deserves this biography. His story will
remind boxing fans and others that dreams often do come true, if you’re
willing to work hard enough to achieve them.
For more information about this book, please go here…www.mcfarlandpub.com or call (800-253-2187)
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