CLASSICAL NOTEBOOK OF BOXING HISTORY
IT SHOULD BE.
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BARBADOS JOE WALCOTT ; BURYING THE "DEMON"
For a boxer who had crossed gloves with the likes of Sam Langford, Joe
Gans. Philadelphia, Jack O’Brien, Mysterious Billy Smith, Kid Lavigne,
George Gardner, Dixie Kid, Rube Ferns, Tommy West, Dan Creedon, Honey
Mellody and Joe Choynski, his was not a fitting end. Joe Walcott was
born on March 13, 1873 in Barbados, British West Indies. On December 15,
1901 he stopped Rube Ferns in five rounds to capture the welterweight
title. Ninety years later the man nicknamed the Barbados Demon was
inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Walcott’s career began in 1890 and lasted through 1911. He engaged in
135 recorded professional contests but Joe insisted there were many
more. He failed in his first two attempts to win title recognition
losing to lightweight champion Kid Lavigne in 1897 and welterweight
champion Mysterious Billy Smith in 1898. After beating Ferns in 1901 he
held the crown until losing to Dixie Kid in 1904. He reclaimed the title
when Dixie Kid moved up in weight but lost all recognition when he was
defeated by Honey Mellody in 1906.
From his retirement in 1911 until 1935, Walcott worked many different
jobs. His boxing fortune had long since been depleted. Destitute he
eventually surfaced in New York City. It was there that Mayor Jimmy
Walker learned of Joe’s plight. Walker was able to get Joe a job at
Madison Square Garden. There Joe stayed for a month or so and then he
vanished without a trace. “Barbados” Joe Walcott was a 5’1″ freak of
nature with a barrel chest and a reach equal to a much taller man. It
was these physical attributes that enabled him to battle even
heavyweights with success. Now he had disappeared without a clue to his
whereabouts. His final resting place may never have been known if it had
not been for the efforts of Bill Cereghin a devoted boxing fan from
Cereghin went on a mission to find the once great champion. In 1955
Bill’s efforts led him to Massillon, Ohio some twenty years after Joe
had last been seen. Massillon is a town famous for the exploits of their
high school football team once coached by Paul Brown. In
Massillon Bill got the break he was hoping for. Someone remembered a
person fitting Walcott’s description working in a small town near
Massillon called Dalton. When Bill arrived in Dalton there was no sign
or clue of Walcott. He searched the town cemetery with no luck. Finally
a gravedigger led Bill to a Potter’s Field on a small hill and said he
remembered burring a person of Walcott’s description who claimed he was
once a great fighter. Bill then met with the undertaker who verified the
gravedigger's claim. Joe had been walking one night and was hit by a
car. He died at the scene. Now satisfied that his search was over Bill
decided to try and dignify the unmarked grave. Bill found a slab of
cement and with a black crayon wrote “Joe Walcott; Died October 1,
1935”. This was the date the undertaker had put on Walcott’s John Doe
This story was brought to my attention by Sal Marino, a boxing expert
from Niles, Ohio. Upon reading of Cereghin’s search and discovery of
Walcott’s grave, Sal decided to pay Dalton a visit. Since Dalton was
within a reasonable distance from Niles, Sal and his wife made the trip.
At the cemetery they too found Walcott’s place of rest. No longer was
the grave marked with the crayon inscribed cement slab. It now has a
small but simple headstone. Did Bill Cereghin who was making an effort
to collect enough money to buy a stone succeed? I am not sure.
The story about Bill’s search came out over thirty years ago. I have had
no luck in my effort to contact Bill. It is fans like Bill and Sal who
take the time and effort to keep the memories of our boxing heroes
alive. Mr. Boxing himself Nat Fleischer rated Walcott the best
welterweight of this century’s first fifty years. How could a boxer that
was bestowed such an honor by left unremembered in an unmarked grave?
The boxing company owes Mr. Cereghin a debt of gratitude.
Again a special thank you to my late, great friend Sal Marino. He was
the co-founder and President of the Trumbull County,Ohio's Legends Of
Leather for the information he sent to me.
A CAREER SHORT OF
A HEAVYWEIGHT CALLED "RINGO"
Who was the greatest fighter
to come out of Argentina? Well pound for pound you would probably say
Carlos Monzon or possibly Pascual Perez. You could make a case for
Nicolino Locche too. Who was the biggest and baddest of all Argentine
fighters? Many would say Luis "Angel" Firpo. I'll go with Oscar "Ringo"
When Oscar started his career in 1964, he met tough opponents like Tom
McNeely and Dick Wipperman. In his first bout in 1965, he was
overmatched and defeated by veteran contender Zora Folley. Oscar left
New York and returned to Argentina. He defeated the very capable
Gregorio Paralta and American import, Billy Daniels. When he returned to
New York in 1966, he outpointed equally rugged George Chuvalo.
Oscar was then matched with 1964 Olympic Gold Medal winner, Joe Frazier.
The fight was classic. Oscar had Joe down twice but Frazier came back to
win a close decision. In 1967, Oscar was entered in the eight man
tourney to determine the defrocked Muhammad Ali's successor. Oscar
traveled to Germany and trounced southpaw Karl Mildenberger. In his next
match he was floored twice and soundly beaten by the eventual tourney
winner, Jimmy Ellis. Oscar regrouped in 1968 beating Folley in a rematch
and also the respected, Leotis Martin. He was matched again with Joe
Frazier for the New York State version of the crown. Oscar fell behind
early but he came back strong only to drop the verdict. Bonavena would
still remain a viable contender for several more years.
Two years after his loss to Frazier, Oscar would face the comebacking
It would be one of the most grueling fights of Ali's career. The
"Greatest" came out on top by stopping a dead game but exhausted Oscar
in the fifteenth and final round.
In 1971 Oscar won by a disqualification over colorful Al "Blue" Lewis.
In 1972 Bonavena met former champion, Floyd Patterson. Oscar lost a very
debatable decision. Two years later he was defeated by the highly
regarded Ron Lyle.
The loss to Lyle pretty much pushed Oscar out of the title picture.
Bonavena was still a rated fighter when on May 22, 1976, he was shot and
killed at a brothel in Las Vegas.
The hard partying "Bad Boy" had finally met his match.
FIGHTERS OF THE 20th