While he is hardly one of the most greatly discussed or high profile boxers, Ezzard Charles is in fact one of the boxing greats, particularly in his weight class. Falling under heavy weight and classified as light/heavy weight, he has a record that includes almost 60 knockouts in his nineteen year career. He was a mainstay in the 40’s and 50’s and took on some of the most renowned opponents when boxing under heavyweight division. He sparred with Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis and certainly gave them a run for the money.
As an amateur, he was one to watch in every competition. He claimed titles in the Golden Gloves, the American Amateur Middleweight champ, and racked up a collection of belts to mark his victories. This was all prior to 1940 when he started to spar on the professional ring and his career took off with quite a fast start. He went undefeated in more than a dozen of his first fights and took down names like Charles Burley, set him on a path toward the top contenders as a middleweight.
Unfortunately, his career hit a roadblock when he was called to serve in the war and he went years without boxing, diluting his former reputation and leaving him out of fighting shape. When he did return, he had weighed out the middle class and hit the ring as a light heavy, again getting off to a running start by besting lead fighters time and time again.
If talent came without effort for Charles, luck never really did. Just as he was again beginning to climb in the ranks, he took on a young fighter named Sam Baroudi and downed him in a knockout tenth round. The kid died from the injuries at the age of 21 and Ezzard was beside himself with guild and grief.
Again, it took some time before Charles was ready to get back in the ring but as in the past, he came in swinging and ended snagging the light heavyweight championship shortly afterward, beating Jersey Joe Walcott. One of his shining victories was outpointing his idol, Joe Louis, just prior to his retirement. Louis was aging at that point and still fighting to counter a financial crisis even though his heart was no longer in it, clearly. Given the chance to battle it out with Rocky Marciano on a couple of occasions, Charles was defeated in both of the fights, once by decision and another time by knockout.
Even when defeated in the ring, Ezzard Charles had the skills and the prowess of a champion and although he never rose to the degree of acclaim as some of his famed opponents, he is considered to be one of the top fighters of all time. In classic stubborn style, not uncommon to boxers, he continued to fight beyond his prime and his career ended on a string of defeats although even with those losses on his record, his entire career produced a rate of victory at almost 80 percent.
Although he was born in Georgia, Charles was generally considered a Cincinnati fighter as he went to school there and he went by the name of the Cincinnati Cobra. Beyond his prowess in the ring, he was also a talented musician with a passion for jazz. Charles had the chance to play bass along with some of the big names in the genre.
Charles died from Lou Gehrig’s disease in his early 50’s and never lived to see his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
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