Jersey Joe Walcott
Professional boxer
Born: January 31, 1914, in Merchantville, New Jersey
Died: February 25, 1994, in Camden, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2013: Sports

Talk about determination. It took 21 years of battling in the ring for Jersey Joe Walcott to capture the world heavyweight crown. At the time, he was the oldest man ever to win the title.

Born Arnold Cream, the future champ was the son of immigrant parents from Barbados. His was only 15 when his father died. Quitting school, he went to work to support his mother and 11 younger siblings. At 16, he began his boxing career, taking the name Jersey Joe Walcott in honor of his boxing idol, Joe Walcott, a welterweight from Barbados.

Walcott debuted as a professional middleweight in 1930, winning his first bout with a one-round knockout. Over the next 17 years, he recorded 42 ring victories (as well as 13 losses and one draw) before earning a heavyweight title fight against the immortal Joe Louis on Dec. 5, 1947, at Madison Square Garden. In the fight, Walcott knocked Louis to the canvas twice, but lost in a split decision. Granted a rematch the following June, Walcott again scored a knockdown against Louis, but lost when the champ knocked him out in the 11th round.

Walcott got another chance at the heavyweight crown in 1949 when he and Ezzard Charles squared off in pursuit of the title, which Louis had vacated. Charles won in a 15-round decision. They fought again in March 1951, and again, Charles won in 15 rounds. Given a third shot at Charles just four months later, the 37-year-old Walcott finally prevailed with a seventh-round knockout. The heavyweight crown was his.

When Charles and Walcott faced each other again in 1952, Walcott retained the title, winning a 15-round decision. Later that year, Walcott defended his title again, against the undefeated Rocky Marciano. Walcott sent Marciano to the canvas in the opening minutes, but the fight stretched on until the 13th round, when Marciano knocked out Walcott with a devastating right-left combination.

In a May 1953 rematch, Marciano scored a first-round knockout over Walcott. It would be Jersey Joe’s last fight.

After his retirement, Walcott tried his hand at wrestling and acting (in the 1956 boxing drama “The Harder They fall,” starring Humphrey Bogart). He remained active on the boxing scene as a referee, overseeing the 1965 world championship rematch between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. He later served as chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission from 1975-1984.

Walcott also battled it out in the political arena.  In 1968, he lost a bid for the Democratic nomination in the race for sheriff of Camden County. He ran again and won in 1971, becoming the county’s first African America sheriff. He also served as the city of Camden’s director of community relations.

In 1990, Walcott, hailed as an excellent boxer and slick defensive fighter, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Intro/Acceptance Video