Posts Tagged ‘Jack Johnson’

Houston Area’s Greatest Boxing Heavies

August 28, 2011

Two Houston fans settle issue over who shall possess the last available ticket to the 1888 season opener for the town's new professional base ball team. In spite of abounding rumors, the winner was not the lithe figure of a young George Foreman.

There have been a number of excellent heavyweight boxers who came out of the greater Houston area to fight on the larger world stage, but none so famous and capable as these five men. To me, they will always be The Houston Area’s Greatest Boxing Heavies:

1. Jack Johnson (DOB: 03-31-1878 in Galveston, TX; DOD: 06-10-1946) Became first black man to win the heavyweight crown when he won a 15-round TKO to thwart the comeback of retired champion Jim Jeffries on 07-04-1910. Racism at the turn of the 20th century, fueled by Johnson’s libertine life style and his personal preference for the social company of white women both failed to win him many friends among that era’s easily threatened moral white majority as it served to inspire the title of “Great White Hope” that was then bestowed upon every Caucasian challenger to his reign as the heavyweight champion of the world. Career Record: 55 wins, 11 losses, and 7 draws, with 35 KO wins and 6 KO losses included.

2. George Foreman (DOB: 01-10-1949 in Marshall, TX, but grew up in Houston.) On 01-22-1973, he won his first heavyweight championship in a 3-round TKO of Joe Frazier, but then lost it again on 10-30-1974 to Muhammed Ali in an 8th round KO loss (his only one ever) in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle”/”Rope-a-Dope” match in Africa. Foreman later regained the heavyweight championship in an incredible AARP-like KO of Michael Moorer in 10 rounds on 11-05-1994.  Foreman then went on to become the most successful and wealthiest products pitch man in Houston heavyweight history. Career Record: Foreman’s career included 76 wins and 5 losses, with 68 of those wins coming by the KO route and only 1 ending in a KO loss.

3. Cleveland Williams (DOB: 06-30-1933 in Griffin, GA, but made his home in Houston throughout his boxing career and over the balance of his life; DOD: 09-11-1999) Lost a 11-14-1966 challenge in the Astrodome to champion Muhammed Ali by a TKO in the 3rd round. Earlier, “The Big Cat”, as he was known, won a 06-28-1966 TKO in 3 rounds over fellow Houston heavy Tod Herring. Career Record: 78 wins and 13 losses and 1 draw, with 58 KO wins and 8 KO losses in the bunch.

4. Roy Harris (DOB: 06-29-1933 in Cut-n-Shoot, TX ) Lost to Champion Floyd Patterson on a 13-round TKO, 08-18-1958. On 04-25-1960,  my  college roommate and I made a last minute decision to drive downtown to the old City Auditorium and catch the Roy Harris-Sonny Liston fight that was taking place live in Houston at the old Coliseum. Like most Houston fight fans, we were hoping that local boy Harris could pull a rabbit from the hat and take out boxing’s big bully of those times. As financially struggling UH students, we second-guessed ourselves all the way there about our decisions to spring for the five bucks each, plus parking, that it was going to cost us. To hype the pressure, our decision to go came late enough to put us in our seats at near or shortly after the start of the fight. We got there inside just in time to enter to the sound of a a long low groan.  As we reached eyesight of the screen, while we were  still walking in search of our seats, we quickly saw the reason for the local crowd’s sinking spirit. There was Roy Harris, laying flat on his back. As he struggled to his feet, the referee quickly called it: “The winner by a TKO in the first round, Sonny Liston!” OUCH! It was the fastest lost five bucks in my life, up to that point, at least. All of my other memories of Roy Harris the boxer are pretty good. Career Record: Won 30 and lost 5, with 9 KO wins and 4 KO losses.

5. Tod Herring (DOB: 07-02-1937 in Houston, TX; DOD: 07-15-1991)  On 05-14-1965, Herring accomplished the same end as did Cleveland Williams in his own challenge of champion Floyd Patterson. He also lost a 3rd round TKO to the reigning champ. Still, Tod Herring remains as the greatest, toughest boxer and fighter to ever come out of the Houston East End. He had a hard life, which included some penitentiary time for killing a man with is bare fists in a bar fight, but we understand from the comments of family and close friends that he had gotten his life together with his heeling soul before he died. Rest in peace, Tod. His career record was 37 wins and 6 losses, with 20 of those wins coming by the KO route and 5 of the defeats landing as KO losses.