Saturday, July 9, 2016

The South: Land of Heavyweight Boxing Champions


The South in the twentieth century has embraced any number of northern athletic imports and made them her own. Arguably, the South has produced the premier basketball player in Michael Jordan, the top baseball player in Ty Cobb, and the greatest football player in Jim Brown. Boxing, however, is not a sport that one associates with Southern bred champions.

The modern sport of boxing was codified in the British Isles in the middle of the nineteenth century. Boxers from Great Britain would dominate the sport until the turn of the century when Americans dominated the sports glamour division, the heavyweights. Two Southerners were among these early champions: Marvin Hart of Louisville, Kentucky and the great Jack Johnson of Galveston, Texas.

The first golden age of the heavyweight division during the 1920s and 1930s saw the division dominated by three legendary fighters of Irish heritage: Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, and Jim Braddock. Dempsey was from Colorado; Tunney and Braddock were both from New York. Braddock gave a harsh boxing lesson to one John “Corn” Griffin, a leading contender from Florida. The man who destroyed Braddock and definitively broke the Irish-American hold on the heavyweight crown was the incomparable Joe Louis, a native of Alabama. The next Southern native to hold the belt after Louis was the underrated Ezzard Charles.


  1. I am not thrilled with boxing as a sport.

  2. Heck, they never forced them boys to fight, and it paid real good if you were good enough.