Arnold Raymond Cream, aka Jersey Joe Walcott, was born in Merchantville, NJ, on Jan. 31, 1914. He held the record for the oldest heavyweight champion for more than four decades. His father, an immigrant from Barbados, died when Walcott was 15, which forced him to go to work to provide for his mother and younger siblings.
At 16-years-old, he began boxing professionally and adopted Jersey Joe Walcott as his moniker to pay tribute to his favorite boxer, Joe Walcott, who was nicknamed “The Barbados Demon.”
Jersey Joe Walcott fought during the 1930s to try to provide for his wife and six kids, but struggled at times since “he would work in a factory all day, eat little, and box in the evenings with little preparation or training,” according to Jack Slack’s Fightland piece.
Walcott’s boxing career took off when an investor backed him so he could train full-time. On Dec. 5, 1947, Walcott fought Joe Louis at Madison Square Garden for the heavyweight title; he lost in a split decision despite knocking Louis down twice and, as most sportswriters concluded, outperforming him. Walcott lost a rematch against Louis on June 25, 1948 at Yankee Stadium.
Jersey Joe Walcott fought Ezzard Charles in 1949 for the heavyweight title that Louis vacated. Charles won the fight via a 15-round decision, and again took down Walcott on March 7, 1951 in a rematch. However, on July 18, 1951, Walcott, at age 37, knocked out Charles in his fifth attempt to win the heavyweight crown. Walcott was a 9-1 underdog in the fight, according to BoxRec, and The Ring Magazine later named the bout its 1951 Fight of the Year. His record as the oldest heavyweight champion stood for more than 43 years, until George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer to capture the title at 45-years-old in 1994.
Walcott stayed connected to boxing after he retiring from the sport. He served as the referee for the Muhammed Ali-Sonny Liston rematch, which ended controversially in the first round. In 1971, he was the first African American elected sheriff of Camden County and served as the head of the New Jersey Boxing Commission from 1975-1984.
Jersey Joe Walcott was inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in 1972, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 and the New Jersey Hall of Fame posthumously in 2013. On Feb. 25, 1994, Walcott died due to complications from diabetes.
- Hero (Top) Feature Image: © National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons
- Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
- The Ring / Wikimedia Commons