By Veersen Bhoolai- Sept. 1995

 

 

Walcott stood at five feet, one and a half inches, his fighting weight at 142 pounds, basically a midget version of Mike Tyson. His short powerful physique enabled him to bob and weave, catching his opponent's punches on his powerful shoulders and his granite like head.

 

Barbadian, Joe Walcott, World Welterweight Boxing Champion during the early 1900's, is perhaps the only West Indian, universally recognized as a boxing legend.

 

Walcott stood at five feet, one and a half inches, his fighting weight at 142 pounds, basically a midget version of Mike Tyson. His short powerful physique enabled him to bob and weave, catching his opponent's punches on his powerful shoulders and his granite like head.

 

Often referred to as the 'Barbados Demon,' because of his sizeable strength, Walcott was a great in every sense of the word. A black man being a World Champion in that era, was an accomplishment in its self. However, what made Walcott a truly marvellous fighting figure was his ability to defeat much bigger men. Amongst his victims were names such as: George Gardener and Philadelphia Jack O'Brien, both of whom would go on to win the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World. Walcott also Ko'd Heavyweight, Joe Choynski, who had earlier fought World Heavyweight Champion, Jim Jefferies to a draw.

 

Another of Walcott's astounding accomplishments, was a draw with Heavyweight contender, Sam Langford. Langford was perhaps the greatest Heavyweight of his era. He had been denied and opportunity at the World title because of the color of his skin. Even the immortal Jack Johnson, the first black Heavyweight Champion of the World, avoided Langford.

 

Walcott was born in Barbados, on March 13th, 1873. As a lad he had an urge to travel, and whilst still a teenager, he hopped

a schooner bound for Boston. Whilst at sea, the men would engage in rough and tumble fights for their own entertainment. The young short Walcott, discovered that he was quite a success because of his natural strength.

 

Once in Boston, Walcott engaged himself in various odd jobs. As a form of recreation he joined a gymnasium, where he was taught to box and wrestle. In 1990, just 17 years old, he turned professional.

 

Walcott was a natural athlete, and his initial baptism into the professional ranks was an easy one. Such was his dominance, that eventually, he was given the opportunity to fight two opponents on the same night. The talented Bajan didn't hesitate.

As fate would have it, World Featherweight Champion, Canadian, Geroge Dixon was in the audience. Dixon, the first black World Champion and a future legend himself, was quite impressed when he saw Walcott KO his two opponents. He immediately encouraged his manager, Tom O'Rourke, to sign up Walcott.

 

O'Rourke first wanted to see Walcott in action. He asked Walcott to fight any challenger in the audience for four rounds. Walcott agreed, however, no challengers could be found, not even when offered the princely sum of fifty dollars.

 

Walcott, eager to sign with O'Rourke suggested a compromise: offer twenty five dollars to anyone who could last 15 minutes with him on the wrestling mat. Three volunteers were found, all Heavyweights, collectively they all lasted less than 10 minutes. O'Rourke immediately signed Walcott, thus the road to greatness had begun.

 

In 1898, Walcott challenged Welterweight Champion, the Mysterious Billy Smith. They fought to a draw over 25 rounds. In the rematch Walcott lost a 20 round decision.

 

In December of 1901, Walcott knocked out Welterweight Champ, Jim Ferns in five rounds, and in so doing, became the first ever West Indian World Champion. After a successful defense over Tommy West in London, England; Walcott lost the title to Dixie Kid, via a disputed disqualification in the 20th round, in 1904. Later that year, Dixie gave up the title and Walcott reclaimed it. Walcott then defended the title against the legendary Joe Gans. Gans, who was the Lightweight Champion of the World, fought to a 20 round draw with Walcott.

 

Honey Melody, took the Crown from Walcott via a 15 round decision in 1906. Attempting to regain the title later that year, Walcott was knocked out in 12 rounds by Melody. Unable to get another title shot, Walcott eventually retired in 1911. His record was 150 fights: 81 wins (34 KOs: 30 draws; 24 losses and 15 no decisions.

 

After his ring earnings had been exhausted, Walcott worked at various odd jobs. In 1924 he spent three years in jail for assault. Walcott was struck by a car and killed in 1935, thus, ending the existence of Barbados' greatest boxer.

 

Perhaps one of the finest tributes to Walcott, was the career of (Jersey) Joe Walcott. American, Jersey Joe, whose original name was Arnold Cream, had often heard his Bajan father boasting about the Barbados Demon. Cream who had been an extremely successful amateur, decided to adopt the name of his Dad's idol, upon his entrance into the professional ranks. The rest is history, Jersey Joe Walcott is remembered today as one of the greatest Lightheavyweights that ever lived and a classy World Heavyweight Champion.

 

Early in his career, Walcott, then a rising star in the Lightheavyweight

division, was making his customary walk to the ring for one of his fights.

He felt a hand on his arm, thinking it was just one of his many fans, he

ignored it. However, the grip persisted. Walcott turned around to see a

bum of a man smiling at him. "How do you do son?" said the man.

"My name is Joe Walcott too - the original Joe Walcott.

 

Walcott was aghast, he couldn't believe this shabby individual standing

in front of him, was the legendary Joe Walcott. Not the man his father

had boasted so much about? He immediately swore to himself right then and there, that he wouldn't end up like that. To ensure that there would be no confusion over himself and the original Joe Walcott, he added the monicker 'Jersey,' in front of his name, having originally come from New Jersey.

 

This anecdote should not detract from the aura of the original Joe Walcott, for boxing historians the world over recognize him for what he was - a genius of an athlete and one of the finest pound for pound boxers of all time.

 

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Editor's note: In later years, jounalists from Guyana claims that JW was actually born there before migrating to Barbados. He is listed in boxrec as having been born in Demerara, Guyana. 

Joe Walcott vs Joe Gans, Sept. 1904

Joe Waloctt (r) in his elder years spariing with Coloured lightweight Champion of the World, Bruck Flowers.

Old timers, Sam Langford (l) and Walcott pose for the cameras. Langford beat all comers from Lightweight to Heavyweight and was considered the uncrowned Heavyweight Champion in the 1920s. He is quoted in publications as saying that Joe him the hardest in his career.

Joe Walcott, a genius of an athlete

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