Ezzard Mack Charles (July 7, 1921 – May 28, 1975) was an African-American professional boxer and former world heavyweight champion.
He was born in Lawrenceville, Georgia, but is commonly thought of as a Cincinnatian. Charles graduated from Woodward High School in Cincinnati where he was already becoming a well-known fighter. Known as "The Cincinnati Cobra," Charles is best remembered for his wins as a heavyweight, but most experts feel he was in his prime as a light heavyweight. Although he never won the championship at that weight, Ring magazine has rated him as the greatest light heavyweight of all time.
Read a 1950 article about Ezzard Charles and Joe Louis, free from Google. Charles turned professional in 1940. He served in the U.S. military during World War II, which prevented him from fighting in 1944 and 1945. He returned to boxing after the war, and hit his prime. He defeated the great light-heavyweight Archie Moore three times, once by knock out, and also defeated all time greats in Charley Burley and Joey Maxim. Shortly after his knock-out of Moore, tragedy struck. Charles fought a tough, young boxer named Sam Baroudi, knocking him out. Baroudi died of the injuries he sustained in this bout. Charles was so devastated he almost gave up fighting. He adapted a more cautious style afterwards, trying not to hurt his opponents.
Charles was unable to get a title shot at light heavyweight, and decided to move up to heavyweight. After knocking out Joe Baksi and Johnny Haynes, Charles won the vacant National Boxing Association world heavyweight title when he outpointed Jersey Joe Walcott over 15 rounds on June 22, 1949. The following year, he outpointed his idol and former world heavyweight champion Joe Louis to become the undisputed champion.
In 1951, despite having beaten Walcott in a rematch, Charles fought Walcott again and lost the title when Walcott knocked him out with a left hook in the seventh round. Charles lost a controversial decision in the fourth and final bout. If Charles had won this fight he would have become the first man in history to regain the heavyweight championship.
Later, Charles would go on to challenge Rocky Marciano twice for the Heavyweight title. His two stirring battles with Marciano are regarded as ring classics. In the first bout, held in June 1954, he valiantly took Rocky the distance, going down on points in a vintage heavyweight bout. In their September rematch, Charles split Marciano's nose and almost won the fight by TKO. Marciano, however, rallied to KO Charles in the 8th round, in a bout that was named "Fight of the Year." It is believed by some that Charles eased off and became less aggressive after splitting Marciano's nose for fear of a repeat of the Baroudi fight.
Financial problems forced Charles to fight long after he should have retired. At that point, he was only a shell of his former self, losing 12 of his final 23 fights. He retired with a record of 96-25-1 (58 KOs).
Charles was also a respected double bass player who played with some of the jazz greats in the 40s and 50s at such notable places as Birdland. He was very close with Rocky Marciano and a neighbor and friend of Muhammed Ali when they both lived on 85th street in Chicago.
Ezzard Charles died in Chicago from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, aged 53, in 1975 and was interred in the Burr Oak Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois. In 1976 Cincinnati honored Charles by changing the name of Lincoln Park Drive to Ezzard Charles Drive. This was the street of his residence during the height of his career.
He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
ESPN online ranks Ezzard Charles as the 27th greatest boxer of all time, ahead of such notable fighters as Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Larry Holmes and Jake LaMotta.
In 2002, Charles was ranked #13 on Ring Magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years. His signature is worth approximately 750 $ on an original 8x10 photo.