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Ezzard Charles
  Ezzard Charles is Cincinnati’s only World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. He was born in Georgia in 1921 but came to Cincinnati at the age of nine to live with his grandmother and great-grandmother in the West End. He started his amateur boxing career in his teen years and won 42 amateur fights as a welterweight and a middleweight. In 1939 he won the Amateur Athletic Union national middleweight title. He graduated from Woodward High School in 1942.  
Charles began his professional boxing career in March 1940 and fought 38 matches over the next three years. He won 33, lost four and had one draw. Twenty-one of his 33 victories were by knockouts. Twenty-two of his 38 matches were held in Cincinnati. Charles served in the military in 1944 and 1945. In February 1946 Charles once again was back in the ring, now in the light heavyweight division.
Ezzard Charles
Ezzard Charles
General Photograph Collection
Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center
In 1949 Charles moved up to the heavyweight division. On June 22, 1949 he defeated Jersey Joe Walcott to win the National Boxing Association championship. On September 28, 1950 he won a 15-round decision over Joe Louis and was proclaimed the world heavyweight champion. He successfully defended his title in three matches in 1951 but then lost his crown to Walcott in a re-match on July 18. From February 18, 1946 to July 18, 1951, Charles fought 42 matches and lost only twice. Out of his 40 victories in these years, he won 24 by knockouts.
Charles continued to box until 1959. From October 1951 through October 1956, he won 19 matches and lost 15. Ten of his victories were by KOs but he was also knocked out three times. In 1957 Charles retired from boxing only to return to fight six more times in 1958 and 1959. He lost four of his last six matches, two of those by KOs. Over the course of his professional boxing career, Ezzard Charles had 122 bouts with 96 wins, 25 losses and one draw.
Charles tried several jobs after the end of his boxing days. He was a safety inspector for the State of Ohio and then a bouncer at a Northern Kentucky nightclub. He tried professional wrestling using the name "Cincinnati Cobra." He moved to Chicago and in 1967 was working for Youth Welfare. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and died in 1975. In 1976 Cincinnati recognized Ezzard Charles by changing Lincoln Park Drive to Ezzard Charles Drive. In 1949 when he won the heavyweight championship, Charles lived at 929 Lincoln Park Drive. In 1990 Ezzard Charles was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

To learn more about Ezzard Charles, consult the following resources:

The Way We Were: The Magnificent Loser
Article by Bob McKay in Cincinnati Magazine, October 1977, Vol. 11, No. 1, pages 83‑89.
General f977.14 C574cc
Ezzard Charles' boxing career and his fight to gain respect are covered in the article in Cincinnati Magazine.   View catalog record   Request slip
100 Who Made a Difference: Greater Cincinnatians Who Made a Mark on the 20th Century

By Barry M. Horstman
General f920.07714 H819 R.R.
Barry M. Horstman gives a two-page overview of Charles' life in this 1999 book.   View catalog record   Request slip
Profiles in Black History

By the Cincinnati Enquirer
Pamphlets 920.0092 C574
This pamphlet includes a brief briographical sketch on Ezzard Charles, the "Cincinnati Cobra."   View catalog record   Request slip

Sources Used for Biographical Sketch:
  • 100 Who Made a Difference, General f920.07714 H819 R.R., Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Profiles in Black History, Pamphlets 920.0092 C574, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • McKay, Bob. "The Way We Were: The Magnificent Loser," Cincinnati Magazine, October 1977, Vol. 11, No. 1, p. 83‑89. General f977.14 C574cc. Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Newspaper clipping files, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.


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This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.