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.
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
The Way We Were: The Magnificent
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 recordRequest 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 recordRequest 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 recordRequest slip
Sources Used for Biographical Sketch:
100 Who Made a Difference, General f920.07714
H819 R.R., Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum
Profiles in Black History, Pamphlets
920.0092 C574, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati
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.
clipping files, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.