Photo credits: Adrian Lungu/BoxRec
When discussions occur about the greatest heavyweight boxing champions in history, the name Ezzard Charles (pictured right) rarely ever comes up.
Nonetheless, in his time, Charles was known as a master boxer. In three different weight classes, he defeated numerous prizefighters who went on to be inducted in the Professional Boxing Hall of Fame. In the heavyweight division, legends, such as Joe Louis and Jersey Joe Walcott experienced crushing defeats at the quick, powerful hands of Charles.
Born July 7, 1921, in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Charles began his boxing career in the 1930s as a featherweight. However, Charles was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. As an amateur fighter, the so-called “Cincinnati Cobra” racked up an impressive win/loss record of 42-0. In 1939, Charles won the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament, becoming a middleweight champion.
Also in 1939, Charles won a national championship as a middleweight in San Francisco, California. The following year, he turned professional and went on to win his first 17 fights as a pro boxer. After a brief stint in the U.S. military to serve in World War II, Charles returned to professional boxing in the light heavyweight division.
As a light heavyweight, Charles soundly defeated some notable opponents, including Archie Moore, Jimmy Bivins, Lloyd Marshall, and Elmer Ray. However, Charles almost gave up boxing permanently after brutalizing Sam Baroudi, a young fighter who died from the injuries he sustained in his fatal bout with Charles.
In 1949, Charles trained harder and moved up to the heavyweight class due to the fact that he could not secure a title shot as a light heavyweight. In 1950, he defeated his idol Joe Louis and became the Lineal Heavyweight Champion. On August 15, 1950, Charles drubbed Freddie Beshore (pictured left) in the 14th round of a heavyweight fight scheduled for 15 rounds.
Charles’s brutal beating of Beshore earned him his third heavyweight title defense. When Charles finally retired from boxing, his aggregate win/loss record as a fighter was 93-25 with one draw. However, all of the head trauma and physical punishment eventually took its toll on Charles.
In 1968, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative motor neuron disease, which left him unable to walk. In 1973, a wheelchair-bound Charles appeared in a sobering commercial to raise awareness about his devastating disorder, which is also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease.
In late May of 1975, Charles died in Chicago, Illinois. In July 2020, BoxRec named him the best pound-for-pound prizefighter of all time.