“Big” Bill Tate was a large heavyweight boxer and a contemporary of Sam Langford and future World Heavyweight Champion, Jack Johnson. He would also reign as World Colored Heavyweight Champion for a short period in early 1917.
Tate was born September 1896 in Montgomery, Alabama. Not much is known about his childhood or life before boxing other than he graduated from the Normal School for Colored Students in 1905.
Seven years later the 6’6 Tate would enter the ring in a losing bout to former World Colored Heavyweight champ, Joe Jeanette in August 1912. This first match would set the pace for his showdowns with Jeanette as he would lose three more matches almost two years later in August 1914, December 1914, and January 1915.
While he had several 27 wins with 22 coming via knockout, he was just as much a victim of other boxers’ hands of stone. In his career he suffered 20 losses with 11 of them coming via knockout. Big Bill Tate’s boxing career would be punctuated by several loses in return bouts such as…
vs. KID NORFOLK
A future World Colored Heavyweight Champion and Colored Light Heavyweight Champion, Kid Norfolk began his career two years before Tate. He would face off against him in three bouts with the first being for the vacant Panamanian Heavyweight Title in June 1916. The match went the full 20 rounds and it was said that Norfolk laid quite the beating on him. This would be repeated April 1918 and December 1920.
vs. SAM LANGFORD
His record against the powerful “Boston Bonecrusher” Sam Langford was—decent. While he drew his first fight with Langford in November 1916 and defeated him by points two months later for the World Colored Heavyweight Title, he would lose his following three bouts to the rough-houser. Afterward, he defeated Langford in the next two encounters. Their final encounter in August 1922 was Langford defeat Big Bill Tate by points.
Tate was known to be a sparring partner to Jack Dempsey but because of the glass ceiling for Black boxers at the time, he was never given a shot at the World Title.
vs. HARRY WILLIS
Big Bill Tate has six matches against the three-time World Colored Heavyweight champ Harry Willis throughout his career. Most his bouts were title shots with the first four showdowns ending in defeat. His first win was during a double showdown that week against Willis. In the final match, he got a shot at the Colored HeavyweiChampionshipship which ended in a draw.
After retiring in 1927, Big Bill Tate passed in August 1953. His record was 27 wins, 20 loses, and 2 draws.