Friday, April 22, 2016

On This Day: The Alabama Kid the Boxer Who Had a Knock Out Punch Remembered

By Peter Silkov

Alabama Kid was one of the toughest and most dangerous fighters of his era, being one of the most formidable middleweight and light-heavyweight contenders of the 1930s and 40s.  The Alabama Kid scored a prodigious 108 knockouts during his career, a career in which he started as a flyweight, and fought in every division up to heavyweight.

Born Clarence Reeves on January 1, 1914, in Concord, Georgia, the Alabama Kid turned professional in 1928, fighting as a flyweight. By 1931, Alabama Kid had grown into a middleweight and was an established crowd favourite.  He often had to give away weight in matches, fighting men who were naturally bigger than him, as those of his own size often avoided him.  Ironically, despite his name, the Alabama Kid did not have very strong connections with Alabama. He never lived in Alabama and there are no verified records of him ever fighting in Alabama, (although that doesn’t mean that he did not fight there), but he took on the name so that his parents would not know that he was boxing.

During his career, Alabama Kid met top fighters such as Ko Kelly, Frankie Palmo, Paul Pirrone, Tommy Freeman, Sammy Slaughter, Joe Sekyra, Buddy Knox, George Nichols, Gus Lesnevich, Gorilla Jones,  Buddy Walker, Bob Amos, Dave Sands, Lee Q Murray, Arturo Godoy, Archie Moore, and Sid Peaks.

In 1938, Alabama traveled to Australia for some fights. Originally he planned to have just two fights there, but he found himself so popular with the Aussies that he ended up staying for over two years, before he decided to head home.  When he did decide to head back to America in 1940, fate took a hand when Alabama’s ship hit a mine, and sunk within half an hour.  Luckily all the passengers on board, including Alabama, were saved and put into lifeboats.  Instead of returning to America, Alabama went to New Zealand for a couple of fights, and then returned once more to Australia.

In a twist of fate, which would turn out to be tragic, Alabama Kid met a white Australian woman, whom he soon married.  This should have been a happy turn of events, especially when Alabama’s wife gave birth to two children.  For a while everything went well for Alabama, he continued to fight regularly, both in the ring, and also toured Australia with ’tent’ troupes, which were ran by his manager, Harry Johns. It is said that when Alabama tried to leave Harry Johns' Boxing Troupe over poor working conditions and low wages, he was threatened by Johns that he would turn Alabama into the immigration department. Ironically when he did leave the tent shows it was shortly there after that the Australian authorities caught up with Alabama and swiftly deported him.

However in 1947, Alabama Kid was told by immigration that he would have to leave Australia, as his marriage violated the ‘white Australian’ rule, which was intended to guard against white Australians marrying black partners.  Alabama Kid protested at being deported and underlined his love for both his wife and babe’s and Australia. even though his wife begged and pleaded to the authorities to allow her husband to stay in the country. “She said to the court “We are without a bread winner in a strange city and I do not want to die,” said Mrs. Reeves in Sydney following the arrest of her husband on a deportation order. The Alabama Kid, whose real name is Clarence Olin Reeves, burst into tears when he was arrested after having been beaten in a boxing bout.’"

But despite this and the outcry that his deportation raised amongst many Australians, especially within the boxing community, Alabama Kid was detained in April of 1948 at the Long Bay Jail and deported from Australia within a week, leaving his wife and children behind.  He would never see them again. They didn’t even allow his wife and children to say goodbye to him. He was placed on the ship Marine Phoenix' on April 16th, heading to San Francisco. He tried many times over the following years to get back to Australia. 

Once he returned to America, Alabama Kid continued to fight for a while, but he was a pale shadow of the fighter that he had been previously.  The Alabama Kid had his final fight on March 8, 1950, when O’Dell stopped him in 3 rounds.

The Alabama Kid’s final record is 178(108koes)-59-20.

After his retirement from boxing, the Alabama Kid worked as a trainer, and also ran a liquor store. Alabama would write Harry Johns in 1952 and said “he was managing a beer, wine, and food saloon in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The Kid sends his regards to his many fans.”

Clarence ‘Alabama Kid’ died on April 22, 1970. 

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to


  1. Boxers that have fought in the Flyweight division up to the Heavyweight division
    Len Harvey
    Leo Houck
    Georges Carpentier
    Alabama Kid