Tuesday, October 3, 2017

On This Day: Barbados Joe Walcott Remembered

By Peter Silkov
Joe Walcott stood just 5' feet 1" and a half inches, but was one of the most formidable fighters pound-for-pound, of his era. He was known as the "Barbados Demon" and fought like one too. He was fast and powerful, with a tremendous punch in both hands, and immense stamina and durability. Walcott never weighed more than 150 pounds, yet, he fought top fighters from the lightweight to heavyweight divisions.

Walcott’s outstanding opponents included fellow greats such as George "Kid" Lavigne, "Mysterious" Billy Smith, Bobby Dobbs, Joe Choyniski, "Philadelphia" Jack O’Brien, Sam Langford, "Young" Peter Jackson, James "Rube" Ferns, Joe Gans and Dixie Kid, amongst others.

Walcott’s all-action, aggressive fighting style, and his willingness to meet anyone regardless of weight, made him one of the most popular fighters of his time.

In his first attempt at winning a world championship, Walcott was stopped in 12 rounds by George "Kid" Lavigne, for the World lightweight championship in October 1897. Then, in December 1898, Walcott was out pointed in 20 rounds by ’Mysterious’ Billy Smith, in a battle for Smiths world welterweight title.
Walcott finally won the World welterweight title on December 18, 1901, when he stopped James "Rube" Ferns in 5 rounds. He retained this title until October 19, 1906, when he lost on points over 15 rounds to Billy "Honey" Melody. Walcott had previously lost via a foul after 20 rounds, to Dixie Kid on April 29, 1904, and Dixie Kid had claimed the World welterweight title after this victory. But after the Dixie Kid moved on to the higher divisions, Walcott had regained recognition as the Welterweight champion.

Shortly after fighting a 20-round draw with the great Joe Gans in September 1904, Walcott accidentally shot himself in the hand, and did not fight again until 1906. He was never quite the same fighter afterwards, having lost some of the punching ability in his injured hand. After losing his world title to Melody, Walcott fought on for a number of years, with decreasing success, and never got another world title chance.

Walcott’s final right record was 95(61)-25-24.
Sam Langford and Barbados Joe Walcott
Like so many other greats of the ring Walcott ended his ring career with little money left to show for his exploits. In later years, he worked as a janitor at the legendary Madison Square Garden and lived in a tiny hotel room. Walcott died in 1935 after being hit by a car. He was often hailed by those who saw him fight as the greatest fighter pound for pound of his time.

Long after Walcott retired many fighters would name themselves after him, including Jersey Joe Walcott, (real name Arnold Cream) who called himself after his idol, "The Barbados Demon" Joe Walcott, and took his name all the way to the Heavyweight championship of the world.
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