Elmer Ray’s 50 in a Row

By Clarence George on April 1, 2015
Elmer Ray’s 50 in a Row
Violent hung 'em up following his loss to John Holman in Miami, Florida on March 8, 1949.

Is Rocky Marciano with his 49-0 more godlike than Elmer Ray? All boxers are godlike, but some boxers are more godlike than others…

“I’m not God — but I am something similar.”—Roberto Duran

Wins, that is.

Heavyweight Elmer “Violent” Ray fought from 1935 to 1949, winding up with 85 wins, 64 by knockout, 17 losses, nine by knockout, five draws, and one no contest. That’s 108 fights over the course of 14 years, an average of between seven and eight fights a year. An impressive record, especially as things didn’t start off with a bang — he won only one of his first 10 fights, losing six and drawing three.

Turkey Thompson stopped Ray by first-round KO at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles on August 24, 1943. That kayo loss must have served as an attitude adjustment, because Ray proceeded to win his next 50 fights, 44 by stoppage. Okay, some of the men he bested were ham-and-eggers. Following his loss to Thompson, for example, Ray stopped Gene Felton (15-21-1, 7 KOs) by second-round KO at the Coliseum in San Diego on October 1, 1943, followed by an eighth-round TKO of Lorenzo Pedro (11-12-1, 9 KOs) exactly two weeks later at the same venue. There was Ernie Rios (17-19-4, 5 KOs), Bob Smith (13-30-5, 7 KOs), Mike Alfano (9-30-3, 2 KOs), Al Jordan (16-17-1, 5 KOs), and Al Ware (23-41-7, 14 KOs). But there was also Buddy Millard (32-6, 16 KOs), Kid Riviera (30-9-2, 12 KOs), and Art McAlpine (27-9-1, 8 KOs), as well as Lee Savold and Jersey Joe Walcott.

Ray stopped Savold, “The Battling Bartender,” by second-round KO at Ebbet’s Field on August 28, 1946, while scoring a split decision over Walcott at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 1946. Jersey Joe’s the one who brought Elmer’s winning streak to an end, winning by majority decision at the Orange Bowl in Miami on March 4, 1947.

A member in good standing of famed Murderers’ Row, Ray won his next seven fights, six by stoppage, including a controversial win by split decision over Ezzard Charles at the Garden on July 25, 1947, despite Charles being “the faster, the better boxer, and the sharper hitter,” at least according to The Ring. “The Cincinnati Cobra” served up his own win, and with mustard, at Chicago Stadium, stopping Ray by ninth-round KO on May 7, 1948.

Violent hung ‘em up following his loss to John Holman, who won by eighth-round KO at Dorsey Park in Miami on March 8, 1949.

Is Rocky Marciano with his 49-0 more godlike than Ray? He was “short, stoop-shouldered, balding, got two left feet,” said trainer Charley Goldman. Okay, not Thor, but “God, how he can punch.” He “stood out in boxing like a rose in a garbage dump,” said sportswriter Jimmy Cannon. How ‘bout Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his, thus far, unbeaten streak? He, like “The Rock,” doesn’t “want to be remembered as a beaten champion.” It’s a matter of taste and judgment. I have a Marciano T-shirt, for instance, as well as one of Jack Dempsey. And I’d be proud to sport one of Joe Louis or Sugar Ray Robinson or Roberto Duran…or Elmer Ray. But I don’t have one of Mayweather. And I never will.

Of course, any man who steps into the squared circle is godlike. True even of another of Ray’s microscopically talented opponents, the glass-jawed Cyclone Lynch, who won only three and lost 10 of 12 by knockout.

All boxers are godlike, but some boxers are more godlike than others.

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  1. KB 07:06am, 04/02/2016

    Clarence, do you mind if I quote from this piece? You can email me on it.

  2. Clarence George 08:59am, 04/02/2015

    Unpretentious entertainment, that’s my motto.  Well, not really my motto…and once again I’m channeling Hank Kimball.

    Few of these ladies look much like Raquel Welch, I’m afraid.  Not that it matters—She Who Must Be Obeyed is coming along as well.

  3. Eric 08:31am, 04/02/2015

    Who can forget Raquel Welch and the Kansas City Bombers. teehee.

  4. Kid Blast 08:18am, 04/02/2015

    Roller Derby. What? I used to love the Derby in the 50’s. Break away’s, etc. You like wrestling and Roller Derby? Do you hear the sirens coming, CG?

  5. Clarence George 07:44am, 04/02/2015

    Roller derby next month!  Bronx Gridlock vs. Brooklyn Bombshells.  The day before Mother’s Day…and she’s coming!  I must remember to advise her that a lorgnette will be neither necessary nor advisable.

  6. Clarence George 07:32am, 04/02/2015

    Yes, terrible.  He’s fighting Saturday, taking on Julian Williams.

  7. Kid Blast 07:08am, 04/02/2015

    Joey Hernandez a tough hombre out of Miami is nicknamed “Twinkle Fingers.”

  8. Clarence George 06:26am, 04/02/2015

    Not at all implausible, Eric, I’ll grant you that.

  9. Eric 05:31am, 04/02/2015

    I will be the odd man out and say that Basilio beats Graziano. Basilio was only stopped twice in his career and that was by a bull named Gene Fullmer. Fullmer was not only a legit middleweight but he probably was one of the strongest middleweight champions ever. Graziano had tremendous punching power but he wasn’t much larger than Basilio. Graziano was only 5’7” and weighed 154-155lbs for his first two fights with Zale. I’m going with a late round stoppage or decison win for “The Upstate Onion Farmer.”

  10. Clarence George 02:55am, 04/02/2015

    So glad you liked it, Beaujack, and thanks for another in a long line of great posts.  I remember that you and your dad saw the Ray-Savold fight, and I understand why you see a resemblance between Ray and Lyle, though I’d rank Ray much higher.  I agree that Graziano beats Basilio, probably by late-round TKO.  But, by God, he wouldn’t have found it pleasant.  Basilio-Petrolle never occurred to me, and I’ll have to give it some thought.

    Completely agree with you, Bob, about the toughness of ham-and-eggers, especially of that era.  Unfortunately, I discovered very little about Ray outside the ring.  He was a Floridian who was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame a few years ago (a disgrace that he’s not in the IBHOF).  He died in 1987, age 76.  I know he has a granddaughter, Rhea Ray, and perhaps she’ll post here.  I couldn’t find her, though I recently got in touch with the actress Noel Thurman, thinking she was related to the boxer Paul Thurman…she isn’t.  By the way, I don’t buy into the argument that Ray’s losses to Walcott and Charles put paid to his hopes of getting a crack at Louis’ crown.  I’m convinced Louis simply didn’t want to fight him because he knew it’d be tough and that it wouldn’t generate much interest.  That’s not meant to imply, however, that Ray would have won or that Louis had any real fears of losing, just that it wouldn’t have been worth the considerable effort.  Ray was a very good boxer, extremely tough and durable, and hit like a wrecking ball.  Louis knew all that.  It also didn’t escape his attention that Ray was black, and that there was a lot more interest in his taking on white fighters…just so long as he didn’t gloat over their prostrate bodies.

  11. Bob 01:32am, 04/02/2015

    To have as many knockouts as he did, Ray must have been a handful. The ham and eggers back then knew how to survive. Any idea about Ray’s post ring life? Sounds like an interesting fellow.

  12. beaujack 08:13pm, 04/01/2015

    Another great article Clarence about a virtual unkown heavyweight of bygone days. I and my dad saw the fight you mention at Ebbett’s Field where Elmer Ray stopped a once formidable Lee Savold. We lived less than a mile from good old Ebbett’s Field home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
    Elmer Ray reminded me of a later Ron Lyle in style and punching ability…
    I agree that Carmen Basillio was a smaller edition of Rocky Marciano, toughness and all but I truly believe that the MW pre Zale Rocky Graziano..
    most likely stops the 147 pound WW Basillio were they to have met Rocky Graziano feasted on the welterwights for certain.
    Speaking of Basillio, I once met Referee and former Eastside sensation Ruby Goldstein at a boxing forum in New England many years ago and Ruby was one of my dad’s idols as a fighter. I asked Ruby Goldstein who would have won between Carmen Basillio and Billy Petrolle in their primes.? Goldstein took the stogie out of his mouth and barked ” Billy Petrolle”, for what it’s worth…

  13. Clarence George 07:33pm, 04/01/2015

    I share your admiration for Basilio, Eric.  Very underrated as a middleweight, IMO.

  14. Eric 07:29pm, 04/01/2015

    Clarence…Now that was a fighter. IF there was ever a fighter that could have matched Marciano in the conditioning or “toughness” department, it would have been Carmen. Mucho respect for “The Upstate Onion Farmer.” Fantasy matchups: Basilio vs. Graziano. Marciano vs. Dempsey, of course.

  15. Clarence George 07:24pm, 04/01/2015

    Eric:  What about Carmen “The Upstate Onion Farmer” Basilio?  No questioning his toughness, of course, but that has to be one of the most unintimidating nicknames in the history of the sport.

  16. Eric 07:12pm, 04/01/2015

    I thought Mike Weaver had a rough start. That era produced some unique nicknames. Has to be intimidating fighting someone named Elmer “Violent” Ray or Curtis “Hatchetman” Shepherd. Names like Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, or Bruce “The Mouse” Strauss, don’t exactly inspire fear.

  17. Clarence George 06:13pm, 04/01/2015

    Thanks, Peter.  I don’t know of any footage of Ray in the ring.  I looked, as I’m sure Robert did, but to no avail.  A great pity.

  18. peter 05:56pm, 04/01/2015

    Another interesting Clarence-George article. You provide us with a fascinating glimpse at a forgotten former contender. Unlike typing in a fighter’s name on BoxRec, your article puts some meat and bone to that name.  (Now I’m heading to BoxRec to look at that record.) Too bad there’s no video of Ray. Or is there?

  19. Clarence George 05:14pm, 04/01/2015

    Thanks, KB.

    Glad you liked it, Irish.  Your explanation is certainly plausible.  Alternatively, the nickname of “Cyclone” was very much wishful thinking.

  20. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 04:35pm, 04/01/2015

    Clarence George-I really enjoyed this one….“Cyclone Lynch”....3 and 12 and KO’d 10 times….I think I get it….just about every darn time he stepped into the ring it was like he found himself caught up in a cyclone of punches….makes sense to me. I think he should gone with “KO’s R US”.

  21. Kid Blast 03:12pm, 04/01/2015

    “The Cincinnati Cobra” served up his own win, and with mustard, ,,,: Hmm, I might use that down the line

  22. Kid Blast 02:59pm, 04/01/2015

    Tremendous power puncher. The Rock was built like a goat.

    Nicely done Clarence on someone who deserves the attention.

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