The Memory Bank: Part Ten

By Ted Sares on June 21, 2012
The Memory Bank: Part Ten
The rangy, slick-boxing middleweight, Holman Williams, was always was in tip-top shape

A recent article about the Cocoa Kid stirred up some fond memories that go back to the very beginnings of my Boxing Memory Bank…

“Holman Williams was a great boxer, but he never got the recognition because he wasn’t a puncher. He had the finesse of a Ray Robinson, but no punch.”—Eddie Futch

“Clever, cunning and skillful, Holman was one of those foreverkind of fighters who probably looked like a grizzled old veteran when he came out of the womb.”—Mike Casey

A recent article about the Cocoa Kid stirred up some fond memories that go back to the very beginnings of my Boxing Memory Bank.

I was nine years old at the time and vaguely recall something about my dad wanting to take me to the Chicago Coliseum in April 1946 to see a youthful and popular bomber by the name of Bob Satterfield (12-1at the time) go up against a veteran middleweight who boxed with the speed and cleverness of a lightweight. It would be the main event in a card that also included Roy Cadie vs. Torpedo Reed and Tony Musto tangling with Dick Leves.

In 1945, I had seen Satterfield destroy Art McWhorter in one savage round at the Marigold Gardens. He floored McWhorter three times; first from a left hook, second from a volley of shots, and finally from a left hook that dropped him for the count. It was also the first professional fight I had witnessed. It was pure but beautiful violence and I loved it.

The attraction on this 1946 night would be the youth and explosiveness of “Rapid Robert,”168½ and 22 years old, vs. the style and experience of Holman Williams, 34, who was an astonishing 138-22-10 coming in and a 2 to 1 favorite (his career spanned 1931-1948 and he had 187 fights in all).

Most Chicago fans did their betting under the numerous “no betting” signs that were scattered throughout the Coliseum. This was done as a kind of post-war thing that said “we damm well will do anything we want.” That was post-war Chicago and the vets were not to be messed with.

The fight drew 6,500 people, the largest crowd since the ‘30s, and most were there to see Chicagoan Satterfield unload one of his lethal lefts or crunching rights on a veteran who was considered the quintessential “cutie,” and one of the best defensive fighters of the 1940s. The winner stood to fight Jake LaMotta, making the fight even more intriguing. Of course, this was an era in which the now devalued title of “‘world champion” was accorded to one man only and the stakes of a title fight were much higher.

In his previous duke, the rangy, slick-boxing Williams, who was always in tip-top shape, lost to none other than Bert “Chocolate Kid” Lytell but prior to that, he put together a 14-fight undefeated streak including a win over future Hall-of-Fame inductee Charley Burley. Also included in this streak were wins over The Cocoa Kid (165-44-8 at the time) and the great Archie Moore. In all, he would go 3-8-2 against The Kid, 3-3-1 against rugged Jose Basora, 3-3-0-1 against Charley Burley, 5-0 against Young Gene Buffalo, and 3-3 against Jose Basora, though I have not been able to verify these figures to the level of exactness I prefer. Holman’s career began in 1932 and ended in 1948. He came out of the professional gate fast losing only once in his first 32 fights. Included in this fast start was a win in 1935 for the Negro Lightweight Title.

Unfortunately, I never did get to that 1946 fight. My dad took my brother instead (he had returned from the war in 1945) and their account of it was that Satterfield gave a great showing but simply could not reach Williams who was able to dodge and deflect the bomber’s shots, though it would later be said that even when Bob missed, he could hurt you. As it was, Williams won an entertaining 10-round decision with Satterfield stalking throughout but never catching the veteran who used a superb left jab to keep the KO artist at bay. My brother said it seemed impossible for Satterfield to land a clean shot.

Holman would then fight and lose to future Hall of Famers Marcel Cerdan and Jake LaMotta in succession. But these two losses came after he had been a professional fighter for many years and time had caught up to him. He would lose 11 of his remaining 22 fights, as his magnificent reflexes waned. Still, he fought top-notch opposition right up to the end in 1948, and some of those defeats were controversial as well. His final record was an amazing 146-30-11. And get this; he was stopped only three times—once on cuts! He fought many times in New Orleans and Chicago, but he was the essence of a road warrior and toiled at his trade in just about every big city in the country.

The legendary trainer, Eddie Futch, has often cited Holman Williams and Charley Burley as the two greatest fighters he ever had the privilege to see and was quoted as saying that he would rather watch Williams shadowbox than watch most other fighters in action. (Harry Otty, “Why Holman Williams Belong in the Hall-of-Fame.” Wail The CBZ JOURNAL, July 2006).

Williams rated Archie Moore the best he ever fought. As for the hardest puncher, that was Bob Satterfield. He, of course, had high praise for the Cocoa Kid and Charlie Burley as well.

Avoided by many of the higher ranked white fighters (and historically neglected by all except aficionados), this great technical boxing wizard fought the best welterweights, middleweights and light heavyweights of his time. Inducting him into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008, albeit posthumously, was manifestly the right thing to do.

Tragically, he died in a fire in Akron, Ohio, in 1967 at age 52.

However, many others have failed to get their historic due. Yes, the quartet of great black fighters, Williams, Burley, Bert Lytell and the Cocoa Kid, have been the subject of many articles, but others like Jose Basora, Kid Tunero, Joe Carter, Eddie Booker, Jack Chase, Wes Farrell and Aaron Wade have remained on the fringe of appropriate attention. They had to fight against consistently rugged opposition, often engaging in multiple bouts against each other.

As boxing writer and historian Angelo Prospero wrote in “Around the Boxing Scene,” Boxing World Magazine, February 2008: “They were shunned by champions and top contenders as being ‘too good for their own good.’ Rarely did they fight in the prestigious arenas of the country.”

For Holman Williams, justice was finally served in 2008. The Cocoa Kid (Herbert Lewis Hardwick) joined him in 2012. But incredibly and sadly, neither had ever fought for a title, nor was either properly celebrated at the Hall during their inductions.

The Memory Bank: Part One
The Memory Bank: Part Two
The Memory Bank: Part Three
The Memory Bank: Part Four
The Memory Bank: Part Five
The Memory Bank: Part Six
The Memory Bank: Part Seven
The Memory Bank: Part Eight
The Memory Bank: Part Nine
The Memory Bank: Part Ten

Visit the author’s website at www.tedsares.com

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Holman Williams-Young Gene Buffalo III



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  1. TEX HASSLER 08:28am, 06/25/2012

    Thanks Mr. Sares for taking us back to the golden years of boxing’s genuine great fighter era. The men you mentioned probably all deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Eddie Booker is another great fighter that is all but forgotten today. If he were in his prime today he and most of the others named would easily get a title if they got the chance. Holman Williams and Charley Burley were both truly gifted fighters who were trained by gifted boxing teachers.

  2. mikecasey 04:54am, 06/24/2012

    It turned into wrestling, Mike!

  3. Mike Silver 07:30pm, 06/23/2012

    The wonderful boxers you mentioned Ted defined the “art of boxing”.
    For an announcer to have crowed at the beginning of one of their fights “Lets Get Ready To Rummmmble” would have been sacrilege and a bit nauseating. These guys didn’t “rumble” they BOXED! What the hell ever happened to this sport??

  4. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 07:26pm, 06/23/2012

    ‘45 is 22 years before I was hatched…... My mother was hatched in ‘45…...

  5. The Thresher 11:03am, 06/22/2012

    Yes indeed Irish

  6. mikecasey 07:50am, 06/22/2012

    You got it, Irish!

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 06:08am, 06/22/2012

    Ted Sares- Many of these ATGs from this era no doubt loved what they were doing. However, in my view the reason some of these warriors ended up with 250 fights, is simple…..if they didn’t fight they didn’t eat.

  8. mikecasey 04:22am, 06/22/2012

    Lovely and deserved tribute, Ted, to Holman and his contemporary aces. Hank Kaplan told me that Eddie Booker was one of the greatest he ever saw and rated Eddie as his 10th greatest ever middleweight. But all these guys you name were so damn clever and dangerous.

  9. Jim Crue 04:16am, 06/22/2012

    Ted, from one Chicago guy to another thanks for writing this.
    I remember my uncle telling me that his dad, my grandfather, woke him up from a sound sleep in 1926, telling him “Tunney beat Dempsey.” My grandfathers used to go to Marigold all the time. I wish more young boxing fans had a sense of boxing history, when boxing was an important sport.

  10. The Thresher 05:03pm, 06/21/2012

    1945

  11. pugknows 01:59pm, 06/21/2012

    Remember it like it was yesterday and I remember your brother, Arturo, when he returned from the War.

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