Uncrowned Champion #2

By Ted Sares on September 5, 2013
Uncrowned Champion #2
“[Booker] was one of the great fighters of my time. He had me fighting for dear life.”

Eddie Booker was inducted into World Boxing Hall of Fame and the California Boxing Hall of Fame, but for reasons that defy logic…

“There was another guy that not too many people are familiar with and he could have beat 90% or 95% of these fighters today, a guy called Eddie Booker.”—A.J. “Blackie” Nelson, sparring partner to many members of Murderers’ Row

“He was a slick-boxing, defensive stylist with decent power in both hands, particularly the left hook.”—Harry Otty

“I’ve had some rough fights in my time, but all things being equal, when I was in my prime, one of my toughest had to have been against Eddie Booker, a fighting machine… who shot out punches with deft precision…[Booker] was one of the great fighters of my time. He had me fighting for dear life.”—Archie Moore

For finishing out a 66-5-8 career, 7-2-1 is not bad, especially when it includes a points win over Lloyd Marshall, a TKO over Harry Mathews, a draw and a smashing TKO win over Archie Moore, a win over Frankie Nelson ((30-8-1), and a split with the great Holman Williams—all this despite the fact the man doing the fighting was risking permanent blindness. This is what Texas-born (but California-based) Eddie “Black Dynamite” Booker accomplished during the end of an amazing career that began in 1935 and ended involuntarily in 1944—involuntarily because of a serious eye issue. Reportedly, a doctored pair of gloves led to Eddie’s grave eye injuries that eventually would lead to blindness. Clearly, this is a story that begs for further research and I plan to do just that. 

This muscular, tough-as-nails middleweight, albeit a perfect gentleman outside the ring, was another of the many West Coast fighters who toiled successfully throughout the 1930s and ‘40s.  Eddie was and is a righteous—though more forgotten—member of “Murderers’ Row.” He could box or brawl, depending on what was required, and had a chin made of Kryptonite (he was never stopped). Other members of this feared group of black boxers who were avoided by elite white fighters because of their skills and sadly because of racial barriers that then existed included the great Hall of Famer Charley Burley, Hall of Famer Lloyd Marshall, Hall of Famer Holman Williams, Hall of Famer Herbert “Cocoa Kid” Lewis Hardwick,  the edgy Jack Chase,  powerful Elmer “Violent” Ray, Aaron “Little Tiger” Wade , Bert Lytell (Chocolate Kid), Charley Williams, and others depending on which source analysis one chooses to use.

Booker went undefeated in his first 41 outings before losing to Fritzie Zivic (75-19-4 coming in) in 1939 at the Garden. A month later, he lost a decision to fellow “Murderer-Row” member Cocoa Kid (103-28-5) in New Haven. Eddie then launched another undefeated streak before losing to Shorty Hogue (45-4-2) in San Diego in 1941. After going nine without a loss, he surprisingly was defeated by another (and rather controversial) “Murderer’s-Row” member, the fast and awkward Jack Chase (50-6-4) in 1943. “Black Dynamite” finished out his great run as stated above with each of the contests taking place in California.

The Chase bout, given Jack’s less-than-admirable background outside the ring, might well be the starting point for culling out the cause of Eddie’s eye injury. Jack Chase had numerous run-ins with the law and was arrested for shooting fellow boxer Aaron “Little Tiger” Wade in California. Putting an energized meaning to the phrase “Grudge Match,” Wade and Chase met three times with Chase wining two and the other ending in a draw. The 1944 fight ended in Chase’s favor under suspicious circumstances related to—you guessed it—an eye injury.

Eddie Booker was inducted into World Boxing Hall of Fame and the California Boxing Hall of Fame, but for reasons that defy logic, he remains a non-member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Ace Historian Harry Otty puts it best when he notes, “While the honor of enshrinement in the Boxing Hall of Fame is the least these fighters deserve, in the case of Eddie Booker it is definitely a case of too little and too late.”

To be continued….

Uncrowned Champion #1
Uncrowned Champion #2

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  1. Ted 05:38pm, 09/11/2013

    Chuck H. PLEASE SAY MORE

  2. Tex Hassler 03:17pm, 09/11/2013

    Thanks Mr. Sares for writing an article about Eddie Booker one of the great fighters from past days. He needs to be remembered because he had loads of skill and fought in a era of many tough, highly skilled fighters like Archie Moore. Just the fact that he beat Moore with ease says a great deal about Booker’s place in boxing history. Like many of the African American fighters of that time it is a crime that men like Booker and Burley never got a title fight. The same is true for Holman Williams, Lloyd Marshall and many others. This was an excellent article about an excellent fighter.

  3. Dan Cuoco 01:33pm, 09/09/2013

    Harry Otty and I spar over who would have won a head to head matchup between Booker and Charley Burley. The more I examine Booker’s career the better I like his chances to outpoint the legendary Burley.  He seemed to have a more fluid boxing style to handle Burley’s counter-punching style. It’s possible that had not his career ended prematurely he may have replaced Burley in the minds of boxing historians as the best of the Black Murderers Row.

  4. Tfraveling Man 09:26am, 09/06/2013

    Just checking in from NYC.

  5. Chuck H. 04:45am, 09/06/2013

    Random thoughts. In the RING magazine ratings for January 1940 Charley Burley was rated number one in the welterweight division. In the March 1940 RING 147 lb. ratings Cocoa Kid was ranked # 2, Holman Williams at # 3. Zivic had already boxed Burley 3 times.
    Cocoa Kid fought 155 bouts of 245 against white fighters and when he was at his prime ranking at welter Henry Armstrong was the champ that dodged Cocoa Kid.
    World War 2 seemed to change things. With so many white boxers serving, promoters tried to preserve what was left of the top white fighters. And by the end of the war with incentives like the GI bill fewer whites returned to or entered boxing as a profession.
    Holman Williams boxed 58 whites before the war of a total of 67 bouts. Charley Burley boxed 30 white opponents before the war. We should never forget the many whites that never ducked the black fighters Like Rosenbloom, who had 70 bouts against Black fighters. Check out guys like George Nichols, Izzy Jannazzo, Sammy Angott, Joey Maxim, Gus Dorazio, Melio Bettina, Popeye Woods, Jimmy Leto, Wicky Harkins etc.
    Sometimes there is more to the story than revisionist history with an agenda.
    Chuck H.

  6. Steve Movely 12:48am, 09/06/2013

    Charley Burley was best of bunch.

  7. nicolas 10:32pm, 09/05/2013

    But don’t forget Irish Frankie, it is said that Fritzie Zivic bought Burley’s contract, and so therefore would never have to fight him. It is also no wonder that people like Nat Fleisher were feeling that boxing was declining in the 40’s, when Mr. Sares makes the sentence, ‘feared group of black boxers who were avoided by elite white fighters’ Fleisher did not have any of his top 5 fighters in the 8 weight classes in his top 5. Yet, we do in our generation have greater respect for a Zivic and Lamotta than we probably do a Dempsey because these guys were in fights with black fighters not only more fights, but even more percentage of the fighters they did fight. Even though Fliesher had Johnson as his number one heavyweight of all time, I think his able to see that boxing would be changing from a predominantly white sport to a sport of minorities might sadly have influenced his thinking that boxers of this era were not as good as in the past. It is also of interest that Freddie Mills, who is mentioned in the other article regarding Lloyd Marshall, who stopped easily by Marshall in a light heavyweight bout, would none the less win the world light heavyweight title a year later against Guss Lenevich.

  8. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:17pm, 09/05/2013

    Ted Sares- Great report…..which reminds me…..Eddie Booker, Beau Jack, Henry Armstrong, Ray Robinson, Charley Burley, Bob Montgomery and let’s not forget that great Latino fighter Kid Azteca….these are just a few of the fighters on Fritzie Zivic’s resume….he didn’t put up any racial barriers….in fact win or lose he tried to kick their asses.

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