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Sam Langford: History’s Forgotten Boxer

Sports historian Clay Moyle describes Canadian-born Sam Langford as one of the most successful and yet little known boxers of the 20th Century.  In the excerpt below, drawn from his recently publisher book titled Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion, Moyle makes his case for that claim.

Pound for pound, who was the world’s greatest boxer?

Whenever boxing fans debate the question, the name most often mentioned is that of Sugar Ray Robinson. However, many boxing historians would argue in favor of Sam Langford, a lesser-known fighter born in Weymouth, Nova Scotia, in 1886.

During the first quarter of the twentieth century, the prospect of facing the five-foot-seven-inch dynamo, who weighed no more than 175 pounds at his peak, struck terror in the hearts of most of his contemporaries, including heavyweight champions Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey.

In June 1916, the 21-year-old Dempsey quickly declined an opportunity to face an aging Langford. Recalling the incident years later in his autobiography, Dempsey wrote, “The Hell I feared no man. There was one man, he was even smaller than I, and I wouldn’t fight because I knew he would flatten me. I was afraid of Sam Langford.”

Jack Johnson, on the other hand, did face Langford, once, in April 1906, when Langford was only a 20-year-old lightweight who gave up over 40 pounds to the 28-year- old heavyweight contender. Johnson won a convincing 15-round decision over the youngster, but discovered just how tough the smaller fighter was and what kind of dynamite he carried in his fists.

Two and a half years later, Johnson won the heavyweight championship by defeating Tommy Burns. Over the ensuing years, Langford and his manager, Joe Woodman, hounded Johnson in futile pursuit of an opportunity to fight for the title.

“Nobody will pay to see two black men fight for the title,” Johnson said  However, when Johnson grew weary of Australian boxing promoter Hugh “Huge Deal”’ McIntosh’s efforts to arrange a match with Langford, he admitted that he had no wish to

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