View Full Version : Sam Langford


GJC
10-07-2009, 01:20 PM
Langford has been getting a few mentions recently and I noticed an article I had found on him by Clay Moyle who wrote a/the(?) biography on him
"Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion"
Forgive if it has been posted before and is old hat to some but maybe others might enjoy?

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 face Langford again. “I don’t want to fight that little smoke,” said Johnson. “He’s got a chance to win against anyone in the world. I’m the first black champion and I’m going to be the last.”

Years later, Johnson confided to New England Sports Museum trustee Kevin Aylwood, “Sam Langford was the toughest little son of a ***** that ever lived.”

Despite participating in over 300 professional bouts in a 24-year ring career (from 1902 to 1926), Langford never won a world title. He defeated reigning lightweight champion Joe Gans by decision in December 1903 but was not recognized as the new champion because he came into the fight two pounds over the lightweight limit. Nine months later Langford fought the world welterweight champion, Joe Walcott, to a 15-round draw in a contest that the majority of those in attendance felt he deserved.

Surprisingly, Langford would never receive another opportunity to fight for a world title. Although he faced middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel in a six-round fight in April 1910, this was a predetermined no-decision contest that was rumored to be a preview for a 45-round title bout on the West Coast later that year. Unfortunately, Ketchel was murdered before that event could be held.

Although Langford began competing as a lightweight and then as a welterweight, once he matured physically, it became more difficult for him to keep within those weight limits. He was also aware of the fact that there was more money in fighting big fellows and subsequently went after heavyweights. Over the years he met and defeated many men much larger than himself: men like “Battling” Jim Johnson, Sam McVey, Sandy Ferguson, Joe Jeannette, Sam McVey, “Big” Bill Tate, George Godfrey and Harry Wills. Some of these fighters towered over Langford, who often also gave up as much as 40 pounds in weight.

One opponent, “Fireman” Jim Flynn, said of Langford’s punching power: “I fought most of the heavyweights, including [Jack] Dempsey and [Jack] Johnson, but Sam could strength a guy colder than any of them. When Langford hit me it felt like someone slugged me with a baseball bat.”

In 1917, Langford completely lost the sight of one eye during a loss against Fred Fulton. Remarkably, he would continue fighting with one eye for another nine years, the last few with limited sight out of his one “good” eye. In 1923 he captured the Mexican heavyweight title in a contest at which he had to rely on his handlers to help guide him into the ring and to his corner. Langford’s assistants were so concerned about his eyesight that they wanted to call the fight off, but Langford refused: He needed the money.

Sam fought for another two years while his eyesight continued to fail, until in August 1925, in his last professional bout, he was forced to quit in the opening round of a fight when it became obvious that he couldn’t see his opponent at all.

By 1944, Langford was blind, all but forgotten and living in poverty in a dingy tenement in Harlem, N.Y. In January of that year, sportswriter Al Laney of the New York Herald Tribune decided to write a story about Langford, a great boxer who had seemingly vanished from the face of the earth.

The search proved futile for quite a while. Many people Laney questioned were not even aware of who Langford was. At least a dozen others but claimed that Langford was dead. Eventually Laney learned that Langford was in fact alive and residing in a building in his city on 139th St. A woman who resided in the building led Laney to a tiny, dirty bedroom at the end of a dark hallway on the third floor. There, Laney found Langford, just one month shy of his fifty-eighth birthday, sitting on the edge of his bed, listening to an old radio.

Langford had 20 cents in his pocket and was subsisting on a few dollars he received each month from a foundation for the blind. Twice a day, two young boys would come by and take him to a restaurant for breakfast and a second meal late in the afternoon. Langford told Laney that he the rest of his time sitting alone in his dark bedroom with only his radio for company.

When he’d gathered the information he needed for his story, Laney went back to the office and banged out the story on his typewriter for the paper. But he didn’t stop there: He was so moved by Langford’s situation that he initiated a drive with a group of New York businessmen and -women that raised $10,892 for a trust fund for Langford. In April of 1945, the money was invested in an insurance company so that Langford would receive an annuity of $49.18 a month for life.

In 1952, Langford moved back to Boston and quietly lived out the remaining years of his life in a private nursing home. He passed away on January 12, 1956, just two months before his seventieth birthday and only ten weeks after being enshrined in the Boxing Hall of Fame. At the time of his induction, Langford was the only non–world titleholder to be so honored.

Sam Langford never regretted his chosen profession and expressed no bitterness or remorse over the loss of his eyesight. He maintained a keen sense of humor and kind disposition throughout his life and always said that boxing provided him with a wealth of memories. In a statement attributed to him a few months before his death, he said, “Don’t nobody need to feel sorry for old Sam. I had plenty of good times. I been all over the world. I fought maybe 600 fights, and every one was a pleasure!”

Stoppage
10-07-2009, 03:03 PM
Thanks for the article.

You know, I used to read up on boxing history and watch old fights before I started watching any of the current boxing events. Sam Langford was one boxer that I was always fascinated with.

The man was something else. He was 5'6 (or 5'7) and was taking on heavyweights, sometimes outweighing him by 30-40 pounds, and then knocking them out. He should be a true inspiration to the shorter boxers, like me.

It's a shame the way his career ended up. But the ironic thing is that it showed just how good he was if he was fighting opponents nearly blind and beating some of them. Before his eyesight went away, though, I think he could've been a world champion. Not only a world champion but a great world champion. His record can back up this claim.

I knew about Jack Johhson avoiding him but I never knew about Jack Dempsey avoiding him, as well. If both those guys are avoiding you, you must be something great.

boxingbuff
10-07-2009, 05:08 PM
It has been reported that Langford pointed to the spot on the canvas where his opponent would actually land when he knocked them out.Something like Babe Ruth calling his shot...Pointing to where his home run ball would land.

I don't know if there is any truth to this,but Langford is one of the greatest pfp fighters of all-time from what I have read.Same goes for Charles Burley.

louis54
10-08-2009, 12:44 AM
what a fighter he was. dempsey did not want to fight him, when dempsey was 20 years old. later on , dempsey would fight anything if the money was right; sam had a way of crucifing inexpereinced fighters. yes, he may have been the best everl although fans of greb, dempsey, lenord, others would argue. i go with the grace and power of robinson anytime, but langford was just fantastic. alot of those guys were unbelievable

edgarg
10-08-2009, 01:13 AM
what a fighter he was. dempsey did not want to fight him, when dempsey was 20 years old. later on , dempsey would fight anything if the money was right; sam had a way of crucifing inexpereinced fighters. yes, he may have been the best everl although fans of greb, dempsey, lenord, others would argue. i go with the grace and power of robinson anytime, but langford was just fantastic. alot of those guys were unbelievable
Most, if not all of that "article" is culled from "urban myths". The FACTS are that Joe Gans died shortly afterwards, still a young man.He had "galloping consumption" even when fighting, [virulent TB].

There's no doubt that Sam was a good fighter, but, the fact about the Johnson fight IS that Johnson half killed him, KDing him a few times, and actually holding him up, when he looked like collapsing. This was an old dodge of Johnson, who always needed to make sure that the cash customers got their "money's worh", a fight with lots of rounds. All the negro fighters did this, because with such racial discrimination, they would fight for a purse of only a few dollars. And they had to live. Those were very hard times. Johnson was a defensive marvel, and really dictated the progression of all his fights.

Johnson was absolutely right when he said that people won't pay any real money to see two black men fight.

As for Dempsey supposedly being afraid of 43 year old, S'7" fat, blind, Sam Langford, who was really worn out by this time, this is a myth. There was an article in an old Ring, in which Dempsey denied ever saying such a thing. As a matter of fact, I recall a very comprehensive story in Ring, about the discovery of the old, penniless fighter, and I can still see in my mind, the picture of old Sam sitting on the steps of the tenament in wehich he was living. He was wearing glasses.

Nat Fleischer, the founder and publisher of Ring Magazine, who lived until 1972, and who'd seen all the important fighters since about 1903, was unequivocal in asserting that Jack Johnson was the best heavyweight he ever saw. And he saw Dempsey, Louis, Ali, Frazier, etc.

Sam "Chappie" Blackburn, Joe Louis' trainer and teacher, who had actually fought against some of the early century "greats" and knew them all, told Louis that he would not have had any chance against Johnson, that Johnson, had a wonderful habit, of reaching out and just touching his opponent, putting him off balance when he was about to let go a punch.

It was Tex Rickard, the promoter, who wouldn't make a fight for Dempsey with a black man, because it wouldn't be a big draw. Dempsey would have fought a tiger.

Still, it makes a nice story.

louis54
10-08-2009, 01:49 AM
agree with all the above. sam got crushed by johnson. dempsey would have crused any 5 ' 6 inch fighter. dempsey did say that in one of his autobiographys. but dempsey was still a kid when asked to fight langford and smith. in his prime, dempsey felt he could have beaten anyman. no , i dont think lanford ever would have beated either of them outside of a lucky punch . pund for pund sam is up there.

GJC
10-08-2009, 07:57 AM
Most, if not all of that "article" is culled from "urban myths". The FACTS are that Joe Gans died shortly afterwards, still a young man.He had "galloping consumption" even when fighting, [virulent TB].

Gans beat Battling Nelson 3 years after Langford beat him.

There's no doubt that Sam was a good fighter, but, the fact about the Johnson fight IS that Johnson half killed him, KDing him a few times, and actually holding him up, when he looked like collapsing.

Johnson won handily and did knock a young Langford down once I believe.
He did duck Langford when champion that is a fact.

As for Dempsey supposedly being afraid of 43 year old, S'7" fat, blind, Sam Langford, who was really worn out by this time, this is a myth. There was an article in an old Ring, in which Dempsey denied ever saying such a thing.

I don't believe that Dempsey feared anyone that said that old blind Langford beat Flynn 3 times in his 40's.

Nat Fleischer, the founder and publisher of Ring Magazine, who lived until 1972, and who'd seen all the important fighters since about 1903, was unequivocal in asserting that Jack Johnson was the best heavyweight he ever saw. And he saw Dempsey, Louis, Ali, Frazier, etc.

Bert Sugar has seen a lot of fights too but most take what he says with a pinch of salt. Fleischer was the Sugar of his day.
I'm a big Johnson fan but I don't think he'd beat Louis or Ali.

frankenfrank
06-30-2010, 02:22 PM
Bumped in honor of the great(est of them all) Sam Langford.

McGoorty
07-23-2011, 03:24 AM
Langford has been getting a few mentions recently and I noticed an article I had found on him by Clay Moyle who wrote a/the(?) biography on him
"Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion"
Forgive if it has been posted before and is old hat to some but maybe others might enjoy?

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 face Langford again. “I don’t want to fight that little smoke,” said Johnson. “He’s got a chance to win against anyone in the world. I’m the first black champion and I’m going to be the last.”

Years later, Johnson confided to New England Sports Museum trustee Kevin Aylwood, “Sam Langford was the toughest little son of a ***** that ever lived.”

Despite participating in over 300 professional bouts in a 24-year ring career (from 1902 to 1926), Langford never won a world title. He defeated reigning lightweight champion Joe Gans by decision in December 1903 but was not recognized as the new champion because he came into the fight two pounds over the lightweight limit. Nine months later Langford fought the world welterweight champion, Joe Walcott, to a 15-round draw in a contest that the majority of those in attendance felt he deserved.

Surprisingly, Langford would never receive another opportunity to fight for a world title. Although he faced middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel in a six-round fight in April 1910, this was a predetermined no-decision contest that was rumored to be a preview for a 45-round title bout on the West Coast later that year. Unfortunately, Ketchel was murdered before that event could be held.

Although Langford began competing as a lightweight and then as a welterweight, once he matured physically, it became more difficult for him to keep within those weight limits. He was also aware of the fact that there was more money in fighting big fellows and subsequently went after heavyweights. Over the years he met and defeated many men much larger than himself: men like “Battling” Jim Johnson, Sam McVey, Sandy Ferguson, Joe Jeannette, Sam McVey, “Big” Bill Tate, George Godfrey and Harry Wills. Some of these fighters towered over Langford, who often also gave up as much as 40 pounds in weight.

One opponent, “Fireman” Jim Flynn, said of Langford’s punching power: “I fought most of the heavyweights, including [Jack] Dempsey and [Jack] Johnson, but Sam could strength a guy colder than any of them. When Langford hit me it felt like someone slugged me with a baseball bat.”

In 1917, Langford completely lost the sight of one eye during a loss against Fred Fulton. Remarkably, he would continue fighting with one eye for another nine years, the last few with limited sight out of his one “good” eye. In 1923 he captured the Mexican heavyweight title in a contest at which he had to rely on his handlers to help guide him into the ring and to his corner. Langford’s assistants were so concerned about his eyesight that they wanted to call the fight off, but Langford refused: He needed the money.

Sam fought for another two years while his eyesight continued to fail, until in August 1925, in his last professional bout, he was forced to quit in the opening round of a fight when it became obvious that he couldn’t see his opponent at all.

By 1944, Langford was blind, all but forgotten and living in poverty in a dingy tenement in Harlem, N.Y. In January of that year, sportswriter Al Laney of the New York Herald Tribune decided to write a story about Langford, a great boxer who had seemingly vanished from the face of the earth.

The search proved futile for quite a while. Many people Laney questioned were not even aware of who Langford was. At least a dozen others but claimed that Langford was dead. Eventually Laney learned that Langford was in fact alive and residing in a building in his city on 139th St. A woman who resided in the building led Laney to a tiny, dirty bedroom at the end of a dark hallway on the third floor. There, Laney found Langford, just one month shy of his fifty-eighth birthday, sitting on the edge of his bed, listening to an old radio.

Langford had 20 cents in his pocket and was subsisting on a few dollars he received each month from a foundation for the blind. Twice a day, two young boys would come by and take him to a restaurant for breakfast and a second meal late in the afternoon. Langford told Laney that he the rest of his time sitting alone in his dark bedroom with only his radio for company.

When he’d gathered the information he needed for his story, Laney went back to the office and banged out the story on his typewriter for the paper. But he didn’t stop there: He was so moved by Langford’s situation that he initiated a drive with a group of New York businessmen and -women that raised $10,892 for a trust fund for Langford. In April of 1945, the money was invested in an insurance company so that Langford would receive an annuity of $49.18 a month for life.

In 1952, Langford moved back to Boston and quietly lived out the remaining years of his life in a private nursing home. He passed away on January 12, 1956, just two months before his seventieth birthday and only ten weeks after being enshrined in the Boxing Hall of Fame. At the time of his induction, Langford was the only non–world titleholder to be so honored.

Sam Langford never regretted his chosen profession and expressed no bitterness or remorse over the loss of his eyesight. He maintained a keen sense of humor and kind disposition throughout his life and always said that boxing provided him with a wealth of memories. In a statement attributed to him a few months before his death, he said, “Don’t nobody need to feel sorry for old Sam. I had plenty of good times. I been all over the world. I fought maybe 600 fights, and every one was a pleasure!”
That was fantastic, I first read about Sam 20 years ago and was hooked and I felt robbed that I could'nt see him on film. Then just a few months I was on you tube and the side bar had his name on it so I clicked on it and there was SAM LANGFORD in the flesh on film training for a fight in bloody Sydney and then it went straight to Sam battling it out with Bill Lang. I just sat in a trance watching the great man and man does he look BIG for a guy the same height as Darcy and it was through searching for darcy I also came across Pure gold, SAM LANGFORD vs JOE Jeannette X, I mean How good is that, my favorite era in boxing, have you other threads like this ?

McGoorty
07-23-2011, 03:33 AM
It has been reported that Langford pointed to the spot on the canvas where his opponent would actually land when he knocked them out.Something like Babe Ruth calling his shot...Pointing to where his home run ball would land.

I don't know if there is any truth to this,but Langford is one of the greatest pfp fighters of all-time from what I have read.Same goes for Charles Burley.
Once when at the starting in a very early round of a fight, Sam L. went to touch gloves with his opponent, his opponent said "this isn't the last round Sam", and Sam replied, "It is for you",..........IT WAS. Quote, Bert Sugar.

McGoorty
07-23-2011, 03:45 AM
Most, if not all of that "article" is culled from "urban myths". The FACTS are that Joe Gans died shortly afterwards, still a young man.He had "galloping consumption" even when fighting, [virulent TB].

There's no doubt that Sam was a good fighter, but, the fact about the Johnson fight IS that Johnson half killed him, KDing him a few times, and actually holding him up, when he looked like collapsing. This was an old dodge of Johnson, who always needed to make sure that the cash customers got their "money's worh", a fight with lots of rounds. All the negro fighters did this, because with such racial discrimination, they would fight for a purse of only a few dollars. And they had to live. Those were very hard times. Johnson was a defensive marvel, and really dictated the progression of all his fights.

Johnson was absolutely right when he said that people won't pay any real money to see two black men fight.

As for Dempsey supposedly being afraid of 43 year old, S'7" fat, blind, Sam Langford, who was really worn out by this time, this is a myth. There was an article in an old Ring, in which Dempsey denied ever saying such a thing. As a matter of fact, I recall a very comprehensive story in Ring, about the discovery of the old, penniless fighter, and I can still see in my mind, the picture of old Sam sitting on the steps of the tenament in wehich he was living. He was wearing glasses.

Nat Fleischer, the founder and publisher of Ring Magazine, who lived until 1972, and who'd seen all the important fighters since about 1903, was unequivocal in asserting that Jack Johnson was the best heavyweight he ever saw. And he saw Dempsey, Louis, Ali, Frazier, etc.

Sam "Chappie" Blackburn, Joe Louis' trainer and teacher, who had actually fought against some of the early century "greats" and knew them all, told Louis that he would not have had any chance against Johnson, that Johnson, had a wonderful habit, of reaching out and just touching his opponent, putting him off balance when he was about to let go a punch.

It was Tex Rickard, the promoter, who wouldn't make a fight for Dempsey with a black man, because it wouldn't be a big draw. Dempsey would have fought a tiger.

Still, it makes a nice story.
Sounds fair, but I don't care how great and talented someone is, a GIANT has no business in the ring with a LW ( jr. WW actually), so Johnson beating That Sam Langford cannot diminish his claims to Great-Hood. Incidentally, I'd be interested to learn more about Nat Fleisher, for instance did he travel to Australia ? because he seems to have an insiders view into the Australian Boxing scene during it's golden age, I seem to remember him in connection with BURNS Vs JOHNSON.