01 Rinsing Off the
02 Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario
03 Pollack's Picks
By Adam Pollack
04 Top Women Worth Watching
By Adam Pollack
05 Holman Williams Belongs
the Hall of Fame
By Harry Otty
06 Touching Gloves
"Joltin" Jeff Chandler
By Dan Hanley
07 Puppy Garcia Was
By Enrique Encinosa
08 Muhammad's Real War
By Cliff Endicott
09 Champagne On Ice
By Ron Lipton
10 "Dick Tiger: The Life and Times
of a Boxing Immortal"
By Adeyinka Makinde
11 Floyd Patterson:
Always Got Up
By Ron Lipton
12 Nat Fleischer, "Mr.
By Monte Cox
13 "Ring of Hate"
Review by J.D. Vena
14 "Gilroy Was
Book Review by Mike Delisa
From the Archives [mp3]
The CBZ presents another classic boxing-themed radio
show. This month we have the Thin Man in "The Passionate Palooka," from July 6,
Holman Williams Belongs in the
Hall of Fame
It may be impossible to pinpoint what it is that defines greatness -- especially with
regard to boxing. Inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Football Hall of Fame are
usually those individuals who have surpassed certain, quantifiable markers, batting
average, touchdown runs, receptions or passes. For a fighter it is usually world
championship tenure and if not a champion -- as in the case of Sam Langford or Charley
Burley -- the selection is more about a qualitative assessment of their achievements as
opposed to the bare numbers.
Langford had over 200 fights, fought from the lightest weight classes on up to heavyweight
and appeared to carry his punch with him. Burley too beat some great fighters and, like
Langford, was avoided by many of the champions of their day. When looking at the likes of
Burley and Langford and what they achieved it is difficult to understand how similar
fighters, who were on a par with these two Hall of Fame inductees, have yet to receive the
honour for themselves. Eddie Booker (though in the World Boxing Hall of Fame), Lloyd
Marshall, Jack Chase and Holman Williams were contemporaries of Burley's and were probably
not too far behind the Pittsburgh master with regards to talent. Little separated these
fighters in their day as they fought amongst themselves for world title recognition that
just did not come. Out of this group, in my opinion, Holman Williams is the most deserving
of induction to the International Boxing Hall of Fame -- or the World Boxing Hall of Fame
for that matter.
Holman Williams was born January 30th 1915 in Pensacola, Florida and took up boxing after
his family migrated north to Michigan. His reasonably successful amateur career
more-or-less ended when he lost the 126lb National Amateur Championship final to Richard
Carter in New York in 1932. Revenge against Carter in the Olympic box-offs in San
Francisco later the same year established Williams as the hot favourite for the Olympic
berth, but the glory was short-lived as he lost in his next bout to Anthony Muscatello
(also of Detroit).
Disappointed with not making the Olympic team Holman Turned to the professional ranks and
was soon making headway in the 135lb class. For the first three years out of the
Simon-Pure ranks he ran a record of 19 bouts, with 17 wins, one loss and one draw.
Included in this run were 11 early stoppages. By 1935 he was ready to step up in class and
defeated Wesley Farrell over ten rounds in New Orleans in a fight promoted as being for
the "Colored Lightweight Championship of the World." Four fights later his winning streak
of 26 was broken as he lost over 10 rounds to Cocoa Kid. The Puerto Rican wizard appeared
to have the hex sign on Holman as he defeated him handily in three of their next four
meetings. One of those defeats was early the following year (1936) in a contest for the
"Colored Welterweight Championship." Cocoa Kid would lose the belt to Charley Burley in
1938 before Williams relieved Burley of the title later the same year.
That particular 15-round contest between Burley and Williams was the first of what proved
to be an exciting series between the two technicians. If the bout had been contested over
the ten round distance Charley Burley may have gained the victory but, Williams,
demonstrating that he had heart as well as skill, came off the canvas three times in the
fourth round. He somehow stayed in the fight and seized the opportunity for victory when
Burley, a mile ahead after nine rounds, injured his shoulder. Williams was able to come
back against a one-handed opponent and grabbed a close decision after 15 eventful rounds.
During this pre-war period Williams was tangling with good calibre fighters including;
Wesley Farrell, Lew Massey, Luther 'Slugger' White, Bobby Pacho, Remo Fernandez, Gene
Buffalo, Saverio Turiello, Andre Jessurun, Eddie Booker, Carl Dell, Izzy Janazzo and the
aforementioned Charley Burley. By the onset of the 40s Williams was 65 and 7, with 24 Kos
and 5 draws. More than half of those defeats were to his nemesis Cocoa Kid. It was also
during this time that the rangy, slick-boxing Williams was assisting in the coaching of
one of the games all-time greats -- Joe Louis. In an interview with Sam Green in the
August 1946 edition of The Boxing News, Williams recalled the early days of the Brown
"When I was coaching the novices at Brewster Recreation Center about 15 years ago, Joe was
in the class, but he didn't make much of an impression on me. The only reason I noticed
him was that he was the biggest kid we had. He must've weighed about 155 then. Most of the
others were a skinny lot." --Holman Williams
Williams also recalled that he seconded Louis in his first formal fight. This was an
intramural match with a boy named Henry Carter.
"Joe got the decision and we gave him a little red ribbon with the word 'Champion' in gilt
letters. I doubt that he was any prouder the night he stopped Jim Braddock in Chicago for
the heavyweight title." --Holman Williams
Williams describes Carter as: "the only kid at Brewster in those days who was close to
Joe's weight." It was Louis' spirit that tipped Williams off as to his potential.
"So they fought three or four times and Joe always was the winner. They gave the crowd
action. I remember one night they fell through the ropes and kept right on punching
outside the ring. I wasn't sure of Joe until that night he fought Johnny Miller. You
remember Miller, of course -- a tough, hard-hitting guy who was Michigan State AAU
champion of his class. Miller knocked Joe down nine times in three rounds, but Joe was on
his feet at the finish. I knew then he had something." --Holman Williams
Eddie Futch, one of boxing's all-time greatest trainers, was also around at the time,
making himself available as a trainer and corner man. The legendary trainer 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 Holman Williams
shadow box than watch most other fighters in action.
"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
The comment about his lack of a knock out punch may have had an element of truth to it as
Williams once went close to two years and 20 fights without stopping an opponent. This
apparent decrease in power was largely due to the terrible damage he inflicted upon his
hands during the earlier stages of his boxing career. For his first two years in the
professional game, the Detroit-based fighter had a fifty-percent knockout ratio and his
hands were broken several times during his career. It appears that as he progressed in the
fight game his hands could no longer take the punishment inflicted by heavy punching and
that ratio soon dropped. Also a point to consider when ranking Williams' ability to stop
an opponent is the fact that he was progressing through the weights at a rapid rate and
was meeting some tough fighters.
Williams started as a featherweight in 1932 and five years later he was a top ten rated
welterweight with Cocoa Kid, Fritzie Zivic, Saverio Turiello, Ceferino Garcia, Jack Carrol
and Jimmy Leto in competition with him for Barney Ross' title. He remained a top ranked
welterweight for the following five years beating the likes of Jimmy Leto, Eddie Dolan
(two fighters Burley lost to), Jackie Burke, Izzy Jannazo, Ernest 'Cat' Robinson, Jose
Basora and the teak-tough Antonio Fernandez. By the time the USA was at war Williams
(along with Burley, Cocoa Kid and Eddie Booker), was a middleweight and was ranked as
third best challenger in the world for champion Tony Zale's crown.
The war probably affected Holman Willliams' claim for world title honours as deeply as it
impacted upon the two guys rated above him at the end of 1942 -- Archie Moore and Charley
Burley. Today both of these great fighters are talked about with the respect they earned
and Holman Williams is no less deserving. While Zale was in the navy the likes of
Williams, Moore, Burley, Booker, Marshall, Chase, Aaron 'Tiger' Wade, Joe Carter, Jose
Basora and Bert Lytell all fought amongst themselves in that vain hope of securing a
championship fight at some point.
In 1942 Williams and Burley met four times, each winning two. Williams also beat Jose
Basora, Cocoa Kid and Kid Tunero. The following year (1943) he lost on points to these
same three fighters in return matches, but defeated Roosevelt Thomas (twice), Joe Carter
(twice), 'Mad' Anthony Jones, Mario Ochoa, Eddie Booker, Lloyd Marshall and Steve
Belloise. Practically every one of them a world ranked fighter. 1944 was almost a repeat
(opponent wise) as he had his busiest year, engaging in 19 fights and added four fights
(all wins) against Jack Chase to his record. He also lost to Eddie Booker in the San Jose
fighters' final bout and beat another West Coast favourite Aaron 'Tiger' Wade. His
performances were good enough to see him ranked the number one contender to the
championship by the end of the year, but he still wasn't done.
The year 1945 was to be the final year that Williams really shone amongst the worlds'
elite middleweights. He was in his 13th year as a professional fighter and at the start of
the year he had a record of 134 wins (30 KOs), 21 losses, 10 draws and just one
'no-contest (against Charley Burley). Most of his defeats had come against top-flight
fighters such as Burley, Booker, Cocoa Kid, Kid Tunero, Jose Basora and Lloyd Marshall. If
you were to try and name another fighter of that time period with similar fighters on his
record it would only be one of the names already mentioned. The year was to be a fairly
successful one for Williams, despite getting off to a bad start by losing to Cocoa Kid in
New York. In fourteen meetings Holman Williams managed only three wins against the
Hartford-based Cuban. In this, his 14th year as a professional fighter, Williams won 13 of
16 fights, with losses to "Cocoa" Kid and Archie Moore and a draw with Bert Lytell. In the
second fight of the year with Moore Williams was stopped for only the second time in his
career up to that point, going out in the eleventh round. He was still the number one
ranked contender in the middleweight division and had been in the top three for four
For what were the remaining three years of a fantastic career it was largely a downhill
ride for the talented Holman Williams. Although he still had enough to beat Aaron 'Tiger'
Wade, dynamite-punching Bob Satterfield, Deacon Johnny Brown, Henry Hall and O'Neil Bell
amongst others, he would lose 11 of his remaining 22 fights. The years began to catch up
with him and his defensive style started to suffer due to a decline in his reflexes. The
war was instrumental in Williams -- and others -- not getting the chance they so richly
deserved and by the time Tony Zale was out of the forces and willing to defend his
championship Williams was, in boxing terms, an old man. With his best years behind him he
was no longer able to defend his position as number one contender against the younger
wolves in the chasing pack. He lost to Bert Lytell and Jose Basora twice, Jake LaMotta,
Henry Brimm, Sam Baroudi, and Marcel Cerdan and Jean Walzak. Williams opposed Cerdan and
LaMotta only after he had been a professional fighter for close to fourteen years (losing
to both on points).
His career ended in June 1948 when he lost a decision over ten rounds to Gentle Daniel in
Trinidad. In a career spanning 17 years, Williams compiled a record of 144 wins, 34 by KO.
He lost 28 times on points and was stopped only three times. The only fighter to beat him
consistently while in his prime was the largely ignored Louis 'Cocoa' Kid who beat
Williams eight times while losing only three decisions. Holman Williams was the 'Colored'
champion of the world in the lightweight, welterweight and middleweight divisions and it
has been said that he engaged in over 300 professional fights, if so, many of these bouts
have yet to be added to his record.
Several years after his retirement from active competition, Holman moved from Detroit to
Akron, Ohio. He teamed up with Lee Thornton training local fighters and remained with
Thornton when he opened the Club Wonder. At the club Holman would also carry out
maintenance duties and look after the place, often doubling as a watchman over the
weekends. On Saturday July 15th 1967 he was on duty in the club when a terrible fire
destroyed the building. Newspaper reports at the time indicated that the fire had been set
deliberately. On the Monday prior to the suspected arson attack Arthur Snell, Summit
County Assistant Prosecutor, was shot to death after an altercation with two men in the
club. It was suspected that the fire was linked to the shooting. Fire officials stated
that Williams was probably asleep at the time, awoke to find the building ablaze, tried to
escape, but was overcome by the smoke. His body was found near the bar. Holman Williams,
one of the greatest and, it has to be said, one of the most historically neglected
fighters of all time was dead at 52.
Without doubt, Holman Williams was one of the best fighters of the 1940s. One look at his
record will show that this slick boxing defensive wizard fought the best welterweights,
middleweights and even light-heavyweights around at the time. Conspicuous by their absence
however, as on most other records of the standout black ring men of the day, are meetings
with big name white fighters. If not for the war, Williams may have received a title shot
against Zale around 1943 or '44. On the form he was displaying at that time it would have
been difficult to bet against him.
Besides demonstrating his outstanding talent in the ring, Williams was instrumental in the
development of one of the most highly regarded fighters in the history of the sport along
with the early education of one of the games great coaches. It is not stretching the truth
to say that Holman Williams had a hand in the legends of both Joe Louis and Eddie Futch. A
great asset in the gym due to his marvelous boxing skills and great sense of humour Holman
was liked by everyone he met and was a credit to the sport. In a 1988 interview with
author Ronald K. Fried, Hall-of-Fame inductee Charley Burley remembered his most frequent
adversary with great affection and respect.
"Me and him, we had some times together! New Orleans I remember. I think I knocked him out
once. He was a runner and a good boxer. It'd be hard to catch him. He was a great fighter,
you can't take that away from him." --Charley Burley
You certainly can't.
While Holman Williams may not fit the usual Hall-of-Fame criteria in the quantitative
departments of world titles won, number of defences, all-time KO leader etc., his record
and overall career scream quality. He stacks up favourably against just about any other
fighter of the same era -- world champions included -- and his induction will bring the
same element of class to the Hall of Fame that his presence brought to the boxing rings of
the world over 50 years ago.
Contact Harry Otty at