Who In The World Is Arnold Cream?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“Who in The World Is Arnold Cream?”

Arnold Raymond Cream. Say that name in a room full of casual boxing fans and it probably wouldn’t cause so much as a ripple. But mention that same name in a group of vested fans and pundits alike, and you’ll hear at least a half dozen voices yell out appreciatively, “Jersey Joe Walcott” while the rest of the heads nod up and down with quiet admiration; perhaps tinged with a touch of nostalgia.

Cream would grow up to become the pride of Camden, New Jersey, a city he would call home for virtually his entire life. He had about as unremarkable start on this earth as was possible. The son of a native Jerseyite man and a woman from the West Indian island of St. Thomas, Cream was born into abject poverty.

Things grew appreciably worse when his father died when he was only 15, leaving behind his widow and 11 brothers and sisters – all younger. At only 15-years-old, Arnold Cream found himself as the man of the family.

The young lad took a job in a soup factory to help his mother out but, before long, realized that there was no sustainable future for him or his family, in that manufacturing plant. Like so many before him, Cream turned to the ring in his search for a way out.

He took the name “Joe Walcott” from his boxing idol, “Barbados” Joe Walcott. To distinguish himself from the great welterweight, Cream added “Jersey” to the front of his name, and to his dying day, he would be known as “Jersey Joe Walcott.”

Jersey Joe Walcott
Jersey Joe Walcott

Jersey JoeWalcott was not the heavyweight prototype of the day. While only 6′ tall, he was far more muscular and much stronger than the typical heavyweight of the day. It’s readily apparent in old videos of him. Even though his height and weight were similar to his opponents’, Walcott always looked huge by comparison.

A few theories about this have been bandied about but I think the best one was that Walcott had an extremely low body fat ratio, and the upper body of a heavyweight screwed onto the lower body of a welter.

He got off to a decent start. He had little formal training and had some early losses but, in time, was able to build a record of 44-11-2, including a pair of wins over the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World, Joey Maxim and perennial top contender, Jimmy Bivins. This led to Walcott’s first of a record five attempts to win the world title.

On December 5, 1947, Walcott lost a hotly disputed split decision to Joe Louis. Enough people were upset by the verdict that a rematch was ordered. Six months later, Louis would put the debate to bed by knocking Walcott out in the 11th round.

Undeterred, Walcott next challenged the great Ezzard Charles, for the vacant NBA heavyweight title, losing a unanimous 15 round decision. Walcott won several fights with just a loss over the next year or so before challenging Charles yet again for the heavyweight crown.

Again, Walcott found himself on the losing end of a unanimous decision, and again, many observers were less than convinced about the verdict. Only four months later, these two old foes would step back into the ring but this time would turn up a different result. In the 7th round, Walcott caught Charles with as perfect a left uppercut as had ever been thrown since the Marquis of Queensbury formalized the original rules of modern boxing.

Charles pitched forward face-first onto the canvas and while he did beat the count, he immediately fell back onto his back. The fight was over. “Jersey Joe Walcott”, at age 37, was finally the Heavyweight Champion of the World!

Walcott was the oldest man to ever win the championship up to that time (broken by George Foreman in 1994 when Foreman iced Michael Moorer to become champion at age 45), so it wasn’t surprising that his reign wouldn’t be a long one.

Also Read:  The Case For Rocky Marciano

What was surprising was how his loss of that title to Rocky Marciano, just two fights later, would lead to one of the most iconic fight photos ever captured. Ahead on two of the three scorecards entering the 13th round, Walcott would be caught by what is still considered by many, the single hardest punch ever thrown – and landed – in the squared circle, a picture perfect right hook that literally rearranged Walcott’s face and totally separated him from his senses.

Walcott folded into the mat in a crumpled heap. The photo taken by noted sports photographer, Herb Scharfman, is to this day, the best known knockout photo in boxing. Walcott would try once more to regain his title in an automatic rematch with Marciano, but there was no recovering from a knockout like the one he had suffered in their first fight. A Marciano right hand would again be the difference – only this time in the very first round. Walcott was again knocked out. After the fight, “Jersey Joe” announced his retirement and never boxed professionally again.

Walcott stayed in the public spotlight after walking away from the sport. He appeared in a few movies, was elected the first ever African American sheriff in Camden county, New Jersey and served as the Chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission until his retirement at age 70. He also had an ill advised foray into professional wrestling, losing his one and only “fight.” Attendees were quick to point out that Walcott received the lion’s share of the accolades from an adoring crowd.

Perhaps the only blemish on this great man’s distinguished career came about when he took a turn as the referee for the Ali/Liston re-match. In retrospect, it was probably a nice touch to have the former Heavyweight Champion of the World in the ring as the third man with Ali and Liston. But Walcott was woefully unprepared and inexperienced.

One’s having been a boxer – even at the highest level – in no way qualifies the person to be a referee; never mind the referee of a heavyweight title fight. Walcott didn’t affect the outcome, thank goodness, but he clearly didn’t belong in there and he was never again asked to referee a professional match.

So what is the legacy of this Heavyweight Champion of the World? His record was an uninspiring 51-18-2. He is better known for how his career ended than what he achieved. The inevitable question pops up; how would Walcott have fared against today’s crop of heavyweights. Perhaps the greatest trainer of them all, Angelo Dundee, was asked this very thing after Walcott passed in 1994. Dundee’s take on it? “Jersey Joe Walcott” was no easy mark. He would have presented problems for any heavyweight of any era.”

As mentioned earlier, Walcott wasn’t the physical prototype of the heavies of his era. He was bigger, stronger, more muscular. In some aspects, Walcott was the Liston of his day. He was one of the original boxer/punchers. His footwork was among the best of the day. He had surprising speed. But more than anything else, this largely self-taught boxer had developed a ridiculous quotient of ring savvy by the time he reached his peak.

Throw in modern nutrition and training techniques, and Walcott would have been a beast by any standard. Look at the uppercut he knocked out Charles with. When, in recent memory, have you seen an uppercut like that one?

Also Read:  The Case For Rocky Marciano

Even Povetkin’s knockout of Whyte paled by comparison. While he may not have been a dominant Champion in any era, don’t kid yourself, “Jersey Joe Walcott” would have been a top contender and maybe-champion, regardless of when our time machine would have parachuted him in. “Jersey Joe Walcott” was the original “real deal.”

inbound4828739594705821625 scaled
David Auger-Villanueva
I was born in the Caribbean but grew up internationally. I've lived in Canada since 1974. I played just about every sport but was best at boxing. Fought in bareknuckles bouts, fight clubs, amateur, and pro. Married, father of four.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Russian GP – Race Preview

Russian Grand Prix can be a boring race so let's hope this race gets off to a great start. The only memory I have of the Russian GP is Valtteri Bottas letting Lewis Hamilton win. Last race at Mugello was an exciting race. With two red flags and one horrible crash. And Ferrari 1000 celebration wasn't the best either, but that might be because of the strict rules now during COVID 19. So I am happy...

Benny Leonard: Always A Champion

If you sat down with a group of boxing fans under the age of say, 50, and began to talk about whether Benny Leonard really is a Top-10 all-time fighter, you'd probably have a cacophony of voices barking at you about how great "Sugar" Ray really was. Tell them you were talking about Benny Leonard though, and you might hear a lot of "Who's that?" from the same group. But Benny Leonard most definitely belongs...

The Green Light: The Rugby Championship 2020

In what has been a challenging year for many rugby fans and mainly the players, the Southern Hemisphere's Rugby Championship 2020 tournament has just been confirmed for the back end of the season. The Rugby Championship tournament - previously known as the Tri-Nations - was inaugurated in 1996 with the three rugby-rich countries; Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, all contesting for the converted trophy. In 2012, the tournament expanded to add the South...

IPL Talking Points

Efficient CSK get the job done again Before the tournament began, the Chennai Super Kings were touted to struggle by everybody analysing the game. But, on the opening day, post the opening powerplay overs, MS Dhoni proved once again why the IPL betting odds are always in their favor. From a position where they could have chased a tall score, CSK restricted MI to a chaseable total and then led by solid innings from...

Rahul’s Historic Ton Thumps Bangalore

KL Rahul struck the highest score by an Indian in Indian Premier League as Kings XI Punjab beat Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore by 97 runs. Rahul, who scored 132 not out, also achieved the highest individual score by a captain and the best for a Kings XI Punjab player with a generous Royal Challengers Bangalore bearing the brunt of his assault, offering little in the form of resistance. After being invited to bat first, KXIP...

The Torchbearers Of Modern Football

We are standing at the end of an era that was tinted with brightness and glam. Two of the greatest sportsmen ever to grace the surface of earth are at the twilight of their careers. They are aliens, some say. Some say they are superheroes in shorts. Two names at the heart of the footballing world, for the best part of two decades. The torchbearers of modern day football. The pace-setters of the business...

Different Options For Purchasing Golf Shoes

Golf is one of the most popular sports among wealthy and upper middle class men. While some play golf competitively, others play golf as a hobby and for networking with others. The performance of the golfer depends to some extent on the golfing gear and equipment which he is using. Usually golfers are wearing special golf shoes, which are designed so that the golfer can play his shots comfortably, without slipping. Hence many of...

Russell Wilson Is An All-Time Great QB

Russell Wilson, 0 MVPs, 0 MVP votes, 0 respect. He is one of the best quarterbacks I've ever seen, and he is showing himself to be the MVP so far this year. Russell Wilson at every stage of his career has consistently been elite and has carried the Seahawks into relevancy. He is underrated, has been elite, and has been one of the best QBs in the world since he's gotten here. How is it that...

Super Fan Saturday – Rugby South Africa

In what has been an extremely long-awaited return for the game, South Africa will host their very first rugby game: Super Fan Saturday, since the sport was postponed back in March 2020. While this year may have been challenging times for the majority of the world, a doubleheader action-packed Saturday will bring something to look forward to locally. and keep every South African rugby fan at the edge of their seats. One of the nation's...

AFL Finals Locked In

This weekend's results conclude the heavily disrupted Australian Football League regular season, turning attention towards the Finals series in October. Across 18 rounds spanning six weeks, the race for the coveted Premiership trophy has been whittled down from 18 clubs to just eight. All that separates them from the 2020 flag now is four weeks of playoff matches that will culminate in the Grand Final. Port Adelaide secured the minor premiership by defeating Collingwood in the...

Social Connect

1,184FansLike
3,723FollowersFollow

Trending Now

Super Fan Saturday – Rugby South Africa

In what has been an extremely long-awaited return for the game, South Africa will host their very first rugby game: Super Fan Saturday, since...
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x