Sunday, July 18, 2010

July 18, 1951: Fifth time's the charm

PITTSBURGH - The first time Jersey Joe Walcott fought for the heavyweight championship was in December of 1947 against Joe Louis. Walcott fought well, knocking the great Louis down twice during the fight, but lost a 15-round split decision. Most fans and boxing writers thought Walcott deserved to win, so a rematch was quickly scheduled.

The second time Walcott fought for the heavyweight championship was six months after his first Louis fight. This time, Louis didn't leave it up to the judges, knocking out Walcott in the 11th round.

Walcott's third chance was in 1949 against Ezzard Charles, who won the title left vacated when Louis retired. After another 15-round split decision, Walcott was once again denied the championship.

The fourth time he tried, in March of 1951, it was the same story: Charles beating Walcott in a split decision.

The fifth time, things finally went Walcott's way. Fighting Charles a third time, Walcott earned a 7th-round knockout to win the heavyweight championship. In doing so, he became the first man to win the heavyweight title on his fifth try, and he became the oldest heavyweight champion at age 37. His record for oldest champion has since been topped by George Foreman, but Walcott remains the oldest first-time heavyweight champion.

Walcott didn't remain champion for long. He had only one successful defense of his title before losing it to Rocky Marciano, getting knocked out in the 13th round of a fight that he was leading comfortably on the scorecards.

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