Sam Langford

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian / dmboxing.com

Born on March 3, 1883 in Weymouth, Nova Scotia, Canada was one of  the all time greats in boxing, Sam Langford.

Langford was known as The Boston Tar Baby, and was not a big heavyweight in stature; he stood 5’7″ with a career weight range of 126 to 190 pounds. He was powerfully built with a waist of 32 inches, a chest of 44 inches, and a 74 inch reach.

Langford started his professional career as a featherweight in 1902. The following year, he defeated Joe Gans and drew with Jack Blackburn.

Langford is considered to be the greatest boxer to never have won a world title.  On September 5, 1904, he fought welterweight champion Joe Walcott in a non-title bout that resulted in a 15 round decision draw. In that fight, Langford knocked Walcott down in round three and was well ahead after eight rounds before Walcott would come on to win the later rounds.

In 1906, Langford lost a thrilling 15 round heavyweight bout to future world champion Jack Johnson, although being outweighed by twenty pounds. He and Johnson would never fight again.

Langford fought Joe Jeannette (14 times), Harry Wills (23 times), Sam McVey (15 times), and Jeff Clarke (11 times), all fellow black fighters.

There are conflicting differences on his actual ring career which spanned a quarter of a century, 1902 to 1926. I list his ring record at 179 wins (126 by knockout), 29 losses, and 39 draws, with 7 no-contest-decisions.

Langford was truly considered by many boxing historians, including myself, to be as good as any heavyweight during the first 15 years of the 20th century.

Nat Fleischer, Ring magazine founder and publisher, rates him the seventh greatest heavyweight of all time, and lists him as the number two best puncher among all the heavyweights.

Bert Sugar ranks him at eight, and my ranking is fifteen, on the list of the greatest boxers of all time.

In my past publications, I have Langford ranked as the number one fighter that never became a world champion, and he was truly most deserving of a title.

Langford was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1955, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955, the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1981, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

In retirement life, unfortunately, Langford eventually became completely blind and penniless, living in Harlem, New York.

In 1944, in his honor, funding was obtained by loyal fans to help with eye surgery and medical expenses which amounted to approximately $10,000.

Sam Langford died on January 12, 1956 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was just two months shy of his 73rd birthday. 

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