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Rex Layne


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One of the best fighters to come out of Utah, Rex Layne was a top heavyweight in the 1950's. His career wasn't very long, only spanning seven years, but during that time he fought several of the greatest heavyweights of that time and in history: Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano, Jersey Joe Walcott, as well as some very solid ones like Bob Satterfield, Roland LaStarza and Willie Pastrano. He stood 6'1 and had good punching power, scoring 34 knockouts in 50 wins. He's one of the best heavyweights of the 50's who never fought for a world title.


Layne was born in Lewiston, Utah 7 June 1928 and raised there. He served as a staff seargent with an airborne division in world war 2 and was stationed in Japan. He started boxing in the army. After the war, he worked as a sugar beet farmer in Salt Lake City when he won the 1949 national amateur heavyweight championship and it kickstarted his professional career. He had his first match 23 May that year and easily beat the 1-0 Jim Watkins by TKO1. He won his first 17 fights, 14 by ko, before losing for the first time against Dave Whitlock, whom he had just defeated in the previous match, by UD10 16 March 1950. He then bounced back and won the "Far West" heavyweight title by UD12 against noted contender and veteran Joe Kahut. His first great victory came on today's date that same year, when he faced for the first time the future world champ Jersey Joe Walcott at Madison Square Garden. After 10 rounds, Layne got an unanimous decision victory in a fight where Walcott was penalized in round 8 for a back-hand blow which was illegal. On 9 March next year he scored another important victory over Bob Satterfield,a hard-hitting but chinny top contender. Also this fight was at Madison Square Garden and Layne first went down for an eight-count in round 1 from a right hand before bouncing back and putting Satterfield on his back with a big left hook in round 8. Satterfield made the count at six but was defenseless and the referee stopped it, giving Layne his first knockout victory over a top opponent. After that, there were negotiations for a rematch with Walcott, but Walcott instead fought Ezzard Charles, the champion.


After winning four more fights, Layne landed a fight against Rocky Marciano, then still just a contender, but one of the biggest names in the game. It was 12 July 1951 when these two faced off at the Garden and Layne was actually an 11-5 betting favorite, but Marciano proved he was the big player when he first bloodied Layne's nose and mouth and knocked out his two teeth, before knocking him out with an overhand right to the chin in round 6. Layne had a delayed reaction before falling helpless to the canvas and being counted out. A crowd of 12 thousand came to watch the fight and it was also shown in theaters in 8 cities. After this disaster, he signed to fight Ezzard Charles, who had recently lost his heavyweight crown by knockout to Walcott. The fight was at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, 10 October that year and Layne was stopped in 11 rounds, after first getting knocked down at the end of round 10. The bell saved him at the count of nine but in the next round he was again down and as he rose helplessly, the fight was stopped. These two consecutive knockout losses seemed to have taken a lot out of him and he lost on points to the 11-2 Willie James in his second comeback fight, after winning the first by KO3 against an easy opponent. He did however manage to get revenge for the loss to Charles in a rematch on 8 August 1952, fighting in his home state of Utah, town of Ogden. However, many observers thought the decision was a hometown one and most of them had Charles winning, despite the scorecards being unanimously in Layne's favor. Layne also repeatedly butted Charles, without warning from the referee Jack Dempsey. Dempsey was criticised for scoring 7 rounds even and 2 for Layne, with only 1 for Charles. He defended himself saying:""I called it as I saw it. Charles wasn't fighting; Layne was. It was a close fight, that's why I called seven of the rounds even." Ray Arcel, Charles' trainer at the time, said he was a wrestling referee and should stick to wrestling.


Layne and his manager were hoping for a world title shot but first he fought Roland LaStarza in order to get a shot against the new champion, Rocky Marciano. It was an even 10-round fight, where LaStarza took the early rounds with his superior boxing skills, before the naturally bigger Layne started bullying him in rounds 4,5 and 6, digging to the body and countering with the right. LaStarza closed strong and wobbled Layne in round 9 and also won the 10th round to win by a split decision in the end. Only the scoring referee had it for Layne, 6-3. "We wuz robbed!. I thought Rex won at least five of the first seven and maybe six. He was bothered from the seventh on when vaseline got in his eye." -Marv Jensen, Layne's manager said. He then had his rubbermatch against Charles and this time it was in San Francisco, where the judges could not help him. He was knocked down three times but made it to the final bell in this 10-rounder, of course losing by a wide decision. After that, there was only one way for him to go-down. He was knocked out twice by Earl Walls, a Canadian puncher, first time in a fight for the Pacific Northwest title and in round 1 and second time in 6 rounds. He also lost 3 times to skilled Bob Baker, all on points and was outpointed by technician and former world light heavy champion Willie Pastrano. Layne retired in 1956, after boxing his last two fights in Germany and dropping decisions to Heins Neuhaus and Hans Friedrich. He was 28 and retired with a record of 50 wins and 17 losses, with 3 draws.


His full name was Rex Gessel Layne. He died on his 72nd birthday, 7 June 2000, in his hometown of Lewiston. He was a hard-hitting and capable fighter but was likely brought up too fast, although most likely he just was never good enough to beat guys like Rocky Marciano and Ezzard Charles, not fairly anyway. I decided to do this article after watching the clip of him winning against Walcott and since I had just briefly come across his name before, I was interested to find out more about his career. Hope you enjoyed this article.


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