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Ed "Bearcat" Wright

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Known as simply Bearcat Wright, this old time heavyweight strongman fought between the two world wars, 1919 to 1936. In that span of time, he won 59 fights, scoring 42 ko's, and managed to defeat people like Jack Johnson, Sam Langford, Tiger Jack Fox, Dan "Porky" Flynn, Tut Jackson and Cecil "Seal" Harris, among others. He also fought Primo Carnera and Max Baer, losing by knockout to Carnera and by decision to Baer. However, Bearcat fought most of his career during the time of the so-called "color barrier" when it was hard for a black fighter, especially heavyweight, to get a world title shot. Also because he lost 19 fights, he never qualified for it, despite defeating the names listed above. Here is the story of the "Omaha Bearcat", Ed Wright.


Despite his "Omaha" designation, Wright was actually born in Texas. One source lists his birthplace as Galveston, while the other lists Brazoria, but his birthdate is the same in both sources: 18 December 1897. Wright reportedly served in the 10th Cavalry Regiment as young, which was formed as an all-black army unit after the Civil War. It is unknown wether he began to box there, but it is possible. Standing 6'1 and with a very powerful, massive physique, he had a good reason to try his luck as a prizefighter. According to Cyber Boxing Zone, he started fighting already in 1918, but his early record is not available. His first known pro fight happened on 10 May 1919, where he defeated a guy known as Whirlwind Langford by a disqualification in 1. He again fought him in the next three fights, two ending as draws and the last one ended with Wright being disqualified in 1 round. After scoring 2 knockouts, he faced Sam Langford, a hall of famer and legend, on 30 August 1920 and lost to him on points. They had another fight almost a year later, 20 July 1921, and this time Langford knocked Bearcat out in 9. He would face Langford again in 1922, first drawing against him on 19 June and then only a month later on 17 July he broke his hand after the fifth round and could not continue. His luck would finally serve him when he faced Langford for the fifth time, on 15 August 1923 in Mexico City. Bearcat won by a KO 9. That was of course his first great victory. He then went on a 15-fight unbeaten streak, where he beat Tut Jackson on points on 25 November 1925 and then drew against him a month later, before knocking him out in 7 in the rubbermatch. His unbeaten streak was broken when he lost on points to Joe Lohman, a newspaper decision. He then avenged the lossa also by a newspaper decision, in the rematch.


On 23 November 1926, he faced George Godfrey, a future hall of famer, for the "Colored" world heavyweight title, at the Portland Armory. In the 10th round, the referee stopped the fight and disqualified Godfrey for "not trying", but didn't announce Bearcat as the new champion, thus that status remained unclear. This is today counted as a no-decision, but technically, Bearcat did hold a win over Godfrey. Godfrey was later reinstated as a champion. Bearcat's greatest win on paper came when he fought the aging Jack Johnson, who was apparently around 50 at the time when they fought, 16 April 1928! It was an even fight for the first 4 rounds, but in the fifth, Wright hit Johnson on the solar plexus and then followed it with a big right uppercut that put Johnson out of the game. After losing on points to the underrated but physically much smaller Johnny Risko and Long Tom Hawkins, Wright again went on an unbeaten streak, this time 16-fight one. It was ended by Al Walker, who beat him on points, 17 June 1930. He then had his famous fight against Primo Carnera on 17 July, exactly a month later, and lost by a KO 4. After drawing three fights and winning one, he again lost, this time to the much smaller Mickey "Toy Bulldog" Walker, who stood only 5'7 and weighed 42 pounds less than Wright. They fought on 10 April 1931 in Omaha and even though Bearcat put Walker down with the first punch he threw in round one, he was himself down in round two and in the end lost a ten-round decision. On 1 June same year, Wright knocked out Tiger Jack Fox, a natural light heavy, in 8 rounds. On 10 February 1933, he got his final chance to win the Colored title, again fighting George Godfrey and once again, the fight ended in controversy, as the referee stopped the fight in the 6th round for "stalling" and declared it a no contest. Wright had his last fight on 14 September 1936 against the young Max Baer and even though Baer was a famed puncher, Wright went the scheduled 6-round distance, losing on a newspaper decision. He had now fought for 18 years, apparently, and was almost 39 when he retired.


Bearcat Wright is described as "bone hard", with massive arms and shoulders and he fought from a low crouch and moved from side to side. He would bore in throwing lefts and rights to the body and then used uppercuts to the head and body when he got up close. His son Edward M. Wright, also known as Bearcat Wright jr, was a popular wrestler and was the first African American world wrestling champion in the early 60's. Ed Bearcat senior died on 6 July 1975, aged 77. Because of his mixed results, despite his achievements, he never made it to the hall of fame. His record on Boxrec is incomplete and there is another one that is available there in the name register, which says 71-26-21. Whatever the truth, Bearcat Wright was surely a fighter to remember.


Thanks to Cyber Boxing Zone



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