IN THE RING, Jersey Joe Walcott was the picture of perseverance. He won the heavyweight title in his fifth try, accomplishing the feat at the age of 37. He held the record for oldest heavyweight champion until 45-year-old George Foreman won the crown in 1994.
Born Arnold Cream in Merchantville, New Jersey, Walcott took the name of his boxing idol, Joe Walcott, the welterweight champion from Barbados. He turned pro in 1930 at the age of 16 and embarked on a slow, but steady, rise to the top.
Walcott wound up a loser in his early bouts against world-class competition. He lost a pair of fights to Tiger Jack Fox and was knocked out by contender Abe Simon. But that would change in 1945 when Walcott reeled off victories against such top heavyweights as Joe Baksi, Lee Q. Murray, Curtis Sheppard and Jimmy Bivins. He closed out 1946 with a pair of losses to former light heavyweight champ Joey Maxim and heavyweight contender Elmer Ray, but promptly avenged those defeats in 1947.
Walcott, considered an excellent boxer and slick defensive fighter, challenged Joe Louis for the title in December of 1947 at Madison Square Garden. He dropped the champion twice but lost a 15-round split decision to "The Brown Bomber." The very next year, Louis defeated him again, knocking Walcott out in 11 rounds. When Louis retired, Walcott and Ezzard Charles met for the vacant NBA heavyweight title in 1949 with Charles emerging victorious via 15-round decision.
Walcott beat future Hall of Famer Harold Johnson in 1950 and would duel twice more with Charles in 1951. Charles bested Walcott again in the first match earning a 15-round decision. But in the rematch, Walcott scored a seventh-round knockout, courtesy of his left hook, to finally win the heavyweight title.
Walcott would meet Charles a fourth time, earning a decision in his first title defense. But he would meet up with Rocky Marciano in his second defense and lost the title when the "Brockton Blockbuster" halted him in Round 13. After Marciano knocked him out in the first round of their 1953 rematch, Walcott retired.
After retiring, Walcott remained active in boxing as a referee and later as the chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission.