The many hats worn by NJ boxing legend Jersey Joe Walcott
One of the more prominent names in New Jersey sports history, Jersey Joe Walcott, was born on Jan. 31, 1914. That wasn’t his real name, however; he was born Arnold Raymond Cream in Pennsauken, and was a Camden County fixture for the rest of his life.
He dropped out of school at 15 to help support his family, working at the soup factory while taking boxing lessons. He turned pro at age 16, and adopted the name of a boxer he admired, Joe Walcott, adding the “Jersey” to differentiate himself. He boxed as a heavyweight from 1930 to 1953, amassing a record of 51-18-2 and winning the heavyweight championship in 1951 when he was 37; at the time, he was the oldest man to ever win the title.
In 1947, he fought legendary champion Joe Louis for the heavyweight crown. Although he knocked the champ down twice, he lost a controversial split decision. He was granted a rematch, but this time, Louis knocked him out in the 11th round. Jersey Joe eventually won the title, though, on his fifth try, knocking out then-champion Ezzard Charles in 1951. Walcott held the title for two years before losing to Rocky Marciano via knockout; he fought, and lost, to Marciano one more time and retired.
His post-fighting life was pretty eclectic. He dabbled in acting, refereed some notable heavyweight fights, and, in 1971, became the Camden County sheriff, the first African-American to be elected to that job. He also was the head of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission for 10 years.
He died in Camden in 1994 at age 80. He was elected to the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2013.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.