Sam Langford (1883–1956)

Jan 12, 1956 | R.I.P.

By Chimsima Zuhri | Today in African American History

January 12, 1956 Sam Langford, hall of fame boxer and, according to ESPN, “the greatest fighter nobody knows,” died.

Langford was born March 4, 1883 in Weymouth Falls, Nova Scotia, Canada. Although he was only 5 feet 6 ½ inches tall and weighed 185 pounds, Langford fought greats from the lightweight division to the heavyweight division, beating many champions in the process.

However, Langford was denied an opportunity to fight for a championship because of his race. In 1923, Langford fought and won boxing’s last “fight to the finish” for the Mexican Heavyweight Championship. Due to failing eyesight, he retired in 1926 with a record of 167 wins, 38 losses, and 37 draws. Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey said, “The hell I feared no man. There was one man I wouldn’t fight because I knew he would flatten me. I was afraid of Sam Langford.” Langford eventually went completely blind and ended up penniless. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Langford’s biography, “Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion,” was published in 2008.