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Friday, 19 July 2013
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL BOXER JAMES ALBERT " JUIMMY" ELLIS
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY James Albert "Jimmy" Ellis born February 24, 1940 is a retired boxer from Louisville, Kentucky. He fought in what some consider to be the greatest heavyweight era of all-time. The top heavyweights of the time included Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson, Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, George Chuvalo, Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle, Buster Mathis, Ken Norton, Cleveland Williams, and Earnie Shavers, among others. Ellis held the WBA World Heavyweight Championship from 1968 to 1970. He was a skilled boxer with a good chin and, as manager and trainer Angelo Dundee always stated, much better punching power than many expected.
Ellis won 59 of 66 amateur bouts and was a Golden Gloves champion. He boxed Ali twice as an amateur, with Ali winning the first bout and Ellis winning the second.
Ellis turned professional in 1961. Early in his pro career, he was trained and managed by Bud Bruner. With Bruner, he compiled a record of 15-5 (6 KOs) as a middleweight. His five losses were decisions to top middleweight contenders Holly Mims (whom he defeated in a rematch), Henry Hank, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Don Fullmer, and George Benton.
At the end of 1964, after losing three out of four fights, Ellis decided to leave Bruner. He later recalled Bruner fondly. "I liked him, and I fought a lot of top-rated fighters when I was with him, but eventually I had to move on," Ellis said. "He did me justice, and we always remained friends."
Ellis wrote a letter to Angelo Dundee, the trainer of Ali, and asked him to handle his career. Dundee agreed to be his manager and trainer. Ellis became a sparring partner for Ali and fought on his undercards. Six of his first eight fights with Dundee were on an Ali undercard.
By 1966, Ellis was fighting as a heavyweight. When Ali was stripped of the world title for refusing to enter the military, the World Boxing Association staged an eight-man tournament that featured most of the top heavyweight contenders. Ellis, who was ranked eighth in the world after eight consecutive wins, was invited to be in the tournament. Joe Frazier, ranked second by the WBA, chose not to participate in the tournament. Instead, Frazier fought for the vacant New York State Athletic Commission World Heavyweight Championship, which he won with an eleventh-round knockout of Buster Mathis.
In his first WBA eliminator, Ellis fought Leotis Martin on August 5, 1967. Ellis battered Martin's face into a bloody mask, and the referee stopped the fight in the ninth round. On December 2, 1967, Ellis dropped iron-jawed Oscar Bonavena twice on his way to an easy fifteen-round unanimous decision to reach the tournament final.
On April 27, 1968, Ellis defeated Jerry Quarry by a fifteen-round majority decision to win the vacant WBA World Heavyweight Championship. Referee Elmer Costa scored the fight 7-6-2 for Ellis, judge Fred Apostoli had it 10-5 for Ellis, and judge Rudy Ortega called it 6-6-3. Sports Illustrated called Ellis's performance "a tactical masterpiece." Quarry said, "If they'd given me the decision, I'd have given it back. I didn't deserve it."
In his only successful title defense, Ellis defeated Floyd Patterson by a controversial fifteen-round decision on September 14, 1968 in Stockholm, Sweden. Many in the crowd of 30,000 disagreed with the decision and started chanting, "Floyd champ!" The New York Times scored the fight seven rounds to six for Ellis, with two even. Ellis left the match bloodied with a broken nose.
Following the defeat of Patterson, Ellis was out of the ring for seventeen months. He was going to fight Henry Cooper in the United Kingdom, even though the British Boxing Board of Controlrefused to recognize the fight as a world title bout: the BBBofC was affiliated with the World Boxing Council, who stated that they would only recognize a fight between Joe Frazier and a suitable contender as being for the world title. The fight was postponed a couple of times and eventually cancelled because Cooper injured his knee. Ellis then planned to fight Bob Cleroux in Montreal, but Cleroux lost what was supposed to be a tune-up fight against the lightly regarded Billy Joiner. Finally, Ellis was going to fight Gregorio Peralta in Argentina, but promoters canceled the fight 24 hours before it was to take place because of poor ticket sales.
On February 16, 1970, Ellis fought Joe Frazier to unify the World Heavyweight Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The undefeated Frazier, a heavy betting favorite, proved to be too strong and powerful. Frazier knocked Ellis down twice in the fourth round, and Angelo Dundee stopped the fight before the start of the fifth round. It was the first knockout loss for Ellis.
After winning his next three fights, Ellis fought Muhammad Ali in the Houston Astrodome on July 26, 1971. Angelo Dundee chose to work with Ellis for the fight. He was Ali's trainer, but he was both manager and trainer for Ellis. Working with Ellis meant that he would get a bigger share of the purse. Ali understood completely and got Harry Wiley, who had worked with Henry Armstrong and Sugar Ray Robinson, to be his trainer for the Ellis fight. It was one of the few fights in Ali's career in which Dundee was not in his corner.
Ellis fought well over the first three rounds, but the fight turned after Ellis was hurt by a right hand in the fourth round. The right hand "hurt me so bad I couldn't really fight my best after that," Ellis said. "It ruined me." Ali went on to stop Ellis in the twelfth round.
After the loss to Ali, Ellis won his next eight fights by knockout. On June 18, 1973, he fought Earnie Shavers, who was 44-2 (43 KOs), at Madison Square Garden. Ellis, ranked fourth by the WBA, stunned Shavers with a chopping right to the jaw and backed him into a corner. Then, with a single right uppercut, Shavers put Ellis down for the count. The time was 2:39 in the first round. It was a stunning win for Shavers.
Ellis came back with a knockout of Memphis Al Jones, but with his skills in decline, he went winless in his next five fights. He lost a split decision to Boone Kirkman, fought a draw with Larry Middleton, dropped decisions to Ron Lyle and Joe Bugner, and was stopped in nine rounds in a rematch with Joe Frazier.
The rematch with Frazier took place in Australia on March 2, 1975. Ellis won the first three rounds, but Frazier then picked up the intensity and took control. With Ellis bloody and battered, Angelo Dundee signaled for referee Bob Foster to stop the fight in the ninth round.
On May 6, 1975, in what would be his last fight, Ellis knocked out Carl Baker in the first round. He retired after suffering a training injury that left him partially blind in his left eye. Ellis finished with a record of 40-12-1 (24 KOs).
After retiring from boxing, Ellis trained boxers and worked for the Louisville Parks Department. He now suffers from dementia pugilistica. It has been reported that Ellis' condition is so bad that he believes his deceased wife is still alive.