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Sunday, May 1, 2011

1914-05-01 Sam Langford ND10 Harry Wills [National Baseball Park, New Orleans, LA, USA]

1914-05-02 The New Orleans Item (New Orleans, LA) (page 7)
Sam Langford Wins, but Wills Makes Good Showing in 10 Rounds
New Orleans Negro Shows Great Promise in Defeat by Best Light Heavy.
Wills Makes Great Fight of It and Has the Better of Three Rounds.


New Orleans is now advertising to the sporting world a new hope of the black race. As a result of a hard fought 10 round bout between Sam Langford, best light heavyweight in the world, and Harry Wills, which was so closely contested that there is wide difference of opinion as to the proper verdict, Wills is now conceded to be one of the best heavy men in the ring. He is a more formidable opponent right now, perhaps, than many of the widely advertised white hopes, and the superior of all negroes save Johnson, Langford and Jeanette, all of whom are "going back," while Wills is just now peering out of the oblivion of inexperience and lack of opportunity.

Friday night's decision belongs to Langford unless one wants to be so liberal as to give a deserving "under dog" the benefit of a draw. Langford's margin was indeed small, but it was margin enough, for a carefully kept score shows that he outfought Wills in four out of 10 rounds, and three were even, leaving three to the local negro's credit.

Wills Makes a Creditable Showing in Many Rounds.

Wills made a highly creditable showing. He was far more courageous than the majority of Langford's opponents are, and showed flashes of boxing skill which gave a favorable glimpse into his future. He appeared to advantage in the accuracy, more than in the force of his blows. He used almost exclusively a straight right, which frequently found Langford's jaw.

There were many imperfections in Wills' style of fighting, though. He failed to take advantage of his physical superiority. Standing several inches over six feet, he is a good head taller than the low and stocky black man from the East. His arms are longer, and in the open he had every chance to hit and get away without return. Instead of this, though, Wills continually permitted Langford to work in close quarters, the only way a man of his stature can work effectively against one so much larger.

Local Negro Fails to Follow Up His Advantages.

Footwork was lacking in Wills' repertoire. He was awkward--perhaps due somewhat to the smallness of his adversary--and he failed to follow what would have been in his case the more effectual system of stepping around his opponent, in and out, as he brought into play all of his reach and jabbing skill.

In short, Wills fought in many rounds a "sucker" fight, just the kind that Langford wanted, though there was never a round in which Langford could show some of the skill for which he is famous. Wills hit and clinched, hit and clinched, and while this would have been all right as a change in style, it was playing right into Langford's hands for the simple reason that Langford's chief hope of doing damage to his larger opponent was to get in as close as possible. As an infighter Langford is far superior, and as a hitter at close range he is Wills' master. A man with long arms can't well hit a man who is hugging him tight, but a man with short arms, if he is a good infighter, can get in his very best work under these conditions.

Wills Shows Much Better When Fighting in Open.

For instance, the description of rounds shows that when in the open Wills was always the better, for he could land on Sam without the fear of a return of a clean blow because his opponent couldn't reach him; while in the clinches and in close quarters Langford was much the better because he could use his short arms as a battering ram to the body, or bring his glove up from either side for a jolt to the jaw.

This bringing of either hand up to the point of the jaw, while holding his opponent's body close in a vise-like hug with the other arm, is Langford's specialty in fighting large men. That, as much as anything else, has been responsible for Sam's success. In other words, he long ago learned to make his low stature count in his favor. Compared to his height, Langford has long arms, as they reach just enough to hold his man so that he can neither wiggle nor squirm, nor use his own hands with any degree of force.

Best Blow of the Fight Nearly Puts Wills Down.

At this style of fighting Wills frequently hung his head over Langford's shoulders to avoid these elevated punches to the face and jaw. There was no chance for him to use his own hands as long as he was enveloped in Sambo's grip.

Langford was slow starting. Wills had much the better of the first two rounds. Sam had looked over his man by this time, though, and began to show something in the third. The fourth found him leading, and he kept this up through the eighth.

The best blow of the fight was delivered by Langford in the seventh. It was a left to Wills' jaw, just after they had broken from a clinch. Wills caught it full force, and he wobbled and shook at the knees for a second as though he would crumple.

Langford Stops Scores of Blows With Gloves.

The continual working of straight rights to the face by Wills had a large part of the big crowd, whose sympathy was with Wills, thinking that Harry was always scoring cleanly. They did not understand, perhaps, that the majority of these blows were being stopped by Langford's gloves.

In the protection of both face and body Langford was a master. It was just like picking berries, as George Siler used to say, the way Sam would ward off blows as they were rained at his face and head.

Yet Wills seldom varied his attack. There was Sam's big stomach, a much more attractive target for one of Wills' long reach, but Harry never trained his guns in that direction. Sam was very careful about his body, too. Several times when he thought he was about to be attacked at that, his most vulnerable point, he dropped his guard there for protection, but always bringing it up again in time.

Sambo Fat, and Wears Wide Stomach Bandage.

Sambo is much fatter than he was a couple of years ago. He is as round as a butter-ball, and wore a wide, thick bandage to keep his stomach from impeding his movements, and also as a protective measure. This "belly band" is always one of the first signs that an aging athlete or one of such build as Langford exhibits when the time has come that he cannot train off the superfluous weight.

This is not to say that Langford was out of condition. He was perhaps in as good condition as he can get in. His flesh was not softy and flabby. He appeared hard even in the regions of fat. Sam is almost as thick through and through as he is tall, and as he is always set squarely on his feet it takes almost superhuman strength to stagger him. The only time that Wills shook Sam up at all was when he caught his opponent on the point of the chin with a right cross.

A few months from now Wills should be on a footing with the best of heavyweights. It won't be long before he will be the declining Langford's master.


Not since the Mandot-Wolgast bout at Pelican Park in 1912 have so many fight fans witnessed a local ring event as were at the Langford-Wills fight Friday night. The attendance was close to 4000. Nearly 1000 were refused admission. The gate receipts were over $5000.

The bout was staged at the National ball park, an ideal place for an event of this character except for its location.

Two big stands, one covered, the other in the open, were filled with negroes, and several hundred ringside seats in a section reserved especially for them were occupied.

Three other stands and three sections of ringside seats were occupied by whites, and hundreds stood.

It was an all-negro show, and the only departure from the colored scheme was in the announcer and referee of the main event. "Buddy" Griffin was the referee, and he made a good job of it despite the fact that he is many pounds lighter than either contestant. A negro band played, little negroes and larger negroes fought in the preliminaries.

Around the ring, though, were congregated many men whose names are familiar all over Louisiana in commercial and political life. More than 100 taxicabs, touring cars and limousines brought the more opulent fight fans. The gates were opened early in the evening and all the space for negroes was taken a little after seven o'clock. The seating arrangements were splendid.

That section of the city has seldom been accustomed to so much excitement, but the crowd was well-behaved and well-handled by the police.

Four bouts between negroes preceded the main go. In the first Jack Marshal defeated Kid McGill. Kid Green and Kid Harris fought a draw in the second mill, while Young McCoy stopped Kid Frenchy in the first session of the third bout. Frenchy claimed he was fouled, but a colored doctor said he wasn't. The preliminaries were brought to a close by a poor fight between Young Washington and Young Terry, which affair was declared a draw. "One Round" Charlie officiated as referee.

Score by Rounds, Which Shows Sam Winner by One

First--Sambo struck the first blow, a light left, which reached Wills' jaw, and he followed it with a stomach jab with his right. Wills cut loose with a straight right to the point of the jaw. Sam rushed into a clinch and then brought his left up to the jaw. Breaking out of this, Wills backed away and then threw gloves at Sam as rapidly as he knew how. Some of these reached Sam's map, one in particular rocking Sam's head a little. Others were caught on his gloves. Langford crossed his left to the face lightly, and then missed. Wills had done most of the leading and clean fighting, and it was his round.

Second--After a good deal of hugging, in which Wills threw Langford around a bit in an effort to get into the open so he could hit, Langford led with his left and failed to reach Harry, taking a stiff left jab in the face. Harry put two straight rights to the vicinity of the nose. Langford scored with light left and right to each jaw. Wills turned loose a straight right, then a left to the face, and Langford retaliated with two lefts to face and a light tap on the stomach. Sam's face stopped another straight right. Wills.

Third--Langford brought his left up to the rangy Wills' jaw, but lightly. Each led and missed and Wills made Langford break ground. Langford snapped two lefts to Wills' face, and took a right. A swelling and bruise appeared under Wills' right eye as the result of butting by Langford as they came out of a clinch. Wills ended the round with a right to the jaw. Neither has an advantage.

Fourth--Wills again showed to advantage in boxing, using both mitts and landing a couple of times on Langford's face, but Sam didn't budge. It was apparent that Wills hadn't any steam. Harry landed with a left. Sam then began to work on Harry's midsection a bit, doing effective work in a clinch, and then delivering a hard left to the wind as they broke. Wills hit and clinched, and repeated after another break, this time connecting with a left jab. Langford brought his left up and over to the jaw hard, the best blow of the fight so far. Langford's round.

Fifth--Langford started with a left to the face, shaking up Harry a bit, and then put one behind it that was harder and shook Harry up still some more. Wills started boxing again, but was met with a hard left to the face. Wills landed a right swing on Sam's jaw. They clinched and Langford got in effective work, showing much better as an infighter. Wills let loose a light left and right. Langford was carefully protecting his stomach all through this round as though he expected a change of tactics on Wills' part, but Harry made no attempt at body blows. Langford's round.

Sixth--Langford started holding Harry so he couldn't hit. Wills complained. Now and then Sam worked a bit on Harry's stomach and put one or two hard blows to the side. After the breakaway Langford used his left effectively, one to the jaw, another to the nose. Wills poked two straight rights to Langford's face. Langford rammed his left to his opponent's side and then brought his right up to the jaw. Sam was working for close-range fighting. In the open he lunged at Harry with his left but didn't reach him. Wills missed two rights, and after failing to jaw with his left, fell into a clinch. He worked a short right to the face, and shifted with a left to the side. There was no force to any of Wills' blows in this round. Langford's.

Seventh--Langford got a regular grizzly hug around Harry with his left, and hit with his right. Wills was then ducking his head over Sam's shoulders to avoid blows to the point of the jaw, but he caught a light right there. In the open again Wills rushed Sam to the ropes. Sam's squeeze had angered Wills, and Sam wasn't in good humor himself, so they roughed it a bit. Langford then turned loose the best blow of the fight, a left to the jaw, that staggered Wills considerably and forced him into a clinch. It was the only time that a knockout seemed imminent. Recovering, Wills shot a hard right and left to Langford's jaw. Langford missed and clinched. Wills' right glanced Sam's face, then he led with his right to the face and clinched. A moment later Langford tried to reach Harry with a right and failed. Wills scored with three light left jabs as Langford came in. Langford's round.

Eighth--Langford reached his adversary's nose with his left. Wills hit with his right while going out of a clinch. Harry then hit and clinched, but practically all of his blows were blocked by Sam's gloves. Langford brought his left up again, and then took a left uppercut to the chin, one of the few blows of this character landed by Wills. Again Sam brought up his left and crossed with his right to the jaw. Wills struck Sam with a light glancing right and received a left to the body. Wills then peppered Sam with a left and right to the face. Langford scored with a clean left, and Wills got in both lefts and rights as the bell rang. Even.

Ninth--Harry got in hard left and two rights to the face, and rocked Sam's head with a right. He played the hit-and-get-away game to advantage, taking only a light left that doesn't reach him with all its force. Wills jabbed and backed away, and showed better than at any time since the second round of his boxing. Wills scored with straight right and took one in exchange. Harry got in two rights to the face without return. Langford rushed and landed hard left just before the gong. Wills' round.

Tenth--Langford, as in several other rounds, beat Harry to the first punch, which was a light left to the face. They exchanged blows but most of these were blocked by both men and no damage resulted. Wills' left glanced Sam's face. Langford then got in two lefts and a right to the face that had a sting to them. Wills landed two rights to the body. Wills then started raining rights in Sam's direction and the crowd cheered wildly, but not a blow reached Langford's face. All were cleverly stopped by his guard. In a clinch Langford brought his right up and over for the final blow. Even.

1914-05-02 The Times-Democrat and The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA) (page 13)
Sam Langford, Boston's world-famous negro heavyweight, started too late last night, and when he reached the wire after a ten-round sprint he was in the wake of Harry Wills, local negro heavyweight champion, who put up the greatest fight of his young career. Wills earned the decision on his work in the first four rounds of the fight, and though he did not win by much of a margin over Langford, he showed enough "stuff" in his fight last night to demonstrate that with a little more confidence he will be a hard man to beat.

Langford was too confident. He went into the ring under the impression that he was meeting another of the many "local" favorites he has polished off in his long career. The fact that he was beaten in the first round didn't change this idea. Nor did the second. He did not realize that he was up against it until the fourth round. By that time he had allowed his tall and shifty opponent to get a big lead over him.

On the other hand, Wills lacked confidence. Had Langford's great reputation not taken the big negro's nerve to a certain extent he undoubtedly would have put up a much better scrap. Even after he had the edge on Langford--after the first four rounds--he could not gain the confidence which he needed to continue fighting the experienced, cool and hard-hitting little "tar baby." And Wills held. Did a lot of holding and tried to blame it on Langford. He wrestled a lot, too.


If the local negro had just kept away; if he had only collected confidence enough to give him the idea that he was winning, and if he had kept his head at all times he would have pulled up with a much wider margin over his famous opponent. As it was, when Langford stung him with a smashing left hook in the fifth round he started to hold. And when the referee attempted to break them Wills made a "stall" about being held.

All Wills needs is a little more confidence, and his great showing against the Boston black should give him this.

Langford was in great shape, despite his "fat" appearance. Not once during the whole ten rounds was the little dwarf-like fighter hurt, even though Wills put his terrible right on his jaw time and again. Wills would knock him back, but each time Sam would counter, and was more dangerous after taking a hard one than he was at any other time. Several times he dropped his hands and allowed his huge opponent to swing away with both hands.

In the seventh round Langford did this. Deliberately dropped hands and Wills foolishly waded in. The next moment the big local spade nearly measured his six feet three inches on the canvas. He was caught with one of those world-famous left hooks, and his knees sagged under him, while his jaw dropped. It was plain to all that Langford's heavy punch had "found" him.

But he came back and fought hard. Except when he was in a clinch, he always was trying. He appeared tired at the end of the seventh round, with his eye cut and bleeding and his face puffed up. Langford, however, hardly seemed to draw a long breath during the whole fight, and the final gong found him fresh as a daisy, while Wills was obviously weakened somewhat from the grueling pace.

The fight was one of the best ten-round bouts seen here in months. Except in the clinches, there always was something doing, and in many of the clinches Langford made it interesting with his smashing right and left hooks to the jaw and his work to the body. It was either in or coming out of a clinch that Langford landed his best blows. Three different times during the ten rounds he nearly dropped Wills.


One of the greatest crowds which has attended a ring contest here in recent years saw the two black heavyweights battle. The worst part about it was the fact that many persons went there with solid coin in their hands and couldn't get in. More than 5000 fans were packed in the National Baseball Park, where the bout was held, while there probably was a thousand more who didn't get in.

The general admission seats were sold out two hours before the first preliminary started. Anxious negroes were on the grounds as early as 6 o'clock. The stands went in a hurry and then the ringside seats were sold. Finally the gates were closed on a great mob eager to get in and a body of several hundred fans determined to get in threatened to break through the fence. There were not enough policemen on the grounds to handle the throng. According to Promoter Tortorich, he telephoned headquarters long before the rush, but got no more officers. When the crowd outside made actual demonstrations against the fence the gates were again thrown open, though Promoter Tortorich says his gatekeepers were instructed to tell every one that there was standing room only. Hundreds of fans, unwilling to miss the fight, packed the grounds between the ringside seats and the grand stands. It was an immense crowd.

Four preliminaries between local negro fighters were held and then the main bout fighters were ushered in. Langford was the first to enter the ring. He appeared too fat, though the fight which followed proved he was in great shape and substantiated the fact that he always does seem flabby. Wills kept him waiting, probably with the hope of getting his goat.

When the two negroes stood in the middle of the ring a shout of laughter went up. Wills towered his squatty little opponent, but Langford simply looked up at him and smiled. Sam had fought these kind before and the loftiness worried him not. The "tar baby" settled it in his mind that Wills would fall hard. Wills weighed about 210, Langford about 190 pounds.


Round 1.--Langford felt his man out for the first few seconds. He tried a left hook and then shot over a right cross. Wills retaliated with two right crosses to the jaw in quick succession. Langford brought up a stinging left hook, going into a clinch. The blow made Wills wince. Wills hooked his left hand about Langford's neck and brought up a hard right uppercut to the body and another to the jaw. Wills tried several left jabs, and then put over another right cross. Langford covered during the latter part of the round. Wills' round.

Round 2.--They clinched. Wills worked right to the wind and Langford put hard left hook to head. At long range Wills shot over right cross and Langford countered with terrific left hook to the jaw. Wills put right and left to body in clinch. Langford split his left eye with hard left hook. Wills broke away and landed right cross. Langford landed left hook. Wills put hard right cross to jaw. Wills' round by shade.

Round 3.--Langford worked hard in clinch. Wills missed right cross and Langford landed left hook. Wills came back strong, putting both hands to Sam's head and rushing his man to the ropes. Langford jabbed twice with left and started to work in clinch. Wills landed terrific right cross at the bell, staggering Langford. Wills' round.

Round 4.--Wills cut in with left hook and Langford covered. Wills had better of fight at long range. Langford landed left hook to jaw. Wills shot in three smashing right crosses, each landing fairly on Langford's jaw. Sam, unhurt, countered with terrific left hook to head. Wills landed another right cross. Langford staggered him with left hook to the jaw. Wills landed uppercut in clinch. Wills' by slim margin.

Round 5.--Langford hooked twice to jaw. Wills worked both hands to head. Langford made him blink with stinging left hook. They threw themselves at each other like tigers. Langford appeared to shake himself and he started fighting in earnest. They divided honors in a terrific exchange in the center of the ring. Langford swung left uppercut to wind. Both fighting hard at the bell. Even round.

Round 6.--They clinched and Langford had better of infighting. Langford landed left hook. Wills appeared tired and held on. Langford jabbed and landed right hook to jaw, going into clinch. Langford landed hard left hook to jaw and a moment later brought up hard right hook. Wills put right cross to head. Langford jabbed and Wills met him with right cross, knocking him back. Langford staggered Wills with right hook to jaw. Langford's round by big margin.

Round 7.--It began to look black for Wills, but he fought back hard. They rushed into a clinch and Wills started fussing to Referee Griffin about being held. Langford smiled scornfully. Wills was holding. Langford landed several left and right hooks to jaw and right uppercut to wind. Langford dropped his arms and Wills rushed in, putting both right and left to head. Langford nearly dropped him with terrific left hook to the jaw. Wills held tight in the clinch. Langford jabbed and hooked right. Langford worked hard in clinch. Wills put both hands to jaw, Langford standing with guard lowered. Langford's round.

Round 8.--Wills came back strong. He landed a right cross. Langford brought up left hook. Wills jabbed and rushed into a clinch. Langford worked with both hands to body in clinch and landed left hook to jaw. Wills landed right uppercut coming out of clinch. Wills landed right cross. Langford put right to jaw twice in clinch. Sam shifted and hooked with hard left to jaw. Wills landed two right crosses at the bell. Even round.

Round 9.--Wills rained lefts and rights to jaw, Langford taking them coolly. Langford missed a left hook and then landed one. Langford jabbed and Wills fought back hard. Wills measured him and landed right cross. Langford swung heavy left to jaw, knocking one of Wills' teeth out. The fighting was terrific in the latter part of this round. Wills rained rights and lefts at the bell. Wills', by a shade.

Round 10.--The spectators were on their feet and there were many yells for Wills. Langford tried hard for a knockout or at least a knockdown, but he couldn't put it over. He landed hard left hook, then sunk heavy left hook, then sunk heavy left to stomach, rebounding it to the jaw. Langford landed another left hook. Wills put heavy right cross to jaw. Langford hooked his left to jaw and then to wind, Wills countering with right cross. Both men were fighting hard at the bell. Even round.

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