International Boxing Hall of Fame

Henry Armstrong

"Homicide Hank"

CLICK HERE Henry Armstrong's complete record from boxrec.com

"Armstrong’s ring style was all his own, even though it is easy at first sight to group him with other famous fighters of a similarly relentless attack. Henry bobbed, weaved, ducked, rolled, jinked and fired a constant hail of punches from all angles, but always in his uniquely herky-jerky way. One writer described Armstrong’s perpetual motion as a ‘quiver’. When the referee broke the action, Henry would jig and jog straight back into the fray like a tenacious little pre-programmed robot. It was a style that won him many colourful nicknames, but perhaps Homicide Hank was the favourite of most. It sounded so much meaner than Homicide Henry or other imaginative inventions."

--Mike Casey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
Henry Armstrong
Statistics
Real name Henry Melody Jackson Jr.
Nickname(s) Homicide Hank
Rated at Welterweight
Nationality Flag of the United States American
Birth date December 12, 1912(1912-12-12)
Birth place Columbus, Mississippi, U.S.
Death date October 22, 1988 (aged 75)
Death place Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 180
Wins 149
Wins by KO 101
Losses 21
Draws 10

Henry Jackson Jr. (December 12, 1912 - October 22, 1988) was a world boxing champion who fought under the name Henry Armstrong.

The son of a sharecropper and America Armstrong, an Iroquois Indian, Henry Jr. was a boxer who not only was a member of the exclusive group of fighters that have won boxing championships in three or more different divisions, but also has the distinction of being the only boxer to hold three world championships at the same time. He also defended the Welterweight championship more times than any other fighter.

In 2002, Ring Magazine ranked Armstrong as the 2nd greatest fighter of the last 80 years, behind only Sugar Ray Robinson.

Biography

A native of Columbus, Mississippi, Armstrong moved as a youngster with his family to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was later inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Armstrong's two nicknames were Hurricane Henry, and Homicide' Hank.

Armstrong started out as a professional on July 28, 1931, being knocked out by Al Sorvino in three rounds. Just like Alexis Arguello, Bernard Hopkins, and Wilfredo Vazquez in the future, Armstrong was one world champion who started off on the losing end. His first win came later that year, beating Sammy Burns by a decision in six. In 1932, Armstrong moved to Los Angeles, where he started out losing two four round decisions in a row, to Eddie Trujillo and Al Greenfield. But after that, he started a streak of 11 wins in a row, a streak which expanded to 1933, until he lost again, to Baby Manuel. Then he went 22 straight fights without a defeat, going 17-0-5 in that span, including a win in a Sacramento rematch with Manuel, and five wins over Perfecto Lopez. After that, he moved to Mexico City, where in his first fight there, he lost to former world bantamweight champion Baby Arizmendi. He had four more fights there, going 2-2 and losing to Arizmendi in what was considered by Mexico and California a world title bout (thus Armstrong losing on his first championship try), and to Baby Casanova by a five round disqualification. He then moved back to California, where he went 8-1-1 for the next ten bouts.

In 1936, Armstrong split time campaigning between Los Angeles, Mexico City and St. Louis. Some opponents of note that year were Ritchie Fontaine, against whom he lost by decision and then won by decision in the rematch, Arizmendi, whom he finally beat by a ten round decision, former world champion Juan Zurita and former champ Mike Belloise, who also lost a decision to Armstrong.

Armstrong started out 1937 by winning 22 bouts in a row, 21 by knockout. He beat Casanova in three, Belloise in four, Joe Rivers in three, former world champion Frankie Klick in four and former world champion Benny Bass in four. After those 22 wins in a row, the inevitable happened: Armstrong was given his first world title try, for the 126 pounds title, Featherweight world champion Petey Sarron defending it against him at the Madison Square Garden. Armstrong became world's Featherweight champion knocking out Sarron in six, and closed the year with four more knockout wins.

In 1938, Armstrong started with seven more knockouts in a row, including one over future world champion Chalky Wright. The streak finally ended when Arizmendi lasted ten rounds before losing a decision to Armstrong in their fourth fight. His streak of 27 knockout wins in a row qualifies as one of the longest knockout win streaks in the history of boxing, according to Ring Magazine. After the fourth bout with Arizmendi was a bout with Fritzie Zivic's brother, Eddie Zivic, resulting in another Armstrong knockout win, and after one more bout, Armstrong, the 126 pound division world champion, challenged a fellow member of the three division champions' club, Barney Ross, then world Welterweight champion, for the title. Armstrong, 126, beat Ross, 147, by unanimous decision, adding the world Welterweight championship to his Featherweight belt. Then, he went down in weight, and challenged world Lightweight champion Lou Ambers. In a history making night, Armstrong became the first boxer ever to have world championships in three different divisions at the same time, by beating Ambers on points. A few days later, he decided he couldn't make the 126 pounds weight anymore, and left the Featherweight crown vacant.

He dedicated the next two years to defending the welterweight crown, beating, among others, future world middleweight champion Ceferino Garcia, Al Manfredo and Bobby Pacho, before defending his Lightweight belt in a rematch with Ambers, which he lost on a 15 round decision. After that, he concentrated once again on defending the world Welterweight title, and made eight defenses in a row, the last of which was a nine round knockout win over Puerto Rico's Pedro Montanez. Then, he tried to make history once again by becoming the first boxer to win world titles in four different categories in a rematch with Garcia, already world Middleweight champion, but the fight ended in a ten round draw, Armstrong's attempt to win a fourth division's world title being frustrated. According to boxing historian Bert Sugar, many felt Armstrong deserved the decision in this fight.

He went back to Welterweight and retained the title five more times, until Fritzie Zivic was able to avenge his brother Eddie's defeat by taking the world title away from Armstrong with a 15 round decision. With this loss, Armstrong's reign as Welterweight champion came to an end, leaving Armstrong's successful defense streak at eighteen, the most defenses by a champion ever in Welterweight history. In 1941, they boxed a rematch, this time, Zivic stopping Armstrong in 12 rounds.

1942 saw Armstrong go 13-1, including wins over world champions (Fritzie) Zivic in a ten round non title bout, Jenkins and Zurita.

1943 saw him go 10-3, with wins over world champions Tippy Larkin and Sammy Angott in ten round bouts, and losses to world champions Beau Jack and Sugar Ray Robinson, also in ten round bouts.

1944 saw Henry go 14-2-1 in 17 bouts, among those, another win over Belloise.

After winning one fight, losing one and drawing one in 1945, Armstrong decided to retire from boxing. Apart from the ceremonies and galas that he attended afterwards, he led a relatively quiet life for the rest of his life. He became a born-again Christian and an ordained pastor, and he taught young, upcoming fighters how to box.

Armstrong registered an official record of 150 wins, 21 losses and 9 draws, with 100 knockout wins. His exact record, however, isn't really known, because it is said he fought some pay fights under the nickname of Melody Jackson.

Armstrong became a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.

After retiring from boxing, Henry Armstrong became a Baptist minister.

On his passing in 1988, he was interred in the Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Record

Career

  • World Featherweight champion
  • World Lightweight champion
  • World Welterweight champion

Trivia

NAME Ali, Muhammad
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Clay, Cassius Marcellus, Jr. (prior to conversion to Islam)
SHORT DESCRIPTION American boxer, world heavyweight champion, Olympic gold medallist; anti-Vietnam War activist
DATE OF BIRTH January 17, 1942
PLACE OF BIRTH Louisville, Kentucky
DATE OF DEATH  
PLACE OF DEATH  

 

Henry Armstrong, “Homicide Hank”

“He sets the most killing pace I’ve ever seen.”

By MONTE D. COX

Cox's Corner Profiles

      The New York Times reported on Aug 18, 1938, "Homicidal Henry or ‘Hammering Henry’, whichever you will, because he is a combination of both, won a 2-1 verdict from the bouts officials" in defeating Lou Ambers for the Lightweight title. The writer reported that he gave Armstrong 10 of the 15 rounds. It was the third divisional championship earned by Armstrong making him the only fighter in boxing history to hold three world titles simultaneously; featherweight, lightweight and welterweight.

      Historian Tracy Callis, who saw Armstrong fight, said that he was, “A relentless, aggressive, attacking fighter, Armstrong had several nicknames - "Perpetual Motion," "Homicide Hank," the "Human Buzzsaw," and "Hurricane Henry." He carried a stiff punch, took a good blow, applied constant pressure, and had incredible stamina. From 1937 to late 1940, he lost only one fight - to Lou Ambers - for the Lightweight title (in 1939). His record (against topflight competition) during this time was 59-1-1 with 51 knockouts. He scored 27 straight knockouts during 1937-1938.”

      Armstrong who merited his colorful nicknames for his non-stop windmill attacking style, was one of boxing’s greatest pound for pound fighters. Pressuring his opponents from the gong of the first bell his plan of attack was designed to force his opponents into mistakes while he banged away with both hands to the head and body with a torrent of blows. Veteran boxing observer, Tony Kelly, Ring, Feb 1938, said that Armstrong “sets the most killing pace I’ve ever seen.”

       Armstrong was a marvel of the ring. He worked at a fast pace, had quick hands and unlike most fighters seemed to pick up speed as the rounds went on. He was also a strong puncher and defensively his bob and weave style kept him from receiving the full impact of his opponent’s blows. The truth of Henry Armstrong is that he had much better boxing skills than some give him credit for.

      Most fighters tried to run from Henry, but he never let them get away. He stuck to his opponent’s like superglue and drove them into a corner or trapped them against the ropes and them proceeded to give them a good pasting. Fighters who tried to stand their ground against Hank had difficulty keeping up with his work rate. He would overwhelm them until they were forced to back up and then he would chase them down, pounding away until they were beaten men.

      Upon his death it was discovered that Armstrong’s heart was a third larger than that of the average person. This allowed him to fight at a ferocious pace for 15 rounds without loss of breath. It seems certain that he could have done the same thing in a 20 round bout.

      Gilbert Odd penned (1974, p 117), “Armstrong was a fistic phenomena. He had an abnormally slow heartbeat and had to warm up in the dressing room with ten rounds of fast shadow boxing before going into the ring to fight a torrid 15 round battle. He tossed punches incessantly and they came from all angles. He fought so furiously it was impossible to count the blows he struck.”

      Armstrong was a very popular fighter with the masses because of his exciting style of fighting. “I’d pack the house,” said Henry (Heller p 204), “people came to see me just come down the aisle. I’d come down the aisle like a bull out of a stall. I wasn’t doing this to show off. I did it to keep warm.”

      Nat Fleischer wrote (Aug 1938 Ring) that, “Henry is able to avoid severe punishment by his continuous rushing tactics in which he gives an opponent little opportunity to think of anything but to protect himself against the murderous assault.”

      McCallum scribed (1974, p 212), “They called Armstrong’s most chilling punch “blackout” – a peculiar looping right which was neither hook nor jab nor swing but a high flickering fast blow to the chin. “It moved about 10 inches,” Henry said, “a terrible thing to do to anybody. Most of them never saw it coming.”

      Against defending welterweight champion Barney Ross, who was a great fighter in his own right, a triple-crown champion, Armstrong waged a war of rapid fighting that Ross could not match. Nat Fleischer wrote (Ring Aug. 1938), “It was one continuous parade with Henry raining a shower of blows and the fading champion using every means within his power to check the assault but to no avail.” Fleischer added that in his victory Armstrong was “the first of his race or any other to hold the featherweight and welterweight championships at the same time.”

      Armstrong was a little ball of fire that ignited in the year 1937 winning 27 fights, that included the winning of the Featherweight championship by stopping Petey Sarron in 6 rounds. In 1938 he added the welterweight championship by decisioning Barney Ross and then added the lightweight title when he beat Lou Ambers over 15. Armstrong held three divisional titles simultaneously at a time when only eight titles existed, he might have won a fourth –giving him half of the championship titles of his day – if not for a dubious draw with reigning middleweight champion Ceferino Garcia. Armstrong’s peak run, as a professional was 46-0 with 39 knockouts. His overall record was 151-21-10 with 100 knockouts, although he had a number of “semi-pro” fights under the name of Melody Jackson that are unrecorded. McCallum claims an actual record of 261 fights.

      The Ring Magazine Aug. 1938, reported that "Armstrong’s feat is unique in boxing", in winning the featherweight, welterweight and lightweight championships in a span of 10 months. It was an unparalleled feat never duplicated before or after Armstrong’s remarkable year. He also defended the welterweight championship successfully 19 times in two years, which is a record for defenses at 147 pounds that stands to this time.

      Starting in 1940 the Armstrong engine started to lose steam and he began to slow down. Former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson was of the opinion, Ring, April 1941, that “nobody ever wasted energy like that boy. There is no way in the world he could have lasted any longer than he did fighting that way.” Bert Sugar seems to agree suggesting that Armstrong was burning out as early as the first Ambers fight. Armstrong was a star who burned brightly in a short span of time and then burnt out just as quickly.

      Towards the end as Armstrong was slowing down he became vulnerable to cuts around his eyes. Armstrong finally lost his welterweight title to veteran brawler Fritzie Zivic, who was known as a dirty fighter. Zivic used every foul in the book and concentrated his attack on the vulnerable scar tissue around Armstrong’s eyes closing them in winning a 15 round decision. In the rematch Armstrong got the worse of it and again lost, in large part, due to cuts when he was stopped in 12 rounds. Armstrong won in a third meeting with Zivic although he was no longer the champion. Henry retired at the relatively young age of 32. He suffered from alcoholism in retirement but overcame it and became an ordained Baptist minister in 1951. He died nearly penniless at the age of 75 on Oct. 24, 1988 in Los Angeles.

      Armstrong’s greatness is confirmed by the fact that even the old timers of Armstrong’s day approved of his greatness. His all around endorsement is a testimony of what a great fighter he was. The following is taken from a Feb. 1938 Ring Magazine “Old Timers Compare ‘Em”, where veteran boxing watchers were asked to compare Armstrong to the great featherweights of the past. This was after Armstrong won the featherweight championship but before Armstrong made his great accomplishment of winning three titles at once.

      A.D. “Pop” Phillips, a boxing scribe who covered the sport for 65 years, said of Armstrong, “I’ve seen ‘em all good, bad and just ordinary fighters in every division over more than half a century, and I daresay that Henry Armstrong compares favorably to the best (featherweights}.”

      “Dumb” Dan Morgan, an old time fight manager, said, “You know there’s a funny thing about this lad Armstrong. He’s hard to hit solid, but when he is tagged he takes it well. The harder he is hit the more punches he throws. I can’t see a straight up fighter beating him, it will have to be a guy who can sock.” Morgan added that he didn’t think Jim Driscoll could have beaten Armstrong. “I had a fellow Pal Moore, win a newspaper decision over Driscoll by staying on top of him and I think Armstrong would have driven the Englishmen before him like St. Paddy drove the snakes out of Ireland.”

      Harry Lenny, an old time lightweight accurately predicted, “If I had Armstrong I would shoot for Ross. That’s how good I think this fellow is.” He added, “Outside of McGovern I don’t think any of them guys could have beaten Armstrong.”

      Tony Kelly was of the opinion that “Terry McGovern would have to flatten Henry right away to win. That would have been his only chance.”

      Professor Billy McCarney, an old time boxing instructor, chimed in that “McGovern was a head on fighter, with no defense to speak of, while Armstrong is really a hard fellow to get a good crack at because of his ability to slip blows that seem to be nailing him.” Going further McCarney believes that Armstrong would have won because McGovern might have punched himself out in an early round drive and then had nothing left if Armstrong withstood his opening blasts.

      Joe Woodman, who handled the all time great Sam Langford, declared that, “Armstrong is the greatest fighter in many years. Henry doesn’t knock these guys out he paralyzes them. He beats them into submission. He would have beaten Johnny Dundee without any trouble. Kid Kaplan would have been trouble for Henry but I give him a good chance against Ross or any (current) welterweight.”

      Although he accomplished more at welterweight Armstrong’s best weight was clearly as a featherweight. When he challenged Ross for the welterweight title he had to come within 7 pounds of the welterweight limit according to the agreed upon rules for the bout. Armstrong said in an interview with Peter Heller, “I weighed 124 pounds…I drank beer every day to gain weight, ate steak, potatoes, I ate candies. I drank so much water the day of the weigh-in every time I walked you could here glug, glug, glug. I weighed in at 139 ˝. The fight was postponed for 10 days due to weather (the fight was outside) and I didn’t have to weigh in again.”

      “On the night Henry won the welterweight title from me,” Ross recalled later, “he was as great a fighter at his weight as ever lived. I was in the hospital a week. I never fought in the ring again.”

      Bert Sugar in his “100 Greatest Boxers of All Time” rated Henry Armstrong as the second greatest fighter in history behind Ray Robinson. The 2002 Ring Annual (Vol. 2) in the article “The 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years” rated Armstrong second to Robinson. The 1996 Ring Almanac and Book of Facts rated Armstrong 1st at welterweight. William Detloff rated Armstrong # 4 all time greatest fighter in his article “The 20 Greatest Fighters of the 20th Century". Veterans Nat Fleischer and Charley Rose rated Armstrong in their top 10 at 147 pounds, although I believe his best weight was at 126. Historian Tracy Callis agrees rating Armstrong the # 1 all time featherweight. Cox’s Corner also rates Armstrong # 1 at featherweight. He would also rate as a top 5 lightweight and top 10 welterweight of all time. Armstrong easily ranks as one of the 10 greatest fighters of all time.

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