Tale Of The Tape
Real Name: William Ward
Born: September 20, 1895
Place: Norfolk Street, Belmont, Trinidad
Died: 1953-New Jersey
Weight: Lightheavy to Heavyweight
Height: 5' 8"
He was never a world champion, but he fought in an era
in which the best fighters did not always hold the very few world titles.
(Being black did not help, either.) His name was William Ward, but he was
known to fight fans as Kid Norfolk, one of the most feared light heavyweights
of the 1910's and early '20s.
Born in Norfolk, Va., on September 20, 1895, Ward started
boxing in the "battle royals" held there and in other southern
cities. Six young blindfolded blacks would battle until only one was left
standing. Norfolk, then in his teens, was tough, punched hard, and was courageous.
He won a number of battle royals before heading for Baltimore, city of Joe
Gans, the great black fighter who had held the world lightweight title several
years earlier. Ward now became a "legitimate" boxer.
Boxing constituted a large part of the entertainment
for the soldiers, sailors, and laborers then in Panama on the Canal Project.
An engineer named V.A. Mason took young Ward to panama, but was unable to
get him fights. Ward hung in there, however, eventually hooking up with
a West Indian booking agent named Herman Cambridge. The year was 1913.
Kid Norfolk, as he now was known, began to fight white
and black opponents in Colon and Panama City. On January 18, 1914, he outpointed
Abraham Hollandersky, a legendary white fighter who later claimed to have
had over 1,000 professional fights, over 25 rounds in Colon. Several fights
later, Ward, then little more than a middleweight, dropped a 20-rounder
to Tommy Conners for the Panamanian heavyweight championship. Six months
later, he beat Conners in a return bout to win the title.
The following year (1915) saw Norfolk face increasingly
rough opposition, as top black fighters made repeated trips to Panama in
search of lucrative contests denied them in the U.S. Norfolk lost his title
when outpointed by Jeff Clarke, the famous "Joplin Ghost," but
regained it in a return go a year and a half later. In between he knocked
out Black Gunboat Smith (later well known in Chile) and outpointed tall
Bill Tate, among his other victories.
Two knockouts over former "white hope" champion
Arthur Pelky brought Norfolk to the attention of famed manager Leo P. Flynn,
who started the Kid on a big-time U.S. fight career in 1917. Flynn even
got Ward fights against the top white light heavyweights, and Norfolk responded
by outpointing Ed (Gunboat) Smith, Gus Christie, and Billy Miske, among
others Norfolk claimed the world light heavyweight title after beating Miske
over 12 rounds.
Sam Langford dealt Norfolk his first defeat by knockout
on December 17, 1917, knocking the Kid flat inside two rounds. The following
year saw Norfolk even more improved, however, battling the great Joe Jeannette
on even terms in two eight-round contests in Jersey.
The light heavyweight title held no great significance
prior to the mid-1920s, and Norfolk's great ambition was to face Jack Dempsey,
who took the world heavyweight title from the huge Jess Willard in July,
1919. The Kid was winning consistently by this time, defeating the top light
heavyweights of both races-although never able to secure a fight against
the world champ, Battling Levinsky- and occassionally beating heavies like
Cleve Hawkins and Bill Tate. On June 7, 1920, John Lester Johnson was disqualified
in the third round for foul tactics against Norfolk in Rochester, N.Y. One
week later, Norfolk and Johnson had a return go in Baltimore. As they came
together for the referee's instructions, Johnson grinned and said, "Hello,
Norfolk, taciturn and angry over Johnson's tactics in
their last contest, replied, "Hey, man. You don't mean, 'Hello.' You
mean, 'Goodbye.'" He proceeded to knock Johnson out in the first round.
Norfolk reeled off eighteen more wins before Lee Anderson
thumbed and stopped him in nine rounds in Phoenix, Ariz. in the years biggest
upset. Three months later, Ward squared off with Harry Greb, arguably at
the peak of his career, in a 10-rounder before around 5,000 fans at Forbes
Field in Pittsburgh. Norfolk weighed 179, Greb 161 1/2.
Norfolk attacked early, hard, and often. Greb suffered
a flash knockdown in the fourth round, but battled back to take the next
three sessions. Norfolk fought extremely hard from then until the finish,
and most of those at ringside thought he won. The Pittsburgh newspapers
gave it for Greb.
They fought again,pictured here, a scheduled ten at
Mechanics Hall in Boston on April 19, 1924. This one was wild, ending when
Greb hit Norfolk after the bell ending the fourth inning. referee Jack Sheehan
gave the bout to Norfolk on a foul. A newspaper description of this fight
is on the bottom of this page, just scroll down.
The shot at Dempsey's title had remained Norfolk's dream
until March 2, 1922, when he faced number one heavyweight contender Harry
Wills, close to six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier, in Madison square
garden. It was no contest. Wills stopped Norfolk inside two.
The Garden was not Norfolk's lucky place. The Kid's
career as a serious light heavyweight contender ended there on december
9, 1924, when Tommy gibbons stopped him in six rounds. Norfolk lost three
fights, two of them by knockout, in the following year, and called it quits
when Ted Moore knocked him out in San Francisco on March 19, 1926.
Matchmaker Johnny Bos met Norfolk around 1968. Like
harry Wills, he'd purchased an apartment house in harlem and lived off the
rental income. Some sources said he worked as a porter in Yankee Stadium,
which made Norfolk bristle. "I never worked as no damned porter at
Yankee Stadium," he told the teen-aged Bos.
Norfolk died the following year. He was one of the greatest
fighters, pound-for-pound, of his day, and it may be said without undue
presumption that he would have beaten Battling Levinsky for the light heavyweight
championship of the world.
Bos believes that Norfolk should be in the Hall of Fame.
We cannot say different.
Article was printed in the September 2000 issue of Boxing Digest.
The article was written by Herbert G. Goldman
Photos of Norfolk supplied by Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith has written an article in the Boxing
Wise Website and is currently in negotiations to publish a great new book
"The Carmel Covered Kings." If anyone has information on colored
fighters between 1915-1933 you can e-mail Mr. Smith at Kevin_Smith@bluenet.com
For a bio on Kid Norfolk go to the Cyber Boxing
Zone Website. Kevin Smith wrote a bio for them titled "The Black Thunderbolt--Kid
RING RECORD: 55 wins - 14 losses - 16 ND's
-2 draw - (89 total bouts)
unknown 1914 Jack Livingston unknown W 10
unknown 1914 Tommy O'Conner unknown W 20
unknown 1914 Young Joe Gans unknown Exh. 6
unknown 1915 Jack Louden unknown KO 3
unknown 1915 Roughhouse Ware unknown W 25
unknown 1915 Jack Herrick unknown W 20
unknown 1915 Jeff Clark unknown L 20
unknown 1916 Young Roughhouse unknown KO 2
unknown 1916 Young Gunboat Smith unknown KO 2
unknown 1916 Miltant Durant unknown KO 3
unknown 1916 Jim Briggs unknown KO 4
unknown 1916 Arthur Pelky unknown KO 13
unknown 1916 Roughhouse Ware unknown W 25
unknown 1916 Bill Tate unknown W 20
unknown 1916 Jeff Clark unknown W 20
unknown 1916 Ambres Belsa unknown Draw 6
unknown 1916 Young Sam Langford unknown Exh. 6
Jan 10 1917 Sam McVey Colon ND 6
Feb 11 1917 Arthur Pelky Panama KO 13
Apr 30 1917 Sailor Grande Roches. KO 5
May 10 1917 Morris Tasco Baltim. KO 5
Jun 4 1917 Tom Cowler Roches. ND 10
Jun 25 1917 Tom Cowler Roches. ND 10
Jul 19 1917 Tom Cowler Buffalo KO 8
Jul 20 1917 Wild Burt Kenny NewYork ND 10
Jul 30 1917 Wild Burt Kenny Roches. ND 10
Aug 4 1917 Gunboat Smith Buffalo ND 10
Aug 16 1917 Gus Christie Buffalo ND 10
Aug 21 1917 Gunboat Smith Roches. ND 10
Sep 24 1917 George Ashe Roches. ND 10
Oct 16 1917 Billy Miske Boston W 12
Oct 26 1917 Johnny Espin NewYork KO 7
Nov 6 1917 Tom Cowler Provid. ND 12
Dec 4 1917 Zulu Kid Mass. W 10
Dec 17 1917 Sam Langford Denver KO'd by 2
Mar 25 1918 Jack Thompson Philad. ND 6
Apr 5 1918 George Robinson Boston W 12
Apr 15 1918 George Christian Philad. KO 3
Apr 16 1918 Porky Flynn Boston W 12
Apr 22 1918 Bill Tate Baltim. W 10
May 14 1918 George Ashe Boston KO 3
Jul 16 1918 Jim Johnson NewYork Exh. 4
Jul 19 1918 Joe Jeannette Jer.Cit ND 8
Oct 18 1918 Joe Jeannette W.Hobo. ND 8
Nov 19 1918 Clay Turner Boston L 12
unknown 1920 Bill Tate unknown W 10
unknown 1920 Jeff Clark unknown W 15
unknown 1920 Billy Miske unknown ND 10
unknown 1921 Jamaica Kid unknown W 15
unknown 1921 Clem Johnson unknown W 10
unknown 1921 Jamaica Kid unknown W 10
Aug 29 1921 Harry Greb Pitts. ND 10 (W news) Norfolk weighed 179 pounds.Greb weighed 162. The referee was Yock Henniger.
unknown 1921 Lee Anderson unknown KO'd by 9
unknown 1922 Clay Turner unknown KO 4
unknown 1922 Clay Turner unknown ND 10
unknown 1922 John Lester Johnson unknown KO 1
unknown 1922 John Lester Johnson unknown W 12
unknown 1922 Pinkie Lewis unknown KO 2
unknown 1922 Jack Taylor unknown Draw 10
unknown 1922 Pinkie Lewis unknown KO 5
unknown 1922 Lee Anderson unknown W 10
unknown 1922 George Lawson unknown KO 5
unknown 1922 Larry Williams unknown ND 8
unknown 1922 Harry Wills unknown KO'd by 2
unknown 1922 George Ward unknown KO 2
unknown 1922 Lee Anderson unknown W 10
unknown 1922 George Ward unknown KO 3
Jan 31 1923 Wolf Larsen NewYork LF 2
Mar 27 1923 Jack Taylor NewYork W 12
Mar 31 1923 Wolf Larsen Portla. KO 1
Apr 24 1923 Battling McCreary Boston L 10
May 8 1923 Tiger Flowers Ohio KO 1
Jul 14 1923 Jamaica Kid NewYork KO 2
Aug 23 1923 Tut Jackson Baltim. KO 3
Sept 1923 Kid Nolan Baltim. KO 3
Nov 20 1923 Battling Siki NewYork W 15
Jan 9 1924 Sidney Grant Baltim. KO 2
Feb 8 1924 Battling McCreary Boston W 10
Feb 23 1924 Lee Anderson NewYork W 12
Apr 18 1924 Harry Greb Boston WF 6 (Both men weighed exactly 172 and 3/4th) Referee was Jack Sheehan.
May 12 1924 Bob Lawson Buffalo LF 10
May 28 1924 Tut Jackson Ohio KO 2
Jun 6 1924 Battling Kavanaugh Illino. ND 6
Jul 17 1924 Joe Lawson Atl.Ci. KO 6
Sep 9 1924 Battling McCreary Boston W 10
Dec 9 1924 Tommy Gibbons NewYork KO'd by 6
Mar 14 1925 Bob Lawson NewYork KO'd by 1
May 6 1925 Ray Pelky Calif. KO 5
May 25 1925 Jack Reddick Sask. W 12
June 1 1925 Frankie Farmer Portl. W 10
Jun 17 1925 Floyd Johnson Calif. LF 4
Sep 21 1925 Frank Moody NewYork KO'd by 4
Mar 19 1926 Ted Moore Calif. KO'd by 4
The following is from a newspaper
article after the fight: Norfolk vs. Greb 1924
DISQUALIFIES GREB IN SIXTH-----REFEREE ACTS AFTER
GIVING REPEATED WARNINGS----WILD BATTLING, CROWD IN STATE OF EXCITEMENT
Harry Greb, world's middleweight champion, was
disqualified last night in the sixthe round of his scheduled 10 round bout
with Kid Norfolk,claimant of the world's colored light-heaveyweight championship.
The bout was staged in Mechanic's Building, under the auspices of the Feneull
A.C. So abrupt was the termination of the affair that the crowd was in a
niate of great excitement and it was difficult to keep some of the spectators
Referee Jack Sheehan, after repeated warnings to
Greb, disqualified him. He and Norfolk had exchanged blows after the bell
sounded for the end of the sixth round.
Throughout the fight, Greb displayed a tendency
to wrestle, holding his opponent's head in chancery while he himself inflicted
unfair punishment. The colored boxer stole the fighting away from the champion
in the first round by rushing to close quarters and hammering with his right
hand to the ribs.
Greb attempted to fight back by holding his rivals
neck with his left hand. The colored man would not be denied, however. On
every break he would jab the champions head back with stiff punches to the
Early in the second round it became apparent that
the referee would have his troubles, for Greb insisted upon getting in close
and holding his opponent's free elbows.
Greb and Norfolk each weighed 172.5 poiunds.
For the first five rounds Greb was outclassed.
At the opening of the sixth he complained of being hit low, but it was rather
an error upon the part of Norfolk than intentionally fouling. It occured
during a curious mixup which did end when the bell sounded.
As Gene Durgin clanged the gong for the end of
the sixth round, Norfolk, who was boxing head to head and toe to toe with
Greb, drove a blow for his body. Instantly the Pittsburger became enraged
and fought back as he had in the earlier rounds.
He commited a foul by striking Norfolk four times,
according to the referee, before the two fighters could be separated.
While it was one of the fantent and most curious
combats ever in a Boston ring, the sudden ending caused much comment upon
the part of the spectators. So sudden was the disqualification, indeed,
that half of the 9000 present were unaware of the action of the veteran
In the preliminary bouts, Frankie Murray of Somerville
beat Frankie Kelly of Dorchester in three rounds. Johnnie Andrews of East
Boston defeated Willie Rose of the West End in five rounds, and Frankie
Mersa of South Boston won a close decision over Bert Jones of Revers in
Article By Lawrence J. Sweeney
IF YOU HAVE ANY FURTHER INFORMATION ON KID NORFOLK
PLEASE E-MAIL ME