Born: January 31, 1914
Died: February 25, 1994
Arnold Raymond Cream, also known as Jersey Joe Walcott, was born on January 31, 1914 in Merchantville. When he was 13, his father died, and it was up to him to get a job working at a soup factory to support his mother and 11 siblings. At the same time, he was also training to become a boxer, adopting the name "Jersey Joe Walcott" after his boxing idol, welterweight champion Joe Walcott from Barbados.
Joe first got into professional boxing in a bout against Cowboy Wallace on September 9, 1930, winning by a knockout in round one. After five straight knockout wins, Joe lost for the first time in 1933 to Henry Wilson. His record stood at 45-11-1 when he got his first title shot. Unfortunately, he was knocked out by contender Abe Simon.
In 1945, Joe defeated top heavyweights Joe Baski, Lee Q. Murray, Curtis Sheppard, and Jimmy Bivins. He ended that year losing to contender Elmer Ray and champion Joey Maxim. Joe avenged these defeats in 1947.
On December 5, 1947, 33-year-old Joe broke the record for the oldest man to fight for the world heavyweight championship, when he met Joe Louis. Joe dropped the Brown Bomber in round one and in round four, but he later lost on a close 15-round split decision. Most fans and boxing writers felt that Joe deserved the win, calling for a rematch on June 25, 1948. Much to his dismay, Joe lost to Louis once again, this time by a knockout in round 11.
On June 22, 1949, Joe met new champion Ezzard Charles to fight for the title once again. Charles won by a decision in 15 rounds. Not discouraged by this loss, Joe went on to win four out of his five bouts in 1950, including a third-round knockout of Harold Johnson.
On March 7, 1951, Joe fought Charles for the title a second time, losing again in a 15-round decision once again. On July 18, Joe finally claimed the title when he knocked out Charles in seven rounds. It seemed the fifth time was the charm—it couldn't have come much later, considering Joe was already 37. He was the oldest man to win the crown until George Foreman broke the record in 1994 at age 45.
Joe's reign as heavyweight champion ended on September 23, 1952, when rocky Marciano beat him in 13 rounds. A 1953 rematch rendered the same result.
Once Joe put boxing behind him, he remained a celebrity, starring with Humphrey Bogart and Max Baer in The Harder They Fall in 1956. In 1963, he briefly tried professional wrestling. In 1965, he refereed the only boxing match of his career: the controversial world heavyweight championship fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston. Joe became confused after Clay knocked Liston down and he botched the count. Liston was ready to resume fighting, but Joe was convinced to call the fight by the officials at ringside.
Joe became Sheriff of Camden County in 1972 and chairman of New Jersey's State Athletic Commission from 1975 until 1984. He was eventually inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He died on February 25, 1994.