A new biography on boxer Ezzard Charles chronicles the legend of a man most locals know as the namesake of the street leading to Union Terminal. “Not a lot of people remember Charles,” says author William Dettloff. “I know some from Cincinnati who see that street sign every day and have no idea who he is.” Ezzard Charles: A Boxing Life celebrates the long-underappreciated Cincinnati fighter from the 1940s and ’50s. “All the old hats knew [he] was great, but nobody in modern times truly appreciated [him],” says Dettloff, a former senior writer for The Ring magazine and co-author of Box Like the Pros with boxing great Joe Frazier. Charles’s 19-year career was highlighted by defending the heavyweight championship against an aging Joe Louis in 1950. He won in 15 rounds and kept the title. Sadly, adulation never followed. “The American sports fan was in love with Joe Louis, and Charles was entirely overshadowed by him,” says Dettloff. “First he was hated because he wasn’t Joe Louis, then he was hated because he beat Joe Louis.” Assigning proper respect to Charles—who died in 1975 at age 53—was his main motivation for writing the book. “Anything boxing-related in Cincinnati has a tie to Ezzard Charles,” Dettloff says.
Originally published in the March 2015 issue.
Photograph by William Dettloff.