|Real name||Albert Wright|
February 1, 1912|
Willcox, Arizona, U.S.
|Died||August 12, 1957
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Wins by KO||83|
Albert "Chalky" Wright (February 1, 1912 – August 12, 1957) was an American featherweight boxer who fought from 1928 to 1948. His career record was 161 wins (with 83 knockouts), 44 losses and 19 draws. In 2003, Wright ranked #95 on The Ring magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Punchers of All-Time.
Early years and family
Wright was born in Willcox, Arizona (some sources erroneously give Wright's place of birth as Durango, Colorado or Durango, Mexico), the youngest of seven children born to James ("Jim") and Clara Wright (née Martin). Wright’s maternal grandfather, Caleb Baines Martin, was a runaway slave from Natchez, Mississippi who fled to the Arizona Territory shortly before the Civil War. After serving in the Union Army as a Buffalo Soldier, he homesteaded 160 acres in Graham County, Arizona. He bought cattle from Colonel Henry Hooker and established a dairy ranch on the property (which eventually grew to 640 acres), making him the first African American ranch owner in Southwest Arizona. He supplied dairy produce to Fort Grant and surrounding settlers.
Wright's father was born in Mexico and also raised cattle. Wright's mother worked as a housekeeper. Shortly after Wright's birth, his father left the family. Around 1918, Clara Wright moved her children to Colton, California. It was there that Wright developed a love for boxing.
Wright began his professional boxing career at the age of 16. The five-foot, 7½-inch Wright was unusually tall for his 126-pound weight, giving him a long reach. His debut fight took place on February 23, 1928. He fought Nilo Balle who he defeated in four rounds. Wright began fighting on the East Coast of the United States in 1938. In 1938, Wright fought Henry Armstrong, but was knocked out in three rounds. By 1941, he was among the world's top featherweight boxers. He beat Sal Bartolo to get a chance at the New York State Athletic Commission featherweight championship then held by Joey Archibald.
Wright's pre-match regimen was described as "unorthodox" by the Baltimore Afro-American:
For example, before the Terranova fight Chalky was in and out of the Hotel Theresa bar night in and day out for four days. He smoked evil smelling, twisted cigars. He drank freely of whatever his palate called for. He went where he wanted as late as 2 and 3 a.m., and then climbed into the ring at the Garden to put on a master exhibition of boxing and hitting power.
On September 11, 1941, Wright dethroned Archibald by scoring a TKO in the eleventh round. Wright successfully defended the title against former champion Harry Jeffra (TKO 10) on June 19, 1942, but lost his title on a decision to Willie Pep on November 20, 1942. He fought for another six years after losing his title and finally retired March 9, 1948, after losing to Ernie Hunick when he did not answer the bell for the fourth round.
Post boxing career
After his retirement, Wright worked as the trainer for lightweight contender Tommy Campbell. In January 1954, Jet magazine reported that Wright claimed he had written his autobiography, Me and You, under the pen name "Jay Caldwell". The book remains unreleased.
In October 1954, Wright opened a bar in Los Angeles called the "Knockout Lounge". He claimed that all of the bartenders were ex-boxers. By the mid-1950s, Wright had gambled away the fortune he had earned as a boxer. At the time of his death, he was working in a Los Angeles bakery.
Wright was married twice and had one child. His first marriage was to Gertrude "Gert" Arnold and later ended in divorce. He married Jennie Batch in 1937 with whom he had a son, Albert James. They were separated at the time of his death.
Confidential magazine scandal
In the 1930s, Wright became friendly with actress Mae West. West was a boxing fan and helped to finance Wright's boxing career. He eventually became her live-in bodyguard and chauffeur for a time. The two reportedly began a romantic relationship though both publicly denied this.
In November 1955, the popular tabloid Confidential ran a story entitled "Mae West's Open Door Policy". The article contended that West was having a live-in love affair with the "bronze boxer" and that she frequently gave Wright hundreds of dollars to gamble. West denied the story and sued for libel and defamation. She won the suit and Confidential published a retraction. In August 1957, a highly publicized criminal libel case was brought against Confidential due to the tactics "investigators" for the magazine used to get information. A number of celebrities were called to testify including Mae West and Chalky Wright. Wright died before he could provide his testimony but Mae West later testified that Wright told her a writer for Confidential approached him claiming that he wanted information about West for an upcoming biographical film. West testified that Wright admitted to her that he was paid $200 for the information he gave the writer but told West "...he didn't say any of the things they claim he did."
On August 12, 1957, Wright's mother found his body in the bathtub in her Los Angeles apartment. His head was submerged underwater and the tap was running. Rumors of foul play and suicide immediately began to surface as Wright was scheduled to testify in the high profile libel suit against Confidential magazine. These rumors were furthered when Wright's first wife Gert Arnold, who was also subpoenaed to testify, claimed she received an anonymous phone call from a "gruff voiced man" who told her "...if you know what's good for you, you'll clam up about this whole thing."
It was later determined that Wright, who had been hospitalized for a heart condition six weeks before his death, suffered a heart attack while in the bathtub causing him to slip and fall. He then struck his head on the tap which rendered him unconscious and drown. Investigators noted that Wright had attempted to stop himself from falling by grabbing a towel rack which was found pulled from the wall. His death was ruled accidental.
Wright's funeral was held on August 26. Baptist minister Henry Armstrong, a former boxer whom Wright had once fought, delivered the eulogy. Chalky Wright is buried in Lincoln Memorial Park in Carson, California.
Wright was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1976 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 2012, Wright was inducted into the Colton, California Sports Hall of Fame.
- Werner, Doug (2014). Willie Pep vs. Sandy Saddler: Notes on the Boxing Legends and Epic Rivalry. Tracks Publishing. p. 77. ISBN 1-935-93757-X.
- Klump, Kathy (May 9, 2012). "National Hall of Fame Boxer was Willcox native". willcoxrangenews.com.
- "Albert (Chalky) Wright". International Boxing Hall of Fame. International Boxing Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- "Willie Pep and Chalky Wright Scrap Tonight". The Spartanburg Herald (Spartanburg, SC). AP. November 20, 1942. p. 16. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- DeLeighbur, Don (June 8, 1943). "Cigar-Smoking Chalky Wright Is Entitled to Championship Bout". Baltimore Afro-American 51 (43) (Baltimore, MD: The Afro-American Company). p. 18. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- "Chalky Wright Beaten By Pep". The Washington Reporter (20590) (Washington, PA). AP. November 21, 1942. p. 10. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- "New York Beat". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 5 (10): 64. January 14, 1954. ISSN 0021-5996.
- "New York Beat". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 6 (23): 65. October 14, 1954. ISSN 0021-5996.
- Roberts, James B.; Skutt, Alexander G. (2006). The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book. McBooks Press. p. 667. ISBN 1-590-13121-5.
- Louvish, Simon (2005). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. p. 383. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2001). Becoming Mae West. Thorndike Press. p. 747. ISBN 0-786-23064-9.
- "Confidential: Tells the Facts and Names the Names". latimes.com. August 21, 2007. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Chalky not a suicide police say". The Washington Afro American. August 27, 1957. p. 14. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- Scott, Henry E. (2010). Shocking True Story: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, "America's Most Scandalous Scandal Magazine". Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 175. ISBN 0-307-37897-7.
- "Chalky Wright Drowns In Tub". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. August 13, 1957. p. 8. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Chalky Wright's Death Called Accidental". Reading Eagle. August 13, 1957. p. 14. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Wright Dies As Result of Drowning". The Miami News. August 13, 1957. p. 15A. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- Eisele, Andrew. "Ring Magazine's 100 Greatest Punchers". boxing.about.com. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Colton Sports Hall of Fame". ci.colton.ca.us. Retrieved January 25, 2015.