Herbert Lewis Hardwick

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Herbert Lewis Hardwick
Cocoa Kid.JPG
Statistics
Real name Herbert Lewis Hardwick
Nickname(s) "Cocoa Kid"
Rated at Welterweight
Nationality Puerto Rico Puerto Rican
Born May 2, 1914
Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
Died December 27, 1966
Chicago, Illionis
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 244
Wins 176
Wins by KO 48
Losses 56
Draws 10

Herbert Lewis Hardwick a.k.a. "Cocoa Kid" (May 2, 1914 - December 27, 1966) was an Afro Puerto Rican boxer who fought primarily as a welterweight but also in the middleweight division. Hardwick won the World Colored Championships in both divisions. He was a member of boxing's "Black Murderers' Row" and fought the best boxers of his time. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.[1]

Early years[edit]

Hardwick was born in the City of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico to Maria Arroyo, a native of Puerto Rico, and Lewis Hardwick, an African American Merchant Marine. In 1913, his father was on leave and left the island without knowing that Maria was pregnant with his child. It was only upon his return several months later, that he found out that he was a father.[2]

The Hardwick family moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was still a child and his father renamed him "Herbert Lewis Hardwick."[2] Tragedy struck the family when his father and the rest of the crew of the USS Cyclops disappeared during World War I. The loss of the ship and 306 crew and passengers without a trace sometime after March 4, 1918, remains the single largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history not directly involving combat. The cause of the ship's loss is unknown. Hardwick was only four years old.

Shortly thereafter, upon the death of his mother, Hardwick went to live with his maternal aunt Antonia Arroyo-Robinson.[3] Mrs. Arroyo-Robinson raised Hardwick and he came to identify more with his Puerto Rican heritage.[2]

Boxing career[edit]

Hardwick began to box in Atlanta when he was fourteen years old under the tutorship and management of Edward Allen Robinson (Antonia's husband). He fought for the first time as a professional at the age of fifteen, on May 27, 1929 at the Elks' Restaurant, in Atlanta, against a boxer who went under the name of "Kid Moon" and was victorious in that encounter.[4]

In 1932, Connecticut State Senator Harry Durant was among those present in one his fights in West Palm Beach. The Senator was impressed with Hardwick and sponsored his trip to New Haven where Hardwick began to fight under the name of the "Cocoa Kid."[3] The name printed on his boxing license was that of "Louis Hardwick Arroyo."[2] Hardwick used various names during his boxing career, besides using "Louis Arroyo," he would also fight under the name of "Louis Kid Cocoa".[3] On April 4, 1932, he scored a win in his first fight in Connecticut, against a boxer named Joe Miller.[4]

Black Murderers' Row[edit]

During his career in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Hardwick fought the top African-American fighters of the era in the Welterweight and Middleweight divisions. This group included, but was not limited to Charley Burley, Holman Williams, Jack Chase, Lloyd Marshall, Bert Lytell and Eddie Booker.[5] Hardwick fought Williams thirteen times, winning eight, losing three, and drawing in two.[1]

The group was known as the "Black Murderers' Row." This group was made up primarily of African-American highly rated boxing contenders in the 1940s and 1950s, who competed around the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions. Hardwick was the only Hispanic of African descent in the group.[3] Renowned for their toughness and great boxing ability, they were feared throughout the boxing world and were the most avoided fighters of their generation. According to boxing pundit Jim Murray, the Murderers’ Row was the most exclusive men’s club the ring has ever known. They were so good and so feared that they had to have their own tournament.[6] The term "Boxing Murderers’ Row" was coined by writer Budd Schulberg, screenwriter of On the Waterfront.[7]

Amongst the many boxers whom Hardwick fought and defeated during his career were Louis "Kid" Kaplan. The fight occurred on February 2, 1933 at the Arena in New Haven. Kaplan was a former champion who held the World Championship title in the Featherweight division until 1927. On December 5, 1933 he faced Lou Ambers and lost the match.

From April through September 1940, Hardwick was the number one welterweight contender in the world. However Henry Armstrong, who held the World Welterweight Championship, refused to give him a title shot.[8] On October 9, 1943, Hardwick made the cover of Knockout Magazine as "The Cocoa Kid."[3]

World Colored Welterweight Championship[edit]

The World Colored Welterweight title was created in 1936. On July 26th of that year, Hardwick met Young Peter Jackson, the holder of the Pacific Coast and Mexican lightweight titles, at Heinemann Park in New Orleans, Louisiana in a 10-round title bout referred by Harry Wills, the former three-time World Colored Heavyweight Champ. Hardwick won via a technical knock-out in the second round.[9]

He made four defenses of the title. On September 22nd of that year at the same venue, he defeated Jackie Elverillo on points in 10 rounds. On 11 June 1937, at the Coliseum Arena in New Orleans, Hardwick fought his old nemesis Holman Williams, prevailing in a close fight, winning a decision in the 12-rounder. Ring Magazine had donated a championship belt for the bout.

Hardwick successfully defended his title against Black Canadian boxer Sonny Jones at the Valley Arena in Holyoke, Massachusetts on 15 November 1937, in a bout refereed by former world heavyweight champ Jack Sharkey. Hardwick scored a technical knock out in the sixth round of their 15-round bout. He had devastated Jones in the third with a right to his jaw and opened a cut over Sonny's left eye with another right. Eventually, Sharkey stopped the fight as Jones could barely see.[10]

The ascension of Henry Armstrong as the world welterweight champ on 31 May 1938 (when he beat Barney Ross) seemingly made the title redundant (the World Colored Heavyweight Championship expired when Joe Louis became world heavyweight champ in 1937 and the World Colored Middleweight Championship became defunct for 10 years after Gorilla Jones lost the world middleweight title in 1932), but it was still contested during Armstrong's reign.

Hardwick lost the title to Charley Burley on 22 August 1938, at Hickey Park in Millvale, Pennsylvania. Burley won a unanimous decision in the 15-round bout, knocking Hardwick to the canvas three times and defeating him decisively, taking his title.[11][12] Burley never defended the title, probably out of a desire to get a title shot with Armstrong. To fill the vacant title, Hardwick and Holman Williams met in a rematch on 11 January 1940 at the Coliseum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hardwick won a unanimous decision in their 15-round title bout, winning the title for a second time. Hardwick never defended his second title.

World Colored Middleweight Championship[edit]

Hardwick faced Holman Williams for his World Colored Middleweight Championship on 15 January 1943 at the Victory Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hardwick took the title from Williams on points in the 12-round bout. [13]

He never defended the title, which went extinct. Instead, he met Williams at New Orleans' Coliseum Arena on 15 September 1944 for the "Duration Middleweight World Title". This time, the result was a draw after 12 rounds. It was his second fight after being discharged from the U.S. Navy.

The Hardwick - Billy Smith controversy[edit]

In 1944, a controversy erupted between Hardwick and a boxer named "Oakland Billy Smith." When the fighters met on November 24, in the Civic Auditorium of San Francisco, California, the betting odds favored the Cocoa Kid over Smith by 2 to 1.[2] When Hardwick was knocked down four times, referee Frankie Brown became suspicious and stopped the fight, declaring it a "no-contest."[4] During an investigation carried out by the California Boxing Commission, Hardwick claimed his poor performance was due to personal anxiety about his “sick mother” (meaning his aunt Antonia). According to the Oakland Tribune, the commission felt that Hardwick threw the fight. In addition to withholding his earnings, the commission fined him $500, and suspended him from boxing for six months.[2]

End of his boxing career[edit]

On September 17, 1945, Hardwick fought and lost to Archie Moore. He lost his last professional fight on August 24, 1948, against Bobby Mann at Ball Park in Trenton, New Jersey.[14] In 1949, Sugar Ray Robinson entered into, and then broke, two agreements to fight against Hardwick.[8]

That same year of 1949, Hardwick was Robinson's sparring partner at the welterweight king's training camp in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. Robinson was training for a fight with Steve Belloise and was at his peak. In one session, Hardwick landed a short overhand right to Robinson's chin and dropped him in the second round.[2][8]

By the end of his boxing career, Hardwick had fought a total of 244 professional fights, of which he won 176 with 48 knockouts (KO). He lost 56 fights, 7 by way of KOs and 10 of his fights were classified as draws (ties).[3] Among the Champions which he faced during his career were: Louis Kaplan, Johnny Jadick, Lou Ambers, Christopher "Battling" Battalino, Chalky Wright and Archie Moore. Of these he defeated Kaplan, Jadick and Wright in non-title fights.[8]

Later years[edit]

After retiring from the ring in 1950, Hardwick found himself homeless and penniless in Chicago. Marguerite Winrou, his wife, divorced him and gained the custody of their children. According to the Naval Record Management Center in St. Louis, Missouri, Hardwick had served in the United States Navy during World War II. He was honorably discharged after being diagnosed with pugilistic dementia by military doctors. He kept his diagnosis a secret during his days as a boxer in order to continue boxing.[8]

Due to his long and difficult boxing career, Hardwick suffered from pugilistic dementia in his last years. In 1955, he wrote to the Navy asking for a copy of his discharge papers which he claimed were stolen with his Social Security card[2] and was later admitted to the Veterans Administration Hospital in North Chicago. He died there on December 27, 1966 and is buried in Wood National Cemetery, section 36a, row 11, site 3, located in the state of Wisconsin.[2] In 2011, Hardwick was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.[1]

Flag of Puerto Rico.svg

Puerto Ricans in the International Boxing Hall of Fame
Number Name Year inducted Notes
1 Carlos Ortíz 1991 World Jr. Welterweight Champion 1959 June 12- 1960, September 1, WBA Lightweight Champion 1962 Apr 21 – 1965 Apr 10, WBC Lightweight Champion 1963 Apr 7 – 1965 Apr 10, WBC Lightweight Champion 1965 Nov 13 – 1968 Jun 29.
2 Wilfred Benítez 1994 The youngest world champion in boxing history. WBA Light Welterweight Champion 1976 Mar 6 – 1977, WBC Welterweight Champion 1979 Jan 14 – 1979 Nov 30, WBC Light Middleweight Champion.
3 Wilfredo Gómez 1995 WBC Super Bantamweight Champion 1977 May 21 – 1983, WBC Featherweight Champion 1984 Mar 31 – 1984 Dec 8, WBA Super Featherweight Champion 1985 May 19 – 1986 May 24.
4 José "Chegui" Torres 1997 Won a silver medal in the junior middleweight at the 1956 Olympic Games. Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion 1965 Mar 30 – 1966 Dec 16
5 Sixto Escobar 2002 Puerto Rico's first boxing champion. World Bantamweight Champion 15 Nov 1935– 23 Sep 1937, World Bantamweight Champion 20 Feb 1938– Oct 1939
6 Edwin Rosario 2006 Ranks #36 on the list of "100 Greatest Punchers of All Time." according to Ring Magazine. WBC Lightweight Champion 1983 May 1 – 1984 Nov 3, WBA Lightweight Champion 1986 Sep 26 – 1987 Nov 21, WBA Lightweight Champion 199 Jul 9 – 1990 Apr 4, WBA Light Welterweight Champion 1991 Jun 14 – 1992 Apr 10.
7 Pedro Montañez 2007 92 wins out of 103 fights. Never held a title.
8 Joe Cortez 2011 The first Puerto Rican boxing referee to be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame
9 Herbert "Cocoa Kid" Hardwick 2012 Member of boxing's "Black Murderers' Row". World Colored Welterweight Championship - June 11, 1937 to August 22, 1938; World Colored Middleweight Championship - January 11, 1940 until the title went extinct in the 1940s; World Colored Middleweight Championship - January 15, 1943 until the title went extinct in the 1940s
10 Felix "Tito" Trinidad 2014 Captured the IBF welterweight crown in his 20th pro bout. Won the WBA light middleweight title from David Reid in March 2000 and later that year unified titles with a 12th-round knockout against IBF champ Fernando Vargas. In 2001 became a three-division champion.

     = Indicates the person is no longer alive

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "International Boxing Hall of Fame". Ibhof.com. 1914-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "“JUST WATCH MAH SMOKE” PART 8: Traveling Light; Written by Springs Toledo". Thesweetscience.com. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Cocoa Kid". Boxrec.com. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  4. ^ a b c "Box Rec 3". Boxrec.com. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  5. ^ "Charley Burley and the Black Murderers' Row"; by: Harry Otty; Publisher: Tora Book Publishing; ISBN 0-9543924-2-6; ISBN 978-0-9543924-2-0
  6. ^ Chasing Jack Chase by Springs Toledo, http://www.TheSweetScience.com
  7. ^ "Budd Schulberg: A Bio-Bibliography"; by: Beck, Nicholas; Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2001.
  8. ^ a b c d e 2011 International Boxing Hall of Fame Nominees
  9. ^ "Cocoa Kid: Record". BoxRec. Retrieved 25 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Recalling the Cocoa Kid". Onmilwaukee.com. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  11. ^ Otty, Harry. "Who is the Cocoa Kid?". CharleyBurley.com. 
  12. ^ "Black Dynamite: Charles Duane Burley". Cyber Boxing Zone. Retrieved 25 May 2012. 
  13. ^ "Holman Williams - Record". BoxRec. 
  14. ^ "BoxRec2". Boxrec.com. 1966-12-27. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 

External Links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
New Title
World Colored Welterweight Championship
June 11, 1937 - August 22, 1938
Succeeded by
Charley Burley
Preceded by
Charley Burley
Vacated title
World Colored Welterweight Championship
January 11, 1940 - Unknown
Succeeded by
Title defunct
Preceded by
Holman Williams
World Colored Middleweight Championship
January 15, 1943 - Unknown
Succeeded by
Title defunct