Henry Armstrong

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For other people named Henry Armstrong, see Henry Armstrong (disambiguation).
Henry Armstrong
Henry Armstrong.jpg
Henry Armstrong in 1937
Real name Henry Melody Jackson Jr.
Nickname(s) Homicide Hank
Hurricane Hank
Hammerin' Hank
Rated at Featherweight
Height 5 ft 5 ½ in
Reach 67 in (170 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1912-12-12)December 12, 1912
Columbus, Mississippi
Died October 24, 1988(1988-10-24) (aged 75)
Los Angeles, California
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 181
Wins 151
Wins by KO 101
Losses 21
Draws 9

Regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time by boxing critics, Henry Jackson Jr. (December 12, 1912 – October 24, 1988) was an American professional boxer and a world boxing champion who fought under the name Henry Armstrong.

Armstrong was recognized as one of the few fighters to win in three or more different divisions, specifically the featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight for a brief period in 1938. Armstrong defended his welterweight title a total of nineteen times.

In 2007, The Ring ranked Armstrong as the second-greatest fighter of the last 80 years.[1] Bert Sugar also ranked Armstrong as the second-greatest fighter of all time.

Early life[edit]

A native of Columbus, Mississippi, Armstrong was born December 12, 1912 but moved with his family to St. Louis, Missouri during his childhood, where he became involved in boxing. He was the son of Henry Jackson Sr., a sharecropper of African American, Irish and Native American descent and Iroquois America Jackson. Armstrong graduated from Vashon High School and was later inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[2] Armstrong's two nicknames were Hurricane Henry and Homicide' Hank.[3]

Professional career[edit]

Armstrong began his professional career on July 28, 1931 in a fight with Al Iovino, in which Armstrong was knocked out in three rounds. His first win came later that year, beating Sammy Burns by a decision in six. In 1932, Armstrong moved to Los Angeles, where he lost two four round decisions in a row to Eddie Trujillo and Al Greenfield. However, following these two losses he started a streak of 11 wins. In 1936, Armstrong split time campaigning between Los Angeles, Mexico City and St. Louis. A few notable opponents of that year include Ritchie Fontaine, Arizmendi, former world champion Juan Zurita and Mike Belloise.

Armstrong started out 1937 by winning 22 bouts in a row, 21 by knockout. He beat Casanova in three, Belloise in four, Joe Rivers in three, former world champion Frankie Klick in four and former world champion Benny Bass in four. After those 22 wins in a row, Armstrong was given his first world title try, for the 126 pounds title. World Featherweight Champion Petey Sarron defended his title against Armstrong at the Madison Square Garden. Armstrong knocked Sarron out in six, surpassing Sarron as the World Featherweight Champion and closed the year with four more knockout wins.

In 1938, Armstrong started with seven more knockouts in a row, including one over future world champion Chalky Wright. The streak finally ended when Arizmendi lasted ten rounds before losing a decision to Armstrong in their fourth fight. His streak of 27 knockout wins in a row qualifies as one of the longest knockout win streaks in the history of boxing, according to The Ring. After the fourth bout with Arizmendi was a bout with Fritzie Zivic's brother, Eddie Zivic, resulting in another Armstrong knockout win and after one more bout, Armstrong, the 126 pound division world champion, challenged a fellow member of the three division champions' club, Barney Ross, then World Welterweight Champion, for the title. Armstrong, 133½, beat Ross, 142, by unanimous decision, adding the World Welterweight Championship to his featherweight belt. Then, he went down in weight and challenged World Lightweight Champion Lou Ambers. In a history-making night, Armstrong became the first boxer ever to have world championships in three different divisions at the same time, by beating Ambers by split decision. A few days later, he decided he couldn't make the 126 pounds weight anymore and left the featherweight crown vacant.

He dedicated the next two years to defending the welterweight crown, beating, among others, future World Middleweight Champion Ceferino Garcia, Al Manfredo and Bobby Pacho, before defending his Lightweight belt in a rematch with Ambers, which he lost on a 15-round decision. After that, he concentrated once again on defending the world Welterweight title, and made eight defenses in a row, the last of which was a nine-round knockout win over Puerto Rico's Pedro Montañez. Then, he tried to make history once again by becoming the first boxer to win world titles in four different categories in a rematch with Garcia, already the World Middleweight Champion, but the fight ended in a ten-round draw, Armstrong's attempt to win a fourth division's world title being frustrated. According to boxing historian Bert Sugar, many felt Armstrong deserved the decision in this fight.[4]

He went back to welterweight and retained the title five more times, until Fritzie Zivic was able to avenge his brother Eddie's defeat by taking the world title away from Armstrong with a 15-round decision. With this loss, Armstrong's reign as Welterweight Champion came to an end, leaving Armstrong's successful defense streak at eighteen, the most defenses by a champion ever in Welterweight history. In 1941, they boxed a rematch, this time, Zivic stopping Armstrong in 12 rounds.

1942 saw Armstrong go 13–1, including wins over world champions (Fritzie) Zivic in a ten-round, non-title bout, Jenkins and Zurita.[needs copy edit]

Armstrong (right) demonstrating some boxing techniques to a US Army member during an exhibition tour in 1943.

1943 saw him go 10–3, with wins over world champions Tippy Larkin and Sammy Angott in ten round bouts and losses to world champions Beau Jack and Sugar Ray Robinson, also in ten round bouts.

1944 saw Henry go 14–2–1 in 17 bouts, among those, another win over Belloise.

After winning one fight, losing one and drawing one in 1945, Armstrong decided to retire from boxing. Apart from the ceremonies and galas that he attended afterward, he led a relatively quiet life for the rest of his life. He became a born-again Christian and an ordained pastor and taught young, upcoming fighters how to box.

Armstrong registered an official record of 150 wins, 21 losses and 10 draws, with 101 knockout wins. Early in his career, he fought some pay fights under the nickname of Melody Jackson.

Armstrong became a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

After boxing[edit]

After retiring from boxing in 1946, Armstrong briefly opened a Harlem nightclub, the Melody Room, but later became a Baptist minister and youth advocate. He died on October 22, 1988 in Los Angeles, California and is interred in the Rosedale Cemetery. He was 75.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrew Eisele. "Ring Magazine's 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years". About.com Sports. 
  2. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Armstrong Family (2009). "Biography of Henry Armstrong". Official Henry Armstrong Website. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  4. ^ http://boxrec.com/media/index.php/Ceferino_Garcia_vs._Henry_Armstrong_(2nd_meeting)
  5. ^ "Henry Armstrong". biography.com. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 

External links[edit]

External images
Armstrong, seated, posing with a title belt (undated)
Armstrong boarding an airplane (undated)
Preceded by
Petey Sarron
World Featherweight Champion
October 29, 1937 – September 12, 1938
Succeeded by
Joey Archibald
The Ring Featherweight Champion
October 29, 1937 – December 5, 1938
Lineal Featherweight Champion
October 29, 1937 – December 5, 1938
Preceded by
Barney Ross
World Welterweight Champion
May 31, 1938 – October 4, 1940
Succeeded by
Fritzie Zivic
The Ring Welterweight Champion
May 31, 1938 – October 4, 1940
Lineal Welterweight Champion
May 31, 1938 – October 4, 1940
Preceded by
Lou Ambers
World Lightweight Champion
August 17, 1938 – August 22, 1939
Succeeded by
Lou Ambers
The Ring Lightweight Champion
August 17, 1938 – August 22, 1939
Lineal Lightweight Champion
August 17, 1938 – August 22, 1939