Henry Armstrong in 1937
|Real name||Henry Melody Jackson Jr.|
|Height||5 ft 5 1⁄2 in (166 cm)|
|Reach||67 in (170 cm)|
December 12, 1912|
|Died||October 22, 1988
Los Angeles, California
|Wins by KO||101|
Henry Jackson Jr. (December 12, 1912 in Columbus, Mississippi – October 22, 1988 in Los Angeles, California) was an American professional boxer and a world boxing champion who fought under the name Henry Armstrong. He is regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time by many boxing critics and fellow professionals.
Henry Jr. was a boxer who not only was a member of the exclusive group of fighters that have won boxing championships in three or more different divisions (at a time when there were only 8 universally recognized World Titles), but also has the distinction of holding three world championships at the same time, consisting of the featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight world titles for a brief period in 1938. Armstrong defended his welterweight title nineteen times.
A native of Columbus, Mississippi, Armstrong was born December 12, 1912 and moved as a youngster with his family to St. Louis, Missouri, where he developed his boxing skills. He was the son of Henry Jackson Sr., a sharecropper of African American, Irish and Native American descent and America Jackson, who was Native American (Iroquois). Armstrong graduated from Vashon High School and was later inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Armstrong's two nicknames were Hurricane Henry and Homicide' Hank.
Armstrong started out as a professional on July 28, 1931, being knocked out by Al Iovino in three rounds. Just like Alexis Argüello, Bernard Hopkins and Wilfredo Vazquez in the future, Armstrong was one world champion who started off on the losing end. His first win came later that year, beating Sammy Burns by a decision in six. In 1932, Armstrong moved to Los Angeles, where he started out losing two four round decisions in a row, to Eddie Trujillo and Al Greenfield. But after that, he started a streak of 11 wins in a row, a streak which expanded to 1933, until he lost again, to Baby Manuel. Then he went 22 straight fights without a defeat, going 17–0–5 in that span, including a win in a Sacramento rematch with Manuel and five wins over Perfecto Lopez. After that, he moved to Mexico City, where in his first fight there, he lost to former World Bantamweight Champion Baby Arizmendi. He had four more fights there, going 2–2 and losing to Arizmendi in what was considered by Mexico and California a world title bout (thus Armstrong losing on his first championship try) and to Baby Casanova by a five round disqualification. He then moved back to California, where he went 8–1–1 for the next ten bouts.
In 1936, Armstrong split time campaigning between Los Angeles, Mexico City and St. Louis. Some opponents of note that year were Ritchie Fontaine, against whom he lost by decision and then won by decision in the rematch, Arizmendi, whom he finally beat by a ten round decision, former world champion Juan Zurita and former champ Mike Belloise, who also lost a decision to Armstrong.
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, the inevitable happened: 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 became the World Featherweight Champion, knocking out Sarron in six 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.
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.
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 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 and is interred in the Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. He was 75.
- St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- Armstrong Family (2009). "Biography of Henry Armstrong". Official Henry Armstrong Website. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- "Henry Armstrong". biography.com. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Henry Armstrong.|
|Armstrong, seated, posing with a title belt (undated)|
|Armstrong boarding an airplane (undated)|
- Professional boxing record for Henry Armstrong from BoxRec
- The Official Henry Armstrong Web Site
- Henry Armstrong Foundation Web Site
- Biographical sketch for Henry Armstrong on the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) web site
- Henry Armstrong at Find a Grave
|World Featherweight Champion
October 29, 1937 – September 12, 1938
|The Ring Featherweight Champion
October 29, 1937 – December 5, 1938
|World Welterweight Champion
May 31, 1938 – October 4, 1940
|The Ring Welterweight Champion
May 31, 1938 – October 4, 1940
|World Lightweight Champion
August 17, 1938 – August 22, 1939
|The Ring Lightweight Champion
August 17, 1938 – August 22, 1939