Sam McVey

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Sam McVey
Sam McVey passport 1919.jpg
Passport photo of McVey from 1919
Real name Samuel E. MacVea
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 5 ft 10.5 in (1.79 m)
Reach 75 in (191 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1884-05-17)May 17, 1884
Waelder, Texas
Died December 23, 1921(1921-12-23) (aged 37)
New York City, NY
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 96
Wins 65
Wins by KO 47
Losses 16
Draws 12
No contests 3

Sam McVey or Sam McVea (May 17, 1884 – December 23, 1921) was a Hall of Fame heavyweight boxer who fought during the early 20th century. McVey ranked alongside Jack Johnson, Joe Jeanette, Sam Langford, and Harry Wills as the top black heavyweights of their generation. All of them, with the exception of Johnson, were denied at shot at the world heavyweight championship due to the color bar, which ironically was maintained by Johnson when he became the first black fighter to win the world heavyweight title. Despite being denied a title shot, McVea enjoyed a famed career that took him across the globe.

In 96 documented fights in at least 10 different countries, McVey only lost 16 bouts.[1] His greatest wins include two victories over both Sam Langford and Harry Wills, which won him the World Colored Heavyweight Championship on two separate occasions, respectively. In his later years he worked as a trainer and sparring partner for both black and white fighters training for important bouts.


McVey (left) posing with fellow boxer Al Reich

Fighting out of Oxnard, California, McVey stood 5′10½″ inches tall and fought at a weight of between 205 and 220 lbs. He relied more on brute strength than finesse in the ring.[2] He had his first pro fight in 1902 at the age of 18. In those days, few mixed race fights took place, so McVey frequently fought the other top black boxers of his time, including Sam Langford (15 times), Joe Jeanette (5 times), Harry Wills (5 times), and Jack Johnson (3 times). Overall, McVey's boxing record was 65 wins, 16 losses, and 12 draws.[1]

McVey spent much of his prime years fighting overseas. He left for Paris in 1907 and fought there for four years. McVey left Paris in 1911 for Australia. He fought there for three more years before finally returning to the U.S.

On December 31, 1908 in Paris, Sam McVey competed in a mixed style bout against jujutsu expert Tano Matsuda, knocking him out in ten seconds.[3] In the earlier part of this century, such bouts were occasionally held in Japan pitting western boxers against judo or jujutsu fighters.

On April 17, 1909 in Paris, Sam McVey fought Joe Jeanette in a bout considered one of the greatest and certainly one of the longest of the 20th century. The fight went 50 rounds and lasted three and a half hours. McVey was generally agreed to be winning through most of the fight, particularly the 21st and 22nd round, knocking Jeanette down repeatedly. By the 40th round, however, Jeanette had recovered while McVey was lagging and knocked down repeatedly. Ultimately McVey's eyes had swollen shut and he was forced to quit.[4]

McVey contracted pneumonia, and died December 23, 1921 in New York City, penniless while still an active fighter. His burial and grave marker were paid for by Jack Johnson.[5]

McVey was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.[6]

Professional boxing record[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Sam McVey – Boxer". Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  2. ^ "Sam McVea (Samuel E. MacVea) (Samuel E. McVey)". Cyber Boxing Zone. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Hewitt, Mark (2005). Catch wrestling: a wild and wooly look at the early days of pro wrestling in America. Paladin Press. 
  4. ^ "Jeanette Beats McVey" (PDF). The New York Times. 18 April 1909. 
  5. ^ "Sam McVey". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  6. ^ "Sam McVey". International Boxing Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Jack Johnson (Vacated)
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
February 20, 1909 – April 17, 1909
Succeeded by
Larry Gains
Preceded by
Sam Langford
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
December 26, 1911 – April 8, 1912
Succeeded by
Sam Langford