Spotlight: Ed Sanders

By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher

In this spotlight story, we’ll look back on the career of former professional boxer Ed “Big Ed” Sanders. He passed away on December 12, 1954 at the age of 24.

Sanders attended Jordan High School in Los Angeles, California, before attending Compton College. While at Compton College, Sanders excelled at both football at boxing.

Boxing Gloves
Boxing Gloves (Photo by Pixabay)

Following an event at the National Junior College Boxing Championships in Ogden, Utah, he received an opportunity in the form of an athletic scholarship to attend Idaho State College. The school is now known as Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.

At Idaho State, he played football and competed in boxing. He defeated the Pacific Coast Heavyweight Champion in his very first college bout. He never lost a dual meet during his collegiate experience at the school.

After college, he was then drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in the Korean War. His coaches reportedly wanted him to join the Navy instead.

He elected to attend the Navy, where he joined the U.S. Navy Boxing Team. He defeated several fighters, including then Navy Heavyweight Champion Kirby Seals, in San Diego, California. He also won the Los Angeles Golden Gloves and Chicago Golden Gloves tournament.

The Golden Gloves tournament then took him to Berlin, Germany, where he won another Golden Gloves tournament. After his tenure in the military, he then competed to be an Olympian.

As an Olympian, he defeated his first three opponents. He then fight Ingemar Johansson in the final bout. Johansson was disqualified for failure to fight.

Johansson then was rushed out of the ring with the assistance by police officers and he refused to accept a silver medal.

Sanders when he won became the first African American Olympic Heavyweight Champion. In addition, he was also the first American to win the gold medal as a boxer in the division since 1904.

Following his Olympic win, he had to wait due to his Naval duties to pursue a professional career. He faced a lot of pressure by turning pro, both from the boxing community and from the media.

He also needed to support his wife Mary and his son Russell. He turn pro in February 1953 and also reportedly served as his own manager to satisfy his Naval requirements.

As a professional boxer, he went 6-2-1. He also had three knockouts. Sanders knocked out his first three opponents, knocking out Sonny Nichols, Billy Booker, and Henry Anderson.

Sanders first loss came against Willie Wilson in a unanimous decision at the Boston Garden. He rebounded with wins over Jack Flood and revenged his first loss with a split decision win over Wilson.

He also had a draw with Bert Whitehurst, before defeating Whitehurst by unanimous decision. His final bout, which was for the USA New England Heavyweight title, was a knockout loss to Willie James.

Late in the fight with James, he lost consciousness, before receiving assistance from the ring personnel. They carried him out on a stretcher. Sanders never recovered and died following a surgery by medical personnel to relieve the pressure on his brain.

He reportedly aggravated a previous injury during the fight. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, California.

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