PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                     October 28, 2012


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By John DiSanto


Harold Johnson, the former world light heavyweight champion, receives another honor on November 8th when he will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. The induction will take place at the annual banquet held at the Sheraton Society Hill in Old City Philadelphia. 

This is the ninth set of inductions for the Philly Hall, which honors athletes and other participants from a variety of professional, amateur, and scholastic sports. This year, the Hall spotlights fifteen individuals and one organization. In addition to Johnson, Doug Collins, Eric Lindros, Johnny Callison, Mike Piazza, Tommy Thompson, Wali Jones, Maxie Baughan, Joe Klecko, Dan Baker, Debbie Black, Eddie Plank, Gertrude Dunn, Horace Ashenfelter, Johnny McDermott, and the Legacy Youth Tennis & Education Association, will be enshrined.  

Over the years since his 1971 retirement, Johnson has been honored numerous times by the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the PA Boxing Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, and other institutions. This time, Johnson becomes just the fifth boxing to enter the Philly Hall, joining felloe legends Joe Frazier, Tommy Loughran, Joey Giardello, and Jersey Joe Walcott in the Philadelphia Hall.

Johnson's storied career spanned 25 years and produced a 76-11 (32 KOs) record. After minimal amateur boxing experience gathered while serving  in the Navy, Johnson turned pro and zipped through his first 24 bouts without a loss. The first man to defeat him was future champion Archie Moore in the first of their five meetings.

Harold fought many outstanding fighters on his climb toward the championship including Jimmy Bivins, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Arturo Godoy, Bob Satterfield, Nino Valdes, Marty Marshall, and many more. 

He received his first title shot in 1954, against rival Archie Moore at Madison Square Garden. Johnson floored the champion in round ten and was leading on the scorecards when Moore caught him in round fourteen and ended the classic fight. It was their final meeting.

Years later after Johnson had fought his way to another title opportunity, Moore, still the champ, refused to fight Harold again, instead opting to have a piece of his title stripped. 

Johnson was matched with Jesse Bowdry to fight for that vacant NBA portion of the crown. On February 7, 1961, Johnson stopped Bowdry in round nine to become champion.

He defended the NBA title against Von Clay (KO2) and Eddie Cotton (W15), before unifying the vacant world title with a 15-round decision over Doug Jones on May 12, 1962 at the Arena in West Philly. 

Johnson defended his world title in Berlin against German southpaw Gustav "Bubi" Scholz later in 1962, winning another 15-round decision. 

The following year, Harold lost his title in a highly controversial fight with Willie Pastrano of New Orleans. The Vegas fight was a close and is still argued about  today. Johnson never again fought for the world title. 

He did however, fight another eight times, winning all but one in the stretch before retiring. Three years later, he returned for one more fight before hanging up his gloves for good.

Johnson was a stylish ring technician, one of Philly's all-time best fighters.

Harold, 85, lives in quiet retirement in Northeast Philadelphia, and is one the oldest living former world champions.

His induction into the Philly Sports Hall of Fame, will be accepted by his son, Reverend John Roberts. 

For more information, tickets, and details on congratulatory ads, please visit




John DiSanto - News & Notes - October 28, 2012