Sam McVey bigraphy, stories - American boxer

Sam McVey : biography

May 17, 1884 - December 23, 1921

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. 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.


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. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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

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