Wills, Harry, 1892-1958

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Professional boxer, and leading heavyweight contender in the 1920's. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Harry Wills began his boxing career in 1911. He is credited with winning 475 out of 480 bouts, scoring 31 knockouts. At the height of his career in 1920, Wills was the number one heavyweight contender. He was denied the opportunity to challenge Jack Dempsey who had won the heavyweight crown in 1909 as Dempsey refused to fight blacks. Wills, after fighting the same black fighters repeatedly, went to Panama, where race was not a factor. On his return to the United States in 1920, as number one contender, Dempsey still refused him a match. In 1924, the Dempsey-Tunney match was held in Philadelphia because Dempsey was legally bound to fight Wills in New York State. Although Wills was reportedly paid $50,000 for the forfeit, the Dempsey-Tunney fight proceeds, the largest purse in boxing history at that time, equalled almost two million dollars. Wills' biggest fights were with Luis Firpo at Boyles Thirty Acres, New Jersey in Sept. 1924, and with Charley Weinert, at the Polo Grounds in New York City in 1925. Wills also travelled to Europe--France, Poland and Germany, giving exhibition bouts in Berlin and Karlsbad. After retiring from boxing in 1934, Wills engaged in the real estate business, acquiring holdings including an apartment building in New York City and estates in upstate New York and Dinwoodie County, Virginia.

From the description of Harry Wills collection, 1922-1960. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122580036

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Wills, Harry, 1892-1958. Harry Wills collection, 1922-1960. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf OAC Review Index. Local News, OAC Review, V.3, No.7, Apr.1892, p.108-109. Green Houses. Gymnasium. University of Guelph
referencedIn Wills, Harry, 1892-1958. Harry Wills collection, 1922-1960. New York Public Library System, NYPL
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Dempsey, Jack, 1895-1983. person
associatedWith OAC Review Index. corporateBody
associatedWith Wills, Harry (Harry Coleman), 1892-1958. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
New York (State)--New York
African Americans in business
Boxing matches
African American athletes--Biography
Boxers (Sports)
Race discrimination
African Americans--Sports
Discrimination in sports
African American boxers


Birth 1889-05-15

Death 1958-12-21


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