The Forgotten Champion
RBC Black History Month Student Essay David George Essay Word Count: 750
A flame on a wick, bruised and battered by the tumultuous storm — gale force winds threaten its very existence. Miraculously it survives. Alas this is no miracle, It’s to be expected. The black community of Canada has faced these gale force winds, they have faced such powerful societal forces and yet their spirit never fades, like the inextinguishable flame in the harrowing storm their burning ancestral pride is too potent, too visceral to ever die. Black Canadians and their actions have shaped Canada—to understand the true spirit of our nation we must look to these champions, these heroes who define what it means to be Canadian. Through the life of Sam Langford, the legendary boxer, we bear witness to remarkable feats of courage, persistence unparalleled — he sets the standard and provides to Canadians, black and white, an example of a life well lived.
From the very beginning Langford fought an upward battle, born to an abusive father in 1886 in the rural town of Weymouth Nova Scotia, he was forced to flee to Boston at the age of twelve (BoxRec, 2014). He took up janitorial work at a local boxing-gym to makes ends meet— this was the start of his career. Langford began sparring and training, he won the amateur featherweight championship at the age of 15 (BoxRec, 2014). Being a black fighter put Langford at an immediate disadvantage as many contests were only open to his white peers. He was denied the chance, the mere opportunity to compete for the World Heavyweight title due to the color of his skin. Unperturbed, Langford kept his pride and never faltered, he pushed himself to his limits, rising many weight-classes and eventually winning the colored heavyweight title. He fought against the hand life had dealt him and made the best of what he had — that’s a true champion and perfectly encapsulates the Canadian identity. We as a nation too have been underestimated, often considered America’s shadow. But, in the face of injustice and cruelty, we like Langford are bold and are not afraid to swing. This is Langford’s legacy incarnate — the true Canadian spirit.
Langford was a force to be reckoned with, a powerhouse of passion and raw talent. His opponents trembled in his wake, they knew exactly the kind of man Langford was. Even the legendary Jack Dempsey was apprehensive, in his own biography writing “There was one man, he was even smaller than I, I wouldn’t fight because I knew he would flatten me. I was afraid of Sam Langford” (Moyle, n.d.). He was on the top of his game when a boxing-related injury rendered his right eye blind (Moyle, n.d.). For many this would have been the end, but not for Sam. He continued to fight for nine years (Moyle, n.d.). Remarkably, Langford even managed to clinch the Mexican heavyweight title, a match in which the handlers had to guide him to the ring because his vision was so poor. Although he lost his vision he was never blind; he knew exactly the man he was and never once lost sight of his dreams. His indomitable will is a testament to the resilience of the black community — regardless of how many times it falls it will always rise with pride and dignity.
Sam was an unprivileged, racially-discriminated, unfairly treated man who despite the bigotry of low expectations put upon him, punched above his weight and defied the societal conventions of his time. His example teaches many young Canadians one of life’s most important lessons — that it’s unfair. A recent study showed 40% of millennials believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance (Stein, 2013). We must follow Langford’s example, and work for every penny, nickel and dime ; this builds character and prepares us for future failure and rejection.
Despite his unwavering tenacity his old-age had finally caught up to him, signaling the end of an illustrious career. He retired with pennies, he was poor and broke. Despite all of his hard work the racist policies of his time had limited him, he was done a terrible injustice. Langford shows to us as a larger society what we are capable of and what we can improve. We should follow Sam’s courageous example, and fearlessly pursue our passions without inhibition. At the same time his tragic fate should serve as a stark reminder to us of the dangers of inequity and unequal opportunity; we as a collective had limited a man whom by nature was limitless.
“Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.” Time, Time, time.com/247/millennials-the-me-me-me-generation/.
Moyle, Clay. “History's Forgotten Boxer .” Sam Langford: History's Forgotten Boxer | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed, www.blackpast.org/perspectives/sam-langford-history-s-forgotten-boxer.
“Sam Langford Born.” Sam Langford Born | African American Registry, www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/sam-langford-born.
“Sam Langford.” Box Rec, 14 Nov. 2014, boxrec.com/media/index.php/Sam_Langford.