Sam Lang­ford story not to be missed

Tri-County Vanguard - - OP-ED - HIS­TORY Kristy Her­ron her­ronkristyella@gmail.com

Siss­a­boo Land­ing – as ad­min­is­tered by the Wey­mouth Wa­ter­front De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee – as many know is a won­der­ful cul­tural and com­mu­nity re­source and haven for the ham­let of Wey­mouth. I fre­quently fol­low their Face­book site and am so very pleased by their ef­forts.

But what caught my eye re­cently was a pre­sen­ta­tion of an award-win­ning play that is be­ing spon­sored by the Sis­si­boo Land­ing at the Marc Lescar­bot The­ater at Univer­sity Sainte-Anne on Fri­day, Nov. 2 and Satur­day, Nov. 3. Other spon­sors are the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Clare, the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Digby and the Royal Bank.

Chas­ing Cham­pi­ons, The Sam Lang­ford Story, is writ­ten by Ja­cob Samp­son and di­rected by Ron Jenk­ins. It fea­tures Ja­cob Samp­son, Marty Burt, Zach Faye and Micha Cromwell and is, ac­cord­ing to the pro­duc­ers, “A story of en­durance, for­ti­tude, friend­ship, and hope. Chas­ing Cham­pi­ons is a fight­ers’ story from a time when race and sport were col­lid­ing head on. Pound for pound, who was the world’s great­est boxer? Many box­ing his­to­ri­ans would ar­gue in fa­vor of Sam Lang­ford”

Sa­muel E. Lang­ford was born in March 4, 1883. He left his na­tive home to pur­sue a career in box­ing and was billed by New Eng­land pro­mot­ers as the Bos­ton Tar Baby, Bos­ton Ter­ror and Bos­ton Bonecrusher in the early part of the 20th cen­tury. He has been rec­og­nized as the “Great­est Fighter Nobody Knows,” by ESPN. In­deed, many his­to­ri­ans con­sider Lang­ford to be one of the great­est fight­ers of all time.

Lang­ford stood 5 ft 7 1/2 in (1.71 m) and weighed 185 lb (84 kg) in his prime. He fought from light­weight to heavy­weight and de­feated many world cham­pi­ons and leg­ends of the time in each weight class.

Yet, he strug­gled and was de­nied a shot at many world cham­pion- ships, due to the color bar and by the re­fusal of Jack John­son, the first African-Amer­i­can World Heavy­weight Cham­pion, to fight him. Lang­ford was the World Col­ored Heavy­weight Cham­pion, a ti­tle va­cated, by John­son, af­ter he won the World Cham­pi­onship a record five times.

Lang­ford even­tu­ally went com­pletely blind and ended up pen­ni­less, liv­ing in Har­lem, New York City. In 1944, a news­pa­per col­umn was pub­lished about his plight, af­ter which close to $10,000 was do­nated by fans to help Lang­ford. The col­umn was ti­tled “A Dark Man Laughs” and it was writ­ten by Al Laney of the New York Herald Tri­bune. Even­tu­ally fund­ing was ob­tained to pay for suc­cess- ful eye surgery. Lang­ford was en­shrined in the Ring Box­ing Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955. He died a year later in Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, where he had been liv­ing in a pri­vate nurs­ing home. In 1999 in his home prov­ince he was voted Nova Sco­tia’s top male ath­lete of the 20th cen­tury.

Mr. Lang­ford was much more than a boxer. He was a com­plex man who was tena­cious, strong willed and proud. Nova Sco­tian Proud and Wey­mouth was his home. The play re­flects him as just that. This is a mark-your-cal­en­dar event. Tick­ets are avail­able at Sis­si­boo Land­ing and are only $15.

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