At only 5’8″, Sam Langford was one of the shortest and greatest Heavyweights who never got a shot at the title. He was so feared by his contemporaries, that before agreeing to fight, they sought guarantees that he would “be merciful.”
Langford often did so anyway, because of his limited opportunities and to ensure that he could get rematches. He fought many of the same opponents–often in the predicament he found himself in–multiple times, as a result of the “color line” imposed on the world titles.
He was nicknamed the “Boston Tar Baby” among others, a nod to the racial attitudes of the day.
In the end, Langford died blind and penniless after a career that spanned five weight classes, surpassing well over 300 bouts and saw him face and defeat several hall of fame legends.