Kid Norfolk
(William Ward)

BORN    September 20 1895; Norfolk, Virginia (Fought out of Baltimore, Maryland; Some sources incorrectly report July 10 1893)
HEIGHT  5-8
WEIGHT  165-185 lbs
MANAGER  Leo P. Flynn

Norfolk was a short and stocky fighter who was quick and powerful; He possessed a natural instinct for fighting and took on all-comers, large or small; In a career of 103 bouts, he lost just 15 - against top-flight, world-class competition; The "Kid" is one of the super, over-looked fighters in boxing history who should have had a title shot but never received it

During his career, he defeated such men as Harry Greb, Billy Miske, Battling Siki, Jeff Clark, "Tiger" Flowers, Lee Anderson, Jack Blackburn, Arthur Pelkey, "Big" Bill Tate, Tom Cowler, George Robinson, Dan "Porky" Flynn, Clay Turner, Black Fitzsimmons, Jamaica Kid, John Lester Johnson and James "Tut" Jackson,

The "Kid" was reportedly born on Norfolk Street in Belmont, Virginia; He moved to Panama as a teenager and, as a fighter, adopted the name Kid Norfolk after the street of his birth; He retired in 1926 at age 33. Some sources report his death in 1953 but the exact date is not known

The sea air bit into William's nostrils filling them with a sting that his lungs repulsed. He moved cautiously, his arms in constant motion, his fists squeezing the sweat from his palms. He could see the look in the sailor's eye as he moved closer and closer. It was a hunter's look, a killer's look. The men stood behind, in front and around him, shouting, laughing, roaring. Their voices pierced his ears, "kill the nigger!", he heard. "Hit em!", they shouted. The sailor flashed his fist in mock motion causing William to flinch then flicker. Smiling eagerly the sailor inched forward. A breeze caught the side of William's cheek as the sailor's fist sailed past his head. Another flash and he felt a sledgehammer hit his stomach and then a bat against his chest. William swung up from the docks instinctively, his entire body swinging upward with his fist. A fleshy resistance greeted his knuckles sending a sharp jolt down through his arm. He heard the bone-cracking "SMACK!" that accompanied his pain. William's body came to a halt as he regained his bearing. There was silence. The men had stopped their cheering. William looked for the sailor, trying to gain his balance. It was not until his eyes turned towards the wood soaked docked that he saw his adversary, lying face first, a spat of blood trickling from his open mouth.

-- From The Carmel-Colored Kings

William Ward was a veteran of almost 100 fights when he left Norfolk, Virginia in 1907 to head for Baltimore, Maryland. He started fighting as most black boys did in those days by participating in Battle Royals for gold watches, trophies and occasional coinage. But the money was never that good and William knew there was far more to be made on the docks. By the time he was thirteen he was knocking out men who were twice his size and sometimes nearly three times his age. But young William had a knack for fighting.

Ward made enough of a name for himself in Baltimore that an engineer named VA Mason, assigned to the Canal Project in Panama, decided to take the young pugilist with him to the Isthmus. Panama's fight game was booming and there was a bundle of money to be made catering to the entertainment whims of thousands of soldiers, sailors and laborers who had descended upon the small Central American country. Mason did take Ward to Panama but quickly learned that the fight game was not for him. Ward waded through six or seven managers before settling in with a West Indian importer by the name of Herman Cambridge.

It was under the watchful eye of Cambridge that Ward began his career in Panama. To raise interest in his young charge, Cambridge dubbed his fighter, Kid Norfolk, a name which would stick with him until his death. Norfolk's aggressive style was popular with the Panamanian crowds and he quickly earned himself the reputation as a world-beater. It was in his third season in Panama that Norfolk defeated such top-rate men as, Sam McVey(nd20), Arthur Pelkey(ko1&ko14), Jeff Clark(w20) and Big Bill Tate(W20) all who outweighed the Kid by at least 12 pounds. By the time 1917 had begun, Kid Norfolk was the Heavyweight Champion of South America and looking toward America.

Norfolk was signed by Leo P. Flynn in the spring of 1917 and came to New York with the sole intention of winning the Heavyweight title. Flynn decided to season his new man a little and sent him against the usual suspects of the time; Gunboat Smith(ND10, ND10), Wild Burt Kenny(ND10, KO8), Zulu Kid and George Ashe. Norfolk's biggest win of the year came when he defeated Billy Miske over 10 rounds in Boston. The Kid claimed the Lightheavyweight Title of the World but he was recognized by virtually noone. Regardless, Kid Norfolk had made quite a niche for himself going undefeated throughout the majority of 1917. Then he made a mistake. Facing a faded Sam Langford in Denver, Norfolk got careless and was knocked cold in two rounds. The Boston Terror had stuck again.

Norfolk would loose only one bout over the course of the next year and a half(L12 to Clay Turner), fighting mainly other black heavyweights and white journeymen. Norfolk clamored for a shot at Jack Dempsey, but his challenges would fall on deaf ears. Dempsey had stated publicly that he would fight only white challengers for his crown. Norfolk continued on, racking up victory after victory. And the trouble in finding good opponents (and paydays) that Norfolk would encounter more and more, did little to slow him down. He would again face Billy Miske(the best white fighter he had yet to fight) in 1919, and again he whipped him in ten rounds. The Kid faced off with every good black fighter around, from George Robinson to Lee Anderson, from Silas Green to Tut Jackson, and from Cleve Hawkins to John Lester Johnson. Kid Norfolk beat every one of them.

It was in the summer of 1921 that Norfolk got his first real break when he was matched up with Pittsburgh legend Harry Greb. The fight itself was a torrid affair, with both men giving and taking tremendous amounts of punishment. The Kid outweighed the mighty Greb by twelve pounds but the Steeltown crowd gave the "Human Windmill" his own kind of advantage. Norfolk floored Greb for a six count in the first and gave him quite a beating over the first few rounds. Greb fought back as only he could and took the fight to his heavier foe in the middle rounds. Norfolk's greater strength seemed to be the difference in the closing rounds and he "cut Greb to ribbons in the final frame". The newspaper decision was Norfolk's but it did him little good. He continued to call for Dempsey but the Manassa mauler had a long list of challengers, many of whom meant a bigger payday with a smaller risk. But Norfolk was convinced that he could beat Dempsey and that all he needed was to get the champion into the ring with him.

Norfolk's next move was a risky one. He threw all of his marbles into one basket and challenged Dempsey's most qualified and persistent challenger, Harry Wills. Wills was an awesome physical specimen and in hindsight, it was suicide for Norfolk to challenge him. But the Kid had faced much larger men before and to him Wills was just another giant for him to slay. Wills and Norfolk met in New York on March 2, 1922. When the two battlers met in the middle of the ring the mismatch was apparent to all that surveyed the two men. The disparity in size was alarming (Wills 6'2" 230 and Norfolk 5'9" 185). Wills stood almost a full foot taller that Norfolk and looked as if he could sweep him away with one stoke of his long ebony arms. The fight itself was little more than a public beating with Wills plastering the helpless Norfolk for a full round and a half before depositing him on the canvas with a vicious right hand midway through the second. Norfolk gamely tried to rise but could not find his footing. The fight was waved off when the Kid rose stumbled and then fell back into the ropes.

The loss to Wills was a crushing blow for Norfolk. He was sure that he could beat the big man and asked for a rematch. When he approached Paddy Mullins,( Wills' manager), the pugnacious manager laughed in his face.

Norfolk moved back down to his own weight division and again found success. In what was probably the best year of his pro career, Norfolk knocked out Tut Jackson(3), Jamaica Kid(2) and Tiger Flowers(1) successively. He rounded out the year by ruining the American debut of one time Lightheavyweight Champion Battling Siki, by busting up the Singular Senegalese in 15 rounds. But even his great success did little to advance his championship aspirations. He did manage to secure a rematch with (now) Middleweight Champion Harry Greb, but the title would not be at stake. Norfolk would not have his great advantage in weight when the two met for the second time in Boston on April 19, 1924. They would share a distinct disadvantage however -- both were fighting with only one good eye. Greb had been fighting with only one eye since his last bout with the Kid and Norfolk had lost the use of his left eye in 1921 when he was thumbed by Lee Anderson in a bout in Arizona. Nevertheless, the two warriors put on a fantastic show, which was cut short when Greb hit Norfolk after the bell sounded to end the sixth round. The action had been so hotly contested up until that point that the Mechanics Hall crowd nearly rioted when the fight was discontinued because of Greb's foul.

His battle with Greb would prove to be Norfolk's last stand at the World class level. After the Greb affair he would muster up a few more wins before being stopped in six rounds by Tommy Gibbons in December 1924. The Kid would fight until 1926, when after being knocked stiff by Ted Moore in San Francisco, he finally retired.

Norfolk had managed to save some money from his ring earnings and bought an apartment house in Harlem. He worked briefly as a porter at Yankee Stadium and for years could be found up at Grupp's gymnasium watching the young pugs and whispering with his fellow old timers Harry Wills, Panama Joe Gans and Soldier Jones.

Kid Norfolk is one of the few fighter's whose record speaks for itself. He was 5-0 against world champions and he beat every good black fighter (who many of the white contenders would not face), of his time. His only un-avenged losses during his prime were against Hall of Famers Sam Langford and Harry Wills. He defeated both Harry Greb and Billy Miske twice and he knocked out George Godfrey in 4 rounds.

Kid Norfolk never fought for a World Championship. He died in New Jersey in 1953.

1998 Kevin Smith

1914
Feb 15 "Steamboat" Bill Scott     in Panama                         W 10
May 17 Jack Taylor                in Panama                        ND 10

1916
Jan 12 "Young" Rough House        Colon, Pan                       KO  2
Feb  5 "Young" Gunboat Smith      Colon, Pan                       KO  2
          -Perhaps, this is "Black" Gunboat Smith;
           Some sources report 2/15/16 ?
Mar  6 "Young" Sam Langford       Colon, Pan                       EX  6
Mar 12 "Rough House" Ware         Colon, Pan                        W 25
May 10 Milton Durant              Colon, Pan                       KO  3
Jun 11 "Big" Bill Tate            Panama City, Pan                  W 20
          -Heavyweight Championship of Panama
Sep 10 Jim Briggs                 Colon, Pan                       TK  4
Nov 12 Jeff Clark                 in Panama                         W 20
Dec  1 Andres Balsa               Colon, Pan                        D  6
Dec 17 Arthur Pelkey              Panama City, Pan                 TK  1

1917
Jan 10 Sam McVea                  Colon, Pan                       ND  6
Feb 11 Arthur Pelkey              Panama City, Pan                 KO 14
          -Some sources report "KO 13"
Apr 30 Charles "Sailor" Grande    Rochester, NY                    TK  5
          -Some sources report 4/29/17
May 10 Morris Tasco               Baltimore, Md                    KO  5
Jun  4 Tom Cowler                 Rochester, NY                    ND 10
Jun 25 Tom Cowler                 Rochester, NY                    ND 10
Jul 19 Tom Cowler                 Buffalo, NY                      TK  8
Jul 20 "Wild" Bert Kenny          New York, NY                     ND 10
          -Some sources report 6/20/17
Jul 30 "Wild" Bert Kenny          Rochester, NY                    KO 10
Aug  3 Ed "Gunboat" Smith         Buffalo, NY                      ND 10
Aug 16 Gus Christie               Buffalo, NY                      ND 10
Aug 21 Ed "Gunboat" Smith         Rochester, NY                    ND 10
          -Some sources report 8/20/17
Sep 24 George "Kid" Ashe          Rochester, NY                    ND 10
Oct 16 Billy Miske                Boston, Ma                        W 12
          -Norfolk claimed the Light Heavyweight Championship;
           Some sources report 10/17/17
Oct 26 Johnny Espen               Harlem, NY                       WF  7
          -Some sources report "KO 7";
           Some sources report "ND 10" vs "Jack Espin"
Nov  6 Tom Cowler                 Providence, RI                   ND 12
Dec  4 Zulu Kid                   North Adams, Ma                  ND 10
Dec 17 Sam Langford               Denver, Co                       LK  2

1918
Mar 25 Jack Thompson              Philadelphia, Pa                 ND  6
Apr  5 George Robinson            Boston, Ma                        W 12
Apr 15 George Christian           Philadelphia, Pa                 KO  3
Apr 16 Dan "Porky" Flynn          Boston, Ma                        W 12
Apr 22 "Big" Bill Tate            Baltimore, Md                    TK  7
May 14 George "Kid" Ashe          Boston, Ma                       KO  3
Jul 16 "Battling" Jim Johnson     New York, NY                     EX  4
          -Some sources report "W 4"
Jul 19 Joe Jeannette              Jersey City, NJ                  ND  8
Oct 18 Joe Jeannette              West Hoboken, NJ                 ND  8
Nov 19 Clay Turner                Boston, Ma                        L 12

1919
Jan  1 Jamaica Kid                Philadelphia, Pa                 ND  6
Jan  8 Clay Turner                Boston, Ma                       KO  4
Jan 20 Clay Turner                Buffalo, NY                      ND 10
Mar  7 Battling Dungy             Baltimore, Md                    KO  4
Mar 19 Jim Hosic                  Atlantic City, NJ                ND  8
          -Some sources report 3/20/19
May 22 "Wild" Bert Kenny          Atlantic City, NJ                ND  8
May 26 Larry Williams             Bridgeport, Ct                   ND  8
Jun  9 Billy Miske                Pittsburgh, Pa                   ND 10
Jun 21 Bob Ward                   Baltimore, Md                    KO  3
Jun 30 Larry Williams             Jersey City, NJ                  KO  1
Jul 28 Jamaica Kid                Philadelphia, Pa                 ND  6
Sep 22 Cleve Hawkins              North Adams, Ma                   W 12
Sep 23 Black Fitzsimmons          Barberton, Oh                    KO  3
Oct  1 "Young" Jack Johnson       New Orleans, La                   W  8
Oct  3 John Lester Johnson        Baltimore, Md                     W 15
Oct 24 Jeff Clark                 Detroit, Mi                      ND 10
          -Some sources report 10/29/19
Nov  4 Jamaica Kid                Boston, Ma                        W 12
Dec  3 Jamaica Kid                Columbus, Oh                     ND 12
Dec 19 Jack Ward                  Detroit, Mi                      KO  4

1920
Jan  5 "Original" Gorilla Jones   New Orleans, La                  KO  8
Jan  8 Clem Johnson               St. Paul, Mn                     ND 10
Jan 12 Harry Lindsay              Memphis, Tn                      KO  2
          -Some sources report 1/13/20
Jan 13 Jeff Clark                                                  KO  2
May  7 Cleve Hawkins              Detroit, Mi                      ND 10
May 17 Jamaica Kid                Toledo, Oh                       ND 12
May 31 Silas Green                Baltimore, Md                    KO  9
Jun  4 "Mexican" Joe Lawson       Bayonne, NJ                      KO  4
Jun  7 John Lester Johnson        Rochester, NY                    LF  3
          -Some sources report "LK 3"
Jun 14 John Lester Johnson        Rochester, NY                    KO  1
          -Some sources report Baltimore, Md"
Jun 18 Cliff "Kid" Patillo        Philadelphia, Pa                 ND  8
Jun 21 Jeff Clark                 Columbus, Oh                      W 15
          -Some sources report "W 10" 
Jun 22 Jack Blackburn             New York, NY                     KO  4
Sep  3 Jamaica Kid                Baltimore, Md                     W 12
Oct 25 Jeff Clark                                                   W 15
Nov 26 Jeff Clark                 Baltimore, Md                    TK  2
Dec 14 "Big" Bill Tate            New York, NY                      W 10

1921
Jan  2 George Ward                Buffalo, NY                      KO  3
          -Some sources report 1/04/21
Jan  5 Jamaica Kid                Detroit, Mi                      ND 10
Jan 24 Battling Gahee             Memphis, Tn                       W  8
          -Some sources report 1/25/21
Feb  2 John Lester Johnson        Detroit, Mi                      ND 10
Feb 18 Pinkey Lewis               New York, NY                     WF  2
Mar 10 Pinkey Lewis               New York, NY                     KO  6
Mar 21 Jack Ward                  New York, NY                     KO  3
Apr 18 Phil McNeil                Freeport, NY                     KO  3
May  3 Jamaica Kid                New York, NY                      W 15
May 30 Lee Anderson               Phoenix, Az                      LT  9
          -Some sources report 5/13/21
Aug 29 Harry Greb                 Pittsburgh, Pa                   ND 10
Dec 30 Jamaica Kid                New York, NY                      W  8

1922
Jan 30 Theodore "Tiger" Flowers   Atlanta, Ga                      KO  3
Feb 20 "Young" Jack Johnson       Buffalo, NY                      TK  8
          -Some sources report "Jim Green"
Mar  2 Harry Wills                New York, NY                     LK  2
Apr  7 Al Smaulding               El Paso, Tx                       W  8
Jun  2 John Lester Johnson        Covington, Ky                    ND 12
Jun 23 Jack Taylor                Omaha, Ne                         D 10
Sep 11 Lee Anderson               Boston, Ma                        W 10
Dec 22 Lee Anderson               Boston, Ma                        W 12
          -Some sources report "W 10"

1923
Jan 30 Wolf Larsen                Albany, NY                       LF  2
          -Some sources report 1/31/23
Mar 27 Jack Taylor                New York, NY                      W 12
Mar 31 Wolf Larsen                Portland, Me                     KO  1
Apr 24 "Battling" Jim McCreary    Boston, Ma                        L 10
May  8 Theodore "Tiger" Flowers   Springfield, Oh                  KO  1
Jul 14 Jamaica Kid                New York, NY                     KO  2
          -Negro 175-lb Championship of the World
Aug 23 James "Tut" Jackson        Baltimore, Md                    KO  3
          -Some sources report 8/24/23
Sep 10 "Smiling" Kid Nolan        Baltimore, Md                    KO  3
Nov 20 Battling Siki              New York, NY                      W 15

1924
Jan  9 Sidney Grant               Baltimore, Md                    KO  3
          -Some sources report "KO 2"
Feb  8 "Battling" Jim McCreary    Boston, Ma                        W 10
Feb 23 Lee Anderson               New York, NY                      W 12
Apr 19 Harry Greb                 Boston, Ma                       WF  6
May 12 "Fighting" Bob Lawson      Buffalo, NY                      LF  2
May 28 James "Tut" Jackson        Columbus, Oh                     KO  2
Jun  6 Battling Cavanaugh         Aurora, Il                       ND  6
          -Some sources report 9/09/24
Jul 17 "Mexican" Joe Lawson       Philadelphia, Pa                 KO  5
          -Some sources report "KO 8" at Atlantic City, NJ
Sep  9 "Battling" Jim McCreary    Boston, Ma                        W 10
          -Some sources report 9/10/24
Dec  9 Tommy Gibbons              New York, NY                     LT  6

1925
Mar 14 "Fighting" Bob Lawson      New York, NY                     LK  1

Apr 27 -Norfolk was banned from fighting in California
          because he had only one good eye; However, he 
          did fight three times in California after this

May  6 Ray Pelkey                 Oakland, Ca                      KO  5
May 25 Jack Reddick               Moose Jaw, Sask, Can              W 12
Jun  1 Frank Farmer               Portland, Or                      W 10
Jun 17 Floyd Johnson              Oakland, Ca                      LF  4
Sep 21 Frank Moody                Bronx, NY                        LK  4
       Ed "Bearcat" Wright                                          D 10

1926
Mar 19 Ted Moore                  San Francisco, Ca                LK  4

         -Norfolk retired because of failing vision
          in his right eye; He purchased an apartment
          house in the Harlem section of New York and
          converted it into furnished rooms for rent
          and lived on the income; For a while, he 
          also worked as a porter at Yankee Stadium 

*** The Following Bouts Are Reported But Not Confirmed ***

1914
       Jack Livingston                                              W 10
       Tommy O'Connor                                               W 20
       "Young" Joe Gans                                            EX  6

1915
       "Rough House" Ware                                           W 20
       Jack Louden                                                 KO  3
       Jeff Clark                                                   L 20
       Jack Herrick                                                 W 20

1920
       Billy Miske                                                 ND 10

1921
       Clem Johnson                                                ND 10

1922
       George Godfrey             New Orleans, La                  KO  4
       George Lawson              Bayonne, NJ                      KO  5
       Jack Ward                  New York, NY                     KO  2

1921-1923
       Brad Simmons                                                 L 10


*** The Following Bouts Are Reported But Are Not For Kid Norfolk ***

1921
       Tony Fuente                                                 LK  3
          -Sources report that Fuente fought Kid Norfolk Jr

1924
Dec  9 Brad Simmons               San Antonio, Tx                   D 10
          -Sources incorrectly report this bout as being for Kid Norfolk

1926
       Ed "Bearcat" Wright                                          L 10
          -Sources report that Wright fought Battling Kid Norfolk


*** Some Data Was Provided By Tony Triem ***

Record courtesy of Tracy Callis, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization