SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -Zeke Wilson is a local legend here in Savannah. A retired professional boxer, Wilson has fought alongside many big names like Joe Frazier and Larry Holmes. But Zeke’s biggest bought didn’t happen in the ring.
“At the age of fourteen I fell in love with boxing," Wilson recounts. "When I fell in love with the sport, I won the Golden Glove. I fought Jimmy Chumley here in Savannah, I won the Golden Glove knocking him out in the first round and moved to Philadelphia and made it onto Joe Frazier’s boxing team. From there I joined the United States Marine Corps and made the Marine Corps boxing team. A month later, after I made it onto the Marine Corp, I got picked up by Larry Holmes, who was the Heavy Weight Champion of the World and I became his sparring partner, so...boxing was always a part of me.”
“So, my biggest fight. My biggest fight in life was outside the ring. I’m a fighter – I’ve done a lot of boxing in the right. I’ve had 150 amateur fights before I even turned pro. I lost three. But the biggest fight that I ever had took place outside the ring. It took place in the Federal Court. And that was the biggest fight. I’ve never had a fight that big – never.”
“When my career came to a close, I wanted to stay in the game – stay in the field. So, I became a boxing trainer, manager, and promoter. I went to promote a boxing event in the state of Massachusetts and I was stopped, based on the color of my skin – by another black man.”
“When he was asked in a deposition, why – because I sued him – and I sued him because he was a state actor – the state became his attorney. His name was Wilbert J. McClure. Mcclure won a gold medal in 1960 alongside Muhammad Ali, better known at that time known as Cassius Marcellus Clay. Ali won the heavyweight in Rome and Mcclure won the middleweight in Rome.”
“Here is a man that has struggled through racial tension and understands racial tension, but he did not want to see a black man trying to advance. The state law was that it’s $5,000 for anyone who wants to come there – they have to post a bond of $5,000 to do a boxing event. I walked in there a month after Don King and he told me that he wanted me to post $10,000 – so I paid the $10,000 but what he did was, he didn’t allow me to have the show, and a white individual walked in a month later and he didn’t have to pay anything. He was allowed to have his show. So I sued him in Federal court and I won. I won the case. It took me four and a half years, but I won.”
“Whatever you decide to do in life, just do it to the best of your ability. You want to do it whole you want to do it all. And if you do that, you’ll find yourself on the winning side of things – just like I’ve done.”
Zeke Wilson did end up winning that legal battle.
You can learn more about this fascinating case through Zeke’s book called “The Eighth Round”