Born: November 5th 1917, Alto, TX
Died: January 26th 1975, San Francisco, CA
Weight: Welterweight to Light heavyweight
Manager: John Burdick, Larry White, Frank Schular

"They called them the 'Murderers Row', you know. There was Lloyd, there was Charley and there was Jack Chase. There was another guy that not too many people are familiar with and he could have beat 90% or 95% of these fighters today, a guy called Eddie Booker."

A.J. 'Blackie Nelson: West Coast Amateur and Sparring partner to all of the above.

    Eddie Booker, originally from Texas, campaigned almost exclusively on the West Coast of America between 1935 and 1944. In over eighty fights, he had eight draws and only five defeats, all by decision. Half of his victories came via the short route while he never once failed to go the distance himself, despite facing a veritable 'who's who' of world rated fighters. One of two boxing brothers - Earl Booker was a rated lightweight campaigning at the same time - Eddie had an outstanding multi-titled amateur career and carried that success over to the professional ranks under the tutelage of John Burdick.

    With a well-developed and muscular physique, Booker had the strength and ability to 'mix-it-up' when the chips were down and was happy to either fight or box; he genuinely loved to be in the ring. He was a slick-boxing, defensive stylist with decent power in both hands, particularly the left hook. Some compared him to heavyweight great Jack Johnson in regards to his ability to catch a punch and deliver a blow in the same motion with the same hand. Eddie was a methodical, conservative workman who fought as much with his mind as with his fists. Booker beat some of the best fighters of his time.

"I spoke to Eddie about fighting Charley and he said he would if he had to but he wouldn't be too happy about it because he thought that Charley was just about the best there was. Charley once told me that Eddie Booker would be the hardest fight he'd ever have."

A.J. 'Blackie' Nelson

Booker lost his state title to the oft-avoided Jack Chase at the beginning of 1943 and was never able to get back into title contention. An incident in the ring involving a doctored pair of gloves led to eyesight problems and some big decisions with regards to his career. "Because I was a just a child then I don't recall a lot, only about his becoming blind and the adults told me he became blind during a boxing match." Loretta Bailey, stepdaughter of Eddie Booker. Eddie knew that his sight was getting worse, but he was determined to make some money and provide a 'nest-egg' for his family, although he knew he was risking permanent blindness. Still in possession of enough skill and determination to turn back the challenges of heavyweight Paul Hartnek, Archie Moore (by knockout), Frankie Nelson and Holman Williams, Eddie set about earning a retirement fund, even if the money was not a good as it could have been.

    After his retirement, Eddie helped several fighters with their training and he assisted Burley in his preparations for his fights with Oakland Billy Smith. Call it fate or simple bad luck Eddie Booker did not truly get out of life what he deserved and, years after his passing, it seems that the same spectres continue to haunt his family. His brother Earl lost his wife in a freak explosion at home, (and the entire career memento's of his and Eddie's), while his mother passed away just three days before Eddie's induction to the California-based World Boxing Hall of Fame in October 2000. Considering Rose Booker had lived to the grand old age of 103, this was a very cruel twist of fate indeed. If he were around and active today Eddie Booker would have undoubtedly become champion of the world. Just as Charley Burley, Holman Williams, Chase, Marshall, Lytell and the rest of the 'Black Murderers Row' would surely have been. While the honour of enshrinement in the Boxing Hall of Fame is the least these fighters deserve, in the case of Eddie Booker it is definitely a case of too little and too late.

© (Harry Otty)