Born: June 4, 1914, Madison County, Georgia Died: August 6, 1997, Sacramento, CA Height: 5-10 Weight: Middleweight - Light heavyweight Manager: Frank Doljack; Johnny Rodgers
Born in Madison County, Georgia in 1914, Lloyd Marshall was raised on a farm by his hard-working mother, who led a nomad type existence, laboring in and around many of the southern states before finally settling in Cleveland, Ohio. It was here that young Lloyd found boxing and proved to be an exceptional talent. In over 200 bouts he was defeated only 17 times, with two of those losses coming in the 1934 national championships semi-finals when he opposed Fred Apostoli and the 1935 final at middleweight when he lost to Dave Clark. As an amateur, Lloyd, like Charley Burley, passed up a chance to compete in the 1936 Olympic selection tournament in Chicago. Marshall's reasons were slightly more practical, as he had plans to turn professional and earn something to contribute to the upkeep of the family.
With the dollar motivating the Cleveland prospect, just as it would later in his career, he turned to the punch-for-pay ranks in that Olympic year with ex-fighter Johnny Papke as his manager. After winning a reported 12 on the spin, Marshall began to get the impression that he was being avoided locally and at one point considered quitting the game. Around this time a ball player by the name of Frank Doljack, a former outfielder for the Detroit Tigers, came upon the Cleveland fighter and suggested that Lloyd might do better for himself on the West Coast, where Doljack himself just happened to be heading. Unfortunately for Marshall and his voluntary pilot the fight game, at the time, was not too hot in their final destination of Sacramento and while the ball player practiced with his new team, Marshall was reduced to living under the grandstand at the ballpark. When Doljack was selected to travel with the team he left Marshall in the capable hands of Jim Edwards.
Due to illness, which Edwards nursed him through, Lloyd had engaged in just the one bout up to that point and he would not get another fight for six months. Times were hard, but once fully recovered Lloyd set about earning a crust for himself and the charitable Edwards, who now had the fighter living with him at his home.
In November 1936 Marshall beat Leonard Bennett over ten rounds. Bennett, a fighter with far more experience than the Clevelander, was famous for breaking the jaw of Freddie Steele in a 1933 losing effort. Lloyd also beat the respected Billy Acevedo and Al LaBoa before tangling with one of the west coast's greatest fighters, Johnny 'Bandit' Romero. The veteran southpaw had been fighting ten years and had contested almost 150 battles by the time Lloyd Marshall ran into him in San Francisco. Romero used all of his experience to get up from a first round knockdown to win over ten rounds.
Despite the Romero setback Marshall was making decent progress and his skills started to draw interest from various corners of the fight game, most of whom where intent in stealing him away from his new manager. Interference from outsiders, who were basically trying to poison Lloyd against Edwards, and the fact that Lloyd would (reportedly), not fight a black fighter, began to sour the relationship. Lloyd may have actually had a good reason for avoiding his brethren as Charley 'Killer' Coates had given him a tough scrap in June 1938. Art Cohn, sports editor of the Oakland Tribune, said it all about Coates when he wrote "He has probably fought as many bouts with handcuffs on as off."
In September 1938 Marshall took part in a fight that would have significant repercussions on the rest of his boxing career. After gaining revenge over Johnny 'Bandit' Romero in Sacremento in a slam-bang affair that saw Romero down seven times and Marshall once, he signed to fight Ken Overlin in San Francisco.
Overlin was a veteran of over 90 bouts, yet this vast amount of experience could not save him from the ten-round hammering he received at the hands of Marshall. Overlin, managed by the famous Chris Dundee, was also a connected fighter and, according to A. J. 'Blackie' Nelson (a sparring partner of Marshall, Charley Burley, Eddie Booker and others), some of his connections came calling the day after the Lloyd Marshall fight. They felt that Overlin had not given his all and were suspicious of him conducting some 'business' of his own. Overlin simply pointed out the damage to his eyes and ribs as evidence that Marshall was indeed the genuine article and more than capable of beating most middleweights out there.
"While boxing exhibitions with Ken Overlin in the South Pacific Ken told me Lloyd was the greatest fighter he ever fought."
Overlin successfully convinced his visitors that there was very little that he could have done against Marshall. Thus, Ken Overlin's connections became Lloyd Marshall's connections and the 'Black Murderers' Row' member soon found himself caught up in all manner of 'business' fights. Overlin himself was the middleweight champion of the world from 1940, when he beat Ceferino Garcia over 15 rounds, to 1941 when he lost it the same way to Billy Soose. He lost only 16 of 152 bouts and was stopped just once, (by Freddie Steele in a fight for the NBA middleweight title in 1937).
Following the defeat of Ken Overlin, Marshall made his one and only appearance at the (then) Mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden. A lackluster performance against Ben Velentine did nothing to increase Lloyds' stock in the Manhattan and he never fought there again.
In the first quarter of 1939 Marshall lost consecutive fights to Ceferino Garcia. In the first fight his selective glass jaw was evident for the first time as he hit the canvas four times in ten rounds of action. In the second meeting, less than a month later, Garcia won on TKO as Marshall was cut over both eyes and deemed unable to continue. Marshall fought much better in the second fight and was said to have a slight lead in the bout prior to the stoppage. Despite the performance he was accused by one reporter of foul tactics "such as elbows, thumbing, and shoulder butting." (Oakland Tribune).
An equally rough-house performance was evident for Marshall's second meeting with Teddy Yarosz in October, 1940. The Monica, Pa fighter gained revenge in a fight that resulted in both fighters being suspended by the state of Pennsylvania for a blatant disregard for the rules.
Several months later Lloyd lost a decision in his adopted hometown of Sacramento to the highly underrated Shorty Hogue but turned the tables on the world-ranked middleweight just four months later. That victory was part of a nine-bout winning streak that was halted by the legendary Eddie Booker in September of 1942. Marshall then cut through the best middleweights and Light-heavyweights that the country had to offer. He knocked Charley Burley clean off his feet for the first and only time in the Pittsburgh master's career on the way to a clear-cut ten round decision and then metered out punishment of a more brutal nature to Costello Cruz (KO2) and Ezzard Charles (TKO 8). The victory over Charles saw possibly the greatest Light-heavy of all time smashed to the canvas by Marshall's pummeling fists an amazing eight times. Further evidence, if it were required, that the transplanted Clevelander could punch.
"The roughest fight I had was Lloyd Marshall. He was a light-heavyweight. I lost a decision to him, and he's the only one who knocked me off my feet; a straight right hand in the first round."
In June of 1943 Marshall lost in a fight with Jimmy Bivins for the 'Duration' Light-heavyweight title. Bivins was down in the 7th and Lloyd went over in the 9th and 12th before succumbing in the unluckiest of rounds. That fight in Cleveland was as close as Marshall would get to a legitimate world title. Lloyd rebounded from the Bivins defeat with victories over the murderous-punching Hatchetman Sheppard (W10) and Wild Bill McDowell (TKO6). He added the scalps of the talented Joe Carter, Jack Chase, Holman Williams, Nate Bolden, Bobby Berger, Fitzy Fitzpatrick and future world champions Joey Maxim and Jace LaMotta to his resume (amongst others) in a frantic two-year period.
When he returned home from his victory over LaMotta in Cleveland Lloyd told the West Coast fight fraternity that any one of the 'Black Murderers' Row' would have no problem beating the 'Bronx Bull' as it had been one of his easiest fights. Lloyd felt that there were several fighters on the West Coast, most notably Charley Burley and Eddie Booker, who would defeat LaMotta easily. It has been reported that Jake received one of the biggest beatings of his career the night he faced Marshall. His face was grotesquely swollen from the pounding it received from the fists of the California-based fighter. Despite beating nine out of the twelve world champions he faced (a list that includes the aforementioned Overlin and LaMotta, Ezzard Charles - by TKO and Joey Maxim - twice), Lloyd Marshall never got anywhere near a world title fight.
A sad part of Lloyd's tale, as with many other fighters of the day, is that world titles were frozen for the duration of the war - a time period when he was at his peak. Sadder still is his involvement with characters who most likely promised much, but delivered little. Lloyd had to do business in order to get work and was used and abused as a commodity in a world where very few were not affected by the corrupt element that thrived in the shadier corners of the fight game.
"I remember Toby Irwin, an old-time referee, saying that he could always tell after the first round if Lloyd was out to win and that he once told him to 'get up, he wasn't pulling that off on him that night'."
Blackie also remembered talking to Marshall in the gym when he arrived back home after the Freddie Mills fight in London. Marshall, it seems, arrived in England expecting to be given the lowdown on what was expected of him. It turned out that Marshall was there as an 'opponent' for Freddie Mills that night, but somebody forgot to tell him. The promoter Jack Solomons, a larger than life figure in British boxing for many years, remembers the circumstances surrounding the promotion.
"There was a lot of 'colour bar' talk going on in the sports columns about that time and, trying to be topical, I conceived the novelty of a Black v White card for my next show at Harringay. Mills v Marshall, I figured would be a sure-fire 'top' - attractive to the customers and calculated to advance my plan for Freddie's comeback...
We duly collected the sad-faced Marshall: a Negro companion, welterweight Berry Wright; Johnny Rogers, their silver-haired old-timer manager and natty Matty Morton, one of the good-looking aces among American trainers and muscle-manipulators.
However, I quickly assessed the limpid Lloyd as a more-than-useful fighter. Despite the hangdog look and his apparent apathy, Mr. Marshall's moves in training convinced me that I had got hold of a real test for Freddie."
Marshall destroyed Mills that night and Solomons recalls, "That unhappy little episode cost me £9,000 in purse-money. I would have paid many times as much for it never to have happened." Indeed, the Black v White card resulted in a 5-1 victory for the black fighters and a huge setback for Mills. On the undercard Marshall's travelling companion, Berry Wright, won via a 2nd round knockout over Arthur Danahar. Randolph Turpin beat Mark Hart in six rounds, Ritchie 'Kid' Tanner won in eight over Dickie O'Sullivan, Jack Johnson knocked out Alby Hollister in two while Johnny Malloy did the same against Jackie Turpin.
After beating Freddie Mills, things were never again as rosy for Marshall as he lost half of his remaining fights - many of them by KO. After finally being persuaded by his wife to hang them up in 1951 Lloyd went into security and correctional work. He was forever amazed by the purses that modern-day fighters were earning - echoing former lightweight champion Ike Williams' incredulity at a $20 million plus pay day for Mike Tyson - "There isn't that much money in the world. How can you spend that?" Well Tyson knows (possibly) and I am certain Lloyd would have liked to try.