Eddie Futch

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Eddie Futch at Riddick Bowe's training camp in 1995
Class of 1994
Non-Participant Category
Hall of Fame bio:click
World Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee

Born: August 11, 1911 in Hillsboro, Mississippi, USA
Died: October 10, 2001 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (natural causes)
Eddie Futch Gallery

Boxing Career

Eddie Futch in his fighting prime

Eddie Futch was born in Mississippi and grew up in Detroit, where he was a star semipro basketball player before he gravitated to boxing. He remembered "growing up in the Brewster Center there, when Joe Louis was an amateur and when Sugar Ray Robinson, who was Walker Smith then, was just a little kid hanging around."

Futch was a stablemate and sparring partner of future Hall of Famer Holman Williams and future World Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis. Because of his speed and skill, Futch became Louis's favorite sparring partner. Futch, who boxed as a lightweight, said the role of Louis' sparring partner demanded cunning. "I had to devise ways and means of not getting killed," Futch said.

When Louis was training for the 1934 National AAU Tournament, Futch suggested that he spar with middleweights. Futch said, "I used to ask him, 'Why do you want to box with me? I know what you want—you want speed. But the middleweights are fast enough for you. You're a light heavyweight. Get a middleweight, they're bigger and they're fast enough.' He said, 'No, no, no. I can hit those guys with everything. When I hit you with anything, I know I'm sharp.' So I sparred with him for that tournament."

Freddie Guinyard, a boyhood friend of Louis, said, "Eddie Futch was a damned good boxer and also a leader of most of the fighters." He added that Futch "was an inspiration to Joe Louis."

Futch compiled an amateur record of 37-3 and captured the Detroit Athletic Association Lightweight Championship in 1932 and the Detroit Golden Gloves Lightweight Championship in 1933. When he was about to turn professional in 1936, a doctor discovered that he had a heart murmur. That ended his career.

Trainer of Champions

With his own boxing career over, Futch became a trainer. The first top ten contender he trained was Jimmy Edgar, who fought a draw with Jake LaMotta in 1946. Futch's second top ten contender was Lester Felton, who defeated Kid Gavilan in 1949 and Carmen Basilio in 1951.

Futch's first world champion was Don Jordan, who defeated Virgil Akins by a fifteen-round unanimous decision on December 5, 1958 to win the World Welterweight Championship.

Futch started working with Joe Frazier in 1966 as an assistant trainer to Yancey Durham, Frazier's manager and trainer. Futch was in Frazier's corner for his classic fight against Muhammad Ali in 1971 and helped develop the techniques that sent Ali to his first defeat. To make the shorter Frazier an even smaller target, Futch had him bobbing and weaving to get inside. "Ali had to throw his uppercut," Futch said, "but I knew he would throw it wrong. I told Joe, 'Every time you see Ali's hand come down, that means he's going to throw an uppercut. But the minute he drops his right hand, throw your left hook, because he's got nothing up there to parry it.'" In the fifteenth round, when Ali dropped his right to throw an uppercut, Frazier followed Futch's instructions and dropped Ali with a left hook.

When Yancey Durham died from a stroke in 1973, Futch took over as Frazier's manager and trainer.

Another fighter trained by Futch, Ken Norton, became the second man to defeat Ali in 1973. Futch provided Norton with the winning strategy. He explained it to Phil Berger of the New York Times in 1989:

"The orthodox way a fighter carries his right hand is to position it in front of his jaw. Now Ali ... carried the right hand out to the side. I told Norton, 'The only way to hit Ali is to jab with him, jab for jab. The difference is that your hand's in position to catch the jab. His isn't.' Nobody ever tried to jab with Ali and, when Norton did it, it upset Ali's rhythm. Ali was being hit with a jab. I told Norton, 'The minute you hit him with the jab, step in and jab him again. Two, three moves like that in an 18- to 20-foot ring should force Ali back against the ropes. When you get him to the ropes ... work both hands to the body and make him bring his elbows in to his side to protect his body. When he does, his head will drop, his chin will be there for you. Then hit him with the right.' And that's how Norton broke Ali's jaw. Ali kept leaning into the right hand."

Futch trained 21 world champions before retiring in 1998.

Eddie Futch & Joe Frazier in the late 1960s

Stable Trained:

Futch's Best Champions:

The March 4, 1991 issue of Sports Illustrated contained Futch's list of the 10 best champions he has handled, along with his comments:

  • 1. Joe Frazier "The greatest heart of all, he fought from bell to bell. Every trainer should have one Joe Frazier in his life."
  • 2. Michael Spinks "Unorthodox, but he could adapt perfectly to any opponent."
  • 3. Mike McCallum "A thinking fighter who tears you up downstairs, then pulls your teeth."
  • 4. Larry Holmes "He learned from his mistakes, and he was always in great condition."
  • 5. Alexis Arguello "All the tools in the world. You could put him on course, and he stayed on it."
  • 6. Don Jordan "My first champ, in 1958, he was an excellent boxer who never reached his potential."
  • 7. Hedgemon Lewis "A boxing master. When he sparred, other fighters would come to watch."
  • 8. Maurice Blocker "Tall and skinny, he doesn't look the part, but he finds a way."
  • 9. Marlon Starling "He moves so well, and when he's on, he controls everything in the ring."
  • 10. Bob Foster "Such range and strength. He could move and box, but, my, what a punch."

Awards & Recognition

Sources