Alias: Feab Smith Williams
Nationality: US American
Birthplace: Mobile, AL, USA
Hometown: Leiperville, PA
Age at Death: 50
Height: 6′ 3″
Trainer: Jack Blackburn
Manager: Jim Dougherty
Also called "The Black Shadow of Mobile" and "The Black Shadow of Leiperville."
The Charlestown Daily Mail
28 June 1928
Johnny Risko Spoils Hopes Of George Godfrey For Boxing Fame, Fast Finish Made
By Cleveland Pug
Thrilling rally In Last Two Rounds Believed To Have Decided
Profit Made In Tilt
One Of The Few Fiancial Successes Of Summer’s Outdoor Ring Season
Once more that pudgy Clevelander, spoiler of heavyweight favorites, doughy Johnny Risko, has battered out of the limelight a man generally picked to defeat him.
This time the victim was George Godfrey, successor to Harry Wills as the current "Black Menace" and the man generally avoided by all heavyweights who seek advancement in their profession. To Risko was awarded the victory after 10 rounds of vicious, bruising mauling last night in the ball park of the Brooklyn Nationals, Ebbets field.
Critics Don't Agree
Although the verdict of the judges met with only luke warm approval from 25,000 fans several sport writers gave Risko a margin of five rounds with four for Godfrey and one even. The Associated Press score sheet gave the Negro giant five rounds, with three for Risko and two even.
Risko apparently caught the judge's eyes with a thrilling rally in the last two rounds that had the 235-pound Negro giant glad to hold and back away from the stress of left hooks Johnny threw at his head and body. There was no semblance of a knockdown and neither bore marks of the battle at the close.
The warfare for the most part was at close range, with a premium on clouts to the ribs that rarely bothered either battler. Risko absorbed Godfrey's right hand smashes and came back smiling for more while the best shots of Cleveland boy hardly dented the man mountain opposite him.
In the early rounds Godfrey toyed with the rushing youngster who spoiled Jack Sharkey, Jack Delaney and others as drawing cards
in Tex Rickard's elimination tournament last winter. But the great bulk of his frame wrested heavily on the Negro's slender legs in the last five rounds and Johnny, plugging steadily forward left hand a winging ahead to take the verdict.
The match was one of the few financial successes of the rainy summer season of many postponements. Receipts were $51.684.
ROUND - BY – ROUND
Godfrey, a smiling giant compared with the squat and pugly Risko, hammered a left and right on the Cleveland boy's body.Risko bounced his famous left hook off the negro's body and shot two overhand rights to the head- Risko stepped rather easily around the slow moving, ponderous giant, landing easily with his left, but there was danger always in the smashing right Godfrey used steadily as a counter.
Risko bounced forward into a flood of left hooks to the head, that the Negro growing vicious, smashed accurately to their marks. Under the storm of blows as Godfrey threw everything into the attack, Risko wilted and the giant Negro nearly wrestled him to the floor. Risko held a. moment to gain his wind, then flailed Into the huge negro with overhand rights 'that had Godfrey holding at the bell.
Risko tugged and hauled at Big George, almost pulling himself from his feet as he tried to cut the huge black down to his own size with body punches. George took to holding and countering with his right as Johnny stormed into him, throwing caution to the winds. Risko, a pigmy besides Godfrey's massive bulk, still had the courage to carry the fight to his foe. Godfrey smashed two left hooks to the chin, and a numbing right to the heart as Risko missed a wild left hook just before the bell.
Godfrey, a full head taller than his rival, bored in with all his heft to plant left and right on Risko's body Risko pecked with his left and backed away, hurt by Godfrey's tremendous body punches. A storm of lefts and rights to Risko's body almost knocked the white man from his feet. There was tremendous power behind Godfrey's enormous swings. But the Cleveland rubber man, game as a pebble, shot his right to the head and kept everlastingly trying -right up to the bell.
As Risko danced in, more cautious now, Godfrey smashed his body with lefts and 'rights and drew grunts heard back in the two dollar seats.
Johnny made little impression of the man mountain with his very best blows and Godfrey's long arms easily reached Johnny's body- Godfrey belted the white boy all around the ring with an awful body barrage. Johnny was game, but mighty tired at the gong.
Godfrey laid back, content to let Risko carry the burden of attack and hold when Johnny got dangerous Risko smashed a left hook full on Godfrey's chin but Big George only smiled. Like a terrier worrying a mastiff, Johnny pounded in and ran smack into a series of short rights to the head that bounced him backward. Johnny beamed to allay the fears of his admirers and came back to his corner smiling at the bell.
Godfrey nearly floored Risko with a hammering left and right to the chin. Johnny backed clear to- the ropes arms wound about his head, body crouched in protection. Godfrey let him go and shot his right to the heart as they came back to the center of the ring. Risko flinched under a left hook to the body but valiantly hooked his left back at Godfrey’s bald head.
They wrestled and mauled about the ring up to the bell with Godfrey’s huge arms giving him a tremendous advantage.
Godfrey dueled lefts successfully with Risko, mauling and tugging at close quarters , often separated by the referee. Both slugged to the body. Risko hooked his left clean to the head twice but they were wrestling again at the bell.
Risko never stopped trying, piling into the negro with left and right swings to the head despite Godfrey's smashes to the body. Johnny slugged big George freely about the head, drove him into a corner for a steady pasting, and the crowd roared as they battled like a pair of dock workers. Johnny belabored Godfrey with both hands, slugging without defense, and absorbed half a dozen right counters without a quiver at the gong.
Risko swarmed all over the big Negro, driving him to the ropes under a cloud of swings that came from all directions. Risko buried his left deep in Godfrey's body and George wilted. Godfrey rallied swinging Risko about the ring with his massive arms and shooting his punches short to the body. Johnny never stopped trying, swinging both lefts and rights to the negro’s head. Very tired they leaned heads together and ponded each others ribs while the crowd bellowed encouragement at Risko. They were hauling and tugging at the final gong.
1st November 1943
George Godfrey, Host at Local Club
Was Once Uncrowned Heavyweight Champ
During the golden era of boxing when Jack Dempsey ruled as king of the heavyweights, Harry Wills, great negro boxer, was the only man the Manassa Mauler refused to fight for the title. Wills, on the other hand, was meeting and beating all who dared enter the same ring with him all, that is, with one exception. George Godfrey, Negro and Belgium heavyweight c h a m p , known to sportswriters from coast to coast as the "uncrowned champion of the world," was the exception.
In fact, Wills turned down an offer of $150,000 to meet Godfrey in Madison Square Garden for the late Tex Rickard. Now, even during that period when million dollar gates were not too uncommon, that was a fair night's salary for 45 minutes work. It would have netted Wills considerably more than $3000 a minute or better than $50 a second.
There must have been a reason. And recorded for all posterity in the boxing bible is the reason— Godfrey's impressive record, including 75 recorded knockouts, from 1920 until he retired in 1937.
Godfrey, born Feab S. Williams, January 25, 1901, in Mobile, Alabama, gained his reputation as a boxer while serving hitches in the army and navy. Weighing 240 pounds and standing a mere 6 feet 3 inches, he started kayoing all service boxers he met He not only rocked them to sleep but would break jaws and noses while doing it.
So in 1919 Jimmy Dougherty took him under his wing and started him on a professional career. In 1920 he was elevated to main events and met Sam Langford. Godfrey was kayoed in the second round.
That was enough fighting for Big George that year and he did not enter the ring until August, 1921, when he met Langford once more. And again he was put out only this time in the first round. And again he quit fighting for a year while Dougherty schooled him in the art of protecting himself as well as hitting the other fellow.
Nineteen twenty-two found Godfrey meeting five fighters. He kayoed four and decisioned the fifth.
In 1923 Godfrey met Langford for a third time. It appeared as if he was just a glutton for punishment But this time the 22-year-old boxer exploded his dynamite on Langford's chin and belted him out in the third round. Then just to prove it was no accident the pair met a fourth time in Arkansas and Langford was stretched out in the second round for the full count. And after this fight Langford, the Boston Tar Baby, retired for good.
A BUSY FIGHTER
Then for the next 13 years Godfrey was a very busy fighter, meeting every good heavyweight in the world who was not afraid to put on the gloves with him. And in that 13 years of continual fighting he lost only 11 fights— and five of these losses were on fouls. Godfrey says that many of those boxers claimed a foul because they were getting beat and took the easy way out.
In 1927 there fifteen fights in the record book under Godfrey's name—and every one of them he won by a knockout!
Nineteen twenty-eight was the year that Wills turned down that fabulous amount posted by Rickard for a Garden bout. And in 1928 Godfrey fought Paolino Uzcudun in Los Angeles. If he whipped him he was to fight for the championship. Gene Tunney had retired undefeated and there was no heavyweight champion.
So Godfrey won a decision over Uzcudun in ten rounds.
But when a title bout was mentioned — the boxing moguls ignored Godfrey completely and matched Max Schmelling a n d Jack Sharkey for the championship!
Today Godfrey has picked up a little weight to a neat 357 these days. Godfrey now lives here in Long Beach where he is host at the 147,000 National Colored Elks Congo club. He is also the Grand Bodyguard of the Colored Elks. In his position as "host" it sometimes becomes necessary for him to eject rowdies from the club. To demonstrate that he has not lost too much of his oldtime vigor he showed us exactly how he 'would give the "bums rush" to a drunk.
After applying a couple full nelsons and a double arm lock to both of us at the same time—well, we were plenty convinced.
JACK JOHNSON IS BEST
Godfrey, like all oldtimers, believes that the present day fighters are not as good as the boys a few years back. "Today they use bigger gloves and mouthpieces and other forms of protection that oldtimers scorned," Godfrey said. "I think; they were tougher in the old days. Tile present day fighter would not' take the punishment that was dished out by the oldtimers." Godfrey says the hardest hitter he ever met was Sam Langford, but the greatest fighter of : all time, the one that would take any of the fighters of today, is Jack Johnson. "He was the greatest defensive counter puncher there ever was," Godfrey said reverently.
Incidentally, Godfrey says he does not go to fights any more and he would not advise anyone to be a professional fighter. "If I had a son, I wouldn't let him go near a boxing ring. There's better ways of making a living," t h e "uncrowned" heavyweight champ vows.
The Billings Gazette
29 Feb 1928
Paolino Forces Fighting From Start Of Bout
Terrific Blows of Godfrey Turns Tide in His
Favor Despite Uzcudun's
George Godfrey, negro colossus of the ring, clubbed his way to a decision over Paolino Uzcudun, knotty-muscled son of the Basque country, Tuesday night, after 10 furious rounds that had 40.000 persons on edge throughout the battle. But the burly black had no walk away. With 44lb advantage in weight, he had his hands full from the start.
Opens With Rush.
The black-haired Spaniard, arms flailing, opened with a rush, but in the early sessions, was tied up by the titanic Godfrey, who draped his huge bulk over and around him to advantage. The tide of battle shifted to Uzcudun in the sixth. Beginning the round he caught Godfrey flush on the, Jaw with a stinging left hook. It hurt the negro and he retreated steadily with his smaller opponent following him around the ring. the negro landed but a couple of blows through the round.
Fists flying, the Basque came out in the seventh to drive his opponent around the ring again. Godfrey was puzzled and hurt as the "mite" in front of him continued to bore in, meanwhile pumping both hands to the body. The crowd cheered wildly for the Spaniard as the round ended.
The eighth round went the same way with Paolino continuing on the aggressive. Lashed with the knowledge, of impending defeat, Godfrey came out in the ninth to take the play away again He clubbed steadily to the face, and had the Woodchopper bleeding at the close. The tenth was another Godfrey round as he mauled and beat his smaller man from rope to rope.
Those at the ringside credited Godfrey with five rounds, the third, fourth fifth and ninth and tenth. Paolino had his edge in the second, sixth, seventh and eighth with the first fairly even.
Uzcudun's showing was a tremendous surprise both to Godfrey and his backers who figured his huge, bulk and clever boxing would carry him to a one-sided victory, if not a knockout.
Mainly Body Attack.
Both fighters turned their attack mainly to the body with Uzcudun depending on two-fisted punching in the clinches and the negro clubbing with a swooping right. During the first three rounds Godfrey loafed, content to stick a long left into his opponent's face It held the Spaniard off but he swung steadily enough to gain a margin in the second.
The crowd was the largest ever to attend a boxing contest in the far west with gate receipts estimated at between $100,000 and $125,000.
“Big Gawge” Unable to Hand Paolino Sleep Producing Blow
Godfrey rushed with a left to the body, two clinches followed, Godfrey rushed again, missing left and rights. Uzcudun pounded George in a corner to the body; he repeated, but Godfrey shoved him off. Godfrey landed right and lefts to the body. The Basque danced for an opening and took a left to body. Godfrey put a light left to head. Another clinch, and both men exchanged rights and lefts to the body they fiddled, clinched and traded body blows again. It was a slow going the Basque eager, but Godfrey lethargic.
Uzcudun rushed in landing a right to the body. Godfrey shoved him off and he came back. Godfrey landed two light punches to the head. They traded punches in a clinch George stood him off with his long left jabs and landed a right to the chin Uzcudun landed a right to the face and rights and lefts to the body. Godfrey landed a right to the body.
Clinch followed clinch, the big negro apparently playing with his lighter opponent. Uzcudun landed two rights to the head and Godfrey warmed up with in attack to the body. The bell ended the round.
They both rushed to the center into a clinch. Godfrey crouched to meet Paolino's height andbelted the Basque with lefts and rights to the head. Godfrey landed a stiff right to the head and took a stiff left to the body. Paolino landed a right to the face Paolino landed another right to the face and rights and lefts to the body Godfrey swung rights and lefts to the Spaniard’s head and Paolino come back with a body attack. Paolino landed again with a right to the face and Godfrey came back. They finished the round in a clinch.
Godfrey missed a right but rushed his man and landed a left and right to the body. Paolino clinched Godfrey landed a stiff uppercut in a clinch. Paolino landed a stiff right to the face. Paolino was bleeding at the nose. Godfrey landed two to the body They fiddled and Paolino ducked to the floor to avoid a looping right. After seconds of clinches, the negro battered his opponent half way across the ring but Paolino ended the round with a body attack and a clinch.
Two clinches opened the fifth round. Both landed to the head and body. The Basque landed a left, to the body end a right to the head. Godfrey pounded him in a clinch Godfrey landed half a dozen blows to the body, taking only a couple in return. Paolino landed to the head and backed away from a left swing. Godfrey opened up a terrific body attack backing his man along the ropes, but the Basque fought back very gamely. Paolino landed one to the head and one to the body and took a couple to the face They were sparring at the bell
Paolino rushed out and they clinched. Godfrey swung a right and left to the head, Paolino battering the body. After two clinches Uzcudun swung a long left to the face. Godfrey pounded his midsection. The Basque fought back. Paolino landed a left to the Jaw and Godfrey chased him across the ring. Uzcudun drove a stiff right to the body and they clinched. Godfrey retaliated with a hard right to the head Paolino swung a left to the face and another one. Godfrey landed two to the head as the gong rang.
The Basque rushed in and landed a few to the body. Godfrey clinched. Paolino landed a right to the face They traded body punches in three clinches. The Basque bored into two clinches with powerful body attacks, holding his man against the ropes. Again he backed Godfrey to the ropes with body blows. Paolino backed Godfrey back into a corner and pounded him in the body while the crowd cheered Paolino. He backed the towering negro back into the ropes again and as the bell rang danced Into his corner apparently In as good condition as when he started.
They rushed into a clinch. Then another and traded body blows. Godfrey led with a left to the head. The Basque landed a right to the head and took a left to the head They fought furiously in a clinch. Godfrey led with a left to the head and they clinched. Paolino landed a right to the head and a left to the body. They traded lefts to the head Godfrey landing two uppercuts to the face. Godfrey rushed Uzcudun into a corner at the bell.
Godfrey drove into his man with stiff lefts and rights to the body. Paolino came back with a body attack. Twice he backed Godfrey to the ropes, pounding his stomach. Godfrey landed lightly to the head. Godfrey drove a vicious right to the stomach and pounded the Spaniard about the head and body in a clinch. Godfrey battered Paolino's head with lefts and rights and followed with a hard body attack at the bell.
Paolino opened the final round with a rush, then they clinched. Godfrey put all his weight into rights to the body, Paolino staying in close and working on the big fellow's stomach The Basque took a vicious series of kidney punches hut fought back full of steam. Godfrey rushed Paolino into the ropes. They hung heads together pounding rights to the body. Godfrey landed a left to the stomach but Paolino backed him into the ropes. Godfrey landed lefts and right to the head, but Paolino bored in, both swinging wildly at the bell.
The Coshocton Tribune
24 June 1930
Battle of Giants Just Another Foul; Carnera Wins in Fifth Round
Big Negro, George Godfrey, Hits Huge Italian Low Blow,
Ending Furious. Fight
CARNERA LOOKS TOUGH
Godfrey Makes Furiou Bid for Victory Against Menace to All Heavyweights
By DAVIS J. WALSH,
PHILADELPHIA. June 24. —Another fight, another foul; another crowd, another howl. Philadelphia awoke this morning with a dark brown conviction in its soul that last night had been one of those evenings that leave one vaguely aware that he had been born a sap and afterward went into a slump. To marshal the facts of the case briefly, succinctly and as painlessly as possible, Primo Carnera, the "beeg bologna." got the decision on a foul in the fifth round; George Godfrey got the official onus of having "deliberately struck a low punch," and Philadelphia got a $200,000 hangover—the usual morning-after reaction of those who indulge in low grade entertainment.
Six months ago, Phil Scott took a "plea' with Von Porat and was sustained, three months later, he filed another demurrer with Jack Sharkey and the petition was denied, two weeks ago, the heavyweight championship was bequeathed to Schmeling as he lay groveling upon the floor under the impact of Sharkey's foul, last night-
It was a balmy summer's evening and a goodly crowd was there. They came, some 35,000 of them, to see the great prize fight, the so called battle of the behemoths. They left, muttering darkly in a strange tongue, foreign even to the old fifth ward down along the river front. They had seen the man who had been winning — at least in the writer's opinion—foul the man who had been losing, thus re-enacting the Schmeling-Sharkey situation and bringing a second battle of bewilderment before the public.
Heigho! another fight, another foul, another crowd, another howl. They still were howling when Carnera, having been stretched out in a neutral comer from a very low left to the body, arose from his chair of apparent agony after the customary interval and made his way unaided to the dressing rooms. They were still were howling on the downtown street corners at an early hour this morning about the thousands of dollars they had spent to witness this unsatisfactory but seemingly conventional climax. The referee. Tommy Reilly, was orating to the effect that he meant to report the illegal punch as being deliberate and Chairman Wiener, of the boxing commission, was exhorting all auditors with the tidings that the board
would decide this morning whether all or any part of Godfrey's purse was to be taken away from him.
They can take lots of things away from Godfrey's purse and maybe something from Godfrey's prestige, but they will take nothing away from the impression that Carnera left with the crowd by his performance last night. It was a bruising, bone crushing fight and the mastodon proved himself to be a real heavyweight and a definite menace to any and all who may stand between him and the championship. He wasn’t winning this fight when it ended but he had lived down a savage beating in the first two rounds and was beginning to come on, a performance that savored of potential greatness.
I never saw Godfrey fight as fiercely as he did in the first two heats. They said no man could stand up before him if he really wanted to let himself go He let himself out as, never before last night and Carnera still was doggedly carrying on while the negro was beginning to puff and blow and wheeze. Old Gawge, weighing 250 pounds yesterday afternoon, has known better condition. Carnera down to 262, his lowest weight in America, was never as good before. This applies both to condition and fighting ability.
He needed the former to survive Godfrey's body attack; it required the latter to carry him along with the negro's early pace and bring him out in the clear for the third and fourth rounds.
Carnera, clipped full upon the jowl with Godfrey's best punches and whanged deep into the bosom with Godfrey's body attack, must have been a tough man or he wouldn't have lasted long enough to be fouled. His in-fighting, usually old Gawge's racket, was no good in the third round and old Gawge went back from there to bung perplexedly at this white mammoth who had been represented to him as a chump. He showed a good left hand, he had plenty of savvy in many respects for a fighter who was supposed to be anybody's sap. I don't think any heavyweight can really hurt him. Anyhow, if he wasn't hurt in the first two rounds last night, he will never be hurt again.
Godfrey went out with the first bell, winging with both hands to the body, and had Carnera on the run, forthwith. The latter landed only one right hand and a few straight lefts early in the rounds. The rest of the way he was doing a Ray Schalk. He was catching a great ball game—on the chin, on the bosom and, truth to tell, on the run Gawge was hitting a few of them right down the foul line, prompting Carnera to take on occasional appeal, which, in my opinion, proved to be without justification. Anyhow, the colored boy was riding well out in front for the first minute and a half of the ensuing round, his body -punching and occasional left hook, up above, giving him enough leeway so that Camera's rally in the closing minute just missed getting him a stand off. The third was about even, Godfrey starting with a blazing left hook but taking a series of right crosses to the jaw.
He came rushing back with punches down below but Carnera straightened him out with two rights to the face and was timed beautifully by Godfrey's right uppercut at the bell. The fourth was uneventful but what there was of it, belonged to Godfrey This wasn't the official verdict, by the way. According to the tabs turned in. the fight was absolutely even when it ended
Just before it did end. Chairman Wiener, according to his subsequent statement, visited Godfrey before the fifth round to warn him against low punches. If he did the effect was negligible, if not altogether unsatisfactory Godfrey's first real punch in the fifth round was a rather low left, his second a very low one. Camera, having apparently debated the matter at length, finally decided he had been fouled and went into a whirling fall and lay prone. Dr. J. Webb Vaughn, the official physician, examined the hulk on the floor and declared him to be in no fit condition to continue. He said he had given the man the "flashlight test," whatever that is. and that he wasn't faking, to use ' the doctor s own words.' And that was all and it was quite enough. Heigho! another fight, another foul; another crowd, another howl