1881 – 1968
Charter Inductee – 1961
The tallest man ever to win a world heavyweight boxing championship, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound “Kansas Giant” held the world heavyweight crown for four years from 1915 to 1919. Willard stepped into the ring for the first time in 1911 at 29 years of age and within four years was the heavyweight champion of the world without ever fighting a preliminary bout. He knocked out the defending champion, Jack Johnson in the 26th round of a scheduled 45-round match to claim the heavyweight title April 15, 1915, in Havana, Cuba. The bout lasted one hour and 44 minutes–the longest heavyweight title fight of the 20th century. Willard defended his title 36 times with 20 knockouts. He held the world title until losing to Jack Dempsey in Toledo, Ohio, on a fourth round technical knockout, July 4, 1919. Willard finished his professional career with 24 wins including 20 by knockout. Born December 29, 1881 – Saint Clere, Kansas. Died December 15, 1968 – Pacoima, California. Attended school in Pottawatomie County, Kansas.