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Black History Month: Bobo Brazil

Bobo Brazil Hintodepinto via Flickr


Black History Month: Bobo Brazil

This article is part of a special tribute to African-American individuals or teams who have sacrificed and broken through various forms of restriction to achieve greatness, not solely defined within sport, but among humanity.

Hello folks, this is wrestling writer Gregory Black, and I am here today to present to you a little bit of a history lesson in wrestling. Today, we speak about the first African-American world heavyweight wrestling champion, Houston Harris, better known to the wrestling world as Bobo Brazil.

Now, before you go on and say “hey, aren’t you talking about Ron “Faarooq” Simmons?“, allow me to explain. Simmons is recognized as the first African-American wrestling champion due to the fact that the WWE, since buying our WCW, wanted to lay claim to having the first African-American world wrestling champion, since Simmons won the World championship of WCW. However, he doesn’t have the actual ability to claim the title of first, as Brazil won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in 1962. Simmons is the first African-American to win the big one in WCW, but, Brazil is the first to claim World Champion.

Moving right along…

Harris was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but as he got older, his family would move to East St. Louis, Ill. and then Benton Harbor, Mich. Ever the athlete, he would go into baseball first, but eventually found his love for the sport of professional wrestling. He would meet his eventual trainer Joe Savoldi at shows held at the Benton Harbor Naval Armory. He would debut in the squared circle in 1951, under the name “Boo-Boo Brazil“, although, thanks to a misprint by a promoter, he would be known as “Bobo” instead.


Billed at 6′ 6″, weighing in at over 270 lbs, Brazil was a bit of a giant compared to some of his opponents, and would be pitted against fellow African-American wrestling legends such as Ernie Ladd and Abdullah the Butcher. He would go on to face a who’s who of future Hall of Famers in Gene KiniskiKiller Kowalski, Dick the Bruiser, Johnny Valentine, and The Sheik, even going toe to toe with Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship.

But, on the night of October 18th, 1962, Brazil would make history, defeating Buddy Rogers for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, initially refusing the title due to an “injury” Rogers claimed to have, he was awarded the title the next day when doctors discovered that Rogers was perfectly fine.

Brazil would make history again on October 9th, 1970, when he would team with El Mongol to face off against, and eventually defeat Mr. Ito and The Great Ota in the first racially mixed match in Atlanta’s history.

Brazil would mentor fellow future WWE Hall of Famer, “Soulman” Rocky Johnson, and would be managed by James Dudley, who was the first African-American to run a major arena, who would lead Brazil to the ring, while waving a towel. Brazil would hang it all up in 1993, after a monumental four decade career, having his last match against Gene Kiniski’s son Kelly Kiniski in Chicago, Ill. The very next year, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Ernie Ladd, returning the favor the following year by inducting Ladd.

The Hall of Famer and father of six would eventually open a restaurant.

Sadly, on January 20th, 1998, Brazil passed away at age 73, leaving behind a rich legacy of work that generations of wrestling fans can look back upon with pride.

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