Arnold R. Cream (aka Jersey Joe Walcott)

Jersey Joe Walcott

Meet Jersey Joe Walcott, Camden’s very own! For those who may not be familiar with his story, here’s a brief version.

Born on January 31, 1914, outside of Camden, NJ as Arnold Raymond Cream, he grew up in the historically black Matchtown neighborhood, which straddles the border of Pennsauken and Delaware Townships (present day Cherry Hill), just outside of the Borough of Merchantville. While some sources state that he was born in Merchantville, given its predominantly white population then and now, it’s possible he was born elsewhere. Walcott lost his father at the age of 14 and began working at the Campbell Soup factory in Camden. In 1930, he turned to professional boxing as a lightweight.

Although some records show Walcott’s record as 50-17-1, others suggest he compiled a record of 53-18-1 with 33 knockouts. Nonetheless, it’s plausible that he fought many more times than the records show. After struggling for years, Walcott had nearly given up on his boxing career when a colorful Camden figure named Felix Bocchicchio took an interest in him. With Bocchicchio’s help, Walcott landed better fights and eventually got a shot at the world title. It took four attempts, but at the age of 37, he finally won the belt, which he held for a brief time before being knocked out by Rocky Marciano. Walcott retired after a rematch with Marciano in 1953.

After leaving the ring, Walcott remained involved in boxing as a referee and dabbled in professional wrestling in the early 1960s. He also made an acting appearance in the 1956 film The Harder They Fall, starring Humphrey Bogart. Walcott later ventured into politics and was elected Sheriff of Camden County in 1971, serving a three-year term. He also served as chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission.

Jersey Joe Walcott died on February 25, 1994, in Camden, NJ, as a result of diabetes.

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