Bobo Brazil

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Bobo Brazil
Bobo Brazil - 1972 BODY PRESS WRESTLING MAGAZINE (cropped).jpg
Brazil in 1972
Birth nameHouston Harris [1]
Born(1924-07-10)July 10, 1924 [1]
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S. [1]
DiedJanuary 20, 1998(1998-01-20) (aged 73) [1]
St. Joseph, Michigan, U.S.
Children6
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Bobo Brazil [2]
Boo-Boo Brazil [3]
BuBu Brasil [1]
Houston Harris [4] [1]
Leroy Lincolnlog [4]
Billed height6 ft 6 in (198 cm) [3]
Billed weight270 lb (122 kg) [3]
Billed from Benton Harbor, Michigan [3]
Trained by Joe Savoldi [1]
Debut1951 [2]
Retired1993 [4]

Houston Harris [1] (July 10, 1924 – January 20, 1998) [1] was an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name Bobo Brazil. Credited with breaking down barriers of racial segregation in professional wrestling, Harris is considered one of the first black professional wrestlers. [3] [5]

Contents

Early life

Houston Harris was born on July 10, 1924, in Little Rock, Arkansas, but later lived in East St. Louis, Illinois, and Benton Harbor, Michigan. [1] [6] His father died when he was seven years old, which resulted in him doing odd jobs such as working on a local fruit farm for fifty cents a container. [7] He played baseball in the Negro leagues for The House of David, where he was discovered to become a wrestler at a steel mill. [1]

Professional wrestling career

Harris was trained by Joe Savoldi after meeting him at matches at the Naval Armory. [1] Savoldi originally named Harris "BuBu Brasil, The South American Giant," where he wrestled using a sequined satin cape stitched together by his wife, [8] but a promoter misprinted his first name as "Bobo" in an advertisement, and the name stuck with Harris throughout his career. [3] During that time, segregation in the South normally limited African-American wrestlers to wrestling other African-American wrestlers; Harris proved so popular that promoters put aside their prejudices in order to make money. [9]

Brazil's first recorded match was on March 29, 1948, in Benton Harbor, wrestling as "Houston Harris, The Black Panther" against Armand Myers to a 30-minute draw. [8] Harris was taught by Joe Savoldi to "be an honest athlete in the ring and never to take shortcuts on anybody to win a match. He was instilled to be a crowd’s friend right to the end." [8] Finding success in Detroit, Brazil developed a fanbase among both the black and white populace with his modesty and stylish dress and professionalism, making him a big draw and an appealing babyface to both races of fans. [10] Although loved by fans, Brazil nonetheless dealt with bigotry and discrimination during that time. [7] In the era when Harris ascended to stardom, African American fans were forced to sit in areas that made it hard to see his matches; Harris himself was banned from going to restaurants, hotels, and even wrestling in certain territories due to the color of his skin. [10] In the early 50s, he also performed in Japan. [11]

Brazil had many matches with competitors such as Killer Kowalski, Dick the Bruiser, Johnny Valentine, Haystacks Calhoun [12] and The Sheik, who feuded with Brazil over the course of several decades, with a variety of their matches being acclaimed bloody matchups. [3] [13] These and other rivals would all fall victim to Brazil's finishing maneuver, the Coco Butt. Brazil also once wrestled Bill Miller to a draw, [14] and challenged Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship in a battle of two top babyface competitors. [3] On October 18, 1962, Brazil defeated "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers by hitting him in the groin causing Rogers to be unable to continue. [14] [9] Brazil refused the championship and they met a couple of weeks later and Rogers won. [14] At the time, the promoters were working a gimmick where the champion would be hit in the groin and the challenger wouldn't accept the title. [9] The same scenario occurred in Toronto two weeks earlier with Bruno Sammartino and Rogers. Neither Brazil nor Sammartino were officially recognized by the NWA as having won the World Heavyweight Championship. (This distinction is usually given to Ron Simmons, the first recognized African American world champion after winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship). [11]

Brazil was known for his feud with The Sheik, which led to many bloody matches The Sheik - Official Wrestling Yearbook No.3, June 1973 p.138-139.jpg
Brazil was known for his feud with The Sheik, which led to many bloody matches

On October 9, 1970, Brazil and El Mongol defeated Mr. Ito and The Great Ota in the first racially mixed match in Atlanta history. [2] [3] Brazil served as a mentor to wrestler "Soulman" Rocky Johnson and was inspirational to boxer Joe Frazier. [11] Brazil's manager was James Dudley, the first African American to be in charge of a major arena in the United States. Dudley would run to the ring waving a towel, as Brazil followed behind. [3] Brazil retired in 1993 after a four-decade career. His last official match was in Chicago, Illinois against Kelly Kiniski, son of rival Gene Kiniski. Brazil was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame class of 1994 by longtime rival Ernie Ladd. [3] [13] The following year, Brazil inducted Ladd into the WWF Hall of Fame. [3]

Personal life and death

Harris had a wife and six children. [1] After retiring from wrestling, he ran a restaurant called Bobo's Grill which lasted for more than 20 years. [1] [12]

His son Karl (born 1952) wrestled as Bobo Brazil Jr. in the independent circuit. [7] His brother wrestled as Hank James. [15]

Harris died on January 20, 1998, at the Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph, Michigan. [13] He had been admitted to the hospital on January 14 and used a wheelchair, [7] after suffering a series of strokes. [13] [12]

Championships and accomplishments

1 Not officially recognized as champion because conflicting interests

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References

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