CAMDEN, NJ — A Camden boxing icon, once the oldest man to have won the world heavyweight title, is set to be immortalized at Wiggins Park along the waterfront.
The Camden County Historical Society and the Freeholder Board have partnered to bring about an eight-foot statue in honor of city native Arnold Raymond Cream, better known as “Jersey Joe Walcott," who competed professionally from 1930 to 1953.
Approval came this month from the county freeholders for $185,000 in funding for the start of the project. The money will be recouped through a fundraising campaign by the historical society, kicking off on Sept. 27 with an amateur boxing event on the Battleship New Jersey.
Local sculptor Carl LeVotch will create the tribute, with work expected to begin by the end of next month. The design from the East Camden-born artist will feature an eight-foot bronze figure sculpture, two bronze high relief sculptures, and a bronze replica of Walcott's ring belt.
Likely to be completed by fall 2021, the works will be affixed to a base and permanently placed on the waterfront park promenade.
“Jersey Joe’s legacy as a professional boxer and world-class athlete is of historical significance, but it’s his iconography in the region that really motivates this project,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. “Jersey Joe was born and raised in Camden City, and he was a hero and an inspiration to people throughout our area.”
Walcott — whose nickname was lifted from his boxing idol, the early 20th century Barbados welterweight champion — logged 71 fights over his more than 20-year career. He held the world heavyweight title from 1951-52, breaking the record for the oldest winner at age 37. It would stand until 1994 when a 45-year-old George Foreman captured the title.
After retiring from boxing, Walcott could be found in co-starring roles in television shows and movies, such as the 1956 drama "The Harder They Fall."
In 1971, Walcott became the first African American to be elected Camden County Sheriff, a position he held for one term. Then from 1975 to 1984, he served as the chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission.
“Both in his athletic career and as a public servant, he spent his life breaking barriers and redefining success,” Cappelli said. “We think it’s important not only to honor him for his contributions to this community, but to ensure that his legacy continues to inspire others for a very long time.”