CAMDEN, NJ — That a 45-year-old George Foreman ultimately took Arnold “Jersey Joe Walcott” Cream’s claim of the oldest to ever hold the world heavyweight title at 37 meant little to those in Camden.
He was and remains their champion.
Locals will have a chance to properly honor Walcott once Carl LeVotch completes an eight-foot statue of him - progress of which the sculptor displayed for the family at his Pennsauken studio Friday afternoon.
"The statue is progressing really nicely, and ahead of schedule. We're really looking forward for everyone to see it once it's done," Walcott's grandson, Vincent Cream, told TAPinto Camden.
Vincent and his brother, William, have been working on making the statue a reality for years. That it is expected to grace the Camden park at a time when many statues are being taken down across the country after the killing of George Floyd is not lost on Vincent.
"Camden is trending up because we've been down. We didn't start the project when the removal of racist images and symbols was happening. We began this process seven years ago," said Vincent, who attended today's event with his Aunt Ruth. "It's going to be one of this area's first statues of an African American man who inspired everyone, from large to small and all races. This is a person whose life was about triumph over tragedy.
When complete, the statue — made possible with help from the Camden County Historical Society and the Freeholder Board — will be placed on a promenade at Wiggins Park.
“Jersey Joe’s legacy as a world-class athlete and as the first African American Sheriff in Camden County is of historical significance, but it’s his iconography in the region that really motivates this project,” said Freeholder Jonathan Young.
"Jersey Joe was born and raised in Camden City, and he was a hero and an inspiration to people throughout our area,” Young continued.
LeVotch said the design includes an eight-foot bronze figure sculpture with two bronze high relief sculptures, and a bronze replica of The Champion’s ring belt.
Walcott’s career as a professional boxer, which spanned from 1930 to 1953, was underscored by his heavyweight title from 1951 to 1952.
“After retiring from boxing, Walcott did some acting, playing small parts in a few movies and television shows. From 1971 to 1974, Walcott held the elected position of Sheriff of Camden County, the first African American to do so,” county officials said.
From 1975 to 1984, Walcott was also the chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission.
The $185,000 project was first announced at the end of 2019.
Dan Keashen, spokesman for the county, said the statue is expected to be unveiled in September 2021.