Earl Walls was a champion boxer who fought frequently in the United States and England. He held the Ontario Amateur and Canadian Heavyweight titles and was ranked as high as third in all of boxing. At his peak, he was the number one boxer in the British Commonwealth. Many considered him capable of defeating Rocky Marciano, whom he nearly fought at several points in his career.
Walls was born on February 19, 1928 in Maidstone Township, outside of what was then Puce, Ontario.
As a young man, Walls attended a boxing card at the Detroit Olympia refereed by Joe Louis. When one of the fighters on the card was unable to fight as scheduled, Walls made the incredible decision to replace him. Predictably, Walls was heavily defeated. By his own admission, Walls was very nearly killed in the ring. Less predictably, the experienced steeled him, encouraging him to become a boxer and never again to be humiliated in the ring.
Walls learned the rudiments of boxing from Bill Swinhoe at Patsy Drouillard’s Gymnasium in Windsor.
Throughout his career, Walls made a habit of entering the ring with a towel on his head, which he said helped him to stay warm after preparing in the dressing room. This custom earned him the nickname “The Hooded Terror” amongst the English press.
Walls’ first professional bout took place in 1948 in New York. He defeated Dickey Lee via a first round knockout.
On June 14, 1952 in Edmonton, Walls faced off against Vern Escoe for the Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Title. Walls knocked out his opponent in the fourth round to take the belt, which he later successfully defended in a five-round rematch with Escoe. Walls never relinquished the title, which he held until his retirement in 1955.
On June 3, 1953, Walls fought the American Rex Layne in front of 10,000 fight fans in Edmonton. At the time, Layne was one of the top contenders for the World Heavyweight title, having defeated previous World Champions Ezzard Charles and “Jersey” Joe Walcott. Walls stunned the boxing world by dramatically knocking out his opponent after only 63 seconds. The spectacular victory established Walls as a viable contender for the belt, then held by the legendary Rocky Marciano.
Later, Walls and Layne contested a rematch in Layne’s home state of Utah. Although the fight this time lasted six rounds, Walls again won by knockout. In Walls’ following fight, he knocked out an opponent with such force that the man did not move for 15 minutes. Walls, fearing he killed him, discussed the possibility of retiring from the sport that night.
Walls failed to win only 7 of his 43 professional fights. Of his 36 career victories, 32 were achieved via knockout, with an impressive 14 of them coming in the first round.
Walls formally announced his retirement from boxing on November 2, 1955. The announcement temporarily ended all speculation that he would contest a title belt with Marciano.
A promoter working for Marciano is said to have tried to arrange a fight between Walls and Marciano sometime thereafter. Although he had badly wanted the matched during his active career, Walls declined, honouring his commitment to step away from the sport.
Walls was inducted into Canada’s Boxing Hall of Fame in 1978.
Earl Walls passed away on December 13, 1996.