Tom Sorensen

Glad I got to know Charlotte boxing great Neil Wallace

Boxer Neil Wallace, who died Sept. 22 at age 91.
Boxer Neil Wallace, who died Sept. 22 at age 91.

There was a time when boxing was as big as any sport in Charlotte, and heavyweight Neil Wallace comes from that time. Wallace, who died Sept. 22 at the age of 90, was among the best fighters this city has ever had. His duels with the late Waban Thomas were legendary. Wallace was Muhammad Ali sized at 6-3 and 225 pounds, and if there was fat on him, there’s no record of anybody finding it.

I never saw Wallace fight but occasionally ran into him at Charlotte’s Central (now Dowd) YMCA. He was big and he was gracious and like a lot of former boxers he talked with his hands. When boxers talk with their hands, you duck. I did. Wallace had a right that ended fights.

To put his time in perspective, he fought in 1950 on the undercard of the Joe Louis-Ezzard Charles fight at Yankee Stadium. A native of Brunson, S.C., and a former Charlotte police officer, Wallace is a member of the N.C. Boxing Hall of Fame.

Rest in peace, Neil. Glad I got to meet you.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen