Homicide Hank: The Life of Boxing Legend Henry Armstrong

They called him “Homicide Hank,” “Hammerin’ Hank,” “Hurricane Henry,” “The Black Blitzkrieg,” and “The Human Buzz-Saw,” for he was the most ruthless destroyer of champions and challengers the sport has known.

In all of boxing history, only one man has held the championships of three weight divisions at once: Henry Armstrong. This was in an era where there were only eight weight divisions. Still, there is more to his dazzling, unprecedented life than simultaneously holding the featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight championships. A Black sharecropper’s son, born in Jim Crow-dominated Mississippi, Armstrong rose from the deepest poverty to achieve his life’s ambitions. His opponents were not just some of the greatest fighters of all time (including Sugar Ray Robinson, Barney Ross, Lou Ambers, and Beau Jack) but rampant racism and economic despair. Earning great wealth in the ring and living the high life, Armstrong became a cultural icon, a world traveler, and a movie star who counted Mae West, Al Jolson, and other Hollywood icons among his closest friends. Yet, he was also a thoughtful man of peace, poet, and preacher who sought to improve the lives of others.

Those who know boxing recognize Henry Armstrong as one of the sport’s most exciting and accomplished champions. More importantly, he was a rare hero to an entire generation of Black Americans; his victories were theirs. Today, too few know his important story. Set in an America beset by racism, corruption, the Great Depression, and World War II, Homicide Hank chronicles Armstrong’s remarkable life, from his humble beginnings to the heights of stardom and on to his post-boxing years as a man of God.

Kenneth Bridgham received his degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, contributor to thefightcity.com, and author of The Life and Crimes of John Morrissey. He lives in Fredericksburg, VA with his son.

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