From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Primo Carnera v Ed "Bearcat" Wright (boxing)

The Kentucky Derby brings a large number of spectators to Louisville, KY, and in 1930, the racing weekend's activities included boxing matches. At top billing was Primo Carnera and Edward "Bearcat" Wright, two heavyweights. The fight was to take place at the Louisville American Legion Post. Carnera was also a professional wrestler from 1946-1961. Wright was NOT a professional wrestler.

Carnera (1906-1967) was a 6' 6" Italian boxing champ who had come to the United States at the beginning of 1930. For the Louisville fight, he weighed in at 285 lbs. Carnera's nickname was "Ambling Alp."

Carnera's opponent, Texan Ed Wright (1897-1975), was a 6' 1" African American boxer who fought out of Omaha, NE. He had a fairly successful career, including a knock-out win over 50-year-old Jack Johnson in 1928. In 1930, Wright weighed in at 220 lbs.

Wright's manager Jim Dougherty and the fight promoters ignored the fact that Carnera had been banned from fighting in California and New York because of suspicious victories; Carnera was an attraction who would bring in large door receipts. Edward Wright was not expected to win the bout.

Things were going as planned until a little more than a week before the fight when the American Legion and the Kentucky State Athletic Board of Control cancelled the fight. Carnera was suspended by the National Boxing Association while they investigated his previous knockout wins.

The fight was rescheduled for July 17, 1930, in Omaha; Carnera won by a knock-out in the fourth round. Shortly after the fight, Carnera, who had entered the U.S. on a six month visa and had overstayed his time, was ordered out of the U.S. He appealed to the Labor Department, and his stay was extended until the end of the year; he would eventually become a U.S. citizen.

Carnera returned to Louisville in 1932 to fight Jack Taylor, who he knocked out in the second round. There was rumor and speculation that Carnera was owned by gangsters and that his fights were fixed. In 1935, Carnera was beaten by a technical knock-out in the sixth round by "The Brown Bomber," African American boxer Joe Louis. The fight was billed by the media as a duel between Italian fascism and American democracy.

For more see Taboo, by J. Entine; "Carnera's fight cancelled," Daily Illini, 4/26/1930, p. 8 [article full-text in Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections]; "Carnera wins plea to stay until Dec. 31," New York Times, 8/03/1930, p. 22; "Primo Carnera suspended; action follows investigation of knockouts by NBA," New York Times, 5/17/1930, p. 20; and Beyond the Ring, by J. T. Sammons.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Primo Carnera v Ed "Bearcat" Wright (boxing),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 18, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-10-26 19:50:44