Born: April 2, 1865
Died: April 26, 1903
Newspaper Decision Wins: 0
Newspaper Decision Losses: 1
Harris Martin, a.k.a. “George Harris,” a.k.a. “The Black Pearl,” was one of the premier pound-for-pound fighters of his era, and the first African-American superstar of his era in the Midwest. Martin was a short, muscular, compact, fighter; standing just 5′ 6″ tall, but with a huge 40″ chest and a lean 30″ waist. He biceps measured 15″, his calves 16.5″ and he had a 17.5″ neck. He liked to rush his opponents and overwhelm them with heavy inside fighting to both the body and the head. He was trained by two of the premier black fighters/trainers of his era in Professor Charles Hadley and George Phillips.
The Pearl’s style was that of a 19th Century Henry Armstrong who never quit throwing punches, and one who didn’t mind taking exuberant amounts of punishment in able to get inside and deliver his own blows. Known for his stamina, durability, and as being the best body puncher of his era, Harris Martin was a fighter no one wanted to fight. Not far removed from the days of slavery, Martin was never allowed to fight for the Championship of the World, but some historians believe he would have attained those honors had he been afforded the opportunity. Though fighting most often at just 151 pounds, Martin became too good for his own good, and often had to fight Heavyweights just to get fights, beating most despite the disparity in weight.
He twice beat one the best Middleweights in the world of the 1880′s in Dick Moore, as well as posted impressive victories over: Professor Charles Hadley, “Black Frank” (Frank Taylor), Charles Gleason, Joe Ellingsworth, Paddy Gorman, and the “The Black Diamond” (Harry Woodson). In a bloody fight to the finish against Black Frank in May of 1887, he knocked out Frank to win the Colored Middleweight Championship of the World in a fight that lasted 2 hours and 32 seconds. He also faced world champion, Bob Fitzsimmons in a 4-round exhibition, as well as the great Bobby Dobbs, and Young Peter Jackson.
After a messy divorce, the Pearl’s life spiraled downward. He began drinking and carousing the late nights. He began getting arrested on a regular basis and eventually was banned from ever setting foot in Minneapolis again. He traveled west where his skills were never quite the same again, as the nightlife became his only life. He retired for good in 1900 and moved to Seattle to live with his brother; working menial jobs. He missed Minnesota so much that he moved back in 1899, only to Saint Paul, per his lifetime ban from the Mill City. Every day he was reported to have looked across the bridge at the forbidden city of his life (Minneapolis), while holding down jobs tending bars on present-day Kellogg Blvd. On April 26, 1903, while walking home, he suddenly collapsed and died from a massive heart attack. He was just 38. More than 1000 people of all races came to his funeral…something unheard of at the time. He was reported to have had more than 100 wins and just 10 losses by the newspapers of the day, although modern historians have only been able to locate 50 of those victories through old papers, but still his complete record continues to be uncovered.