By Ryan K Boman, Editor in Chief
On January 20th, 1998, Bobo Brazil died at Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Born Houston Harris on July 10, 1924 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Harris played baseball before moving on to professional wrestling, where he was trained by Joe Savoldi.
Initially, he would only take on fellow African-American grapplers, but as one of the trailblazers of change in the sport, Brazil would eventually wrestle in integrated matches. In a short time, he would become famous worldwide, often battling the top stars of his era, like Killer Kowalski, Dick the Bruiser, and Bruno Sammartino. Brazil would also have a longstanding and legendary feud with The Sheik, where both men would often be left a bloody mess in their encounters.
In 1962, Brazil technically became the first African-American world heavyweight champion when he defeated Buddy Rogers for the NWA title. Though Roberts claimed he couldn’t perform due to injury, Bobo was awarded the title anyway – when doctors found Buddy to be healthy at the time of the match.
The title change has never been officially recognized in the NWA history books, and Brazil is not credited as a former champion. However, he did go on to capture the Detroit version of the United States title on nine occasions, as well as several local and regional championships during his 42-year career.
Brazil would finally call it quits in 1993, wrestling his final match against Kelly Kiniski, and leaving behind an unforgettable legacy.
Credited with breaking down barriers of racial segregation in professional wrestling, Brazil is generally regarded as one of the greatest African American grapplers in history.
On January 20, 1998, Houston Harris – known worldwide as Bobo Brazil – passed away after being hospitalized two weeks earlier, following a series of strokes. He was 74 years old.
(July 10, 1924 – January 20, 1998)
Years Active: 1951-1993
BOBO BRAZIL VS. THE SHEIK (UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH)