WADE CHANCEY WON GOLDEN GLOVE TITLE IN 1946
By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian
The massive hands still resemble the pounding fists of many years ago when Folkston’s Wade Chancey won the New York State Golden Gloves title by knocking out an opponent in 1:18 of the first round in Madison Square Garden. Today those hands turn to the more tranquil tasks of playing a guitar or repairing an outboard motor.
It was February 18, 1946 and the country had just been through a bitter four-year war. Chancey, at 16, had been in the middle of it. Too young to be taken in the army or navy, in early 1944 he volunteered for duty with the Merchant Marines. As a fireman in the engine room of a merchant vessel he had seen other ships in his convoy blown from the water by German submarines in the treacherous waters of the North Atlantic and the English Channel as the United States shipped war supplies to its allies overseas.
But tonight was to be his night, before nearly 20,000 screaming fight fans. The blonde 19-year-old heavyweight had fought aboard ship, but tonight he was seeking New York State’s Golden Glove championship for the Empire State. He was not to be denied.
The muscular, blue-eyed sailor, as a member of New York State’s Golden Glove boxing team, was managed by Frankie Genaro, a former Golden Glove title holder himself, and United States professional Flyweight champion. He led the 185 pound, 6-2, Chancey to the Eastern heavyweight championship, and to within a split-decision of the national Golden Gloves crown. He was to fight twelve amateur fights, winning most of them by knockouts, before turning professional in late 1946. Newspaper stories in the New York Daily News would record the fistic prowess of the young heavyweight as his dynamite hands floored one opponent after the other in the New York area.
Wade’s professional career, spanning three years and forty fights, had him “rubbing shoulders” with the great and near great. The caliber of fighters in those years bore testimony to young Chancey’s ability. He was to be a sparring partner for Billy Conn while he trained for his second fight with long-time heavyweight champion Joe Louis. Chancey fought a six-round no-decision exhibition fight with Rocky Marciano before the New Englander captured the crown from Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952.
The Chancey-Marciano battle came about when Marciano’s new managers wanted to test their new fighter against a hard-puncher. They chose Chancey, whose reputation for “putting away” his opponents was well known. “I had little trouble hitting Marciano” remembers Chancey, “but I found out he could take a punch”, he added. Wade said he became careless and once Marciano stunned him with a right to the jaw. Wade, who was never knocked out in his amateur or professional career, said the punch from Marciano taught him great respect for the Broxton, Mass. fighter, who would go on to knock out Walcott for the heavyweight championship. He would retire undefeated with the country’s heavyweight title.
In 1947 when Joe Louis was facing Jersey Joe Walcott for the heavyweight title, Wade fought a four round preliminary with Dick Hagan in Yankee Stadium just before the championship fight. Hagan decisioned Chancey who was outweighed twelve pounds by his Chicago opponent. It was Chancey’s first loss under Frankie Genero’s management. The fight was seen on national television as a tune-up for the Louis-Walcott match. Arturo Godoy, who lost to Joe Louis in a 15-round decision, was a friend and sparring partner for Chancey. The Folkston heavyweight met the Argentine national champion and lost a ten-round main event decision in Jamaica, New York after breaking his right hand early in the fight.
Wade’s professional boxing career brought him back to the South. While working for Jax Meats in Jacksonville, where he met his future wife, Polly, Wade was managed by Julian Jackson, owner of the company and himself a former boxer, who went on to establish a chain of convenience stores around Jacksonville.
Chancey’s sledge-hammer fists won for him bout after bout, mostly by knockouts, as he fought in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville.
In Jacksonville”s Main Street Arena, Wade would headline the main events, in 1948 and 1949. Many of his supporters from his hometown would be there to pull for their fighter, as he won time and time again.
The fight game centered around New York and Chancey in September of 1949 fought his last professional fight. He wanted to remain in the south, and began a twenty year career with the Jacksonville Fire Department, retiring as a Lieutenant with the department from Fire Station Number One in downtown Jacksonville in May of 1970. It was then he came to Folkston and began his hay-farming business and marine engine repair shop on Okefenokee Drive.
Since his retirement, he found time to serve as a county Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff Ray Gibson and was the first county deputy to become certified from the Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynn County while working as a deputy sheriff.
Today the former Golden Gloves champion talks of his boxing career with an almost schoolboy-like shyness. His blue eyes, set deeply in his face, glisten when a question takes him back to 1946. The Charlton native was born on March 11, 1927, in a family of eight boys and three girls. An older brother Glenn, had shown promise as a boxer, taking on a champion of his day, Young Stribbling, before cutting his career short because of a torn shoulder.
Wade and Polly Chancey today lead a peaceful life when compared to those earlier years. They have two daughters, Julie and Bonnie. The former Golden Gloves champ, many years later, still has the build of a champion. His fans who saw him fight in Jacksonville, still talk of those battles in the Arena on the corner of Main Street and Beaver Street, when he seldom disappointed them as they shouted out “Knock him out, Wade!” Most of the time he did.