Bob Satterfield: Let’s Keep the Record Straight

By Ted Sares - In 1953, the Ring Magazine’s top ten heavyweights were as follows:

boxingRocky Marciano: Champion
1, Nino Valdez
2. Ezzard Charles
3. Dan Bucceroni
4. Roland LaStarza
5. Earl Walls
6. Don Cockell
7. Clarence Henry
8. Tommy Harrison
9 . Bob Satterfield
10. Coley Wallace

The acclaimed movie “Resurrecting the Champ” centered on two of the above ranked fighters. It is based on a decade-old and prize winning Los Angeles Times story by J.R. Moehringer.. It’s about a writer who finds a homeless man in Santa Ana who claims to be the rugged Chicago boxer “Battlin'” Bob Satterfield. But Satterfield died in 1977, and I have his obituary on my site at

“Champ,” supposedly Satterfield, can be found in downtown Santa Ana. He can be seen pushing a shopping cart which carries plastic paper, empty bottles and other such stuff that the homeless seem to covet. Many who know him say he is a “jovial old man who, [and] though he may sleep near the gutter, has not let his mannerisms follow suit.” (Michael Mello, August 30, 2007, “Homeless man in Santa Ana is subject of major motion picture,” Orange County register).

“The Champ” is Tommy Harrison

That homeless man known as “Champ,” is none other than Tommy Harrison who knows remarkable details about Bob Satterfield's life and boxing feats. But he is not Bob Satterfield and never was Bob Satterfield.

Tommy Harrison fought in the higher weight divisions in the ‘50s and claims to have sparred with Rocky Marciano, even breaking his nose. He later lost to Floyd Patterson, but claims the referee’s decision should have gone the other way. I don’t believe it for one minute. What decision? Patterson iced Tommy in less than 90 seconds.

Harrison lost his last five fights in a row all by stoppage. While he did beat the highly regarded Earl Walls in 1954, Walls savaged him mercilessly in the rematch that same year. The high point of Tommy’s career came in 1952 when he beat the great Jimmy Bivins over ten rounds. He repeated this admirable feat a year later. He went 3-2-1 with Frankie Crane, beat rugged Charley Norkus and Wes Bacom, but was taken out by Ezzard Charles in 1953. His last bout was in 1958 when he was KOd by Monroe Ratliff in four. His final slate was 22 (KO5)-13 (KO8)-2. No, Tommy Harrison was not Bob Satterfield.

The movie implies that Bob Satterfield was a Champion. Though his proclivity to bomb out opponents is legendary, Bob never won a World Championship. The movie says his nickname was “Battlin.” Baloney; it was “Rapid Robert” Satterfield as any aficionado or fan from Chicago knows. Now the danger in all this is that it is entirely possible to come away from the movie previews or from titles of related articles and conclude that Bob Satterfield was some kind of bum in the street sense of the word. The following is an example of one of many such article titles: “If Bob Satterfield Packed One of the Greatest Punches of All Time, How Did He End Up on the Streets of Santa Ana?”

Nothing could be more wrong. He was a veteran and skilled artist; he was a husband and father who lived righteously until cancer took him down far too early. And he held his job in Chicago right to the end. Bob was a man’s man, Tommy Harrison was the homeless guy in this affair.

The Story Behind the Story

Now there is more to this story, far more, and I urge you to read the entire Pulitzer Prize winning article upon which the movie is based. While it is not often that I add links my work, it’s necessary in this case and here is the one that connects to the article in question.,1,992335.story?page=1 It took considerable digging to unearth it.

Yes, read the entire piece and draw your own conclusions about a situation in which the reputation of an honorable man easily could be misinterpreted and/or soiled by those who don’t bother to read the story behind the story.

Watch for the author’s new book, “Reelin’ in the Years: Boxing and More” due out before Christmas

Article posted on 07.10.2008

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