Bernard Docusen – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Bernard “Big Duke” Docusen (pronounced DUKE-ih-sin) started boxing at the age of 12 and at the age of 14 (1942) he won the National AAU bantamweight title over Eddie Dames – the longest fighter to hold that title.
The New Orleans native opened his professional career with a first-round knockout of George Marino on February 8, 1943, at the Victory Arena in New Orleans.
He began to train with the legendary Whitney Esnault, also a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame. Under Esneault’s tutelage, he continued to develop into a world-class welterweight.
He climbed to the No. 3 world ranking among welterweights and earned a shot at the World Welterweight Championship against the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson in Chicago’s Comiskey Park on June 28, 1948. Some accounts have Docusen as 67-1 entering the fight, but BoxRec.com lists him at 49-2-3 entering the title match.
The Robinson fight was a thrilling event, with Docusen matching the champ for 11 rounds. However, in the 11th round, Robinson delivered a big knockdown blow and took control of the fight to retain his title.
After that loss, the prolific Docusen fought eight more times in 1948, with a record of 7-0-1. After a loss to Freddie Dawson to open 1949, he rattled off nine wins to close the year. He dropped three decisions in 1950 but would continue fighting into 1953. On February 24, 1953, in Buffalo, he was TKOed by Joey Giambra after suffering a bad cut on his upper lip – it was just the fourth time in his career not being able to finish a fight, though he was never officially knocked out. He retired from boxing following the Gimabra loss, finishing his career with a 74-10-6 record. His vanquished opponents included former champions and top contenders such as Phil Terranova (June 25, 1945 at Pelican Stadium in New Orleans – Terranova was the world featherweight champion in 1943), Johnny Bratton (October 29, 1948 at Chicago Stadium – Bratton was the welterweight title holder in 1951), Tippy Larkin (December 7, 1949 at New Orleans’s Municipal Auditorium – Larkin was the light welterweight champion in 1946), John L. Davis (November 17, 1948 at Oakland Coliseum – Davis was a top lightweight contender) and Gene Burton (February 13, 1948 in Madison Square Garden – Burton was a top lightweight contender).
Docusen was born on June 19, 1927 in New Orleans and died on January 11, 2009 in Detroit at the age of 81. He was elected to the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008 and the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010.