CHASING CHAMPIONS The Sam Langford Story
by Jacob Sampson
Directed by Ron Jenkins
NAC English Theatre Presentation
A Ship’s Company (Parrsboro, NS) Production in association with Eastern Front Theatre (Halifax, NS)
November 13 – 24, Azrieli Studio
Tickets starting at $36
“Chasing Champions knocks out the competition” – Citizen-Record
He fought for his right to fight!
Nova Scotia’s Sam Langford is considered by many boxing historians to be the greatest fighter who ever lived. So why have so few people heard of him? Chasing Champions is the moving story of Langford’s battles against a hostile culture and the machinations of a sport that repeatedly denied him a shot at the title of world champion.
A man of grace and fortitude, the 5’7” Langford fought from lightweight to heavyweight, beating legendary fighters in each class. After almost three hundred recorded bouts, Langford retired at the age of 43 and passed away in 1956, just two months before his seventieth birthday, and only ten weeks after being enshrined in the Boxing Hall of Fame. Chasing Champions examines the life of this unsung hero – perhaps the greatest athlete never known.
Jacob Sampson wrote and stars as Langford. The play was nominated for nine Theatre Nova Scotia Merritt Awards, winning six, including Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Production.
Jacob Sampson and a small ensemble cast bring to life the boxing world of 1910s and 20s; the danger and reward of surviving by your fists, and breaking the mold society has set for you. Chasing Champions takes you on the journey of Sam Langford’s boxing career. It also uses flash back and a flexible timeline to explore the fighter’s life as a child growing up in Nova Scotia and what forged him into one of the greatest fighters who ever lived.
Directed by the award-winning Ron Jenkins, who NAC audiences may remember from his work on the visually stunning ENRON in 2014, Chasing Champions takes the audience inside the boxing ring to show Langford’s story.
Chasing Champions is a physical experience that brings the audience into training and the ring, from the corner to the mat, and pays tribute to a great man who was almost forgotten.
Did you know:
Jacob Sampson discovered the story of Langford when he was researching on the idea of creating a work around a Nova Scotia athlete.
Growing up in a boxing family, Sampson discovered from his father and grandfather that Langford came from a town 40 minutes from where he lived. It fascinated him that he grew up so close, yet had no idea about Langford’s history. In fact, he found out after a year after the original production, he is a distant cousin of Langford.
Taking on the role as well as playwright, Sampson prepared to play Langford by first learning the ropes in the ring, to build physically and mentally to portray the boxer, as well as reading numerous books on the 1910s and 20s, and what Black people were facing at that time.
He drew influence on the spirit of Langford, who was known as a happy-go-lucky guy, how always had a smile on his face.
He was especially influenced by a book from Clay Moyle called Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion, which brought out the spirit of Langford and how he touched others.
Sam Langford has been recognized elsewhere: boxing magazine The Ring named him the second-greatest puncher in the history of the sport, and ESPN has ranked him among the top ten boxers of all time.Langford began his professional boxing career in 1902 at the age of 19 with a knockout victory over Jack McVicker in Boston. Quickly rising to prominence, Langford defeated Joe Gans in 1903. The next year, he fought to a draw with Joe Walcott.
In 1906, though he was outweighed by at least twenty pounds, Langford faced the future heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson. Langford lost the fifteen-round decision and never really had Johnson in trouble although, years later, exaggerated accounts circulated that Langford had nearly beaten Johnson. Once he was champion, Johnson refused to give Langford a title shot.
Sam Langford was elected to the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1955 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
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