An article by Mike Mooneyham
Published Jan. 25, 1998
Bobo Brazil, one of pro wrestling’s legendary figures, died Tuesday at the age of 74 of complications from a stroke at a hospital in St. Joseph, Mich. Brazil, noted for his patented “coco butt” maneuver, was a pioneer in the wrestling business, taking firm stands against racial discrimination and breaking color barriers in a number of cities throughout the country.
The 6-6, 300-pound Benton Harbor, Mich., native broke into the business in the late 1940s under the tutelage of former world champion Jumping Joe Savoldi. It was Savoldi, who played football at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne, who Brazil credited with teaching him the coco butt.
“Joe felt that every part of your body should be in shape. And that meant the head, also,” Brazil said in a 1963 interview. “So Joe brought a piece of plywood with him one day to the gym and had me butting my head against it. Talk about headaches. I really had them the first couple of months. Finally, it got to the point where I began to crack the wood and only then did Joe feel my head was hard enough.
“I didn’t know what Joe had in mind. I thought he was toughening up my head for any hard falls I might incur in the ring. Well, he made me put it to a better use my pulling my opponent toward me, holding the back of his head and bumping him on the forehead with my forehead.”
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Brazil, whose real name was Houston Harris, grew up in Benton Harbor, laboring by day picking fruit in the orchards and playing baseball by night for the independent House of David touring team.
“The money was hard to come by – but, funny thing – we never knew we were poor,” said Brazil. “Always had a nice, clean bed to sleep in; always had good, solid food on the table. No extras, but all the essentials were there.”
Brazil’s illustrious career, which covered six different decades, was highlighted by several reigns as U.S. heavyweight champion and a legendary feud with the original Sheik (Ed Farhat) that sold out Detroit’s Cobo Arena on numerous occasions.
Brazil, who several years ago was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame, was universally revered among his peers.
“Bobo Brazil was to wrestling what Jackie Robinson was to baseball,” said Burrhead Jones, who teamed with Brazil at the old Madison Square Garden in the ’60s and later traveled in the Carolinas.