Remembering the night Ron Simmons made sports-entertainment history

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August 01, 2012

Ron Simmons became the first African American World Heavyweight Champion on Aug. 2, 1992.

Aug. 2, 1992, was one of the most memorable moments in sports-entertainment.

It was on that night in Baltimore, that Ron Simmons became the first African American recognized as World Heavyweight Champion in wrestling. History was made when the former Florida State All-American defensive lineman power slammed the 400-plus pound Vader to become the first of his race to earn the status of World Champion. (WATCH FULL MATCH)

The fans' reaction to Simmons’ victory that night is still a vivid memory. The packed crowd in the weathered Baltimore Arena came to their feet with jubilation bordering on shock. Vader was a seemingly unstoppable monster — a super heavyweight with unparalleled international success who was considered one of the greatest big men of any era. The former football star at the University of Colorado also had the in-ring experience advantage on Simmons and was expected to make Ron another victim. Vader’s mistake was discounting Ron’s overwhelming desire to succeed and to make history on that hot, summer night.

Ron Simmons’ journey began in rural Georgia where he became one of the most honored high school football players in the state’s history. Simmons left the town of Warner Robins as America’s most coveted high school football recruit and signed a national letter of intent to take his skills to Florida State University to play football for legendary coach Bobby Bowden.

At FSU, No. 50 became a four-time All-American defensive lineman, played in three bowl games and is credited by Bowden as being the one player that turned FSU from a pedestrian football school into a national powerhouse. Later, Ron was inducted into both the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame and his number was retired by Florida State.

But what Ron Simmons did in Baltimore in ’92 made more of a profound social statement than any of his amazing gridiron accolades.

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