As a boy, Harry Ekizian escaped the Armenian Genocide. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a short time later he was sold as a slave to Arabs. After four years of hard labor, he escaped and eventually made his way to the United States and joined the Navy where he worked as a fireman. There, he learned wrestling and won the Fleet Championship in the middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight divisions and after an international match in Copenhagen, Ekizian was awarded the title of World Champion Navy Wrestler. Here, Harry exhibits his immense strength on the deck of the airplane carrier Lexington as he resists twelve sailors pulling a thick rope around his neck. Harry had an unusual diet: he ate eight pounds of onions a day!
Ekizian eventually retired from the Navy in 1932, shaved his head, and became the well known “heel” wrestler “Ali Baba.” He wrestled all the greats of the day, including Milo Steinborn on one occasion. On April 24, 1936, Ekizian defeated World Heavyweight Champion Dick Shikat in front of over 8,000 spectators in Detroit, Michigan and was formally declared the World Heavyweight Champion a month later when he defeated Shikat a second time at Madison Square Garden.