1991 Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame Inductee
Parents: Inez Copeland
Son: Auburn Copeland, Jr.
Auburn Copeland, a Flint native, attended the Flint schools and lived and grew up in the area called “across the tracks.” At a time when boxing and baseball were the leading sports in the black community, many heroes emerged. Auburn began boxing at the age of 16 (Sugar Ray Robinson was his idol). He trained under the late Dee Cavette at the old FICC (Flint Interracial Community Center) on St. John Street. He entered the United States Army in 1947 where he continued to box.
In 1948, he won a U.S.A. boxing championship. Later, he was on the All Army-Air Force boxing team.
Auburn attended the 1948 finals of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials where he was favored to win the title. Because of sore hands, however, olympian doctors would not let him compete.
After an honorable discharge in 1948, Auburn continued boxing and in 1949 won the Flint Golden Gloves Bantamweight Championship. During that same year he won the State Golden Gloves Championship,and later won the AAU Bantamweight Championship. In his amateur boxing career, Auburn won 47 fights and lost 3.
Auburn turned professional in 1950. From 1950-53, he fought 29 fights, winning 27, losing 1, and drawing 1. During this period he won 13 straight. Always smiling and kind, Auburn didn’t appear to be a world class fighter until he stepped in the ring. He became an unleashed tiger, lashing out with lightening speed and power, bobbing and weaving, while exhibiting extreme accuracy with his punches. Auburn was voted Ring Magazine’s“Prospect of 1953.” He won 28 straight fights in Flint.
Auburn moved to California and became one of the top featherweights. He was the first black boxer from Flint to fight for a world title. He fought Flash Elorde for the Junior Lightweight Championship in Manila, Philippines. He lost a split decision (two judges for Elorde by one point each.) One judge and the associated press scored the fight even. In 1958 he also defeated the Mexico Lightweight Champion in a non-title fight.
Auburn was held in high esteem in the boxing world and by the residents of California. He was treated royally in Mexico, Australia,and the Philippines by their heads of states, local mayors and promoters.
Auburn was forced to retire at the height of his boxing career because of health problems. He passed away December 14, 1964. He was truly one of Flint’s finest fighters.