The son of a sharecropper and America Armstrong, an Iroquois Indian, Henry Jr. was a boxer who not only was a member of the exclusive group of fighters that have won world titles in three or more different divisions, but also has the distinction of being the only one to hold three titles at the same time, a distinction he will hold forever, because long after recording his feat, boxing organizations ruled that fighters can now hold only one division's world championship(s) at the same time, and boxers are nowadays forced to retain only one title and give up the other if they hold more than one title at the same time.
A native of Columbus, Missouri, Armstrong moved as a youngster with his family to St. Louis, where he was later inducted into the St. Louis Walk Of Fame. Armstrong's two nicknames were Hurricane Henry, and Hammerin' Hank
Armstrong started out as a professional on July 28, 1931, being knocked out by Al Sorvino in three rounds. Just like Alexis Arguello and Wilfredo Vazquez in the future, Armstrong was one world champion who started off on the losing end. His first win came later that year, beating Sammy Burns by a decision in six.
In 1932, Armstrong moved to Los Angeles, where he started out losing two four round decisions in a row, to Eddie Trujillo and Al Greenfield. But after that, he started a streak of 11 wins in a row, a streak which expanded to 1933, until he lost again, to Baby Manuel. Then he went 22 straight fights without a defeat, going 17-0-5 in that span, including a win in a Sacramento rematch with Manuel, and five wins over Perfecto Lopez. After that, he moved to Mexico City, where in his first fight there, he lost to former world Bantamweight champion Baby Arizmendi. He had four more fights there, going 2-2 and losing to Arizmendi in what was considered by Mexico and California a world title bout (thus Armstrong losing on his first championship try), and to Baby Casanova by a five round disqualification. He then moved back to California, where he went 8-1-1 for the next ten bouts.
In 1936, Armstrong split time campaigning between Los Angeles, Mexico City and St. Louis. Some opponents of note that year were Ritchie Fontaine, against whom he lost by decision and then won by decision in the rematch, Arizmendi, whom he finally beat by a ten round decision, former world champion Juan Zurita and former champ Mike Belloise, who also lost a decision to Armstrong.
Armstrong started out 1937 by winning 22 bouts in a row, 21 by knockout. He beat Casanova in three, Belloise in four, Joe Rivers in three, former world champion Frankie Klick in four and former world champion Benny Bass in four. After those 22 wins in a row, the inevitable happened: Armstrong was given his first world title, the 126 pounds title, Featherweight world champion Petey Sarron defending it against him at the Madison Square Garden. Armstrong became world's Featherweight champion knocking out Sarron in six, and closed the year with four more knockout wins.
In 1938, Armstrong started with seven more knockouts in a row, including one over future world champion Chalky Wright. The streak finally ended when Arizmendi lasted ten rounds before losing a desicion to Armstrong in their fourth fight. His streak of 27 knockout wins in a row qualifies as one of the longest knockout win streaks in the history of boxing, according to Ring Magazine. After the fouth bout with Arizmendi was a bout with Fritzie Zivic's brother, Eddie Zivic, resulting in another Armstrong knockout win, and after one more bout, Armstrong, the 126 pound division world champion, challenged a fellow member of the three division champions' club, Barney Ross, then world Welterweight champion, for the title. Armstrong, 126, beat Ross, 147, by unanimous decision, adding the world Welterweight championship to his Featherweight belt. Then, he went down in weight, and challenged world Lightweight champion Lou Ambers. In a history making night, Armstrong became the first man ever to have world championships in three different divisions at the same time, by beating Ambers on points. A few days later, he decided he couldn't make the 126 pounds weight anymore, and left the Featherweight crown vacant.
He dedicated the next two years to defending the welterweight crown, beating, among others, future world Middleweight champion Ceferino Garcia , Al Manfredo and Bobby Pacho, before defending his Lightweight belt in a rematch with Ambers, which he lost on a 15 round decision. After that, he concentrated once again on defending the world Welterweight title, and made eight defenses in a row, the last of which was a nine round knockout win over Puerto Rico's Pedro Montanez. Then , he tried to make history once again by becoming the first boxer to win world titles in four different categories in a rematch with Garcia, already world Middleweight champion, but the fight ended in a ten round draw, Armstrong's attempt to win a fourth division's world title being frustrated.
He went back to welterweight and retained the title five more times, until Fritzie Zivic was able to avenge his brother Eddie's defeat by taking the world title away from Armstrong with a 15 round decision. In 1941, they boxed a rematch, this time, Zivic stopping Armstrong in 12 rounds.
1942 saw Armstrong go 13-1, including wins over world champions (Fritzie) Zivic in a ten round non title bout, Jenkins and Zurita.
1944 saw Henry go 14-2-1 in 17 bouts, among those, another win over Belloise.
After winning one fight, losing one and drawing one in 1945, Armstrong decided to retire from boxing. Apart from the ceremonies and galas that he attended afterwards, he led a relatively quiet life for the rest of his life. He became a newborn Christian and an ordained pastor, and he taught youngers how to box.
Armstrong registered an official record of 150 wins, 21 losses and 9 draws, with 100 knockout wins. His exact record, however, isn't really known, because it is said he fought some pay fights under the nickname of Melody Jackson.
Armstrong is a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.
After retiring from boxing, Henry Armstrong became a Baptist minister.