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Jack Johnson Heavyweight boxing champion

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  • Jack Johnson Heavyweight boxing champion



    UNFORGIVABLE BLACKNESS
    On this date, December 26, 1908, Jack Johnson became the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion of the world with a 14th round knockout of Canadian Tommy Burns, in Sydney, Australia. Johnson would reign as the heavyweight champ during the height of the Jim Crow era, from 1908 – 1915.

    Born to former slaves in Galveston, Texas in 1878, John Arthur Johnson learned to box from his boss, an ex fighter, at the carriage shop where he worked. The purse for his first bout was $1.50. Following his professional debut in 1898, Johnson quickly rose to be the World Colored Heavyweight Champ.

    Black boxers could meet white boxers in other competitions, but the world heavyweight championship was off limits to them. Only after stalking reigning world champ Tommy Burns around the world for two years and taunting him in the press for a match, did Johnson get a shot at the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship. It is believed that Burns only agreed to fight Johnson after promoters guaranteed him $30,000 for the fight. Johnson knocked Burns out on December 26, 1908 to win the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship.

    Considered a giant for his time at 6’2”, 205 lbs, the finely chiseled Johnson is still considered one of the best, most powerful counter-punchers who ever stepped in a ring. His taunting and methodical destruction of white opponents in the ring, coupled with his boastful, outspoken, and flamboyant style, set off the search for a “Great White Hope” to dethrone him.

    On July 4, 1910, more than 22,000 fans came to Reno, Nevada for the first "Fight of the Century" matching the flamboyant Johnson against Jim Jeffries, the former undefeated heavy champ, who had been lured out of retirement with the staggering sum of $120,000 as the "The Great White Hope" to defeat Johnson. Johnson was the first boxer to floor Jeffries, putting him on the canvas twice. Jeffries corner threw in the towel in the 14th round, to keep a knockout off of Jeffries record. Johnson earned the incredible of sum of $117,000 for his efforts.

    Johnson’s victory triggered race riots all across the United States that evening, in more than 25 states and 50 cities. Many whites, with dreams of finding a “Great White Hope dashed, felt humiliated by Johnson’s defeat of Jeffries, and took it out on jubilant blacks. More than 20 people were killed and hundreds injured in post fight rioting.

    Filmmaker Ken Burns noted that "for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious black man on Earth.” Ignoring Jim Crow strictures, the outspoken Johnson was excoriated by the press for his flashy lifestyle and openly cavorting with white woman, including German spy Mata Hari, and sex symbols Lupe Velez and Mae West.

    Johnson was an early example of the celebrity athlete in the modern era, appearing regularly in the press and later on radio and in motion pictures. He earned considerable sums from product endorsement, and indulged several expensive hobbies such as automobile racing. He had his own jazz band, owned a Chicago nightclub, acted on stage, drove flashy yellow sports cars, and boasted of his conquests of whites -- both in and out of the ring.

    He died in an automobile accident in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1946.
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