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HomeHistoryJack Authur Jackson First Black Heavy Weight Boxer

Jack Authur Jackson First Black Heavy Weight Boxer

John Arthur Johnson nicknamed the Galveston Giant, was an African American boxer who, at the height of the Jim Crow era, became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). During his peak Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth”. Transcending boxing, he became part of the culture and the history of racism in America.

Here are some facts about him.

1. Johnson was born (March 31, 1878) the third child of nine, and the first son, of Henry and Tina Johnson, two former slaves who worked blue collar jobs as a janitor and a dishwasher.

2. He only went to school for some years after which he dropped out.

3. Jack was introduced to boxing At the age of 16, when he moved to Manhattan and found living arrangements with Barbados Joe Walcott , a welterweight fighter from the West Indies.

4. While living with walcott, he found employment as a janitor for a gym owned by German-born heavyweight fighter Herman Berneau, Johnson eventually put away enough money to buy two pairs of boxing gloves, sparring every chance he got

His first fight

Johnson fought again in a summer league against a man named John “Must Have It” Lee. But because prize fighting was illegal in Texas, the fight was broken up and moved to the beach where Johnson won his first fight and a prize of one dollar and fifty cents.

Johnson made his debut as a professional boxer on November 1, 1898, in Galveston, Texas, when he knocked out Charley Brooks in the second round of a 15-round bout for what was billed as “The Texas State Middleweight Title”.

His first loss and jail

On February 25, 1901, Johnson fought Joe Choynski in Galveston. Choynski, a popular and experienced heavyweight, Choynski knocked out Johnson in the third round.

Prizefighting was illegal in Texas as at the time he and Choynski fought so both they were both arrested. Bail was set at $5,000 which neither could afford.

The sheriff permitted both fighters to go home at night so long as they agreed to spar in the jail cell. Large crowds gathered to watch the sessions. After 23 days in jail, their bail was reduced to an affordable level and a grand jury refused to indict either man. However, Johnson later stated that he learned his boxing skills during that jail time. The two would remain friends.

All this time he was still an amateur. Johnson later learned his boxing skills during that jail time.

Johnson attested that his success in boxing came from the coaching he received from Choynski. The aging Choynski saw natural talent and determination in Johnson and taught him the nuances of defense, stating “A man who can move like you should never have to take a punch”.

Style of Boxing

Throughout his career Johnson built a unique fighting style of his own, which was not customary to boxing during this time. Though Jack would typically strike first, he would fight defensively, waiting for his opponents to tire out, while becoming more aggressive as the rounds went on. He often fought to punish his opponents through the rounds rather than knocking them out, and would continuously dodge their punches.

By 1903, though Johnson’s official record showed him with nine wins against three losses, five draws and two no contests, he had won at least 50 fights against both white and black opponents. Johnson won his first title on February 3, 1903, beating Denver Ed Martin on points in a 20-round match for the World Colored Heavyweight Championship.

Johnson held the title for 2,151 days until it was vacated when he won the world heavyweight title from Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia. His reign of 2,151 days was the third longest in the 60-year-long history of the colored heavyweight title.

After Johnson’s victory over Burns, racial animosity among whites ran so deep that some called for a “Great White Hope” to take the title away from Johnson.

Even the New York Times wrote of the event, “If the black man wins, thousands and thousands of his ignorant brothers will misinterpret his victory as justifying claims to much more than mere physical equality with their white neighbors.”

In 1910, former undefeated heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries came out of retirement to challenge Johnson, saying “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro”

The fight took place on July 4, 1910, in front of 20,000 people, at a ring which was built just for the occasion in downtown Reno, Nevada. Jeffries proved unable to impose his will on the younger champion and Johnson dominated the fight. By the 15th round, after Jeffries had been knocked down twice for the first time in his career, Jeffries’ corner threw in the towel to end the fight and prevent Jeffries from having a knockout on his record. Johnson later remarked he knew the fight was over in the 4th round when he landed an uppercut and saw the look on Jeffries face, stating, “I knew what that look meant. The old ship was sinking.”

The outcome of the fight triggered race riots that evening—the Fourth of July—all across the United States, from Texas and Colorado to New York and Washington, D.C. Johnson’s victory over Jeffries had dashed white dreams of finding a “great white hope” to defeat him. Many whites felt humiliated by the defeat of Jeffries.

Blacks, on the other hand, were jubilant, and celebrated Johnson’s great victory as a victory for racial advancement.

Race riots erupted in New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta, St. Louis, Little Rock and Houston. In all, riots occurred in more than 25 states and 50 cities. At least twenty people were killed across the US from the riots, and hundreds more were injured.

The Johnson–Jeffries Fight film received more public attention in the United States than any other film to date and for the next five years, until the release of The Birth of a Nation. In the United States, many states and cities banned the exhibition of the Johnson–Jeffries film. The movement to censor Johnson’s victory took over the country within three days after the fight.

In 2005, the film of the Jeffries–Johnson “Fight of the Century” was entered into the United States National Film Registry as being worthy of preservation.

On October 18, 1912, Johnson was arrested on the grounds that his relationship with a white woman named Lucille Cameron violated the Mann Act against “transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes”. Cameron, soon to become his second wife, refused to cooperate and the case fell apart. Less than a month later, Johnson was arrested again on similar charges. This time, the woman, another alleged prostitute named Belle Schreiber, testified against him. In the courtroom of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury in June 1913, despite the fact that the incidents used to convict him took place before passage of the Mann Act. He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

But Johnson had no intention of doing the time. He skipped bail and left the country, joining Lucille in Montreal, For the next seven years, they lived in exile in Europe, South America and Mexico.

On April 5, 1915, Johnson lost his title to Jess Willard, a working cowboy from Kansas. Because of his outstanding warrant in the US the fight had to be fought in Havana, Cuba. Johnson was knocked out in the 26th round of the scheduled 45 round fight.

Johnson is said by many a year after the fight to have spread rumors that he took a dive but Willard is widely regarded as having won the fight outright. Many people thought Johnson purposely threw the fight because Willard was white, in an effort to have his Mann Act charges dropped. Willard ironically responded, “If he was going to throw the fight, I wish he’d done it sooner. It was hotter than hell out there.”

After His match Johnson returned to the U.S. on July 20, 1920. He surrendered to federal agents at the Mexican border and was sent to the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth to serve his sentence in September 1920. He was released on July 9, 1921.

He surrendered to federal agents at the Mexican border and was sent to the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth to serve his sentence in September 1920. He was released on July 9, 1921.

After losing his world heavyweight championship, Johnson never again fought for the colored heavyweight crown. Johnson continued fighting, but age was catching up with him. He fought professionally until 1938 at age 60 when he lost 7 of his last 9 bouts, losing his final fight to Walter Price by a 7th-round TKO.

Johnson made his final ring appearance at age 67 on November 27, 1945, fighting three one-minute exhibition rounds against two opponents, Joe Jeanette and John Ballcort, in a benefit fight card for U.S. War Bonds.

On June 10, 1946, Johnson died in a car crash on
U.S. Highway 1 near Franklinton, North Carolina a small town near Raleigh, after racing angrily from a diner that refused to serve him. He was taken to the closest black hospital, Saint Agnes Hospital in Raleigh. He was 68 years old at the time of his death. He was buried next to Etta Duryea Johnson at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.

Presidential pardon
In April 2018, President Donald Trump announced that he was considering a full pardon of Johnson after speaking with actor Sylvester Stallone. [76] Trump pardoned Johnson on May 24 of that year.

posthumously pardon the world’s first African-American boxing champion of his racially motivated 1913 felony conviction on May 24 of that year.

Johnson was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954, and is on the roster of both the
International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame

During his boxing career, Jack Johnson fought 114 fights, winning 80 matches, 45 by knockouts.



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