We had such a busy weekend with the beautiful weather, softball practice and arguably the most uninteresting Super Bowl ever!! So today I am writing to cover Saturday, Sunday & today. We will learn about three different boxers athletes, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, & Nicola Adams (coming soon). That’s right, BOXERS!!
Jack Johnson, born John Arthur Johnson, was born March 31, 1878 in Galveston, Texas! He was the third of nine kids. Jack’s father was a civilian teamster of the 38th Colored Infantry (yes it was segregated also & blacks were forced to work for free). Thankfully, Jack claims to never had experienced the racism in his hometown.
Before graduating high school, Johnson quit. His family was poor and needed him to work to help support his parents salaries. Working as an apprentice painting carriages, Jack met Walter Lewis. Walter spent his free time watching friends spar & Jack gives him credit for becoming a boxer!
At age 16, Johnson found a job as a janitor for a gym owned by Herman Bernau where he saved enough money to buy a couple pairs of boxing gloves then moved back home. November 1, 1898, Jack made his professional boxing debut & got his first knock out (vs Charley Brooks) all in the same night!
On February 3, 1903, Jack Johnson won his first title beating Denver Ed Martin for the World Colored Heavyweight Championship. He held that title for the third longest streak in the 60 year history of the CHC title for 2,151 days winning 17 times.
Jack had troubles winning the world heavyweight championship because James J. Jeffries refused to fight a black boxer. Back then, black boxers were not allowed to fight for the world championships. In December 1908, Johnson FINALLY won the World Heavyweight title, becoming the first African-American Heavyweight Champion in history by defeating Canadian Tommy Burns.
In what would come to be known as the “Fight of the Century”, Jack would face former undefeated heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries. Jeffries, who returned from retirement for this fight, was desired to be the “Great White Hope”. Jeffries took a personal jab at Johnson saying that he was “going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.”
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.” Afterwards, Jeffries was humbled by the loss and what he’d seen of Johnson in their match. “I could never have whipped Johnson at my best”, Jeffries said. “I couldn’t have hit him. No, I couldn’t have reached him in 1,000 years.” The result triggered riots across the U.S. earning Johnson $65,000 (over $1.7 million in 2018 dollars)!
Jack Johnson was later imprisoned for marrying a white woman & going across state lines. He remained here until his passing in 1946.
(Turn the page!)