Jack Johnson

John (Jack) Arthur Johnson

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Jack Johnson was a famous black American heavyweight boxer who was born in Galveston, Texas on March 31, 1878. Johnson was a fighter with great speed, strength, and tremendous style. Nobody could compare to his picking punches, blocking, and his tremendous counter punching. He was the first black American boxer to win the heavyweight title (Lincoln Library, 28). During his thirty years of boxing, he fought one-hundred and thirteen bouts. He won seventy-eight of his bouts and lost thirty-five. He had forty-four knockouts and thirty-four were won by decision (Jet, 1). Jack Johnson was a leader of the African-American community, but was looked down upon by many white citizens (Lincoln Library, 28).

As a child he was restless and very quiet in school. In the fifth grade, Jack worked a variety of jobs, one of them was working on fishing boats in Florida. He also worked as an exercise boy at a Boston racetrack. He later went to Chicago to help “The Barbado,” John Walcott, as his sparring partner (Lincoln Library, pg. 28, vol. 9).

One of Johnson’s first matches was against Klondike, from Chicago. Klondike had a bad reputation around Chicago. Klondike knocked Johnson out very easily (Lincoln Library, 29). While touring with some boxers he learned different techniques of boxing. Later he went to California to defeat many boxers in big tournaments ( Lincoln Library, 28). On December 26, 1908 he defeated Tommy Burns in Melbourne, Australia, in fourteen rounds to become the first Black-American heavyweight champion boxer (Encarta, 1994).

Johnson upset a lot of white people by winning the title from Tommy Burns. So the whites formed a special tournament called the “Great White Hope.” During the time Johnson was the champion his whole lifestyle changed greatly. He wore flashy clothes and became a controversial figure. The white citizens brought out a retired boxer who was never knocked out, named James J. Jefferies in 1910, to knock Johnson off his pedestal, but Johnson went on to beat Jefferies, which led to racial rioting throughout the US (Lincoln Library, 28).

In 1913, Johnson was found guilty of violating the Mann Act, which is a law that banned the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes. Johnson was convicted of his violation and he tried to appeal his sentence, but before the ruling on his appeal, he fled to Canada, Europe, Mexico, and South America (Lincoln Library, 28).

In 1915, Johnson lost his title to Jess Willard in Havana, Cuba. Johnson returned to the United States and served his ten months in jail for his 1913 conviction. He fought the last of his professional bouts in 1928. After 1928, Johnson became a show buisiness man and was in a hit Broadway play called the ”Great White Hope,” which was based on Johnson’s life (Lincoln Library, 28).

Johnson died in Raleigh, NC on June 10,1946, after crashing his car into a tree. He was elected into the boxing hall of fame in 1954. “A great boxer by the name of Nat Fleischer said that “Johnson was the greatest heavyweight of them all.”” (Lincoln Library, 28).

In conclusion, Jack Johnson was a true American hero that was one of the worlds greatest boxers of all time. Johnson inspired many black people to never give up something even if many people are against you because with a little faith and hard work it can really pay off. Jack Johnson was a controversial figure that angered many white Americans but also helped to unite the black race in America.

Works Cited

Sugar, Bert Randolph. "Jack Johnson." World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia. The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Disc 1. Chicago, 1998.

"Jack Johnson." The Lincoln Library of Sports Champions. 4 ed. Vol. 9. Columbus, Ohio: Frontier Press Co, 1985. 28-33.

"Jack Johnson." The Encyclopedia Americana. 1996 ed. Vol. 16. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Publishing Inc., 1996. 129.

"Jack Johnson." Editorial. Jet 25 Dec. 2000: 19.

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