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Boxing – Heavyweight Champions – Jack Johnson – Boxings Best Special


John ArthurJackJohnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946) was an American boxer nicknamed the Galveston Giant….who at the height of the Jim Crow era of boxing….became the first American black world heavyweight boxing champion….holding the title for 7 years from 1908  to 1915…..but Johnson’s biggest fight was not in the ring….as he faced much controversy when he was charged with violating the Mann Act in 1912.

           DOG ASIDE:       This Act was the White-Slave Traffic Act that was federal law which was passed in June 25,                                                               1910….which in its original form made it a felony to engage in interstate or foreign commerce transport                                         of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.                                         Its primary stated intent was to address prostitution, immorality, and human trafficking….particularly                                             where trafficking was for the purposes of prostitution. This is one of several acts of protective                                                         legislation aimed at moral reform during the progressive era. In practice, its ambiguous language                                                   about “immorality” has resulted in its being used to criminalize even consensual sexual behavior                                                   between adults. It was amended by Congress in 1978 and again in 1986 to apply to transport for the                                               purpose of prostitution or illegal sexual acts.

The truth of the matter is that the boxing term “The Great White Hope” started with the reign of Jack Johnson as heavyweight champion of the world….cuz like Cassius Clay….Johnson was not a popular fighter…..and having become the first black champion after a long long string of white heavyweight champions….the boxing world was always looking for the next great white hope…..which by the way is something that the boxing world is still looking for today….since Rocky Marciano ruled the ring. Anyway, the only way that “the powers that be” in the boxing world during Jack Johnson’s day could wrangle and strangle the title away from Johnson….was to trump up charges against the Champ for violation of the Mann Act when he took his lady friend across State borders for one of his title fight.

As I have read and learned more about The Galveston Giant….I realize that as a dominant heavyweight champions…..this guy seems to be Cassius Clay long before Cassius Clay showed up on the radar some 50 years later….for Johnson was an supremely confident, physically dominating, intensely tough, intimidating boxer with a cocky attitude…..who brought 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 while waiting for his opponents to tire out (can you say rope a dope!?!…then 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. He would then quickly strike back with a blow of his own….as Johnson often made his fights look effortless, as if he had much more to offer, but when pushed he could also display some powerful moves and punches. There are films of his fights in which he can be seen holding up his opponent, who otherwise might have fallen, until he recovered….for his style of playing with his opponents was very effective……and you add to this pool of incredible talents the fact that as in a documentary about his life….the author Ken Burns notes that “for more than thirteen years….Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth”.  Sound familiar!?!

It is my opinion as a Sportsphile….that Muhammad Ali had a hero and role model named Jack Johnson. 

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