Home AFRICAN STORY The Untold Story Of Jack Johnson; First African American World Heavyweight Boxing Champion From Anambra

The Untold Story Of Jack Johnson; First African American World Heavyweight Boxing Champion From Anambra

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Jack Johnson

December 26th, 1908 was a remarkable day in the sports history of Nigeria when an Igbo man from Anambra, known as Nduka aka Jack Johnson, secured his place as the first African American World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.

Johnson achieved this great feat after a tough face-off with Canadian heavyweight champion, Tommy Burns.

Standing tall at 6’2″, Johnson, also known as the Galveston Giant, had already established himself in the Black boxing circuit. However, his journey to the world heavyweight title was fraught with challenges. White boxer Jim F. Jeffries, the reigning champion, refused to fight him, reflecting the racial tensions of the time when white boxers hesitated to face their Black counterparts.

Finally, on December 26, 1908, he seized his opportunity for the title when Tommy Burns, the reigning champion, agreed to fight him outside of Sydney, Australia, after being promised $30,000 by promoters. The bout, which lasted until the 14th round, ended with Johnson being declared the victor.

Undeterred by the obstacles, Johnson’s charisma and skill eventually earned him a shot at the title on that fateful day in 1908. However, the victory was not without controversy, as police intervened to stop the fight.

Following this triumph, Johnson persisted in challenging Jeffries to a match. On July 4, 1910, their highly anticipated showdown, dubbed the “Fight of the Century,” drew over 22,000 spectators to Reno, Nevada. After 15 gruelling rounds, Johnson emerged victorious, solidifying his dominance in boxing and provoking further resentment from white boxing fans.

Jeffries, reflecting on his defeat, conceded, “I could never have whipped Johnson at my best. I couldn’t have hit him. No, I couldn’t have reached him in 1,000 years.” Johnson earned $117,000 for the fight, but it would be five years before he relinquished the heavyweight title, losing to Jess Willard in a 26-round battle in Havana, Cuba. Despite this setback, Johnson continued to fight for another 12 years before retiring at the age of 50.

With a professional record boasting 73 wins, including 40 knockouts, along with 13 losses, 10 draws, and 5 no contests, Johnson’s legacy as a pioneering figure in boxing endures, inspiring generations with his remarkable achievements.

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