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Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson "The Galveston Giant" 

Title:  Jack Johnson 
Medium: Art Print 
Edition: 95 (No of fights approx)
Size: 11" x 14" 
Mounted: Yes
Signed by Artist: Yes 
Price: £60 
Framed Price: £120

The Art Print captures Johnson in training pose as a young fighter,  a portrait in his prime and fighting James J. Jeffries in 1910 Heavyweight Championship bout dubbed
"The Fight of the Century"

John Arthur Johnson ~ Jack Johnson  (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), nicknamed the "Galveston Giant", was an American boxer who, at the height of the Jim Crow era, became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). Among the period's most dominant champions, Johnson remains a boxing legend, with his 1910 fight against James J. Jeffries dubbed the "fight of the century".  According to filmmaker Ken Burns, "for more than thirteen years, 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.

Johnson made his debut as a professional boxer on November 1, 1898, in Galveston, Texas, when he knocked outCharley Brooks in the second round of a 15-round bout for what was billed as "The Texas State Middleweight Title". In his third pro fight on May 8, 1899, he battled "Klondike" (John W. Haynes or Haines), an African American heavyweight known as "The Black Hercules", in Chicago. Klondike (so called as he was considered a rarity, like the gold in the Klondike), who had declared himself the "Black Heavyweight Champ", won on a technical knockout (TKO) in the fifth round of a scheduled six-rounder. The two fighters met twice again in 1900, with the first rematch resulting in a draw as both fighters were on their feet at the end of 20 rounds. Johnson won the third fight by a TKO when Klondike refused to come out for the 14th round. Johnson did not claim Klondike's unrecognized title

On February 25, 1901, Johnson fought Joe Choynski in Galveston. Choynski, a popular and experienced heavyweight, knocked out Johnson in the third round. Prizefighting was illegal in Texas at the time and 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.

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"

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 until it was vacated when he won the world heavyweight title from Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia on Boxing Day 1908. His reign of 2,151 days was the third longest in the 60-year-long history of the colored heavyweight title. Only Harry Wills at 3,103 days and Peter Jackson at 3,041 days held the title longer. A three-time colored heavyweight champion, Wills held the title for a total of 3,351 days.

Johnson defended the colored heavyweight title 17 times, which was second only to the 26 times Wills defended the title. While colored champ, he defeated ex-colored champs Denver Ed Martin and Frank Childs again and beat future colored heavyweight champs Sam McVey three times and Sam Langford once. He beat Langford on points in a 15-rounder and never gave him another shot at the title, either when he was colored champ or the world heavyweight champ.

Johnson fought Joe Jeanette a total of seven times, all during his reign as colored champ before he became the world's heavyweight champion, winning four times and drawing twice (three of the victories and one draw were newspaper decisions). In their first match in 1905, they had fought to a draw, but in their second match on November 25, 1905, Johnson lost as he was disqualified in the second round of a scheduled six-round fight. Johnson continued to claim the title because of the disqualification.[citation needed]

After Johnson became the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World on December 26, 1908, his World Colored Heavyweight Championship was vacated. Jeanette fought Sam McVey for the title in Paris on February 20, 1909 and was beaten, but later took the title from McVey in a 49-round bout on April 17 of that year in Paris for a $6,000 purse. Sam Langford subsequently claimed the title during Jeanette's reign after Johnson refused to defend the World Heavyweight Championship against him. Eighteen months later, Jeanette lost the title to Langford.

During his reign as world champ, Johnson never again fought Jeanette despite numerous challenges and avoided Langford, who won the colored title a record five times. In 1906 Jack Johnson fought Sam Langford. Langford took severe punishment and was knocked down 3 times; however, he lasted the 15 round distance. 

On November 27, 1945, Johnson finally stepped back into the ring with Joe Jeanette. The 67-year-old Johnson squared off against the 66-year-old Jeanette in an exhibition held at a New York City rally to sell war bonds. Fellow former colored heavyweight champ Harry Wills also participated in the exhibition

Johnson's efforts to win the world heavyweight title were initially thwarted, as at the time world heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries refused to face him, and retired instead.  However, Johnson did fight former champion Bob Fitzsimmons in July 1907, and knocked him out in two rounds.

Johnson finally won the world heavyweight title on December 26, 1908, a full six years after lightweight champion Joe Gans became the first African American boxing champion. Johnson's victory over the reigning world champion, Canadian Tommy Burns, at the Sydney Stadium in Australia, came after following Burns around the world for two years and taunting him in the press for a match.  Burns agreed to fight Johnson only after promoters guaranteed him $30,000.  The fight lasted fourteen rounds before being stopped by the police in front of over 20,000 spectators, and Johnson was named the winner

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.  While Johnson was heavyweight champion, he was covered more in the press than all other notable black men combined.  The lead-up to the bout was peppered with racist press against 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." As title holder, Johnson thus had to face a series of fighters each billed by boxing promoters as a "great white hope", often in exhibition matches. In 1909, he beat Tony Ross, Al Kaufman, and the middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel

The match with Ketchel was originally thought to have been an exhibition, and in fact it was fought by both men that way, until the 12th round, when Ketchel threw a right to Johnson's head, knocking him down. Quickly regaining his feet, and very annoyed, Johnson immediately dashed straight at Ketchell and threw a single punch, an uppercut, a punch for which he was famous, to Ketchel's jaw, knocking him out. The punch knocked out Ketchell's front teeth; Johnson can be seen on film removing them from his glove, where they had been embedded.

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".  He had not fought in six years and had to lose well over 100 pounds to get back to his championship fighting weight. Initially Jeffries had no interest in the fight, being quite happy as an alfalfa farmer.  But those who wanted to see Johnson defeated badgered Jeffries mercilessly for months, and offered him an unheard sum of money, reputed to be about $120,000 (equivalent to $3.3 million in 2019) which he finally accepted

Jeffries remained mostly hidden from media attention until the day of the fight, while Johnson soaked up the spotlight. John L. Sullivan, who made boxing championships a popular and esteemed spectacle, stated that Johnson was in such good physical shape compared to Jeffries that he could lose only if he had a lack of skill on the day. Before the fight, Jeffries remarked, "It is my intention to go right after my opponent and knock him out as soon as possible." While his wife added, "I'm not interested in prizefighting but I am interested in my husband's welfare, I do hope this will be his last fight." Johnson's words were "May the best man win." 

Racial tension was brewing leading up to the fight and to prevent any harm to either boxer, guns were prohibited within the arena as were the sale of alcohol and anyone under the effects of alcohol. Apples were also banned as well as any weapon whatsoever. Behind the racial attitudes being instigated by the media was a major investment in gambling for the fight, with 10–7 odds in favor of Jeffries.  

The fight took place on July 4, 1910, in front of 20,000 people, at a ring 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." 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 "Fight of the Century" earned Johnson $65,000 (over $1.8 million in 2019 dollars) and silenced the critics, who had belittled Johnson's previous victory over Tommy Burns as "empty", claiming that Burns was a false champion since Jeffries had retired undefeated. John L. Sullivan commented after the fight that Johnson won deservedly, fairly, and convincingly:

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. Black poet William Waring Cuney later highlighted the black reaction to the fight in his poem "My Lord, What a Morning".  Around the country, blacks held spontaneous parades and gathered in prayer meetings.[citation needed]

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

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