The first African-American to win the world boxing heavyweight championship-Boxing legend Jack Johnson! His challenges and fights!

Facts of John Arthur Johnson

Full Name:John Arthur Johnson
Age:144 years 11 months
Birth Date:March 31,1878
Lucky Number:10
Lucky Stone:Diamond
Lucky Color:Red
Best Match for Marriage:Leo
Death Date:June 10,1946
Birth Place:Galveston, Texas, United States
Father's Name:Henry Johnson Jack Johnson
Mother's Name:Tina "Tiny" Johnson
Marital Status:Not Known
Height / How tall? : `
Hair Color:Black
Eye Color:Black
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Do you know who was the first African-American world heavyweight boxing Champion? He was John Arthur Johnson, popularly known as Galveston Giant and he held on to the championship title for nearly 8 years (1908-1915). He is a boxing legend who fought the famous ‘fight of the century’ against James J. Jeffries.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (Jack Johnson)

Born on 31 March 1878 in Galveston, Texas, John Arthur ‘Jack’ Johnson was the son of ex-slaves, Henry and Tina “Tiny” Johnson, and was the third of nine children. His father served as his inspiration. Jack had once described his father as:

The most perfect physical specimen that he had ever seen,”

Source: Houston Chronicle (Jack Johnson)

It was his confidence and forward drive that helped him to exceed in his career. Jack started to school but could not continue it after 5 years since he had to support his family by working as a laborer on boats and local docks. Talking about his childhood, Jack said:

“As I grew up, the white boys were my friends and my pals. I ate with them, played with them and slept at their homes. Their mothers gave me cookies, and I ate at their tables. No one ever taught me that white men were superior to me.”

As he grew, Jack changed from a frail child to a fighter. Since Jack did not like the job dock jobs, he at age 16 shifted to Dallas, then Manhattan and later Boston. He was exposed to boxing here and learned to hit hard and strong.

John Arthur Johnson boxing career

On his return to his hometown, the stronger Jack decided to have his first fight. The reward money was only $ 1.50 but Jack went for it and won it. His pay soon increased and he was determined to get more thereby he began taking challenges.

Source: Boxing News (Jack and his opponent in the ring)

The unanswered challenge with James F. Jeffries

In 1899, Jack again left Galveston and started to participate in fights and win prize money. Due to his huge height of 6 feet 2 inches, he was named as Galveston Giant. After claiming a name for himself in the black boxing circuit, his eyes were now set on the world heavyweight title, which was at that time held by white boxer Jim F. Jeffries.

Source: Pinterest (Jack and Burns fight ad)

But Jim did not want to fight a dark-skinned person. Hence, Jack fought with Tommy Burns and won it.

The fight of the century

Jack continued to challenge and taunt Jim asking him to step into the ring. On 4 July 1910, the two ultimately fought and this was dubbed the fight of the century being watched by more than 22000 fans. It was held in Reno, Nevada and Jack won it. Jack earned $117,000 as prize money.

Source: Boxing (Jack and his knockout)

He secured his heavyweight championship title for 5 years. At the age of 50, he retired from the boxing ring. If we look at his boxing record, it is 73 wins (40 of them being knockouts), 13 losses, 10 Draws, and 5 No Contests.

How successful was he in his personal life?

Jack was married thrice; all to white women. His first wife was Brooklyn socialite and divorcee Etta Terry Duryea whom he married in 1911. Their relationship was a turbulent one and Etta committed suicide in 1912 after suffering from depression.

He went on to marry Lucille Cameron after a few months’ of Etta’s death. Lucille divorced Jack in 1924 accusing him of cheating on her.

Source: Pittsburg post-gazette (Jack and wife Irene)

One year later, Jack married Irene Pineau and their relationship persisted until his death in 1946. He would make a display of his wealth and drive lavish cars. He was hated by the white population. He was subjected to unnecessary rules as revenge from the White community and even sentenced to prison.

He died on June 10, 1946, in an automobile accident in Raleigh, North Carolina.