Jake Shaw's Greatest Heavyweights Of All Time. Number 3
3. Jack Johnson
Imagine fighting the same crop of fighters over and over again, month after month. It would be pretty frustrating. Then imagine being the best of the bunch, well that's what Jack Johnson had to contend with for almost the whole of his career. It must have been incredibly frustrating for Johnson having to just watch less-talented, lumbering white heavyweights take all the glory while he out slicked fighters like greats Sam Langford and Joe Jeanette. However, unlike those other men,
Johnson was eventually granted the chance to fight for the 'real' heavyweight title. It was the original super fight, the 'coloured' heavyweight champion, Johnson locking horns with the other more-accepted world champion, Tommy Burns in front of thousands of racist, blood-thirsty fight fans. After 14 rounds the police intervened and Johnson was awarded the decision, thus becoming the first ever black heavyweight champion. The man broke boundaries and put himself in the record books for eternity.
Johnson's career after that fabled night was one of up's and down's. From the extreme highs of knocking out Stanley Ketchal, James J Jeffries and Fireman Jim Flynn, to the extreme low of being knocked out in the 26th of a scheduled 45 rounds to Jess Willard. Some say Johnson threw that fight, others disrepute this claim, saying that if Johnson was going to throw the fight why wait 26th rounds, why not do it in the first. That is something we'll never know. Without Johnson the infamous term 'Great White Hope' may never have been coined and the fact that this phrase is still a fixture in most boxing fans vocabulary shows the profound effect Johnson crossing of the colour line had.
Johnson led an extravagant life, almost as flashy as his in ring style. He sported gold teeth and was often spotted in public with white women. He blew money without thought on everything just because he could and became the first in the line of many of these kinds of fighters. I personally believe he loved to be hated, and would act so flamboyantly to fit in with his persona as 'The ****** Champion'. Johnson's lifestyle and character puts today's spoilt cry-baby’s e.g. Floyd Mayweather Jr. to shame.
From most accounts, Johnson was actually a kind man. From all accounts, he was a great fighter. Johnson will hopefully be looking down on us all now, seeing how he is remembered, revered amongst all races. You can almost picture him, flashing his gold teeth in a big smile. He broke records, he broke faces, and he broke the colour line. And for that Jack Johnson that's what puts him in 3rd position on my list.
Number 2 will be posted soon.