The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson

The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson

Graeme Kent

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 075094613X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In 1908 talented black US fighter Jack Johnson won the heavyweight championship of the world from the Canadian Tommy Burns. There was an immediate storm of protest. Writers, including Jack London, and politicians feared the accession of the fearless and outspoken Johnson would threaten white supremacy. It was predicted f{ accurately f{ that his reign would lead to civic unrest and race riots. Over the next seven years, more than 30 white fighters tried to beat Jackson, lured by the prospect of fame and a quick buck. It was not until 1915 that Jackson lost his crown, and during the years in between an extraordinary human drama was played out on the boxing world stage. Graeme White tells the full story of the Great White Hopes for the first time.











best-known local heavyweight to a bout. The fact that it would be almost impossible to arrange and stage such a contest in the seven days that he was in the vicinity was not lost on the strong man, but he usually managed to have a few journalists waiting in the gymnasium to take down the affronted reaction of the local hopeful. In Springfield, Missouri, in 1911 it all went horribly wrong. The local fistic hero was a heavyweight called Joe Cox. In the hope of getting the customary headlines

hardly anything has been said about his Caucasian challengers. Apart from the film actor Victor McLaglen, none of the White Hopes wrote a book about his experiences, and even McLaglen’s autobiography hardly touched upon his ring career. Much of this investigation necessarily has been conducted with the aid of yellowing press cuttings and dusty contemporary accounts of court proceedings between 1908 and 1915, along with other public records and private reminiscences, published and unpublished.

cricket team which had toured the continent in 1907/08 had lost four of the five games it had played against the Australians, while at the 1908 Olympics the Wallabies had defeated England, the only other entrant for rugby football, 32–3. In addition, boxing was immensely popular in Australia, and in Squires and Lang the country had just produced a pair of formidable heavyweight boxers of its own. So highly were these two regarded by their fellow-countrymen that the world’s leading big men, Jack

Johnson and Tommy Burns, had been imported in the hope that the favoured home-grown boxers would defeat them. Unfortunately, both Australians had been crushed by Burns, while Johnson had compounded the national disappointment by thrashing Lang. These impressive results had led to a public outcry for Burns to defend his title against the black challenger, and Johnson had been allowed to return to meet him. The black fighter’s subsequent victory was a watershed in the history of sport. For the

fight he treated his opponent with such reverent care that Rodel not only lasted the ten-round, no-decision bout, but was also declared the winner by a number of sports writers in attendance. The preamble to the bout was too good a story to be kept a secret. The way in which Willard had been duped became common knowledge in New York, and the angry giant demanded a rematch. Rodel, ignoring the rumours that his manager had tricked Willard, believed that he had won the first fight on merit and that

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