Mauricio Sulaiman Discusses Witnessing The Pardon of Former Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson on Boxing Insider Radio
A wrong should always be given the opportunity to be corrected. Especially, when it should have never taken place to begin with.
In an interview conducted on Boxing Insider Radio which airs every Tuesday and is available on iTunes, Spotify and on Boxinginsider.com, the President of the WBC sanctioning body, Mauricio Sulaiman got the chance to sit down with the crew to discuss one of his proudest moments. Witnessing the presidential pardon of Jack Johnson.
Former Heavyweight champion Jack Johnson is forever embedded in the sport of boxing. Simply put, it is impossible to tell the entire story of the sport without mentioning his name.
In 1908, Johnson became the first African American boxer to win the world Heavyweight title. This feat alone would be significant in itself, but this accomplishment is magnified 100 times over when considering the landscape in which Johnson competed.
From 1877 until roughly the 1950s, the Jim Crow laws placed heavy restrictions on those of color. It enforced heavy racial segregation in the Southern part of the United States. The effects and targets of this law were simple. The interaction between whites and those of color were put to a screening halt. The laws also placed major restrictions on both the freedom and opportunity of those who were of color.
Without actually growing up in this day and age, it can become difficult to comprehend how such a law could actually be passed and placed into effect for nearly 100 years, but it was.
What Johnson was able to accomplish in terms of winning a world title was not only arduous but also audacious in many ways.
Just think. Would you be able to not only do your job, but do so on the highest level if you were essentially banned from interacting with another race? Probably not.
For years Johnson impressively held on to his Heavyweight world title. In fact, impressive doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word for what Johnson was able to accomplish. It has been nearly 100 years since Johnson stepped foot inside of a ring, in 1931,yet he still has the 14th most title wins in Heavyweight history.
Throughout the career of Johnson, he was forced to deal with the sort of trial and tribulations that would break a normal man.
On October 18th, 1912, Johnson was arrested and accused of violating the Mann Act.
What exactly is the Mann Act you might be asking yourself. Well, that’s simple. It prevented individuals from transporting certain women who were known to be prostitutes for sexual activities across other states.
Needless to say, it was a crime that Johnson should never have been charged with.
So what’s a man to do?
Turn yourself in and begin your prison sentence? Wrong.
Johnson fled and continued his life on the run for years. He would eventually turn himself in and serve his one year sentence.
It may not seem like a long stint behind bars, but anytime away from your loved ones is far too long. Especially when you were innocent of the crime to begin with.
It’s been decades since the passing of Johnson but he still had plenty of people fighting in his corner. For years, members of the boxing community have fought for Johnson to receive a presidential pardon. It took years for him to receive it, but in April of 2018, he finally experienced justice thanks to President Donald Trump.
It was a star studded cast of boxing greats who were in attendance for the historic event, and they couldn’t have been any prouder.
For WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman, he has been a part of some notable events in boxing history. But this one ranks near the top.
“That was a huge moment,” said Mauricio Sulaiman on Boxing Insider Radio recalling what it was like to witness Jack Johnson receive his presidential pardon. “We sat down at the Oval Office. It was Deontay Wilder, Lennox Lewis, Sylvester Salone, my father Hector, myself and several others. When President Trump walked in, he was just so happy. It’s because he was a boxing promoter and he loves boxing. We spent so much time just talking about boxing.”
While catching up and reminiscing about the sport of boxing was something that Sulaiman and everyone in attendance enjoyed, it was time to get down to business. To the credit of Trump, he showed no hesitation. Unlike past presidential figures.
“When the moment came for the pardon of Jack Johnson, it was an event that had been planned for 30 years. It was on the desk of three different presidents but none of them signed it. So to have President Trump honor Jack Johnson and erase a great injustice in the presence of these great champions, it was just something very special.”
Over the years, President Trump has received his fair share of criticism. There are several reasons behind it, but many believe that his motives are always driven by something that is underneath the surface. This time around however, that seems to be far from the case.
“We have to recognize that this was not political. This was not politics. This was a humanitarian action, this was a sports action. This is something that goes beyond that. I am just very happy and proud that I got the chance to be there.”
Johnson-Monaghan Clash A “Do Or Die” Moment For Both Fighters
By: Sean Crose
Per Matchroom Boxing: “Callum Johnson and Sean Monaghan will clash in a crunch Light-Heavyweight battle at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York on Saturday March 9, live on DAZN in the US and on Sky Sports in the UK.” The 17-1 Johnson, who suffered a KO loss to IBF World Light Heavyweight Champion Artur Beterbiev last October in Chicago, is eager for a chance at redemption. A win against the popular Monaghan on the undercard of the Dmitry Bivol-Joe Smith Jr/ Maurice Hooker-Mikkel Les Pierre double header in Verona would certainly prove good for the Englishman’s career.
“I was gutted in the Beterbiev fight,” Johnson says. “I was gutted because I felt the occasion maybe got to me, but I still had good moments in the fight and I’ve learned a lot from it…I know that if a second shot comes my way, I will be more than ready for it with the experience of Chicago behind me. Sean always puts everything into his fights and he badly needs this win, just like I do, so there should be fireworks.” Johnson, who has earned all four of his previous wins by knockout, is clearly hoping to impress.
Yet the 29-2 Monaghan is looking to redeem himself, as well. As Matchroom puts it: “The New Yorker enters the bout gone the ten round distance with Sullivan Barerra in November, and the 37 year old sees a victory over Johnson as a must-win to keep his World title dreams alive.” Aside from being handed a loss by Barerra last November, Smith has also been defeated by now WBA interim Light Heavyweight champ Marcus Browne via stoppage in 2017. A win against a name fighter might do wonders for the New Yorker’s career at this point, which helps make the bout with Johnson the must win occasion it is for both men.
“I’ve had my eye on Callum since before the Beterbiev fight,” Monaghan claims. “He has a come forward pressure style and our styles should make for a fan friendly fight.” Monaghan also makes it clear that facing an English fighter comes with risks in and of itself. “I know these Brit’s always come in shape,” he says, “so I’m already working very hard. This is a fight I absolutely need to win. No excuses, it’s do or die for me.” The Johnson-Monaghan match is scheduled for ten rounds.
David Lemieux-Tureano Johnson: “Don’t Blink”
By: Sean Crose
After destroying the flamboyant and outspoken Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan this past September, the 40-4 David Lemieux will continue his quest to regain a middleweight title claim when he faces the 20-2 Tureano Johnson at Madison Square Garden this Saturday. The 12 round bout will be on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Rocky Fielding match, which will be aired live on the DAZN streaming service. Lemieux, the former IBF world middleweight titleholder, will be taking part in his third and final bout of 2018, after losing a one sided decision to Billy Joe Saunders in December of 2017 for the WBO world middleweight belt.
At the moment, Lemiuex has his sights set on boxing’s biggest star, Canelo Alvarez. Both fighters are under the banner of Golden Boy Promotions, and both are fighting on DAZN. A come forward, exciting fighter, Lemieux can end a bout in shockingly violent fashion…but has come up short in his two biggest matches. Aside from the Saunders loss, Gennady Golovkin beat the Canadian up in one sided fashion back in 2015. Lemieux however, claims to have gown as a result of the challenges he’s faced. “Over the years,” he said during a Thursday press conference, “I’ve learned a lot and matured a lot.”
Lemieux’s promoter, Golden Boy honcho Oscar De La Hoya, had impressive things to say about the former champion. “When talking about David Lemieux,” the hall of fame boxer told the media, “two words come to mind: Don’t Blink.”
Although Lemieux may be looking forward to facing Canelo in the future, Johnson is no one’s easy out. Indeed, Johnson has his own career goals set out for him, with Canelo undoubtedly being high on his list. Although he was stopped in 2017 by Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Johnson exuded a highly positive attitude at Thursday’s press conference. “What’s the matter with you guys,” he joked to those gathered, “you haven’t had your breakfast or something?” It was clear the man was ready to face Lemieux this weekend. “I am definitely going to bring it,” he said, adding that “it’s going to be an exciting one.”
While the Lemieux-Johnson battle isn’t the main attraction this weekend, it’s certainly being portrayed as a potentially thrilling affair. It also may offer a peek into the future, as opponents will be needed for Canelo now that he’s signed a highly lucrative contract with DAZN. The winner may well face the man in the near future…provided, of course, that Canelo bests Fielding in Saturday’s main event.
One Hundred and Eight Years Ago Jeffries and Johnson Fought
By: Ken Hissner
On the 4th of July in 1910 James J Jeffries was “forced” by his pastor during a sermon saying “we have a coward among us” and started a mistaking comeback. He had to shed 100 pounds and 6 years of inactivity. Who knows prime time to prime time what the then unbeaten Jeffries, 19-0-2, would have done to Johnson, 52-5-10.
Jeffries had drawn with Joe Choynski, 37-6-3, who had knocked out Jack Johnson in 1901. Jeffries was known as “The Boilmaker” and was from Carroll, OH, living later in Burbank, CA. Johnson was known as “The Galveston Giant” being from Galveston, TX.
The bout was scheduled for 45 rounds but ended in the fifteenth. Tex Rickard was the referee and promoter. President Taft declined to be the referee. There were 16,528 in attendance.
The “White Hope” era started with Johnson. Jeffries had beaten the first black to claim being a champion in Peter Jackson, 51-3-13, in 1898, knocking him out in 3 rounds.
Johnson would later be knocked out by big Jess Willard in Havana, Cuba, in 1915 in a fight many say he “fixed” as he lay on the canvas with his arms shielding his eyes from the sun.
More Boxing History
Former Champion Glen Johnsons Says: Watch Out for Raphael “The Nigerian Hurricane” Akpejiori
By: Ken Hissner
Trained by former IBF World Light Heavyweight Champion Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson, Raphael “The Nigerian Hurricane” Akpejiori who is a Nigerian heavyweight hailing from Lagos, Nigeria will be turning professional in September. As an amateur he is 13-1 with 10 knockouts.
Akpejiori was discovered at a basketball camp in South Africa and awarded a scholarship to play high school basketball at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas in 2008. He came to the US as an international student and lived with a host family while attending high school for two years. He received numerous scholarships from Division 1 basketball programs and decided to attend the University of Miami in FL in 2010 where he obtained a bachelor/master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
“In training him for the past six months he has learned a lot. He is a quick learner and has a great work ethic,” said Glen Johnson.
Akpejiori played power forward on the Miami basketball team from 2010-14. He joined the football team as a tight end in 2014 and played one season. After a stint in the Miami Dolphins training camp he was encouraged to pursue the sweet science which he discovered came naturally. He resides in Miami where he is employed in the Facilities Management Department as a Project Coordinator.
Akpejiori signed with Classic Entertainment & Sports because he is convinced that promoter Jimmy Burchfield, Sr. will guide him to a world heavyweight title within five years. His manager is his father Pius. His publicist is George Hanson Jr., a lawyer and boxing writer in Philadelphia who also trains you kids at the Marion Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia. He is from Jamaica. I have to give him credit for making my connection for this article to him.
“Akpejiori stands 6:08 and tips the scales at 260 lbs. He has Nyquil in both hands with a jack hammer jab reminiscent of former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston,” said Hanson.
Now let’s focus on Akepjiori’s trainer the former IBF World Light Heavyweight champion Glen “Road Warrior” Johnson from Jamaica moving to Miami, FL, at age 15. He fought from 1993 to 2015.
Johnson won his first 31 bouts before getting a world title fight in July of 1997 losing to OBF World Middleweight champion Bernard “Exterminator” Hopkins, 31-2-1, by TKO11 in Indio, CA. Johnson hadn’t won a round up until the stoppage. His trainers at that time were Pat Burns and Bobby Baker.
Johnson after losing three in a row bounced back taking the WBC Continental Americas Super Middleweight title in April of 1999. His four bout win streak was stopped losing to Sven Ottke, 16-0, for his IBF World Super Middleweight title in a close fight over 12 rounds. Ottke had an amateur style. He would “touch you” and move around the ring scoring points. He was not a puncher. Another fight I felt that I won,” said Johnson.
Johnson would lose his next three fights before stopping Toks Owoh, 15-1, in London, UK, in September of 2000 for the IBF Inter-Continental Super Middleweight Title. He would return ten months later moving up to light heavyweight winning the WBO Inter-Continental Light Heavyweight Title knocking out Thomas Ulrich, 20-0, in 6 rounds at Berlin, Germany.
Johnson’s up and down career continued losing to contenders Derrick Harmon, 21-2 and Julio Cesar Gonzalez, 31-1 by decision and drawing with Daniel Judah, 17-0-1. In May of 2003 he stopped this streak defeating Eric Harding, 21-2-1, for the vacant USBA Light Heavyweight Title.
The win over Harding got Johnson a vacant IBF World Light heavyweight Title fight drawing with Clinton Woods, 35-2, in November of 2003 in the first of three encounters all in the UK. In February of 2004 in their rematch Johnson defeated Woods for the IBF World Light Heavyweight Title in the UK. “Woods was a tough guy who fed off the fans. When he fought outside of the UK he wasn’t the same fighter. I would have loved to have fought him in the US,” said Johnson.
Johnson would defend his title knocking out the former Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion Roy Jones, Jr., 49-2, in 9 rounds in the US in September of 2004. “When I fought Roy Jones he was like my favorite boxer at the time,” said Johnson.
“In Johnson’s next fight he won a split decision over Antonio Tarver for the IBO World Light Heavyweight title in L.A. Six months later he would lose to Tarver in a rematch over 12 rounds in the US. “Tarver was a big light heavyweight. I’m surprised he is still talking about fighting again,” said Johnson. In February of 2006 he won the IBA Light Heavyweight Title defeating Richard Hall, 27-5 in the US.
Johnson in his next fight had his third encounter with Woods losing a split decision in the UK losing his IBF World Light Heavyweight Title. He would go onto a three fight win streak stopping Montell Griffin, 48-6, Fred Moore, 30-6, and Hugo Pineda, 39-3-1, all in the US. “Griffin was good and very tricky,” said Johnson.
Johnson lost to Chad Dawson, 25-0, for the WBC World Light Heavyweight Title in the US. After winning a pair of bouts he lost in a rematch with Dawson in the US. In August of 2010 he lost to IBF World Light Heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud, 20-0, in the US. “He was tough with limited skills but very strong,” said Johnson.
Johnson would come back to stop Allan Green, 29-2. This was a tournament called the “Super 6” in which Andre Ward ended up winning it.
In Johnson’s next fight he would drop back to super middleweight losing a majority decision to Carl Froch, 27-1, in the US for the WBC World Super Middleweight Title. In Johnson’s next fight he lost to Lucian Bute, 29-0, in Quebec, Canada, for his IBF World Super Middleweight Title. “Bute was a decent fighter but better at home”, said Johnson. He would drop his next two fights to Andrzel Fonfara, 21-2, in the US and George Groves, 15-0, in the UK. “Tough and decent but nothing special,” said Johnson.
Johnson ended up his career at 54-21-2 (37) in August of 2015 at age 46. He then would become a trainer. In 2004 Johnson would be voted Boxing Writers Association of American Fighter of the Year. The USA Today and Ring Magazine also voted him Fighter of the Year.
KEN HISSNER: You have fought many good and great fighters in your 77 bout career. Is there one that stands out as the best?
GLEN JOHNSON: Roy Jones, Jr. and Chad Dawson. Roy was very fast. Dawson was an excellent boxer and a moving southpaw, not a puncher.
KEN HISSNER: You fought Bernard Hopkins in one of your first major bouts.
GLEN JOHNSON: He was the first I lost to and he stopped my 31 fight winning streak. I liked Hopkins.
KEN HISSNER: I believe you never fought in the country you were born in Jamaica. Did you ever want to fight there?
GLEN JOHNSON: No, I left there when I was 14 and wasn’t interested in boxing until I started boxing in Miami.
KEN HISSNER: You have fought for many titles, minor and world titles. Did anyone stand out?
GLEN JOHNSON: Winning my world title in my second fight with Clinton Woods.
KEN HISSNER: Are there any fighters you have trained that you would like to mention?
GLEN JOHNSON: I just started training fighters in the last 3 years. I have another prospect named Malik Lewis who is 24 and a featherweight. He had about 20 amateur fights and is a tremendous fighter and very good technically.
KEN HISSNER: Thanks for giving so much back to the many fans and that including myself.
GLEN JOHNSON: Call me back anytime.
Why Jack Johnson Deserved A Pardon
By Adam J. Pollack
There are several reasons why former world heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion,deserved to be pardoned posthumously by President Donald J. Trump.
I am no supporter of the “White Slave Traffic Act,” an act intended to protect white women from forced prostitution, but whose wording is so vague and overbroad it made nearly all sexual immorality (even noncommercial sex, includingconsensual sex with your girlfriend if you weren’t married to her) a federal offense if the woman crossed state lines for the purposes of the immorality, and the defendant provided her with the funds to travel across state lines, including a train ticket, with the intent and purpose to commit the immoral acts. To me, the law is a violation of the commerce clause and the 10th amendment, although the U.S. Supreme upheld it. The law eventually was amended in 1978 and 1986 to be limited only to prostitution or illegal sexual acts, as opposed to “immoral” acts, which prior to then, was sex with anyone to whom you were not married. Let’s face it, the law was a ridiculous limitation on liberty, and not truly grounded in any constitutional power given to Congress, because human beings are not commercial goods, and having consensual sex (not for payment) has nothing to do with commerce, or any of the enumerated powers given to the federal government.
Although known as the Mann Act because James Mann proposed it, the law’s official legal title was “White Slave Traffic Act.” Notice the overtly racially biased motivation behind the act. Although the law’s language was racially neutral, clearly the intent was to protect white women, not black women. The vast majority of prosecutions involved instances where the woman traveling across state lines was white. The government rarely ever bothered to prosecute when the woman was black.
The law often was abused by women who were angry at their former lovers, or used it to blackmail boyfriends into giving them money, or into marriage, because the law criminalized the man, not the woman. It criminalized the person for providing the funds for travel, as opposed to the person receiving the funds. Hence, the woman, although engaging in a totally consensual sexual relationship with the man, could receive the money to travel, and then subsequently could threaten to turn the man in to the government for prosecution. Essentially the law became a sword rather than a shield.
Although Belle Schreiber was a seasoned prostitute, she basically was Johnson’s girlfriend. She left a brothel to live and travel with him. At various times, he even called her his wife. She willingly and consensually traveled the country with Johnson for over a year prior to the Mann Act’s passage. He put her up in nice hotels, paid all of her expenses, and she lived very well.
Although the law went into effect on July 1, 1910, the government did not care about Johnson’s travels with several women until 1912. Johnson was prosecuted in 1913 for acts that had taken place back in 1910. So why was the government so concerned by the fact that Jack Johnson had given Belle Schreiber $75 two years earlier, in October 1910? The entire underlying reason was race.
After Johnson’s white wife Etta committed suicide on September 12, 1912, most newspapers throughout the nationused the incident to write homilies on how it was an example of the inevitable result of an interracial marriage; never mind the fact that Etta was a depressive. At that time, the majority of states, 29 out of the 48-state Union, had state laws forbidding interracial marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld such laws. The racial and political climate in the wake of Johnson’s wife’s suicide was one that strongly frowned upon the idea of him dating another white woman, given what had happened with Etta. Some even went so far as to state that Etta did the sanest act of her life when she killed herself.
What truly angered the federal government and got it to take notice was the fact that a month after his wife’s death, Johnsonwas dating yet another white woman, Lucille Cameron, a former prostitute, and Cameron’s mother strongly objected. On October 18, 1912, Cameron’s mother had Johnson arrested for abduction, and her own daughter arrested for disorderly conduct, and requested an evaluation as to her mental sanity, because she thought her daughter had to be insane to be with Johnson. She preferred her daughter be imprisoned rather than be the girlfriend of a black man. She allegedly said, “I would rather see my daughter spend the rest of her life in an insane asylum than see her the plaything of a nigger.”
Of course, the charges were ludicrous, for Cameron informed law enforcement that she loved Johnson, was with him willingly, and wanted to become his wife. The police, judges, and prosecutors abused the law horribly, and charged, arrested, and detained Johnson and Cameron even when they knew there was no legal basis whatsoever to do so. Furthermore, Illinois had no anti-interracial relationship laws. The state government and Cameron’s mother did what they did in an attempt to facilitate the breaking up of the relationship. They saw the attempted ends as justifying the unethical means. It was a clear abuse of power.Yet, the white press, and even some members of the black press, came down hard on Johnson. The black press feared a backlash of increased prejudice.
There was an atmosphere of hysteria and anger towards Johnson, who had to hire bodyguards to protect him against threatened assassination attempts. The black-owned Freeman wrote, “Mr. Johnson should bear in mind that sentiment and custom are often stronger than written laws. For instance, most of the states have laws that permit Negroes to do what other men do, but when it comes to doing those things then it is something else.” “Let Mr. Jack Johnson kindly cut the female white people out of his operations and he will have plain sailing.” “He’s free, and all that, as he says, but there are ‘invisible’ laws to which he must subscribe – the agreements of society – if he would enjoy a large measure of that freedom of which he boasts.”
It was at that time that the federal government decided to start investigating Johnson, and see what it could get on him. The Chicago Broad Ax said the minions of the law, like a pack of wolves, were hunting Johnson day and night. It noted that Cameron’s relationship with Johnson was consensual, and he was taking very good care of her. She needed no protection. Conversely, when black women were raped, they could obtain no justice whatsoever. The Chicago Defender lamented, “Our white brethren, whose minds are enslaved by prejudice, and whose daily papers, with their brimstone and blood-thirsty articles of condensed suggestions, seem to be laboring very energetically to provoke violence against this Negro whom the world has failed to conquer by fair play.”
Shortly thereafter, the federal government indicted Johnson under the “White Slave Traffic Act.” The black-owned Seattle Republican opined that had the woman been black instead of white, “the federal authorities would have considered it beneath their dignity to give it a moment’s consideration.” The Freemanalso noted the inconsistency of Mann Act prosecutions, which were based solely on race. White men lusted after coloredwomen, in both the North and South: “Yet in all this the government has never yet invoked the white slave law.”
Eventually, on November 19, 1912, the groundless state abduction charge against Johnson was dismissed, but by then he was facing federal charges.
On December 3, 1912, Johnson married Lucille Cameron, which only added fuel to an already racially charged fire. On December 11, U.S. Congressional Representative Seaborn Roddenberry, a Georgia Democrat, from the House floor said, “We have heard much of slavery in the South, but in all the years of Southern slavery there never was such brutality, such infamy as the marriage license authorizing that black African brute, Jack Johnson, to wed a white woman and to bind her in the wedlock of black slavery.” He advocated for a constitutional amendment banning interracial marriage.
Johnson’s trial began on May 5, 1913. According to Belle Schreiber, in October 1910, she was kicked out of a Pittsburgh sporting house, or brothel. She was not dating Johnson at that time. But she was in need of help, so she reached out to Johnson. “When I was put out of that place in Pittsburgh, I asked the defendant for money to help me get away because I didn’t have any more friends. I lost all my friends, and he was the only one I could turn to. I suppose I regarded him as my friend, too. I thought it was due for him to see me through my trouble.”
Schreiber spoke to someone who worked for him, for Jack was traveling the country at the time. A telegram was sent back asking her how much she needed. She replied, and then Johnson sent her $75. She claimed that Johnson included a message asking her to go to a home in Chicago. However, she did not keep the alleged telegram, and the government never produced it, even though she had kept all of the hotel bills from her travels with Johnson from back in 1909. “I don’t know why I saved the hotel bills and didn’t save anything else.” She came to Chicago, and eventually met with Johnson at a hotel and had sex with him.
Schreiber claimed that Johnson told her that since she was sporting, she might as well be in business for herself, as opposed to giving half of her money to others. He supplied her with enough money to obtain a very large seven-room apartment, as well as enough money, over $1,000, to furnish it lavishly.
Johnson denied that he had any intent regarding what Schreiber should do when he gave her the money. She told him she needed help, and he gave her help. He denied telling Schreiber to travel, although at one point in his testimony he admitted that he could not remember whether he did or did not tell her to come to Chicago. He said that once she arrived in Chicago, she contacted him, not the other way around, as she claimed, and they met up. She told him that she wanted her mother and sister to come live with her, so he gave her money to get an apartment and furnish it. He denied ever telling her to open up a sporting house.
Under the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a Defendant is entitled to a jury of his peers, which would include women and black folk. However, owing to the era’s racially and sexually discriminatory laws, there were no blacks or women in the jury pool. So Jack Johnson had a jury of all white men.
The prosecutors improperly attempted to inflame the passions of the jury with totally irrelevant facts to the charges at hand, including injecting facts about other women, his wife Etta, potential violence against Etta, Belle, and others, allegations about his fight career, and general morality, including facts prior to the passage of the Act, and allegations for which the government had no proof. The government charged him with crimes against nature, but no facts supporting such charges ever were presented. The government accused him of debauchery, but no supportive facts were presented. The government accused him of dropping off one or more women at sporting houses when he did not want to take care of one, but again, no proof was presented. Such charges were dropped before the close of the case, but one has to wonder why they were included in the first place. The Freeman believed that the prosecutor, realizing his inability to make a case, resorted to irrelevant matters wholly immaterial to the case at bar, in an attempt to prejudice the jury. It was a character assassination.
It is not clear that the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Jack Johnson’s specific intent at the time he gave Schreiber the money was for her to travel across state lines, or to travel for immoral purposes, both of which were required elements. She reached out to him for help when she needed it, and he helped her. There was scant proof that at the time he gave her the $75 that his specific intent was for her to travel across state lines so that she could engage in prostitution.
Within an hour after the close of the evidence, the jury convicted him on the counts accusing him of providing funds for Schreiber to travel across state lines for immoral purposes, and to travel for purposes of prostitution.
After he was convicted, the prosecutor admitted that the entire motive behind the prosecution was racial, done as a result of feelings of anti-miscegenation. In other words, if the woman had been black instead of white, Johnson never would have been prosecuted. Gloating Assistant U.S. District Attorney Harry Parkin, the chief prosecutor handling the case for the government, said, “This verdict will go around the world. It is a forerunner of laws to be passed throughout the entire country forbidding miscegenation. Many persons believe the negro has been persecuted. Perhaps as an individual he was, but his misfortune will be a foremost example of the evil in permitting intermarriage between whites and blacks. He must bear the consequences.”
The Freeman said that Parkin’s comments proved that Johnson was not being prosecuted for being good to Belle Schreiber, but persecuted for marrying his white wives. “Perhaps this is the first time in the history of the country where a federal court officer has given it out that a prosecution was not based on the charges preferred; that a race prejudice was the underlying motive of the prosecution; that it was in the interest of the race division. All of this is appalling in view of the source from which it came.” “It is to be hoped that the government will not be put in the unenviable light of persecuting a race.”
At his sentencing, the government specifically requested that Johnson be housed in a maximum security prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, as opposed to the normal usual designation of the local Joliet penitentiary. The judge granted the request.
The judge specifically considered Johnson’s race in sentencing, something also which would be considered improper and unconstitutional today – a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. Race is not a proper sentencing consideration. Judge George Carpenter said, “The circumstances in this case have been aggravating. The life of the defendant, by his own admissions, has not been at all a moral one. The defendant is one of the best known men of his race, and his example has been far reaching. The court is bound to take these facts into consideration in determining the sentence to be imposed. In this case the defendant shall be confined one year and one day in the Leavenworth penitentiary and that he shall pay a fine of $1,000.”
While his appeal was pending, Johnson left the country.
A little known fact is that on April 14, 1914, the federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit overturned Johnson’sconvictions on the prostitution counts, chastised the prosecution for improperly attempting to inflame the passions of the jury, and also stated that an atmosphere of prejudice pervaded the record. Yet, despite the fact that an atmosphere of prejudice pervaded the record, he was not afforded a re-trial on the immorality counts, the convictions for which the Court upheld.
The Court held that the mere fact that Johnson supplied Schreiber with sufficient money to enable her to open up and run a brothel after she arrived in Chicago was not enough, for it only raised suspicion regarding his intent at the time he provided her with the money for the train ride to Chicago. There were no supplementary facts. There was no proof that Johnson had been connected with or interested in brothels or ever had aided anyone to engage in prostitution. In fact, the Court held that the prostitution evidence was “slight and dubious.”
The Court criticized the government for its improper methods and tactics designed to inflame the jury’s passions in order to prejudice them against Johnson, and for not dismissing counts it knew it could not prove. Nothing justified the injection of collateral issues. The Court held that all of the improper questions and evidence “show the atmosphere of prejudice that pervades the record.” Hence, “When the situation thus improperly created is measured against the doubtfully sustainable prostitution counts, we are all convinced that defendant did not have a fair trial on that issue.”
Yet, despite the government’s improper inflammation of the jury’s passions, creating an atmosphere of prejudice which pervaded the record, the Court did not reverse the convictions on the sexual relations counts, for “the record demonstrates that, no matter how improperly the prejudices of jurors may have been aroused, no other verdict could properly have been reached.” Many folks, then and now, might strongly disagree. Johnson was entitled to have a fair trial with a decision made by an unbiased jury whose passions were not inflamed improperly against him. Such improperly inflamed passions easily could have affected the jury’s judgment on all counts, not just the ones involving prostitution. The Court ordered that he be re-sentenced on the immorality counts, without consideration of the prostitution counts.
Rather than return to the U.S. and be re-sentenced, Johnson decided to remain at large for several years. He lost his championship crown in 1915.
Although some folks like to reference Johnson’s alleged penchant for violence towards women, or allude to him being a pimp, he never was convicted of assaulting women (unless one considers an earlier conviction for “attempted” statutory assault, for which he was fined), nor was he ever convicted of being a pimp.
On July 20, 1920, a 42-year-old Jack Johnson returned to the U.S., surrendered to federal agents at the Mexican border, and was taken into custody. At his re-sentencing hearing on September 14, 1920, Judge George A. Carpenter once again sentenced Johnson to serve one year and a day at Leavenworth Prison and pay a $1,000 fine.
In January 1921, the Leavenworth Prison’s Parole Board unanimously recommended that Johnson be paroled.
However, on January 21, 1921, the Justice Department, at the behest of U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, denied parole, and Johnson was required to serve his full one-year term, less any required credits for time previously served. Palmer was the attorney general who in response to strikes, race riots, and fear of communism and anarchism, had created the General Intelligence Unit, which would be led by J. Edgar Hoover.
On July 9, 1921, a 43-year-old Jack Johnson was released from prison.
After a ten-year marriage, Lucille Cameron divorced Johnson in early 1924. In August 1925, Johnson married Irene Pineau, another white woman, to whom he remained married until his death.
Adam J. Pollack is the author of In the Ring With Jack Johnson – Part I: The Rise, and Part II: The Reign. His upcoming Black Man Versus the World: Jack Johnson’s Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs, is set to be published later this year.
Breaking: Donald Trump Pardons Jack Johnson
By: Sean Crose
Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion of the world, has finally been pardoned. Johnson, who has been dead for over seventy years, is reported to be only the third person in history to be posthumously pardoned by a sitting United States President. Donald Trump made things official on Tuesday at the request of numerous notables of the sporting, political and entertainment worlds. Sylvester Stallone is said to have played a huge role in Johnson’s eventual pardon.
Johnson, a victim of a racist era, was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1913, which basically meant he was found guilty of taking a white woman across state lines. The legal action led Johnson to leave the country for seven years, effectively making one of the most famous athletes in history an exile from his own country. Having held the heavyweight title from 1908, when he bested then champ Tommy Burns, until 1915, when, at the age of 37, he lost to Jess Willard in Cuba, Johnson is widely considered to have been one of the greatest boxers in history.
Why Jeffries Came Back for Johnson & Marciano Didn’t for Johansson!
Why Jeffries Came Back for Johnson & Marciano Didn’t for Johansson!
By: Ken Hissner
James J “The Boilermaker” Jeffries was considered one of the all-time great heavyweight champions when he retired after defeating Jack Munroe in 2 rounds in August of 1904. His record was 19-0-2 (16).
When Jack “The Galvestan Giant” Johnson became the first black champion defeating Tommy Burns in December of 1908 the white race seemed to be quite upset especially due to the arrogance of Johnson. Johnson had four defenses with the first a draw with light heavyweight champion Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, NWS decisions with Tony Ross 11-6-2, NWS with Al Kauffman 18-1 and came off the canvas to KO12 middleweight champion Stanley Ketchell.
Johnson as you can see was running out of opponents though also drawing “the color line” not defending against any of the black opponents since becoming champion. On the other hand even Jeffries Pastor in front of his congregation was embarrassing him saying “we have a coward amongst us” in trying to bring him back to take back the title from the black champion.
Jeffries had gained over 100 pounds and hadn’t fought in 6 years minus a month. He unwisely came back at 227 to Johnson’s 208. Jeffries was 224 in his last fight some 6 years before. Jeffries was stopped in the 15th of a scheduled 45 round scheduled battle. In those days if you took a knee the round was over. Johnson was 38-5-7 going into this fight outdoors in Reno, NV.
In Marciano’s decision not to return after retiring coming off the canvas to knockout light heavyweight champion Archie Moore in his last bout in September of 1959 he had no plans to return to the ring. Floyd Patterson would defeat Moore for the vacant title. There was talk of a Marciano Patterson fight but Marciano who would take months prior to a fight away from his family wanted to spend time lost with his wife and children. At retirement he was 49-0 (43) with 6 title defenses the first was a KO1 over “Jersey” Joe Walcott whom he won the title over with a KO13 while behind in the scoring 4-7, 5-7 and 4-8 needing a knockout to win.
Marciano went onto KO11 Roland LaStarza in 1953 who he had won a split decision over in 1950 before becoming champion. He then defeated the former champion Ezzard Charles twice. The first was a decision 8-5, 9-5 and 8-6 and in the rematch Charles split Marciano’s nose so bad a only a knockout would save his title from the referee or ring physician possibly stopping the fight though ahead 5-1 and 6-1 twice. Then after 8 months he knocked out the British Empire champion Don Cockell 66-11-1 in 9 rounds with the Moore fight to follow.
Patterson after defeating Moore for the vacant defended his title 6 times all by knockout until he was knocked out by Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson. This is when Marciano felt he would come back to bring the title back to America. He spent time alone nearby his home trying to get back in shape. He said the desire wasn’t there anymore. Patterson would come back to win the title from Johansson bringing back the title to America.
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Just How Good was Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson?
Just How Good was Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson?
By: Ken Hissner
Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer rated Jack Johnson as the best heavyweight he ever saw. This writer would have to say he would be in anyone’s top five and possibly as high as No. 2.
Johnson was born in Galveston, TX, in March of 1878, and passed in June of 1946 at the age of 68 while living in Raleigh, NC. His record was 56-11-8 (36) and 15-0-3 NWS. He lost 5 of his last 7 matches between the ages of 48 and 53 when he retired in April of 1931.
Johnson’s height was 6’0½ with a first recorded weight of 185 in 1902 while the heaviest was 242 in 1916. In title defenses he was 7-0-2. His trainer was Henry “Pop” Blanken. His managers were George Little, Sam Fitzpatrick and Alex MacLean. Johnson was inducted into the IBHOF in 1990 and also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. His career started in 1897 and finished in 1931.
Johnson won his first 3 matches by knockout before losing to Klondike Haynes (was black) in 1899 by technical stoppage in 5 rounds due to exhaustion. He would go onto fight Haynes to a draw in 1900 in June and in December stop him by technical knockout in 14 rounds. In February of 1901 he was knocked out by Joe Choynski. In November of that hear he lost a decision in 20 rounds to Hank Griffin. They would fight 2 more times with both ending in a draw.
One of the best colored boxers was Sam McVea whom Johnson defeated in over 20 rounds in February and October of 2003. In April of 2004 Johnson would knockout McVea in the 20th round. In March of 2005 he would lose a close if not controversial bout to Marvin Hart who was suspected to have only vision in one eye. Just 4 months later Hart would win the vacant heavyweight crown stopping Jack Root. Then lose it on his first defense to Tommy Burns.
At the early part of his career Johnson being black was not allowed to fight white boxers which would change over time. In February of 1903 he won the “Colored Title” with a 20 round decision over Denver Ed Martin. One of the best colored boxers was Joe Jeannette whom Johnson fought 5 times. In their first meeting in May of 1905 Johnson W3NWS, In November he lost by DQ in 2. In December he W6NWS and in January of 1906 Won 3 and in March won in 15 in a defense of his “Colored Title”.
In April of 1906 Johnson defeated Sam “The Black Tar Baby” Langford, 32-4-15, over 15 rounds. Johnson being outweighed Langford 185 to 156 ½ knocking him down in the 6th round. It would be year’s later when then world champion Jack Dempsey would say “I only ducked one man and that was Sam Langford.”
In July of 1907 Johnson would knock out former 3-division champion Bob Fitzsimmons, 61-6-4, in 2 rounds. In November of 1907 he knocked out “Fireman” Jim Flynn, 33-8-13, 11 rounds which put him in line for a possible title fight with Burns. In July of 2008 he stopped Ben Taylor, 23-13-3, in the 8th round in the UK.
In order to get a title fight and being the first black to get that chance Johnson’s backers had to guarantee Burns 30k which was double what anyone ever got in a heavyweight title fight. Named “The Little Giant of Hanover” Burns, 42-2-8, was only 5’7″ and gave away 5½ inches in height to Johnson and only weighed 168½ to Johnson’s 194 and with a record of 36-5-7.Johnson stopped Burns in 14 rounds in Australia. It was the Canadian Burns third fight in the country “down under.”
In Johnson’s first title defense in May of 1909 he took on the former light heavyweight champion “Philadelphia” Jack O’Brien, ending in a draw 6 NWS. The decision was received by mixed feelings. Johnson came in at 205 to O’Brien’s 162½. In October of 1909 Johnson defended against Stanley “The Michigan Assassin” Ketchel, 48-3-4, who won the middleweight title in his in November of 2008. In the 12th round Ketchel dropped Johnson who had his hands to his side. Johnson immediately got up and tore into Ketchel knocking him out with a right to the chin. It was said Johnson had 2 of Ketchel’s teeth embedded into his glove from that blow.Johnson weighed in at 205½ and Ketchel 170¼.
In July of 2004 the former unbeaten heavyweight champion James J Jeffries, 19-0-2, who hadn’t fought in 5 years and 11 months while his weight reached 300 came out of retirement. He was more or less forced to come out as a “white hope” to stop Johnson. It lasted until the 15th round when the referee/promoter Tex Ricard waved it off if favor of Johnson after Jeffries was down twice.
Johnson had lived in Spain, Mexico and France. He was fluent in French and Spanish. He fought in those three countries along with Cuba and Canada. It would be 2 years since the Jeffries fight when Johnson returned to the ring. He gave a rematch to Flynn and won by DQ in 9 rounds. Johnson was arrested in 2012 and put into prison over the Mann Act and escaped through Canada and ended up in Paris, France.
In December of 1913 in France Johnson took on Battling Jim Johnson, 20-6-2, who was black and they waltz to a 20 round draw. In June of 2013 Johnson defeated Frank Moran, 21-6-2, over 20 rounds. In April of 1915 Johnson went to Havana, Cuba to fight the giant Jess Willard, 20-3-1. In the 26th round Johnson hit the canvas onto his back. He raised his arms to block out the sun. He didn’t beat the count and Willard became the new champion.
Johnson would move to Spain and score 3 wins. Then off to Mexico for 5 more wins. He would return to Cuba after an absence of 3 years to post 2 more wins. In 1924 he went to Canada to post a win. It would be another 2 years of inactivity when he got a win in Mexico. Just 4 weeks laterin Mexico he suffered his first defeat in 11 years since losing to Willard. He was 48 years old. His 13 fight winning streak was broken. He would lose 5 of his last 7 fights fighting up until the age of 53 when he defeated Brad Simmons, 28-13-3, after having lost to him twice.
Johnson’s career ended after 34 years. After retiring Johnson attempted to train future world champion Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis, but the managers felt it would be a mistake and passed.
As you can see Johnson defeated many men smaller than him. His career really ended with the Willard loss and we will never know if he took a dive or not. He may have been a better boxer prior to winning the title.His arrogance made him a very unpopular champion along with crossing the line marrying a pair of white women. He was without a doubt one of the greatest boxers in the history of boxing.
Don’t Call It A Comeback: Johnson-Jeffries
Don’t Call It A Comeback: Johnson-Jeffries
By: Sean Crose
Jack Johnson was not only the first African American heavyweight champion of the world, he was also quite the character. A freewheeling womanizer, Johnson committed the – at the time – unforgiveable social sin of sleeping with white women. If that wasn’t bad enough for some Americans of the era, Johnson also liked to flaunt his wealth and fame. Stories still abound. My favorite? The time Johnson got pulled over for speeding. He offered to pay more for his violation than was required. The officer pointed this out to Johnson, but the champion replied that all was well – he’d be speeding again on the way home.
Needless to say, Johnson rankled some notable people, most especially the author Jack London. While London wrote some great stuff, he was not at all happy with Johnson being champion. Sure enough, London called for Jim Jeffries, the former heavyweight champ, to come out of retirement in order to beat the current champion. The thing about Jeffries is that he didn’t seem too eager to fight Johnson. Undefeated as a pro, the man simply appeared to be content in retirement. Still, there was no doubt a lot of pressure for him to face the current champ. There was undoubtedly a lot of money to be made facing Johnson, as well.
And so, Jeffries agreed to the bout. It’s understandable why it may have looked like an exciting match on paper for reasons that weren’t race related. For one thing, Jeffries had been some kind of fighter in his day. A former sparring partner of James J Corbett, Jeffries had gone on to best Gentleman Jim in the ring twice. He had also bested Corbett’s former conqueror, Bob Fitzimmons, twice as well. Word is that when he heard Fitzimmons might wear loaded gloves into one of their matches, Jeffries said that was fine with him – he was going to beat the tar out of Fitzimmons anyway. And indeed, he won the fight.
That was Jeffries….a man who was essentially fearless. Like John L Sullivan before him, however, Jeffries wouldn’t fight an African American for the heavyweight title. Oh, he’d fight black opponents – just not for the biggest prize in sports. One can’t help but get the impression that perhaps Jeffries was bulldozed by the opinion setters of his time. He’d fight African Americans, but not for the championship. He’d long been retired, but then came out and battled Johnson. Whether intentionally or not, the man looks like he may have had a tendency to head in the direction of the wind.
If that were in fact the case, the wind led him in the wrong direction when he signed on to face Johnson on the fourth of July, 1910. The bout was to be held in Reno, Nevada and it was to be an enormous deal. Papers from New York to San Francisco wrote about the affair, detailing the fighters in training and speculating on how the fight itself might go. The promoter, Tex Rickard, the eventual force behind Madison Square Garden, was a force to be reckoned with himself. Not that the bout would need more momentum than it already had.
Jeffries, to be sure, had his work cut out for him. The man hadn’t had a fight in around half a decade. What’s more, he reportedly had ballooned in weight. A good sized heavyweight in his time, Jeffries had apparently tipped the scales at or above the three hundred pound mark since retiring. It was a grueling training camp, no doubt, but Jeffries was able to shed significant weight. What of those missing years, though? Would ring rust be the story of the day?
Perhaps ring rust could, in fact, be blamed for what happened in the Johnson-Jeffries fight, but there’s just as strong an argument that the end result would have been the same. For Johnson dominated Jeffries. Dominated him. The man seems to have never stood a chance, much like Tommy Burns, the former champion who lost his crown to Johnson, never stood a chance. Jim Corbett, Jeffries old mentor and nemesis, was in Jeffries corner for the fight. It was arguable Corbett’s verbal battle with Johnson throughout the bout was more engaging than the bout itself.
For the once indomitable Jeffries couldn’t even land clean on his man. Once again, Jack Johnson made it look easy in a highly publicized battle. Things finally came to an end in the fifteenth round, when Jeffries crumbled on several occasions at the gloves of his clear better and the bout was stopped. People have referred to Jeffries as a great white hope. If that’s indeed how he was seen that July day over a hundred years ago, that hope was dashed in less than an hour’s worth of combat. Johnson was champ and there was to be no denying it.
An interesting take in all this is the behavior of Sullivan, the former champion, who witnessed the bout live and in person. Ironically enough for the man who had arguably created the color line, Sullivan was quick to let the world know that the day belonged to Johnson, that he was an excellent fighter and that he had won fair and square. This does not appear to have been an act of Sullivan hitching his wagon to a star. For there were clearly those who would have appreciated it if he had diminished Johnson’s performance.
Sullivan, though, simply called like he saw it, and was honorable enough to offer praise to where it was deserved. Not everyone would share Sullivan’s belated even handedness, however. London’s writing regarding the bout comes across as both disappointed and resigned – though he too made it clear Johnson was the better of the two fighters that day. Johnson may not have changed hearts by beating Jeffries (not that he had ever wanted to), but he seems to have changed some minds. The days of the Texan’s success being coughed up to a fluke were over. Jack Johnson was there to stay.
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The Day Jack Johnson Punched Through The Color Line
The Day Jack Johnson Punched Through The Color Line
By: Sean Crose
If I were to be asked which fighters would still be remembered in a hundred years from now, the list would be rather small indeed. That’s no knock on boxing.
I’m sure the same rings true for most endeavors. How many athletes of any sports are remembered throughout the decades? How many politicians? How many celebrities? With that in mind, I would have to say that Mike Tyson would be the most recent fighter to attain such longevity. Ali would obviously come next, followed by Dempsey and Sullivan. And, of course, Jack Johnson. Yup, Johnson was that iconic of a fighter.
For Johnson, like his handful of companions on the list, had an impact that went beyond the prize ring. Tyson captured Reagan era dominance on a global scale. Ali was a civil rights pioneer. Dempsey ushered in the age of mass media.
Sullivan became the very picture of aggressive masculinity with his handlebar moustache and menacing stare. And Johnson, well Johnson proved that the powers that be of any era simply can’t deny a great talent. Let’s also keep in mind that, like the others named here, Johnson was a legitimately great fighter – a defensive wizard, if you will.
He was also mouthy and at times obnoxious, like Sullivan and Ali (the other names on the list, Tyson and Dempsey, were silently menacing). That often didn’t help Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion (and, along with that tile, international sports celebrity). Still, being a black champion in a racist country was never going to endear Johnson to the mainstream. More genteel African Americans may have condemned Johnson’s extravagant behavior (and understandably so), but was the man really any more degenerate than some other famous figures of his era? Had Johnson been affable and polite, he would have been viewed as a moronic clown. Instead, he chose another route.
A product of Galveston Texas, Johnson went on to pick up boxing at a time where a black youth had about as much chance succeeding the prize ring as he did anywhere else. Those who find innocuous microagressions to be in the same camp as stone cold racism would do well to read up on Johnson. For he existed in a time where, according to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, groups of blacks would entertain whites by fighting until only one combatant was left standing. Not exactly an open minded or civilized endeavor. Johnson, however, would prove to have far greater success in the prize ring.
For Joe Choynski, a talented fighter himself, was imprisoned with Johnson after the two men had fought (boxing was still illegal in much of America at the time). The white Choynski had beaten Johnson in the ring, but then took to showing the lad how to fight at the top level himself. And it was all uphill from there for the Texas native. Marvin Hart. Former heavyweight champion Bob Fitzimmons, fellow African American Denver Ed Martin. Johnson bested them all. He was not, however, able to land a shot at the prized heavyweight title.
Racism, after all, was prevalent, so Johnson’s skin color kept him on the margins, in spite of his size, skill and impressive record. It’s been said that Jim Jeffries, an undefeated powerhouse heavyweight champ of the era, was willing to fight Johnson in a basement for a cash prize, but not in the ring, where it would appear undignified. Johnson, however, was not one to be held back. By the time Canadian Tommy Burns held the title, Johnson is said to have decided to follow his man around, hounding Burns for a shot at glory.
A fight was finally arranged in Australia, where entrepreneur Hugh McIntosh not only acted as promoter, but worked the bout as referee, as well.
Indeed, it’s said McIntosh was the only white man Johnson would trust with the responsibility. And so, the day after Christmas, 1908, Johnson and Burns faced off in an outdoor arena specifically built for the occasion outside of Sydney. Needless to say, Burns, who was exceptionally small for a heavyweight, never stood a chance. Not that more size would have made a difference. For Jack Johnson let the world know just how good he was that day.
Make no mistake about it, Burns was game and brave, but Johnson was such a deft defensive combatant, that he made the entire affair seem easy. And that’s simply because it was. Jabbing, holding, throwing occasional power shots, Johnson smiled and openly mocked Burns throughout the bout. Burns kept coming like a true sportsman, but it was to little avail. In a sense, it literally seemed like a man versus a boy, given the difference in size and skill level between the two men. Finally, in the fourteenth round, Johnson really unloaded on the champion.
And then came one of the strangest endings in heavyweight title history.
The police, yes, the police, rushed the ring and stopped the fight. It was a moment that was saved for posterity as the film recording of the event shows Johnson thrashing Burns, and then – nothing. The picture freezes forever, with Burns appearing to be on his way down to the canvas. Perhaps the defeat of a white champion at the hands of a black man was considered too demeaning to record. No matter. If people didn’t want the world to see Johnson beating Burns, no one should have recorded the fight to begin with. The match was simply that one sided. Burns looked overwhelmed from the opening seconds on.
And so the color line was not only broken by Johnson that day – it was smashed. The heavyweight champion of the world, the most esteemed member of the international sporting community, was now an African American from Texas. Needless to say, the rage among some was palpable. Jack London, the famous writer, called for Jeffries to come out of retirement and best Johnson in the ring. It would be easier said than done, as the world would eventually find out. For Jack Johnson was not simply going to roll over and give up the championship he had spent so long pursuing.
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Vonzell Johnson Had All the Skills to Be a World Champion!
Vonzell Johnson Had All the Skills to Be a World Champion!
By: Ken Hissner
This writer remembers seeing Vonzell Johnson the former 1974 Golden Glove and AAU champion fight and was quite impressed with him. His professional record was 22-3 with 11 knockouts. Trainers were Henry Grooms, Dell Williams, Robert Mitchell and Angelo Dundee.
Johnson was and is from Columbus, OH, and spent time in Detroit and Miami Beach in his professional career. In Detroit he was in a gym with such boxers as Floyd Mayweather, Sr. (28-6-10), Greg Coverson (31-2), Johnny Baldwin 32-5, 1968 Olympics Bronze, Len Hutchins 29-4-1 (1968 GG-AAU champ losing WBA/WBC title bouts and Rico Hoye (24-4 pro/68-12 am) challenged for IBF light heavyweight title.
As you can see Johnson had some very good fighters in the gym he worked. He had good people to spar with. Johnson at 6’4” and 165 in amateurs moved up to 175. He had the build of champion Bob Foster. He turned professional in November of 1974 and went onto win his first 15 fights. His first opponent was Sylvester Wilder of whom Johnson had sparred with in camp with Len Hutchins. He defeated Joe Middleton twice. “He never stopped coming,” said Johnson. In his sixth fight a clash of heads with George McGee in the second round he suffered a bad cut but went onto win decision. In his ninth fight he defeated Terry Lee who Johnson said was “tough”. Lee had 39 fights at the time.
Johnson went onto stop veteran Eddie “Red Top” Owens, 36-27-3. In his 13th fight he took on contender Hildo Silva, 34-9-6, and won by decision. Silva wouldn’t fight again. In Johnson’s next fight he took on Tony Greene, 17-5-3, who was trained by Angelo Dundee at the time. Dundee came into the dressing room watching Johnson get his hands wrapped and said “take that pad off.” To this Johnson said “I’m going to knock him out!” This he did. Greene and Johnson became friends and sparred together when Dundee would later train both boxers. Next up Johnson defeated the Canadian champion Gary Summerhays, 28-10-3.
Johnson took his first loss in his next fight losing to Jerry Celestine, 9-1-1, he his hometown of New Orleans. “I beat him up. He had been in prison and of course it was his hometown. I still never considered that fight a loss on my record,” said Johnson. After winning his next three fights Johnson was off for some 15 months. That is when he decided to have Dundee train him in September of 1979.
In Johnson’s third fight under Dundee he took on Johnny Davis, 9-1, in Atlantic City and defeated him. The younger brother of Davis, Ed Davis at the time was 16-1-1, and was so upset Johnson defeated his brother he wanted to fight Johnson but the fight never came off. Johnny Davis had a win over future champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi.
After his win over Davis, Johnson took on Andros Ernie Barr, 25-6, of the Bahamas in December of 1980, defeating him. It was just two months later he was asked to fight for the title with just 3 weeks to prepare to fight for the WBC title that Matthew Saad Muhammad , 28-3-2, held. Eddie Mustafa Muhammad pulled out of the fight. Johnson was cut over the eye in the seventh round. This was a good close fight in Atlantic City but in the ninth round he asked Dundee “what round is it?” When Dundee told him he said “I’m tired and could never do another six rounds. He was stopped with a kidney punch in the eleventh round. “I could have beaten him easy if I had more time to get ready”, said Johnson.
It would be November of 1981 some nine months later Johnson who was No. 8 in the world got his second chance in a title fight with 1976 Gold Medalist and WBA light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks, 17-0, in Atlantic City. Dundee was in Johnson’s corner and at ringside was “Sugar” Ray Leonard doing the broadcasting. Spinks was ahead 4-2 in rounds having had a big fifth round but was cut in the sixth round when in the seventh round referee Larry Hazzard came from behind Johnson and tapped him on the back making him think break and as Johnson put his two arms out pushing away from Spinks when Spinks threw a left upper cut missing but the follow up right hand didn’t knocking Johnson to the canvas. He beat the count of referee Hazzard’s but he ruled the fight over. “I thought it was a quick stoppage. We were asked to come to New York after that with boxing under investigation but not only didn’t I go but never boxed again,” said Johnson.
“I had one more fight in the making but it never came off. Spinks was awkward and the best fighter I had faced as a professional. Until he passed away Angelo (Dundee) called me on Christmas every year,” said Johnson. Today Johnson would be a world champion!