Jack Johnson, the First African American Boxer to Be a Heavyweight Champion

Jack Johnson
Boxing is a sport that has been around since ancient times, starting in the Olympics as a bloody-knuckled contest to become a champion. Many years have passed since then and in 1897, nineteen-year-old John "Jack" Arthur Johnson was just beginning his path as a boxer. Little did he and many others know that he would make history, not only as a heavyweight champion of the sport but the very first black man to do it.
In a biographic summary of the boxer, Britannica.com details Johnson's career, stating that "Johnson fought professionally from 1897 to 1928 and engaged in exhibition matches as late as 1945." The boxer spent over a decade fighting in and out of the ring against the limitations set on him because of his race. In 1908, Johnson finally won the title as heavyweight champion after defeating boxer Tommy Burns by knockout.

However, after Johnson won the title, the discrimination did not stop. In fact, "when he became champion, a hue and cry for a “Great White Hope” produced numerous opponents." Johnson would keep up his fight for another seven years before losing his title to Jess Willard in 1915.

Jack Johnson's story does not stop there. Before his title-ending fight with Willard, Johnson was "convicted of violating the Mann Act by transporting a white woman—Lucille Cameron, his wife-to-be—across state lines for “immoral purposes.” To avoid his prison sentence, Johnson fled the country as a fugitive.