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Jack “The Galveston Giant” Johnson was born March 31, 1878 in Galveston, Texas.
He was the first son of nine children to former slaves Henry and Tiny Johnson.
He completed five years of formal education at his local church school where he learned to read and write.
A confident young man, he declared church would not run his life and God did not exist before being kicked out of school.
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Jack fought his first 16-round match at 15 years old and was victorious.
He turned professional at 19 years old, fighting in private clubs and making great money.
In 1901, he was arrested for illegally fighting Jewish heavyweight, Joe Choynski, who trained Jack while imprisoned.
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By 1902, The Galveston Giant had won 50 matches against black and white opponents.
His flawless boxing style was highly criticized by white announcers calling him devious and cowardly.
His defensive techniques challenged some of the best fighters who feared one misstep would result in endless blows and swift counter punches.
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He was full of life and laughter, but his personal conduct inside and out the ring was fun-loving and bragadocious.
The nation was significantly divided as white supremacists searched for a great white hope to beat Jack, who was crowned “Colored Heavyweight Champion” in 1902.
He won the World Heavyweight Title on December 26,1903 after knocking out “great white hope” Tommy Burns in 14 rounds.
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Jack Johnson was a true celebrity athlete who received endorsements, appeared in films and on radios, and courted white women amidst hostile racial tensions.
He came out of retirement in 1910 for the fight of his career against James Jeffries, “The Black Peril v. The Great White Hope.”
On July 4, 1910, in front of hostile, now-Las Vegas crowd of 22,000, Johnson and Jeffries fought 15 rounds before Jeffries’ camp called the fight. This sparked race riots nationwide.
His winnings: $225,000.
Jack fought over 100 matches with 79 wins, 44 were TKOs.
He was only knocked down 3 times his entire career.