Jack Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas on March 31, 1878. In 1908, Johnson became the first African-American to win the world heavyweight crown. He held on to that title until 1915 and continued to box until he was 50. Johnson was the third of nine children.
After only a few years of school, Jack had to go to work as a laborer to help support his family. He spent hours working on boats and sculleries in Galveston. At 16, he was on his own in the world. He traveled to New York and Boston before going back to Galveston. Johnson had his first fight, and while the prize wasn’t much (only $1.50) Johnson won the fight. Not long after that, he earned $25 for going four rounds against a professional boxer, Bob Thompson.
In the 1900s, Johnson had become known as the Galveston Giant, a name for he made for himself in the black boxing circuit, and he had his eyes set on the world heavyweight title. White boxers refused to fight him. Tommy Burns, who defeated Jeffries and won the title, only agreed to fight Jack Johnson after the promoters promised him $30,000. The fight between Burns and Johnson lasted 14 rounds and the police had to step in and end it. Jack Johnson was the winner.
Jack continued to call for Jeffries to get into the ring with him. On July 4, 1910, he finally did. The fight was called the “Fight of the Century,” as 22,000 fans came to watch. It was held in Reno, Nevada. After 15 rounds, Johnson knocked out Jeffries and won. Jeffries was devastated by the loss of this fight and said he could never whip Johnson at his best.
Johnson’s talents were extremely hard to ignore. He loved to spend his wealth. On June 10, 1946, he died in a car accident in North Carolina.