Jack Johnson: The Beginning of America’s Hateful Indifference for Black Boxers

I have to admit. I’m not the biggest boxing fan. However, with Floyd Mayweather becoming such a polarizing figure over the last decade, I made it my business to watch at least a couple of his fights. I wasn’t disappointed. Floyd was a masterful athlete and I enjoyed watching him work. What stood out the most for me was the crowd, the crowd’s response to Floyd was mind-boggling, they booed him, they booed the undefeated champion of the world like he was the underdog. After thinking deeply about it, I wasn’t shocked at all. The hate/love relationship that boxing fans have with black fighters who are dominant in the ring and don’t mind telling you so outside of it, goes further back than you think.

It all started with Jack Johnson, a boxing legend who became prominent in the Jim crow era and in 1908 would become the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. At a time when black society had to walk on pins and needles to prevent from being killed, here was this big black man knocking out all of his white challengers, needless to say, the white supremacy based system took it out on black society as a whole. It was well known that in 1910, after Jack Johnson’s big victory over James Jeffries, who was dubbed the “great white hope” at the time, the streets were flooded with rioting whites embarrassed by the defeat, eager to lynch any black citizen they could get their hands on. He would later face problems with the legal system. In 1912 he was falsely arrested and charged with violating the Mann Act, which basically stated that he took an underage white girl named Lucille Cameron, across state lines. It would later be revealed that the charges were racially biased and no real evidence was ever produced. So when you look at some of the treatment our brother, Floyd Mayweather has to deal with, it’s nothing more than history repeating itself.

 

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Johnson_(boxer)

 

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