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The World Colored Heavyweight Championship was a title awarded to black boxers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This was the only recognized heavyweight championship available to blacks prior to Jack Johnson winning the world heavyweight title in 1908. The title continued to exist until the reign of Joe Louis as universally recognized champ as the color bar against black heavyweights was enforced during and for a generation after Jack Johnson's reign as world champ.
Drawing the Color Line
Though not sanctioned by any governing body, the colored heavyweight title was publicly recognized due to the color bar in pro boxing in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when white champions drew the color line and would not defend the title against a black man. In the heavyweight division, the color bar was adamantly defended by "The Boston Strong Boy", bare knuckle boxing champ John L. Sullivan, the first modern heavyweight champ, who had fought black fighters on his way up to the title but would not defend it against a black man.
Succeeding white heavyweight champs James Corbett and James J. Jeffries followed the same pattern. Since the white champs had fought black fighters as equals on their way up, the color bar undeniably was maintained due to racial prejudice. Since black boxers were being denied a shot at the world title solely due to their race, the general public gave credence to the colored heavyweight title.
Maintaining the Color Bar
Ironically, the color bar remained in force even after colored heavyweight title holder Jack Johnson won the world's heavyweight title in 1908, thus ensuring the colored title remained the ultimate prize for all other black boxers.
Once he was the world's heavyweight champ, Johnson (who relinquished the colored title) never fought black opponents, either. He denied matches to black heavyweights Joe Jeanette (his successor as colored heavyweight champ) and Sam Langford (who beat Jeanette for the colored title) and the young Harry Wills (who was colored heavyweight champ during the last year of Johnson's reign as world's heavyweight champ). Blacks were not given a shot at the title allegedly because such top boxing promoters as Tex Rickard believed that a fight between two black boxers would not draw at the gate.
Johnson, Jeanette & Langford
Jack Johnson fought Joe Jeanette a total of seven times, all during his reign as colored champ before he became the world's heavyweight champion, winning four times and drawing twice (three of the victories and one draw were newspaper decisions). In their first match on 1905, they had fought to a draw, but in their second match on 25 November 1905, Johnson lost as he was disqualified in the second round of a scheduled six-round fight. Johnson continued to claim the title because of the disqualification.
After Johnson became the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World on December 26, 1908, his World Colored Heavyweight Championship was vacated. Jeanrette fought Sam McVey for the title in Paris on 20 February 1909 and was beaten, but later took the title from McVey in a 49-round bout on April 17 of that year in Paris for a $6,000 purse. Sam Langford subsequently claimed the title during Jeanette's reign after Johnson refused to defend the World Heavyweight Championship against him. Eighteen months later, Jeanrette lost the title to Langford.
Johnson never again fought Jeanette despite numerous challenges and avoided Langford, whom he had fought once while he was the colored champ and beaten him on points in a 15-rounder. In August 1914, as Johnson neared the end of his troubled reign, there were reports that Johnson had agreed to fight Langford for the world heavyweight title in Paris, but nothing came of it.
After losing his world heavyweight championship, Johnson never again fought for the colored heavyweight crown.
Because great boxers of the era were barred from fighting for the heavyweight championship because of racism, Johnson’s refusal to fight African-Americans offended the African-American community, since the opportunity to fight top white boxers was rare. Jeanette criticized Johnson, saying, "Jack forgot about his old friends after he became champion and drew the color line against his own people."
Proposed WBC Title
The WBC attempted to create a similar championship in 2004 called the All African World Championship but was met with worldwide criticism and ultimately abandoned the idea.
List of champions
Eighteen men were recognized as World Colored Heavyweight Champion, combining for 28 total reigns.
|1||Charles C. Smith||1||1876||Unknown||—||0||Smith claimed the title and offered to take on all challengers.|
|2||Morris Grant||1||1878||Unknown||New York City, New York, USA||1||Lost title to Charles Hadley on points in four-round bout|
|3||Charles Hadley||1||January 14, 1881||770||New York City, New York, USA||3||Fought Grant Morris 10 times while champ, compiling record of 8 wins, 1 loss, and 1 no decision|
|4||George Godfrey (b. 1853)||1||February 23, 1883||2009||Boston, Massachusetts, USA||2|
|5||Peter Jackson||1||August 24, 1888||3041||San Francisco, California, USA||0||The title was vacated in 1896.|
|6||Bob Armstrong||1||December 21, 1896||404||New York City, New York, USA||1||Defeated Charley Strong.|
|7||Frank Childs||1||January 29, 1898||228||Chicago, Illinois, USA||2|
|8||George Byers||1||September 14, 1898||913||Chicago, Illinois, USA||4||Frank Childs defeated Bob Armstrong on March 4, 1899 in Cincinnati, Ohio in a fight announced as being for the title, despite Childs' loss to Byers six months earlier.|
|9||Frank Childs||2||March 16, 1901||345||Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA||0|
|10||Ed Martin||1||February 24, 1902||346||Chicago, Illinois, USA||2||Childs continued to claim the title until losing to Jack Johnson on October 21, 1902.|
|11||Jack Johnson||1||February 5, 1903||2151||Los Angeles, California, USA||17||The title was vacated after Johnson won the World Heavyweight Championship on December 26, 1908.|
|12||Sam McVea||1||February 20, 1909||56||Paris, France||1||Defeated Joe Jeanette.|
|13||Joe Jeanette||1||April 17, 1909||507||Paris, France||1||Jeanrette beats McVey in a 49-round bout lasting 3½" hours, for a purse of $6,000. Subsequently, Sam Langford claimed the title during Jeanette's reign after Jack Johnson refused to defend the World Heavyweight Championship against him.|
|14||Sam Langford||1||September 6, 1910||476||Boston, Massachusetts, USA||3||Sam Langford defends his claim to the title, beating Jeanette on points in a 15-round bout.|
|15||Sam McVea||2||December 26, 1911||104||Sydney, Australia||0|
|16||Sam Langford||2||April 8, 1912||753||Sydney, Australia||2|
|17||Harry Wills||1||May 1, 1914||209||New Orleans, Louisiana, USA||1|
|18||Sam Langford||3||November 26, 1914||403||Los Angeles, California, USA||0|
|19||Harry Wills||2||January 3, 1916||39||New Orleans, Louisiana, USA||0|
|20||Sam Langford||4||February 11, 1916||349||New Orleans, Louisiana, USA||0|
|21||Bill Tate||1||January 25, 1917||97||Kansas City, Missouri, USA||0|
|22||Sam Langford||5||May 2, 1917||347||St. Louis, Missouri, USA||1|
|23||Harry Wills||3||April 14, 1918||3103||Panama City, Panama||25||The title was vacated after Wills lost by disqualification to Jack Sharkey on October 12, 1926.|
|24||George Godfrey (b. 1897)||1||November 8, 1926||628||Buffalo, New York, USA||3||Defeated Larry Gaines.|
|25||Larry Gains||1||August 15, 1928||Unknown||Buffalo, New York, USA||0||The title was later vacated.|
|26||George Godfrey (b. 1897)||2||August 24, 1931||777||Toronto, Ontario, Canada||3||Defeated Seal Harris.|
|27||Obie Walker||1||October 9, 1933||649||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA||0|
|28||Larry Gains||2||July 20, 1935||Unknown||Leicester, England||0||Title became extinct after Joe Louis won the World Heavyweight title on June 22, 1937.|
- World Colored Light Heavyweight Championship
- World Colored Middleweight Championship
- World Colored Welterweight Championship
- Black Heavyweight Championship
- World White Heavyweight Championship
- Rosero, Jessica. "Native sons and daughters North Hudson native and 20th century boxing sensation Joe Jeanette". Hudson Reporter. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
- "Lineage of the coloured heavyweight title" eastsideboxing.com
- "Morris Grant". BoxRec. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
- "Frank Childs - Boxer". BoxRec. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
- ESPN Ron Flatter: Johnson boxed, lived on own terms, accessed Sep 2, 2010
- "Jack Johnson - Boxer". BoxRec. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
- "Harry Wills - Boxer". BoxRec. Retrieved August 23, 2011.