Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America

By David K. Wiggins | Go to book overview

3
Peter Jackson and the Elusive Heavyweight Championship A Black Athlete's Struggle Against the Late Nineteenth- Century Color Line

Peter Jackson was full of optimism when he arrived in San Francisco in the spring of 1888. At the urging of the local sportswriter W. W. (Bill) Naughton, Jackson had made the nearly 9,000-mile trek from Australia in hopes of securing matches with America's leading boxers and ultimately wrestling the world's heavyweight championship from the "Boston Strong Boy," John L. Sullivan. Jackson's arrival was anxiously looked forward to by West Coast sports fans who had read nothing but glowing reports about the boxing exploits of the man Australians admiringly referred to as the "Black Prince." Jackson had ascended swiftly to the top of the pugilistic ladder in Australia by defeating the country's top fighters, including Tom Lees for the heavyweight championship in 1886. The word out of Australia was that Jackson was a great boxer. No one could stay in the ring very long with the talented black boxer and expect to survive. His enormous size, superior reach, and lightning-quick hands had proved too much for even the best of the Australian fighters.

Unfortunately, Jackson's stay in America did not bring about the unconditional success he and his ardent admirers had hoped for. Instead it was a period in Jackson's career that coupled great triumphs with personal frustrations and disillusionments. Although he would establish himself as perhaps the most famous black athlete of the late nineteenth century, he would be denied the one thing he coveted most in lift-- fighting for the world heavyweight title. Like most black athletes of the period, Jackson could not transcend the increasing American intolerance of interracial sports.1 Despite several lucrative offers, Sullivan repeatedly

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