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Jack Johnson - Heavyweight Champion (1878-1946)

Jack Johnson, the world"s first African-American heavyweight champion, patented a wrench on April 18, 1922. He was born John Arthur Johnson on March 31, 1878 in Galveston, Texas.

Johnson boxed professionally from 1897 through 1928 and in exhibition matches until 1945. He fought 113 fights, winning 79 matches, 44 of them by knockouts. He defeated Canadian Tommy Burns on December 26, 1908 in the World Boxing Championship held in Sydney, Australia.

This began a quest to find a "Great White Hope" to defeat him. James Jeffries, a leading white fighter, came out of retirement to answer the challenge.

Johnson won their fight on July 4, 1910. News of Jeffries" defeat ignited numerous incidents of white violence against blacks, but black poet William Waring Cuney captured the exuberant African American reaction in his poem “My Lord, What a Morning.”

Johnson won the heavyweight title when he knocked out Burns in 1908, and he held onto the title until April 5, 1915 when he was knocked out by Jess Willard in the 26th round of the World Championship fight in Havana. Johnson defended his heavyweight championship three times in Paris before his fight against Jess Willard. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954, followed by the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Johnson received bad publicity because of his two marriages, both to Caucasian women. Interracial marriages were prohibited in most of America at the time. He was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1912 when he transported his wife across state lines before their marriage and was sentenced to a year in prison.

Fearing for his safety, Johnson escaped while he was out on appeal. Posing as a member of a black baseball team, he fled to Canada and later to Europe and remained a fugitive for seven years.

In 1920, Johnson decided to return to the U.S. to serve his sentence. It was during this time that he invented the wrench. He needed a tool that would tighten or loosen nuts and bolts. There wasn’t one at the time so he made his own and received a

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