Boxing / Wrestling

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« I'm Jack Johnson. Heavyweight champion of the world. I'm black. They never let me forget it. I'm black all right! I'll never let them forget it! » At the beginning of the 20th century the history of boxing became entwined with the history of racism. The first black to become heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson, was forbidden to defend his title. In the United States, boxing between blacks and whites was outlawed. His battle for the status of his title anticipated by thirty years the civil rights movement. When finally he was able to defend his title, the fight promoters encouraged the all-white spectators to chant “Kill the Nigger!” before and during the fight. The announcement of his win provoked violence against blacks across the United States. Johnson was also attacked in the press – even by intellectuals such as Jack London who vilified him calling for a “Great White Hope” to wash the honor of white men... In the second half of the 20th century, boxing became one of the only means for blacks and poor people to climb the social ladder. It is a metaphor for contemporary social struggles : you must hit the person on front of you to get somewhere...