Jack Johnson signed glove to star in Heritage Auctions' sports sale

A 1930s boxing glove signed by heavyweight champion Jack Johnson is one of the many highlights in Heritage Auctions' August 1-2 Platinum Night Sports Auction in Chicago.

Jack Johnson signed boxing glove
The glove's inscription reads, 'Jack Johnson Former Heavyweight Champion of the World' suggesting that it was never actually used by the boxer

The glove is one of just a handful of signed examples from Johnson known to exist, mainly due to the fact that Johnson was unpopular in white America and died at an early age in an automobile accident in 1946.

As Ken Burns notes in his documentary on Johnson: "For more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth".

This was due to his dominance in the boxing ring - as well as his prowess with white women - which infuriated the predominantly white male audiences of the time.

Johnson became the world coloured heavyweight champion in 1903, a title that he defended 17 times, before securing the world heavyweight championship in 1908.

However, his intial attempts to win the title were thwarted by the reigning champion James J Jeffries, who refused to fight Johnson on grounds of his race, despite numerous taunts from Johnson.

Johnson had to wait until Jeffries had retired, undefeated, before defeating the new champion, Canadian Tommy Burns. This caused massive racial tensions, and promoters called for a "great white hope" to take the title away from Johnson, but none were successful.

It wasn't until 1910 that Jeffries came out of retirement to fight Johnson, in what was hailed as the "fight of the century". With Jeffries out of shape and throwing in the towel to avoid a knockout, Johnson won easily.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a signed photograph of James J Jeffries, aka The Boilermaker, for sale.

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