well, if you're like me you've read plenty of boxing books, and you
might think that retelling the story of the ascendancy of jack johnson
over tommy burns would be superfluous.
This book by Jeff Wells is anything but. It's clear that he has
reviewed all the primary sources and from this you get such a clear
vision of Johnson and Burns you feel like are in their living rooms
when you read this. Wells pulls no punches, which I really like. He's
determined to find out exactly which slur Johnson said to Burns in the
rate that fateful day and which ones Burns said to Johnson. The
followup to this fight with the race riots when Johnson beat Jeffreys
could be seen as more pivotal to history, but if Johnson hadn't chased
Burns down and finally cornered him in Australia the fight would never
If Boshter Billy Squire had not landed that wild punch in Paris a few
months before, the fight would not have happened. A lot of this book
is all about the circumstances leading up fight, so many might have
There are a lot of insights in the characters of both Johnson and Burns
that have caused me to rethink their motivations.
For instance, on this newsgroup people have talked about how Johnson
drew the "color line" after becoming champ, but from this book I think
that Johnson enjoyed beating up whites and didn't want to further
promote blacks fighting blacks. He exclusively dated white women, each
one being called "Mrs. Johnson," part of his entire attitude.
The best part of this book are the new insights on the characters of
the boxers. However, the last couple of chapters are not as good as
the rest. Wells prints out a dozen pages of newspaper commentaries,
when just one or two would have sufficed, and because of his fixation
on this Johnson/Burns fight he downplays the importance of the
Jeffries/Johnson fight that followed.
If you ever wondered why Burns called Jackson yellow, or how Johnson
felt about Pete Jackson, this is the book that will explain it.
If you want to know about the actual fight and the strategy employed by
Jackson and Burns, Wells goes into that in detail, this book goes into
detail about it.
A wonderfully written book, one I couldn't put down until I finished