"When Boxing Mattered," Chapter Four - The Great War and the Great Migration -Blog #0004

Chapter Four

Add Flyweights The biggest and most far-reaching war in the history of humanity, The Great War, or World War I, was a game changer. It came in with Victorian manners and high button shoes and went out with jazz and flappers and the Lost Generation. Sadly, it would be followed a mere twenty-two years later by an even bigger war, World War II. It was the time of the “Great Migration” that brought hundreds of thousands of African Americans out of the South to waiting jobs in the auto and steel and manufacturing industries. The Decade that began in 1911 and ended in 1920 was also an era of great, and in some cases legendary prize fighters. I would mention Jack Johnson, a young boxing hobo named Jack Dempsey, welterweights Jack Britton and Ted “Kid” Lewis, lightweight Benny Leanord as well as the greatest flyweight of all-time Jimmy Wilde.

Coming off his “Fight of the Century” defeat of Jeffries in 1910, Jack Johnson defeated a number of “white hopes” and held the title until 1915, when he lost to a former Kansas cowboy, Jess Willard who held the title until July 4, 1919 when he was knocked out by Jack Dempsey.

The magnificent Benny Leanord, “the Jewell of the Ghetto” began his lightweight title reign in 1917 and held it until his retirement in 1925. The great Welsh flyweight Jimmy Wilde who began his career in the boxing booths at the fairs in Great Britain and reportedly had several hundred such fights won the first flyweight title fight in 1916. Worth noting is the Jack Britton-Ted “Kid” Lewis welterweight rivalry, in which Britton and Lewis fought each other an amazing twenty times, trading the welterweight title back and forth. The rivalry was personal as well as professional.

More excerpts form this book coming soon! Stay tuned.

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