Lot 8: Jack Johnson Signed Confession Letter
Auction Date:5/3/2007 9:00 PM EST
On April 5, 1915, World Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson defended his title against the “Pottawatomie Giant,” Jess Willard, at the Vedado Racetrack in Havana, Cuba. This fight had been scheduled in Mexico to be promoted by the bandit Pancho Villa, but was moved to Cuba when the Mexican President informed Johnson if he fought for Villa he would be turned over to American authorities for his violation of the Mann Act years earlier. Johnson succumbed to the pressure and agreed to defend the title in Cuba. On a blazing hot day, the 37-year-old champion took on the younger (33) and stronger challenger. It was a relatively boring affair, but in the 26th round Willard landed a big right hand forcing Johnson to the canvas. He did not rise and Willard was declared the winner and new champion. Johnson later declared he had thrown the fight and offered as evidence a written declaration to Nat Fleischer, later the Editor and founder of The Ring, which we offer here. This is a four-page typed document. On the first page in Johnson’s hand he has added in fountain pen, “Dear Nat heres my story Jack.” Johnson explains to Fleischer that Jack Curley, the promoter of the Johnson-Willard fight and other fights of Johnson, was the person responsible for the “fix.” Jonson writes that Curley told him, “Don’t you know if you weren’t champion you would not have all this trouble?”, a direct reference to Johnson’s legal woes with the U.S. government. Johnson contends that Curley arranged the fix and that Johnson was to get a piece of Willard’s purse and be able to return to America with no further legal problems if he threw the fight. He explained that he kept the fight going past the 10th round, waiting for a sign that the money was arranged. Johnson firmly states, “I always know I lost to a man that could not beat me.” At the end of the confession Jack Johnson has boldly signed and inscribed the document, “Jack Johnson This Good Writing Former Champion of the World.” Johnson signed several of these documents, all of which were done for Nat Fleischer. This four-page document is in good condition. There are hole punches on the margins which do not affect the text or the signature and inscription.There is some minor flaking and paper loss on the edges of two pages, again outside the text and signature and inscription. This is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of this letter in existence. A rare and valuable part of boxing’s colorful history.
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