11/15/16

Jack Johnson: first global star of sport

"The legendary world heavyweight boxing champion, John Arthur 'Jack' Johnson, visits Manchester.

The charisma of world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson is palpable in these shots of his visit to Manchester. In the build-up to his fight with British and Empire champion, Bombardier Wells, due to be held at Earl's Court on 2 October 1911, Johnson toured Britain's music halls where his sparring demonstrations proved hugely popular.

It's likely that his tour of Manchester Docks would have coincided with appearances at Manchester's theatres, quite possibly the Regent Theatre, seen here. In the event, under the influence of Methodist minister, Rev. F.B. Meyer, and other clergymen, the Chairman of the London Council prohibited the scheduled fight with Wells on 'religious' grounds, threatening to withdraw Earls Court's licence should it go ahead. The venue's manager reluctantly cancelled the fight but Johnson's music hall tour continued. The conservative clergymen feared that images of a black sporting hero might have a negative impact on the morality of British people."

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