Joe Jeanette never given a crack at the world heavyweight title

boxing09 February 2023 14:06
By:Ron Jackson
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Jeremiah "Joe" Jeannette (also Jennette), who was born in North Bergen, New Jersey, USA, on 26 August 1879 and fought as a heavyweight from 1904 to 1922, was considered one of the best heavyweights in his era, but because he was an African American, he was never given a crack at the world heavyweight championship.

He was a well-built athlete and did win the World Colored heavyweight title but was unfortunate to be around at the same time when Sam Langford and Jack Johnson were at their prime.

Among the other great fighters around at the time were Harry Wills, Sam McVey, welterweight Joe Walcott, and lightweight Joe Gans. The fighters would take on anyone, but mostly they fought among each other, because they were too good for most other fighters out there.

Jeanette had his first professional bout in September 1904 against Arthur Dixon and won on a knockout, according to Nat Fleischer in his book “Black Dynamite Volume IV- Fighting Furies”.

However, Boxrec have his first fight listed as against Morris Harris in a no-decision bout, as the law would not allow decisions to be rendered at the time.

Black fighters were obliged to fight each other most of the time because of the so-called colour bar.

In his first fight with Jack Johnson on 9 May 1905 he lost on a three-round newspaper decision after he was dropped three times in the first round.

Nat Fleischer also wrote, “Jack Johnson often remarked to me that the man who gave him one of his toughest battles he ever had, was Joe Jeanette, who was then only a novice while Jack already had made his mark and was being discussed as a possible opponent for the world heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries.

Jeanette had eight fights with Johnson, Langford 13 and McVey four. There was always bad blood between Johnson and Jeanette because Jeanette felt that when Johnson became world heavyweight champion, he ignored his friends and drew the colour line against his own people.

Jeanette said, “Langford was the greatest fighter that ever lived and would have had the better of Johnson at any time and Johnson knew that, and don’t forget that Langford only weighed about 160lbs (72.50kg)”.

On 17 April 1909 he beat Sam McVey on a 49-round retirement fight in Paris, in a fight-to-the-finish that lasted two hours and 24 minutes for the world “coloured” heavyweight title.

He finished with a record of 83-9-9; 69 according to Boxrec, with only two of his losses coming inside the distance.

However, there have been reports that he has in the region of 400 fights, as several fights went unrecorded in those days.

After retiring from the ring, he bought a building in Union City, New Jersey, which became known as “Jeanettes Auto Service” and he also set up a gym on the second floor of the building.

Jeanette died in 1958 and is buried in Fairview New Jersey.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1977.