Tuesday, July 12, 2016

On This Day: Peter Jackson: The Uncrowned King of the Heavyweights Remembered

By Peter Silkov

Peter Jackson was known as ‘The Black Prince’ and he did indeed have a royal air about him as a pugilist.  Jackson was years ahead of his time as a boxer. He stood 6’ feet and 1 ½” inches tall, and weighed between 190 and 210 pounds, giving him the perfect build for a heavyweight.  In the ring he mixed speed, technique and a dangerous punch, making him a catlike, boxer-puncher, of the first degree.  He should have been a sure bet to at least fight for the World heavyweight title, but the biggest obstacle that Jackson would face during his lifetime was the fact that he was coloured.

Many of the top white fighters of his day would use ’the colour bar’ as a reason not to fight him.  The most notable of these was John L Sullivan, the first internationally recognized Heavyweight champion of the world.  Despite receiving many challenges for a fight from Jackson, Sullivan would always state that he would never fight a black man.  This was a bar, which would blight Jackson’s life, and always leave the question of ’what if’ hanging over his life.  What if Peter Jackson had been able to fight Sullivan (or indeed Jim Corbett) for the World heavyweight title, and had won? How would his life have been different, who would the history of boxing have changed?  Unfortunately, Peter Jackson was destined to remain a prince without a crown.

Peter Jackson was born on July 3, 1861, in Christiansted, US Virgin Islands, (there have also been claims that Jackson was born on July 6, July 16 and September 23, 1860.)  Jackson moved to Australia in 1879, after working as a seaman on a cargo ship.  It was after his move to Australia that Jackson, who was a natural athlete, began to formally learn how to box, trained by the renowned, Larry Foley. 

Eventually Jackson turned professional in 1882, and despite the limitations placed upon him, due to his colour, soon became a major attraction.  Sometimes Jackson was forced to fight opponents with just one hand, with his right hand ‘banned’ and at other times, he would have to agree to stop an opponent within a specified number of rounds, or else the opponent would be declared the winner of the contest.  Despite these handicaps, Jackson was seldom beaten, even in the early days of his career.

On September 25, 1886, Jackson won the Heavyweight championship of Australia, by knocking out Tom Lees in the 30th round. By this time, Jackson had run out of opposition in Australia, and so in April 1888, Jackson sailed for America, hoping to persuade John L. Sullivan to fight him.

Jackson became an instant star in America, but despite securing a number of big fights, he soon found that Sullivan had no intention of fighting him under any circumstances. 

In what was to be the highest profile fight of his career, on May 21, 1891, Jackson fought Jim Corbett, with the two men fighting out a classic 61-round draw.  Corbett would go on to fight John L. Sullivan, and win the World heavyweight championship, but Jackson found himself left out in the cold.

Jackson spent another year trying to get a fight with Sullivan, and chasing a rematch with Jim Corbett, but it was all to no avail.  After Corbett dethroned Sullivan on September 7, 1892, he almost immediately went on a countrywide vaudeville tour, and wasn’t interested in defending his title against anyone, let alone Peter Jackson.

In what would prove to be the last big fight of his career, Jackson faced Frank ‘Paddy’ Slavin on May 30, 1892, for the Australian and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, and won a bitter battle on a 10th round knockout.

After this contest, Jackson seems to have resigned himself to never getting a shot at the world championship, and over the next 6 years, he spent his time performing in exhibitions around America and in England, and also performing in the stage play ‘Uncle Toms Cabin.’  In many of these exhibitions, Jackson ‘fought’ Joe Choynski.  When he did finally enter the ring again on March 22, 1898, against future World heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries, Jackson was just a shadow of his former self, overweight and under trained, and after years of over indulgence.  Jeffries knocked Jackson out in the 3rd round.

A little over a year after losing to Jeffries, Peter Jackson traveled to Vancouver, Canada, and was knocked out in 4 rounds by Jim Jeffords.  He then returned to Australia, by now ailing with tuberculosis.

Peter Jackson’s final fight took place on December 2, 1899, in Melbourne, Australia, when he managed to fight Billy Warren to a 25 round draw, despite being a visibly sick man. 

Peter Jackson died on July 13, 1901, of Tuberculosis at the age of 40 years old.

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com

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