1914-07-16 Georges Carpentier w disq 6 (20) Gunboat Smith, Olympia, Kensington, London, England

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1914-07-16 Georges Carpentier w disq 6 (20) Gunboat Smith, Olympia, Kensington, London, England. Referee: Eugene Corri. Recognised as a contest involving the ‘white’ title, both Smith and Carpentier got down to business quickly, landing solid blows, and looking to find openings they could take advantage of. Although being cautioned for foul tactics in the third round, Smith continued to rough the Frenchman up, but in the fourth he was dropped by a right to the kidney region and took a count of ‘six’. Carpentier continued to look for a finishing blow from there on before running into a right to the jaw in the sixth and being floored. Hurt, but in control of his senses, Carpentier got to his knees quickly and was looking to rise when Smith jumped in with a heavy blow to his neck. With the crowd in an uproar, the referee immediately disqualified Smith, who in a moment of madness had all but dashed his chances of meeting Jack Johnson.

Following the outbreak of war in Europe Carpentier relinquished the ‘white’ title in favour of military service and it was Jess Willard who would eventually challenge Johnson. Willard had not taken up boxing until nearing the age of 30, but at 6’6” and weighing in the region of 250 pounds he was an imposing figure. Having beaten George Rodel (w rsc 6 on 28 April at the Orpheum Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia, USA) in what was seen to be a final eliminator for the ‘white’ title held by Smith, the latter had then gone to Europe to fight Carpentier instead of meeting Willard, who had been promised first crack at the Gunboat. Smith had already outpointed Willard over 20 rounds, albeit narrowly, on 20 May 1913 (at the Mission Street Arena, Colma, San Francisco, California), but the latter had vastly improved since that meeting and was being seen as a future champion.

Meanwhile, Smith, who was now back in America, reclaimed the ‘white’ title and met Cyclone Johnny Thompson (nd-w pts 6 on 28 September at the Duquesne Gardens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and Battling Levinsky (nd-l pts 10 on 9 October at the Empire AC, NYC, New York) before taking on the former ‘black’ champion, Sam Langford. Knocked out in the third round (at the Atlas AA, Boston, Massachusetts) on 20 October, having being floored several times, Smith’s title claim never took off and thereafter he was seen as just another heavyweight.

Earlier, at the end of July, it had been reported widely that, in principle, Johnson was prepared to fight Willard if a deal could be struck. Jack Curley, an American fight promoter, was the man behind Johnson meeting Willard, but there would be plenty of negotiating to do before terms could be agreed. However, on 17 November it was announced that Johnson had signed Articles of Agreement to meet Willard in March 1915 at a place yet to be decided and a short while later the Juarez Race Track in Mexico was set aside as the venue. To prepare himself, the 36-year-old Johnson took part in three one-round exhibitions against three little known fighters on 10 January 1915 in Argentina. Meanwhile, there were problems in getting Johnson to fight in Mexico and on 4 March it was finally agreed that the fight would take place in Cuba on 5 April.

Two days before meeting Willard, Johnson boxed a six-round exhibition with Sam McVea at The Stadium, Havana, Cuba, but gave little away other than he was no longer the man who strode imperiously over all he surveyed.

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