Jack Dempsey vs. John Lester Johnson

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Johnson and Dempsey in the late 1950s

1916-07-14 : John Lester Johnson 170 lbs drew with Jack Dempsey 181 lbs by NWS in round 10 of 10

Dempsey reportedly received $100 and Johnson $200.

Opinions as to the winner were divided. Also, the weights mentioned varied from one newspaper to another.

One New York newspaper gave this report in a one-inch story: "John Lester Johnson outpointed Jack Dempsey in the Harlem Sporting Club last night. Dempsey failed to live up to the reputation that he earned in Salt Lake City, and was an easy mark for the local boxer."

Another newspaper reported: "Neither boxer was ever in danger, but at the finish Johnson was very tired from the heavy punishment he received in the mid-section and around the head."

The New York World called the fight "a fast ten-round draw."

The New York Tribune reported: "John Lester Johnson won over Jack Dempsey."

The Salt lake Tribune reported: "Jack Dempsey, the Salt Lake heavyweight, who has been causing such a stir among New York fans since he left here recently, last night won by a big shade over John Lester Johnson, one of the toughest negro fighters in New York. In their ten-round bout before the Harlem Sporting club, according to a telegram received by Dempsey's manager, Jack Price."

In his book A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s, Roger Kahn writes: "The consensus of sportswriters gave a big hand to Dempsey's courage and a narrow decision to Johnson."

Shortly before Dempsey won the World Heavyweight Championship in 1919, The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette quoted him as saying the following about his fight with John Lester Johnson: "In the second round, Johnson pulled something on me I had never seen before. He just lifted my right arm up high and then soaked me in the ribs. He broke three of 'em for me. He hit me on the chin in that round, too, and I saw many a star. He knew too much for me. ... I thought he licked me. I didn't know how to fight then, and Johnson did. Yes, I think he won and he taught me more that night than I have ever dreamed of before."

In the January 1960 issue of Ebony, Johnson was quoted as saying the following about his fight with Dempsey: "I said that night that he was going to be champion. That guy could really hit. He hit me so hard and so fast for a while there I could hardy get my breath."

Dempsey later hired Johnson as a sparring partner.

Johnson was the last African-American fighter Dempsey would face during his career.

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