When Jack Johnson became the first African-American ("Negro") World Heavyweight Champion, in December 1908, many people clamored for the Heavyweight Title to return to a Caucasian ("White") fighter. After Johnson decisively beat James J. Jeffries--the former Champion who had retired undefeated but had been lured back to fight Johnson on July 4, 1910--the term "White Hope" was coined. As the March 1930 The Ring magazine stated:
- It was back in the period between 1910 and 1915 that every overgrown small town lad who thought he had any ability, was signed by big and small time managers, placed in the hands of trainers, with the dethroning of Jack Johnson as the chief objective. From the most unheard of places there came prospective heavyweight champions. They loomed on the fistic horizon from far off sections which were scarcely visible to the naked eye.
- Some came on and begged for a chance because they saw big money ahead. Others were sent along by big moneyed men who thrived on the publicity they were getting. Still others were grabbed up by good judges of fighters from the mines, the lumber camps and the farms. Most of them came quickly and hit the trail back home even quicker.
Some of the White Hopes included:
- Carl Morris: considered the original "White Hope" (although he was also partly Native American). His hopes for the heavyweight title were crushed by a loss to Fireman Jim Flynn.
- Luther McCarty
- Al Palzer
- Arthur Pelkey
- Ed (Gunboat) Smith
- Charley Miller, the "Fighting Motorman," whose chances were also quashed by a knockout loss to Fireman Jim Flynn.
- Jess Willard--who, in fact, eventually did win the Title from Jack Johnson.
- Max Schmeling was Germany's "Great White Hope" when he fought Joe Louis, winning the first bout and losing the second (when Louis was champion).
- The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson
- Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney