Tommy Burns vs. Jack Johnson

From BoxRec
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tommy Burns, then-current World Heavyweight Champion (left) vs. Jack Johnson (Challenger)

Jack Johnson 194 lbs beat Tommy Burns 168 lbs by PTS in round 14 of 20

  • Date: 1908-12-26
  • Location: Sydney Stadium, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Referee: Hugh McIntosh
  • World Heavyweight Title (12th defense by Burns)
  • Photos of this fight can be found in the Tommy Burns or Jack Johnson Image Galleries


  • Jack Johnson received $5,000, and Tommy Burns $30,000--which was the largest amount ever earned by a boxer for a single fight up to that time.
  • Former World Heavyweight Champion James J. Jeffries was asked to referee the fight, but he wanted $5,000 plus his expenses paid.
  • Burns was a 6 to 4 favourite.
  • Over 20,000 people crammed into Sydney Stadium at Ruschcutters Bay and another 30,000 were estimated to be outside the stadium perched in trees, on roofs, up power poles and wherever they could to gain a vantage point.
  • Promoter Hugh McIntosh refereed the fight. It was the first fight he ever refereed and in the very first round he made a critical error. [According to a column by Robert Edgren who actually spoke to McIntosh]
  • According to Burns, [and later substantiated by McIntosh] Referee McIntosh took hold of Tommy's left glove while forcing a break in the first round and Johnson struck him on the jaw with a right uppercut. The force of the blow lifted Burns off his feet and sent him to the canvas for a count of eight. Both had agreed to break clean.
  • Johnson mocked Burns from the onset: "Poor little Tommy, who told you you were a fighter?" And on the rare occasion when Burns managed to land a punch, Johnson laughed and said, "Poor, poor, Tommy. Who taught you to hit? Your mother?" Although most of what he said was relatively banal, it was always accompanied by a sardonic smile.
  • The fight was stopped by the police. Burns always claimed he could have continued had the police not intervened. Lightweight boxer Rudy Unholz later admitted to promoter Otto Floto that he and a pal had crawled under the ring prior to the fourteenth round and shouted for the police to stop the fight. Unholz worked Johnson's corner and had bet a large sum of money on Jack winning.
  • The New York Times reported: "The end came in the fourteenth round when the police, seeing Burns tottering and unable to defend himself from the savage blows of his opponent, mercifully stopped the fight. Previously it had been arranged that if the police interfered a decision would be rendered on points, and referee McIntosh without hesitation declared the big black man the winner, for all through the fight he had shown himself Burns's master in every style of fighting."
  • Jack London, the famous novelist, was in Sydney covering the fight for the New York Herald. He wrote: "The fight? There was no fight. No Armenian massacre could compare with the hopeless slaughter that took place today. The fight, if fight it could be called, was like that between a pygmy and a colossus....But one thing now remains. Jim Jeffries must emerge from his alfalfa farm and remove the golden smile from Jack Johnson’s face. Jeff, it’s up to you! The White Man must be rescued."
  • A month after Johnson won the championship, James J. Jeffries wrote: "Tommy Burns has his price—$30,000. Burns has sold his pride, the pride of the Caucasian race...The Canadian never will be forgiven by the public for allowing the title of the best physical man in the world to be wrested from his keeping by a member of the African race....I refused time and again to meet Johnson while I was holding the title, even though I knew I could beat him. I would never allow a negro a chance to fight for the world's championship, and I advise all other champions to follow the same course....All night long I was besieged with telegrams asking me to re-enter the ring. I answer them now as I have answered them hundreds of times: 'I have fought my last fight.'"

External links

  • "Jack Johnson Wins; Police Stop Fight" The New York Times, December 26, 1908: [1]
  • "Jeffries Scores Burns" The Sydney Mail, January 27, 1909: [2]
  • "Burns-Johnson Bout Drew First Big Money In Australia--No Purses Now" by Joe Bonds, The Tacoma Times, December 1, 1915: [3])
  • Tommy Burns: Canada's Unknown World Heavyweight Champion by Dan McCaffery, James Lorimer & Company Ltd., 2000: [4]