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Joe Gans - The First African-American Lightweight Champion

Updated on March 8, 2013

The All-Time Greatest Lightweight Boxer

Remembering A Champion

Joseph Gant was born November 25, 1874 in Baltimore, Maryland. He rose to fame as the "All-Time Greatest Lightweight Boxer as "Joe Gans." He began his boxing career in 1891. His boxing record is impressive. He won 158 of the 196 bouts he fought as a lightweight. More impressive is his record of 120 knockouts.

The Lighweight Boxing Legend

It's difficult to imagine a boxing match with 42 rounds. In those days, boxing was strictly bare knuckles. On September 3, 1906, the match between Joe Gans and Oscar Nelson was won by Gans who defeated Nelson in a Goldfield, Nevada match. Two years later, nearing the end of his boxing career, he lost to Nelson.

How Joe Gant Became Joe Gans

As often happens, publicity was responsible for the misspelling of Gant's surname. In 1893, the Baltimore Sun reported on the sparring match between "Joe Gans and William Jones." This misspelling was also reported for the match between Joe Gans and his opponent, Buck Myers, whom the Sun referred to as "two colored" lightweights.

In the sports world, Gans was often referred to by the nickname, the "Old Master." His ambitious nature drove him to a 1900 bout with Frank Erne. He lost this lightweight championship, 12-round title bout and regained his title when he faced Erne again in 1902, this time knocking Erne out in the second first round.

Joe Gans was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, long after his death at age 35 on August 10, 1910. The boxing historian, Nat Fleischer, the founder of Ring Magazine, rated Joe Gans as the Greatest Lightweight Boxer in US History.

The famous writer and novelist, Ernest Hemingway, immortalized Joe Gans in a short story titled, "A Matter of Colour," from which a later Hemingway tome, "The Killers," was inspired. "A Matter of Colour," written in 1916, is part of the Hemingway Juvenilia and Pre-Paris stories. "The Killers" is part of the 1927 collection of Hemingway's short stories "Men Without Women." "A Matter of Colour" was printed by Random House in the UK.


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