Sunday, 22 February 2009

Peter Jackson, the Australian Pugilist

Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jack Johnson and several others shined as great black boxers in the 2oth century after opportunities to display their skills, but today who is aware of those that performed before such chances arose at all.

Tom Molineaux, a black slave was an American champion who fought over forty rounds in the Championship of England in 1810 in a non gloved encounter, George Dixon went 70 Rounds with a white boxer in a non heavyweight division and was eventually rewarded a belt in the late 1800s with the same fighter in a separate contest.

One of the greatest pugilists of all time however, is not even known in his own home country and few would be willing to give him a fighting chance against boxers of later ages including modern pugilists. His name was Peter Jackson.

In almost one hundred bouts, Peter Jackson had a record of 46 wins (30 KO), 4 losses and 3 Draws, the rest were No Decisions and No Contests spanning an eighteen year career that lasted from 1881-1899.

He was a grandson of slaves and may have been named after a former slave master who had lived thirty years before him. Born in the Danish West Indies in 1861, he emigrated to Australia at the age of six with his parents.

He remained in his adopted country even when his parents returned to their homeland some years later, although he retained Danish connections for decades afterwards, visited the country more than once and was a native speaker of the language.

It is said a ship mutiny which he helped to put down in Australia brought him to public attention for the first time and newspaper reports of his talent with his fists helped introduce him to boxing in the late 1870s whilst still a teenager.

The greatest bare knuckle boxer in the southern hemisphere and last champion of its kind, Larry Foley, assumed tutelage of Jackson and taught him the finer points of the sport.

In time, another hugely successful pugilistic legend and patriarch of boxing, Jem Mace (a trainer of Larry Foley during his prime), also taught the youthful Jackson a few things on the way.

By 1881, Peter Jackson, then only twenty years old, was ready to commence his professional career. At first, he boxed only with bare knuckles but from 1882 he also used gloves.

Peter Jackson, a product of the old school, could fight bare knuckle boxing with greater proficiency than with the use of gloves (then a new phenomenon) against different opponents throughout his career, and in time he was just as good and indifferent to boxing with either with any one.

Peter Jackson had nine wins over three years before issuing a highly ambitious challenge for the Australian Heavyweight Championship to the then titleholder, Bill Farnan in July 1884.

Farnan had his eyes on staging an upset over Jackson’s trainer, Larry Foley, and had tried unsuccessfully to fight him over several years while the latter was still in his prime and undefeated.

Foley was to Australian bare knuckle boxing what John L. Sullivan was to American boxing. The differences were many but so were the similarities, hence it was not so surprising Jackson challenged Farnan so early on in his career and Farnan, despite the inexperience of the black fighter, eagerly accepted.

Jackson’s other bouts had been rendered No Decisions and No Contests, a peculiar but acceptable aspect of the sport at the time. He may have felt, this would end the same way and up until now was not mentally prepared for defeat. He may have wished to test Farnan’s strength and staying power in the ring.

Farnan was ten years older, had been in the ring for twelve years and had been Heavyweight Champion of Australia, the first ever to hold the belt, and had held it for three years until then.

Like Jackson, he was an expert slugger, a heavy hitter and a well conditioned figure who could absorb as well as strike heavy blows to the ribs and body. His best blows however, were hooks to the body that could paralyze a lesser opponent if struck with full force.

Farnan had fought nineteen times with only two losses and both to the same opponent before meeting Peter Jackson, his opponents had included Jack Charles (his first vanquisher), Peter Newton and Mike Bullockey.

Against the latter Farnan had fought 25 Rounds in 1878, he was then twenty-seven years old, and he repeated his success against the same opponent in 1881 with a Sixth Round knockout.

It was also in 1881, then thirty years old, Farnan defeated Charlie ‘Darkie’ Richardson for the Heavyweight belt also with a Sixth Round knockout. He was to make two defences, both against Peter Jackson in 1884 at the age of 33 years.

Unlike Jackson then, he could as such go the distance when required against young upstarts who felt all they needed was a quick knockout. Farnan however, was said to be the best boxer in Australia in the 1880s and from experience knew how to handle several different kinds of fighters.

After the Jackson bouts, Farnan continued his career until late 1887 with less success and died four years later in 1891. He suffered a 12th Round knockout to Tom Lees in 1885 and as such was dethroned of his title, drew with his conqueror in a 19 Round bout the following year and lost again by knockout, this time in Round 4 in their third meeting in 1886.

Farnan fought once more after that, with Paddy Slavin, who was 11 years his junior and had accumulated sixteen victories along with nine No Decisions but no losses in five years and was awarded the Championship of Queensland in 1886, the year before their fight.

On this occasion it was seen as a private fight, but was still a professional one nonetheless in 1887 and Farnan lost with a 2nd Round knockout which effectively ended his career.

Heavyweight Championship of Australia , 26th July 1884 and 23rd September 1884

On 26th July 1884 at Victoria Hall, Melbourne, Australia stood the 32 year old white Champion, Bill Farnan, at 5ft9ins and a weight of 182 Ibs and the black challenger, a 23 year old Peter Jackson. Both were Australian.

This fight was the first to be held under Marquis Queensberry Rules and as such involved gloves although both men could fight just as well and with confidence without them and had done so.

Jackson dominated the first two rounds with great severity and floored the older man very early on in the first round to the delight of many in the crowd. Round 3 continued the same way with Jackson slugging in more effective strikes and hurting the Champion.

There were few replies of any worth that troubled Jackson until then and it seemed the brash young hopeful was about to be crowned Champion himself and win national recognition as a promising fighter and role model.

The inexperienced and overconfident Peter Jackson however, misjudged Farnan who staged a comeback and pounded his young challenger with equally heavy shots to the body.

Jackson struggled back to his corner at the end of the round he had started so well and with confidence. When the bell rang for Round 4, Jackson either refused to come out or was not allowed to by his team and Farnan was judged victor by knockout.

Jackson trained hard for the return bout two months later, this time in Haymarket, Sydney, Australia and like his first fight dominated until the Sixth Round. Unlike before, Jackson was more ready for difficulties ahead and had no false dreams of a quick knockout or easy win this time.

Jackson had more or less fought a clean fight and his training and endurance had allowed him to last longer and fight better. Again it seemed Jackson would win, although this time Farnan had also fought better than his earlier bout.

By Round Six, Jackson looked and appeared the clear favourite and spectators felt he would continue to outclass his adversary just as he had been doing for the first five rounds.

Something strange happened during the interim and it was Farnan who then ripped into the challenger with surprising force landing damaging blows and again Jackson was in trouble and this time his supporters invaded the ring.

On this occasion, the referee recorded it as a draw. Jackson had survived the onslaught, and still not learnt the lesson well. Farnan recorded these two victories as the greatest of his career and Jackson looked back at them in later years as fights he should have won. Jackson then travelled on a series of exhibitions to improve his overall performance, strategies and strength in the ring.

In 1886, Peter Jackson at the age of twenty-five, after a brief retirement, returned to the ring. Up until then, Jackson was a slugger alone, a powerful hitter and a daring young pugilist. He had yet to develop some of the more remarkable skills he was later known for and adapt to strong shots delivered against him.

After eight bouts without loss that year, Jackson issued a challenge to the new titleholder of the Australian heavyweight crown, Tom Lees in September 1886. His third attempt at the national belt, but his first against Lees, an opponent he knew, had sparred with and beaten earlier.

Lees was three years Jackson’s senior and taller. He also held the prestige of defeating Jackson’s only conqueror until then, Bill Farnan, from whom he had won the title the year before. In time Lees beat Farnan on a second occasion, this match by knockout.

Lees had never beaten Jackson however, although the two had had several draws and this fact may have played a significant part in boosting Jackson’s chances of recording an unprecedented victory for the black race in securing a national title.

Jackson outpointed Lees in the 30 Round bout between them, although Lees staggered more than once and was sent to the canvas up to five times in the fight including at least once in the 30th Round.

Lees had tried to dominate the fight and hoped to outpace Jackson by forcing him to chase after him. Instead it was Lees who was exhausted and unable to land effective strikes as the rounds progressed.

Jackson fought three more fights in 1886, all of them were deemed No Contests before taking a three month break until his next match the following year in March 1887.

He fought Jim Nolan four times (including a 1st Round knockout) and Steve O’Donnell three times (including one victory on points) in the same year over a total of twenty-two rounds in a space of just four months. A staggering achievement given the fitness required, the strength needed and the confidence to sustain it.

Not to be undernourished by a lack of exercise in 1888, Jackson fought Mick Dooley three times that year (and nine times in total), as well as demolishing George Godfrey in a convincing nineteen round technical knockout to win the Coloured Heavyweight Championship.

In addition he later delivered a 24 round knockout of the previously unbeaten Joe McAuliffe shattering his opponent’s nose in the process.

Observers at the match noted, Jackson prolonged the match for personal amusement rather than professional acumen. He could have dispensed with McAuliffe any time he wanted and as early as he wished, but kept his opponent in the match for all to see.

McAuliffe had earlier challenged Jackson and boasted he could destroy him for 600 Pounds. The figure was later raised to 3, 000. After the fight, the two became sparring partners, despite McAuliffe’s earlier racist tendencies.

Shortly afterwards, Jackson fought both Tom Lees and Billy Baker twice each between June-August 1889 (a total of four matches with the same two opponents over just two months) and took on Alf Ball and Alf Mitchell the same day on Oct. 1889.

Comfortable victories over Peter Maher, Sailor White and Scotchy Gunn brought additional prestige to Jackson’s ring conquests. Peter Maher was a world class pugilist and a leading challenger to the official heavyweight title.

Sailor White meanwhile was the champion of the British navy and Scotchy Gunn was regarded as the best in the South England area. All victories had been attained in 1889 alone. He was then twenty-eight years old.

After two fights with the same opponent (Martin Buffalo Costello) over two days in 1890, Jackson’s next major opponent was fellow Australian, Joe Goddard, another World class white opponent.

The occasion was significant in that Goddard was the challenger and Jackson was titleholder of the Australian heavyweight belt, and the venue was Jackson’s hometown, Sydney.

Peter Jackson V’s Joe Goddard , 21st October 1890, Sydney Australia

On October 21st 1890 at the New South Wales Athletic Club in Crystal Palace, Sydney Australia stood Peter Jackson and Joe Goddard. Both men were Australian; one was white and the other black. The agreement was for the fight to last a maximum of eight rounds.

In Rd 1, Goddard sent in a smash to the face but was soon sent to the ropes with a left. After the first clinch between the two, Goddard grazed Jackson’s mouth with an attempted strike. The two fought fiercely towards the end with neither dominating the late relay.

Goddard sent in some hard shots to the ribs in the Second Round. Jackson and Goddard exchanged blows with half arm reach for a while as both fighters slowed down the heavy barrage of fists to the other.

In the flurry that followed, Goddard fell to the canvas. Goddard sent in a good strike at Jackson’s left eye opening a gash and now it was Jackson on the canvas, his first in six years. It would not be his last.

Goddard drove Jackson to the ropes with more smashes to the ribs in the 3rd, but was again sent crashing down to the deck with a shot to the face. Goddard rushed at Jackson in the Fourth and both men stretched across the ring for once amidst some excitement.

Goddard and Jackson tried for early domination, but neither could outclass the other. Both fighters were too exhausted to finish off the other. The fight was only four rounds old.

Both men were on the floor in the Fifth Round. Goddard succeeded in delivering some effective blows to the face and head and a swinging left forced Jackson on the ropes. In the Sixth, Jackson gave as good as he got and now was back on even terms with his opponent. Neither could be separated in terms of winning the round outright.

A left to the jaw and right to the ribs by Goddard brought life to the Seventh Round, but Jackson similarly rained down some clear strikes to the body. Goddard landed a heavy smash to the face using both hands in the Eighth Round as Jackson tried to assert some supremacy.

Both men exchanged heavy artillery through the round and Jackson forced in a left to the ribs cutting Goddard’s rush towards him. A right and left by Goddard exploded on Jackson’s face to close the contest.

It had been a vicious and savage fight. One judge scored for Goddard and another for Jackson, the referee, William Miller therefore ruled the contest as a draw. This was the second draw of Johnson’s career; the first had been against Bill Farnan, six years earlier. His last was to be the following year, against Gentleman James Corbett in the famous 61 Round bout between them.
After the Goddard bout, Jackson fought only once more that year (with Mick Dooley to a 4th Round No Contest). His next fight was among the most memorable of his career, and although it ended as a draw, it earned Jackson greater respect and admiration than all his other bouts before then.

His opponent was the up and coming youthful James John Corbett, then just twenty-five years old and not yet bestowed with the title, ‘Gentleman Jim Corbett’. In time, Corbett ousted John L. Sullivan as heavyweight champion of the world, trained James Jeffries and fought Robert Fitzsimmons.

However, at the time of the bout between them in May 1891, Corbett had been a ring professional only since 1889 with a six year amateur career behind him becoming Golden Gloves Champion, Middleweight Champion of the Olympic Club and winning the Seven Silver Championship Cup on the Pacific Coast.

However, he had fought only six times as a professional before meeting Jackson. Nevertheless, along the way, he had defeated Joe Choynski with a TK in 27 Rounds, an over the hill Jake Kilrain in six rounds and Dominick McCaffrey in four rounds. After his bout with Jackson, Corbett had few fights and decided to go on exhibitions instead.

The bout was billed a fight to the finish and lasted an amazing 61 Rounds over four hours. Each round was three minutes. The bout was famous also for the use of the gong for the first time in a fight and the resulting ring science employed by both against the other.

Corbett later believed he had won the bout, but had been robbed of its full glory by the referee since Jackson would have lost the next round by knockout or otherwise at the latest. On his deathbed thirty years later however, he remarked

‘To think I held the greatest ring warrior sixty-one rounds’. Jackson was the only one he had fought for that duration. Perhaps more strikingly, John L. Sullivan was the first to be applauded as ‘the greatest’ by modern analysts and Corbett had fought him the following year.

Corbett similarly did not mention his most famous student and later adversary in the ring, Jim Jeffries, with that kind of praise, yet he reserved his ascription of the title to Jackson.

After 1892 he fought just once, against John L. Sullivan, for the Heavyweight crown and dislodged the older man with a 21st Round knockout. He defended once as well against an old Charlie Mitchell with a 3rd Round knockout in 1894 and continued exhibitions and retired in 1895.

Although he came out of retirement later, Corbett still preferred exhibitions and fought only once in 1896 (a draw), once in 1897 (a 14th Round knockout loss to Robert Fitzsimmons in a heavyweight title match, once in 1898 (a 9th Round loss by foul), twice in 1900 (a 23rd knockout loss to protégé Jim Jeffries and a 5th Round knockout victory). His last fight was in 1903, a 10th TK loss to Jim Jeffries.

Gentleman James Corbett V’s The Black Prince, 22nd May 1891

Round 1, Jackson began the contest with the first punch of the fight and a clinch followed. After Jackson threw another jab that missed the target, a second clinch followed with Corbett the more eager to break away.

Corbett landed a light jab to the jaw, but was rewarded with a left to the ribs to close the round. Corbett opened the Second Round and a clinch ensued. Jackson was led to the ropes for the first time but on coming to the centre, Jackson asserted his dominance.

Corbett attempted a hard half arm swing but missed the mark as his opponent now dodged the shot. Corbett did succeed in landing a shot to the stomach to end the round.

Jackson closed in on Corbett in Round 3, but the Californian dodged his opponent and then clinched. Both men feinted for a while and Corbett moved around the ring dodging as Jackson followed him.

Both men just circled the ring for the first minute and Corbett landed the only successful jabs in the round. Each one was followed by a clinch initiated also by Corbett. Corbett dropped some hard shots to the right side of the body and both men fought at close range throughout the round.

A light strike on the ribs by Jackson opened the Fifth Round as Corbett forced Jackson on the ropes. A rally ensued and now it was Jackson who came alive in the flurry of fists that followed.

A light punch to the jaw by Jackson in the beginning of the Sixth Round was followed by empty exchanges for the next minute. Jackson asserted his dominance and Corbett dodged again. On the way Corbett sent in a punch to the side and then a hard right to the jaw.

Jackson dominated the ring pace with Corbett just being content with dodging in the Seventh Round. No serious exchanges or shots were apparent, although Jackson was the more aggressive and tried landing several shots with little success.

The Eighth Round followed the Seventh with Jackson leading and Corbett dodging. Jackson was forced on the ropes but no damage was done. Corbett closed the round with a hard shot on the ear.

A soft strike to the chin by Corbett was met with an equally accurate shot to the chin by Jackson, except Jackson followed it up with a hard shot and Corbett replied in kind to end the Ninth round.

Jackson struck Corbett’s neck twice to start the Tenth Round. Corbett attempted to retaliate but missed. The round ended with neither fighter making any further major inroads.

Corbett aimed for the stomach with continuity but with little success in the 11th Round. A short rally followed as both men fought near a corner, but no serious damage was inflicted on either boxer.

Two successful strikes to the stomach by Corbett in the twelfth round must have brought some relief to the Californian, but it was Jackson who looked and appeared the fresher of the two by the close of the round.

A short hand jab by Jackson struck Corbett’s left arm in the 13th Round. A light left to the jaw by Corbett resulted in this and as he tried a vicious left, Jackson moved out of the way to end the round.

Some feinting with a swift pace featured in the 14th Round. Neither player was interested in pounding the other for a while. A jab to the chin by Corbett was the only major blow of the round. A similar strike by Jackson missed as Corbett dodged the shot.

The 15th Round was the first to look empty with little fighting, no variety, no forcefulness and no eagerness to dominate and hurt the other. A few light blows by Corbett broke the flow of the uneventful exchanges in the 16th Round and towards the end Corbett landed to heavy strikes to the jaw that brought applause.

The 17th was perhaps one of the most interesting in the fight with both men asserting some ring supremacy and sending in some heavy deliveries. A left to the throat by Corbett was the first of the significant blows struck.

As he struggled to repeat it, Jackson sent in a hard shot on the chest forcing the Californian to stagger. Corbett for once lost his composure and was unable to dodge several more successful deliveries of a similar kind, before Corbett replied with a light jab in return.

In the 18th Round, Corbett sent in a hammering shot to the side and as Jackson tried to reach for a punch to the jaw, Corbett sent in a hard jab on the neck. As the round neared its end, Corbett delivered a left to the jaw.

Corbett dodged a heavy left in the beginning of the 19th Round, but caught a sharp blow at the ribs and a good jab on the chin before the end of the round. In the 20th Round, a short punch to the throat sent Jackson staggering backwards and forced him into a corner.

A rally followed and although both men fought hard, it was Corbett who fared better by giving his opponent several rights and lefts to the jaw to the round’s close.

A hard shot to the jaw by Jackson was met by an equally hard one by Corbett to start Round 21. Both men paced the ring following the other to try and outclass the other and initiate the next encounter as the round closed.

After trying to land a shot to the ribs which Corbett dodged in the 22nd Round, Jackson landed a light jab to the jaw, but it seemed to lack effect. There was little action in the 23rd Round although both men tried to catch the other and missed.

The round continued with Jackson dominating and doing the chasing and the pace continued for the 24th Round as well. Corbett was now being hard pressed and under pressure. A rally did ensue but seemed tame.

Cautious sparring between the two men was the order of the 25th Round with neither man either able or willing to take the initiative to outthink, outfight or outclass the other. A sharp left in the stomach by Corbett opened up the 26th Round, but after that no meaningful deliveries were apparent for the remainder of the round. A good right to the jaw by Corbett resulted in two hard shots to his own jaw in the 27th Round.

The two men showed signs of fatigue in the 28th Round and Jackson was the first to try for dominance as he led for a strike at the jaw. Corbett struck hard on the ear after two equally successful knocks on Jackson’s jaw.

In the 29th Round, Corbett sent in some shots to the head and body and received two counter shots in return. Jackson staggered by the power of Corbett’s shots towards the end.

A punch to the jaw by Jackson brought life to the 30th Round and a clinch followed. Corbett was trying for a knockout. Jackson shrugged him off but was forced on the ropes. It seemed he was the weaker of the two in the round. Cheers followed Corbett as it seemed he was going for the kill.

Corbett tried to dominate in the 31st Round but both men seemed and looked too tired to continue. Jackson was the more aggressive of the two in Round 32, whilst caution appeared on the 33rd Round with neither man even trying for a knockout.

The 34th-38th Rounds were a repetition of each other. Both men were just pacing the ring with neither seemingly able to put out the other or perhaps equally unwilling to risk it.

Jackson was the more superior of the two in the 39th Round, although there was still little actual fighting and spectators were beginning to get impatient and bored. They wanted a knockout.

Corbett was struck on the jaw and another strike landed on Corbett’s wind in the only significant aspect of the 40th Round. A rally occurred in the 41st round with both men giving as good as they got. Jackson sent in two effective strikes on Corbett; the second was the more meaningful and landed on the heart.

The 42nd Round was a walking exercise with both men content to pace the ring with no attempt at serious fighting. Corbett was the weaker of the two in the 43rd Round although there was little action in the round anyway.

The 44th and 45th Rounds had nothing in them either. Both men looked tired and unable to continue, let alone box and knock out the other. Nevertheless the fight continued.

In the 46th Round Corbett landed two powerful strikes; one on the throat and a second on the heart. The second sent Jackson staggering. Corbett followed up with heavy straight rights into Jackson’s side to end the round.

By the 47th Round, Jackson’s lips were swollen and Corbett had some red spots near his stomach although he was totally unmarked otherwise. The round however produced little by either fighter.

A small exchange of blows in the 48th Round gave some light to the fight and a few light strikes were delivered in the 49th Round to give the impression something was still left in the fight, whilst in reality it was coming to a close.

The Fiftieth Round was significant only in one sense; not a single blow of any value was struck by either man despite three minutes of sparring in the round. The steam had disappeared.

The fight seemed to have ended in the Fifty-first round. It was around 12:30 then and after this round, it became a farcical comedy with who can be the more wearier and tired.

The Fifty-second, Fifty-third, Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth rounds had the same tone to them; emptiness. Spectators were leaving and becoming bored of the monotonous routine by both men.

In the Fifty-sixth round, both fighters were just walking around the ring, there was no fighting as such. The Fifty-seventh round saw both men do more walking around with no action. The crowd meanwhile had largely gone to sleep.

The Fifty-eighth round saw no conclusive action from either man. In the Fifty-ninth Round, both men were very weary. In the Sixtieth Round, the referee urged both men to fight, but neither had the energy to continue. If they didn’t fight, he argued, he would terminate the bout and declare it a draw.

At the end of the Sixty-first Round, Referee Hiram Cook declared the contest a draw. Both men were extremely weak and it was apparent neither could strike the knockout blow or an effective shot any further.

Notwithstanding his praise for Jackson, Corbett had also fought James Jeffries, Robert Fitzsimmons, Tom Sharkey, Jake Kilrain and Joe Choynski. The first two were heavyweight champions after himself and both beat him when he was much older. Jeffries was an undefeated champion by the time he chose to retire and had defeated Corbett twice.

Corbett had also been at ringside as a second for James Jeffries against Jack Johnson in 1910, yet he still singled Peter Jackson out as his personal favourite as the greatest fighter.

In 1892, then aged 31 years, Peter Jackson decided to concentrate less on numbers and more on the quality of opponents and what was at stake? As such he fought only five fights that year, a total of twenty-two rounds including two by knockout.

He also won the best and greatest fight of his career the same year, a ten round knockout of fellow Australian, Frank ‘Paddy’ Slavin for the Commonwealth (British Empire) Heavyweight Title.

The vicious and brutal fight saw both fighters bleed heavily from the mouth, almost collapse at different times and stage comebacks after suffering a beating from the other. Jackson concealed and protected his weak area, his broken ribs sustained from an earlier fight, which Slavin had attacked and caused more damage.

Still Jackson fought on with determination and knocked out his opponent with his now famous ‘one-two’ to end the bout. When Jackson passed away years later, Slavin wept profusely at his funeral.

He retired in 1895 with just one loss to his name at the age of 34, but lack of money forced him back in the ring in 1898 against the youthful Jim Jeffries, fourteen years his junior.

In that particular bout, he still managed to draw blood against the champion landing effective blows for a while. Another defeat against Jim Jeffords in August 1899 should have been his last, but another four months later in December that year was among his finest.

He was thirty-eight years old, sick, clearly unfit and out of shape, yet he still took Billy Warren the distance in the 25 Round Draw between them in Melbourne, Australia. He had only been in the country for two months prior to the fight.

Earlier he had staged two exhibition fights with Jim Jeffords before meeting him in the ring in the professional bout between them. The first exhibition had been 10 Rounds whilst the second was 6 Rounds and the fight itself was four rounds. Jackson’s three ring appearances against his opponent were approximately 20 Rounds.

After 1898, he never fought again. Three years later, Jackson passed away in Australia. He was forty years old.

An Assessment

When Peter Jackson first retired in 1885 as a youth at the age of twenty-four, he had lost just once in four years and by the time of his next defeat, fourteen years later at the age of thirty-seven in 1898, he had fought a further eighty-two contests in 410 Rounds without loss.

Starting with the Australian Heavyweight Championships in 1886, Jackson was the recipient of at least three titles, namely the British Empire and Commonwealth Championship and the Coloured Heavyweight Championship of the World by the time of his next retirement. Only the official Heavyweight Championship eluded him and that was because of his colour alone.

His total time spent in the ring from 1881-1899 included 485 Rounds. If you include his 82 exhibitions and friendly bouts publicly staged (43 of which occurred in 1889 alone), it easily exceeded five hundred by a long shot.

In 1887, Peter Jackson in his professional career at the age of twenty-six, fought fifteen bouts in a total of forty-eight rounds. Arriving in California in 1888, Peter Jackson, then twenty-seven years old, slowed down the pace, but still amassed a total of five straight wins, two knockouts and three by technical knockout. In 1889 he fought another twenty-five bouts, this time over seventy-eight rounds.

Starting from September 1889 to February 1890, Jackson, then aged twenty-eight, notched up a total of twenty straight wins, including four knockouts. This was when John L Sullivan, his contemporary in both age and career span, was fighting less and less and insisting on larger purse strings despite once earning more than the President of the United States himself.

Between October 2nd-5th 1889, Jackson also fought in 4 exhibitions (over five days) and knocked out Jack Partridge on October 7th in the only professional bout the same week in the 3rd Round.

Notwithstanding this, he fought a further six exhibitions in six days starting from October 8th, the day after his professional fight with Jack Partridge. Each exhibition lasted 3 Rounds.

Furthermore, in a total of 10 exhibitions in October 1889, he fought 30 Rounds along with three professional bouts, all of which he won in a space of 10 Rounds between them. This amounted to 40 Rounds in exhibition and professional bouts for just one month of the year in the life of Peter Jackson.

In 1890, Jackson fought a total of sixteen professional bouts, this time over fifty-five rounds (as well as seven exhibitions in over 13 Rounds with Jack Ashton). In 1891, then thirty years old, he fought just one bout, albeit a fight to the finish, against the twenty-five year old Californian, James J Corbett, to an amazing 61 Round Draw.

That particular fight was famous more for its demonstration of ring science, psychological mindset of both fighters, Round by Round sparring and difference in technique, style and variation as the bout went on.

This was despite a cold and a severe injury to Jackson sustained one week before the fight which hampered his movements and restricted his speed across the ring as well as fighting with two broken ribs for part of the fight. Corbett was similarly requested not to fight by his physician for health reasons.

After defeating Slavin in 1892, Jackson’s career was finished, although he continued fighting for another three years and after his second retirement in 1895, returned to the ring in 1898 for financial reasons.

Apart from the big names he met in the ring, Jackson also fought exhibitions with Joe Choynski, Joe Lannon, Frank Childs and Bob Fitzsimmons in his career. John L. Sullivan and Tom Sharkey avoided him completely. After winning the Heavyweight Title from John L. Sullivan in 1892, James Corbett similarly avoided Jackson.

As a boxer, Jackson’s physique was regarded as perfect, astonishing and spellbinding for all to see, a remarkable example of an almost flawless specimen of boxing even in his later years.

He was a master at feinting, dancing around, shuffling footwork and speed across the ring. He was a heavy pound for pound fighter capable of going toe to toe with any boxer, possessed incredible endurance and staying power in the ring and could adapt to the style, patterns and psychological thought processes of his opponents.

Although he was not an upper cutter as such, he could deliver hammering shots to the head, face and jaw and send his adversaries to the deck with one swift strike. His favourite jab, the one-two combination horrified many opponents and several tried to avoid it completely.

He could use the left as well as his right hand for explosive deliveries and take in heavy shots to the body, stomach and head himself. So strong were his stomach muscles that several heavy quick combinations by Corbett in their 1891 fight to the solar plexus did Jackson no injury.

Aside from boxing, Peter Jackson was an expert swimmer and diver, acted in the theatre and was among Australia’s greatest sports celebrities and talented aspirants of the nineteenth century.

A gentleman with immaculate manners, a jovial and friendly personality with fine speech and appearance, Jackson was seen as the epitome of both masculinity and courtly grace at its best and respected in social circles and the upper echelons of society as such.

He was often met with huge ovations by white people in England and America whenever he arrived there and caused among the biggest sensations among the black community when he defeated specific opponents deemed impossible for him to dislodge.

Peter Jackson, despite his long career and stream of supporters in three different continents, never married or had any children, but nevertheless left a strong and powerful legacy behind him.

In comparison to black champions after him, Jack Johnson fought 114 matches with 14 losses, but never without gloves or for more than 26 Rounds at the most and unlike Jackson won many by decision.

Like many after him, he was a titleholder and that’s what attracted fighters to him and alongside that, a steady salary. Jackson never received such an opportunity. His contemporaries cautiously spurned him.

Muhammad Ali won 56 of his 61 fights in 549 Rounds over a space of twenty years. However, many of his victories were also by decision (some controversial) and among his greatest gifts of later years was endurance in the ring rather than punching power and ring science. By the, blacks as champions were an acceptable image to the sport.

Sugar Ray Robinson was a clever, hard-hitting and spectacular fighter, capable of outthinking, outpointing, out-boxing and outclassing any opponent of his weight. He won his first 40 fights and most of his 19 defeats came during his last years.

However, he emerged when the sport had more to offer black fighters, did not force them to entertain whites in exhibitions just to stay alive and could afford a lifestyle of some worth and earn title shots. The TV age and mass international interest opened up borders, opportunities and lucrative contracts not available to boxers several decades before him.

If he had to undertake a similar route to Jackson in terms of fights and exhibitions per week, per month and with less money and a not so bright future, would he have been the same fighter that he eventually became?

In short, Peter Jackson was a combination of several fighters. Muhammad Ali and Jersey Joe Walcott because of Jackson’s amazing footwork, speed, dancing and feinting and his personal elegance in and out the ring. Jack Johnson because of his flamboyance, his ferocious firepower strikes and rapidity of encircling his opponents and Archie Moore due to his resilience, self-determination and confidence in regaining lost composure after suffering a beating.

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