THIS weekend Johann Duhaupas will try to wrest the WBC heavyweight title from Deontay Wilder in Birmingham, Alabama and it’s safe to say he starts a huge underdog. Of more interest than the outcome, perhaps, is that Duhaupas is one of very few Frenchmen to contest the sport’s biggest prize (or a sliver of it in this case, as Wladimir Klitschko holds all the other significant heavyweight belts).
The list becomes slightly longer if one accepts Andre Sproul’s fight against jack Johnson in Paris in November 1913 as a legitimate world title affair. For years the Boxing News Record Book and the Ring Record Book listed it as a world title defence for the Galveston man, but nowadays Boxrec don’t even have it on Johnson’s record as a fight. It’s established fact that “Papa Jack” kept busy with several ring appearances that were mere exhibitions or sparring sessions, or even moneymaking ventures against celebrities.
So the first real French challenge for the heavyweight crown came from Georges Carpentier, against Jack Dempsey in 1921. Carpentier was the reigning world light-heavy champ when he stepped into the ring at Boyles Thirty Acres in Jersey City New Jersey in front of 91,000 people. He hurt Dempsey in round two but the size difference told and Jack triumphed on a fourth-round knockout.