History | Oct 16 2019

On This Day: Jack Johnson fought Stanley Ketchel

Jack Johnson vs Stanley Ketchel – attempted double cross or legitimate fight, wonders James Slater
Jack Johnson

THOUGH the fight in question was actually filmed, this still being a rarity in 1909, the questions surrounding the Jack Johnson-Stanley Ketchel fight remain to this day. Is the much-told legend – of heavyweight king Johnson and middleweight ruler Ketchel agreeing to box what would today amount to an exhibition, to go the distance, only for Ketchel to attempt a double-cross and deck an unsuspecting Johnson, who then had to “make him pay” – true? Or was the bout in actuality a legitimate fight, with the much smaller man able to give one of the finest heavyweights in history one heck of a tough fight?

The legend goes like this:

Johnson and Ketchel were friendly, at least to a degree, and the two privately agreed to fight and go the full 20 scheduled rounds, thus serving the motion picture people behind the event, who would make a bundle from the curiosity fight that was widely viewed as a mismatch. Fan interest was nevertheless big and the two men had to make the fight appear competitive – a first-round KO would be bad for business.


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