Jack Johnson, Monday 7 September 1931
Former heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson was brought to Vancouver in 1931 for a demonstration boxing match on Labour Day at the Denman Arena. Fifty-three year old Johnson beat Ernie Bickerton, but according to the Sun, the match was likely rehearsed and was generally a farce. Johnson was “fat and old and quite unfit … a negligible quantity,” but was nevertheless funny and put on a good show for the crowd.
Johnson’s first fight after winning the world heavyweight title in 1909 was in Vancouver. While here for that fight, he met the man who would become his trainer and sparring partner, George Paris, who also happened to be Canada’s first known jazz musician.
After retiring from the ring, Jack Johnson started a jazz club in New York that eventually became the legendary Cotton Club.
Despite the Sun’s attempt to portray him as an Uncle Tom-type, Johnson spent much of his career actively defying racist stereotypes and consequently was a major inspiration to later black performers, including Miles Davis and Muhammad Ali.
Source: Vancouver Sun, 2 September 1931