Peter Jackson

The Man John L. Sullivan Wouldn´t Fight


El gigante de Australia se enfrentó a los grandes boxeadores de su época, y hay quienes dicen que no llegó a ganar el título mundial porque era negro. De la época de las peleas sin guantes, y de combates maratónicos, Peter Jackson, el hombre al que John L. Sullivan no combatiría.

Here it was the 21st round and Gentleman Jim Corbett had come off the floor and taken the offensive. For seven rounds he gave his opponent, a tall handsome Negro with an Australian accent, a lesson in hooking and jabbing, leaving him bleeding from d dozen slashes, smashing his face into a red, raw pulp.
Came the 29th round and it was the Australian´s turn. He drove and belted and slammed, hitting Corbett, suddenly helpless again, in the midsection, blazing away with lefts and rights that would have killed a lesser man.
For 10 rounds more and through eh 40th they kept pounding and ripping away at each other, with first one seeming to have the advantage, then the other –neither giving way for long. They went on fighting for 21 rounds more until; finally, the referee declared it a draw at the end of 61 rounds. It was after 1 a.m. in the morning. The fight had lasted more than four hours and both men were thoroughly exhausted.
Later that night in a Turkish bath on Market Street in San Francisco, Corbett was steaming out his torn flesh and weary bones when he heard some say, “Is that you, Jim?”

“Yes,” said Corbett softly. “Peter?”
“Yes. You were a great fighter tonight.”
“Thanks,” said Corbett. “You were great, too.  I hope I never have to fight another man like you.”
He didn´t. A year later, Jim Corbett won the title from John L. Sullivan but he never fought Peter Jackson again. None of the big ones wanted to fight Jackson. First, because he was a Negro. Second, because he was perhaps the greatest fighter of the age.
Jackson never won the heavyweight championship of the world, but he did have his moments. He packed into his brief lifetime a spectacular career of swimming, seafaring, fighting, playing acting and loving, and he made over $200,000 out of the ring and the stage in the years between 1888 and 1898…
Jackson´s story begins in the West Indies. He was born in Christiansted, St. Croix, now part of the Virgin Islands, in 1861. His father was a fisherman with the wanderlust, who succeeded in persuading a sea captain to take the whole family to Australia. Both Jackson and his wife worked for their passage. Peter, an only child, was about 6 years old at the time.
The parents became homesick and went back to the West Indies after a few years, but the son stayed in Sydney. He was a powerful stripling with wide shoulders, tapering hips and long arms and legs. Swimming was a popular sport in Sydney in the late seventies, and Jackson was a local favorite before he was 14…
Jackson was interested in all sports, but he became a boxer by accident. When he was about 18 years old, he shipped out on a schooner as a deckhand. The vessel was owned by an American named Clay Callahan. Callahan couldn´t fight, but he liked to put on the gloves, and he asked Jackson to spar with him one day. The kid knew nothing whatever about boxing, but Callahan took a liking to him.
“”Next time we get to Sydney, the American remarked, “I´ll take you in to meet Larry Foley.”
“Who´s Larry Foley?” asked Jackson.
“He´s a boxing teacher –just about the most important boxing man in Australia,” Callahan said, “I think he can make a fighter out of you.”
Jackson in 1889
Jackson in 1889

Un poco más
Jackson comenzó a ser conocido en los alrededores de Sídney cuando un estibador, armado con un garrote, intentó atacar al capitán Callahan. El hombre había tenido un problema con el capitán anteriormente. Cuando avanzaba amenazadoramente hacia el capitán, Jackson saltó al medio y de un solo golpe mandó al hombre al suelo.
Jackson media más de un metro con ochenta y pesaba 86 kilogramos y Foley supo de inmediato el potencial del joven. Sin embargo, otro atleta del lugar, Frank Slavin, odiaba al recién llegado. Slavin era también alto y fornido, tenía ciertos reparos contra los hombres de color y se rehusó a practicar con Jackson. Para colmo de males ambos estaban atraídos hacia la belleza de una jamaiquina que apareció del brazo de su tío rico, amante del boxeo, con dinero suficiente para gastar y malgastar.
Foley era también el dueño de una posada, donde se juntaban a conversar y beber los lugareños. Cuando Slavin estaba bebiendo, un marinero le pidió que le invitara un trago, Slavin se negó y el marinero, dolido, apostó a que Jackson acabaría con él. Allí se inició una pelea entre Slavin y Jackson, que solo sería el preludio de lo que ocurriría en Londres… (Desde The Man John L. Sullivan Wouldn´t Fight, by Al Hihshberg and Doc Almy, de True, Marzo del 54.)

Para saber
Peter Jackson: (1861 - 1901) en 1898 Jackson perdió una pelea con el fornido James J. Jeffries, otro gran boxeador que se convertiría en campeón mundial a comienzos de 1900. La salud de Jackson comenzó a debilitarse al final de su carrera, obstaculizando su rendimiento en el ring.
Jackson había sido alumno de Jack “The Black Diamond” Dowridge, inmigrante de Barbados que fue pionero en el boxeo en Queensland, Australia.
Jackson murió de tuberculosis en Roma, Queensland.
Un poco después de convertirse en campeón de los pesos pesados en 1908, Jack “The Galveston Giant” Johnson, hizo un viaje a la tumba de Jackson, para rendir honor a un hombre respetado no solo en Queensland, sino en toda la comunidad boxística internacional.
La tumba de Jackson proclama: “This was a man”.
Jim Corbett (1866 - 1933) fue un boxeador norteamericano y campeón peso pesado, más conocido por haber derrotado a John L. Sullivan. A pesar de haber tenido una carrera con solo 24 combates, Corbett enfrentó a los mejores competidores que su época le pudo ofrecer.
John L. Sullivan (1858 -1918) fue un boxeador norteamericano reconocido como el primer campeón de peso pesado, con guantes de boxeo. Mantuvo el título entre 1882 y 1892.
De la web
Corbett and Jackson in 1891
Corbett and Jackson in 1891
Fuentes
True, the Man´s Magazine, March Issue, 1954.

También sobre un personaje real: Roy Roberts. El gordito y la estrella dorada. El periodista y editor del Kansas City Star.