6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very very good
I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a tremendous read full of stories of the myriad characters from the turn of the century.
Jack Johnson is the central figure in the book but not the main character. The author takes the tack of looking at the white hopes who were groomed to take the crown from Johnson. These fighters tended to be big but technically clumsy and...
Published on October 13, 2006 by Peter
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much on nobodies.
Interesting bios of Victor McGlagen and Jess Willard. But too much equal time to nobodies. And why a whole chapter to Georges Carpentier? He didn't even fight Jack Johnson. For boxing fanatics only.
Published on July 13, 2011 by J. Rodeck
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very very good,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Hardcover)I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a tremendous read full of stories of the myriad characters from the turn of the century.
Jack Johnson is the central figure in the book but not the main character. The author takes the tack of looking at the white hopes who were groomed to take the crown from Johnson. These fighters tended to be big but technically clumsy and the ones who were unfortunate enough to get into the ring with Johnson tended to have a hard time of it.
Being a fan of photos, I would have liked some more pictures to be in the book but that is a minor quibble.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ring Of Hate,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Hardcover)Artist Andy Warhol would have run out of supplies if he needed to paint the mostly tomato cans that were vying to be the Great White Hope.
In an interesting angle, author Graeme Kent profiles many of the white boxers that were battling to be the heavyweight contender to dethrone the great champion, Jack Johnson. The trail spans the globe; the United States, Canada, England, France, South Africa and Australia. Hate fueled by racisim has no boundaries.
The pretenders came from all walks of life - eveything from pro wrestlers to those who had their past created by their promoters - and oftentimes competed in tournaments to crown the "White Heavyweight Champion." There are fixed matches, unscrupulous cornermen, a match highlighted by a biting incident, gloves filled with material so the punches were like puffs and several deaths inside the ring.
The irony is the hate grew to such levels in the United States that quality black fighters had to leave for Europe to have any chance of getting an opportunity to compete, while white European fighters were coming stateside to try and build their reputations inside the ring and with the media.
Kent presents excellent background information on the history of the era, along with following up on what happened to many of the fighters later in life.
Johnson looms large in the story, but is not the focus of the book. The section on Jess Willard alludes to Johnson's later contention that he took a dive to drop the belt in a deal to return to the United States and not face the trumped-up federal charges that had forced him to flee the country.
Kent pretty much dismisses the "dive," citing Johnson's declining ring skills and age. I contend that Johnson was tired of living abroad and the pressure of having a government and racist society made him pursue the only means to bring this period of his life to a close; agree to lose the title.
Willard emerged from the mass of white fighters, but could hardly be considered championship-quality. His career was nearly over when he quit in the ring during a match and had an opponent die in another fight. He was not considered a great title holder then and his lack of skills were exposed when Jack Dempsey defeated him for the crown.
Though black fighters could possibly compete for championships in the lighter weight divisions, the victory by Willard closed the door on black heavyweights having a chance for ring immortality until the emergence of Joe Louis.
Johnson had the savvy to become the greatest heavyweight champion ever, but he could not defeat a larger opponent that still plagues society today.
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative book about lots of different fighters,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Paperback)I picked this book up for a dollar off of a another site, and learned a ton of information that was new to me about many different fighters. Jack Johnson has been written about extensively in a variety of books over the years, and the author does a nice job weaving Johnson in and out of the biographies of the several dozen different fighters discussed in the book. But it is the stories of eventual Johnson conqueror Jess Willard and murdered middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel and tragic White Hope Luther McCarty where the author really provides information not widely known to most boxing fans.
Who knew that in 1944, boxing fans could have paid a quarter to listen to Willard and Johnson discuss their controversial 1915 title bout and ask the two boxers questions about the fight? Even adjusted for inflation, what an opportunity that must have been for fight fans of the day.
It is commonly known that Stanley Ketchel was murdered while eating breakfast in 1910. But the author discusses that even at age 24, Ketchel was nearing the end of the line and becoming increasingly reliant on fixed fights.
The book also gives great information on the three other great black heavyweights of Johnson's time -- Sam Langford, Sam McVey and Joe Jeanette. The book does seem to devote too much space to minor figures such as Tom Kennedy, Victor McLaglen, Iron Hague and several other fighters, but there is a ton of great information in the text about boxers rarely written about previously.
One thing that took some getting used to was the fact that the author is British. Although the book is a great read and I highly recommend it, some of the phrasing and obscure wording may be a bit confusing to American readers. But this is still a great book for anyone interested in Jack Johnson specifically or early 20th century boxing as a whole.
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT READ FOR BOXING FANS,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Paperback)Kent has a vivid writing style as a boxing writer. This in itself is a talent that seems more and more exclusive, as more restrictions and criticisms are levelled at the sport (give me boxing over ultimate fighting any day).
I laughed out loud a few times; some of the boxers and the people who associated with them are the stuff from which so much fantastic fiction has been drawn. And the account of the period when managers and promoters seized their charges and gave them exotic names is brilliant.
It's not a bio of Johnson, although he is the central figure, and stories of his life in and out of the ring course through the book. There's also a potted history of the emergence of boxing as a sport, and thumbnail sketches of its popularity in the key markets of Australia, The U.S., The U.K., and France.
It is true that not everyone depicted fought Jack Johnson, but it seems that all of them wanted to. In any case, they were all noteworthy fighters in the orbit of this earth-shattering champion, who could not be beaten.
I learned a lot about how racism was a savagely motivating factor in sports at the time. Indeed, the outcomes of the JJ years-- the colour bars and so on-- lasted up until after the Second World War.
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much on nobodies.,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Paperback)Interesting bios of Victor McGlagen and Jess Willard. But too much equal time to nobodies. And why a whole chapter to Georges Carpentier? He didn't even fight Jack Johnson. For boxing fanatics only.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Great White Hopes.... Quest to defeat Jack Johnson,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Paperback)Very interesting point of American history. The book is a mirror of the US society of the time. It is kind of unique to hear from a British perspective. The reader should get use to hear weights in stone instead of pounds. We tend to focus on the American great white hope campaign.... yet heavyweight contenders from Britain, France, South Africa, Russia, and other parts of the world were also playing a role. It also shed some light on fellow great black heavyweight contenders such as Joe Jeannette, Sam McVey, and Sam Langford.
5.0 out of 5 stars The great white hopes,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Paperback)Well written book on a time period in our Country that is not one we can be proud of. When Jack Johnson, boxings first black heavyweight champion ruled his division, the cry for a "white hope" athlete to re-claim that cherished title engulfed the Nation and Europe. The pot-of-gold awaiting a fighter that could take back this prize for the white race drew some of the shadiest managers, promoters, and backers in the history of sport. The author gives us great detail about the young men that aspired to become the man to beat the great fighter Johnson, and the men that set the "white hope" campaign into action. I really couldn't find anything that the author left out, it's a terrific read and one that is a must for any fan of boxing. If you watch or follow boxing and don't know much about this period in our Nation's history then you really owe it to yourself to pick this book up, you won't want to put it down.
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique.,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Paperback)I love the angle that Mr. Kent uses to tell this story. Jack Johnson is the main character but not the main topic. This is the only book that I have found that goes into depth about the white challengers and would be challengers for Johnson's heavyweight crown.
5.0 out of 5 stars Author entertainingly reveals the men whose names dot the ring records of the great hvywghts of the early 20th century,
This review is from: The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson (Paperback)Like the Tom Stoppard play, ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, which speculated as to what Hamlet's two friends were doing whenever they exited a scene from Shakespeare's HAMLET, Graeme Kent elucidates on the ring careers and lives of the "Great White Hopes" when they weren't swapping leather with the first African-American world heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson (who reigned from 1908 to 1915) - that is, if they were actually good/bad/lucky/unlucky enough to get a title shot at him - or with the other boxing immortals who came before or after him, such as Jack Dempsey. Some of the White Hopes are familiar to "hardcore" boxing fans, such as Ed "Gunboat" Smith, whom Dempsey claimed hit him harder than any man that he fought (Smith also allegedly belted Johnson out of the ring during a sparring session while 'Lil Arthur was in training to fight Stanley Ketchel), and Jim Jeffries, a former heavyweight champion who "drew the color line" while champ and was drawn out of retirement to "take back the title for the white race", but most are relative unknowns whose names just happen to appear as opponents on the ring records of more illustrious fighters.
Kent sprinkles his thorough, well-written, and well-researched book with many interesting and, oftentimes, very funny anecdotes about the White Hopes and the notable characters populating the boxing world of the time, including fight promoters Tex Rickard and "Sunny" Jim Coffroth, managers Willus Britt, Wilson Mizner, and "Dumb" Dan Morgan, and African-American contender Sam Langford (who, with the exception of Johnson, was the best fighter in the heavyweight ranks and was "ducked" by Johnson once he became the champ). And, while the focus of this book is on the white boxers who clamoured to fight Johnson, there is plenty of information about the champ himself and about that period in American history.
The chapters in the book are as follows: 1) "There Was No Fight!" (about Johnson's title-winning bout with Tommy Burns); 2) The Future Assistant Provost Marshal of Baghdad (Victor McLaglen); 3) The Philadelphia Irishman ("Philadelphia" Jack O'Brien) and Two Warm Bodies (Tony Ross & Al Kaufman); 4) The Hobo (middleweight champion Ketchel); 5) A Hot Day in Reno (about Johnson's title defense against former champ Jeffries); 6) "His Chin Begins At His Knees!" ("Bombadier" Billy Wells - plus William "Iron" Hague); 7) The Hopes and Hopefuls Assemble (Carl Morris, "Fireman" Jim Flynn, Al Palzer, Tom Kennedy, Fred Fulton, Tom Cowler, & Sandy Ferguson); 8) The Cowboy From Driftwood Creek (Luther McCarty - plus Arthur Pelkey); 9) The Bushman (Bill Squires) and the Blacksmith (Bill Lang); 10) French Connections (Georges Carpentier - plus Smith & Frank Moran); 11) The Last Hopes (Con O'Kelly, George Rodel, Andre Anderson, Colin Bell, & Battling Levinsky); 12) The Pottawatomie Giant (Jess Willard, who took the title from Johnson and, later, lost it to Dempsey); 13) The Capain and the Kings Depart (the author reveals what became of the White Hopes after their careers were over). Kent also provides an index at the back of the book, 'tho the page numbers therein don't always jibe with the actual page that said information is on.
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The Great White Hopes: The Quest to Defeat Jack Johnson by Graeme Kent (Paperback - April 25, 2007)
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