The Christmas season usually starts the day after Thanksgiving and ends on the 6th of January for most Americans. It is safe to presume that the most popular and stressful month of this festive season is December. For most, our minds are consumed with the pressures of Christmas shopping, hanging decorations, and dreading over what gift to buy our boss, or maybe that our wallet is thin and it’s a choice between bills or gifts.
With all the hustle and bustle that accompanies Christmas, boxing is the last thing on anyone’s mind, unless you're me, of course. So, I got to wondering, what were some of the significant events regarding boxing during the month of Christmas.
Well, I looked through boxing’s bag of goodies and found some trinkets to stuff the stockings of avid boxing fans. To my surprise, the month of December provided some of the most exciting and historical dates on the pugilistic timeline.
December 10, 1810: Tom Crib Vs. Tom Molineaux
On a wet, cold December day in Sussex, England, American Tom Molineaux challenged England’s champion Tom Crib for the English title. It is reported that this fight was the first to break boxing’s “glass ceiling” in two categories.
First, it was considered the first heavyweight world title match because it featured an American (Molineaux) against an Englishman (Crib). Second, it was the first interracial match since the sport's inception. The likes that wouldn’t be seen again for another 98 years.
The American Civil War hadn't been fought yet, and America was still very much in the slave-owning business. Hell, it wouldn't be for another 53 years until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln which declared that all persons held as slaves were to be freed.
So how was it that a black man from America would travel to England and fight for the English world title? It was a preposterous concept to most at the time.
Tom Molineaux was indeed born a slave in the state of Virginia in 1784. Legend has it that Molineaux’s owner and other slave owners would wickedly make their slaves fight each other for their gross entertainment. And, of course, to make money by placing bets.
Molineaux was victorious in these matches and earned his master a lot of money. Tom's master would give him five hundred dollars and his freedom as a reward.
According to an article by Pamela Parkes for BBC News, Molineaux would continue to fight across the United States. He would eventually fight and win matches all the way to New York and be crowned the “Champion of America.” Then, with nothing left to conquer within the American boxing circuit, Molineaux set sail for England, boxing’s grandest stage at the time.
Within a year of his arrival, Molineaux would square off against Tom Crib in a violent bare-knuckle battle that would last for 30 rounds. Clouded in controversy, Crib would defeat Molineaux when the American champion signaled to stop the fight.
December 19, 1913: Jack Johnson Vs. Jim Johnson
Six days before Christmas in 1913, Jack Johnson and fellow American Jim Johnson would fight for the vacant World Heavyweight Title. It would be the first time two black men would fight against each other for the title. The fight would occur in Paris, France, where Jack Johnson was living in exile after being convicted of violating the Mann Act six months earlier.
The fighting fell flat with little to no action throughout 10 rounds and ended in a draw.
Written accounts at the time say that the fight resembled more of an exhibition than a highly contested world title match. The fans showed their disdain by booing and demanding their money back. Promoters explained that the reason for the abhorrent spectacle was that Jack Johnson suffered a broken arm in the third round.
Still, this doesn’t explain Jim Johnson's lackluster performance.
At the time, Jack Johnson (above) was 35-years-old and past his prime. Jim Johnson was a solid boxer but lost more fights than he won. Check out how it’s phrased on Wikipedia.
Jack Johnson would continue fighting throughout Europe and Mexico for the next seven years before turning himself in to American authorities in 1920.
Jim Johnson’s last fight was on September 22, 1918. Five months later, at the age of 31, Jim would die of pneumonia.
December 17th, 1952: Archie Moore Vs. Joey Maxim
In 1952, 36-year-old Archie Moore was finally given a shot at the world light heavy title against Joey Maxim. Maxim had just come off a knockout win against the great “Sugar” Ray Robinson. At 36-years-old, I bet no one gave Moore a chance in hell of defeating Maxim, but that's precisely what the “Old Mongoose” did.
It is known that Moore was denied a title shot because he was black. But, the time had finally come, and Moore will prove what many knew all along.
For fifteen rounds, Moore pummeled Maxim and won the fight by decision.
After 16 years and 160 bouts, Christmas came early for Archie, and he was finally a world champion.
December 14th, 1996: Riddick Bowe Vs. Andrew Golota II
Not everything is merry and jolly during the month of December. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has witnessed a Christmas gathering get out of control when someone advertently spiked the eggnog.
One of boxing’s most notable fiascos happened on December 14th, 1996. Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota would do battle again, five months after their first fascinating contest. Golota was disqualified for hitting Bowe below the belt on multiple occasions in their first match.
Initially, the second fight wouldn’t disappoint as both men viciously traded blows, and each boxer visited the canvas. However, going into the 9th round, Golota was leading on the scorecards. And in some inexplicable case of deja vu, Golota would again be disqualified for repeatedly hitting Riddick Bowe underneath, OK, directly on his mistletoes.
The Christmas season is a time where most of us wind down after a busy year of work, school, and whatever else takes away our attention from the meaningful things in life.
It’s a time to share, celebrate, show kindness by exchanging gifts, and spend time with those we love. It’s a season that provides an opportunity to think about others rather than ourselves. Tis the season befitting the old adage, “it is better to give, than to receive.” That’s a mantra I'm sure most boxers would agree with.
So, from our family at NYFIGHTS to you and yours, have yourself a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.