2022 FALL PREMIER AUCTION

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We present here a unique handwritten and signed letter from heavyweight champ Jack Johnson while in exile in Europe. The letter not only gives his prediction for a victory over Frank Moran in an upcoming fight, but Johnson also references another African American sports legend, baseball manager Andrew “Rube” Foster.

The spring of 1914 found Jack Johnson living in France. He had fled the United States in July of 1913 after he was infamously convicted for a technical violation of the Mann Act. For a while the fighter tried to make a living by performing in vaudeville acts in England, but his shows were met with audience disapproval, convincing Johnson he needed to fight again. In December 1913, Johnson fought fellow African American, "Battling" Jim Johnson. This was the first time two Black heavyweights fought for the world championship. The fight ended in a draw, mostly due to Jack having broken his arm in the third round, forced him to fight with just one hand. The "Galveston Giant" kept his title and another bout was arranged -- this time against Frank Moran, an up-and-comer from Pittsburgh. While training for the Moran fight, Johnson took time to correspond with Watson Burns, his old trainer who was living in Los Angeles. Dated April 28, 1914, and written on special stationery made just for the upcoming fight, the letter reads:

“Dear Friend Watson:- Your kind letter rec’d and glad to hear from you, can’t understand why I haven’t rec’d all your mail. Just read in the Chicago Defender where Rube Foster’s players were shaving in Cal and couldn’t get any games. That is what he gets for a pack of lies. You ought to know none of those spades around Chicago are going to do any thing for me for nothing. That trip cost me over two thousand dollars. When I go to fight; Watson if I don’t send for you will send you some good tips so you can make some change for your self. Am feeling fine and am sure Moran will be an easy victim. We are having beautiful weather and imagine it is same in Los Angeles. Well Watson let us hear from you soon and with best respects from Mme. Johnson and myself. Sincerely Jack Johnson [return address in France]"

The Johnson-Moran fight took place on June 27, 1914. 30,000 spectators crowded into the Velodrome d'Hiver in Paris.  Future middle and heavyweight champion Georges Carpentier was the match’s referee. The fight went the full 20 rounds, and though there were no knockdowns, Johnson demonstrated he was in full control throughout and retained his title. Johnson would remain in exile until 1920 when he returned to serve an 11-month jail sentence.

This letter has worn a bit from storage and age. Some edges are a little ragged and there are creases from being folded into thirds.The blue fountain pen writing remains very bold and clearly legible, averaging 8/10 in strength and eye appeal. The corresponding envelope exhibits aging and wear from being mailed across the Atlantic. A truly one-of-a-kind piece from an African American icon and one of the most successful fighters of all time. Includes full LOA from Beckett authenticating Johnson's complete handwritting and autograph.

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