Early Boxing: ‘The Colour Line’ – When Black Lives Really Didn’t Matter! (Free of Charge)

(3 customer reviews)


What do ‘The Boston Strong Boy’, John L. Sullivan, Irish wit, Oscar Wilde, and notorious ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ Outlaw, Jesse James, all have in common? Which boxer was known as ‘The Ethiopian’, even though he was born and bred in Galveston, Texas? Which Boxing promoter was given the nickname ‘Huge Deal’ by the Press? Which African-American boxer drew ‘the colour line’ on his own race? Which boxer had to be rushed from the ring because he and his cornermen were being hit by flying lager cans and beer glasses launched at them by enraged spectators? Which World Heavyweight Champion was introduced to the crowd before the Challenger? And who blamed wearing a 40lb ring walk costume on weakening their legs so much that they lost the fight as a result?

JD Morgan takes a look back at the time when ‘the colour line’ was drawn in Boxing and analyses the results of its aftermath.


When the ‘Boston Strong Boy’, John L. Sullivan (1858 – 1918), fought Patrick ‘Paddy’ Ryan (1851 – 1900), in Mississippi City in 1882, under the London Prize Ring Rules of 1-minute rounds with a 50-second break, the attraction was such that not only did the famous New York Minister, Henry Ward Beecher publicly attend, but also Oscar Wilde made a detour. Even the outlaw, Jesse James, who was ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ in seven states with a $10,000 bounty on his head, came out of hiding to ride over four hundred miles from Missouri, passing Arkansas and down through Mississippi in order to witness the momentous occasion of the legendary John L. Sullivan claiming the World Heavyweight Championship in Round 9.

As huge as the interest was for that fight, however, John L. Sullivan had long-since declared that he would draw the ‘colour line’, thereby excluding any African-American boxers he’d ‘allegedly’ fought coming up through the ranks from challenging him for the World Heavyweight Championship.

3 reviews for Early Boxing: ‘The Colour Line’ – When Black Lives Really Didn’t Matter! (Free of Charge)

  1. JB

    This is a must read for all, not just boxing fans. J D Morgan reminds us of the prejudices faced by all people of colour, not just boxing sportsmen and drops in some fascinating snippets of information along the way.

  2. Samuel

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this amazing site needs far
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    • admin (verified owner)

      Thank you so much for your kind words.

      Please tell your friends – on Google @ jdmorgan.co.uk

      Best wishes,


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    • admin (verified owner)

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

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      JD Morgan

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