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Thread: Strange but True: He won the title in 1935, lost it in 1939, and had 57 fights in the interim.

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    Strange but True: He won the title in 1935, lost it in 1939, and had 57 fights in the interim.

    John Henry Lewis was the generally recognized light heavyweight champion of the world after defeating Bob Olin in October of 1935. He surrendered it less than three-and-a-half years later when he could no longer hide the fact that he was blind in one eye. During his title reign he had 57 bouts. Only five were considered title defenses.

    As a title-holder, Lewis appeared in 20 states plus the District of Columbia plus one appearance in London. His motto may have been "have gloves, will travel."

    John Henry had several things working against him: He ruled a division largely ignored by the national press, he was a technician whose fights were often described as dull and listless (box office poison), and he was the wrong pigmentation. His bout with dangerous Elmer "Violent" Ray, a non-title affair slated for 15 rounds, played out before a segregated audience in the ballpark that was home to the oddly named Negro League baseball team called the Atlanta Black Crackers.

    Elmer Ray was a heavyweight as were many of Lewis's opponents. Looking at the fights that he had during his title reign, I noticed that on 24 occasions his opponent was the heavier man by at least 5 pounds. On only one occasion was it the other way around.

    Lewis's final fight at Madison Square Garden vs. heavyweight champ Joe Louis was something of a charity fight. The two men with the same-sounding last name were friends. The Brown Bomber knew that John Henry's eyes were failing and wanted to send him off into retirement with a decent payday to tide him over. Louis knocked him out in the opening round. That was merciful; not cruel.

    John Henry Lewis died in 1974 a few weeks prior to his 60th birthday. Very few mainstream newspapers -- and for that matter, very few African-American papers -- acknowledged it.

    I can't think of another boxing champion who fought so hard and so long for so little.

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    Re: Strange but True: He won the title in 1935, lost it in 1939, and had 57 fights in the interim.

    Quote Originally Posted by ArneK. View Post
    John Henry Lewis was the generally recognized light heavyweight champion of the world after defeating Bob Olin in October of 1935. He surrendered it less than three-and-a-half years later when he could no longer hide the fact that he was blind in one eye. During his title reign he had 57 bouts. Only five were considered title defenses.

    As a title-holder, Lewis appeared in 20 states plus the District of Columbia plus one appearance in London. His motto may have been "have gloves, will travel."

    John Henry had several things working against him: He ruled a division largely ignored by the national press, he was a technician whose fights were often described as dull and listless (box office poison), and he was the wrong pigmentation. His bout with dangerous Elmer "Violent" Ray, a non-title affair slated for 15 rounds, played out before a segregated audience in the ballpark that was home to the oddly named Negro League baseball team called the Atlanta Black Crackers.

    Elmer Ray was a heavyweight as were many of Lewis's opponents. Looking at the fights that he had during his title reign, I noticed that on 24 occasions his opponent was the heavier man by at least 5 pounds. On only one occasion was it the other way around.

    Lewis's final fight at Madison Square Garden vs. heavyweight champ Joe Louis was something of a charity fight. The two men with the same-sounding last name were friends. The Brown Bomber knew that John Henry's eyes were failing and wanted to send him off into retirement with a decent payday to tide him over. Louis knocked him out in the opening round. That was merciful; not cruel.

    John Henry Lewis died in 1974 a few weeks prior to his 60th birthday. Very few mainstream newspapers -- and for that matter, very few African-American papers -- acknowledged it.

    I can't think of another boxing champion who fought so hard and so long for so little.
    The bout that he had with Joe "The Brown Bomber" Louis was the first heavyweight title match between two African AmerKanos. Holla!

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    Re: Strange but True: He won the title in 1935, lost it in 1939, and had 57 fights in the interim.

    John Henry was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for his exploits it the sport. Its reported that he fought a lot of heavyweights due to the lightheavyweight divisions lackluster appeal. The heavyweight division cast a long impenetrable shadow over the fledgling 175 pounders at the time, John Henry found it more lucrative to fight heavyweights in non title bouts than growing icicles on his gloves waiting around for a decent payday at his regular weight. He also had a victory over the "Cinderella Man" James L Bradock during his peak.
    Braddock would later avenge his loss in a rematch.
    John Henry Lewis had a remarkable but little known career in one of the loneliest divisions in boxing

    Interesting topic.

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    Re: Strange but True: He won the title in 1935, lost it in 1939, and had 57 fights in the interim.

    A lonely division. I like it.

    John Henry Lewis was often dismissed as a powder-puff puncher. I'm guessing that he would have thrown more punches with bad intentions if not for a terrible incident that happened when he was just 16 years old.

    In his seventh pro fight, in Prescott, Arizona, Lewis scored a third round knockout over a 21-year-old opponent named Sam Terrin. Knocked to the canvas after absorbing a punch to the jaw -- and with his wife looking on -- Terrin never got up and was declared dead a few minutes later. Lewis was taken into custody awaiting the coroner's report, standard procedure back in those days.

    The coroner determined that Terrin had a defective heart, but this had to be an emotionally traumatic incident for Lewis, one that weighed heavily on his mind each time that he entered the squared circle.

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    Re: Strange but True: He won the title in 1935, lost it in 1939, and had 57 fights in the interim.

    Quote Originally Posted by ArneK. View Post
    A lonely division. I like it.

    John Henry Lewis was often dismissed as a powder-puff puncher. I'm guessing that he would have thrown more punches with bad intentions if not for a terrible incident that happened when he was just 16 years old.

    In his seventh pro fight, in Prescott, Arizona, Lewis scored a third round knockout over a 21-year-old opponent named Sam Terrin. Knocked to the canvas after absorbing a punch to the jaw -- and with his wife looking on -- Terrin never got up and was declared dead a few minutes later. Lewis was taken into custody awaiting the coroner's report, standard procedure back in those days.

    The coroner determined that Terrin had a defective heart, but this had to be an emotionally traumatic incident for Lewis, one that weighed heavily on his mind each time that he entered the squared circle.

    Wow this topic is a cornucopia of boxing trivia...

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