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Jack Johnson

1908-15

"The Galveston Giant" became the first African American heavyweight champion, although his journey to the title wasn't easy. Avoided by unbeaten champion James J. Jeffries until his retirement, Johnson waited until 1908 when -- after stalking new champion Tommy Burns around the globe for two years -- he outpointed Burns in Australia.

Johnson finally got his shot at Jeffries two years later, stopping the former champion, who came out of a six-year retirement to face Johnson in "The Fight Of The Century." Having defended the title eight times in seven years, a 37-year-old Johnson lost it in 1915 to Jess Willard in Cuba on a 26th-round knockout that raised suspicions that Johnson took a dive.