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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Johnson becomes first African-American champ
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Dec. 26, 1908

Challenger Jack Johnson receives $5,000 to fight heavyweight champion Tommy Burns, who is getting the extraordinary guarantee of $30,000 for their bout in Australia. But Johnson is a big winner in the ring, becoming the first African-American to gain the heavyweight championship.

Johnson weighs 192 pounds -- 24 pounds more than the Canadian. The Texan is also about seven inches taller. The fight, scheduled for 20 rounds, takes place the morning after Christmas in Rushcutter's Bay, a suburb of Sydney.

With his brute strength, the 30-year-old Johnson dominates from the start. The end comes in the 14th round, when police intervene and halt the one-sided fight. The referee declares Johnson the winner. While Johnson appears fresh, Burns' eyes are badly puffed and his mouth is swollen to twice its normal size.

"Johnson was too big and his reach was too great," says Burns.

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