When Jeffries failed to reclaim the title, falling to Johnson in the 15th round, race riots erupted.
Johnson’s story doesn’t stop after his victory. By many accounts, the boxer marched to the beat of his own drummer, perhaps even literally as he had his own jazz band, owned a Chicago nightclub and was an actor, according to an ESPN profile.
The network further reported that Johnson “walked his pet leopard while sipping champagne, flaunted gold teeth that went with his gold-handled walking stick and boasted of his conquest of whites — both in and out of the ring.”
It was the “out of the ring” conquering that led to trouble, Wayne Rozen, author of a book on the fight called “America on the Ropes,” told the Associated Press. Johnson married three times — all three times to white women — though he didn’t have any children
On July 4 weekend, Johnson’s supporters and his family will remember his legacy in Reno. They will also revisit the fight for a posthumous presidential pardon for Johnson. A pardon resolution was passed by Congress last year.
“It’s time that the wrong that was committed against my uncle be righted,” said Linda Haywood, Johnson’s great-great niece. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns joined the Johnson family last year at a press conference along with two other interested supporters.