The Information

RedondaJohnsonIn 1916, Jack Johnson tried to prove luck in a profession much removed from the combats, opening its own advertising agency in Spain. «Advertising was a profesion wich had attracted me to a considerable extent, and one wich I understood quite well because of my extensive use of publicity in the theatrical and boxing world», he wrote in his book The Autobiography of Jack Johnson. In the Ring and Out (Carol Publishing Group, New York, 1992).

The company called «The Information – Jack Johnson and Co.» and his social head office was in the numbers 30 and 32 of the Rambla of the Center (Barcelona). The boxer had to improve all that could his knowledge of the Spanish language to take charge promoting the business. In the Excelsior Cafe, he began to tackle all kinds of businessmen to offer his services:  «This Society of Modern Publicity has to be shortly one of the first ones of Spain for the sure, strong and faced well efficacy of his procedures of claim and propaganda that the best and most positive guarantees allow him to offer to the advertisers. Known it is, that in Spain, as in other countries, the withdrawal of the advertiser is often effect of his suspicion. And kill this fear comes “The Information”, which complies with what it offers and only offers what it can deliver.


Neither the resounding speech by former champion managed to get on with the business. Although it went so far as to be provided with some brilliant collaborators, as the drawer Jasón or the photographer Vela, « The Information » scarcely received orders. Almost no merchant risked putting in Jack’s hands to promote his products. In fact, most did not take too seriously the fighter’s entrepreneurship.

AnuncioNestleThe newspaper La Tribuna (Madrid) pubished the following article on September 24, 1916:

In Barcelona there is, as in Madrid, rare types that provoke the hilarity of the public… In Barcelona, two persons who make the people of Barcelona laugh are of higher lineage: they are two ex-kings. One about which one has spoken much is Muley Haffid, the ex-sultan of Morocco; other, about which one has not spoken anything during his permanence in Barcelona, is Jack Johnson, the ex-king of the boxing. About Muley Haffid many curious things have been said, because, although he is a strong man, it is not possible to punish those who speak badly about him, because his social condition it is prevented. More that it does is to take revenge for the journalists, saying that it gives them money and clocks. About Johnson, on the other hand, one does not speak at all because he knows very well Spanish, circulates along the streets of Barcelona, and, especially, because it has an aspect that it imposes. His muscles are of steel; the punches of this man must be wreckers. Johnson is an elephant without horn, but elephant to the end. Well, Jack Johnson has mounted an advertising agency in Barcelona, ensuring that its procedures are unique and positive results. It would be funny to see how the king of boxing will make announcements. Surely, when visiting advertisers move less language than the arms. He will conquer the publicity by force of punches! Anyone stands up black convincing argument Johnson! However, advertisers in Barcelona, and non-advertisers, laugh a lot of black. And besides laughing, are not advertised.

While some scoffed at the agency, others looked askance. Among those who sympathized with the cause of the allies in the World War I, began to spread rumors that pointed to «The Information» as a support center of the German side in front. Two factors fueled the rumors: the renowned friendliness of Jack Johnson by the German cause and the inclusion in the staff of the agency of Moritz Moisevics, an anarchist revolutionary who had been imprisoned in a French concentration camp at the beginning of the war and who had threatened to do everything possible for collaborating in the defeat of the Allied Forces.


The Big Fight

Dos_homes_en_combat_de_boxa_sobre_el_ring_amb_pblic_al_voltantSunday, April 23, 1916. In the most intellectual circles of Barcelona, there was no another topic of conversation than the third centenary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, the Quijote’s author. But the matter of the day was the combat of boxing between Jack Jonson and Arthur Cravan.


The ambience in the Monumental (a new bullring in Barcelona) was warmed when it announced the first meeting «black against white» in the afternoon. Gus Rhodes faced Kid Johnson, who had already become one regular of the «Jack’s troupe». Despite of being prepared, the combat had a few promising beginnings. But there were complications in the outcome.


The filmmaker Ricard de Baños had arranged strategically to six «routiers» with their cameras at different points of the Monumental to film the big fight. Everything was ready, when the sky began to fill with clouds. Ramón, Ricard’s small brother and experienced operator, warned that if they were late in beginning the Jonson-Cravan combat they were registering the movie in very low conditions of light, which could throw to loose all the work. Ricard commented to Jack. Finished the fourth assault with Rhodes, Kid feigned not to be able to keep on fighting. Other «introductory» duels announced in the program, Munich-Seem and Martínez-Cutchet, remained deferred and, before the awaited thing, Jack Johnson and Arthur Cravan jumped to the ring.


The fans were glad, but his hopes of seeing a great fight did not last long. The boxer poet, with white trousers and short bathrobe of the same color, trod on the canvas very palely. Meanwhile the gloves were placing him, was necessary to sit in his corner because him the legs were trembling. His brother Otho tried to infuse encouragement from the corner, but Arthur was very afraid. Shortly before entering the ring, Johnson had threatened that he would beat him up.


«Don Jack» spent the strings with his eternal smile, wearing a striped coat and pants darker than the color of their skin. The American boxer was disappointed by the scarce entry. However, concealed and distributed smiles generously. Before the Chilean coach Tony Berton, doing the functions of referee, announced the beginning of the fight, the chief Bravo Portillo presented himself in the ring to remind participants that they could not overextend their attacks. The authorities ordered that the expected clash of the titans had just as a simple exhibition by decree law.


The fight was a complete failure. Gripped by fear, Arthur Cravan barely managed to move the site: unthinkable that an attack could in conditions against his rival. Johnson realized that they were offering to sorry sight, but have wanted to give swindle to Ricard could register the movie.


Cravan was disgracing during six rounds, since Johnson did not take him seriously and was laughing at him. Of has not spent between them what it spent behind the scenes, surely that had the chivalry of putting K.O. to the first round, with what a sad role had avoided him.


Jack was looking at Ricard to see if it was enough for the recorded movie. The filmmaker did not know what to say. He knew that this film had no value. The public, who so much had trusted in the possibilities of Cravan, was looking at the ring wonderingly. The combat was so bad that it was not even raising suspicions that it could be prepared. Suddenly, Johnson wanted to spice up the show, threw a punch against his rival and the nephew of Wilde collapsed.


The combat of the Monumental could finish in scandal, but Jack and Gus improvised some exercises to entertain the public. Later, there were carried out two remaining fights, which did not shine for his quality either, although the participants were used by major ardor without fear to the suspension. Frustrated and indignant, some spectator did threat of starting a rain of chairs on the ring. The strong police device of Bravo Portillo avoided any type of disorder. In the following hours, the enormous disappointment didn’t manage to end with the topic of the boxing. Since it generated a passionate debate on the expediency of this sports practices.


The Nephew of Oscar Wilde

Arthur Cravan, the Nephew of Oscar Wilde

Arthur Cravan was the second fighter who wanted to measure his fists against Jack Johnson in Spain, but this time in Barcelona. Under the name of Arthur Cravan there was hiding Fabian Avenarius Lloyd, the son of a wealthy English couple. Born in the Swiss city of Lausanne, May 22, 1887, he was presumed to be a nephew of famous writer Oscar Wilde. Became an eccentric boy who tried to succeed as a poet in Paris in the early twentieth century, inventing the nickname of Arthur Cravan. With the inheritance left him by his father, in the decade of 1910, he settled in an apartment placed behind the gardens of Luxembourg. Then attended the Bullier, a known local who met the intellectuals, artists and boxers, very fashionable in France during those years. There he met Jack Johnson, who then ran the Gallic country with a variety show that had set up with his wife Lucille. Possibly admired by the adventures of the great Johnson, Fabian signed up in a club led by the boxer Fernand Cuny and decided to turn into a fighter. Soon after, he took part in a championship for rookies boxers. Curiously, after any of his rivals does not present himself, Fabian won the title of amateur champion of France in the category of semi-heavy without even having to enter combat.

Arthur Cravan training with Frank Hoche

But boxing was just an entertainment for him. His real passion was poetry. Although he had a good plant and claimed to have an adventurous spirit, was never really an example of courage. At the beginning of the European war, looked terribly awful that the British call him drafted. Accompanied by an attractive young woman named Renee, Fabian fled to Barcelona. But there he did not even feel completely safe. As distinct from many of his countrymen, who were willing to overlook the conflict sitting in the cafes of the city, Cravan planned to flee of the war. His target was America, but to cross the Atlantic Ocean he needed money.

In Barcelona, Arthur Cravan understood that with his writings it was going to gain not even a cent. Nevertheless, he noticed the increasing interest that existed for the boxing, from what, without losing a second, started boasting of his knowledge on the matter, assuring to be a champion of France. His proclamations became effective and, in only a few days, the poet was giving classes of boxing for a select group of pupils in the Real Marine Club of Barcelona. Nevertheless, his salary as teacher was not reaching to acquire the ticket to the American continent. By chance he found out that Juan Elías was looking for a boxer capable of facing Jack Johnson in Barcelona. The nephew of Wilde at once presented himself as a volunteer.

The Movie

Strength and Nobility, jack johnson, boxer, movie, film, serial, 1917, ricard de baños, heavyweight champion, boxer_as_an_actor, star_movie; johnson_jack; reel mystery thrillersJack Johnson developed many activities  in Spain. Maybe the most striking was his debut as a film actor. The former heavyweight champion had become friendly with Catalan film director Ricard de Baños, who wanted to turn his good friend into the rival of Maciste, one of the first strong ones of the history of the cinema, personified by the Italian actor Bartolomeo Pagano. The project title: Strength and Nobility.

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The story of Strength and Nobility was divided into four parts: The Will of a Prince, Among Beasts, The Film Developer, and Jack Johnson, Death Wish. The serial narrated the thrilling adventures of Jack, «a handsome man of gigantic stature and strong muscles so that his body resembles the legend of Atlas», as would say the press of the time.

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The plot was simple: In the exotic city of Osmalia, the legendary champion of boxing has to help Prince Federico to recover legitimately the throne and restore the monarchy. Of course, to get it soon had to face countless dangers and the most ruthless villains.

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The shooting of Strength and Nobility began in May 1917, when Barcelona were exhibiting several successful serials movies, as Ultus and the Grey Lady (George Pearson, 1916), Judex (Louis Feuillade, 1916) and Mysteries of the Grand Hotel (James W. Horne, 1915).

The Arrival

jack, johnson, spain, boxingOn Thursday March 9, 1916, the boxer Jack Johnson and his «troupe» —composed by his wife Lucille; his nephew Gus Rhodes; and his manager, an attentive British who was answering to the name of Jack Morris— registered in the luxurious Hotel Palace in Madrid, the Spanish capital. From the same moment of his arrival, the boxer was located in one of the big lounges of the hotel and showed like a museum piece.

jack_johnson_in_spain, jack, johnson, in, spain, jack_johnson_as_referee; black_champion_johnson; jack_johnson_fight_in_spain; jack_johnson_boxer; jack_johnson_black_champion

After his first exhibitions in Madrid, Jack Johnson was moved to Barcelona, where he acted as a referee in a boxing match between Hoche and Allak in the Iris-Park.

With curiosity and admiration, Spanish people began approaching the hotel to see the famous fighter. Johnson knew he had become an international celebrity thanks to the press and newsreels. In places as diverse as Russia, Germany or England, had received as a king. And in Spain, it was not different. The ex-champion did not want to disappoint the curious and put on his best clothes with lots of accessories: rings, tie pins, scarves, hats, canes…