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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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«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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jack Johnson Boxing in Spain

The boxer Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson came to Spain in good shape

March 23, 1916. The first time that Jack Johnson was boxing in Spain. The match took place at the Grand Theatre. The Madrid crowd moved in droves to attend the first public appearance of Jack Johnson in Spain. The Grand Theatre was filled to overflowing, and in their best appointments lyrics. The diverse audience was like a small representation of Madrid society of the time: aristocratic, military, politicians, priests, artists, small businessmen, journalists, shopkeepers, workers, peasants… Even went to a stage Don Alfonso, son of King Alfonso XIII.

On the theater stage was placed a platform as a ring and, to lengthen a little more the spectacle, they projected a series of comedic short films before starting the evening itself. The nephew of champion, Gus Rhodes was the first to jump on stage in the company of Kid Johnson, a Canadian wrestler who often employed the same name as a black boxer who act in Barcelona. This night was the Rhodes debut as professional. The fight did not have much interest.

The Jamaican fighter Frank Crozier was the opponent of the champion

The Jamaican fighter Frank Crozier

Later, slowly, as the big stars, Jack Johnson went out to the scene. In the spotlight he looked impressive: big, strong, slightly flat of the nose and of shaved head. The appearance of his opponent, the Jamaican fighter Frank Crozier, drew applause and more than a joke about the black that would be white for the champion. The Jamaican made clear that it was there to do a simple exhibition. His blows scarcely were raising air in the proximities of Johnson, who, for his part, it did not also demonstrate any hurry to attack. But the public started getting impatient and Jack chose to feign a more aggressive attitude.

The press thus described the combat that marked the first time that Jack Johnson boxing in Spain: «Only one time Jack unloaded a good blow to his adversary in full face, which was enough for Crozier rolling on the floor, where he remained for some moments as rugged. The panic that caused him to the Jamaican this serious mishap was such that after throwing on the floor two more times to contact Jack glove, did warn the public that, feeling short of forces withdrew the tapestry.»

Jack Johnson boxing in Spain with Frank Crozier

Jack Johnson vs. Frank Crozier

When the spectators sensed that the show was over, they started protesting. In the stalls, a fiery call to mutiny. Jack Johnson reacted rapidly and announced an exhibition with his sparring partner: Gus Rhodes. And with a series of strength exercises, Jack Johnson completed his first boxing match in Spain.