|Johnson boxed professionally from 1897 to 1928, and boxed in exhibition matches until 1945. During his boxing career, Jack Johnson fought 114 fights, winning 80 matches, 45 by knockouts. He first won the heavyweight title by knocking out champion Tommy Burns in 1908, and held on that title until April 5, 1915. Johnson was knocked out by Jess Willard in the 26th round during the World Championship fight in Havana.
Jack Johnson received bad publicity by the press for his two marriages, both to caucasian women. Due to the racist attitudes of the times, interracial marriages were prohibited in most of America. Johnson was convicted in 1912 of violating the Mann Act by transporting his wife across state lines before their marriage and was sentenced to a year in prison. While out on appeal, Jack Johnson escaped fearing for his safety. Posing as a member of a black baseball team, he fled to Canada and later Europe. Jack Johnson remained a fugitive for seven years. Johnson defended his heavyweight championship three times in Paris before his fight to Jess Willard.
In 1920, Jack Johnson decided to return to the United States to serve his sentence. After his release from prison, Jack Johnson's boxing career declined. To make ends meet, Johnson worked in vaudeville even appearing with a trained flea act.
Jack Johnson wrote two memoirs of his life, "Mes Combats" (1914) and "Jack Johnson in the Ring and Out" (1927). He died in an automobile accident on June 10, 1946, in Raleigh, N.C.|