The public wanted it. In a 1922 poll of some 500 newspapers nationwide, Harry
Wills was selected as the the boxer that people most wanted to see heavyweight
champ Jack Dempsey fight. He got 131,073 votes; second place was 6,000. The
problem was, Dempsey had drawn the “color line” in 1919 after winning the title,
citing deadly riots after the Jack Johnson – James J. Jeffries fight in 1910.
In 1925, the New York State Athletic Commission gave Dempsey an ultimatum:
fight Wills, or find another state to fight in. He chose the latter. Another match
fell through in 1926. When Dempsey lost to Gene Tunney that year, and Wills,
then 37, lost as well, talks of the match ended, as did Wills’ shot at the title. A
month later Howell, Horseley and Bradford recorded this song on a Columbia 10 inch 78.
Image: Black Boxing Gloves, taken by Airman First Class Kerelin Molina as part of official duties. As a work of the
U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain in the United States.