Joe Gans

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Joe Gans
Real name Joseph Gant
Nickname(s) Old Master
Rated at Lightweight
Height 5 ft 6 12 in (1.69 m)
Reach 71 in (180 cm)
Nationality American
Born 1874-11-25
Baltimore, Maryland
Died August 10, 1910(1910-08-10) (aged 35)
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 196
Wins 158
Wins by KO 100
Losses 12
Draws 20
No contests 6

Joe Gans (25 November 1874 - 10 August 1910) was born Joseph Gant in Baltimore, Maryland. Gans was rated as the greatest lightweight boxer of all time by boxing historian and Ring Magazine founder, Nat Fleischer and was known as the "Old Master." He fought from 1891 to 1909. He was the first African-American World Boxing Champion, reigning continuously as World Lightweight Champion from 1902 to 1908.


Portrait of Gans

Gans started boxing professionally about 1891 in Baltimore. He shocked the boxing world with his "scientific" approach to fighting. Finding an opponents strengths and weaknesses, then competing with a game-plan was Gan's specialty. Known as a true student of the sport. In 1900, Gans quit with an eye cut in the twelfth round of the world lightweight title bout against champion Frank Erne. In their rematch two years later, Gans knocked Erne out in one round to recapture the lightweight title.

Gans reigned as champion from 1902 to 1908. A slender man, never weighing over 137 pounds. Gans almost always fought heavier men, eventually recognized for his brains over brawn.[1]In an important title defense he defeated the "Durable Dane," Oscar "Battling" Nelson, on a foul in 42 rounds on September 3, 1906 in Goldfield, Nevada by promoter Tex Rickard. When they fought again two years later Gans lost by a knockout. He died in August 1910, of tuberculosis and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore. His monument is maintained by the International Boxing Commission and sits just to the left of the main entrance of the cemetery. Gans is generally considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time, pound-for-pound.

"I was born in the city of Baltimore in the year 1874, and it might be well to state at this time that my right name is Joseph Gant, not Gans. However, when I became an object of newspaper publicity, some reporter made a mistake and my name appeared as Joe Gans, and as Joe Gans it remained ever since."

This is confirmed by primary sources, such as The Sun (Baltimore, MD) on October 24, 1893 - "Joseph Gant and Buck Myers, colored"; The Sun (Baltimore, MD) on November 28, 1893 - "A six-round sparring match between Wm. Jones and Joseph Gant, colored light-weights", etc.

Professional Honors and legacy[edit]

Gans had a final professional record of 145 wins with 100 knockouts, 10 losses, 16 draws, 6 no contests and 19 no decisions (Newspaper Decisions: 13-2-4). He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.[2] A bronze statue of Joe Gans is in the lobby of Madison Square Garden, where Boxers would rub the statue's outstretched left fist for luck before matches.[3] His legendary fight on September 3, 1906 with Battling Nelson was commemorated with a memorial located in Goldfield, NV at the site of the fight[4] Gans is the first African American to win a World Championship in Boxing. His achievements not only set new records, but gave African Americans hope in the early twentieth century. In a time of racial segregation, champion Joe Gans emerged victorious.[5]

Joe Walcott vs. Joe Gans

"Through his ring accomplishments, Gans put into action what others could only theorize. The articulation of the black quest for social equality reached large audiences through the pulpits, and the most authoritative sermons were published in newspapers and religious quarterlies".[6]

Hemingway connection[edit]

Ernest Hemingway utilized Joe Gans as a character in his 1916 short story 'A Matter of Colour'.[7] This early story set the stage for Hemingway's famous 1927 parable 'The Killers'.[8]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Roberts, James B; Skutt, Alexander G (1990). "The Boxing Register". International Boxing Hall of Fame. Canastota, Nv: McBooks Press. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Aycock, Colleen (2008). Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American World Boxing Champion. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7864-3994-2. 
  7. ^ Lundin, Leigh (6 Jan 2013). "Hemingway Punchline". A Matter of Colour. Durban: SleuthSayers. 
  8. ^ Lundin, Leigh (23 Dec 2012). "Literary Mystery". The Killers. Durban: SleuthSayers. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Miles, J. H., Davis, J. J., Ferguson-Roberts, S. E., and Giles, R. G. (2001). Almanac of African American Heritage. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall Press.
  • Potter, J. (2002). African American Firsts. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp.
  • Aycock, Colleen and Mark Scott (2008), Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American World Boxing Champion. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.
  • The Longest Fight: In the Ring with Joe Gans, Boxing’s First African-American Champion. By William Gildea. Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 256 pages

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Frank Erne
World Lightweight Champion
12 May 1902 – 9 June 1908
Succeeded by
Battling Nelson