Peter Jackson  
  
Author:  Paul Hindley

Born in 1861 in the Virgin Islands Peter Jackson is perhaps the first truly great black heavyweight. Starting his working life as a merchant seaman Jackson found his way to Australia as a 20 year old man. Deciding he liked the place he requested a discharge from his ship and settled in Sydney.
 
Whilst there Jackson displayed an aptitude for a number of sports such as rowing and diving, seeing his natural athleticism and imposing size (Peter stood six two and weighed 190lbs) the landlord of his favourite drinking den suggested he try his hand at boxing, a suggestion that eventually led him to the legendary Larry Foley. Foley had learned his craft as a trainer under the brilliant bareknuckle champion Jem Mace and it would not be exaggerating to say that nearly every Australian fighter of note for nigh on 20 years plied their trade at some point under his tutelage.
 
Despite a couple of early setbacks against the far more experienced Australian champion Bill Farnan Jackson soon outgrew the limited competition Australia had to offer and set his sights further afield, to the States and legendary champion John L Sullivan, in his prime at 26 Jackson seemed perfectly placed to challenge Sullivan’s dominance. Upon arriving Stateside Jackson’s reputation had preceded him and the American fight fans were keen to see if he was as good as his hype suggested. However as Jackson was black nobody was too keen to see him matched with a white challenger just in case he was as good as he was billed. The answer to this was to match him with the excellent black contender George Godfrey who had a long running and ongoing rivalry with Sullivan.
 
On the night of the fight Jackson was to prove he was every bit as good as his backers had suggested giving the much smaller Godfrey a fierce beating over 19 rounds to prove that he was very much the real deal. On the back of this he was matched with the highly rated and huge contender Jack McAuliffe who was installed as the 2 to1 favourite to beat Peter, however in a thrilling encounter Jackson cut him down to size, stopping him in 24 rounds en-route to picking up the not inconsiderable winner takes all purse of $30,000. Another one sided win over Patsy Cardiff was enough to convince Jackson’s club, The California Athletic Club that he was ready to challenge Sullivan and he was offered a huge purse to defend his title over any distance he chose, Sullivan instead drew the colour line, reiterating his oft repeated line that he would not fight a black man.
Jackson’s form and clear ability was such that he was now struggling to get decent matches, a trip to England did little to alleviate that situation. Whilst the Sullivan fight remained out of reach by the time Jackson returned stateside a new challenger had arrived on the scene that was confident enough in his own ability to challenge Jackson, James J Corbett. In May 1891 the eagerly awaited clash between Jackson and Corbett  was duly made. Unfortunately the fight did not live up to its pre-fight hype. Both fighters had too much respect for the others ability to take too many chances, and Jackson had also injured his leg in the build-up which prevented him pushing the issue too much, after 61 turgid rounds the referee declared the fight a no contest due to the lack of action. Whilst Corbett received praise as being capable of standing up to Jackson and thus a logical challenger for Sullivan Jackson returned to England where a fight with Paddy Slavin had been set up for him.
 
Slavin and Jackson had history together; having both trained out of Larry Foley’s gym and it was widely accepted the two did not get on with rumours circulating they had in the past been involved in a bar brawl. The fight certainly corroborated these rumours with both fighters tearing into each other with sheer ferocity before Jackson finally got the better of his man by knocking him out in ten. Around this time James Corbett defeated Sullivan for the world heavyweight championship and this briefly raised Jackson’s hopes of a rematch with Corbett, but despite rumours of offers and counter offers Corbett did not seem too keen to defend against Jackson (or anyone else for that matter) and the title shot was not to come.
 
Jackson pottered around fighting the odd exhibition here and there but securing a meaningful fight was proving difficult, with many of the top contenders such as Fitzsimmons openly acknowledging they wanted nothing to do with Jackson. Frustrated by his lack of opportunities Peter began to drink heavily and neglect his training and it was perhaps inevitable that when he was matched with up and coming champion James Jeffries nearly six years after the Slavin fight he was finished inside four rounds.
 
That Jackson would have been champion in more enlightened times almost goes without saying. Perhaps the last word should go to Jim Corbett who said of Jackson “he was the finest fighter I ever saw” This coming from a man not given to singing the praise of other fighters is no small compliment.