International Boxing Hall of Fame
|Real name||Joseph Jeanettei|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Birth date||August 27, 1879(1879-08-27)|
|Birth place||North Bergen, NJ|
|Death date||July 2, 1958|
|Wins by KO||68|
Jeanette was born in West Hoboken, New Jersey, (now part of Union City), to Mena and Benjamin F. Jeanette, who worked for a local blacksmith. He began work as his father's apprentice, and then as a coal truck driver for Jaels and Bellis. In 1904, at the age of 25, he began his boxing career on a dare, fighting against Arthur Dickinson in Jersey City. At 5’ 10’’ and weighing 190 lbs., Jeanette was relatively short and stocky, with his only knowledge of fighting stemming from street brawls from his youth. Although he lost the fight, he decided to remain a boxer, and made it his career.
Within two years, he was considered one of the best black heavyweights in the United States. With a fighting style that mimicked that of Sam Langford, and whose defensive techniques were elusive and effective. Opponents considered Jeanette a dangerous inside boxer (whose style reflected the “inside punching” style of the times), whom few wished to fight. Because of the racial barrier, black boxers only had a small number of prospective opponents from which to choose, and often ended up matched against the same fighters over and over.
Jeanette fought the future heavyweight champion Jack Johnson seven times in his first two years as a pro, and a total of ten times. According to the Ken Burns documentary Unforgivable Blackness, Jeanette lost twice, won one fight on a foul after two rounds, had two draws, and five “No Decisions” in his fights against Johnson. After Johnson became the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World on December 26, 1908, he never again fought Jeanette, despite numerous challenges. Because great boxers of the era were barred from fighting for the heavyweight championship because of racism, Johnson’s refusal to fight African-Americans stung the African-American community, since the opportunity to fight top white boxers was rare. Jeanette criticized Johnson, saying, “Jack forgot about his old friends after he became champion and drew the color line against his own people.”
Jeanette also fought Sam Langford 15 times.
Jeanette never fought for the heavyweight championship during his 15-year career despite having a stellar record against opponents of all races.
Joe's most memorable fight occurred in April 17, 1909 in a return bout with Sam McVey in Paris, France that lasted three-and-a-half-hours, and 49 rounds, the longest boxing match of the 20th century, and one of the greatest marathons in boxing history. Although McVey began the fight strong and looked like a sure winner, knocking down the usually sturdy Jeannette 27 times, and almost knocking him out in the 16th round with a right uppercut to Jeanette’s jaw, he weakened greatly by the 19th round. Jeanette took control, knocking down McVey, a boxer (who had only been stopped once in his career, by Johnson), 19 times. After the 49th round, McVey could not rise from his stool at the call of time and Jeannette was declared winner on a technical knockout. This won him the "Colored Heavyweight Championship," as Jack Johnson had defeated Tommy Burns for his heavyweight title the previous December.
Jeanette retired at the age of 40. Of his 166 documented pro fights (he believed it was closer to 400), in a career spanning 1904-1922, Jeanette had 106 wins, 68 of which were by knockout, with 20 losses. Only two of his losses were by knockout, once early in his career and once late in his career. He is rated alongside the very best boxers of his era, including Johnson, Langford, and McVey.
Unlike many boxers, Jeanette was not a spendthrift and invested his money and time wisely. He spent most of his career fighting in and around the Eastern Seaboard, with only brief tours of Europe. After his career, he became a referee and a trainer of young boxers. He owned a boxing gym on 26th Street and Summit Avenue in Union City, New Jersey, where he was a fixture on the boxing scene for many years. He eventually converted his boxing gym into a garage, out of which he operated a fleet of rental limousines, and then a taxi company named Adelaide, which was located at 522 Clinton Avenue, now New York Avenue.
Jeanette died in 1958. He was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.
A street located between Summit Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard in Union City was named Jeanette Street in his honor.